I’ve been thinking about how to write articles about the fact that we live in a corporate empire – trying to work out a way to present the idea, thinking that it would sound rather silly or extreme to many ears. Then a former World Bank economist (Peter Koenig) says:
‘Greek people, the citizens of a sovereign country – the first democracy in Europe, the country that gave Europe her name – these people have had the audacity to democratically elect a socialist government. Now they have to suffer. They do not conform to the self-imposed rules of the neoliberal empire of unrestricted globalized privatization of public services and public properties from which the elite is maximizing profits – for themselves, of course – it is outright theft of public property.‘
He used that word – almost casually – a former World Bank economist. It’s a word that I’ve been trying to fit into this blog for a while, afraid that it would paint us as extreme or out of touch with reality. I’ll blog more about this soon, but once you realise that we live in a corporate empire, you’ll understand what’s happening to Greece. The Greeks had the temerity to elect an anti-empire party, and they must be punished for it. They must not be allowed to succeed or other people will try it. In another part of the world, the empire might have initiated/funded a coup (as it did with the Contras in Nicaragua, Pinochet in Chile, the Shah in Iran, and many others) or send in troops (Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq etc.). But this is a country in the EU, so that’s not possible – so they will be bled and squeezed until they break. Actually, they seem to have broken already.
Also, the empire knows that international investors will have their money out of any country with an anti-empire agenda like shit off a shovel (Lowimpact’s Peter doesn’t like swearing, but this is an idiom, so it’s OK – isn’t it Peter?), which will impoverish the country even more quickly, and ensure that they lose the next election to a pro-empire party.
All the other governments in Europe, including the EU, are pro-empire, by the way.
Yes, the Greek government (pre-Syriza and pro-empire) borrowed irresponsibly and were incompetent, but do you really think that the banks didn’t know what was going to happen, or lent recklessly? Hmm, yes, that’s likely – I mean they’re not very clever with money, after all, are they?
I applaud Syriza for taking a stand against the empire, but ultimately, the parliamentary route can’t provide the answer – and that includes Podemos and the Greens, because if they get into power and stick to their principles, what’s happening now to Syriza will happen to them. It’s not possible to seriously challenge the empire via the parliamentary route. By all means vote for an anti-empire party if you have one (good luck with that in the US however, where it really matters), to show that there are plenty of anti-empire people, but don’t expect it to challenge them. Ultimately, it’s going to need some extra-parliamentary organising to take power from the empire (which we’re totally up for, by the way – talk to us).
But right now, Greece doesn’t have to suffer. If banks can be bailed out with a bit of quantitative easing – why not Greece – especially as it’s a much lower figure that’s required?
The answer to that question is really easy once you understand that we live in a corporate empire.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1ethicalinternet July 17th, 2015
No, I don’t like it (swearing) even if it’s part of a coarse idiom. I think ‘swear’ words are absolutely fine when used with their actual meaning, but I don’t like the habit of sprinkling them in just for emphasis or bravado. You did ask!
— Disgusted of Stroud.
2Stevie July 17th, 2015
I agree absolutely, the way this played out was all about forcing the Syriza government out of power, hoping a tired nation would then swerve back towards the right. They may yet succeed at the first, but the referendum showed that the result of a new election might actually return a stronger majority for Syriza for at least having the guts to fight back. So there’s some (okay, vague) hope that this may ultimately support left-wing parties across Europe, although unfortunately Merkel & Co will ensure that nothing gets better in Greece itself for a very long time, if ever. Sadly, it’s also quite likely to have skewed the in/out vote in the UK completely over to the Out camp as people here tend not to understand that having our own currency means Germany can never dictate UK economic policy in the same way, no matter how in debt the UK ever got (the US after TTIP may be a different story, particularly as there’s been a willing embrace of US-style neo-conservatism by all three main parties over the last 30 years).
I think the most important thing to understand about Greece is what the bailout is actually for – it’s the Troika (read Germany) deciding the terms by which money will be given to Greece to service the interest on its previous bailouts. In other words, according to the IMF, 93% of all bailout funds have been going right through the banks and back out again to pay Greece’s creditors. Not wages, not pensions, not social security, not public services such as schools and hospitals (i.e money that circulates in the real Greek economy, as well as making life livable again). There is no way out from under that, as the principle can never be paid off, not even if they sold every square inch of land and everything on it, and the IMF has admitted as much. If I were Greek, I’d definitely prefer a disorderly return to the drachma to remaining in the Eurozone as a slave to seventeen other parliaments and a few unaccountable institutions for the next couple of hundred years.
