Category Archives: Articles in English
Are we really free to choose and is the people’s power acknowledged? “Debt Management” is a short documentary on the illusion of freedom (the case of the “boiling frog”) and the illusion of choice (as in the example of “Plato’s cave”), from an economic perspective. The Greek crisis is just another round in the constant struggle between those who take decisions that determine the will of whole societies and the real power of the people. How can entire societies become powerless, from an economic point of view? By what means is that being achieved in modern Europe?
without Greek subtitles
Maria Delivani N., economist, former dean of the University of Macedonia.
Craig Wherlock, since 2008 “Journalist of the crisis.”
Didac S. – Costa, sociologist.
Albert Broomhead, economist and analyst.
Dimitris Kazakis, economist, author, columnist.
General co Kastrinakis P. Alexander.
Μαρία Δεληβάνη Ν., οικονομολόγος, πρώην πρύτανης του Πανεπιστημίου Μακεδονίας.
Craig Wherlock, από το 2008 «δημοσιογράφος της κρίσης».
Didac S.- Costa, κοινωνιολόγος.
Albert Broomhead, οικονομολόγος, αναλυτής.
Δημήτρης Καζάκης, οικονομολόγος, συγγραφέας, αρθρογράφος.
Γενική επιμέλεια Αλέξανδρος Καστρινάκης Π..
Dimitris Kazakis: Economist, analyst, general secretary and founder of EPAM (The United Peoples Front), which was formed from the massive protest movements in Greece from 2010 and onwards. He has been ploughing the country the last two years informing and organizing the Greeks for a democratic struggle for self-organization, national currency, the cancellation of the debt and a new constitution… He speak about a democratic revolution through a long lasting national political strike for the overthrow of the whole current political system in Greece.
Speech to U.S. college students and faculty members through Skype in April 2011.
by DIMITRIS KAZAKIS
What will happen with the return to the drachma, our national currency?
Obviously, the sky will fall on our heads and crush us. Greece will become Enver Hoxha’s Albania or Kim Il Sung’s North Korea. Just as it was before we became member of euro-zone. If I remember correctly, Greece did not come into existence on the day euro became our currency. We knew how to look after ourselves before the almighty euro came along. We had international relations before the euro, and indeed far better and more profitable, with a wider range of countries. And despite the fact that the national currency, that is to say the drachma, was managed by governments whose main objective was to facilitate inward and outward speculation and increase of the so-called competitiveness through continual devaluations, there were certain consequences not to be sneezed at:
• The country’s external deficit never reached the levels it has attained under the euro. The state of the poor little drachma was a matter of indifference to the countries with which we traded.
• Despite the inflation and the successive devaluations, the country’s external terms of trade were much better than in the decade of the euro. The same is true of the economy’s internal purchasing power.
• Because of the drachma the debt was entirely manageable, and despite the explosion under Mitsotakis’ and Simitis’ governments, it did not lead us to bankruptcy. Neither could we be led to the bankruptcy we face today, for as long as we kept the drachma.
These are the facts. If one wants to ignore them, that is his or her problem. Let us just bear in mind that from the time of the devaluation of the drachma against the dollar by Markezinis buck in 1954, the national currency lost 1000 percent of its value by the time we joined euro. Did that destroy the economy? Did we go bankrupt without realizing it? Did we lose our bank deposits? Did our currency disappear? Did our external economic transactions collapse? Nothing of all that. Why, I wonder.
Did Greece ever go bankrupt on account of its national currency? Never! In 1893 Greece went bankrupt because of overborrowing in gold francs, because of the country’s entry into the Latin Monetary Union, which was advertised at that time as an ideal source of cheap public sector loans. In 1932 Greece went bankrupt again because of the gold drachma and overborrowing in gold sovereigns, because at that time the country was in the currency union of the pound sterling, the gold sovereign.
