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Irish Left Review
Joined up thinking for the Irish Left

offsite link Grexit or Compromise: Which Way for the Greek Left? Wed Feb 25, 2015 00:08 | Christos Kefalis

offsite link How the Austerity Con Works Tue Feb 24, 2015 21:26 | Michael Burke

offsite link Greek Reforms Submission as Presented to the President of the Eurogroup Today Tue Feb 24, 2015 11:32 | Irish Left Review

offsite link Grassroots Strategy Weekend Tue Feb 17, 2015 21:56 | Irish Left Review

offsite link The Politics of Breathing Space ? or Why the Irish Government Can?t Let Syriza ?... Tue Feb 17, 2015 15:18 | Michael Taft

Irish Left Review >>

Spirit of Contradiction

offsite link Spain is not Greece, or is it? Electoral prospects for the left in 2015. Thu Feb 05, 2015 19:00 | modulus

offsite link SYRIZA and Memnosyne Sat Jan 24, 2015 09:09 | Jerome Nikolai Warren

offsite link Why the Workers’ Party Wed Jan 21, 2015 20:08 | Gavin Mendel-Gleason

offsite link “It’s boring but necessary”: An Interview with Jos Alembic (aka “Q”) o... Mon Jan 05, 2015 18:44 | Jerome Nikolai Warren

offsite link Is Class Real? Some Empirical Contributions from Econophysics Tue Oct 28, 2014 18:40 | Gavin Mendel-Gleason

Spirit of Contradiction >>

Dublin Opinion
Life should be full of strangeness, like a rich painting

offsite link THE WRATH OF KANE: BANKING CRISES AND POLITICAL POWER 09:32 Fri Jan 30, 2015

offsite link ALWAYS THE ARTISTS: WEEK THREE OF THE BANK INQUIRY 23:11 Thu Jan 22, 2015

offsite link FIANNA FÁIL AND THE BANK INQUIRY : SOME INITIAL OBSERVATIONS 21:04 Mon Jan 12, 2015

offsite link PETER NYBERG BANK INQUIRY EVIDENCE, 17 DECEMBER 2014 18:05 Sun Dec 28, 2014

offsite link For Some Vicious Mole of Nature: Making Sense of The Irish Bank Crisis 21:07 Fri Dec 26, 2014

Dublin Opinion >>

NAMA Wine Lake

offsite link Farewell from NWL Sun May 19, 2013 14:00 | namawinelake

offsite link Happy 70th Birthday, Michael Sun May 19, 2013 14:00 | namawinelake

offsite link Of the Week? Sat May 18, 2013 00:02 | namawinelake

offsite link Noonan denies IBRC legal fees loan approval to Paddy McKillen was in breach of E... Fri May 17, 2013 14:23 | namawinelake

offsite link Gayle Killilea Dunne asks to be added as notice party in Sean Dunne?s bankruptcy Fri May 17, 2013 12:30 | namawinelake

NAMA Wine Lake >>

Christos Kefalis - Wed Feb 25, 2015 00:08

The last 10 days, from February 11th to February 20th, saw some critical developments in Greece. After a number of clashes in the Eurogroups of 11th, 16th and 20th February, an agreement was reached extending the ?current arrangement? with the Troika for 4 months. This agreement, as is generally agreed, was a heavy compromise on the part of the Greek SYRIZA-ANEL government, putting into doubt the possibility to carry out its program, i.e. SYRIZA?s Thessaloniki program. There was another serious compromise too, when, on February 18th, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a representative of the conservative camp and leading figure of the ND party, was elected President of the Republic.

The same period witnessed, on the other hand, some big demonstrations in Greece and other European countries too, centered round the task of cancelling debt. Although not as massive as those in the 2011-2012 period, they show some real hope of a new rise of the movements and their possible intervention in the scene. Significantly, these demonstrations, which begun as acts of spontaneous support to the Greek government, seem likely to continue after the compromise made ? a new one was announced for February 26th in various facebook pages.

