June 28, 2015
Crisis: Greece, Francis & Klein, Cameron, Bernie Sanders, Socialism
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next


1. EU ministers refuse bailout extension for Greece as
     referendum looms

2. Pope Francis recruits Naomi Klein in climate change

3. David Cameron is abusing Magna Carta in abolishing our

Bernie Sanders Was for Full Gay Equality 40 Years Ago
Socialism Means Abolishing the Distinction Between
     Bosses and Employees

This is a Nederlog of Sunday June 28, 2015.

This is a
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the EU ministers who refused a bailout extension to Greece; item 2 is about Pope Francis and Naomi Klein; item 3 is about Cameron's denials of liberty in the name of the Magna Charta; item 4 is about Sanders being consistently for and against the same kinds of things for more than 40 years; and item 5 is a decent article on the meaning and chances of "socialism".
1. EU ministers refuse bailout extension for Greece as referendum looms

The first item today is an article by Ian Traynor on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Europe’s single currency entered the stage of rupture for the first time in its 16-year life on Saturday night when 18 governments told Greece its bailout package would be terminated within days. The country plunged towards financial collapse after its leftwing prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, abandoned negotiations and called a referendum on his lenders’ terms for continuing the lifeline.

An emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers took place in Brussels on Saturday evening without Greece for the first time since the crisis began in 2010. It turned into a crisis planning session devoted to quarantining Greece and insulating the rest of the eurozone from the impact of anticipated financial mayhem.

I say. As to the first paragraph:

Yesterday I said that I agreed with Tsipras in his decision that he wanted a referendum on the bailout terms, indeed because that seems to me a democratically warranted measure in a democracy. Today I found Paul Krugman agrees, while Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism disagrees. I merely
give the links.

As to the second paragraph: "
quarantining Greece" seems rather impossible to me
- but again we shall see.

There is further on in the article this about the rest of the European Union:

Draghi’s and Merkel’s decisions will have grave consequences for Greece which is staring into the abyss of defaulting on its colossal debts and being ejected from the euro, but will also have major impact on the single currency’s health and stability. “We’re going into totally uncharted waters,” said Michael Noonan, the Irish finance minister.

Saturday night’s eurogroup meeting said the governments “stand ready to do whatever is necessary to ensure financial stability of the euro area”. Their meeting was the fifth to be held in 10 days. The decision to end the bailout, shunning the Greek requests to extend the rescue until after the national referendum, means that Greece is likely to go bust.

And there is this about the money that is involved:

The impact of a Greek collapse will have a deep political and economic impact on the rest of Europe, causing recriminations over the conduct of five years of austerity and bailouts which, in the Greek case at least, have failed. “This is about our destiny,” said Peter Kažimír, the Slovak minister.

Greece owes €320bn, most of it to eurozone governments, and a full default will prove very expensive for the others, not least Germany which has €92bn at stake.

I think I am on this on the whole with Paul Krugman, who ended his latest column in the New York Times as follows:
If you ask me, it has been an act of monstrous folly on the part of the creditor governments and institutions to push it to this point. But they have, and I can’t at all blame Tsipras for turning to the voters, instead of turning on them.
More to follow, no doubt (and the Euro well may fall considerably).

2. Pope Francis recruits Naomi Klein in climate change battle

The next item today is an article by Rosie Scammell on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

She is one of the world’s most high-profile social activists and a ferocious critic of 21st-century capitalism. He is one of the pope’s most senior aides and a professor of climate change economics. But this week the secular radical will join forces with the Catholic cardinal in the latest move by Pope Francis to shift the debate on global warming.

Naomi Klein and Cardinal Peter Turkson are to lead a high-level conference on the environment, bringing together churchmen, scientists and activists to debate climate change action. Klein, who campaigns for an overhaul of the global financial system to tackle climate change, told the Observer she was surprised but delighted to receive the invitation from Turkson’s office.

