Posted: November 25, 2013 Filed under: EU
originally posted at Chronos Mag
Political scientist Giorgos Katsambekis talks with distinguished professor at UCL,
Philippe Marlière, who specializes in European and French politics
Giorgos Katsambekis: You have devoted a large part of your research and writing to the European Social Democracy. How would you assess today the role of Social Democratic parties in the ongoing crisis? Are they a part of the European problem or a part of the solution?
Philippe Marlière: Social Democracy in Europe is clearly part of the problem given that over the past thirty years or so it has progressively abandoned its traditional aims of redistributive justice. What is more, it has turned its back on the idea that Capitalism needs to be tamed or constrained. (Bearing in mind that it had for long given up on overthrowing Capitalism altogether) Post-War Social Democracy was about the belief that market societies could work for the benefit of the majority, and not of a minority. At the heart of the social democratic philosophy was the idea of compromise between Capital and Work. This is no longer on the social democratic agenda. Social Democracy has now almost totally capitulated – and in many countries the adverb ‘almost’ is redundant – to the forces of globalised Capitalism. From the 1980s onward, the project of constructing ‘Socialism in Europe’ was short-lived and turned out to be an illusion. European integration – sometimes piloted by a majority of social democratic member states – has indeed increased the process of economic competition and social dumping in Europe. This has been the new face of the European Union since the Single European Act of 1986. Since then, the trend has been dramatically amplified. This being said – the Greek situation apart – Social Democracy, as a partisan force, is only weakened, but it is not dead yet. No one knows at present whether its future in other European countries will be similar to PASOK’s or whether it will benefit from the discredit of conservatives to get back to power. After all, France is currently run by a social democratic government and in a year time, Britain and Portugal might also have new social democratic governments. The death of Social Democracy has been announced so many times since the Bolshevik revolution! But so far, it has proved a very adaptable and resilient political force.
G. Katsambekis: Coming now to the main ‘laboratory’ of the European crisis, Greece, how would you comment on the recent call by 58 Greek centre-left and liberal-centrist intellectuals to create a new centre-left formation –a ‘third pole’– in order to oppose the new two-partyism of New Democracy and SYRIZA? Their aspiration, as noted in their declaration, is to represent those that don’t feel represented by the Greek ‘Right nor by the neo-communist national-populist Left’. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 19, 2013 Filed under: EU, Politics, Society
Join us for an evening of discussion at the London book launch of ‘Crucible of Resistance: Greece, the Eurozone and the World Economic Crisis’ by Christos Laskos and Euclid Tsakalotos.
Challenging mainstream accounts of the ‘Greek Crisis’, the book argues that Greece’s exceptionalism is largely a myth. They show how the causes of the 2008 global financial crisis lie in key features of the neoliberal economic order, including income and wealth inequalities and the hollowing out of democratic institutions.
A progressive exit from the crisis, for the Eurozone as a whole, means confronting the limitations of the neoliberal order.
Euclid Tsakalotos is MP for the Syriza party in Greece, economic adviser to party leader Alexis Tsipras and a professor of economics at the University of Athens.
Costas Douzinas is a law professor at Birkbeck, University of London and author of Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe.
John Palmer is visiting practitioner fellow at Sussex University European Institute and former European editor of The Guardian and founder political director of the European Policy Centre in Brussels.
Chaired by Hilary Wainwright, co-editor of Red Pepper magazine.
“Crucible of Resistance is a clear account of how Greece and the Eurozone got into such a mess. It shows that the crisis is not only economic, but also one of growing regional and social inequalities and the retreat of democracy. The authors bring to the fore what the emerging radical left in Greece and elsewhere can do to get us out of the crisis” Alexis Tsipras, head of Syriza and Leader of the Opposition in the Greek parliament.
Venue: The Lucas Arms, 245a Grays Inn Rd, Kings Cross, WC1X 8QY London
Posted: November 2, 2013 Filed under: EU, Politics
Mark Bergfeld review of ‘Crucible of Resistance’
Political blogger Mark Bergfeld has written a review of Crucible of Resistance by Christos Laskos and Euclid Tsakalotos. The book challenges the mainstream accounts of the Greek Crisis, and critiques the world economic system.
The review begins by commending the authors on dividing their attention between the national and the international:
The authors successfully integrate the Greek crisis in the broader framework of the eurozone and world economy. They continuously highlight the interplay between the national and international; the neoliberalization of Greece after the collapse of the dictatorship in 1974 and the recurrence of capitalist crisis in different parts of the world.
Bergfeld then analyses several of the key points made in the book:
“The most likely resolution to the crisis will be either in the direction of a far more authoritarian capitalism or moves to transcend capitalism in some important dimensions.” (9) They aptly label this “the no-turning back thesis”. I would agree with their position insofar that every economic crisis results in fundamental instability of the political and its re-negotiation. The repercussions of the East Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 are still being mobilised around in Thailand to this very day. The consequences of this deep and prolonged crisis in Greece and other Southern European states (and even the Northern ones) will transform the European political landscape in an unprecedented and unimaginable way.