Taken together these developments pose some serious questions. Does SYRIZA relinquish its promises of a substantial change with regard to the previous austerity ND-PASOK regime? Is such a change feasible within the EU through an acceptable compromise reached after a negotiation? Or is it impossible and Greece should head instead for a payment default and exit the EU ? the prospect broadly known as ?Grexit??

In this article we will discuss these questions, with an eye to the coming solution of the Greek drama when the four month prolongation of the Memorandum ends.

Michael Burke - Tue Feb 24, 2015 21:26

This article originally appeared on Socialist Economic Bulletin on Monday the 23rd of February. 

?The Austerity Con? is the title of a recent article in the London Review of Books. It is written by a leading Keynesian economist Professor Simon-Wren Lewis, who is also a fellow of Merton College, Oxford. The article is available to non-subscribers here. It deserves to be widely read because it contains two important arguments against austerity.

The first argument nails the lie that austerity was necessary because of an immediate crisis of government funding. The second argument exposes the myth that austerity has been responsible for an improvement in government finances. Both of these arguments will be familiar to regular readers of SEB and Prof. Wren-Lewis will give them a far wider airing. Given that averting the crisis in government finances is offered by the supporters of austerity as its main justification, the title of his piece is fully justified.

However there is a difference of view among opponents of austerity about the nature of the current crisis. It is important because it underpins both the overall analytical framework and the suggested policy prescriptions. Prof. Wren-Lewis says, ?The place to begin is 2009. By then the full extent of the financial crisis had become apparent.? He goes on, ?The financial crisis was leading consumers and firms to spend less and save more. That made sense for individuals, but the problem was that because everyone was doing it, the total amount of demand in the economy was falling. As demand fell, firms produced less, so they reduced their workforce.?

This is not entirely accurate. Demand is comprised of two components, consumption and investment. By taking a step back to 2007 it possible to see more clearly how the crisis arose. Regarding the industrialised countries as whole grouped in the OECD it is possible to see that only one of these experienced a sharp fall. This was investment not consumption.

Fig.1 below shows the level of real GDP and its key components, consumption, investment and net exports. The data is presented in both in constant prices in constant Purchasing Power Parity exchange rates and is itemised in the box below.

Irish Left Review - Tue Feb 24, 2015 11:32

The following are the package of Greek reforms sent to the President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem at midnight Greek time, last night. 

Dear President of the Eurogroup,

In the Eurogroup of 20 February 2015 the Greek government was invited to present to the institutions, by Monday 23rd February 2015, a first comprehensive list of reform measures it is envisaging, to be further specified and agreed by the end of April 2015.

In addition to codifying its reform agenda, in accordance with PM Tsipras? programmatic statement to Greece?s Parliament, the Greek government also committed to working in close agreement with European partners and institutions, as well as with the International Monetary Fund, and take actions that strengthen fiscal sustainability, guarantee financial stability and promote economic recovery.

The first comprehensive list of reform measures follows below, as envisaged by the Greek government. It is our intention to implement them while drawing upon available technical assistance and financing from the European Structural and Investment Funds.

Truly

Yanis Varoufakis Minister of Finance Hellenic Republic

I. Fiscal structural policies

Tax policies ? Greece commits to:

  • Reform VAT policy, administration and enforcement. Robust efforts will be made to improve collection and fight evasion making full use of electronic means and other technological innovations. VAT policy will be rationalised in relation to rates that will be streamlined in a manner that maximises actual revenues without a negative impact on social justice, and with a view to limiting exemptions while eliminating unreasonable discounts.
  • Modify the taxation of collective investment and income tax expenditures which will be integrated in the income tax code.
  • Broaden definition of tax fraud and evasion while disbanding tax immunity.
  • Modernising the income tax code and eliminating from it tax code exemptions and replacing them, when necessary, with social justice enhancing measures.
  • Resolutely enforce and improve legislation on transfer pricing.
  • Work toward creating a new culture of tax compliance to ensure that all sections of society, and especially the well-off, contribute fairly to the financing of public policies. In this context, establish with the assistance of European and international partners, a wealth database that assists the tax authorities in gauging the veracity of previous income tax returns.