None of these facts play any role in the discussion, because they have no role in economic studies in this country, given that all the hotshot professors in the economic schools who browse through the mass propaganda media and then proceed to tear their hair out at the prospect of return to the national currency are entirely illiterate when it comes to the subject of economics. The only thing they know is applications of quantitative methods in Business and Finance. Economic studies lost every trace of the classical economics education that was once the cornerstone of economic science. The intellectual repression to which the study programs subject students of economics robs them of any capacity for critical thought, turning them into Aristotelian “automaton” in the service of an economic theology where all that exists is the pursuit of easy money.
The English philosopher Carlyle once described economics as “the dismal science” because it could very easily be employed to justify every inhuman and anti-social practice. Today, even the well known American economist James Galbraith, son of John Kenneth, says very aptly that economics has become a form of menial, and indeed dishonorable, labor. The truth is that it has lost every characteristic of science and should be placed under the supervision of criminologists. Perhaps it would be best for economic theory to be classified together with other forms of economic crime.
I will not go into the strange fact that economists such as Nouriel Roubini, the Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, in fact the global economic community as a whole, with the exception of the servants of US and European banks, together with everyone else on European payrolls, reiterate what was once regarded as self-evident in public finances: that in the event of a crisis of over-indebtedness you write off the whole or at least the greater part of the debt, especially if it is public debt, and employ your own national currency in order to get out of the mess. I will not go into it because all this, in fact the entire history of public finance, has been written by “eccentrics” by “nonentities”, who could not hold a candle to today’s Stournarases, Hardouveloses and all the other proponents of “hard currency” on right and left of the political spectrum.
Just for the sake of it, it might be worthwhile referring to what John Maynard Keynes, a favorite source of quotations for ignorant people in university posts, said and did in a similar global crisis of overindebtedness. When, after the first World War, all the warring states were deeply in debt, primarily to the only creditor country that remained, the United States, Keynes surprised the economic and political establishment with two well-timed proposals. He said on the one hand that it was impossible for the debts to be serviced and in order for the peoples in revolt to be able to write them off it would be better to persuade the United States to write off the demands for repayment.
He said on the other hand that the golden rule of fixed exchange rates and privately issued money should be abolished and economies must introduce as rapidly as possible national currencies issued by the states themselves on the basis of their own particular needs. Keynes called for “national self-sufficiency” as the only way out of a world depression like the one European and US economy had back in the ’30s.
We face a similar situation today world wide, more aggravated than ever before and while euro has become the focal point of the devastation produced by the world depression, we are to believe that we must seek only supranational solutions through bureaucratic supranational bobies which all these years have been identified with the most predatory circles of banking and finance capital. We are to believe that the same architects of the worse mess the world economy is facing today, will deliver the solution too. Is like believing that a gangster can deliver law and order. Yes he can. Only at the expense of the innocent.
When Keynes dared to make this proposal for the first time in 1920, he was seen as an “eccentric” and in fact nothing less than stupid. Is it possible for the economy to operate without a stable currency with international backing? International trade will disappear. People’s savings will be lost, and nobody will want to enter into transactions with an inflationary national currency, which will just keep on devaluing and devaluing. This, and much else, like today, was invoked by those who thought Keynes was crazy, eccentric and stupid to make such proposals.
Of course Keynes thought that he could persuade governments, and above all the government of the United States, to make these adjustments themselves, before they were imposed by the people in a revolutionary manner. Just as some think today that they can persuade the EU and the European Central Bank to implement policies different from those it implements and to have a stance different from what it has.
The clue to the story is that the crisis of 1929 brought everything that the opponents of Keynes had portrayed as ostensibly inevitable consequences of his proposals for the writing-off of debt and restoration of the national currency. The peoples did revolt finally and the same people who didn’t want to see the loss of their financial profits introduced fascism and Nazism, leading the world into the holocaust of the Second World War. The same will happen today if we allow the powers that seek the open dictatorship of finance capital to insist on servicing the debt and support the “strong euro”.
In any case, the proposal for return to the national currency has to do with two immediate conditions: non-recognition and writing-off of the debt on the one hand, and on the other restoration of the national currency within a radically different socioeconomic and political frame from that which existed in the era of the old drachma.