“The fact that they invited me indicates they’re not backing down from the fight. A lot of people have patted the pope on the head, but said he’s wrong on the economics. I think he’s right on the economics,” she said, referring to Pope Francis’s recent publication of an encyclical on the environment.

Release of the document earlier this month thrust the pontiff to the centre of the global debate on climate change, as he berated politicians for creating a system that serves wealthy countries at the expense of the poorest.

I say. I am another one who finds this a bit surprising. Here is some more:

(...) Klein said the pope’s position as a “moral voice” in the world – and leader of 1.2 billion Catholics – gives him the unique ability to unite campaigners fighting for a common goal.
She views the rise of Francis as an environmental campaigner as marking a welcome shift not only in the international sphere but also at the Holy See: “We’re seeing the power base within the Vatican shift, with a Ghanaian cardinal [Turkson] and an Argentine pope. They’re doing something very brave.”

I agree that the pope is the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, which also makes his position pretty unique. Then again, I don't know it is wise - for the child of communist grandparents, and leftist radical Jewish parents - to side with the Catholics. On the other hand, both Naomi Klein (<- Wikipedia) and the pope
are mosty known as figure heads and spokespersons.

All in all, I don't know, indeed in part because while I like the present pope, I dislike Catholicism [1], and I think there will be plenty of Catholics after the present pope dies, and gets replaced by another, probably considerably less radical, new pope.

3. David Cameron is abusing Magna Carta in abolishing our rights

The next item today is an article by Michael Ignatieff (<- Wikipedia) on The Guardian:

This is from the beginning:

England shared the Magna Carta tradition with Europe and, in return, English radicals in 1640, 1688 and 1792 borrowed from European natural rights tradition. Since the 1990s, this progressive and liberal tradition has believed that majority rule in parliament must be counter-balanced by constitutional rights and judicial review and by transnational European protection, in the form of the European Court of Human Rights.

David Cameron recently used the Magna Carta commemoration to announce that his government will introduce a bill to limit the rights of British citizens to appeal to the European Court. It’s not clear if he will eliminate citizens’ rights altogether, if he will take Britain out of the court, and it’s not clear that such a move is legally feasible.

Put otherwise, David Cameron tried to appeal to British nationalism when he announced "a bill to limit the rights of British citizens to appeal to the European Court" - which is also more in accord with the title of this article.

And there is this from the end:
There aren’t any fail-safe guarantees of freedom: not in judicial review, constitutional rights, international human rights, majority rule or national sovereignty. Each of these supposed bulwarks can be breached, so the best a citizen can hope for is for competitive institutions, each checking the other and preventing oppression or foolishness. This argument, in favour of as many defences of liberty as possible, supports the claim that it would be unwise for Britain to legislate limitations on a citizen’s rights to go to the European Court for redress.
A European-wide rule of law, backed by a transnational court, has done as much as the Marshall Plan and decades of prosperity to anchor democracy in Europe. Conservatives used to understand this. Winston Churchill sent his attorney-general to help draft the European Convention on Human Rights because he understood that Germany, France and Italy might stray from the democratic camp unless there was a court to protect the liberty of their citizens. This is the larger vision of Britain’s place in Europe – and Magna Carta’s immense contribution to European freedom – that Downing Street is in danger of forgetting.

I agree to that, and especially the first paragraph, which is "in favour of as many defences of liberty as possible". Then again, while I am against Cameron and his plans, which seems to me conservative, nationalistic and simply bad, I also do not think Europe's democracy, such as it is, will be saved by the European Convention on Human Rights, though I agree it is important to have.

4. Bernie Sanders Was for Full Gay Equality 40 Years Ago

The next item today is an article by Zaid Jilani on Alternet:

This starts as follows, and is mainly here because I like Bernie Sanders:

Today’s Supreme Court decision was a monumental moment in American history, as it guaranteed the right for gays and lesbians to get married and established full marriage equality.

Many politicians offered their words of support, including President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Yet it is important to remember that Obama and Clinton both opposed marriage equality as late as early 2012. It is a testament to the work of thousands of activists over decades that the political class was pulled towards supporting equality.

