Tag Archives: world economic crisis

Greece: So Close, So Far Away

First, a prime specimen of reactionary brainwashing, on the Russian state channel’s news broadcast:

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Greece is again on strike and for the fourth time this year saying no to its government. In any case, today’s strike will not change anything. Wages in the country have been cut, taxes raised. Moreover, by socialists. And this is happening not only in Greece. R0mania, Slovenia, Portugal, Spain: leftist governments as one are doing what is not at all characteristic for them. The financial crisis has dealt a painful blow to the ideas of European socialism. The principle of “work less, make as much money as everyone else” no longer functions.

Along with the economic crisis, Europe is undergoing a crisis of the socialist idea. Several thousand students rioted in the capital of Slovenia. They threw eggs at the police and broke windows at the parliament because, in order to save money, the ruling socialists are taking away their tax breaks and deprived them of free meals.

On the streets of Bucharest, Romanian trade unions brought 60,000 people plus one sheep to protest the centrist government’s plans to slash the pensions and wages of public sector workers, including those of the police who guard the biggest state palace in the world, built by Ceauşescu. “We have ‘enormous’ salaries,” ironically notes a policeman who took part in the demonstrations. “So the government wants to cut them by a quarter. It would be better if the ministers cut their own pay because theirs is enormous. We work day and night, we work overtime, but these hours are not paid. Police from around the country are here today, and we will come back if that is what it takes,” he promised.

Cutting the budget deficit is a condition of the 20 billion euro loan provided by the IMF. And there is every indication that Romania will see a repeat of the Greek scenario, which in Athens today lead to more demonstrations and everything shutting down. “The policies that Greek society has been confronted with are barbaric,” says a participant in the demonstrations in Athens.

All this is being said to Greek’s leftist government. Headed by hereditary socialist Papandreou, it is following the orders it receives from European and international capital. In the very same way Portugal’s socialist prime minister José Sócrates refuses to turn off this path. “The country needs these measures. They are essential and necessary. When a politician does what he should do and takes measures only to alleviate a difficult situation, people should realize that all the efforts that all the people of Portugal will have to make are absolutely necessary.”

“Those who earn more should have to pay more,” declared José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero when commenting on the decision to raise the income tax for rich people. At that moment the Spanish prime minister was speaking in his capacity as leader of the Socialist Workers Party. But trade unions are threatening him with a general strike all the same because at another press conference the very same Zapatero announced that the wages of public sector workers would be cut.

Socialism, after all, is not the name of a party. It is genuine where the economic conditions exist for it. The right is in power in Sweden, but it has not ceased to be the showcase of European socialism. At the municipal level there, it is now being discussed whether to cut welfare payments to chronic alcoholics who refuse treatment.


A kind of response to this taxpayer-financed televised malarkey, here is the Vpered Socialist Movement’s preface to an essay by Olivier Besancenot and Pierre-François Grond (excerpted below):

It is surprising, but the events now under way in Greece, where hundreds of thousands of workers are demonstrating and striking in order to fight back against the harshest attack on their rights and livelihoods in recent decades, provokes only the slightest interest in Russian society. Kremlin talking heads and experts from the ranks of the liberal opposition gloat in unison as they applaud the liquidation of the last remnants of the European social state and pay their respects to courage of the Greek government, which has decided to take necessary “unpopular measures.” The silent [Russian] majority remains silent as always, assuming that the events in distant Greece have nothing to do with them. In fact, today’s Greece is closer to us than ever before. Since the beginning of this year, the Russian government’s menu practically wholly consists of “unpopular measures” prepared according to Greek recipes. Hence the [new] law that will radically cut subsidies to the public sector, and the transition to a new system of wage payments in the state sector, and the ever more persistent declarations about the need to raise the retirement age. Just as in Greece, working people in Russia are being made to foot the bill to save the banks and corporations. Like the Greeks, we turn out to be the main culprits of overblown budget deficits. We are also Greek workers in the sense that we are forced to pay for a crisis caused by the rich.