What is going to happen? For a start, we are not going to keep it secret. It is not possible, and in any case not necessary, for that to happen. The knowledge, the vigilance and the participation of the people is the basic component of such a drastic change. Also, adoption of the new national currency is not something that can happen over a weekend. Six to eight months preparation is necessary. During this interval of time, in order to keep the circulation of the currency in banknotes as low as possible, the following immediate steps must be taken:
• The Bank of Greece must be nationalized and the country’s monetary gold returned.
• There must be nationalization of the largest private banks, which in any case are at the moment very generously subsidized by the state. There will be a freeze on all servicing of loans and external liabilities. The banks must be left to go bankrupt.
• Disposable liquid assets and gold in the possession of business enterprises and in private hands must be blocked. This will be done through installation of control commissions inside commercial firms comprised of state and workers’ representatives.
• All forms of tax-evading business practices (offshore companies, portfolio investments, etc.) will be abolished and all fixed and current assets in their possession on Greek territory frozen.
• The export of capital will be banned until further notice and a capital levy imposed, to be paid within two months by all large private companies, and in particular multinationals.
• Fraudulent closure of businesses will be prevented through imposition of special prohibitive fines and confiscation of assets.
• There will be a drastic reduction in the volume of wastes that can be introduced into Greece by multinational companies, and imposition of high tariffs on the introduction of luxury goods and products.
• Special programmatic agreements for intra-state collaboration will be concluded covering such imported goods as are necessary for the economy and for domestic consumption (fuels, raw materials, foods, medicines, etc.)
• Advantage must be taken of the potential for production of 9 tons of processed gold annually, following nationalization of the mines, with issuing by the central bank of special gold bonds to attract foreign currency.
• Nationalization of the country’s mineral wealth (nickel, bauxite, lignite, etc.) and its utilization for contracts with foreign countries for its productive exploitation and for immediate stimulation of foreign currency inflows.
• Establishment of interest-free open accounts with exporting companies, which will also be placed under direct state, and workers’, control.
Measures such as these are aimed at protecting currency circulation during the time interval necessary for us to be ready to reintroduce the national currency. From the moment that the national mint replaces the euro as internal currency, it will become possible to implement, immediately, certain policies:
1. Recovery from the currency “black hole” caused by the euro, amounting to approximately 30 billion euros annually.
2. A drastic increase in popular incomes and payments to workers for the purpose of generating a corresponding increase in market turnover and encouraging habits of saving.
3. Guarantees and gradual restoration of citizens’ bank deposits, which today comprise nothing but registrations for accounting purposes not backed by any assets.
4. Writing off of all private debts (of households and small-to-medium businesses) that cannot be paid off and institution of a ceiling on payments for the remainder to the amount of 25% of initial capital
5. Independent funding of self-sufficient development of production (above all, and with a priority on, primary, agricultural, production) on the basis of the most immediate vital needs of the population, the economy and the country’s international relations.
6. Imposition of a regime of regulation of the movement (import-export) of capital and of foreign trade so as to introduce drastic restrictions on the excesses now prevalent in these sectors.
These policies will make it possible to ensure that the issuing of a national currency and additional currency circulation will not cause inflation. Moreover support of the currency through such measures, and also the fact that it is not going to be converted into an object of speculation on the international currency market, will enable the currency to be stable and to reflect the real needs of the Greek economy.
Finally, we should make it clear that in the framework of such policies it will not be necessary to pursue the politics of continual devaluations, nor will the currency be exposed to tremendous pressure to devalue. In any case, the value of a currency that is not a plaything of the international currency market is determined by the dynamic of internal production and the extent of international economic links and relationships, which today are at a tragic level.
This process will secure a smooth transition from the euro to the new national currency, without violent dislocations and in correspondence with the needs of internal transactions. That being achieved, the way is open for a broader plan of productive reconstruction of the economy on the basis of full employment. We will finally have the financial means, and also the macroeconomic tools, to make it a reality.
