Nov 042016
 

By 99GetSmart

Originally published at MintPressNews:

Bystanders wait to be handed bags of oranges during a free distribution of fruit and vegetables as a protest by farmers and vendors over proposed pension reforms, in Athens on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. Greece’s leftwing government is facing an escalating wave of protests over its proposed pension overhaul that has been demanded by bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Bystanders wait to be handed bags of oranges during a free distribution of fruit and vegetables as a protest by farmers and vendors over proposed pension reforms, in Athens on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. Greece’s leftwing government is facing an escalating wave of protests over its proposed pension overhaul that has been demanded by bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS — This has been another eventful year in Greece. Almost one year after it turned its back on the July 2015 referendum result which rejected further austerity, the Syriza-led government has pushed forward a program of even harsher austerity, spending cuts, and privatizations.

Following the British vote to proceed with “Brexit,” or a departure from the European Union, fears that Greece might follow suit led Greece’s lenders to demand even more austerity measures from a country already mired in an economic depression.

In this interview, Dr. Jack Rasmus, a professor of economics and politics at St. Mary’s College of California, analyzes these issues and the many challenges facing the Greek and European economies today.

The author of such books as “Looting Greece” and “Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy,” Dr. Rasmus shares his insights into the consequences of austerity for Greece and other peripheral European economies, and presents his proposed solutions for an end to the crisis and austerity.

MintPress News (MPN): In September, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave his annual “state of the nation” address, where he boasted that the Greek economy has turned the corner, that unemployment is going down, that salaries will be increased, and that the country is returning to growth. Is this what Greece’s economic indicators actually show?

Protesters march to the Greek Parliament in Athens on Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012. Greece’s unions are holding their third general strike in six weeks to press dissenters in the country’s troubled coalition government not to back a major new austerity program that will doom Greeks to further hardship in a sixth year of recession. Two days of demonstrations are planned to start Tuesday, continuing until lawmakers vote late Wednesday on the bill to slash euro13.5 billion ($17.3 billion) from budget spending over two years. (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)

Protesters march to the Greek Parliament in Athens on Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012. Greece’s unions are holding their third general strike in six weeks to press dissenters in the country’s troubled coalition government not to back a major new austerity program that will doom Greeks to further hardship in a sixth year of recession. Two days of demonstrations are planned to start Tuesday, continuing until lawmakers vote late Wednesday on the bill to slash euro13.5 billion ($17.3 billion) from budget spending over two years. (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)

Dr. Jack Rasmus (JR): No, not quite. Greece’s debt is still the same as it was in 2011, roughly 180 percent of GDP. Unemployment has come down by only 3 to 4 percent, so instead of 27 percent, it’s about 23 to 24 percent. That’s depression-level unemployment. All the other indicators in the economy are flat or declining, so I don’t see anywhere that Greece is really “recovering,” and neither, really, is the entire eurozone economy. It’s been bouncing along the bottom.

As I said in my book “Systemic Fragility,” it’s a case of chronic stagnation. [The eurozone] might grow a little, 0.5 percent or 1 percent above GDP, mostly as a result of Germany’s growth, then it flattens out or goes below. Most of the periphery economies in Europe are stagnant or in a recession, as they have been for quite some time.

As far as raising wages, Greece cannot raise, at least in the public sector, any wages without the approval of the troika [Greece’s three major lenders: the European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund]. It’s a real stretch to say that Greece is recovering. It’s kind of moving sideways, in the condition of still chronic economic depression.

MPN: One of the perceptions that has been prevalent in global public opinion with regard to the economic crisis in Greece is that the country has been “bailed out” with billions upon billions of euros in free money. Is this really the case, and where has the so-called “bailout” money to Greece actually gone?

JR: Countries don’t get bailed out. Governments, banks, businesses, and sometimes, though not so frequently, households get bailed out. So the question is, who got bailed out here, in the debt restructuring deals of 2010, 2012, 2015, and this past spring? The banks got bailed out several times. Foreign investors and speculators in Greek bonds and other securities clearly got bailed out in 2012. If you look at where the money has gone, there’s $400 billion in debt in Greece still, that they have to pay off, with an economy that is less than half that size, so it’s impossible.

Where has all this money gone? Recent studies by the European School of Management and Technology documenting the 2010 and 2012 bailouts indicate that 95 percent of all the loans to “bail out” the Greek government, which then bailed out the Greek banks — 95 percent of that went back to Northern Europe, mostly to the German and Northern European banks that had loaned so much money to Greece. [Bailout funds also went] to the troika, particularly the European Commission, that then distributed it to the banking system and investors in turn. The EC is the big player here, and to some extent the European Central Bank, and to a minor extent now the International Monetary Fund. So, 95 percent of all the money loaned to Greece went right back to [Europe] and less than 5 percent of that went back into the Greek economy. Greece has been subsidizing the financial system elsewhere in Europe.

A supporter of the communist-affiliated union PAME takes part in an anti-austerity rally in front of the parliament in Athens, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016.

A supporter of the communist-affiliated union PAME takes part in an anti-austerity rally in front of the parliament in Athens, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016.

MPN: What do you believe needs to be done about the Greek debt?

JR: You might ask what needs to be done about debt throughout the eurozone, because it’s not just Greece. Greece is perhaps the most serious case, but other places in the periphery of Europe are still heavily indebted. You cannot sustain, with austerity measures designed to pay the interest and principal on debt, a $400-plus billion debt based on an economy that’s less than $200 billion. Even the IMF has come to that conclusion and is maneuvering with the other troika members on that particular point.

Is [the debt] legitimate? Well, you have to understand the origins of this debt. It was originally private sector debt that was created as a result of the formation of the eurozone in 1999, the ECB as part of that creation, and other elements of the eurozone agreements, particularly the Lisbon Strategy that Germany adopted. Germany and other Northern European businesses and bankers pumped money and capital into the periphery, including Greece, from 2005 onward. Germany had a strong competitive advantage in exports, so a lot of the money and capital was pumped into the periphery, including Greece, in order to purchase German and other exports. So the money went in and circulated around, leaving a pile of private sector debt in Greece, Italy, and other places.

Then we had the crash of 2008-2009 and the debt could not be repaid, and the troika stepped in to [offer] the governments of Greece and other countries money in order to continue to bail out the private sector and enable the repayment of the private debt. So it starts out as private debt, because of this great imbalance in exports within the eurozone, and then that gets converted to government debt, and then the big crash of 2008-2009 adds even more debt, and then you have the recession of 2011-2013 in the eurozone and the 2012 bailout, which piled on more debt in order to pay the old debt, and then in 2015 the same thing. So the troika’s piling more debt on Greece in order for Greece to pay the previous debt, and that’s totally unsustainable. They’re going to have to expunge some of that debt.

Of course, the Germans, Wolfgang Schauble [the German finance minister] and the coalition in the north, does not want to allow that. And they don’t really want to change the eurozone, because the eurozone, while very imbalanced for the periphery, has benefited Germany significantly. [The Germans] dominate the finance ministers’ council in the EC and they dominate the ECB, and they’re just keeping the situation the way it is because it’s profitable for them.

Demonstrators hold a poster against the austerity policy of Germany prior to a special session of the parliament Bundestag on negotiations with Greece for a new bailout in Berlin, Germany, Friday, July 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Demonstrators hold a poster against the austerity policy of Germany prior to a special session of the parliament Bundestag on negotiations with Greece for a new bailout in Berlin, Germany, Friday, July 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

MPN: Why must Greek banks be nationalized, in your view?

JR: Look at the debt negotiations of 2010, 2012, and 2015. What happened was the ECB, which pretty much controls the Greek central bank — the ECB is just a council of central banks dominated by the Bundesbank [the German central bank] and its allies, so they have control — and what you saw in the negotiations is that in 2015, the ECB put the screws to the Greek economy, and Syriza collapsed and agreed each time the screws were tightened, bringing the economy to a halt. They couldn’t deal with the squeeze on the economy by the ECB. This brought the economy to a halt, squeezing it and of course not releasing loans that [the troika] had agreed to provide Greece under previous agreements. There was an economic squeeze that Syriza did not have a strategy to deal with, and eventually it capitulated.

You’ve got to nationalize, make the Greek central bank and the banking systems independent of the ECB. Gain control over your economy once again, and that is one of several key steps to prevent the squeeze every time you attempt to renegotiate the debt or restructure the debt. Without an independent, Greek, people-controlled banking system, the eurozone and the troika will squeeze and bring Greece to its knees every time. We’ve seen that three times. You’ve got to nationalize the banking system, including the central bank, or if you want to just leave the central bank as part of the ECB structure, go ahead, but create an independent central bank authority elsewhere in the Greek government.