He mentions the few “sticking points” of the book, but concludes that while Laskos and Tsakalotos don’t have all the answers, their questions do prompt interesting discussions:
There are a few sticking points which the book does have. The authors seek to answer why social democracy vis-a-vis PASOK didn’t reassess its commitment to neoliberalism post the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The tentative answer they provide is that social-democratic parties and their members are “cognitively linked” to the neoliberal project. Thus, they cannot act beyond what they know from their own past experiences. Hollande in France, the German SPD and other formations are named as a living proof that social-democracy finds itself in crisis. Whether this crisis is structural, cyclical or secular is not answered. It also must be questioned whether quasi-psychological answers suffice to explain social-democracy’s demise. Their book might not have all the right answers to the questions but it can allow the kind of discussions which might arrive at them.
He ends in agreement with most of the authors’ points:
Especially for people outside of Greece it is interesting to read Laskos’ and Tsakalotos’ book. The importance they ascribe to mobilisíng labour against capital stands in stark opposition to Etienne Balibar or the Greek Communist Party (KKE) who suggest to mobilise ‘the people’ or, demos. Hereby, they place particular emphasis on “transformative structures” and projects of self-organisation. “People come to see the value of solidarity in practice and come to see politics, widely defined, can actually change things. [P]ractices that are antithetical to capitalist values can also play a key role, and the Left needs to think very seriously about the role of alternative practices” (144). I couldn’t agree more. However, these alternative practices can only be rendered meaningful if they form part of a strategy towards socialism. I think the authors would agree with me.
Read the article in full here.
To buy Crucible of Resistance by Christos Laskos and Euclid Tsakalotos, click on the cover image below.
“This book gives us a clear account of how Greece and the eurozone got into such a mess. It makes clear that the crisis is not only economic, but also one of growing regional and social inequalities and the retreat of democracy. More important still, the authors bring to the fore what the emerging radical left in Greece and elsewhere can do to get us out of the crisis.”
Alexis Tsipras, head of Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) and Leader of the Opposition in the Greek parliament
“The future of democracy in Greece is a matter for all of us in Europe. Laskos and Tsakalotos take us behind the headlines about ‘bailouts’ and ‘crisis’ and share with us both the challenges and the alternatives which Greeks are creating as they resist: from networks of solidarity to a new kind of political party with a strongly European perspective. Essential reading in the decisive months ahead.”
Hilary Wainwright, author of Reclaim the State: Experiments in Popular Democracy
Posted: September 25, 2013 Filed under: Activism, EU, Politics, Society | Tags: Costas Douzinas
Angela Merkel’s re-election will heap yet more misery and austerity on southern Europe. But it may yet inspire a leftist victory in Greece
Supporters of the far-right party Golden Dawn hold up a sign that reads in German ‘Merkel get out’ during a protest outside the German embassy in Athens in March 2013. Photograph: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP
The German sociologist Ulrich Beck opens his latest book confessing how shocked he was when he heard in the news in February 2012 that “today the German Bundestag will decide the future of Greece”. Southern Europe has become a declining underclass, while Berlin acts as a colonial master imposing brutal austerity. Calling his book German Europe, Beck joins a vigorous debate about the future begun by the German intellectual, Jurgen Habermas. For Habermas and the south Europeans, the question that should have dominated the German elections but did not was “Will Europe be German or Germany European?”
The European vote was clear: 82% of Spaniards, 65% of Portuguese and 58% of Italians rejected Merkel’s policies in a recent opinion poll. But the German vote, the only one that counted, went the other way, giving Merkel unparalleled power on the German and European stage. The Social Democratic party (SPD) suffered the second worst defeat in its history, reminding us of the last British elections. Both results make sense. Why should anyone vote for either the SPD or Labour if their neoliberal policies are a pale version of what Merkel or the Tories offer?
As Habermas saw it, Merkel showed no leadership during the crisis, her main response being “soporific bumbling“. He was proved right when, after her triumph, Merkel repeated mantra-like, that “we cannot prematurely drop the pressure on the south to reform”. The pressure was indelicately applied on German election day with the troika representing the IMF, EU and ECB lenders arriving in Athens for the latest inspection round. Government actions will be examined to ensure that the Greeks have made satisfactory progress in sacking civil servants, cutting social services and privatising state assets. The Greeks will be ordered to foreclose the homes of families unable to pay the mortgage, a policy that had been banned for five years in a rare show of sympathy for the poor by the Greek government. These “reforms” have been imposed on Greece as precondition for the disbursement of the loan and are vigorously policed before each instalment is paid. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: September 12, 2013 Filed under: Economy, EU, Politics
An email obtained by UNFOLLOW magazine appears to contradict the Greek Government’s claims that their proposed bill regarding the Code of Lawyers in Greece is absolutely “their own initiative” and not a troika “demand”. According to the email, Mr Zenon Kontolemis, a troika-appointed “supervisor”, is addressing pressing requests to the Greek government for “revisions” in the bill, and threatens that, if Greek legislators fail to heed his demands, the sum of loan money Greece is expecting in October will not be disbursed.
