Mar 102017
 

By Michael Nevradakis99GetSmart

mercouris2-300x201This week on Dialogos Radio, we will be featuring, as part of the Dialogos Interview Seriestwo special interviews!

First, we will have the opportunity to speak with journalist, analyst, and longtime lawyer in the Royal Court of the United Kingdom Alexander Mercouris, co-founder of TheDuran.com. Joining us from London, Mercouris will provide his insights for us on a number of current issues, including the latest actions of the Trump administration, the path towards Brexit in Great Britain, anti-Russia hysteria and the establishment media’s agenda, developments in the Ukraine and Syria, and a view on the Greek government’s latest deal with its creditors and what continued austerity means for Greece.bellows

This interview will be followed up by a special feature with young Greek spoken word artist Dylan Wolfram, who will speak to us about his latest spoken word release, titled “Bellows.” In addition to this interview, we will hear two cuts from Wolfram’s recent spoken word project.

Two great interviews, all this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series!

Dec 082015
 

By SnakeArbusto, 99GetSmart

After Sunday’s first round of the regional elections, the extreme-Right Front National is being called “France’s leading party.” Its candidates led in six Regions. Its spokespersons are now invited to take part in election-night specials by the different TV networks, private and public. This legitimization of the party seems to be progressing inexorably as the media and the establishment political parties they support look on, powerless to stop the process.  But in fact, the media have played a part in legitimizing the Front all along. And it should not be forgotten that as far back as 1986, Socialist president François Mitterrand had encouraged the FN, using his executive power to allow proportional legislative elections in order to undercut the establishment Right. And that Right has moved closer and closer to the Front’s positions, especially during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy. The Front National may be a threat to France, but to some degree at least, it isFrance.

The question now is not whether the FN will win the presidency of one of France’s Regions, but how many presidencies and legislative majorities it will win. And the establishment Left and Right and the media are in panic over what they can do to stop the Front.

marine

The Front’s spokemen tend to be young, smart, and modern-looking. They tell us, during the minute or so they are given at the start of the program to outline their major themes, that they are the only party that represents real change. They refer to the two leading official parties, PS (Socialist) and LR (Les Républicains), as the “LRPS”, implying that there is no real difference between them. The Front’s leader and presumed presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, has now eased comfortably into her party’s growing legitimacy. j-mIt is almost as if the party’s real face – the sneering bulldog face of her father, founder Jean-Marie Le Pen – were no longer visible. If one looks closely at Marine, however, chieftain’s features and mannerisms clearly emerge, despite Marine’s younger, female (if not feminine) repackaging. And the candidate for the Regional presidency in the South, Marine’s niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, is young and, on the surface, attractive.

But no one who looks below the surface has illusions about what the Front really represents. Just as Jean-Marie’s face is visible in the hatchet-carved contours of Marine’s, the party’s real program – or at least that is what the Front is surely counting on – is legible like a watermark. There is no need – they hope, and their future victory depends on it – to trumpet racist, supremacist rhetoric anymore. They can discuss economic issues and pretend to have truly new solutions, and they can spotlight Front members and even candidates who are of North African or Black African descent, much as the Republican Party in the USA now does. marion_sVoters can vote for a party whose stock in trade has always been racism and xenophobia out of simple, ingrained racism or out of a genuine fear of “immigrant hordes” – to borrow a phrase from another politician who plays on the same fears – just as the party itself denies its real face in presenting these token members and candidates. But in the party’s pronouncements, phrases like “respect for our culture and our identity” send a barely-coded message.

And the Front’s candidate in the Ile-de-France region, the aristocratically-named Wallerand de Saint-Just, is more indicative of the party’s real values and traditions – those of the reactionary, anti-Socialist, anti-labor, and even anti-republican, bourgeois and even aristocratic, traditionally Catholic “Old France.” For, hidden just below the surface of France’s i-Phone-toting society, a discreet segment of the population defends “traditional values,” with some even calling for the restoration of the monarchy. Not so discreet, in fact, as time goes on and the Front National consolidates its influence. In 2010, for example, young “traditionalist” Catholics, male and female, staged an attack on gay demonstrators at a “kiss-in” on the square in front of Notre-Dame cathedral, shouting “habemus papam!” – a reference to the election of conservative Pope Benedict XVI and to their preference for the Tridentine Mass. wallerand_sBehind such “traditions,” one can perceive the outline of the Vichy regime, whose façade of tradition and family values in fact concealed a willingness to surrender to Nazism in exchange for ridding France of a government that genuinely represented the working class. Saint-Just is among the reactionary Catholics, aligned with the Society of St. Pius X, who have illegally occupied the church of Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris since 1977. A ceremony in honor of Holocaust-denying historian and declared Fascist Maurice Bardèche was held in the church in 1998. St-Just is now being sued by his environmentalist opponent in the current elections for saying in a tweet that the Left bears responsibility for the Friday the 13th terror attacks.

