The Real Greek Crisis, – Bryan Gould

The Real Greek Crisis

By Bryan Gould

Most people will feel that they don’t need to look far for an explanation as to what lies behind the Greek crisis. Lazy reporting and racial stereotyping will persuade them that the Greeks – a feckless lot, no doubt – have spent more than they should, got into debt, taken out loans from the hard-working Germans and now won’t repay the loans because they refuse to tighten their belts.

But there is another narrative that tells a somewhat different story. That story is one of a powerful economy enforcing its will on its weaker neighbours and refusing to acknowledge that it has thereby made it impossible for them to dig themselves out of a hole.

The story begins at the turn of the century when the Greeks, along with many others, were persuaded that being part of Europe required them to give up their own currency and accept the euro. A single currency meant a single monetary policy and a single central bank – and guess who decided what that policy should be and what the central bank should do?

Germany, by far the most powerful economy in the euro zone, ran it to serve its own interests, but life wasn’t so easy for the weaker countries. The Greeks, for example, with their smaller and less developed economy, had no chance of surviving the competition from efficient German manufacturing. We do not need the benefits of hindsight to make this point, since many commentators, myself included, foresaw the inevitability of this outcome at the time.

As things began to go wrong, and they had to borrow to keep their heads above water, the Greeks were assured that they could look to the Germans and others to help them out. But this was in the days of cheap and plentiful credit; when the Global Financial Crisis struck and the cheap credit dried up, the creditors who had happily lent to the Greeks wanted their money back.

The Greeks didn’t have the money. But the price they had to pay for borrowing yet more from the IMF and the European Central Bank was to accept a programme of savage austerity. The cuts they have already been forced to make have meant that 25% of the Greek economy has simply closed down and 60% of young people are without a job. Again, as some commentators observed at the time, it was impossible to see how the Greeks could ever – from an already weak economy that is now so much smaller and still going backwards – find the resources needed to repay their debts.

And so it has proved. The price that creditors insist upon for a continued bail-out is yet more austerity which can only mean yet more closures and unemployment. Leaked papers show that the creditor institutions themselves recognise that more austerity will make it even less possible for the Greeks to pay back their debts.

So why are the Germans and other creditors determined to force the Greeks into such a damaging dead end? The answer is that they care little for the travails of the Greek people. Their focus is on those countries that are watching the Greek situation closely – countries like Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, even Italy, that have faced similar problems, and suffered similar penalties, but that have not yet been compelled by pressure from their populations to resist a further descent into even more austerity.

The fear from the financial establishment and from the Germans in particular is that the Greeks might find a way to demonstrate to other similarly afflicted countries in the euro zone that there is a way out – and that those other countries would then follow a similar course. The rational course for the Greeks to take, after all, would be to leave the euro zone, restore their own currency and then print the drachmas needed, as monetarily sovereign countries are able and entitled to do, and repay their debts in devalued drachmas.

The difficulty that Greek Prime Minister Tsipras faces is that he has committed to resist austerity but also to retain the euro. It is doubtful that he can achieve both. In the forthcoming referendum, no one can be sure whether the dislike of austerity or the fear of leaving the euro zone will prevail. The poor and the unemployed – those who have suffered most from austerity – will vote to reject the new bail-out offer; the holders of assets and the pensioners will vote to stay with the euro.

Either way, the outlook for the euro looks bleak. In the long run, the attempt by the financial establishment to over-ride the wishes and interests of ordinary people and to negate the power of a democratic government to protect them will fail. The only question is as to how many more crises there will be and how much more suffering has to be endured before common sense prevails.

Bryan Gould 

“I once contested the Labour party’s leadership myself. The answers to the dilemmas facing British politicians today seem to me to be more clear-cut than was the case in 1992. It is easier now, with a longer perspective on the orthodoxy that has prevailed for so long, to see what has gone wrong, and to see what is needed to put it right. What is needed now is to unlock the intellectual straitjacket in which Labour has been shackled for too long. Where is the leader to deliver that?” Since Bryan Gould wrote these words,  Jeremy Corbyn agreed to stand as leader, and there is hope for a change from the intellectual straitjacket Bryan speaks of.

