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Are the General Strikes in Europe today an investment rather than a cost?

The reactionaries will no doubt focus on passengers have missed flights as a consequence of today’s General strikes in Southern Europe.
They will divide the GDP of each country by 365 days and claim that that one day’s worth of Gross domestic product was “lost”.
They will ask: can we afford to lose this wealth in the middle of such a crisis.

To which we can respond by asking them to calculate:

a) the potential wealth-generation of half of the youth willing and able to work but unable to find a post
b) the potential GDP of 26% of Spain’s unemployed and the vast multiplier effects as each Euro earned changes hand several times
c) the continual loss in revenue by governments as they allow Multinationals to get away with not paying taxes
d) the health, psychological and social costs of cuts, loss of jobs and livelihoods and homes to live in caused by the current policies.

Whether the general strike is enough on its own or not, the fact that Greeks took to the streets meant that vulture bond holders had to take a severe haircut on their worthless bonds.
The more the fightback by Europe’s peoples, the more likely the governments will abandon this 1930’s era of Cuts and austerity for the majority and replace it with a 21st century strategy of creating decent jobs, reducing inequality and moving to an innovative, Green economy.
In that sense, strikes act as a long-term investment in the future of economies by attempting to stop the current madness.
Docility can no longer be the zeitgeist of this generation. Action and a call for an alternative way of thinking is fast becoming the dominant paradigm of the population.

These countries won’t exist by 2020…..

One of the biggest casualties of the Great Crisis (set to get worse over the next 3 years) could be the Westphalian system of nation states – this notion of nation states was solidified after the bloody Thirty Years War in Europe.

The outcome will not be just lurches to the Right or Left. It will lead to the biggest fragmentation of Europe since 1918 as empires collapsed after WW1 (Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian)
On top of financial and economic crises, we have a situation of permanent resource war in the Middle East, Africa and Asia including the ‘containment of China’, the war on Muslim states, the Maoist rebelion in India & independence movements in the Seven Sister states bordering China,  the ‘opening up of Myanmar’, the battle between (and within) Latin America and the Yankee North…..

So, let’s prepare for a new World where the following states will fragment/break up (and while a rump may retain the name, it will be far smaller in size than today) and the ‘original’ will only exist in history, nostalgia and our imagination:

United Kingdom

Spain

France

Italy

Belgium

Rumania

Libya

Syria

Iraq

Congo

Pakistan

India

Myanmar

Mexico

Colombia

Phillipines

Saudi Arabia

Jordan

UAE

Qatar

 

We have had a Thirty Years War in our lifetime – that of ‘Globalisation’ or as I see it ‘Amercanisation’ where borders were weakened in a free for all for multinationals and finance.

The casualties are everywhere: hollowed out industries in the Western economies, peoples and states bulldozed in petrodollar wars… a billion or is it two in urban slums… climate ravaged regions…

The result: this is the decade of fragmentation.

The end of Spain?

No, this is not about Euro2012. It is, however, about the Euro.

The Austrian Finance Minister shifted ground yesterday suggesting that the austerity policies would be disastrous and that ‘we need to learn the lessons of the 1930s’, referring to the rise of the Far Right and war.

No one seems to be looking at another option: fragmentation.

While European countries are happy to join with the US in splitting up countries in the Middle East and Africa: Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Somalia, they are more coy when it comes to the ‘Old Continent’.

The austerity madness will cause lasting impacts and it is perhaps too late to change course and expect things to get back to the ‘happy days’ of 2005.

The short run should see an enormous use of monetary firepower by Germany, Northern Europe and France to ‘save Spain’. This will perhaps calm market jitters (actually, they are not scared at all but profiting from speculation, but that’s another story). Saving Spain (i.e. the banks) would still mean rising unemployment for the rest of 2012.

But by November, Syriza should be able to remove the discredited austerity/bailout parties and pull out of the Euro.

That would mean Spain and others such as Portugal leaving the Euro in 2013.

The entire Madrid project post Franco has been about joining the big boys at the high table. Democracy for dollars, as in highways, loans and investment.

The fall of the Berlin Wall took the Germans out of the equation as they looked east.

Madrid carelessly decided to do what all Iberian elites have done since Columbus started the rape and pillage of ‘America’: spend not invest, start a property boom rather than construct decent housing for the majority and completely ignore the need to industrialise with clean technology. The latter was done through subsidies and there are good companies such as the Basque Gamesa but no foundations were laid for a Northern European style economy.

Nationalists were kept at bay by the facade of ‘prosperity’ and the presence of ETA – a godsend to rightwing nationalists in Madrid who could present themselves as defenders of the Realm.