“This is a Milestone for receiving the next tranche October, so it must be already finalized and adopted by the Parliament by end September” writes the troika to the Greek Government
During current discussions of the proposed law regarding the Code of Lawyers in the Standing Parliamentary Committee on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice, the Minister of Justice was asked whether there were pressures to implement specific changes to the bill or to speed up the process. The Minister replied that the bill was the Government’s initiative and that there was no “expediting factor”. This is of course in line with overall Government rhetoric that its “reforms” –a euphemism for austerity measures– are no longer dictated by the troika, but by Greece’s own need for “change”.
Troika email to the Greek Government [Click to enlarge]
Nevertheless, the email addressed by Mr Kontolemis to the Greek government contradicts the Justice Minister’s claims: it not only requests that “revisions” be made to the proposed bill, an issue of domestic policy, but it also reminds the government that they have already committed to making these changes in July, and it also demands the legislature’s swift actions, under the threat that the October payment will be withheld.
“We expect,” writes Mr Kontolemis, “the draft Code of Lawyers to be adopted as we have agreed it with the Authorities before Summer, including the above revisions, as soon as possible. In conclusion, we would like to recall that this is an end-July commitment which is already delayed. In addition, this is a Milestone for receiving the next tranche October, so it must be already finalized and adopted by the Parliament by end September”.
The email is addressed to, among others, Mr Dimitris Vartzopoulos, General Coordinator for the Greek Government, officials in both the Ministries of Justice and Finance, as well as officials in the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
The Minister of Justice shrugged the email off, saying that it was merely an exchange of “opinions”.
Yesterday, after UNFOLLOW magazine had published the email on its website the previous evening, during the deliberations of the Standing Committee, the Minister of Justice Mr Charalampos Athanassiou was challenged once again by Ms Zoe Konstantopoulou, a SYRIZA (Main Opposition) MP, on his alleged “independence” from the troika. He shrugged the email off, saying that it was merely an exchange of “opinions”, and failed to address the fact that in the email a demand is made of the Greek legislature, a distinct power in a democracy, as a condition for the payout of the next “tranche”.
The deliberations of the Committee were concluded among further protests: The President of the Committee asked for a vote despite the fact that the required number of Members of Parliament was not present. He proceeded to proclaim the vote valid, over the protests of Ms Konstantopoulou, although not even the two MPs out of the three present had voted. Ms Konstantopoulou said in a statement today that subsequently the minutes of the Committee were altered to conceal the illegality of the vote. A video of the proceedings, obtained by UNFOLLOW magazine, appears to confirm Ms Konstantopoulou’s claims. (Video in Greek posted here, soon to be subtitled.)
Throughout the years of the Greek crisis, those who insist that the various agreements with the troika –collectively dubbed “memoranda”– effectively mean a loss of sovereignty are systematically vilified. It does not matter that it is not only the nationalists or the extreme-right who voice such concerns– nor does it matter that, in any case, traditional political divides in Greece have been completely jumbled, with a pro-troika government made up of populist and nationalist rightists and far-rightists, together with socialist “modernizers” and centre-left former leftist “revisionists”. In fact, concerns over the loss of national sovereignty have been expressed by the moderate leftist opposition party SYRIZA, but these were also met with accusations of nothing less than “nationalism,” particularly by the centrist component of the coalition government.
The point of course that is being made by those fearful of the troika’s complete hold over Greek domestic policy is not about abstract national pride, but about the erosion of the democratic process, where citizens are no longer governed by those they have elected, and those who hold elected office are no longer bound by democratic accountability.
Posted: August 11, 2013 Filed under: EU, International, Politics | Tags: Immigration
10 August 2013 Last updated at 22:43 GMT @BBC NEWS
The facility at Amygdaleza was set up to repatriate undocumented migrants
Greek riot police have been deployed to end a riot at a migrant detention facility north of the capital, Athens.
Detainees threw stones at the police guards, injuring at least 10 of them, and set fire to their bedding in what police called an “unprovoked” attack.
The rioting began when the detainees were informed that the maximum time they could be held at the facility had been extended from a year to 18 months.
Some 1,500 are kept under guard at the Amygdaleza “closed hospitality centre”.
It is one of several facilities set up since last year by the Greek authorities to repatriate the thousands of undocumented migrants in the country.