Today, as never before, we need to feel solidarity — not because it is a noble and beautiful feeling, but simply because we live in one world. A world that is strikingly insane, cruel, and unjust. A world where only the poor suffer. A world that so needs our will to resistance and protest.


An excerpt from Olivier Besancenot and Pierre-François Grond, “We are all Greek workers”:

The Greek measures overwhelmingly approved by EU governments are an attack on social rights. According to the rules of globalised capitalism applied by these governments, Europe is losing ground in its global competition with the United States and emerging countries. Their solution is to regain competitiveness by attacking the standard of living and social protection won in Europe through decades of mobilisation by the workers’ movement.

This means a never-ending race to the bottom. And to think that they promoted the Maastricht Treaty, the EU Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty as the building blocks of a Europe based on social justice and social welfare! What utter nonsense, when we compare this rhetoric to the bleeding imposed on the Greeks – at 5% interest, no less! The European banks can continue to grow rich on the Greek austerity plan, although they are the ones most responsible for the global economic chaos. There is nothing humanitarian about the “assistance plan” that has been adopted by the National Assembly. By supporting the government, the French Socialist Party has lined up on the side of finance and not the oppressed.

Though incapable of organising solidarity of any kind, the European Union certainly knows how to profit from a people’s misery. Sarkozy and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel have jointly declared that they will rescue the Eurozone by strengthening “budgetary oversight” of states that fail to meet the criteria of the EU Stability Pact. Apparently, in a neoliberal Europe, governments are only allowed to contravene the Stability Pact when they are pumping public money into the banks. Humanity will just have to wait.

Yet, never has there been such an urgent need for a social, ecological and anti-capitalist Europe based on solidarity. None of the current problems can be solved within national borders. We are all Greek workers subject to the same logic. Government debt is the product of 25 years of neoliberalism and tax cuts for the rich – on corporate incomes, capital and shareholder dividends. For 25 years these taxes have been constantly lowered, and yet we are still told that they represent an unbearable burden for employers and the well heeled. No, this crisis is not ours. In Greece, as elsewhere in Europe, we shouldn’t have to pay for it.


Chris Hedges, “The Greeks Get It”:

Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.

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David Harvey on Capitalism Today

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Thanks to Herr Naphta at Marxist Marginalia for liberating this brilliant interview with David Harvey for those of us outside the UK. And (as s/he writes there) “thanks to Antonovich from Lenin’s Tomb comments for originally ripping it.”

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“I’ll Give Myself to the President” (Kaliningrad, January 31, 2009)

The wave of total, self-abnegating assent to the Russian government’s s0-called anti-crisis program has now spread to the western frontier of the world’s largest country—Kaliningrad (Königsberg). We just received this dispatch from a correspondent on our platform:

On January 31, a rally in support of the President’s anti-crisis program was scheduled to take place on the main square in Kaliningrad. Inspired by the March of the Assenters carried out on January 25 by our friends in Petersburg, we—the Verkhotura Dance Theater and our supporters—resolved to similarly support the President during these difficult times for Russia. After lengthy preparations we succeeded in infiltrating the area cordoned off for the rally. Thanks to the relaxed state evinced by the guardians of the peace, who are accustomed to the standard scenario for a provincial rally, we were able to smuggle in placards and a ladder. We took up our positions not far from the stage and began our performance. A five-member women’s chorus began singing the national anthem of the Russian Federation. After they had performed a few stanzas, one of the young ladies mounted the ladder and, shouting the slogan “Everything for the President!” performed a fall. Her example was followed by the other young ladies, who accompanied their falls with the cries “I’ll Give Up the Shirt Off My Back!” “I’ll Donate All My Blood!” “I’m for a 100% Tax!” “I’ll Give Myself to the President!” and so forth. The chorus was supported by a group bearing placards and by random spectators.

"I'll Give Up My Last Toy!"

"I'll Give Up My Last Toy!"