Now that war is over. The economy is in tatters. The concept of Spain is being challenged.

Suddenly, nationalists (especially to the Left) in the Basque country and Catalonia are demanding separation on ‘economic grounds’, not just for historical or linguistic reasons.

If Spain is ejected form the Euro in 2013, then Madrid will find that the centrifugal forces, so long kept bottled up by dictatorship or by the bribery of democracy & dinero, will split apart the state.

There may well be far-right nationalism but that is likely to come from PP, no the independence movement in Euskal Herria and Catalunya.

Instead, expect to see the rise of Left-wing nationalism that attacks the core idea of the Banker’s charter (Americanisation/globalisation) yet wants to join Europe (as Syriza does).

Later on this decade, there will still be something called ‘Spain but it will be without its two industrialised regions which will leave and look North to Berlin and outwards to Latin America and Asia.

Spain without the Basques and the Catalans would be even poorer than today unless,  and this is difficult to see how, there is a seachange in outlook towards the Indignados rather than PP/PSOE.

Already, the Latin Americans are factoring in a downgrade in Spanish power by challenging Madrid over Repsol and other ‘untouchable’ Blue-Chip companies.

Madrid is on the edge of an abyss. The right-wing can forget about the 1930s. In that sense, Iberia is different. There will no longer be any armed conflict. The house of cards is set to collapse.

Bread, not guns, is deciding the future.

Saving the banks is destroying the viability of European states.

 

Green, Equal and Nationalist?

Gold reaches a ‘nominal’ record price just shy of $1600 an ounce. Some predict it reaIching $2000 by Xmas, and anything up towards $5,000 in the next few years as Western governments print oceans of new ‘money’… launching QE3, QE4 and more.

Utah accepts Gold as legal tender. This week, there was talk of the Swiss planning a gold-backed Swiss Franc.

Linked to all this is the continuing debt crises on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Europeans have performed yet another joke ‘stress-testing’ examination of the banks. 9 failed, 16 nearly.

Let us not forget the Irish banks passed with flying colours last year and then promptly went under, and had to be bailed out.

It looks like a choice between the European Central Bank printing €3 trillion to buy the bonds of the PIIGS or accept that Greece, Portugal and Ireland will default.. and then Spain and Italy will revert back to the Peseta and Lira.

Despite all the political capital invested in the Euro project by the Spanish elite, they will have no choice but to leave the Euro.

It is likely that the ultra right of the Partido Popular will win handsomely in the next general elections (latest by March 2012 but could be earlier) while the nationalists (an

d increasingly to the left of the spectrum in the Basque country) will win in the Iberian periphery.

You can see where this leads. A sullen, right wing elite in Madrid unwilling or unable to accept that the post-1975 road to European milk and honey is at an end and then facing disintegration of the Spanish state by the middle of the decade.

When the Euro collapses, it will inevitably lead to the rolling back of the European project. Forget Lisbon. It will be over.

Remember the Hanseatic League? Vaguely.

Picture a new 21st century variant something like this:

Germany, Walloonia, Holland, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Norway will become a new Deutch Mark dominated economic zone. The richest region on the planet.

Everyone will want to trade and ally with them.. Russia, the Swiss, the new rich ‘states’ of Northern Italy, Catalonia, Euskalherria, Scotland, Eastern Europe and of course the Chinese and Japanese.

The centre of gravity is set to shift from Western Europe into Central/Northern Europe. Economically, it has already happened.

What is left is monetarily, politically and culturally.

Paris and London: eat your heart out. Enjoy your colonial wars in places like Libya…. while you still can.

The Brazilians will buy up Portugal in a reverse of five centuries of colonialism and turn Lisbon into southern Europe’s Sao Paolo as industrialisation arrives in a big way.

Europe’s Politics stand on a knife-edge.

The old institutions look ripe for dissolution.

To divert people from daylight robbery (i.e. austerity for the majority, honey for the rich minority) and flirting with radical ideas of the Greens and the Indignados, there will be shift to semi-fascist ideologies… watch Le Pen in France, the continuing rise of the Freedom Party in Austria, its equivalent in Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Hungary.

Is any of this possible?

If we look back at European history upto the 30 years war and the Treaty of Westphalia, then why not?

Twenty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a new generation is seeing politics in a new light. The worldview of Central/Northen Europe is no longer bound by the necessary ‘payment’ by Germany for its ghastly crimes of WW2. It no longer has to seek US support against the Russian collosus.

The US and English may still have tanks and missiles in Germany, but they are just relics from the Cold War. Elites find it impossible to move on and accept the world has changed.