Public Finance Management ? Greece will:

  • Adopt amendments to the Organic Budget Law and take steps to improve public finance management. Budget implementation will be improved and clarified as will control and reporting responsibilities. Payment procedures will be modernised and accelerated while providing a higher degree of financial and budgetary flexibility and accountability for independent and/or regulatory entities.
  • Devise and implement a strategy on the clearance of arrears, tax refunds and pension claims.
  • Turn the already established (though hitherto dormant) Fiscal Council into a fully operational entity.

Revenue administration ? Greece will modernise the tax and custom administrations benefiting from available technical assistance. To this end Greece will:

  • Enhance the openness, transparency and international reach of the process by which the General Secretary of the General Secretariat of Public Revenues is appointed, monitored in terms of performance, and replaced.
  • Strengthen the independence of the General Secretariat of Public Revenues (GSPR), if necessary through further legislation, from all sorts of interference (political or otherwise) while guaranteeing full accountability and transparency of its operations. To this end, the government and the GSPR will make full use of available technical assistance.
  • Staff adequately, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the GSPR and in particular the high wealth and large debtors units of the revenue administration and ensure that it has strong investigative/prosecution powers, and resources building on SDOE?s capacities, so as to target effectively tax fraud by, and tax arrears of, high income social groups. Consider the merits of integrating SDOE into GSPR.
  • Augment inspections, risk-based audits, and collection capacities while seeking to integrate the functions of revenue and social security collection across the general government.
Irish Left Review - Tue Feb 17, 2015 21:56

 

Gluaiseacht for Global Justice, We're Not Leaving, ATTAC Ireland,

Third Level Workplace Watch, and Marea Granate Dublin invite you to a

Grassroots Strategy Weekend

Evening debate, Friday 6th March
All day workshops, Saturday 7th March

The Teacher?s Club, Parnell Square, Dublin 1

Vibrant and spirited grassroots campaigns, including water and housing, have invigorated and energised people, movements and political actors in Ireland. Many of us now speak about austerity, neoliberalism, and the ruling elite that has lost touch with the majority of the people. We speak about and see the connections between the water-tax, the nationalisation of private debt, the housing and homelessness crisis, the scandal of direct provision, the crumbling health care system, trade agreements like TTIP, privatisation of public goods, services and national resources, the decimation of the community sector, the assault of structural violence and institutional racism, and much, much more. 


Still, this awakened public consciousness of how the powers that be operate and influence our lives is not yet visible in the collaboration of social movement groups who work on these issues.

Hence, we invite you to a weekend of discussion intended to establish what connects us

and to work out collectively if there are common strategies or projects we can pursue together to strengthen all of our movements.


For who?

Michael Taft - Tue Feb 17, 2015 15:18

It is difficult to make sense of the EU governments? attitude towards Greece ? not if we?re using rational measurements.  There was a deal on the table ? as reported by Paul Mason of Channel 4 news.  The Greek government was happy enough with it, the EU Commission was happy enough with it, it didn?t cross all the t?s but it provided the necessary breathing space to allow a more sustainable and beneficial deal for both creditors and debtors to emerge.  So what went wrong?

One of the problems with writing about the current crisis is that by the time this gets posted, events have moved on ? such is the speed at which events, and rumours of events, are moving.  So let?s just hit some highlights.

You?d think Greece has been lethargic in applying its austerity programme, resulting in comments like ? ?Why can?t Greece be more like the virtuous Irish??  But as Kevin O?Rourke states, pointing to the comparative fall in the structural deficit between Ireland and Greece:

?So, to summarise: the Greeks have done more ?reform? than we have, have endured a lot more austerity, and live in a country where the costs of austerity are likely to be higher than here. Perhaps the Irish government might want to tone down its assertions of relative virtue, and display a bit of solidarity with Greece. Is a less deflationary and less creditor-friendly Eurozone  not in Ireland?s long term interests, assuming that we remain a member of the single currency??

