Three months ago, the Hellenic Parliament in Greece decided to establish the Truth Committee on the Public Debt to examine the origin of the accumulation of that negative value, of capital’s anti-matter called debt, that has, pretty much, sucked Greece into a black hole.
The “left” welcomed the establishment of such a committee, ignoring the poor record such truth committees have in actually changing anything, which probably explains why the left was so pleased.
Well, the committee has released its preliminary report, which is available in English here. The committee concludes:
1. The “economic adjustment” program (don’t you love that? Reminds me of the cop who was going to give me an attitude adjustment once he got his hands on me) “was and remains a politically oriented program.”
All that economic stuff, about macroeconomic variables, GDP growth, debt projections, competitiveness? That, says the committee, is all ????????, you should pardon the expression after you look it up.
2. The committee concludes that not only is Greece incapable of paying back the debt; it should not pay back the debt because the debt imposed by the Troika is “a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece….Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and odious.”
The legality of the debt makes little difference. This is not a struggle to be settled in and by a court. The debt is capital; is the expression of capital; is designed to serve capital. This is a struggle of labor with the condition of labor called capital.
The debt can’t be repaid, as the bourgeoisie well know, as the committee has concluded. But whether or not it is physically possible to pay the debt is immaterial, irrelevant to the debt collectors. Debt does not always have to be repaid. Debt must always be enforced.
3. According to the report, “the unsustainability of the Greek public debt was evident from the outset to international creditors, the Greek authorities, and the corporate media. Yet the Greek authorities, together with some other governments in the EU, conspired against the restructuring of the public debt in 2010 in order to protect financial institutions.”
No shit, Sherlock. The committee members should have been detectives. Next thing you know, the committee will tell us that investment banks and hedge funds are corrupt, greedy, incompetent, and self-serving. Just like government.
That the Greek public debt was unsustainable was well known and known well before 2010. If there’s a conspiracy, it must qualify as the worst kept secret; the most open, publicized conspiracy since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Everybody knew the debt was unsustainable. So what? Nothing capitalism does does it do for sustainability. Everything it does it does for profit.
So… the committee findings aren’t exactly revelations; and these non-revelations are not about to produce any epiphanies. Do the findings present a “problem” for the Troika? Are the institutions of capital about to reverse course, seek forgiveness, repent of their evil, usurious ways? Forgive Greece its debts? Sure, and people in hell are going to get ice water breaks every ten minutes.
Do the committee findings present a “problem” for the Syriza government? Now that’s an interesting question, because a) the findings are the findings of a parliamentary committee and might conceivably be used by some recalcitrant sorts in that body to introduce actions in opposition to payment of the debt b) such actions can become a vote of confidence on the Syriza policies and c) the one thing the report does accomplish, intentionally or not, is that the debt, the memorandums, the Troika, the “adjustment” policies cannot be separated from the larger issues of participation in the European Union, adherence to the single currency; nor separated from the largest issue of all, the maintenance of Greek capitalism and Greek ruling class.
Syriza staked its future on promoting, prophesizing, the separation of the debt issue from the larger issues. It has in its “new vision” merely consumed and regurgitated the dog’s vomit of all those separations flogged by faux-Marxists throughout the history of the last 100 years. We’ve had the opposition of “national liberation” to social revolution; we’ve had the separation of “productive capital” from “parasitic capital;” of “national bourgeoisie” from “imperialist, international bourgeoisie.” We’ve had the distinction of “entrepreneur” from “monopolist;” “industrial capital” from “finance capital,” “fictitious” from “real” capital.
We’ve had the separation of “speculators” from “producers.” And most recently we’ve had the separation of “oligarchs” and “tax evaders” from….I guess non-oligarchs and tax payers… as the core of the criminal conspiracy against “growth and development.”
Back in the 1990s during the Asian economic implosion, evil currency “speculators” were to blame. It was these speculators that brought an entire region to its knees by….doing what the bourgeoisie love to do, trade. Well, look if trade cannot, in and of itself, create value, but can only express the value expropriated the exchange that determines production, then trade in of itself, including speculation cannot create the devaluation of that underlying process. Speculators then, oligarchs now. Same-same. Manifestations, not determinants.
The truth is that the debt represents the compressed whole of capitalism. More specifically, Greece’s public debt cannot be separated from its membership in the EU, from its adherence to the monetary union, from its condition of capitalism within the larger network of capitalism, all the PhDs, political economists, Marxist economists, in the world to the contrary not withstanding. That includes you, Varoufakis.
The “truth committee” is a parliamentary committee, so not very much is to be expected in terms of action. But there is an opportunity for action outside the parliament, in the cities which have been subjected to two demands from the Syriza government for the transfer of local financial reserves to the national accounts. For the most part, these demands have been ignored by the local governments, many of which are led by conservative mayors and administrators.
The Interior Minister of the Syriza government has announced that he intends to take punitive measures against those municipal governments and institutions refusing to forward financial reserves in accordance with the national government’s demand. Now the “left” the truly so-called “left” which has raised and praised Syriza’s banner; which has excused, rationalized Syriza’s commitment to servicing the debt, and at the same time applauds the parliamentary Truth committee’s designation of the debt as “illegal, illegitimate, and odious” has some explaining to do, like: how can it support the national government’s demand on local and municipal agencies when a) since the first memorandum in 2010, national government funding to municipalities has been reduced by 60 percent b) the funds forwarded to Syriza will be used to service an illegal, illegitimate, and odious debt?
While the so-called left tries to explain away its commitment and loyalty to the very agent of the force it thinks it opposes, the opportunity opens for workers’ organizations to create popular assemblies with no confidence in either or both Syriza and the existing local governments. These assemblies can organize to protect the remaining municipal services by taking over the local government agencies, and securing the financial reserves through seizure of the financial institutions.
But here’s something else: Greece is just the tip of the iceberg that’s about to tip over and show the other 83% that was hidden underwater. QE in the EU will not restore “growth.” The “emerging market” economies led by Brazil will continue to sink. US manufacturing will lead the US economy into another reversal, one more contraction. We’re eight years into this, and we’ve hardly scratched the surface of that odious thing, I mean relation, called capitalism. We ain’t seen nothing yet.
June 19, 2015