Commentary of the Week: November 5-11, 2015

commentaryoftheweekBy Michael Nevradakis

Time to do a little compare and contrast. Let’s say we have the national governments of two different countries. Government A claims that it is a “radical leftist” government and promised its voters “hope” and “change,” while pledging to immediately abolish the austerity policies which had thrown millions of people into poverty and the economy into an unprecedented depression. Government A then goes ahead and shatters its pre-election pledges and turns its back on a referendum result overwhelmingly rejecting proposed new austerity measures, instead signing an agreement which will implement even harsher austerity terms versus those which had been rejected. Somehow, Government A, after doing all of this, gets re-elected anyway, albeit with almost half of the voters abstaining.

After being re-elected, Government A claims a non-existent “mandate” and goes ahead with the implementation of this harsh new austerity package. The ministers and cabinet members of Government A then come out and publicly announce that they should have never demonized the troika and its austerity policies, and that these policies are being implemented because the powers that be are giving the country money and therefore should be obeyed. Government A refuses to even consider a departure from the common currency zone and multinational bloc of countries it is part of, even though it is clear that its membership in these institutions is not only the root cause of the crisis, but the obstacle preventing its resolution.

That’s Government A. Government B, on the other hand, while being at the helm of a country which suffered an economic meltdown similar in some ways to that of country A, chose an entirely different path. It didn’t sell itself as some sort of “radical” leftist savior. It didn’t make empty promises of so-called “hope” and “change.” Instead, it took action. It put bankers who were responsible for the economic collapse on trial and has so far jailed 26 of them. It has nationalized the failed private banks, and after the nationalization of one of these banks, it offered a monetary share of the proceeds, paid of course in the country’s very own domestic currency, to each and every citizen of the country.

Can’t figure out which is Country A and which is Country B? Here’s a small hint: the prime minister of Iceland recently stated that if his country was a member of the European Union and the Eurozone, that it would have had the same fate as Greece, instead of, you know, recovering.

That’s the reality in Greece today, and it is not a very pleasant reality for anyone who isn’t still wearing the pro-SYRIZA or pro-EU blinders. As we heard in our interview with Panagiotis Oikonomidis of the “No Middlemen Movement,” just one of the many examples of the European Union’s destructive impact on Greece and its economy comes from the agricultural sector, where since the 1970’s, the country’s self-sufficiency in terms of its food production has been completely decimated. Whereas Greece once produced at least 80% of its food needs domestically, it now imports 80%, thanks to the European Union’s so-called Common Agricultural Policies, which have eliminated the growth of many indigenous crops because of the supposed lack of “EU demand,” brought foreign crop varieties to Greece in order to meet supposed “EU demand,” while often paying subsidies to farmers to simply not grow anything. And while this has happened, thanks to the EU’s “common market,” floods of low-quality food products have inundated Greek shelves, along with multinational supermarket chains which do not make it a priority to stock or to sell domestically produced items.

This, of course, is no coincidence. It’s part of a larger, ongoing trend. It’s not by chance that many of the so-called “bailout” measures forced upon Greece by the institutions formerly known as the troika just magically happen to target sectors of the Greek economy which could not only help the country recover, but which unfortunately happen to compete with other, EU-wide interests. The Common Agricultural Policies have decimated Greek agriculture and made Greece dependent on food imports. A clause in a new troika-imposed law will slowly shutter Greece’s famous sidewalk kiosks, so that people looking to buy chewing gum, cigarettes and periodicals could do so at multinational supermarket chains instead. Taxes on lodging and restaurants have been raised to an insane 23%, to make Greek tourism, the country’s biggest industry along with shipping, less competitive in the marketplace, which is ironic when considering that we are continuously told that these measures are necessary in order for Greece, and its workforce, to become more, quote, “competitive.” Greece’s aerospace industry, which produces parts for the F-16 and other military technology for domestic and international use, and which employs thousands of people, is now under attack by the troika and is in danger of being shuttered. Even Greece’s burgeoning microbrewery industry is under attack, as recent legislation will more heavily tax this industry, while multinational beer brands and imported beers will, surprise surprise (!), be spared this taxation. It is simply a coincidence, of course, that these measures just so happen to all be beneficial towards multinational companies and imported goods.

Not to worry, though…Greece’s economy is in good hands! The World Bank, the IMF’s partner in crime, has expressed its interest and desire to “invest” in projects in Greece, including the recapitalization of Greece’s bankrupt and corrupt private banking institutions. Indeed, this decision is being made in violation of the charter of the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s investment arm, which provides for investment only in developing nations. Those same developing nations have a lot to tell us about how the World Bank, along with the IMF, have destroyed and indebted their economies, funding these so-called infrastructure projects with money that is loaned to countries in order to pay multinational companies for the construction and management of these same projects, a win-win situation for everyone except these countries themselves.

Never fear, though! Everyone’s favorite celebrity economist, the “hero” and “savior” Yanis Varoufakis is here to save the day, announcing the creation of a new Europe-wide supposedly “anti-austerity” movement. The same “heroic” Varoufakis who said, while he was Greece’s finance minister, that he would squeeze blood from a stone in order to repay the IMF. The same “heroic” Varoufakis who appointed former World Bank official Elena Panaritis, who had voted for the previous austerity agreements in Greece and who has blood on her hands from the implementation of the murderous Fujishock policies in Peru in the early 90s, as Greece’s representative to the IMF. The same Varoufakis who decimated Greece’s state cash reserves by decree this past spring in order to pay that month’s loan payment to the IMF. The same Varoufakis who, as finance minister, completely ignored the findings of Greece’s debt audit commission that this debt that was being repaid under his watch was largely odious and illegal. The same Varoufakis who recently said that he is “proud” of German chancellor Angela Merkel over her handling of the refugee crisis, the same Merkel who is housing many of these refugees in former concentration camps and who, of course, has done nothing to stop the ongoing war in the Middle East, which her country is, of course, participating in. This is the Yanis Varoufakis which millions of absolutely clueless, gullible people still treat as a celebrity and savior, lining up around the block to meet him recently in an appearance in Barcelona.

Varoufakis, of course, is not the only celebrity faux-leftist to reference the refugee crisis. Greece’s supposedly “heroic” prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, recently stated that the so-called “European Dream” began with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and is being destroyed today with the walls that are going up blocking the entry of refugees into the European Union. I guess the “European Dream” was still alive, though, when Tsipras capitulated and agreed to every vicious austerity measure his so-called European “partners” demanded of him. And I guess Tsipras has absolutely nothing to say about the European Union’s role in the ongoing warfare and violence in the Middle East, or the fact that it is the EU itself which has erected these walls and which is keeping refugees housed in places like former concentration camps. The same European Union which, coincidentally of course, delayed the release of a damning human rights report on Turkey so as to not interfere with the re-election campaign of the butcher of Ankara Tayip Erdogan.

None of this should come as any surprise though, not when Greece’s very own education minister, the positively vile Nikos Filis, has repeatedly stated publicly that the genocide of the Pontic Greeks at the hands of the Ottoman Turks was not a genocide. Not a genocide then, and not a genocide now. This is the faux left which rules Greece, and this is the European Union of the so-called European “dream,” or nightmare.

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