In the U.S. during the Great Depression, the U.S. central bank had screwed up badly, and [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt took over and had his Treasury Department take over and run the economy. Greece would have to set up a parallel central bank in its finance sector, and isolate and bypass the influence of the ECB through the Greek central bank. You would have to create a parallel currency as part of this and impose serious controls on bank withdrawals and capital flows outside the country, which Syriza did not really do, because the ECB and the troika opposed it. When you have all the capital, bank withdrawals and capital flight is another way of squeezing the country economically.

FILE – In this Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 file photo, a man walks past street art depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Greece. Tsipras’ decision to sign off on a bailout led to many in his left-wing Syriza party to quit in protest.

FILE – In this Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 file photo, a man walks past street art depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Greece. Tsipras’ decision to sign off on a bailout led to many in his left-wing Syriza party to quit in protest.

MPN: The current government in Greece has been continuing a policy of massive privatizations of Greek public assets, with profitable airports and harbors having been privatized in the past year, in addition to the recent selloff of the Greek national railroad for a total of €45 million ($49 million). What are the short- and long-term impacts of the privatization of such public assets?

JR: The short-term is that when you privatize them, under the aegis of the troika, if you sell below market prices, which a lot of these assets are being sold at, that’s profit on the sale for the investors who are buying up these assets. But once the assets are in private hands, where does the revenue go? Does it go back into Greece or does it go back into the pockets of the investors and the corporations and the banks outside Greece that are buying it up? Well, it goes out. It’s a form of capital flight. Money that is needed in Greece flows out of Greece.

This is a new form of financial imperialism, wealth extraction in other words, that is being structured and managed on a state-to-state basis. It’s not 19th century British imperialism where they set up a factory in India, paid them low wages, and brought the textiles back to London to re-sell at a higher price. It’s not that kind of production imperialism. This is financial imperialism imposed on Greece, and it’s a new form that’s emerging everywhere, where you indebt the country and then you force the country to engage in austerity in order to pay the principal and interest on the debt, and you extract the income from the country. Privatizations are another form of that.

You privatize public goods, you get them at fire-sale prices, and then the income flows from those assets flow back to the coffers of the private companies or the banks, outside of Greece.

The other consequence is when you privatize, they come in and they cut costs, which means they lay off people in mass numbers, they put a hold on wages, they get rid of benefits, and they do everything else to maximize their revenue.

Finally, longer term, it means that Greece has less control over its own economy if it can’t control its infrastructure and everything is owned by foreigners. Then you can’t influence it as much, and if you’re part of the eurozone, you’re legally prohibited from what you can do to make sure that these foreign-owned infrastructure companies are behaving in terms of the benefit for the public sector, for the rest of Greece.

MPN: You have argued in your book, “Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy,” that there are nine major trends which account for the economic troubles that are seen on a global scale. What are some of these trends?

JR: Everywhere, and particularly since 2008, we see central banks and monetary policy to be ascendant, and that means creating money, pumping it into the economy to bail out the financial systems, the financial institutions, the banks and the shadow banks, meaning speculators, hedge funds, private equity firms, asset management companies, and so forth. We’ve seen bailouts of tens of trillions of dollars since 2008. All of that liquidity injection into the economy has driven interest rates down to zero or even, in Europe and Japan and elsewhere, negative rates, and that fuels debt. With rates that cheap, corporations and businesses float new corporate bonds, and they use the money not to invest necessarily, they use it to buy back the stock and drive up the stock prices and pay out dividends, or they sit on it, they hoard it, or they send it to emerging markets. That’s a problem everywhere, and that’s the result of massive liquidity injections, which have really been escalating since the 1980s, when controls on international capital flows were eliminated everywhere.

After the 1970s, when the Bretton Woods system collapsed and central banks took over, the combination of those has led to the financialization of the global economy in the 21st century, where profits are far greater for investing and speculating in financial securities than they are in investing in real assets and real things that create real jobs and real income and real consumption. We’re becoming dependent on debt more and more. The economy is increasingly credit- and debt-driven, and that’s the result of this massive liquidity injection, and it also leads to a shift from real asset investment — investing in real things that create jobs that people need — toward financial asset investment. That means that real investment collapses over time and productivity collapses over time as well, and we see that happening everywhere.

That’s a major point that I argued about in my book, “Systemic Fragility,” this financialization of the global economy based on liquidity and debt and squeezing out. It’s diverting money and capital from real investment into financial speculation. What’s going on in Greece is a concrete expression of this, the reliance on financial means and financial manipulation. The periphery in the eurozone is at a great disadvantage to Germany and others, and they’re being manipulated financially. All the payments on interest and the debt flow back to the north. This is all flowing through the EC to the private sector, and it’s a nice constant money capital flow from interest payments and privatization and speculation on government bonds and securities and stocks in these countries as the volatility occurs.

It’s a reflection, in Greece, of what’s happening on a broader scale elsewhere in the global economy, and that’s why we haven’t seen much of a recovery in the global economy. Global trade is stagnant and real investment everywhere is drifting toward zero, productivity is negative almost everywhere, even in the U.S., and we’re seeing growth rates of barely 1 percent, 1.5 percent, at best, when it should be double that. We see these growing, non-performing bank loans, almost $2 trillion in Europe, the worst in Italy with about $400 billion. We see the same thing in Japan and in China. We’re becoming more systemically fragile financially because of this shift to financial speculation.

In this July 5, 2012 file photo President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi speaks during a news conference in Frankfurt, central Germany. (AP Photo/dapd, Mario Vedder, File)

In this July 5, 2012 file photo President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi speaks during a news conference in Frankfurt, central Germany. (AP Photo/dapd, Mario Vedder, File)

MintPress: What is your outlook for the eurozone economy and the difficulties that it is currently facing?

JR: The European banking system has never fully recovered from the 2008-2009 crash. The ECB is pumping money into the banking system in various ways, long-term refinancing options and all the bailout funds and qualitative easing and negative interest rates and so forth. They’re desperately pumping money into the banking system, but the banks aren’t really lending, at least to those businesses that would reinvest in real assets to create jobs. It’s far more profitable to make money now. Investors make more money from financial speculation than they do from investing long-term and expecting to get a return over 10 to 20 years for investment in a real company that creates real things.

We can see the strains now with the non-performing loans, in particular in Italy. Of course, we know the situation with the non-performing bank loans in Greece. Portugal is in bad shape as well in terms of non-performing loans, and now we see even institutions like [Germany’s] Deutsche Bank and others beginning to feel this strain, and the further impact on the European banking system of the “Brexit” [the departure of Great Britain from the European Union].

The problem is that the private banks are either hoarding the cash, they won’t invest in real growth, or they’re sending their money offshore to emerging markets, or they’re using it, as in the U.S., to buy back stock and pay out dividends and loaning money to companies to do just that. The global economy has changed dramatically in ways that make it much more fragile than ever before. A lot of debt has been building up everywhere: Over $50 trillion in additional debt has occurred since 2009, and when the next recession comes, how are they going to pay that debt?

When times are stable or growing, you can add debt without a great crisis emerging, but when you have a recession or a downturn that’s significant, where are you going to get the money capital to pay the principal and interest on the debt? Then you start seeing defaults and you start seeing financial asset price collapses going on, and now you’re back in 2008-2009. That’s the picture of the global economy.

A farmer tries to protect himself as he clashes with a riot policeman during an anti-government protest at central Syntagma square in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Greek farmers protesting over planned tax and pension reforms demanded by the country’s bailout creditors have clashed outside parliament with police, who used tear gas to disperse them. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

A farmer tries to protect himself as he clashes with a riot policeman during an anti-government protest at central Syntagma square in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Greek farmers protesting over planned tax and pension reforms demanded by the country’s bailout creditors have clashed outside parliament with police, who used tear gas to disperse them. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

MPN: What would be the steps for Greece to follow, in your view, in order to escape the spiral of economic depression and austerity?

JR: Syriza made it clear, when it came into power, that it was not in favor of “Grexit” [a Greek departure from the eurozone], and it has always maintained that position. An unprepared, “we’re leaving the eurozone and the euro” kind of decision would cause a collapse of values, particularly among those who have investments in some savings in Greece. To some extent, Syriza was caught between a rock and a hard place here. They couldn’t or didn’t want to advocate an exit, and at least those who had investments didn’t want it because of the potential effect on their investments. The broader Greek populace thinks, still, that to be European you have to be in the eurozone. That’s a big mistake.

I think what Greece and Syriza should have done is to create a parallel currency and to take over its banking system. In other words, make the banking system truly independent, including the Greek central bank, and if that was not possible, bypass the Greek central bank and set up a central banking function in the finance ministry, as the U.S. has done at different times. Create a parallel currency, and policies and programs to get people to convert their euros into the parallel currency. Maybe declare that henceforth all taxes to the Greek government will be paid with the parallel currency, and that means that people would then trade in their euros for the parallel currency to pay their taxes.