There is however one prominent politician who did not wait so long to call for full gay equality: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

In proof of which Zaid Jilani has a photograph of a one page article that is entitled "A Letter from Bernard Sanders" that was originally published in the early or middle 1970s, and which contains the following passage:

3. Probably the most alarming
aspect of the Nixon administration
has been the gradual erosion of
freedoms and the sense of what free-
dom really means. The Liberty Union
believe that there are entirely too
many laws that regulate human be-
havior. Let us abolish all laws
which attempt to impose a partic-
ular brand of morality or "right"
on people. Let's abolish all laws
dealing with abortion, drugs, sex-
ual behavior (adultery, homosexu-
ality, etc.).

I copied this precisely, because this allows me to make a few points, also because yesterday's Nederlog was downloaded a great number of times, I suppose because its first item was about the ruling of the Supreme Court of the U.S., that from now on same-sex marriages are allowed all over the United States.

First, there is considerably more on the page I quoted from, which you can get by clicking on the last dotted link. And indeed Zaid Jilani is mostly right when he says:

Notice that not only did Sanders call for gay equality and an end to the drug war, he also talked about the need to tax corporations, end unjust overseas wars, heal the environment, and empower working people. If nothing else, Sanders has been extremely consistent.

Second, while I quite agree that Sanders has been "extremely consistent" for over forty years I don't know whether it is quite right to say that Sanders-of-the- 1970s pleaded for "gay equality". I don't know (though he may have done so) and indeed while my own stance on homosexuality was remarkably liberal from
the beginning (I accepted that they were born with another sexual orientation
than I was born with, and saw no problems, and no reasons for discrimination [2]), my own stance on marriage was different: I thought marriage was a limitation, and one should not marry unless one wanted children (and one should, if one did).

Indeed, while I lived with women between 1971 and 1991, I also never had to
fill in a form that I was living with "a partner" with whom I was "not married" (but whose income was seen as supplementing mine): we both could leave the
relation any time, without any legal difficulties, and indeed we did, for half the
times she left, and half the times I left, and there never were legal problems
of any kind (and also no major other problems). [3]

Third, I think I was right, but meanwhile the bureaucracies and the states have
much interfered with living with a partner to whom one is not married; living as I did with my girlfriends in the seventies and eighties has become quite impossible (in Holland) for one now is treated mostly as equals to being married (including sizable cuts in incomes of either party and the rights to inherit from a partner one lives with "officially" without being married, etc. etc. etc.)

Fourth, this also explains the fondness of marriage by homosexuals (etc.): They do get discriminated if they live together without being married (at least in the U.S.) I agree they are, and I can understand their desire for "equal rights", but I
also think being "normalized" puts a premium on marriages and bureaucratically
approved relations that takes away some freedoms I enjoyed in the seventies and eighties, for (1) I really don't think adults who want to live together should have to marry, if they don't want any children, while (2) marriage has become the popular option because not being married has been discriminated by the states' bureaucracies.

5. Socialism Means Abolishing the Distinction Between Bosses and Employees

The last item today is an article by Richard D. Wolff (<- Wikipedia) on Truth-out:
This starts as follows (and is by a pensioned marxist economist):
Regulated private capitalism. State capitalism. Socialism. These three systems are entirely different from each other. We need to understand the differences between them to move beyond today's dysfunctional economies. With confidence waning in whether modern private capitalism can truly be fixed, the debate shifts to a choice between two systemic alternatives that we must learn to keep straight: state capitalism and socialism.
Hm. First, there also are various kinds of anarchism; second, I don't think there really are "three systems", mostly because attitudes towards each system, also by those who firmly adopt one, may differ a lot; and third, I also think that regulated private capitalism still is an option, though I agree private capitalism has been deregulated a lot during the last 35 years or so.