After a while, some smiling policemen joined the ranks of the passive spectators and began reluctantly asking them questions. We were not prepared for this peaceful turn of events and we even became a little confused. But then one of the men in uniform approached the “oldest people in our group” and began questioning them. Regrouping and forming something like a round dance around the men, we accompanied our movements with the chant “Crisis, crisis, go away!” Then the two young men were asked to immediately proceed to the police station. We (the unjustly ignored female half of our group) protested this action and even tried to block the police van. Unable to free our comrades, we followed our friends to the precinct by tram.

We noticed that the tram was being tailed by a police cruiser that suspiciously stopped at all the tram stops. When we got out at the right stop, a police officer managed to catch up with us on foot. In a strict tone of voice he invited us to the precinct, to which we responded that this was exactly where we were going. But as we made our way there, one of our arrested comrades called and said that we should not go there under any circumstances. Although we were shocked, we quickly grasped the situation and escaped from the arm of the law. On a small street (already an hour after the rally) we were suddenly surrounded by two cars. The men who jumped out instantly blocked our escape route and began to forcibly shove us into the cars. We girls began to scream quite loudly, and so the police were also forced to detain our innocent photographer (the only man with us at this point).

Meanwhile, down at the station, something odd was happening. The policemen were unable to draw up the arrest protocol: they were forced to rewrite it several times because no one knew what to write. One of the arrestees and one of the policemen realized they were high school classmates and they began fondly remembering days of yore. Displeased that their weekends had been ruined (many of the officers had been forced to quickly report for duty) and by the tiring wait for “orders from the top brass,” the police officers began amusing themselves by taking pictures of each other holding our confiscated placards and quietly humming “Crisis, crisis, go away!” as they went about their mundane daily tasks. Many of them confessed that, for the most part, they agreed that the situation in the country was “unhealthy” and that something needed to be done, but that “something” was beyond their authority. Besides, the country was in a crisis, and they had families.

In the end, our group was released and summoned to a date with the judge, which took place in atmosphere of jokes and smiles on the part of the judge and witnesses, and ended with a fine of 1,000 rubles, as well as the absurd offer made by a local deputy, who had become our fan, to “collaborate.” And so, “to be continued. . .”

Local media accounts of the action (in Russian, with photographs):
Kaliningrad.Ru: “Participants of the Action ‘I’ll Give Myself to the President’ Have Been Fined 1,000 Rubles”
Kaliningrad.Ru: “Anti-Crisis Manifestations”
Klops.Ru: “Two Rallies at the Same Time: ‘We Need a Tax on Air.’”

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March of the Assenters (Petersburg, January 25, 2009)

3It has been a grim week for leftist activists in Russia. So it was encouraging to see that not everyone in the community has completely lost their courage—or their sense of humor. Yesterday (January 25, 2009) several dozen anti-fascists, leftists, and preservationist activists took to the streets of Saint Petersburg to express their total assent to state policies.

Well, since they totally agree with Plan Putin and all its ways, they had to do everything by the books. First of all, that meant applying in advance for a permit for their march. (We should note that this action was planned well before news came of the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova.) Second, that meant agreeing to the march route proposed to them by the police—in this case, two hundred meters of a lonely snowbound street on the far end of Vasilievsky Island, right next to the icebound Gulf of Finland. Third, that meant (more or less) “cheerfully” not resisting arrest by the police. Because, despite their enthusiastically demonstrated support of Russia’s oligarchic police state, five of the demonstrators ended up being taken to the hoosegow. Although they were later all released, they were charged were breaking the agreed rules for holding a demonstration—i.e., for crossing the road (a common charge made in the absence of any real violations), while a sixth “assenter” (who showed up at the precinct to get them out) was charged with desecrating the Russian flag (see below).

Still, one cannot help but be gladdened by the absolute precision of yesterday’s action. Subversive affirmation gets overused in protests and quasi-protest artist interventions, but this was one instance of its use when the message will be absolutely clear to anyone who reads or sees press accounts of the event. And the organizers were savvy enough to get a good press presence there for their act of utter self-abnegation. For example, local Channel 100 aired this report in its evening news broadcast:

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The fetching news reader explains that the march was organized by anti-fascists and that around fifty people took part in it.