What the new Greek Government wants is very reasonable:  a few weeks to draw up an agreed programme.  Claims that ?we don?t know what they want? (made consistently by our Finance Minister) are misleading and insulting. They are not asking for extra money, they are not seeking transfers from, or additional liabilities to, other members states.  From the outset, Greek Ministers has been asking for what can be called a ?bridging loan? which would only last a relative few weeks ? in order to negotiate a new programme.  In other words, they are asking for time ? a reasonable request for any new government.

And that is exactly what was almost agreed ? or at least was on the table.  Paul Mason quotes from a draft agreement was drawn up by EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici

?The above (the proposed agreement) forms a basis for an extension of the current loan agreement, which could take the form of a (four-month) intermediate programme, as a transitional stage to a new contract for growth for Greece, that will be deliberated and concluded during this period.?

This coming from the EU Commission which is not known for its debtor sympathies.  Nonetheless, it was a constructive intervention ? even if some officials from the EU Finance Ministers? meetings tried to insist it didn?t exist.

This got nowhere even though Greece was willing to sign.  So why the opposition to what could be seen as a face-saving compromise for all involved?

Quite simple - the Syriza government cannot be seen to ?win?.  Never mind debt write-downs (which Syriza is not looking for ? Alexis Tsipras has made it clear they will honour all contracts, all obligations); the ?win? here refers to breathing space and the political momentum that such space might encourage throughout Europe.

The breathing space would give time to construct an alternative to austerity.  The breathing space would provide momentum, not only in Greece, but in other countries (and not just the periphery) to those forces who have been arguing for an alternative to the current deflationary regime.  The breathing space would create the danger that the initiative could be wrested away from the controlled-rooms of Minister meetings and taken up by popular forces.  The breathing space could be a very dangerous space ? dangerous to the current elite.

What might happen if the new Greek Government constructed a programme whereby relaxation of arbitrary budget surplus rules (which would cost nothing to anyone but would allow for a humanitarian and investment programme), coupled with an authentic reform that tackled the corruption and tax evasion imposed on Greek society by the oligarchs?  A programme that met all EU fiscal targets but did so in a different way than what is being demanded by EU member-states?  This wouldn?t put some folk and some ideologies in a good light.

This helps explain why only a matter of hours after they were elected, the new Greek government was subjected to a torrent of demands to continue the Troika, extend the current bailout deal, maintain the current course ? no deviation, no relaxation.  Even now, the bottom line from the Eurogroup is that Greece must apply for a bail-out extension ? even though this is unnecessary and gratuitous given the EU Commission?s intervention.

Syriza raised hopes and expectations throughout Europe in the aftermath of their historic victory.  They continued those with the new Prime Ministers? first address to the Greek parliament.  They swept through Europe in the person of the Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and his support team.

That had to be shut down ? and shutdown quickly.  If Europeans got similar ideas, all manner of problems could arise for domestic governments who have a more grim agenda in mind.  The last thing the Syriza government should be allowed is to carry on all this hope and expectation-raising.  Normal business must be resumed and seen to be resumed.  Immediately.

This explains the Irish Government?s attitude of ?no breathing space?.  This might give time for progressive voices here ? in concert with other European groupings ? to critique and propose alternatives to a deflationary programme of squeezing public spending, cutting taxes and obsessing over a balanced budget while labouring under incredible debt levels.  Give the Greeks breathing space and we might get ideas about getting one of our own? and that can?t be allowed.

The Irish Government?s position is unconscionable and unreasonable.  Their opposition to the Greek Government?s reasonable request should be highlighted at every opportunity, opposed at every turn; and not only for the sake of the Greek people.