Αναρτήθηκε από ΔΗΜΗΤΡΗΣ ΚΑΖΑΚΗΣ Τετάρτη, 30 Οκτωβρίου 2013 στις 9:59 π.μ.
STEPHEN FRY on Parthenon Marbles Debate – Stephen Fry Συζήτηση για τα Μάρμαρα του Παρθενώνα (Greek Subtitles – Ελληνική Υπότιτλοι)
Stephen Fry steals show, and Greek hearts, in Parthenon marbles debate. A talk in London about whether the British Museum should return the sculptures was screened live to an audience in Athens
Britain hold on to dubiously acquired treasures that were removed without the consent of the Greek people to whom they culturally and historically belong? That’s what Lord Byron thought, and now Stephen Fry is taking up the cause. We should return the Marbles as a gesture of solidarity with Greece in its financial distress, says Fry, and as a mark of respect for the cradle of democracy and the birthplace of rational thought.
The real reasons behind the ERT shutdown, the 300 million the state lost, and who benefits from it.
The eviction of the remaining staff from former public television’s (ERT) building last night in Athens was a bitter showdown of an unequal brinkmanship. The picture of handcuffs used as a padlock at building’s gate has already become one of historical value. It is a picture from the future of Europe.
But there’s a story behind the picture: Back on June 11th,with no prior notice, the Greek government shut down ERT, suggesting that urgent austerity reforms have been the reason for its decision.But Nikos Mihalitsis, former director of the technical department of ERT, has analyzed thoroughly that the public broadcaster’s shutdown occurred for other reasons. “One is that the government was going to apply, like it finally did, similar measures to other public organizations and shut down schools and hospitals. So it needed a trial case to measure reaction” and second and most important that private television owners in cooperation with politicians in power are trying to control the future TV market and as a result what information reaches to the public. “The time of the closure is not accidental. ERT was shut down right before the beginning of a tender [which has eventually been postponed for the end of 2014, something that might to an extent be connected to the prolonged standoff with ERT ex-workers] for the establishment of HD networks throughout the country. There are terms in this tender that clearly point to a Greek company that represents the interests of five private TV entrepreneurs, and make sure that no international player would consider bringing an offer” said Mihalitsis.
In Europe, and in most of the world, TV producers are prohibited from owning the distribution networks themselves, as a safeguard of independent broadcasting. Greek law, however, predicts that a TV producer could own a minimum percentage in such a company. This has created leeway for the afforementioned five to create a consortium and claim the tender for HD infrastructure. The consortium (Digea) has already won a tender to establish a smaller HD network covering only key points in Greece.
Absence of ERT means not only lack of a privileged public entity that would affect how HD broadcasting networks are distributed for the benefit of the public but also that a consortium of private actors, in coordination with its political partners, will be able to attempt to control anything broadcasted in the country.
Contrary to benefiting the public by saving it from an ineffective public organization burdened of personnel appointed as a political clientele, which has been partly true, the closure has been estimated to reach over 300 million in losses of rights and compensations for incomplete projects.
The importance of this case was demonstrated by the anxiety of the Ministry of Finance, to which all ERT’s property belongs after its closure, to silence ERT workers that stayed in the premises and kept broadcasting since the 11th of June. Something it failed to do until last night.
While criticism regarding pulling the plug of a public TV overnight started pouring in throughout Europe on June 12th, the European Broadcasters Union (EBU) stepped in and provided a sattelite uplink in order to keep it going. On June 14th its president Jean Paul Fillipot flew to Athens, to warn that the move constitutes an act against democracy, and met with government officials asking them to backtrack on their decision. EBU Head of Institutional Relations Giacomo Mazzone told me in an email exchange at the time that EBU’s intervention was a committed one “because EBU is convinced that public service broadcasting is a primary right of the European citizens and nobody cannot prevented to access such service even for a single day”.
According to Panos Haritos, former ERT’s correspondent in the Middle East based in Jerusalem, a day after EBU’s visit to Athens the Minister of Finance asked from the Greek ambassador in Israel to contact the satellite provider company RRSAT and request ERT off its satellites, through which EBU transmitted its uplink. “The Israeli company accepted the request after the Greek side threatened to move legally against it” Haritos said.