Then tell the troika [the EC, the ECB, and the IMF — collectively, Greece’s lenders] that we’re going to pay you in your euros, but if we run out of euros here as a result of the conversion, well, tough luck, we don’t have a way of paying you, let’s negotiate a final deal where you expunge some of it and we pay you off and we go our separate ways. Of course, you would have to create significant capital flow controls, which has always been a problem every time there’s been a crisis; the money flows out of Greece. Take the economy out of the control of the troika without a formal exit.

That could have been done, but for some reason Syriza and its finance advisers either didn’t want to do that or didn’t know how to do that.

MPN: Arguments that have been heard against a parallel currency include the claim that the existence of two currencies would create a situation where there would be “haves” and “have nots” — between those who would hold a stronger, hard currency, compared to those holding a weaker, devalued currency. How do you respond to this?

JR: There are policies and approaches you can take that entice and require people to convert their euros into the new currency. That would raise the demand and therefore the value, the price of the new currency. If you just had the currency and you didn’t have this forced trade-in, then of course you would have “haves” and “have nots,” the new currency would collapse, and pretty soon no one would want to use it. But, for example, saying that taxes could only be paid with the new currency, would force people who had corporations and businesses and so forth to purchase the new currency with the euro. It would undermine the value of the euro in Greece and it would raise the value of the new currency in Greece as well. That might set off a parallel elsewhere in the eurozone with other countries thinking the same thing, which would undermine the value of the euro and put the squeeze on the troika for once. Greece never put the squeeze on the troika, it was just the opposite in all of these negotiations that occurred, they never really hurt the troika in negotiations, and that’s the only way you prevail in negotiations. You’ve got to make it unpleasant for the opposition. Syriza never did that, they played along and made concession after concession.

Syriza thought that their example would strike a spark elsewhere in Europe of other social democratic forces and governments. They thought that they would get the rest of the social democracies behind them and together they would reform the eurozone. That was a fiction, a fantasy thought on the part of Alexis Tsipras and others, but that was the core of their whole strategy. European social democracy is a dying force, and that’s why you see the growth on the fringes, both to the right and the left.

Tsipras and [former Greek finance minister] Yanis Varoufakis’ problem was that they thought they could get all these elements behind them and that together they would have enough weight to force Schauble and other finance ministers to make concessions. Well, Schauble and the other ministers, the “German faction,” as I call it, within the finance ministers’ council in the EC, remained dominant. At every step along the way, whenever Syriza and its few allies tried to make a compromise where some concessions were made to them, the German faction squelched it. We saw that, for example, at the very end, when [Greece held] the referendum in July 2015. Greece held the vote, and the vote said “go back and negotiate a better deal for us,” and what did Tsipras do? He totally caved in to the Schauble faction, and then the Schauble faction said, “The offer we made last week is now off the table, you’re going to have to accept an even worse one.” So they put the screws to Syriza, and Syriza looked to its allies in the EC, and they totally caved in as well. Things just got worse and worse until you had the final [austerity] agreement on August 20, 2015.

It was a step-by-step retreat from [Syriza’s election in] January 2015, because Syriza had the wrong strategy and was not engaged in certain necessary tactics. Of course, the troika itself had a lot of cards to play. It would have been an uphill fight for Syriza. The time where they might have been able to strike some concessions from the troika was 2012, but New Democracy [the center-right party in power at the time in Greece] was totally in the pocket of the troika, so that was impossible.

[This past spring], the IMF and the troika were worried about “Brexit” and what impact that might have on renewing “Grexit.” So they put the screws to Greece again, raised the debt even more, austerity even more, and I think another round of that is coming, because the IMF wants out of the troika deal. We’ll see what happens at the IMF meeting, but they haven’t endorsed even the 2015 agreement because they know it’s unsustainable. I think the IMF is maneuvering to have the EC to buy its portion of the debt, and once that happens, the EC will demand even more austerity from Greece.

President of France Francois Hollande, U.S. President Barack Obama, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel attend the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) meeting at the G20 the G-20 leaders summit in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.

President of France Francois Hollande, U.S. President Barack Obama, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel attend the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) meeting at the G20 the G-20 leaders summit in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.

MPN: In the event that a parallel currency is implemented and steps are taken to maintain or strengthen its value, could that be a prelude to a switch to a national, domestic currency?

JR: Yes. At some point, one currency will become dominant. You can’t have two equal currencies like that. Another advantage of the new currency is that it will start out at less value than the euro, and that will be used as the trading currency. That will stimulate Greek exports to elsewhere, outside the eurozone.

Part of the problem is that the periphery in Europe is so dependent on exports and imports to Germany and the north, that it can’t really engage in its own independent export strategy without cutting wages. Throughout Europe, you have what’s called “internal devaluation,” when you are stuck with a currency and someone else’s central bank, the ECB and the euro. You can’t really engage in independent monetary policy to stimulate your economy and you can’t engage in lowering your currency in order to gain some advantage in exports. You’re stuck, and only the most powerful country that’s most efficient and has the lowest costs is able to take advantage of global exports, and that’s Germany. The weaker economies of the periphery will always be at a disadvantage to Germany when it comes to trying to push their exports anywhere else outside the eurozone.

That’s the lesson. The lesson is that you’ve got a 1999 agreement in which you have this quasi-central bank, the ECB, and you have [the euro], and that arrangement significantly benefits the most efficient, low-cost producer, which is Germany, at the expense of the periphery. Until you have a true central bank and fiscal union to some extent, that will pump the money into the periphery to help it grow when it doesn’t, you will always have the situation you have in Europe right now.

Compare that to the U.S., where there’s a fiscal union, so that if certain states have economic problems … the federal government can pump money into those specific locations. If you don’t have a true federal government and fiscal union, you can’t do that, and if your central bank is dominated by the largest economy — Germany — even the monetary policy has no effect. And if it’s a single currency, it’s to the advantage of the stronger economy at the disadvantage of the weaker.

The eurozone economy is structured to emphasize the growth of the strongest economies at the expense of the weaker, and that’s not going to change. It’s built into the eurozone. You cannot create a currency union and a customs union without a true banking union and fiscal union. More and more countries in the eurozone are beginning to come to that conclusion, but it was foreordained. Economists knew this from the beginning, and that’s the tragedy. Greece has tied its tail to the eurozone, dominated by Germany, and it can never get out of this situation as long as Germany dominates the institutions, which it does, because the whole arrangement is great for Germany.

A protesters carries a protest sign during a rally prior to the opening of the new European Central Bank (ECB) headquarter in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. At least four police cars were set alight and two officers injured Wednesday as authorities confronted violent anti-austerity protesters ahead of the inauguration ceremony for the European Central Bank’s new headquarters (AP Photo/dpa, Arne Dedert)

A protesters carries a protest sign during a rally prior to the opening of the new European Central Bank (ECB) headquarter in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. At least four police cars were set alight and two officers injured Wednesday as authorities confronted violent anti-austerity protesters ahead of the inauguration ceremony for the European Central Bank’s new headquarters (AP Photo/dpa, Arne Dedert)

MPN: Tell us about your most recent book, “Looting Greece.”

JR: It’s really a case study of the consequences of financialization and globalization and integration. I argue that there is this phenomenon of the smaller economies being tied into the larger economies through free trade agreements, which lead to currency unions, which lead to banking unions, and then you’ve got a situation like Greece and the euro periphery and the problems associated with that.

The book also takes a historical look at the origins of the Greek debt, that starts in 1999 with the [creation of the] eurozone, the adoption of the euro by Greece in 2002 and the consequences of that, how the debt developed, first in the private sector because of German export domination and then conversion of the private debt in 2008-2009 to the public debt, and then the collapse of 2008-2009, which added to the government debt. Then you had the 2012 agreement where the private sector was bailed out, and that added more debt, and then 2015 and so forth. All this is described in detail in the early chapters, and then most of the book is a step-by-step look at the negotiations between Syriza and the troika, from [Syriza’s January 2015 election] through the spring of 2016, and what were the strategic and tactical errors of Syriza and the strategic and tactical moves by the troika which enabled it to prevail.

At the end, [the book discusses] how this is a form of a new emerging financial and wealth extraction from smaller economies by the larger economies, because of the globalization and integration arrangement that exists, the emergence of financial extraction and financial exploitation, and how central banks are feeding that all. This will lead to my next book, which is about global central banks and the problems they’ve created as we move to another crisis, which I think is coming in the next five years.

Demonstrators dressed as clowns pass by a burning police car Wednesday, March 18, 2015 in Frankfurt, Germany. Blockupy activists try to blockade the new headquarters of the ECB to protest against government austerity and capitalism. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Demonstrators dressed as clowns pass by a burning police car Wednesday, March 18, 2015 in Frankfurt, Germany. Blockupy activists try to blockade the new headquarters of the ECB to protest against government austerity and capitalism. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

 

 

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.

Mar 302016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends,

UnknownThis week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an interview with Despina Kreatsoulas of the Politismos Museum, an online museum of Greek history and culture. Kreatsoulas will speak to us about the idea behind creating an online museum, about the museum’s features and exhibits, and the future plans of the museum. 

Also this week, we will feature our commentary of the weeksegment, discussing issues pertaining to freedom and independence.

All this and more, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio! For more details, the full Dialogos Radio broadcast schedule, our podcast, our on-demand archives, our articles and written work, and our online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6154.

Best,
Dialogos Radio & Media
 
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Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
 
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», παρουσιάζουμε συνέντευξη με τον Θάνο Χίνη, από το διαδικτυακό μουσείο «Πολιτισμός». Θα μας μιλήσει για το μουσείο και για την ιδέα ίδρυσης ενός μουσείου στο διαδίκτυο, για τα εκθέματα που παρουσιάζονται και που ενδέχεται να παρουσιαστούν, και για τα μελλοντικά σχέδια του μουσείου. 
 
Επίσης θα παρουσιάσουμε τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό, όπου θα μιλήσουμε για θέματα που αφορούν την ελευθερία, την ανεξαρτησία, και την εθνική κυριαρχία.
 
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες σχετικά με την μετάδοση, το πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων, το podcast μας, το αρχείο εκπομπών μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6158.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Mar 172016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends, 

antti1-1-300x170This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature a highly interesting and exclusive interview with Antti Pesonen of the Independence Party of Finland. The Independence Party advocates the departure of Finland from the Eurozone and from the European Union and is against Finland joining NATO, and in this week’s interview, Pesonen will discuss the party, its history and its platform, the dire impacts of Eurozone and European Union membership for Finland, the economic crisis that is now impacting the country, the network of European political parties and movements which are against the European Union and the euro, and about other current issues facing Greece and Europe.
 
Also this week, we will feature our commentary of the weeksegment, where we will discuss Zoe Konstantopoulou and her forthcoming political movement. All this, plus some great Greek music, this week only on Dialogos Radio!
 
For more information, our full broadcast schedule, plus our podcasts, archives, articles and written work, Dialogos Radio 24/7 and more, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6102.
 
Best,
Dialogos Radio & Media
 
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Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
 
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», παρουσιάζουμε μια εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέρουσα και αποκλειστική συνέντευξη με τον Άντι Πεσονέν, πρώην επικεφαλής του Φινλανδικού Κόμματος της Ανεξαρτησίας. Το Κόμμα της Ανεξαρτησίας υποστηρίζει την έξοδο της Φινλανδίας από την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και την Ευρωζώνη και είναι αντίθετο στην ένταξη της χώρας στο ΝΑΤΟ, και στην συνέντευξη που θα παρουσιάσουμε, ο κ. Πεσονέν θα μας μιλήσει για το κόμμα, για το πως ιδρύθηκε και για τις θέσεις του, για τις δυσμενείς επιπτώσεις από την συμμετοχή της Φινλανδίας στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και στην Ευρωζώνη, για την οικονομική κρίση που πλήττει πλέον την χώρα, για το δίκτυο Ευρωπαϊκών κινημάτων που είναι εναντίων του ευρώ και της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, και για την τρέχουσα επικαιρότητα στην Ελλάδα και την Ευρώπη.
 
Επίσης αυτή την εβδομάδα θα παρουσιάσουμε τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό, όπου θα μιλήσουμε για την Ζωή Κωνσταντοπούλου και το επερχόμενο πολιτικό σχήμα της. Όλα αυτά και πολλά άλλα, αυτή την εβδομάδα αποκλειστικά στο «Διάλογος»!
 
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες, το πλήρες πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων μας, το αρχείο εκπομπών και συνεντεύξεων μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6097.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Mar 022016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Dear listeners and friends,
paulcraigroberts2-300x180This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an exclusive interview with author, columnist, former Wall Street Journal editor, and former undersecretary of the United States Treasury Paul Craig Roberts.

Dr. Roberts will share with us his thoughts and analysis of the economic situation in Greece and his views regarding a potential “grexit,” while also speaking to us about neoliberal economic policies on a global scale, geopolitical developments in the Middle East and Russia, United States foreign policy, and the upcoming presidential elections in the United States. This is a highly relevant and timely interview that you will not want to miss!

In addition to this interview, we will feature our commentary of the week segment, plus some great Greek music!

Tune in this week all across Dialogos Radio’s global broadcast network. For more details and our full broadcast schedule, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6020.

Best,

Dialogos Radio & Media

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Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,

Αυτή την εβδομάδα στην εκπομπή μας, θα παρουσιάσουμε αποκλειστική συνέντευξη με τον συγγραφέα, αρθρογράφο, οικονομολόγο, πρώην συντάκτη της εφημερίδας Wall Street Journal και πρώην υφυπουργό οικονομικών των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών Paul Craig Roberts.

Ο κ. Roberts θα μας προσφέρει την δική του ανάλυση για την τρέχουσα οικονομική και πολιτική κατάσταση στην Ελλάδα, τις απόψεις του για την παραμονή ή μη της Ελλάδας στην Ευρωζώνη και στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση, ενώ επίσης θα μας μιλήσει για την εξάπλωση του νεοφιλελευθερισμού και τις επιπτώσεις του σε παγκόσμια κλίμακα, για την εξωτερική πολιτική των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών και του ΝΑΤΟ και την εμπλοκή τους στην περιοχή της Μέσης Ανατολής και της Ρωσίας, και για τις επερχόμενες προεδρικές εκλογές των ΗΠΑ. Αυτή είναι μία ιδιαίτερα ενδιαφέρουσα και επίκαιρη συνέντευξη που δεν θα θέλετε να χάσετε!

Επίσης, μην χάσετε και αυτή την εβδομάδα τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό, για την επικείμενη τηλεοπτική αδειοδότηση που έχει προαναγγείλει η κυβέρνηση του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ.

Συντονιστείτε αυτή την εβδομάδα σε όλο το παγκόσμιο δίκτυο του «Διάλογος». Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες και το πλήρες πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων μας, μπείτε στην ιστοσελίδα http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6023.

Φιλικά,

Διάλογος Radio & Media

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Feb 172016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an exclusive interview with prominent international lawyer and University of Illinois professor of international law Francis Boyle. Boyle was part of the team of lawyers who charged George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the United States and United Kingdom governments with war crimes and torture in an international court, resulting in their conviction in absentia on these charges.

In this week’s interview, Boyle will discuss the aftermath of this case and conviction, the foreign policy of the United States and NATO and its impacts in the Middle East and elsewhere, the upcoming presidential election in the United States, other issues pertaining to international law and human rights, while Boyle also shares with us his analysis on Greece’s national debt and its memorandum agreements with the so-called troika, and what international law has to say about these issues.

In addition this week, we will air a special feature with music written and performed by Greek and international artists, in solidarity with the refugees fleeing the Middle East and the Greek people in the Aegean islands who have helped the incoming refugees. This music will be accompanied by soundbites from the artists themselves, discussing their inspiration in producing this new music. Plus, we will air our commentary of the week segment.

Tune in for all this and more, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series! @ http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6002

Feb 092016
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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A version of this commentary originally aired on Dialogos Radio, during the week of February 4-10, 2016.

Once again, Greece is experiencing a time of political and social uncertainty, a time where yet again many citizens have begun to search for a new political savior, one that will pull Greece out of its current economic abyss and provide the promise of “hope” and “change”, putting an end to the crisis and placing Greece back on a path towards growth and better days.

This is highly similar to what was taking place in Greece just over a year ago, when millions of people within and outside of Greece believed that SYRIZA could comprise this sort of political force. And they believed this purely on the basis of rhetoric and promises. The big promises made by Alexis Tsipras and the rest of SYRIZA regarding the abolition of the austerity measures with one law and one article, the supposedly anti-austerity Thessaloniki policy platform, the tearing apart of the memorandum agreements, promises, promises and yet more promises from SYRIZA, including promises that all of these wonderful things could take place firmly within the confines of the European Union and the Eurozone, and that SYRIZA, when in power, would indeed manage to change Europe!