3Dave Darby July 17th, 2015
Hi Stevie – what you said!
Yes, the eurozone/EU does seem to be just another corporate plaything, albeit one that’s helped stop western Europeans slaughtering each other for 70 years, which is a good thing – even in the age of the internet it’s not easy to build international solidarity if countries are at war with each other.
Corporate sympathisers like pointing out that there’s never been a war between two countries that have McDonald’s, or even two countries at least nominally liberal democracies. But that’s because corporations own all those countries. If they don’t want war in those countries, there won’t be war. Let’s hope that holds until we can get rid of them.
4John Harrison July 25th, 2015
I used to be in favour of the EU although not sure about the value of the Euro. Now I’m sure that the Euro is basically away of tying in countries economically to the Greater Reich. As for the EU – what is the point of being in it when it treats a member state like this? The Greek people are suffering – infant mortality has risen and older people dying earlier. This is a disgrace.
The mainly German painting of the Greek people as lazy tax dodgers is as bad (and as accurate) as painting modern Germans as fascist racists. The tax system in Greece is not efficient, true, but the Greek people I have met work very hard indeed.
I believe a lot of the Greek debt was acquired to buy military equipment like jet fighters – you have to wonder if those benefit Greece or the aims of other EU states?
I’m not politically sophisticated and don’t claim to know all or even many of the answers but I do know things have gone from bad to worse. Perhaps a good start would be for the European Central Bank to write off the debts that can’t be paid back and stop acting like a Mafioso money lender.
5Dave Darby July 25th, 2015
Greeks work the longest hours in Europe, apparently – http://www.statista.com/chart/3297/greeks-work-the-longest-hours-in-europe/.
Just reading David Graeber – his position is that debt is a human construct, and there is so much of it, that it doesn’t actually represent goods and services in the real world. So cancel it – all of it (apart from loans between individuals) – it’s just a way of maintaining corporate power, and the reason the economy has to continually expand (and in the process, destroy ecology) is to generate the funds to pay the interest.
6mike pinard July 25th, 2015
Unfortunately no amount of protest will work because the great majority of people are only interested in the next five minutes on their i pad or watching big brother et al.
Really when you think of it universal suffrage is the enemy of any form of meaningful change to governing systems as you will never get the majority of switched off people to switch on. We are locked into a consumer society where the people are fed their ‘soma’ and fill their time with facebook and plasma tv’s and will not change until the proverbial hits the fan.
7Tim Beesley July 28th, 2015
Unfortunately, there seems to be very little mention I this thread, of the effects of borrowing and failing to manage the debt effectively, and the effect that will have on other family members.
As I understand it, the Greek tax system is largely ineffective, especially when it comes to the rich paying. Everything is off shore. The Greek government went on a borrowing spree and completely failed to put into force a system whereby they would for it. If the EU can be seen as a family (or community in the vein of Redfield for example) let’s imaging the family member who goes on one almighty bender for a period of years, runs out of funds and has no job to pay off the debt. They then come back to the family and say “Can I have another loan” but have no realistic plan or mechanism to pay for it.
Reference the wider family: we all now say “Well if they can do that, then I’ll have a piece of that unfunded recklessness please”.
The problem here starts to become that the actions of one, if unchecked, then start to bring into disrepute the entire system/family/community. What happens then is that international creditors, on which the whole system depends, pull out or start to charge astronomical rates of interest (remember I think the 1970’s / 1980’s in the UK, when rates of 15% were charged for mortgages? That was because of the UK’s financial problems and unsustainable debt rate, I believe). If this goes on too far, there is a serious risk that this debt aversion will infect the whole EU single currency area. I understand that other countries, e.g. Spain and Portugal are close to a similar level of insolvency.
Within the current system, as it exists, there have to be checks and balances to create stability. I’m NOT advocating ‘The System’ as fair, or good or anything. Perhaps capitalism is the least worst system when compared to communism / totalitarianism.
