By BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
From Athens to Detroit the financial crises used to justify privatizations, wage-and-pension-cutting, and general austerity are being created. Their purpose is always to transfer vast public wealth into the hands of banksters and investors.
Greece, Debt and Democracy
By BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“Greeks have already lost jobs, pensions, and medical care to the meet the demands of the people who ruined their economy. ”
What is democracy? Millions of people around the world think that they live in democratic nations, but facts belie the dearly held mythology. We certainly have opportunities to vote and a plethora of legislative bodies ranging from city councils to congress to parliaments. What we don’t have is a seat at the table when decisions are made which impact our very lives. Those rights are reserved for the lords of capital and the people they choose to do their dirty work.
The Greek people used an opportunity to make their voices heard, but it isn’t clear that they will have the ultimate say in the decisions that determine their fate. Greeks have already lost jobs, pensions, and medical care to the meet the demands of the people who ruined their economy. They voted for the Syriza party in hopes of extricating themselves from the hell created by banksters and corrupt politicians. In a July 5, 2015 referendum they voted against the most recent demands for austerity from the troika comprised of the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Commission.
It was vitally important that the Greeks voted no and by such a large margin, but that is not the end of the story by any means. Other countries have been placed in the same position of agreeing to onerous austerity terms in order to make good on the corrupt bets that started at the top. Ireland and Spain were victimized by the 2008 bursting of the housing bubble, Greece went into a tailspin because of machinations from politicians and big banks like Goldman Sachs. The governor of the United States commonwealth/colony Puerto Rico recently declared that $72 billion in debt created by predatory lending is “unpayable.” The people didn’t create these crises but they are the ones who suffered in the aftermath.
While people all over the world rejoiced vicariously through the Greek voters’ fearless choice, they too are subjected to the same wrong doing. Residents of Detroit, Michigan are living with the derivatives schemes which pushed that city into bankruptcy. Michigan residents had in fact voted against the emergency manager laws which made bankruptcy possible but they lived under a decidedly undemocratic regime. It nullified their political rights and stole their public assets while rewarding the banks who committed the crime. The Puerto Rican government recently hired as a consultant the same bankruptcy judge who oversaw the looting of Detroit. The lords of capital ignore the sovereignty of national governments like Greece or cities like Detroit. We are seeing how much or rather how little democracy we actually have.
“Greeks are being asked to choose whether they would rather be shot or hanged. ”
The term Pyrrhic victory is a reference to Greek ancient history. Now in the 21st century they are living with the reality of those words. The day after what seemed to be a tremendous triumph, finance minister Yanis Varoufakis resigned with this explanation. “Soon after the announcement of the referendum results, I was made aware of a certain preference by some Eurogroup participants, and assorted ‘partners’, for my… ‘absence’ from its meetings; an idea that the Prime Minister judged to be potentially helpful to him in reaching an agreement.” Capitalism is nothing if not resilient and its enforcers won’t give up without a fight. The Greek politicians and the people they represent are already being punished for speaking up against their masters.
For the next year Americans will be assaulted with endless news stories about the November 2016 presidential election. What we won’t have are discussions about the lack of choices we are presented with. Neither democrats nor republicans question bailing out the financial institutions which call the shots for individuals and for governments. No one gets to be president without first performing for the rich donor casting call and getting their seal of approval. Like clairvoyants we can already predict that the winner in November 2016 will be someone who repeats the mantra that banks are too big to fail and must be bailed out indefinitely with public money.
“...Derivatives schemes killed Detroit. The Eurozone killed Greece....”
Greeks are being asked to choose whether they would rather be shot or hanged. They should be able to leave the eurozone and once again have their own currency but the road to freedom will come at a high price. Already they can’t access their own bank accounts. Already they have seen their political leaders forced to walk back from their pledge to represent their citizens. If they declare their freedom unilaterally they will pay a very high price.
Fictitious capital is the culprit of the Greece crisis and the warnings about it from 2008 must not be forgotten today. The beast is known by many names. Derivatives schemes killed Detroit. The Eurozone killed Greece. The housing bubble still haunts Americans, Irish and Spanish citizens. Puerto Rico is planning to cut public employment and its minimum wage. In ringing the alarm in 2008 former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt said, “When everything is for sale social cohesion disintegrates and the system collapses.” That is a perfect description for our lives today.
The struggle for freedom continues and it will exact a huge toll on all of us. We must know that we are all Greek, no matter where we live in the world. At any time the plug can be pulled and we can be told to pay for the wrong doing of others. The capital may be fictitious but the suffering it causes is all too real.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as athttp://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.