The official Left and Right are now united in pointing to the Front as a threat to “our values,” to democracy, to the Republic. Their spokespersons attempt to call out the Front on its real values, history, and alignment. But they can’t debate positions that are unspoken. They attempt to discredit the party by pointing to the loans it has received from supposed “Russian Mafiosi aligned with the dictator Putin.” This is a reference to Konstantin Malofeev, founder of the international investment fund Marshall Capital Partners. It would be more accurate to call Malofeev a successful young entrepreneur, whose interests include telecoms, real estate, and agriculture. Somehow these loans are supposed to raise a red flag in the minds of readers/viewers of the official media, which have participated in the campaign to portray Vladimir Putin as a brutal dictator for years now, following the standard NATO party line. The problem is that Putin is now an ally of France and to some extent of the US in the “struggle against terrorism.” And if you think about it for a minute, all the Front is doing is seeking funding from corporate interests – exactly what all the “legitimate” political parties do. The problem is that French corporations are not yet ready to openly support the Front. But it’s a fairly safe bet that they will if the Front’s legitimization and rise to power continues to advance. And after all, is there really a fundamental difference between the “Russian mafia” and large French corporations, other than the fact that the latter publish Sustainable Development reports and sponsor the COP 21 environment conference?

France’s official Right and Left, along with the media, have themselves to blame for this situation. The Socialists are in danger of losing most of the Regions where they now hold power, and worse, of being on the wrong side of a momentum that is likely to carry either the Front or the official Right to power. François Hollande has used the recent tragedy to bolster his status with potential Front voters, calling the terror attacks “attacks on the values of the Republic” and at the same time using them as an excuse to curtail civil liberties and freedom of speech and of the press – those very same values –, increase surveillance of citizens, and increase the powers of the police. He used the emergency powers he put in place just after November 13th, and which the legislature has now voted to extend, to arrest peaceful organizers of protests at the COP 21. Aren’t such measures more or less exactly what the media and the “respectable” politicians are warning us we can expect from the Front if it takes power?

sark_holl_s

As for the official Right, or the “Republican Right” as the media call it to distinguish it from the extreme Right, it has never been very far removed from the Front, and current leader and former president Nicolas Sarkozy captured the presidency in 2007 by co-opting the Front’s themes of law and order and fear of an immigrant invasion. Sarkozy has feigned courting the Front National, even saying once that “Marine Le Pen is compatible with the Republic” – no doubt as a way of giving voters a signal that if they vote for him they can count on getting what the Front promises and still maintain respectability by voting for a party they can admit they voted for. Indeed, the Front’s popularity was long underestimated partly because many voters who vote for them will not admit it in a poll or to family and friends. Now, of course, more and more of such voters will come out of the closet. The “Republican Right” has tripped itself up: If Le Pen is “compatible with the Republic,” then who needs the Republican Right, who have been in power many times and never ushered in the “real change” politicians are always promising? The result of all the overtures to the Front’s voters is that the voters no longer see any difference between the two.