London, as a Trojan horse for Washington, can no longer pursue the centuries old scheme of preventing the rise of a dominant ‘continental power’. It has happened.

There are no ideological, political or economic barriers for Central/Northern Europe to forge strong relations with a reviving Russia, even in its present callous form.

If the Chinese cannot save the Euro, then they will accept a new Deutsch Mark 2 (or whatever it is called.. EuroCor or Euro-Mark?).

Follow the Money, as they say.

In this background, the Green and Indignado movements have their work cut out. How to convince the peoples of these new states and region that ecology and equality have a central role in this new World?

Greens have won a notable victory over Big Nuclear in this new heartland: Germany. This paves the way to a ramp up in use of Russian natural gas while a vast new infrastructure for renewable energy is laid out, a more energy & waste-efficient industrial system is put in place.

But the war for equality is the key.

The intellectual and political challenge is how to construct and continental (and ultimately global) movement on the following premise:

Eco-Socialism through National Liberation.

A marriage of Green & Left with the desire for national freedom, with nationalism.

If Greens and the Left remain wedded to a universalist framework, they will be outfought by the Right, riding on sentiment about nations and race.

One can be Nationalist as well as Left (the Basques prove this).

And one can be Green as well as Nationalist. That is a right-wing Green nationalist as well as a Left Wing Green Nationalist.

The monumental challenge is to ensure we get the latter not the former.

The Green movement has to grow up.  It has to get its hands dirty. It has to choose sides. It has to recognise that it is a minority or even non-existent in most of Asia, Russia, Eastern Europe, Iberia, Africa and the Americas. Forget conferences. Forget the Big NGOs. Forget ‘winning’ arguments on barely read journals (such as the Guardian in the UK).

It has to link up with wider forces from below as well as the Left. Most of all, it must seek to influence the nationalist dialogue. To help define ‘national liberation’. To wrest the argument away from Berlusconi, Sarkozy, Le Pen and the ultra-rightists.

That political war will be fought in the Iberian peripheries, parts of France and Italy and most of  all in Germany. I would like to say Scotland  but there are no signs of it. Yes, Scotland is going solo this decade but it’s not too different from CIU of Catalonia or PNV of the Basques. It has to shift much more towards the ideology of equality and ecology within its present nationalist framework.

If the Chinese cannot save the Euro, then they will accept a new Deutsch Mark 2 (or whatever it is called.. EuroCor or Euro-Mark?).

Follow the Money, as they say.

In this background, the Green and Indignado movements have their work cut out.

Whichever side prevails in Europe, the end of this decade will be unimaginable to its start.

Aftter decades of disappointment and anguish, that’s a start.

Club Med model of protest

The Mediterranean is deciding the future it seems.
Greece lit the fuse as ordinary people, especially the young, threw off their mental shackles, ignored the co-opted Trade Union leaders and took to the streets
The students in London, perhaps without realizing, perhaps some did, took the same path: ditch ‘leaders’ and just get on with putting a few placards together, connect up with friends and walk in the middle of a road toward a point of authority.
This multi-headed hydra (literally with tens of thousands of leaders) is impossible to decapitate.
This is what’s happening on the southern Mediterranean shores as well as it’s northern coasts.
It will spread to Italy as well as Spain over the next few months.
The demands are simple, the strategy is raw but the impact is devastating.
Twenty years on, the centre of gravity of popular rebellion has shifted from Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, northern Europe watches.

Private airports dont work …. for passengers

Private airports want to make money for their shareholders.
BAA have spent a measly £3M on snow clearing equipment this year.
Their terminals are filled with unlucky people huddling under blankets and ti foil, trying to keep warm.
Why weren’t the terminals geared to cope and provide people with warmth and decent places to rest?
Private airports don’t want to spend money – these are not their passengers – they belong to private airlines.
BAA just want people to be customers, shopping in their shops and paying extortionate parking fees.
So their bean cointers tell them it’s not worth wasting funds on passengers beyond a minimum.
Most of Europe coped with the snow. The planes flew from publicly owned airports.
Thirty years into privatisation we know that private trains and planes are more costly, less reliable and more inefficient than Government owned ones.
It’s time we demanded nationalisation of these key transport infrastructure – the bedrock of a 21st century economy.

This is yet another example of how the myths of free Market capitalisation are being laid bare.

Protests across Europe….. though they didn’t bother to tell us here..

Are we in Europe or not? Hardly any or no news about a series of protests yesterday to greet the EU summit today….. …… ignorance is bliss or is it to keep us cowed and unaware of the depth of anger in Europe… (of which we are apparently part of……..or is it just for a destination for the hols?)