For, like the Syriza Government, the next Irish Government ? hopefully the first progressive government elected in this state ? will be demanding the same thing:  breathing space.  Let?s hope it is not too late ? for Ireland, for Greece and for Europe

The People's Movement - Mon Feb 16, 2015 17:40

The latest edition of the Peoples' News is out now. 

The articles in this issue include:

P1. Greeks seek to control their fate. While the new Greek Government has yet to talk of leaving the European Union or the eurozone an erstwhile high priest of free markets and former head of the US central bank, Alan Greenspan, has predicted that Greece will have to leave the eurozone.

P3. The Dáil votes against an EU debt conference! Last week, a Technical Group Motion calling for a European debt conference was defeated by 72 votes to 42 in the Dáil. 

P4. EU trade secrets proposal - a threat to freedom of speech! The European Parliament has commenced consideration of a European Commission proposal on the protection of company secrets.

P5. Not so loony! That infamous ?loony of the left? Tony Benn was forecasting developments such as TTIP as far back as the early 70s.

P5. Are public services on the block at TISA talks? Another leaked paper made public last week on the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) negotiations shows that there is ? at the very least - ambiguity surrounding the assurances given by the EU about the protection of public services in trade agreements.

Michael Taft - Mon Feb 16, 2015 14:20

It is often stated that everyone has made sacrifices during this crisis.  Whatever about ?everyone?, there are certain groups that clearly have ?made sacrifices?; or, rather, have been sacrificed. And one of these groups is young people.

We have seen emigration rates rise substantially, high levels of unemployment, substantial cuts in social protection payments and even insults (the infamous ?unemployment as a life-style choice?).  Let?s look at another grim metric ? Eurostat?ssevere material deprivation rate.

As stated before, this benchmark is particularly dire.  Severe material deprivation is defined as enforced inability to pay for at least four of the following items:

To pay their rent, mortgage or utility bills * to keep their home adequately warm * to face unexpected expenses * to eat meat or proteins regularly * to go on holiday * a television set * washing machine * a car * telephone

Eurostat looks at the plight of young people throughout Europe, aged 15 and 29 years.  For 2012 this is the percentage of young people suffering severe material deprivation.

Youth Deprivation 1

Unsurprisingly, Greece leads the league.  But there?s Ireland right there at the top.  More than 13 percent ? or more than one-in-eight young people live in severe material deprivation conditions.  This is more than double the average of other non-Mediterranean countries (a particular comparison given that our Ministers continually claim that we are not Greece or Italy, etc.).

The growth in severe material deprivation among young people over the course of the crisis has been alarming to say the least.

Tom O'Brien - Mon Feb 16, 2015 14:00

This week I am delighted to welcome back to the show Doug Lain, host of what was once called the Diet Soap podcast, but which is now the Zero Squared podcast. We talk about why Doug?s new job as publisher of Zero Books doesn't make him a capitalist, what econophysics has to do with Marx, capitalism as objective reality, base vs superstructure, radical politics and the current balance of forces, how Woody Allen has lost his way, the latest book Doug?s working on, and how cool and communist Star Trek is.

You can find the shows new Stitcher presence here:

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/from-alpha-to-omega

You can find the Zero Squared podcast and all of Doug's other stuff here:

DouglasLain.com

Here is Zero Books:

http://www.zero-books.net/

The music on this show was:

?The Order of the Pharaonic Jesters? by Sun Ra and his Arkestra
?Maple Leaf Rag? by Scott Joplin
?Si tu vois ma mčre? by Sidney Bechet
?For The Love Of Money? by O?Jays
?Ain't Misbehavin? by Django Reinhardt

Michael Taft - Wed Feb 11, 2015 17:46

How do EU countries manage to provide better public services and income supports than us?  And are the Irish willing to pay for European-style public services (the implication being we are not).  These were the two questions posed by the Claire Byrne Live show which compared life in France with our lives here.  It was both provocative and frustrating; frustrating because it did not answer the first question.  Had it done so, we would have realised the second question is irrelevant.  