Minister of Finance Giannis Stournaras had also threatened to take legal action against whoever reproduced signal with ERT’s brand while workers of ERT remained in the HQ of ERT and kept broadcasting on a daily. EBU maintained ERT’s TV and radio frequencies via a live stream on its website.
EBU interrupted ERT’s streaming on August 20th after the Greek government’s interim “Public Television” (DT), for which it hired a couple of hundred of ERT personnel and transferred its signal and rights, launched it first news bulletin. Some ERT workers stayed in the old headquarters and went on streaming online (with the help of ThePressProject). Initially DT broadcasting was made possible from private studios linked to some of the biggest private stake holders in Greek television.
The methods employed in eliminating ERT have caused severe political as well as legal criticism and appear to be full of irregularities. For one, the closure has circumvented the parliament and was implemented through a ministerial decree issued jointly by the Minister of Finance and Deputy PM Simos Kedikoglou, ratified only by some of the ministers. Second, according to Mazzone “some strange movements from the portfolio of rights of ERT on sport contracts to some commercial televisions occurred without any transparency and accountable decision”. Finally the ex CEO, and then appointed trustee of ERT, responsible for the broadcaster’s liquidation, Gikas Manalis has sent letters to all workers informing them they are fired since 11th of June. The letters were mailed unsigned and unstamped, and have been characterized as bearing no legal substance from expert constitutional lawyers.
In June the irregularities of the handling of ERT’s case had thrown PM Samaras government into a temporary existential crisis. The PM ignored an order by the Council of State to immediately restore public broadcasting. The government interpreted this decision in accordance with its actions and refused to open ERT, causing a cabinet reshuffling after the third partner of the coalition government, DIMAR, walked off. The new cabinet included a deputy Minister for ERT’s renewal who entered negotiations with workers regarding the future of the organization and the building, failing to create any consensus over the issue.
The closure of ERT by the government of New Democracy and PASOK underlines the nature of the governance with which the country was led through a severe austerity that has lasted already four years. Now based almost entirely on televised manipulation of public opinion, this is a government that takes down yet another opposition voice. Meanwhile it accuses everyone that talks against it of trying to obstruct the process of seeing the country out of this crisis, a moment supposedly close. Meanwhile, the country’s creditors that are in Athens these days are preparing another bitter pill of austerity.
1. Money, Banking and the Federal Reserve
This extraordinary documentary, made by the Mises Institute in 1996, is the clearest, most compelling explanation ever offered of the Fed. (42 mins)
2. Conspiracies – Iraq:
A 2006 Sky documentary revealing the only WMD Saddam Hussein had, was the Euros he charged for Iraqi oil. As this was a direct challenge to the US petrodollar, Hussein had to go. (46 mins)
3. Money As Debt:
A fast-paced and highly entertaining animated feature. It explains today’s banking system in terms that are easy to understand. (47 mins)
4. Woody Harrelson Presents – Ethos:
Presented by actor & activist Woody Harrelson, this powerful 2011 documentary blows the lid off our corrupt monetary and political system. (70 min)
5. The Money Fix – Monetary Reform:
This movie examines the human & the natural world. We learn how we can empower ourselves by redesigning the economy at the community level. (80 mins)
6. The Secret of Oz:
Governments should issue debt free money. This is the solution as revealed by L. Frank Baum in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. (112 mins)
by Greg Palast for In These Times
Here’s what we’re told:
Greece’s economy blew apart because a bunch of olive-spitting, ouzo-guzzling, lazy-ass Greeks refuse to put in a full day’s work, retire while they’re still teenagers, pocket pensions fit for a pasha; and they’ve gone on a social-services spending spree using borrowed money. Now that the bill has come due and the Greeks have to pay with higher taxes and cuts in their big fat welfare state, they run riot, screaming in the streets, busting windows and burning banks.
I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it because of the document in my hand marked, “RESTRICTED DISTRIBUTION.”