March co-organizer Alexei Yarema (whose name is misspelled in the captions) tells the Channel 100 reporter: “Right now there is nothing more important than saving the national economy. And for its sake we’re ready to sacrifice everything, including paying however much money for anything whatsoever.”

In this video, we see in the march in progress. Another of the march’s co-organizers bellows out a text expressing the marchers’ complete confidence in the ability of the country’s leadership to bring the country out of the crisis. This is followed by scenes of the arrest of him and another assenter. The cheerful anti-fascist who now has the megaphone registers his surprise that people who support the government should be arrested by the police. The clip ends with a young man, a “Saint Vladimir” icon on his chest, shouting, “Long live the dictatorship of the banks!”

An activist from DSPA (Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement) posted the following account of the day’s events on their LiveJournal page:

March of the Assenters
Yes, now even rank-and-file citizens have understood how heavy is the lot of activists from the Nashi and Young Guards youth movements. It turns out that it’s not so easy to carry out an action in support of the Russian government in the Northern Capital. Nevertheless, during this difficult hour for the country, simple laborers found the strength to assemble at a specially designated site on the Maritime Embankment and declare their sincere, passionate support for all the initiatives of our dearly beloved government.

After they had assembled at this lively, crowded spot (practically on the ice in the Gulf of Finland), the demonstrators raised their banners, standards, and placards in an outpouring of unanimity. They brandished such slogans as “Yes to Price Increases for Basic Products!” “Yes to Utility-Rate Hikes!” “Yes to a Twelve-Hour Workday!” “Yes!!!” “Life Has Become Better, Life Has Become Merrier!”

Chanting “More Work, Less Pay!” and “Crisis, Crisis, Go Away!” in a fit of patriotic ecstasy, the demonstrators marched the two hundred meters of their sanctioned route under the trusty protection of the police, who outnumbered them several times over. In their speeches, the action’s organizers appealed to the government to impose a tax on air and introduce an eight-day work week.

Stopping next to a picturesque bio-toilet, the martyrs were on the point of marching back in the other direction when suddenly a vigilant policeman detected in the actions of the Assenters illegal use and even desecration of the Russian Federation national flag. The fact of the matter was that some irresponsible citizen had written the phrase “We Agree to Everything!” on the flag. It was for this offense that several demonstrators, including DSPA activists, were arrested.

Moreover, the Assenters quite quickly assented to this decision on the part of the brave police and, after demonstrating a bit more, they went home. And that was the right thing to do, gentleman! If the police believe that those who support the authorities have to be put behind bars, then that’s the way it is—because the police are always right. 

The more diligently our police do their jobs, the fewer people there will be who agree with the authorities! Hurrah!

You can find more coverage (photos, videos, articles—in Russian) here:

Humorous Action by Leftist Radicals in Saint Petersburg (Israeli site)

Petersburg Indymedia

In Petersburg, 5 People Are Arrested for Desecrating the Flag (Polit.Ru)

Petersburg Police Arrest Five People for Desecrating the Flag (Gazeta.Ru)

Photo Reportage: “We Agree to Everything” (Fontanka.Ru)

Local Protest Chronicler Vladimir Volokhonsky’s Account

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Alex Foti: A To-Do List

Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2008
From: Alex Foti
Subject: <nettime> a to-do list
To: nettime-l@kein.org

dear sisters and brothers,

call it the big slump, the great recession, the new depression: a major capitalist crisis is among us, and nettime saw it ahead of imf and goldman economists.

last week’s debate seemed to focus on two possible ways to go about the new historical situation:

i) let’s finally secede from the mad and corrupt world of capitalism and build the new society from scratch, a place were solidarity and sharing are in and inequality and exploitation (of women, peoples, nature) are out; let’s call it the steampunk solution.

ii) the great recession is a once-in-a-century opportunity to build radical political and social organizations/federations/coalitions that can impose redistribution (and thus economic sustainability) and push for the redesign of basic social structures toward ecological compatibility; let’s call it the commonist solution. Continue reading

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