No one, however, seemed to notice how SYRIZA’s pre-election rhetoric was already being significantly watered down compared to their earlier promises. No one noticed that whereas Tsipras had once said that remaining in the Eurozone is not a fetish, SYRIZA was now not even contemplating an exit from the euro, not even as a Plan B. No one noticed that SYRIZA abandoned its platform to nationalize the banking system. Formerly radical economist Costas Lapavitsas, whom we have unfortunately interviewed in the past on our program, had once been proposing a so-called “radical economic platform” including a euro exit. In January 2015 however, just prior to the elections, he appeared on the BBC to defend SYRIZA’s economic platform as a form of “mild Keynesianism.” Dozens of candidates on SYRIZA’s ballot were former members of the corrupt PASOK party which ruled Greece for most of the 40 years following the fall of the military dictatorship, and many of them were elected and attained cabinet posts in the new government of supposed hope and change.

However, perhaps the biggest sign of the flip-flop and broken promises that were to follow was the inclusion of the false prophet Yanis Varoufakis on the SYRIZA ballot and his selection as Greece’s minister of finance after the elections. Varoufakis, a former adviser to PASOK’s George Papandreou, who brought austerity and the IMF to Greece, had carefully developed a reputation as a supposedly “radical” anti-austerity economist who was not afraid to clash with the system and who would demand the end of austerity and the memorandum agreements. Yet this same Varoufakis was telling us, long before the elections, that it was impossible for a country to leave the Eurozone, while rejecting the actions of countries such as Argentina and Iceland, stating that he instead sought a so-called “European solution” for the Greek crisis. Nobody seemed to notice this, and instead, Varoufakis earned the most votes of any individual candidate in the January 2015 elections.

Now, one year later, we are once again seeing the same theater of the absurd take place before our eyes, and this time Varoufakis, the son of a wealthy industrialist who is married to the daughter of another wealthy industrialist, is being presented as the best and only hope for change and for the elimination of austerity, not just in Greece but for all of Europe. On February 9th, he will announce the launch of his new pan-European political movement with a presentation in, where else, Berlin, a movement that is already promising to “restore democracy” to Europe and to “save” Europe from itself. And everyone who last year was ridiculing and insulting anyone who dared to suggest that SYRIZA was not what it presented itself as being and that it would break is promises, has now forgotten what they were saying a year ago and is doing the same exact thing to anyone who dares to question Varoufakis, his record, or his sincerity.

Let’s take this opportunity, therefore, to remind everyone about the major “achievements” of Varoufakis, before, during, and after his term as Greece’s finance minister.

Varoufakis is the man who, as Greece’s finance minister in the first days of the new SYRIZA government last year, had gone to the initial negotiations at the Eurogroup summit proposing the continuation of 70% of the previously existing austerity measures and memorandums, for another six months, as he said. He refused to even raise the specter of a Eurozone exit for Greece, not even as a negotiation tactic or as a Plan B. In fact, Varoufakis, while he was supposedly negotiating hard with the troika, publicly stated that Greece has no Plan B! It should therefore come as no surprise that the 70% proposed by Varoufakis became 100%, meaning continuation of 100% of the previous austerity measures and memorandums, for the next four months. Varoufakis agreed to this and had the audacity to return to Greece claiming that the agreement was an example of “creative ambiguity” and that the troika would now be known as the kinder, gentler “institutions.”

At the same time, Varoufakis, in countless appearances and interviews in the media, kept parroting the same stale myths about Greece and the people of Greece, such as the myth, which was proven to be a lie, that Greece had the highest rate of Porsche Cayenne ownership in the world. Varoufakis lectured us about the, quote, “hard working German taxpayers,” who were, quote, “bailing out Greece,” and who, quote, “wanted a return on their investment,” neglecting to say, however, that Germany and the troika have profited quite handsomely just off of the interest that Greece is paying on its forced loans, without even getting into the lucrative assets which Greece was forced to privatize and which they bought up. Instead, Varoufakis was telling us about the need to lead a so-called “austere existence,” all the while he and his wife were photographed for a French magazine’s photo shoot, in front of a table full of lobster and champagne at their home with a full view of the Acropolis.

This was nothing, however, compared with what was to follow. Varoufakis, along with the other saviors within SYRIZA, nominated and elected the corrupt, conservative, pro-austerity former New Democracy minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos as president of the republic. Once again, the SYRIZA and Varoufakis apologists told us to give them more time. Varoufakis repeatedly stated that Greece’s debt would be repaid, quote, “in perpetuity” and that it is legal, at the same time that the Greek government had put on a big show of creating a parliamentary committee to investigate the legality of this very same debt. In an interview with the Associated Press, Varoufakis flatly stated that he will “squeeze blood from a stone” in order for the IMF to be repaid, while in another interview, Varoufakis stated that he sought to develop good relations with Christine Lagarde and the IMF, which held views that he, quote, personally agreed with.

Varoufakis repeatedly stated that his homeland is Europe and not Greece and that he would like to see the development of a so-called United States of Europe. He stated that the Eurozone is like the “Hotel California,” where you can check out any time you like but you can never leave. Such was the nature of Varoufakis’ supposedly fierce negotiation, just as when he told ABC Television in Australia that even if Greece wanted to it was unable to mint its own currency, because Greece’s mint was destroyed when Greece joined the Eurozone. It seems he was unaware of the fact that Greece’s mint is still alive and well and is where the 20 euro notes are still printed today.

Moving forward, the “heroic” Yanis Varoufakis stated that the previous privatizations would not be rescinded and that he agreed with the privatization of public assets such as airports and harbors under certain supposed conditions. Indeed, he spoke out in favor of further so-called “investments” by China’s Cosco in Greece, including the privatization of the port of Piraeus, saying that this would be a positive development for the country.

Forging ahead, Varoufakis selected Elena Panaritis as Greece’s representative to the International Monetary Fund. The same Panaritis who was a former World Bank official and who had designed the destructive Fujishock policies which had been implemented in Peru and which drove millions of people into poverty, which led to price increases on basic goods of up to 8000%, where hundreds of public assets were privatized, and all of this done under the rule of an autocratic government whose ruler, Alberto Fujimori, is now serving a 25 year sentence for murder and other serious charges. The same Elena Panaritis who, as a member of parliament with PASOK, voted in favor of austerity and the memorandums. This was the selection of the supposedly “heroic” Yanis Varoufakis, who however never raised the issue of German war reparations to Greece and never investigated the actions of Yannis Stournaras and other former finance ministers for their role in bringing the austerity agreements to Greece.

Continuing on, Varoufakis, in the spring of 2015 when he was still finance minister, oversaw the issuance of a governmental decree, a practice which SYRIZA had promised it would not follow when in government, which confiscated the cash reserves of the entire Greek public sector. This decree was then ratified by the Greek parliament, including with the vote of Varoufakis, and the cash reserves of the Greek public sector were confiscated and used to make the May IMF loan repayment. After this, Varoufakis and the SYRIZA government, as part of their supposedly hard negotiations with the European so-called partners, presented a 47 page proposal which foresaw 8 billion euros of new austerity measures, including a perpetually increasing primary budget surplus—meaning more austerity—further tax increases, elimination of early pension benefits, which do in fact exist in countries like the US and elsewhere, and the privatization of public assets such as major airports and harbors. Everything that the current SYRIZA government is doing and that Varoufakis apologists claim to be against. At around the same time, Varoufakis presented a proposal for the introduction of a parallel currency following the model of the IOUs issued by the state of California, while he publicly admitted that capital controls would be introduced in Greece.

After this followed the big, “heroic” example of democracy in action, the referendum on whether to approve or reject the austerity measures proposed by the European so-called partners of Greece. Varoufakis, who was still finance minister, did not present any proposal to the Greek people, however, of what the governments plans would be if the “no” vote prevailed. And indeed, when the “no” vote did in fact prevail, not only was there no plan, but Varoufakis coincidentally was absent from the parliamentary vote which gave authorization to Alexis Tsipras to reach a deal with the lenders. Varoufakis did state publicly, however, that if he had voted, he would have voted yes to give Tsipras this authorization, authorization which resulted, of course, in the third and harshest, thus far, memorandum agreement for Greece.

