Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Greek Thing Redux -- Europe Has Gone Completely Mad

There are reports circulating that the Troika that runs Greece on behalf of its creditors (ie: the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) has determined that Greek labor law must be "reconfigured" shall we say to enable/require Greek employees to work 6 or possibly 7 days a week, with restrictions on overtime pay, minimal breaks between shifts at labor, and with sharply reduced or eliminated wages and benefits.

Ah, the industrial model of the late 19th Century returns. What fun.

These recommendations or directives were in a leaked email from the Troika to the Greek Ministers of Labor and Finance, whose only job it seems is to implement the Troika's demands immediately and with a smile on.

These people are crazy. These people are absolutely insane. Europe has been down this path of enforced misery before; it didn't work out so well, not for Europeans and not for many peoples of the world who were, until being plunged back into the darkness, trying to recover from their experience with "European Civilization." (Newsman to Gandhi back in the day: "What do you think of Western Civilization?" Gandhi to newsman: "I think it would be a good idea.")

This is in a country where the official unemployment rate is in the high teens and due to the calamitous economic conditions imposed by the Troika already, it is expected to rise into the high 20s or even 30s soon enough.

In other words, those who can maintain employment for wages will be expected/required to work extra days and hours and with fewer or no benefits, while millions upon millions of Greeks go without jobs, housing, healthcare, education, food and so forth -- in order to satisfy the utterly insatiable demands of banksters.

If the banksters are able to pull it off in Greece, then they can -- and most likely will -- do it anywhere. Germany itself, the Center of the Euro-Core, could easily face the same calamitous conditions and would have no recourse. It is as plain a statement Europe's workers as you could want: "pay or else," nice little country you have here...

This isn't even so-called "Neo-Liberalism." It's straight out extortion.

For a time, I had some hope that the revolt of the Greek People would be able to stop the madness, but that hope has, at least for the time being, proved illusory. The revolt didn't seem to matter. Not to those in power, and certainly not to those who could engineer election victories for the more or less rightist parties (including the Socialists, damn) who would do the rest of Europe's (mostly Frau Merkel's) bidding.

So. Further down the Rabbit Hole.

Madness like this is not likely to end well...


  1. It's the Latvian model. Michael Hudson had a lot to say about it when it was being done to Latvia ( Michael Hudson/Jeffrey Sommers: Latvia is No Model for Austerity

    "That said, Latvians have protested against austerity. In January 2009, in the dead of winter, 10,000 protested in Riga. Teachers, nurses and farmers held demonstrations of their own. The police were called to suppress protests over the closure of a hospital. After these protests subsided, Latvians resigned themselves and began to emigrate. Demographers estimate that 200,000 have left in the past decade – nearly 10 per cent of the population – at an accelerating rate that reflects the austerity being inflicted."

    In the end, this is what will happen to Greece. A mix of the best and most desperate workers will leave for greener pastures wherever they can emigrate:

    "Only now is Latvia seeing the social effects of austerity. It has among Europe’s highest rates of suicide and of road deaths caused by drink driving. Crime is high because of prolonged unemployment and police budget cuts. There is less accessible, lower-quality education and there is a soaring brain drain alongside blue-collar emigration."

    The best leave because they don't have to stick around for the garbage they are being asked to swallow, and the most desperate leave because they have nothing to lose. Heh, for some reason, I think of Richard Wagner, who wrote Der fliegende Holländer while he was on the run from his creditors. Both brilliant and desperate, though not a nice person at all. I still love his music though, blame my very Aryan, German American upbringing. I'm not kidding with that word Aryan, either, my Dad takes that very seriously.

    The main difference between Greece and Latvia, as far as I can see, is that in Latvia native Latvians have a great hatred and fear of the transplanted ethnic Russian population in Latvia. This prevented them from uniting to chuck out the austerity government. I'm not sure what is keeping the Greeks from doing so, though I expect the Fascists have something to do with it.

    Well, as long as a lot of wealthy people don't get a "Khmer Rouge special," they'll keep trying to apply this model wherever they can get away with it. My guess, and it's only a guess, is that in some country it will lead to a violent revolution, and give NATO a chance to send the troops in. I could be wrong though. (Incidentally, I'm no fan of Pol Pot and his goon squad, I just consider them a good example of a worst case scenario in this kind of situation.)

  2. I don't know what's wrong with Europe; but they are quite mad over there, and they got this way just before WWII, too. Of course then the spur was the spread of Fascism. What's doing it now, I don't know, though Frau Merkel seems setting the standard for... general idiocy.

    If I understand her background, a lot of what she's doing -- which looks/feels a lot like Fascism -- is actually a reaction to living under Ulbricht and Honecker in East Germany, making her sort of a softer version of Ayn Rand. Ha.

    But why the rest of Europe has gone mad, and why democracy isn't working at all to correct matters, remains a mystery.

    Whatever the case, the Greeks don't deserve this, and at this point, it wouldn't surprise me if the Turks volunteered to assist a Greek revolt against the Troika.

  3. pws -- the Latvian story seems to mirror much of what is going on in the rest of Europe, especially, of course the struggling Periphery, and it demonstrates as clearly as anything could that the electorate doesn't really get a vote on policy, especially policies like the radical Neo-Liberal ones being imposed by the Austerians.

    They vote on personalities not policies.

    Thus it can be hard -- or impossible -- to throw the bums out at the ballot box, because all that's really happening is exchanging one set of bums for another; and both sets of bums adhere to the same sorts of economic policies -- because that's what's fashionable, what all the Biggest Brains say is right, and what everyone else is doing, so there, shut up.

    It happens here too, but it's starker in some ways because of our duopoly political system -- an anachronism if there ever was one. And yet...

    Partly because of gridlock it is able to mitigate (at least so far) some of the worst aspects of Neo-Liberalism. It seems much easier to impose Austerity in Europe under their parliamentary/technocrat system than here. Which is not to say anything good about economics in the USofA.

    Of course once people realize they are slaves...

  4. From Hudson, I get that most of the Socialist parties in Europe were captured. For various reasons, they jettisoned economics in favor of "other stuff."

    I should research and find something where he goes into more detail, but this will do for a start.

  5. The signs of capture of the European Socialists were apparent during the sad and unlamented tenure of Tony Blair at Downing Street. It was a horror that I doubt Britons will soon recover from, not because he was such a Big Socialist -- he wasn't. That was the point. Once it was clear that Britain's Labour Party could be transformed to the liking of the NeoCon-NeoLib continuum, all bets were off.

    Of course, I probably have the history wrong and the fall of Britain's Labour came after some other Socialist capitulation, but that was the big one to me.