There is this on the meaning of "socialism" (incidentally, a term that was invented in the 1820ies):
So long as employers, private or state, hire laborers to produce commodities and generate profits that the employers exclusively receive, the economy has a capitalist structure. So long as it is exclusively the employers (whether private, state or hybrid; whether more or less regulated) who decide how to use those profits, it is a capitalist structure.

An enterprise only qualifies as "socialist" once the distinction between employers and employees within it has been abolished. When workers collectively and democratically produce, receive and distribute the profits their labor generates, the enterprise becomes socialist.
This is more or less classical, though it should be observed that "exclusively",
"collectively" and "democratically" are mostly terms of art here, and matters
of taxation, maximum and minimum incomes, and power are all avoided here.

Then there is this on what my parents called "the really existing socialism" (but which I, once I had seen it in 1964, totally rejected was socialism):

Shortly after the 1917 Soviet revolution, Lenin described the Bolsheviks' achievement as having constructed "a state capitalism" that he applauded as a necessary step toward a transition to socialism. By the early 1930s, the subsequent leader, Stalin, made a pointedly different declaration: Socialism had been achieved in the USSR. Yet precisely what Lenin had named state capitalism remained the Soviet industrial reality; indeed, Stalin extended state capitalism into Soviet agriculture.
Yes, that seems correct (and indeed Marx had - considerably earlier - argued that one could not found a socialist state without there being a preceding capitalist state).

Next, there is this on what has happened in the U.S. and the West:
Securing social democratic reforms of the sort won in the 1930s (such as taxation of corporations and the rich to support mass social services and jobs) requires much more than mere state regulation of private capitalism. The forces behind private capitalism mobilized to retake full control of the state in ways designed to preclude any repeat of New Deal or social democratic responses to crises. Socialist parties and movements failed to preserve the New Deal and social democracy, and failed to prevent or destroy austerity policies after 2008.
Hm. First, regulated private capitalism worked more or less well for the majority from 1946 till 1979, and second, an important part of the reason why "social democratic" parties failed is that they were deeply corrupted and silently massively changed by turning from social democracy to the - sick, degenerate,
bullshit - "Third Way", which was started by Bill Clinton, and was enthusiastically
picked up by Blair and other former "social democrats", like Kok in Holland.

Then there is this on a possibly socialist future. This comes in two moves. First, there is this:
If socialism is to have a future, it will likely have to cut its residual ties to both state-regulated private capitalism and state capitalism. It will have to come full circle in the 21st century to rediscover and update its 19th century differentiation from capitalism as a fundamentally different mode of organizing the production and distribution of goods and services.
Yes, I agree to this - and I insist this will be quite difficult. Second, there is this:
Doing so culminates in new definitions of socialism for the 21st century focused increasingly on democratizing the workplace - at the micro-level. That is the key change that was missing from previous socialisms
No, considerably more is necessary: Any socialism that might be attractive to me
needs also (1) to incorporate considerable parts of liberalism (that different people may have quite different moral, political or religious ideals, but all deserve protection by the laws, and all deserve the right to think and speak as they please); (2) to think a lot more about power, and how its many abuses may be tamed, which again must be mostly by liberal institutions, that is, different groups with different outlooks that do have some power and some influence, and use these in part to balance competing institutions with other outlooks; and (3) to institute major bars on the possibilitity that anyone or any group may grasp (almost) all
power and start some form of totalitarianism (to which especially political and religious leaders of any kind have a strong inclination because it simplifies so much for those in power).

But all in all this was a decent article, that I recommend.


[1] Indeed mostly because I dislike religion, since that just is not the right way to get rational thoughts and plans about what one has to do and not do. (Indeed, even if you are religious, you will probably agree with me about all or
most religions that differ from your own.)

[2] I suppose that the main reasons for this liberal attitude was in fact that I was raised by two sincere communists, wholly without any religion, and with very little respect for most capitalist institutions.

[3] I've lived with five women, one after the other, and did so during much of these twenty years, and indeed do not regret 4 out of 5 of these relations.

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