This is the charlatan whose record as Greece’s finance minister is one of nothing but austerity, and who yet is now being touted as the savior not just for Greece but for all of Europe, the man who will end austerity and, quote, save Europe and save capitalism from itself. Varoufakis is the man who has praised the, quote, “radical” and “dynamic” individualism of Thatcherism, in other words, of neoliberalism, and the man who publicly eulogized Thatcher on his blog after her death in 2013. He is the man whose new book was presented in the Athens Music Hall in January 2015, just prior to the elections which brought SYRIZA to power, by far-right Greek television talking head Mbambis Papadimitriou, who once expressed his support for a so-called “serious Golden Dawn.” Varoufakis is the man who has repeatedly heaped public praise on German chancellor Angela Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis, the same Merkel and the same Germany which has contributed militarily to the carnage in the Middle East, the same Germany where there have been dozens of arson attacks of refugee housing facilities, the same Germany which has housed some refugees in former concentration camps, the same Germany which has confiscated valuables from refugees entering the country, the same Germany which is accused of paying off African governments to take back asylum seekers and to prevent them from coming to Germany again. And we are supposed to believe the words of this man, Varoufakis, when he says that he can somehow change Europe and the EU for the better, but that the euro cannot be changed and that a country could never leave it.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the bold, brilliant, anti-austerity savior Yanis Varoufakis. And the unfortunate reality is that even when faced with the facts, Varoufakis’ many fans and apologists will dismiss all of the above, even doubting the facts of Varoufakis’ actions during his tenure as Greece’s finance minister. A selective amnesia which begs the question, when will we stop believing in the “hope and change” that the system itself presents to us?

Nov 202015
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Dear listeners and friends of Dialogos Radio,

mosler1-300x169This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an exclusive and highly enlightening interview with well-known economist Warren Mosler. Mosler is a leading figure in the field of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and was also the co-founder of the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 
 
In our interview this week, Mosler will speak to us about the economic crisis in Greece and why it is, in reality, much different than often described, while also discussing the role of European Union policies in perpetuating the crisis. He will share with us his proposed solutions for combating the crisis, while also explaining to us exactly what seemingly straightforward terms such as “money” and “debt” actually mean.
 
Tune in for this excellent interview, plus our commentary of the week segment and some great Greek music, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio!
 
For our full broadcast schedule, plus further details, our podcasts, archived programs, online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7, and much more, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=5794.
 
Recent Dialogos Radio Interviews Published in 99getsmart.com and GreekTV.com!
 
Check out our recent interviews, which have been published on 99getsmart.comand on GreekTV.com
 
Our interview with Greek-American aviation expert Bill Kalivas, on his online campaign for additional nonstop flights to be added from the United States to Greece, has recently been featured on GreekTV.com, while our interview with Panagiotis Oikonomidis of Greece’s “No Middlemen Movement” has been featured in 99getsmart.com!
 
Best,
Dialogos Radio & Media
 
**************************************
 
Αγαπητοί φίλοι και ακροατές,
 
Ενημερώνουμε τους ακροατές μας πως αυτή την εβδομάδα θα ετοιμάσουμε μόνοΑγγλόφωνη μετάδοση της εκπομπής μας. Η Ελληνόφωνη μετάδοση μας και η πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα συνέντευξη μας με τον οικονομολόγο Warren Mosler θα ακολουθήσει σε μία εβδομάδα. Μείνετε συντονισμένοι.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Nov 172015
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

xoris11-300x225

The transcript of Dialogos Radio’s interview with Panagiotis Oikonomidis of Greece’s “No Middlemen Movement.” This interview aired on our broadcasts for the week of November 5-11, 2015. Find the podcast of this interview here.

MN: Joining us today on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series is Panagiotis Oikonomidis from the “No Middlemen Movement,” or Κίνημα Χωρίς Μεσάζοντες, in Greece. Oikonomidis will speak to us about the movement and its work in crisis-hit Greece, and more broadly on issues that have to do with local food production and the social economy in Greece. Panagiotis, thank you for joining us today.

PO: Great to be here with you and with your listeners.

MN: To get us started, share with us an introduction to the No Middle-Men Movement and what it does.

PO: Specifically, I am part of a group named “Breaking Up the Middle Men,” which is located in Petroupolis, one of the suburbs of Athens. This group is a member of the national No Middle-Men Movement. All of these local organizations, all of these solidarity groups which comprise the social economy in Greece through the national structure of the No Middlemen Movement, are interconnected with each other. This movement, aside from dealing with the practical issues of coordination and the exchange of information and know-how, also meets the needs which are expressed collectively through the national network of the No Middlemen Movement.

MN: Share with us some history about the No Middlemen Movement and how it first began.

PO: This movement first got started in 2012. At the time, it was first called the “Potato movement” and it got started with an initiative in the northern Greek city of Katerini from a local group there which decided to take action in response to the increasingly worsening Greek crisis and its impact on Greek society. This initiative had an immediate impact on both consumers and food producers. The founding members of this movement were attempting to find a solution that would allow them to assist both consumers and food producers at the same time, without there being any middle men involved. As you know, when an agricultural product is produced, this product is purchased by a merchant, who then usually packages it, distributes it, and resells it, before that product finally makes it to the market, whether it is on the shelves of a supermarket or at a farmer’s market.

In Greece, the farmer’s markets were revived beginning in the 1980s, as a means for farmers to bring their products direct to consumers, in specified locations within a municipality and in collaboration with the local municipal authorities. This is significant to keep in mind, because over time, these farmers’ markets have been transformed into markets which are dominated by middle men. At the present time, the best case scenario is that only perhaps 20 to 25 percent of the sellers who are at any given farmers’ market are actually farmers, while the rest are retailers and middle men.

So, as I was saying, what happens is that the product leaves the farm at its initial price, and then its price increases, both due to the fact that there is value added to the product by packaging or processing it, but also due to the profit margin of the middlemen involved. As a result, an agricultural product which might cost 35 cents per piece when it leaves the farm, reaches a cost of 1 euro and 10 cents once it hits the shelves. Obviously, this is a huge markup, and an added consequence of this market structure is that the middlemen end up wielding a tremendous deal of influence over the marketplace, allowing them to create artificial shortages of certain items, for instance, in order to inflate prices.

As the crisis in Greece deepened, all of these things, with regards to how the agricultural marketplace operates, began to rear their ugly head. This is where the No Middlemen Movement came in, to attempt to rebalance the situation, addressing the issue of cost for consumers, while also promoting the production of local, Greek-made produce. This is another extremely significant issue in Greece. There are agricultural products which are indeed produced in Greece, but there are also similar items which are imported from other countries at much lower prices and which somehow manage, through some illegal process, to end up labeled in the marketplace as products produced or grown in Greece and are promoted as such to consumers. This, of course, adversely impacts Greek agricultural production.

The No Middlemen Movement is attempting to address all of these issues, such as ensuring that items are accurately labeled as to whether they are produced in Greece or not or ensuring that they are sold at a fair price that would be good for consumers and allow them to purchase quality, locally-grown produce at an affordable price, while also guaranteeing that the farmer would earn enough in order to be able to prepare for his next harvest. The first efforts of this movement began in the city of Katerini in March of 2012 and was quickly dubbed by the media as the “Potato movement,” because the initial item that was sold were potatoes. Over time though, our movement began to provide directly to consumers a more diverse range of items, such as olive oil and honey, and at this time we offer around 90 or 100 different categories of goods.

MN: We are on the air with Panagiotis Oikonomidis of the No Middlemen Movement from Greece here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series, and Panagiotis, with how many farmers and producers does the No Middlemen Movement presently work with throughout Greece, and how are they able to distribute their products through your network?

PO: As of the end of 2014, the No Middlemen Movement had 45 active groups operating throughout Greece. 26 of those groups are based in the Athens region. On average, 23 farmers and producers participate in each region where we are active, and between our foundation in 2012 and the end of 2014, our movement distributed a combined total amount of food totaling approximately 5,000 tons. This should give us an initial picture of what our movement has been able to accomplish during this time.

Now, how do we select farmers and producers to join our movement? Some of our criteria include that the food items offered are produced in Greece, that the individual who is joining our movement is a farmer and not a middleman or distributor, and that a fair price is offered for their goods. It is either our movement that comes in contact with a farmer or producer initially, or they can get in contact with us, either through our national network or one of our local organizations. Upon expressing their interest in participating in our movement and providing their produce to us, we ask them to name their selling price for the goods they are offering, how the food will be packaged, and from that point forward, in order to confirm that they are indeed a professional farmer, we ask for a copy of their tax return as well as for a copy of the declaration they have made to the Ministry of Agriculture, specifying the produce that they are growing and the total acreage they are dedicating to each item. This allows us to confirm that they are indeed a food producer and that the price that they have set is reasonable.

From that point, we perform a market study and determine the price levels for various goods in supermarkets, greengrocers and at the farmer’s markets, and based on that information, we agree to a final price with each producer who is interested in joining our movement. The next step is to make these items available via our website, where consumers can find an order form allowing them to pre-order for the types of items that they would like to purchase and the quantity of each item. On the day of distribution in each region, each producer sets up their stand with the produce that they are offering, and each consumer who has pre-ordered items can come by and pick up the items that they ordered, directly from the producer. The transaction, in other words, takes place directly between the producer and the consumer. Our movement does not participate at all in the final transaction.