The same is true of the Socialists. Their own pandering to the Front national vote is nothing new. It shifted into a higher gear when Manuel Valls became Prime Minister and, taking a page from Sarkozy’s playbook, staged arrests of undocumented working parents who had come to fetch their children at school and hounded the Rom population. Valls physically resembles Sarkozy – short and cocky – and his intention of duplicating Sarkozy’s strategy is transparent. The Socialists have made it clear from the start ¬– indeed, from the time of the Mitterrand government – that they are Socialists in name only and at best are a kind of Social-Democrat party. Hollande had declared during his presidential campaign that “my real adversary is finance.” But since he took office, he and his Prime Minister have announced several times that they “love business.” Their real constituency, in fact, is enterprise and finance, and their mantra is “growth.” They have shown themselves to be facilitators of the Washington Consensus, privatizing publicly-owned companies to the point where one would need a very strong light to see the outlines of the fundamental Socialist values – that housing, health care, education, and transportation should be protected from the forces of finance and the market. The environmentalists, considered a constituent element of the French Left, have now distanced themselves from the Socialists. In fact, there is now a socialist wing of the Socialist party. These factions have now struck compromises and merged their tickets with the Socialists to face the “threat” of the Front National. Such maneuvers can only cause voters to wonder how much substance there actually is behind the political rhetoric. The PS seems to hope that citizens will continue to vote for them out of a belief that they still do embody those values, but no longer talk about them out of a need to attract voters away from the Right. But again, if the Left has become indistinguishable from the Right, and since both have had their chances before, who can blame voters for giving the sanitized Front National a chance?

Sep 232015
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

Michael Nevradakis, scholar and host of Dialogos Radio in Athens, says the low voter turnout of 55% reflects widespread disenchantment with the Greek political system and SYRIZA:

Part 1

Part 2

Michael Nevradakis is a Ph.D. student at The University of Texas and a Fulbright Scholar based in Athens who has conducted extensive research on Greek media and politics. He is the producer and host of Dialogos Radio, a weekly radio program featuring interviews with leading Greek and international figures on matters pertaining to Greece, and is a frequent contributor to several Greek and international media outlets.

Sep 182015
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Greek woman casts ballot in the 2014 electoral race in Thessaloniki, Greece, May 25, 2014. (Photo: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com)

Greek woman casts ballot in the 2014 electoral race in Thessaloniki, Greece, May 25, 2014. (Photo: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com)

Following a fiery summer in Greece, during which the Syriza-led coalition government turned its back on the majority of the electorate, which delivered a resounding “no” to austerity in Greece’s referendum, the country is preparing for snap parliamentary elections on September 20, in which it is far from clear whether Syriza will be able to win and form a new coalition government.

Scholar and analyst James Petras, one of the few voices who expressed doubts initially about Syriza’s desire and ability to deliver on its promises, offers his thoughts on the upcoming election.

Petras was an adviser to the Pasok government of Andreas Papandreou in Greece in the early 1980s, another “left-wing” regime elected on promises of radical change that were swiftly broken. He has also served as an adviser to leaders such as Hugo Chávez and Salvador Allende and has written extensively about politics in Greece. In this interview, Petras discusses Syriza’s collapse, how Syriza turned its back on the result of the July 5 referendum, and his thoughts on Popular Unity, the party that broke off from Syriza and that now promises to lead the anti-austerity front in Greece.

Michael Nevradakis: Many in Greece, and outside of Greece, were surprised (some would say shocked) at Syriza’s about-face in the space of just a few months – at how it essentially turned its back on those who overwhelmingly voted “no” toward more austerity in the July 5 referendum and at the very harsh memorandum agreement it signed with the troika. You, however, were not surprised at Syriza’s capitulation. What is your reaction to what happened?

James Petras: Well, it’s very clear that Syriza’s capitulation and subordination to the European Union struck a very powerful blow against the demands of the great majority of the people who voted for them, and disillusioned an enormous sector of the population. I think it wasn’t surprising because Syriza had within it many former leaders and people from Pasok, which had a notorious trajectory of not fulfilling programs and submitting to the European Union.

I think the fundamental problem was in the fact that Syriza never spoke out about an alternative to the European Union. Syriza’s members accepted the European Union as the framework; they accepted paying the debt as a framework, and they never formulated an independent policy. They overestimated their capacity to negotiate a progressive solution within the European Union, and absolutely nothing suggested that.

Their agreement to pay the debt was another fallacy: There was no way in the world that Greece would find the resources to maintain its debt. I think these three things – the composition of Syriza, the framework in which they agreed to orient, and the fact that they continued to channel resources to their creditors – undermined any possibility of a repudiation of the program of austerity and regression.

This debt was also found to be, in large part, odious and illegitimate.