Solidarity is forever, not just Election Day, SNP.

Solidarity is forever, not just for Election Day

One has to question the authenticity of the claims that SNP stands for socialism and anti-austerity. These policies  were attributed to have resulted in the huge numbers of voters in Scotland who gave their vote to the SNP on May 7th this year, resulting in all but three Scottish seats returning an SNP member of parliament.

I am reminded of the huge turn-out for the Liberal Democrats in 2010, many people saw the LibDems as an opposition to the  Conservatives in the wake of disappointment with New Labour. These voters, angry with LibDems joining the  coalition turned their back on LibDems in 2015, many candidates losing their deposits and with the party  gaining only 8 seats, out of the 57 defended.

Over the next few years, will the SNP prove to be the socialist opposition so many anticipate, or will, in 5 years time, the SNP suffer a similar fate? Much will depend on how the SNP act in parliament, and also the direction Labour decides to follow.

Already the cracks are beginning to show in the SNP’s facade. Failure of SNP to stand alongside ferry workers taking industrial action does not indicate solidarity with workers or opposition to austerity.

The SNP sails into choppy waters after ferry strike statement  

RMT calls on SNP members to reject party’s “defeatist” line over austerity action

A row has broken out between the RMT, whose members at Calmac Ferries are today on strike, and the Scottish National Party.

The RMT members are taking action to defend jobs, conditions and pensions, warning the Clyde and Hebrides service is being set up for takeover by the profiteering private company Serco.

Ferry copy

And they have been infuriated by the release of statement from the SNP’s Trade Union Group which, while saying it recognises the union’s right to take strike action, fails to support the strike.

The statement reads: “The SNP Trade Union Group is aware of the ongoing dispute between the RMT and Caledonian MacBrayne – which operates the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry service (CHFS) which our communities rely on – and has resulted in RMT members balloting for strike action.

“The SNP Trade Union Group recognises the democratic right of fellow trade unionists to ballot for strike action and also recognises the concerns of RMT members regarding terms & conditions within the Caledonian MacBrayne workforce.

“In light of this escalation, the SNP Trade Union Group’s representatives, MSP’s and MPs have been invited to talks with the RMT to discuss these issues further.  These discussions will take place early next week and will hopefully help the workforce and the SNP TUG will do all it can to ensure that the concerns of the RMT are heard and heeded.

“Additional meetings have also already been organised by Christina McKelvie MSP – convenor of the SNP Backbench parliamentary trade union group at Holyrood – between the RMT and the transport minister.

“The Scottish Government is required by EU procurement laws to place the contract out to tender, with the process is being carried out in accordance with EU rules on procurement and state aid. This has been the case previously in 2005 where Caledonian MacBrayne was awarded the contract.

“The SNP Trade Union Group takes the unwavering view that terms & conditions should never be eroded in the workplace and that working standards should be raised at every opportunity. We welcome the statement from Transport Minister Derek MacKay pledging that the Scottish Government will ensure that the pensions of the CHFS workforce are protected.

“We believe that the current tendering process must be an opportunity to improve and strengthen the working conditions of all working on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service. Additionally, every effort must be made to ensure that the workforce is at the forefront of decision making while this process is ongoing and continuing on into the future.

“However, while the SNP Trade Union Group is pro-European in its outlook, it believes that the EU laws that have necessitated the current tendering process are inherently flawed and do not take into account vital lifeline services such as the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services that communities depend on.

“The SNP Trade Union Group will ensure that its elected members take this issue to the heart of Europe. We will campaign for a rethink of this regressive procurement policy which is damaging to both the workforce and the communities in Scotland and across Europe which rely on such services to survive.