This is the general idea as to how the No Middlemen Movement operates. There are of course small differences and variations from group to group throughout Greece, but in general each of our participating groups operates in this way.

MN: You mentioned earlier that the No Middlemen Movement is active in 45 regions throughout Greece. What are some of the areas you are active in outside of Athens, and how many families or households do you estimate have been able to obtain food and produce from your movement since its inception?

PO: There is of course our founding organization in the city of Katerini, as well as in cities such as Larissa, Volos, Rethymno in the island of Crete, Komotini, Thessaloniki, while our team in the city of Ioannina may have been inactive this past year. In Thessaloniki, our participating groups have faced many difficulties as of late and are currently in the process of reorganizing and rebuilding. They were targeted by the local farmer’s markets and by local municipalities who disagreed with the operation of the No Middle-Men Movement in the city or by groups who wanted to appropriate the actions of our movements for their own gain.

Now, in terms of how many households we have been able to provide food and produce to, we don’t have exact figures. What I can tell you though is just in the Athens region alone, we were able to provide food to 2,200 households in need, through one of the parallel actions of our movement. One of the things that the No Middlemen Movement does is that when a farmer provides part of their harvest to be sold direct to consumers through our network, our movement keeps 4 percent of the food and distributes it for free to families and households who are most in need. In 2014, the families we helped in Athens alone through this program surpassed 2,000, and so far what we have been seeing from this year’s figures is an increase of 20 to 25 percent of those numbers for this year.

MN: How does the No Middlemen Movement come in contact with households who are in need?

PO: We have a support structure in place which provides assistance to such households, either through the provision of ready-cooked meals, or through the distribution of packages of food which are comprised of food items donated through the No Middlemen Movement or which are collected by our volunteers, who stand outside of supermarkets and other establishments and ask for donations of items such as pasta or rice or flour from shoppers. These items are then sorted and distributed to households who are in need of this food. We operate through our nationwide network in order to distribute this food, and even though the percentage that we withhold from the food made available to our movement from each farmer is small, at 3 or 4 percent, the quantity adds up, if you consider that just at one market in one region we may have 15 producers who are providing a total of 10 tons of produce.

MN: We are speaking with Panagiotis Oikonomidis of the No Middlemen Movement from Greece here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series, and Panagiotis, you mentioned earlier the fact that the No Middlemen Movement was targeted in the city of Thessaloniki…share with us more details about the various problems and challenges that your movement faces, either in terms of its outreach to the greater public, or at the hands of the government and other authorities.

PO: The No Middlemen Movement has created new conditions in the existing marketplace. Earlier, I mentioned the fact that the operation of farmers’ markets in Greek cities was restarted in the 1980s, especially in the largest cities such as Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra, and Iraklio. Conversely, farmers’ markets are les common in the smaller city, because these cities have much easier and much more direct access to their local producers, who are only a short drive away for anyone who wants to visit a farmer and buy their produce directly from them. Obviously this isn’t possible in the bigger cities, and so the farmers’ markets were reborn, even though they had actually been around since prior to World War I. Soon after the war these farmers’ markets largely disappeared from the urban landscape, but they were resurrected beginning in the 1980s, as a result of political decisions that were made at the time to combat the middle-men and their distribution networks, which had originally sprung up during the years of the military government in Greece. Along the way though, the farmers’ markets were used as a political tool, and increasingly, more and more permits were given to individuals who were not farmers, but rather wholesalers and middlemen, in direct contradiction of the whole idea of a farmers’ market.

Within the No Middlemen Movement, we are not claiming to have invented something new. What we believe we have accomplished though is to create a new method for operating something which already exists in Greece. The No Middlemen Movement operates with its members and volunteers at its core. It is a leaderless organization, without any political affiliation. It is a movement which concerns all citizens, both producers and consumers, while proving to food producers that there is another way in which the structure of food production and distribution could be organized in Greece.

Something which we need to take into account is that in the 1970s, Greece produced over 80% of the food which it consumed domestically, while today these numbers have been reversed, with 80% of food consumed in Greece being imported and only 20% produced domestically. This percentage has gradually increased over the years, as a result of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policies, and with the tacit acceptance of successive Greek governments, which never lobbied for better terms for Greek agriculture within the framework of the Common Agricultural Policies. As a result, not only is Greek agriculture and food production not supported, but farmers have grown into the habit of simply receiving a subsidy from the European Union and being satisfied with this. In the meantime, the productive capacity of Greece has been diminished. One of the things that we are trying to do as part of the No Middlemen Movement is to help revive Greek agricultural production.

The No Middle-Men Movement, as you might understand, is facing challenges not just from the middle-men and distributors themselves, the ones who are profiting off the backs of the Greek public, but also from organized political interests which support the demands of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policies and the European Union as a whole. It therefore is to be expected that we will face challenges from these circles. In terms of what actually took place in, the attacks against our movement began in 2013, perhaps because political conditions in the region were conducive to such an organized attack against us.

That same year in Athens, one of the local municipalities fought the activities of our movement, and then created his own copycat version of our movement in his municipality, apparently in an effort to score political points prior to the local elections. The biggest challenge for us though followed in 2014, when the Greek parliament passed a law concerning outdoor markets. The passage of this law led to a 10 day strike conducted by the farmers’ markets throughout Greece. Within this law, there were certain articles which pertained to the operation of farmers’ markets, while the law essentially abolished the operation of open-air markets throughout Greece. This of course encompassed farmers’ markets, as well as farmers who could stand at the side of the road with their truck and a sign and sell their produce. This was essentially abolished by law. The result of the 10 day strike which I mentioned a moment ago was for the law to be passed without the articles concerning the farmers’ markets but with all of its other clauses intact, including those covering open-air commerce more broadly. Those who were impacted were small farmers and the No Middlemen Movement, because the farmers who were participating in our movement were doing so with the permits that they already possessed as farmers to sell goods publicly in open-air locations. This covered their operations within the framework of the No Middlemen Movement. Essentially, the then-agriculture minister shelved the articles of the law which pertained to the farmers’ markets, to use them for future political pressure and clientelistic dealings, and in order to favor certain parties. This was essentially the climax of the battle against the operations of the No Middlemen Movement.

Of course, certain things have changed since then. There is now a discussion as to how the current law might be changed in some ways and how the No Middlemen Movement might be recognized, not as a body that is operating in opposition to the existing farmers’ markets, but as a complement to them. Because, as you may know, then these farmers’ markets begin operations in the morning, the items for sale are offered at a certain price, but if you go in the afternoon, before closing time, the prices on the same food may be reduced by as much as 50% compared to the starting price, as sellers are trying to get rid of inventory to avoid having to carry a large load back with them and incur higher transportation and fuel costs as well. However, this is dishonest, because if they are able to sell products at a profit at 50 cents, why is the starting price set at 1 euro or more?

The No Middlemen Movement does not operate this way. Our prices are unified, and are valid from the beginning to the end of each market we organize. It is the price which we advertise to our consumers, allowing them to budget their purchases, and we make every effort to keep these prices steady throughout the entire season. In other words, we attempt to keep the same price for each item we sell from the beginning of the season in September or October, all the way until the end of the season in June. This helps the farmers who are participating in our movement as well, since they know that they will come to our markets and be able to sell their produce, their harvest, receive their money immediately instead of being given a check, which is typically the case with the wholesalers and middlemen, and they know that they will have a steady price for the entire season. This setup allows families to budget their food purchases in advance, while the farmer knows that after every delivery of food to our movement, they will be able to pay their workers, and for their supplies, their seeds and fertilizer, their equipment and for their maintenance costs, and to plant their seeds for next year’s harvest. This setup lays the groundwork for a complete and total restructuring of the primary sector of the economy.

MN: You mentioned earlier the issue of domestic agricultural production in Greece, and despite the major decline that we have seen in recent decades in terms of production, there are statistics which show that Greece does still have self-sufficiency in certain sectors of food production even today. On a more general level, do you believe that Greece could once again become self-sustaining in terms of its food production and reduce its reliance on imported food products, and how could this take place?

PO: This is a major topic, one which we could discuss all day. Essentially you are referring to the complete restructuring of the primary sector in Greece. It is clear that our movement, the No Middle-Men Movement, is a successful example of how an alternative economic model could work and how it could ensure self-sufficiency on a small scale. At the same time, numerous scientific and university studies show that Greece could indeed once again attain self-sufficiency in terms of its food production. In fact, in many sectors of food production, Greece has the capacity to produce a plethora of food, which would allow it to export these products in exchange for food products in which it does not have enough production, allowing Greece to attain a balance of trade. For example, we used to have an overproduction of sugar, and recently, Greece’s sugar production industry was reopened once again. The surplus sugar could be traded for something else that the country needs to import. However, when you get to the point where you are unable to produce even those things which you are capable of producing, and you import these goods instead, it follows that you will run a trade deficit, that you will be forced to take loans and that you will therefore be dependent on the whims of those who are loaning money to you.