Yes. That was decisively determined by a commission formed by the head of the Greek parliament, who was a leading member of Syriza, but this was completely rejected. [Former Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras acted as if the commission and the decisions on the debt meant nothing, and I think it was emblematic of his whole attitude towards any dissent. He acted like a Napoleon; he had a Napoleonic complex, in which anything which didn’t correspond to his notion of complying with the debt, complying with the EU, was out the window. It’s a very dictatorial and arbitrary organization, and the membership, the central committee and even some of his cabinet ministers didn’t mount a serious challenge to his dictatorial rule.

What do you believe was the actual message of the Greek electorate in their overwhelming vote of “no” in the referendum, and how do you believe this sentiment might be expressed in the upcoming parliamentary elections?

Well, I think the vote was clearly a rejection of more punishment, more regressive measures. It was a rejection of the dictatorship of the EU. It was an attempt to recover lost income, an attempt to recover sovereignty. It was a way of affirming Greek independence, Greek popular sovereignty, and a desire for Greek priorities to be given a greater importance over the creditors and debt payments and the privatizations and the firings. I think it was a very decisive “no” to everything that preceded it and everything that Syriza and Tsipras subsequently agreed to. So here you have this episode of the “no” in the referendum, sandwiched in-between the Syriza leadership’s compliance and subordination to the EU and continuation of regressive policies.

There are many now in Greece and outside of Greece who have their hopes set on the new political party, Popular Unity, which formed from the members of Syriza’s “Left Platform,” which broke off of Syriza a few weeks ago, with optimism that the likes of former Greek Parliament speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou, who will run in an alignment with Popular Unity, or Popular Unity party leader Panagiotis Lafazanis will stand up for those who voted “no.” Do you believe that this will actually be the case, or do you believe that Popular Unity, like Syriza, is insincere in its rhetoric?

Well, let’s look at the larger picture. Going in to these elections, Syriza is clearly going to decline. The political spectrum is going to become even more fragmented. The voters, going into the election, are highly disillusioned. Whatever they vote for and whoever they vote for, it’s basically a vote of fear rather than hope. It’s a vote that says, “Where can we find our new clients?” Not the instruments of structural change – “Who is the lesser evil?” I think that the hopes and aspirations and the radicalism that went into the January election is absent. I think Popular Unity will do poorly. It stayed in Syriza too long; it didn’t grow a mass organization outside of Syriza; it has very little insertion in any mass movement. Its struggle in the end with Syriza was essentially a parliamentary struggle. They didn’t put people in the streets, and I think people are disenchanted in general with anything associated with Syriza, and I think the level of trust for a second try is very low, especially as they saw many of the Popular Unity people sitting in the cabinet while all the damage was being done, all the capitulations were done.

I think that Popular Unity will be lucky to get representation in parliament. I think voters will hold their noses and maybe a quarter of the electorate will vote for Syriza. Popular Unity will probably get around 5 percent of the vote, and I think that the right-wing parties – New Democracy, Pasok, Potami – probably are going to put together a ramshackle kind of coalition. I don’t think they have objections to bringing Syriza in on a coalition, since they all agree on the latest memorandum. I think politically there is very little reason for them not to form a broad, right-wing regime.

What do you believe such a coalition will mean for Greece?

I think they would implement the very harmful and regressive policies that Syriza has signed off on. I think they will privatize most of the major lucrative resources in the Greek economy. I think there will be massive layoffs in the process of privatization. I think pensions will be cut, wages will be cut, salaries and public sector employment will be cut. I think this will send Greece into a continuing depression, and I don’t think any new investment in new enterprises will take place. The money that will be gained through privatization will simply be recycled to the outside bankers.

I think Greece faces a prolonged depression, prolonged regression and stagnation as a result of this, and hopefully, as people come to realize that Syriza and the right wing have nothing to offer them, I think there will be a return to street demonstrations and perhaps a radicalization of those demonstrations. There will be an increase in popular exodus, capital exodus; I think Greece will become a one-crop economy, essentially a tourist economy, largely controlled by foreign capital. I think the decline of public ownership is simply the increase of foreign ownership.

Popular Unity is said to be running in these elections on the Thessaloniki policy platform, which had originally been proposed by Syriza prior to the January elections, and which Syriza quickly abandoned. Do you believe that the Thessaloniki policy platform, with its ambivalence toward issues such as a “Grexit” and a write-down of Greece’s debt, is even enough for Greece at this time?