But do remember your history. Prior to the UN, EU, and NATO, World Bank etc, we had war going back to the 1800’s on an increasingly unprecedented scale, we had the financial crash of the 1920’s that saw unemployment on an international scale and hyper-inflation in Germany that was one of the causes of the rise of Hitler and thence to WWII and at least 55 million dead. These institutions were set up by our grandfathers to counter the evils that led to two world wars in one century and we have enjoyed the luxury of the peace that brought.
Anyone who advocates getting out of or dismembering the EU etc needs to explain thoughtfully what they will replace it / them with to maintain stability. And the Germans, for all the flack they are getting, still remember the effects more than most of us, of the results of financial instability. So that explains their conservatism and their desire to maintain a stable system. So perhaps try to see it from their point of view too.
I hope my comments don’t offend the general sensibilities expressed here, but I do feel there is a lack of a wider viewpoint and something unpleasant about some of the anti-German (the Greater Reich) and anti-EU sentiment expressed in some of the posts above. Remember too where a lot of our social and environmental legislation comes from, the EU. Which is why the right wing in this country wants out of it.
8John Harrison July 28th, 2015
In hindsight, ‘Greater Reich’ was not the best thing to say but Germany with it’s economic strength is basically the dominant power in the Eurozone.
I disagree with your analogy of a reckless family member though. For a start, the Greek people weren’t on an almighty bender – a lot of money was spent on military toys like F16 fighters at $165 million a pop.
Much money did go on consumer goods made in Germany and paid for with borrowing from Germany which helped the German economy no end. Going back to the Greeks joining the Euro, everyone in the financial community knew they hadn’t met the criteria. They turned a blind eye to them fudging the application form. A bit like over-stating your income on a mortgage application.
It used to be the case that a loan debt wasn’t enforceable if the lender hadn’t confirmed the ability of the debtor to pay – I contend that the banks, including the central banks, lent money that was demonstrably not going to be repayable.
There’s a lot of positives about the EU – not least the freedom of movement but I’m far from convinced that a multi-national, over-arching organisation is a good idea. Many of the benefits could be delivered by inter-state treaties. The more removed the people are from their government, the less the government reflects the needs and desires of the individual. That doesn’t make me a member of UKIP ? – if anything I’m Old Labour with a hefty dose of anarchist
Incidentally I had a mortgage that cost 17% on a house that increased in value by 25% pa. Happy days. The mortgage was repayable (just) because it was granted on a maximum of 2.5 times main income plus 1 times secondary income. When they let that constraint go housing costs soared. It doesn’t bother me personally but how on earth do youngsters get on the housing ladder?
9Dave Darby July 29th, 2015
Tim, I don’t think that corporate capitalism is the ‘least worst’ system. It’s an empire, pure and simple. Empires always destroy democracy and ecology. This one is the same, but this time ecological destruction is global and potentially terminal. Empires are also built on the backs of the people at the bottom. Previously it’s been serfs and slaves, and now it’s sweat-shop workers, plantation workers or slum-dwellers driven off their land by the Green Revolution. If you could spend a couple of weeks in their shoes, I don’t think you’d believe that the corporate empire is any better than the Soviet empire (bad though it was).
Tim, do you honestly believe that we’re safer now than before those global institutions you mentioned? By far the most dangerous thing facing us is ecological degradation – easily the most dangerous thing that humanity has ever faced. At the same time, we have a booming global population, with more and more states with nuclear weapons that will be scrambling for dwindling resources. Plus the added danger of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups – really, not a fantasy situation any more.
The atrocities that the corporate empire, via their control of the US military and client governments, have carried out since WW2 in places as diverse as Chile, Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Libya, Zaire and many more, will come back and bite them if they lose control of the global reserve currency – something else that’s looking quite likely.
This isn’t about individuals – there are good people working within the EU, and as you say, there have been good initiatives from the EU, especially environmental, but of course, that will all be undone by TTIP, which the corporate-controlled EU has enthusiastically endorsed.
Forgive me Tim, but I think that the lack of wider viewpoint is yours (although your comments weren’t at all offensive), but once you understand that the system that we live under is an empire, it all becomes clearer.
NB: plus what John said.
10Dave Darby September 10th, 2015
I think you’re right. I have no problem with swearing personally, but strategically, why alienate people who do? I shall desist.
11John Harrison September 10th, 2015
I’m sorry – this is a serious post about a serious subject. One slightly vulgar word in a common expression is not worth the comments. The Greek people have been [INSERT WORD] and it’s a [INSERT WORD] disgrace by a system that puts profit ahead of people. I know what word I would use and it isn’t remotely strong enough to express my disgust at the situation.
12Dave Darby September 11th, 2015
Yes, personally I agree. It’s just tactical. If it’s going to alienate people, then it’s counterproductive. I have no problem with people who swear when I’m having a conversation, because I can see their expressions and body language – but if I read it, on reflection, it reads a bit shouty, instead of calm and reflective.
But I agree with your sentiments entirely.
13Mike January 20th, 2016
Contrary to your statement, we have had more war and armed conflict in the past 100 years than at any other time in human history. The crash of the 1920’s. and in fact all crashes have been engineered to move money to the wealthy. The rise of the corporate empire IS totalitarianism, and of the worst kind where acquisition of money is the single goal at the expense of all else.
The only way out for Greece, and for the rest of us also, is to Nationalise the Banks.
The control, issuing and reclaiming of a Nations currency is the RIGHT of that Nation, as well as its responsibility. As a Nation (in a democracy) is governed for and by the people, and is owned and subject to the people, this means that issuing, creation and control of the Nation’s currency is the right of the PEOPLE of that country. The currency is owned by the people.
Hope you are with me so far. This leads to the question of WHY is this power given to private corporations (banks) to create currency by account entry(i.e. it is created out of nothing) via loans? Furthermore, by what right do the banks charge interest on money (an asset that before the loan was created did not exist)? As the money to pay interest does not exist and as such cannot be added to the money supply, it means that Bankruptcy is inevitable, that the debt can never be paid off (because if you paid back every dollar to the banks that exists, the interest would still be outstanding).
So perhaps now you can see that the monetary system as it is today, is nothing more than a vehicle to transfer wealth from the poor to the wealthy, and enslave the people of the country to debt. In fact, as Governments must borrow money as they do not have control of the currency, this system enslaves entire nations via debt.
As I have mentioned, the only way out is for Greece( and the rest of us) to Nationalise the banks, retake control of the monetary system, and issue new currency based of the value of assets in that country at NO interest. Greece can then create money as required to fund new infrastructure at the value of that new asset. (You build a 400 million dollar rail line, you issue 400 million dollars) The advantage of this is that there is NO inflation, loans are made at zero interest, and money is asset based instead of debt based which increases the wealth of everyone.
Finally, the tax dodging multi national companies that do business in Greece are taxed on Gross Profit ( or Gross Income if you like) so that the company is taxed before it can be moved elsewhere.
It should also be noted that having greater resources than your fellow man is a privilege, not a right, and wealthy individuals should also be taxed heavily for that privilege (Before anyone trots out that ridiculous line that wealthy people and/or business create employment, that is a myth. Demand for goods and services create employment. Business will not employ one more person that it absolutely has to)
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, all donations to political candidates and parties by business must be outlawed, and donations by individuals capped to a small amount ( $100 US or its equivalent for example) to stop the massive corruption of our political system.
This wont fix everything, but it will create a good foundation on which real social change for the better can be built, and see Greece and everyone else free from debt slavery.
14Dave Darby January 20th, 2016
Really good points. Where’s the extra leisure time we were all promised? What’s the point of constantly trying to grow the economy if most people are working longer and longer hours just to pay off debt? Richard Douthwaite suggests reducing interest rates until they’re zero and then keeping them at zero – he’s coming from an environmental perspective – an attempt to stabilise the economy.
Your points about stopping corporate tax avoidance and capping political donations are good too.
The problem is implementation though – how can things that reduce corporate power be introduced via a system they control?
First (surely?) there has to be some sort of revolutionary change that means they don’t control our political systems any more.
15johnhson April 22nd, 2016
Just to be clear, is your argument is that the Greek people are genetically predisposed to dishonesty and that out-breeding will remove this undesirable trait? Sort of become honest F1 hybrids?