Provocatively, we learned that in France:

  • Children receive full-time education from the age of three, totally free
  • A visit to the GP costs ?7 and the waiting times for medical procedures can be measured in days ? not months or years
  • If you become unemployed, you get 80 percent of your last wage in unemployment benefit for up to two years.

In other words, the French social model is far, far advanced compared to ours. 

How do they do they achieve this?  Do they tax their citizens more?  The programme provided a couple of statistics in a video introduction that should have alerted the discussion.  They compared a French two-earner household with an Irish one ? both on ?80,000.  The Irish household paid higher personal taxes (income tax, USC, PRSI). 

The second stat showed French government spending at 57 percent of GDP; Irish government spending is well below that at 40 percent.   So, if Irish personal taxes are higher, but spending is much lower ? well, somewhere in there is the answer.  Let?s see if we can find it with the help of Eurostat and the EU?s Ameco database.

Claire Byrne 1

When it comes to personal taxation on employees and household consumption tax (VAT and Excise), Ireland and France are pretty close with both trailing the EU average.  So the reason can?t be found here.

Laurence Cox - Mon Feb 09, 2015 21:23

Syriza?s victory has left in its wake a wave of hope that an alternative to neoliberalist orthodoxy is possible. In this piece, originally published in Ceasefire on February 2nd, Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen examine the prospects of further breakthroughs elsewhere in Europe.

 

As in the famous photograph of the Parthenon, the peoples of Europe are indeed rising up ? even if the KKE which hung those posters has singularly ruled itself out of taking any part in the remarkable confrontation with the Troika which its one-time comrades in Syriza are now engaging in. Across the continent there is quite rightly a huge wave of hope at seeing that there is an alternative to simply taking our neoliberal medicine and watching as work, education, health, democracy and common decency are hacked to pieces by our increasingly-indistinguishable rulers.

Leaving aside the many possible partial analyses ? of the history of German occupation, British military support for the postwar assault on the Greek resistance, NATO?s support for the regime of the colonels, the splits and reorganisation of the Greek left after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the corruption of Greek social democracy, the twisting of arms and breaking of mandates to ensure Troika rule, the perverse effects of bleeding money out of the economy, the rise of ?solidarity economy? in response to the destruction of the welfare state, the wave of workplace occupations, the radical Greek diaspora abroad and so on ? how can we understand ?the movement as a whole??

Much ?radical? writing on Greece is painfully simplistic ? the Greeks were suffering, therefore they rose up (but, as activists know in practice there is no linear relationship between levels of poverty and levels of resistance ? or neoliberalism would long since have collapsed without us having to make an effort and, more trivially, we would have seen comparable levels of struggle in countries like Portugal and Italy). Or, party-building is always and everywhere the thing to do (but the presence of far-left parties, and the latest new coalition, normally fails to have anything like the desired effects ? such coalitions often lose votes by comparison with their previously separate components).

Let?s consider three badly-affected European countries: Greece, Spain and Ireland. The new Greek government certainly rests on a long process of party-building going back to the split between the ?interior? KKE (oriented to local struggles) and the ?exterior? one (oriented to Moscow). But Spain?s Podemos ? now the first party in terms of popular support ? has just been invented and stands not in any genealogy of left parties but in a long history of the ?anti-institutional left?, going back through the indignad@s, the 2004 protests against the state?s attempt to blame ETA for the Madrid train bombings, the 2003 anti-war movement, the global justice movement of the early 2000s and before that the complex and well-established Spanish autonomist scene. In Ireland, despite the agreement between Sinn Féin?s PR machine and the world?s mainstream media that it is somehow the equivalent of Syriza and Podemos, the collapse of Ireland?s traditional post-colonial party system (two right-wing nationalist parties and a tiny Labour Party) has mostly benefitted independent deputies rather than either SF or the Trotskyist parties, whose alliance recently collapsed.

Irish Left Review >>

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