Aside from the agricultural sector though, Greece also has the capabilities to boost its capacity in the industrial sector, and particularly in the light industries and in the production of specific parts. Greece is privileged to have a well-educated, well-trained workforce, and it has the capacity to produce industrial products on demand. My belief is that Greece’s comparative advantage in terms of industrial production is not in the mass production of goods, which other countries are better able to do. Greece’s advantage is in the know-how that its workforce possesses for the production of specialized products, on demand.

Until relatively recently in Greece, around 15 or 20 years ago, there were many light industries in existence in Greece, which received subcontracts to produce specialized parts. This is Greece’s major strength in the industrial sector. And this sort of production can, of course, develop in conjunction with the development of the agricultural sector. Indeed, the agricultural sector is in need of machinery, parts, and supplies, and there is such production in Greece even now which could meet such demand. However, there needs to be a strategy and a plan in place. For instance, if you have major agricultural production in the regions of Macedonia or Thessalia, which are significant agricultural regions, you need to ensure that these regions also have producers who will make supplies, such as fertilizers or packaging or feeds, which the farmers in these regions could use, and that farmers would have local mechanics to go to in order to repair and maintain their equipment. Such industries co-existing lead to the creation of a local economic cycle. And all of this has to happen at the local level, but within a national planning framework, with a strategy as to what direction the national economy will go in.

In order for this to happen, it is necessary for the people to be on board with such change as well, as they will be the ones who will be participating in this process. No matter what we say, no matter which political forces, which government ministers, which government enforces such changes or supports them, those who will actually do the work in the fields, in the factories, and in the workshops, and those who will actually produce the wealth, are the ordinary people. Therefore, they are the ones who should have the first say over how this process of change should take place and have the belief instilled in them that such a process is possible. Such a process essentially represents a collective way in which a country can survive. It has been proven that a country cannot survive based on loans. With loans, a country is entirely dependent on its lenders, and as a consequence, it ends up being sold off, piece by piece, one airport at a time and one harbor at a time, to its lenders.

MN: We are on the air with Panagiotis Oikonomidis of the No Middlemen Movement from Greece here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series, and Panagiotis, do you believe that the current economic model can sustain itself, or does it have an expiration date? And as a second part to this question, how do you believe that the social economy could contribute to a different economic model?

PO: Yes, I do believe that the current economic model has an expiration date. Though in the past several decades it has shown a tremendous resiliency to overcome internal crises, I would say that since 2008, it is experiencing great difficulties. The issue is that it is not simply experiencing another cyclical crisis. What we are seeing now is a basic, structural crisis of the economic system, and I believe that it has finally reached its limits. Now, how long this stage will last, it is hard to say. It could be 5 years, or 10 years or 50. It will depend on the actions of that other major factor in the economy: the people, those who produce goods, those who produce the wealth, who have begun to see that they can have a say, that they can have an opinion in the direction of the economy.

Within this framework, the structures of the social economy and the solidarity movement, which comprises the so-called “third sector” of the economy, can play a major role in improving the quality of life of the people to an extent, and also to serve as a tool of political emancipation and education for the people, to enable them to understand that they have the ability to create politics, to realize their political goals, and to create small, successful examples which could be built upon to create a broader and overriding economic structure.

This is part of the obligatory, I would say, daily political struggle, if we choose to define it in such terms. Now, the existing political and economic system has the ability, to an extent, to absorb such challenges, or to eliminate them, by force if necessary, if it cannot absorb them. However, this system cannot absorb nor can it stop everything new that is created, especially when these new structures that are being born are created completely outside the framework of the existing system. We are witnessing the birth of a new logic, of a new mode of thinking on a global scale and not just in Greece, though Greece does receive a lot of attention as a result of the crisis.

The social economy in Greece is not a fluke. We are talking about the No Middlemen Movement, with the existing family support structure, with community pharmacies and medical clinics, with community kitchens, with community tutoring pools which provide services to those students who cannot afford private lessons. It is clear that a sense of solidarity is ingrained in the Greek culture. What has changed though, particularly in terms of politics? The indignants’ movement, which spilled out into the streets in 2011 and 2012, the mass demonstrations and gatherings which took place, gave the people the opportunity to think, to learn, and to act. When these movements were violently suppressed, the participants of these movements returned to their local communities and brought with them all of the know-how and experience that they had attained, and began to implement it at the neighborhood level. Therefore, it could be said that this network of solidarity movements that we are seeing today is a continuation of the mass demonstrations of 2011 and 2012. The two are connected.

And to be clear, I am talking about solidarity movements, which are separate from NGOs. To give you an example, right now we are seeing the tremendous crisis with the refugees who are arriving from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. The first people who arrived on the scene to assist these refugees came from the solidarity movements which I have been talking about, whereas after the end of the summer, after their summer vacations in international resorts, only then did the members of various NGOs show up. However, these NGOs only operate in economic terms, meaning that they will only participate and take action if they have first received funding. And so, we have seen various NGOs that were formed 15 or 20 years ago and which were continuously pursuing funding from European and Greek state sources, who are suddenly presenting themselves as groups who have been formed to help the refugees, but which in reality are organizations behind which are people who have close relations with previous government regimes in Greece.

What is noteworthy about this whole situation is the fact that the ordinary people, if you follow tools such as Facebook, support those structures which have a direct relationship with society, with those volunteers who are your next door neighbors, people the local communities know and see every day, people whom the local communities know are not profiting from such a crisis, because they are volunteers in the genuine sense. We are not talking about volunteerism in the sense that we saw it in Greece during the Athens 2004 Olympics, during a time of national euphoria, when there was a call for volunteers at the Olympic Games simply to solve the economic problem of the games’ organizers, bringing in volunteers while huge sums of money were consumed elsewhere. By all means I am not speaking poorly of those who volunteered, their intentions were good, but perhaps they did not realize that they essentially fell into a trap, that someone else pocketed money that had been allocated for the work that they ultimately performed as volunteers.

MN: In closing, where can our listeners find out more information about the No Middlemen Movement?

PO: There is a structure within our movement known as “Solidarity For All,” which pays a central organizing role in terms of collecting information and connecting our various local organizations. Its website is at www.solidarity4all.gr. On this site, you can find continuous updates about our movement’s actions and its structure. Our annual report for 2014 is also posted, which is available in English, French, German, and Spanish, in the international section of our website. This report contains a tremendous amount of information, both from international statistics, as well as data that our movement has collected. Also from our website, any citizen can find out about our movement’s actions at a local, neighborhood basis and can find out what is happening in their area and can come in contact with their local group.

MN: Well Panagiotis, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series, and best of luck with your continued efforts!

PO: I thank you as well for your efforts, because while groups like ours are able to tackle the issue of solidarity on a local and national level, there is also the issue of global solidarity, and it is radio programs like yours which play a major role in this regard. So we thank you for your efforts and for your invitation.

MN: Thank you once more!

Sep 262015
 

Posted by Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends,

This week on Dialogos Radio, we will feature coverage of this past Sunday’s snap parliamentary elections in Greece, including an exclusive interview with journalist and political analyst Dimitri Lascaris of The Real News Network, as part of the Dialogos Interview Series. Lascaris will analyze the results of the elections, the new SYRIZA-led coalition government, the record high abstention level, and the failure of the Popular Unity party to enter parliament. Additionally, Lascaris will discuss his own candidacy in the upcoming Canadian parliamentary elections, as a member of the Green Party.

In addition to our exclusive interview, we will feature our own commentary and analysis of the Greek election results, plus some great Greek music! All this, exclusively on Dialogos Radio!

For more details and our full broadcast schedule, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=5544. On our website, you can also find our podcasts, our on-demand programming, our articles and written work, our past playlists, and you can listen to our online radio station, Dialogos Radio 24/7.

Greek Election Interviews Featured on The Real News Network

Following the outcome of the September 20 snap parliamentary elections in Greece, Michael Nevradakis, producer and host of Dialogos Radio, spoke with The Real News Network about the results and what they might mean politically and economically for Greece going forward, including an analysis of the high abstention rate, the failure of the Popular Unity party to gain representation in the Greek parliament, and the first-place finish of SYRIZA, despite the political events of the past summer.

Videos and transcripts of the interview are available at the following links:

Part 1: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=14757

Part 2: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=14759

Sincerely,

Dialogos Radio & Media