I’ll cut to the indictment: Greece is a crime scene. The people are victims of a fraud, a scam, a hustle and a flim-flam. And––cover the children’s ears when I say this––a bank named Goldman Sachs is holding the smoking gun.
This is an adaptation of an excerpt from Vultures’ Picnic, Greg Palast’s new book, out next week, an investigator’s pursuit of petroleum pigs, power pirates and high-finance fraudsters. Read the first chapter or just get the book here.
In 2002, Goldman Sachs secretly bought up €2.3 billion in Greek government debt, converted it all into yen and dollars, then immediately sold it back to Greece.
Goldman took a huge loss on the trade.
Is Goldman that stupid?
Goldman is stupid—like a fox. The deal was a con, with Goldman making up a phony-baloney exchange rate for the transaction. Why?
Goldman had cut a secret deal with the Greek government in power then. Their game: to conceal a massive budget deficit. Goldman’s fake loss was the Greek government’s fake gain.
Goldman would get repayment of its “loss” from the government at loan-shark rates.
The point is, through this crazy and costly legerdemain, Greece’s right-wing free-market government was able to pretend its deficits never exceeded 3 percent of GDP.
Cool. Fraudulent but cool.
But flim-flam isn’t cheap these days: On top of murderous interest payments, Goldman charged the Greeks over a quarter billion dollars in fees.
When the new Socialist government of George Papandreou came into office, they opened up the books and Goldman’s bats flew out. Investors’ went berserk, demanding monster interest rates to lend more money to roll over this debt.
Greece’s panicked bondholders rushed to buy insurance against the nation going bankrupt. The price of the bond-bust insurance, called a credit default swap (or CDS), also shot through the roof. Who made a big pile selling the CDS insurance? Goldman.
And those rotting bags of CDS’s sold by Goldman and others? Didn’t they know they were handing their customers gold-painted turds?
That’s Goldman’s specialty. In 2007, at the same time banks were selling suspect CDS’s and CDOs (packaged sub-prime mortgage securities), Goldman held a “net short” position against these securities. That is, Goldman was betting their financial “products” would end up in the toilet. Goldman picked up another half a billion dollars on their “net short” scam.
But, instead of cuffing Goldman’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein and parading him in a cage through the streets of Athens, we have the victims of the frauds, the Greek people, blamed. Blamed and soaked for the cost of it. The “spread” on Greek bonds (the term used for the risk premium paid on Greece’s corrupted debt) has now risen to — get ready for this––$14,000 per family per year.
Euro-nation, the secret Geithner memo, and the Ecuador connection
Why did the Greek government throw its nation’s fate into Goldman’s greasy hands? What the heck was in the “RESTRICTED” document? And why did I have to take it to Geneva, to throw it down in front of the Director-General of the WTO for authentication, a creepy French banker I otherwise wouldn’t bother to spit on, and then tear off to Quito to share it with the grateful President of Ecuador?
To give you all the answers would require me to write a book. I have: Vultures’ Picnic––in Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Fraudsters.
It’s really quite important to me that you read it, that you get it now. That’s a funny statement, I suppose, from an author. But if you’ve been reading my stories in The Guardian or watching my reports on BBC Newsnight, you’ve gotten the facts; but I really want to let you inside the investigations, to cross the continents with me and follow down the leads so that you can get a full picture of The Beasts. The Beasts and their trophy wives, intelligence agency go-fers, political concubines and bone-breakers. And besides, it’s enormous fun when it’s not scary as sh*t.
Here’s a taste of Chapter 12 – The Generalissimo of Globalization – from the film-enhanced eBook edition. [And more on the 1% Greece-ing us, check out the upcoming issue of In These Times.]
Note: I will be in Chicago for In These Times on November 29, part of our 15 city tour that begins this coming Sunday, November 13, in Portland, then moves to San Francisco, LA, San Diego, Denver, Boulder, New Mexico, Albuquerque, Chicago, Madison, New York, DC, Houston, Burlington, and Atlanta. Find out more info here.
Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores.