Sunday, February 08, 2015

Was Alexis Tsipras' Speech Today The Beginning Of The End For German Bankster Domination Of Europe?


This morning we started the day looking at the apparent huge victory for India's Aam Aadmi (Common Man's) Party in the Delhi Legislative Assembly. Tuesday, reformer and progressive icon Arvind Kejriwal, is expected to be named Chief Minister, a major blow to the national fascist-oriented regime of Narendra Modi. Let's end the day looking at the political developments in another country most Americans would be hard-pressed to find on a map-- Greece.

Today, Greece's newly elected Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, addressed Parliament (and the country and the EU). On January 25 Tsipras' anti-Austerity party, SYRIZA, came in first in the Greek legislative elections, winning 149 seats in the 300 member parliament. (Second place went to the right-wing New Democracy party-- something like the GOP-- which took 76 seats. The fascist party, Golden Dawn, lost support and now has 17 seats in Parliament.) SYRIZA formed a coalition with ANEL (Independent Greeks) which is also anti-austerity and controls 13 seats.

I followed Tsipras' bold, inspiring speech this morning on his twitter feed. With Alan Greenspan predicting that Greece will be forced to leave the Eurozone and European governments already making contingency plans based on that outcome,Tsipras addressed the most fundamental concerns of working class families across Europe, concerns that are studiously ignored by the ruling elites. All the instant corporate media coverage of the speech started by referring to Tsipras as "far left," without defining what that's supposed to mean. I suppose it's supposed to be something scary. The soaring populist ideas behind the speech, however, would scare no one but international plutocrats and oligarchs-- the 1%.

I couldn't find to an actual live transcript but this clunky translation is the best I was able to put together:

Speakings of "government of national salvation," he began by talking about winning back our sovereignty, restoring equal role in Europe, tackling humanitarian crisis are among our key targets. We have to fight for the interests of our people, for the national interest.

He said he wanted to assure Members of Parliament and Greek citizens that SYRIZA wants to apply the all their pre-elections promises. "For me this commitment is a matter of honor and reliability. A matter of democratic duty."

Austerity policies lead the country to political and economic deadlock. We have commitments only towards the Greek people. Greece features on world stage, but for the first time in positive light, as country that does not accept orders like that does not accept “orders via e-mails,” a reference to Troika sending austerity demands via emails that have infuriated Greeks. The previous government, he continued, "intentionally chose to impose very short time frame for negotiations by asking 2-month extension.

The previous government accepted a mixture of policies destined to fail but also left next governmernt with hands tied... The Greek people have a clear a strong mandate for the end of the Austerity. That’s why the government has no right to ask for “bailout program extension... We’re asking for a bridge agreement until June."

As of Wednesday morning our program begins with these top priority: free meals, housing, electricity, medical & medication assess and to vulnerable households impoverished by Austerity; rehiring workers in public sector unjustly laid off like cleaners and school guards. He also announced a series of measures to decrease benefits for MPs like vehicles, number of police guards for them, decreasing the number of advisers and consultants, selling one of the 3 airplanes for the PM, decreasing by 30% the employees of the PM’s office and decreasing pointless bureaucracy.

He vowed that his government is ready to put up a huge fight against corruption and tax evasion and he announced measures to combat illegal fuel and tobacco sales. Promising to put an end to so-called “sea-loans” (given by banks to local elites and businessmen, that are not paid back), we said they will break the “triangle of power” between banking sector, political world media outlets.

He announced the reestablishment of the ERT (state-sponsored public broadcasting). Cost will be covered by the Radio-Television fees. And he infuriated the fascists by backing a law to provide children of second generation migrants with Greek nationality.

He addressed a perennial Greek problem: Taxation. Even in times when growth was 4%, debt was stuck. That was not because of employees and pensioners but because of tax evasion. Taxation justice is an unknown word in our country. He called it illogical and promised to put an end to it. Every person and business will be taxed according to its taxation ability after a tax free annual income 12,000 euros.

He also take about labor reforms, starting with reestablishing collective bargaining and abolishing the age/wages differentiation among employees that have penalized young workers. He promised to increase the minimum wage and pointed out that competitiveness cannot be based on cheap labor and employment without rights.

“Selling national assets to pay unsustainable debt is crime." We won’t sell off natural wealth, networks & infrastructure and he vowed to end the privatization of national wealth.

...We need to redesign the banking sector. We will forbid the auctioning of First Home (for debtors). He also promised to push back against Troika demands for a higher retirement age for Greek workers and their demands to put pensions for workers.

Like most of the corporate media coverage, the Wall Street Journal's was, predictably, entirely negative, warning about a collision course with Germany.
Greece unveiled plans Sunday to undo several austerity measures that were a condition of its international bailout, ranging from tax cuts to increasing the minimum wage, putting the country firmly on a collision course with its European partners.

In a speech to lawmakers, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reiterated that Greece would seek a bridge loan from its international creditors until June, refusing to accept an extension of its current bailout, as demanded by European partners.

“We know very well that talks won’t be easy and that we are facing an uphill path but we believe in our abilities,” he said, presenting his newly-elected government’s policy statement to lawmakers.

“The more our partners want austerity, the more the problem with the debt will get worse,“ he said.

Among the changes announced by Mr. Tsipras are raising the taxable income threshold; gradually increasing the minimum wage, starting next year; and dropping a recently introduced property tax. He also promised the retirement age wouldn’t be changed.

These changes are aimed at providing the country with a growth push, he added, after the economy contracted by about a quarter in the last five years and unemployment shot up to more than 25%.

...The Greek government also has said that it wants to change the terms of its funding agreement, which require the new leftist government to adhere to austerity measures agreed to by its predecessors.

But Greece’s partners in the European Union-- led by Germany-- have insisted that promises made by the previous Greek government have to be kept if Athens wants to receive further assistance.

Eurozone officials have asked Greece to come up with a specific funding plan by Wednesday, when finance ministers, meeting in Brussels, will try to move closer to a deal on the paralyzed bailout program. A day later, Mr. Tsipras will sit down for his first talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a European summit in Brussels.

...If the Greek government runs out of cash, the country would be forced to default on its debts and reintroduce its own currency, thus abandoning the euro. Most of the aid that Europe and the International Monetary Fund have pumped into the country would be lost.

Despite the risks to the country’s future, Mr. Tsipras has the backing of most Greeks. A survey conducted on behalf of privately owned television station Skai by the University of Macedonia showed Saturday that seven in 10 Greeks agree with the country’s standoff with international creditors. At the same time, however, nervous depositors have pulled €8 billion to €10 billion from the country’s banks in January alone, government officials say.

The banking system’s woes were exacerbated last week by the European Central Bank’s decision to no longer accept Greek government bonds as collateral from banks seeking funds.

Mr. Tsipras’ speech marks the start of a three-day debate on the government’s policy statements, which winds up Tuesday evening with a confidence vote. The two-party coalition government-- which includes junior coalition partner right wing Independent Greeks-- is expected to pass the confidence vote.

UPDATE: Bernie Sanders Weighs In

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, wants the U.S. government to help insure that newly-elected leaders in Greece have the support they need to end austerity programs that have caused widespread suffering to its citizens. In recent years, the Greek economy has shrunk by one-quarter, unemployment is 25 percent, wages have been substantially cut, health care services have been devastated and many are now living in dire poverty.

Sanders today asked Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to provide assurances that American lending policies will not make the horrific economic situation in Greece even worse.

“The United States cannot stand idly by while the European Central Bank undermines the new democratically elected government of Greece, induces deflation and risks financial instability. President Barack Obama was right when he recently noted, with regard to Greece: ‘You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of a depression. At some point, there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts to eliminate some of their deficits,’” Sanders said.

Recently, the European Central Bank tried to pressure the new Greek government into accepting the austerity policies that the Greek people strongly rejected in the recent election - such as privatizing assets, cutting off electricity and undoing a minimum wage hike. The continuation of austerity on Greece would have a devastating impact on the lives of people who are already suffering terribly.

Sanders also spoke about the political consequences of the new government in Greece not being able to carry out the program it was elected on, and noted that the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn came in third place in the recent elections.

“It would be a terrible mistake for the world to forget what happens when a democratically-elected government, as was the case in Germany in the 1920s, is unable to relieve the severe economic suffering of its people. We must remember that waiting in the wings should this recently elected Greek government fail is the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn party. We cannot allow fascism to come to power in a European country due to our unwillingness to reverse harmful austerity policies,” Sanders wrote. A copy of his letter can be found here. (Watch the video below.)

UPDATE: Marriage Equality In Greece

Greece's new Justice Minister, Nikolaos Paraskevopoulos, announced that the new government will grant legal recognition to same-sex couples, despite opposition from SYRIZA's junior coalition partners, Independent Greeks, which is pretty primitive and backward when it comes to gay rights.

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