Human rights groups say migrants have been subjected to abuse by guards at the camps, and that they have been denied proper healthcare.
Last week, Muslim detainees were beaten during prayers, while an Afghan detainee died in July of an infection that had been ignored by months, according to the leftist KEERFA movement.
It is thought that up to 95% of undocumented migrants entering the European Union arrive via Greece, and because border controls make it hard to continue into the rest of Europe, many end up stuck there.
Posted: June 8, 2013 Filed under: Activism, Economy, EU, International, Politics | Tags: ALTER SUMMIT
Alter Summit live !
Follow the plenary session of the Alter Summit with all European movements and organizations in Athens.
This event will be organized with the Greek social movement with the support of civil society organizations, trade unions, NGOs, political and cultural personalities from all around Europe.
The Alter Summit in Athens will be a step forward in the building of more convergence between movements opposed to the current anti-social and anti-ecological policies promoted by European governments and institutions.
Follow the Livestream of the plenary session of the Altersummit from 7PM to 10PM ! http://www.altersummit.eu
All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English] [français] [italiano]
Posted: May 24, 2013 Filed under: Economy, EU, International, Politics
Posted: April 24, 2013 Filed under: EU, Politics | Tags: democracy, Human Rights
Citizens’ consultation to shape an EU of democracy, fundamental rights and participation
8 May 2013, 5:30 – 8:30 pm
Europe House, 32 Smith Square, SW1P EU London
Moderated by: the AIRE Centre, Migrants’ Rights Network, Demos, Electoral Reform Society, Participedia, European Alternatives, OneEurope, the Churchill Group…
Many people agree the EU needs to change: but there are changes for the better and changes for the worse. The UK government’s position regarding the EU is to promote an EU based only on a single market – to continue the opt-out of the EU charter of fundamental rights and to opt out of the European Convention on human rights, to impose barriers to the free movement of people from other parts of Europe to the UK, to try to negotiate out of all social legislation coming from the EU. Is there another option available? Can we engage positively for an EU which better protects and promotes fundamental rights? Can we promote an EU which is more democratic and based on bottom-up participation? Can we make an EU which gives more progressive rights to workers, families and citizens in the context of economic and social crisis?
The citizens’ consultation organised in London on May 8th 2013 will try and address these questions by giving citizens’ a say on what the European Union should look like and engage them in elaborating their vision for an EU of democracy, fundamental rights and participation. Participants will join hundreds of others who have already taken part in similar consultations all over Europe in the past three years to elaborate concrete proposals for the EU, which will be brought together in a Europe-wide Citizens’ Manifesto.
For more information and the full program please see our webpage here.
Registration for this event is required: please email firstname.lastname@example.org or register online. European Alternatives can guarantee a number of travel bursaries, covering 50% of travel and accommodation costs from anyone travelling from anywhere in the EU: for more information and to apply, please email email@example.com.
Posted: April 17, 2013 Filed under: EU, Politics, Society | Tags: austerity
UCL Labour Rights Institute
Cure the disease and kill the patient – Labour rights in Greece after 3-years of Austerity
Tuesday 14 May 2013
5.30 – 7.30pm at the UCL Faculty of Laws
- Dr Aristea Koukiadaki (Lecturer in Employment Studies, University of Manchester);
- Dr Lefteris Kretsos (Senior Lecturer in Employment Relations, University of Greenwich);
- Dr Giuseppe Casale (Director, ILO Department of Labour Administration);
- Colm O’Cinneide (Reader in Laws, UCL; Vice-President of the European Committee of Social Rights)
This small symposium focuses on the state of labour law in Greece after 3-years of austerity and deregulatory reforms partly introduced to satisfy the requirements imposed by the EU Commission-ECB-IMF Memoranda of Understanding accompanying the country’s two main bailout packages of May 2010 and February 2012.
In recent years, even months, the issue of rapidly declining labour rights standards in Greece has become the subject of intense academic debate and (more recently) human rights litigation, with a number of regional and international organisations assessing recent reforms against Greece’s international human/labour rights obligations. In 2011 a Report of the ILO High Level Mission to Greece, explicitly noted that ‘overall, the changes being introduced to the industrial relations system in the current circumstances are likely to have a spillover effect on collective bargaining as a whole, to the detriment of social peace and society at large’ and reminded Greece of its obligations ‘under ratified Conventions to promote the practice of collective bargaining in general’. These concerns are, if anything, more forcefully expressed in last year’s 356th Report of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (cf. page 249-274). The European Committee of Social Rights, in two recent decisions of 2012, was even more explicit in declaring the Greek state in breach of Articles 1, 4, 7, and 10 of the European Social Charter.
This event proposes to debate in greater detail the labour law, inductrial relations and human rights implications of these reforms from a national, European, and ILO perspective.
The event is generously supported by the UCL European Institute.