In response, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This statement from a group claiming to represent trade unionists makes not a single mention of support for fellow trade unionists battling to defend jobs and services and instead hides behind a barrage of EU anti-worker legislation that has no relevance at all to this dispute and which could be challenged anyway with a united campaign.

“RMT would appeal to rank and file SNP members and supporters to reject this defeatist line and stand by a workforce fighting to defend jobs, conditions, safety and lifeline ferry services against this attack. You can’t claim to be anti-austerity, pro working class and pro public services and then duck the issue when jobs and services are under all out attack like on CalMac. The question to the SNP TU Goup is which side are you o‎n?”

Yesterday a cross party motion tabled in Scottish Parliament backed the union’s campaign. Supported by John Mason (SNP), Neil Findlay (Lab), David Stewart (Lab), Elaine Smith (Lab), Anne McTaggart (Lab), Cara Hilton (Lab), John Wilson (Ind) Jean Urquhart (Ind), the motion read:

That the Parliament notes the current dispute between Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) ferry workers and the employer over concerns about future services, staffing levels, job security and pensions, which it understands have arisen from the tendering process of Clyde and Hebrides ferry services currently operated by CalMac; supports CalMac workers and what it considers the excellent job that they do and calls for their concerns to be addressed; notes that the private sector corporation, Serco, is bidding to take over CalMac services, and believes that the interests of islanders, tourism and the Scottish economy would be best served by these lifeline ferry services remaining in the public sector.

This article reproduced by Creative Commons Licence previously published by Unity Solidarity International

Hunger, Lack of Clothes and Shoes. Teachers Lift the Lid on Child Poverty

NASUWT says schools and teachers are being left to pick up the pieces of Tory’s “scandalous” economic policies

NASUWT

Teachers have attacked the government’s record on child poverty, saying they have witnessed at first hand the effect on the children they teach.

Speaking ahead of the release of the latest official figures on child poverty released today, NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “If, as expected, the figures show that child poverty levels have risen yet again, this is a shameful indictment of the economic and social policies of the Coalition Government.

“It is equally shameful that the government is committed to continuing the policies which have led to this anticipated rise.

“Teachers are witnessing firsthand the impact of poverty on the children they teach. Three-quarters of teachers recently surveyed by the NASUWT say they have witnessed more and more children coming to school too hungry to concentrate and without clothing and footwear appropriate to the weather conditions.

“Children are increasingly being denied educational opportunities because of their parents’ inability to pay for educational visits.

“Evidence shows that too many young people are choosing subject options on the basis, not of their skills and aspirations, but on the basis of whether their parents can afford the books, equipment and other resources a particular course demands.

“Schools and teachers are being left to pick up the pieces. The shattering of children’s life chances cannot simply be regarded as collateral damage.

“Yet scandalously, rather than embarking on a strategy to tackle poverty and inequality, it now appears the government plans to change the definition of child poverty in an attempt to mask the terrible toll its policies are taking on our children and young people. Our children and young people deserve better.”

Reproduced by Commons Creative Licence , previously published by Union Solidarity International

Jeremy Corbyn – Toxic Rivals and Labour’s Future

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Jeremy Corbyn, as a candidate for the Leader of the Labour Party presents a welcome change to British politics. Now we hear of an alternative to the damaging policies of cuts. In this interview, he speaks about his toxic rivals and Labour’s future. His words are clear, intelligent and speak the sense which so many Labour supporters have been waiting to hear for so long.

  • Banking Crisis – Corbyn supports Tight Regulations on Banks
  • NHS  – Opposes Private Finance Initiatives, Supports Health Service for all
  • Iraq War – Jeremy Corbyn opposed sale of arms to Iraq, and founded Stop the War movement
  • Benefits Cap – Inequality and Poverty is Appalling
  • Deficit and Austerity – Labour should be Investing in People and The Future
  • Tax – Closing Tax Loopholes and Corporation Tax Avoidance a priority
  • Europe – Labour need a Voice in Europe, opposing TTIP