I don’t think that the Thessaloniki policy program represents a serious break. First of all because it is very ambiguous on Greece’s exit from the European Union and the eurozone, and that undermines any possibility of developing an alternative policy. Secondly, it doesn’t say anything about a moratorium on the foreign debt, which is necessary to channel new resources into revitalizing and developing an alternative economic strategy. So, whatever reforms the Thessaloniki program proposes are undercut by the framework and the resources which will be available. Whatever the attraction of the Thessaloniki program might have in terms of social reforms, are not viable within the framework, which it refuses to break with.

Furthermore, I think that Popular Unity did not fight on these issues when they were dealt with them. I think that they didn’t make a plausible case that they are willing to break with the renunciation Tsipras made very early on the Thessaloniki program. They mumbled and criticized, but all of it in Parliament. There was no convocation of mass movement, so one wonders whether Popular Unity leaders have that capacity, to put people in the streets, to build up that pressure, to create social consciousness, to sustain an alternative at this point. So, I think Popular Unity is largely a parliamentary tempest in the teapot.

Let’s talk for a moment about the European Union and its behavior in recent months. How would you characterize its stance toward Greece, with the new memorandum and harsh austerity it forced upon the country, and how would you gauge its stance toward the worsening refugee crisis from Syria and the Middle East, which has also greatly impacted Greece?

Well, the European Union was, is and will continue to be an oligarchical organization controlled by Germany, England, France, perhaps the Netherlands, in association with its subordinates in Eastern Europe. I don’t think it has any representation of anything progressive in Europe. I think it’s a very rigid, hierarchical, top-down organization that basically is organized around the idea that any members must accept the fiscal dictates, the economic and income policies dictated by, especially, Germany. And so, I think that the EU functioned as a debt collector for Greece. It took positions of intransigence, no recognition that they had a sovereign government that was democratically elected. They didn’t care. The main thing was to force Greece to meet its external obligations to the debt collectors, even after five years of failed policies – failed from the point of view of Greece getting out from under the depression. So, the question that they raised was, first debt payments and then we’ll talk about growth, and if you don’t meet your debt obligations, there was destabilization and every effort made to precipitate a capital flight and disinvestment in Greece.

I think you can say the European Union is an oligarchical organization that is essentially designed to favor German, English and French bankers, over and above the national interests of the majority of the citizens in Europe, especially those that are under the tutelage of the European Union. I think the European Union bears a great deal of responsibility for the refugees, because the refugees are coming from countries where the EU joined with the United States in wars, in destructive wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and sub-Saharan Africa. They destroyed economies and fostered mercenaries and terrorist groups, sectarian conflicts, and now they’re reaping the consequences: People that have been uprooted by the wars are now going to Europe because Europe destroyed their households, and they’re saying now, “You created our situation, and now you must deal with it.” I think Europe uprooted the people, and now Europeans want to avoid and evade the consequences, which is essentially resettling these uprooted people, who are products of Euro-US wars.

What do you believe would be the best policy solutions for Greece at this time? Do you believe that a “Grexit” or a departure from the European Union is in Greece’s best interest?

I think the only policy is to break with the European Union oligarchy and to assume an independent state, an independent policy. It’s necessary to get out of NATO and to deepen and develop alternative trade ties and to reverse the privatizations, to set a moratorium on the debt, impose capital controls and expropriate the banks. In other words, to mobilize and concentrate as many national resources and to develop trade with Europe, but on the basis of equality and outside of the European Union. To have their own fiscal policy, their own currency, in order to use their monetary policies if they need to devalue, in order to foster trade, if they need to develop a new development strategy, they need to control their national economy.

There are opportunities to trade and develop ties with Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela and even countries with the European Union, on a different basis. I think that the continuation of the European Union is a total and unmitigated disaster, and it’s demonstrated that it is a very arbitrary and dictatorial group that doesn’t take account of the interests and circumstances of its subordinate members.

Michael Nevradakis is a Ph.D. student in media studies at the University of Texas at Austin and a US Fulbright Scholar presently based in Athens, Greece. Michael is also the host of Dialogos Radio, a weekly radio program featuring interviews and coverage of current events in Greece.