Greece was hit by violent protests and a general strike on Wednesday and workers also demonstrated in other EU nations ahead of a summit on the euro. Merkel, under fire for her handling of the crisis, repeated her tough stance as Luxembourg’s foreign minister accused Berlin and Paris of “arrogance.”

Greece was paralyzed by a general strike and violent protests on Wednesday and trade unions staged demonstrations in France, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Czech Republic against government austerity measures one day ahead of what promises to be a fractious European Union summit to agree on a permanent mechanism to handle future debt crises.

In Greece, which has been undergoing radical belt-tightening to meet the conditions of its €110 billion bailout by the EU and International Monetary Fund in May, a demonstration by 20,000 people turned violent when masked protestors clashed with riot police, hurling petrol bombs and stones. Police responded by firing tear gas canisters and flash grenades.

Flights were grounded, public transport and government ministries shut down and hospitals worked on minimum staff.

The Greek parliament agreed on Tuesday to further reforms including wage cuts for state-owned bus and railway companies and a weakening of trade union power to negotiate industry-wide pay deals. In future, company level wage agreements are to take precedence.

News Blackout

Demonstrations were staged in Athens where authorities were on alert because previous protests have turned violent. In May, three people died in a bank that had been set on fire by rioting demonstrators. Greek journalists are also holding a 24-hour strike, causing TV, radio and Internet news blackouts. Newspapers will not be published on Thursday.

Less drastic union action is planned in other European countries before leaders of the EU’s 27 member states meet in Brussels on Thursday for the two-day summit.

In the Belgian capital, workers plan to form a human chain around the European Commission’s glass headquarters to symbolize the belt-tightening that they fear will destroy wages and cherished welfare systems. The Czech Republic is bracing for what could be its biggest strike in more than 20 years with unions saying more than 100,000 public sector workers would walk out.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, under fire in Europe for what many see as an uncompromising stance in the crisis, reiterated her outright opposition to the idea of issuing common European bonds to help out highly-indebted countries struggling with crippling interest rates on their debt.

In a speech to parliament on Wednesday, Merkel criticized euro bonds because they would entail a “collectivization of risks.” “The solution is more harmony and competitiveness in the member states,” she said.

‘Common Destiny’

Leading members of the main German opposition party, the center-left Social Democrats, have supported the idea of issuing euro bonds. Merkel has argued that they would lessen the pressure on countries to maintain fiscal discipline. German government borrowing costs would also likely increase with euro bond issues.

But Merkel again stressed her commitment to the single currency. “The euro is our common destiny and Europe is our common future,” she said.

In a strongly-worded interview published on Wednesday, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn accused Germany and France of arrogance in their dealings with the EU. “I can only warn Germany and France against a claim to power that expresses a certain haughtiness and arrogance that disrespects the European principle of solidarity,” Asselborn told German newspaper Die Welt. “The direction of the EU must be supported by all 27 together and must not be dictated by the big countries.”

Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have come in for heavy criticism for agreeing to a common position on reforming the EU’s debt and deficit rules and then browbeating the other EU members into accepting them at the last EU summit in October. Merkel in particular has been accused of contributing to the market turbulence that drove Ireland into a bailout by insisting that private sector bondholders should help shoulder the burden of helping out over-indebted nations.

The Garden of Germany and France

Financial market players and officials from the IMF have been warning that piecemeal country-by-country bailouts, with loans at punitive rates linked to severe austerity programs, won’t solve Europe’s debt crisis because it will force the rescued nations into a spiral of cutbacks, tax hikes and economic decline. Luxembourg’s proposal of a large liquid, euro bond market could stop market speculation against weaker EU member states and reduce their borrowing costs — sparing the need for costly bailouts.

Luxembourg’s Asselborn said Germany and France were wrong to dismiss the euro bond idea. “It can’t be that the interests of Germany and France are turned into the European interest,” said Asselborn. “If something matures — such as the idea of euro bonds — that didn’t come from German or France, the appearance is given that it cannot be in Europe’s interest just because it didn’t sprout in the garden of Germany and France.”

“Frau Merkel is a clever woman,” he added. “I am sure that she will draw the right lessons from the past. She will realize that she hesitated too long with aid for Athens and the rescue of Greece became more expensive as a result. Germany will understand that these theatre performances of recent months aren’t useful. I have the impression that there have been scenes where France and Germany created problems ahead of an EU summit and then came to Brussels and showed theatrically: We have solved the problem and brought Europe forward.”

cro — with wire reports