Monday, May 30, 2016

The Class Struggle in France 2016--

1. Fulfilling his destiny, and obligations, as standard-bearer of the Parti Socialiste of France; fully cognizant of his party's importance to the EU-wide Party of European Socialists, and the worldwide Socialist International, and the galaxy-wide Progressive Alliance, Francoise Hollande, soon to be former President of France, has unleashed yet another round of "labor restructuring,"  "de-regulation,"  and "productive competitiveness" -- each and all code words for reducing living standards-- on students, youth, and workers in France. Who knows better the importance of reducing living standards to the future of capitalism than the big S Socialists?  One or two capitalists perhaps, but since the capitalists as a class live off the labor of others, command the labor of others, nothing could be more fitting than to have others execute those commands, and more others in the vanguard of that execution.

The "labor reforms" are intent upon decentralization-- decentralization of work rules, localization of standards for total work hours, overtime payments, hiring and firing.  Decentralization is the mantra of state power in the service of decrepit capitalism because decentralization means increasing the fractionalization of the working class.  A fractionalized working class is the atomized worker, without collective power, without the ability to present class defense. 

Splitting the workers into unions, by unions, through confederations of unions is no longer good enough, which of course, really means that the bourgeoisie, that capital,  cannot go on as before.

Labor restructuring is the disorganization of the working class.

Turning the page, and flipping the script of the heroic guerrilla, Che Guevera, Hollande, speaking for the bourgeoisie of France, defeated once upon a time in Indochina, gets his, and their, revenge.   "Create 2, 3, many Vietnams!"  Indeed, create 2,3, many SEZs.

Fractions, that's the mantra of the bourgeoisie.  Profit is but a ratio of the capital advanced, a fraction, a rate.  For capital to be more than the sum of its parts, labor cannot exist as a whole.

2. Terrified that the strikes and shutdowns of oil refineries, rail service, commercial aviation, nuclear power plants,  might interfere with the eagerly anticipated QE fueled "recovery," Manuel Valls, actually Manuel Carlos Valls Galfetti, Prime Minister of France, sought refuge in that first, and last, abattoir of capitalism,  the Fatherland.   "Good grief," said Manuel Carlos, "are people patriots or not in this crisis?"  Good question, although the fact that Manuel Carlos, born in Barcelona of a Spanish father and a Swiss mother, was speaking German might have undermined his appeal to the greater glory of Frankreich (and his own claims to patriotism).  But not to worry, the QE recovery itself is conspicuous only by it absence, being,  of course, without a country.

Not to be outprimed by PM Carlos Valls Galfetti, Emmanuel Macron, Minister of the Economy, trained by Jesuits and then at the Lycee Henri IV, former inspector of finances, former investment banker for Rothschild & Cie, and the man so instrumental in making sure that the package of labor "reforms" by-passed the French parliament and was imposed by presidential decree, bemoaned the conservatism, the inertia, the intransigence of the French students, workers and youth.  "What has happened elsewhere?" he asked.  "Other countries have all evolved, all done things."

Only a financier, an investment banker, could classify what has taken place in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece-- what will be occurring in Austria, Finland, the Netherlands as "evolution" rather than what those "things" most closely resemble--primitive accumulation.  

As if on cue, Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy and purveyor of his own package of labor reforms, suggested that his brothers and sisters in France should be willing to entertain this "experiment."  Meanwhile, Renzi's own brothers and sisters in Italy might have a few suggestions for Mr. Renzi, given that Italy's GDP per capita is currently at the 1998 mark.

3. Meanwhile, anyone and everyone can tell you how about the "un-formed"  "liberal" impulses and organizations behind the Nuit Debout  manifestations in Paris. It's "Occupy" with a bigger vocabulary.   Indeed it is,

And the same anyone and everyone can tell you about the role of the Stalinist led, manipulated, and controlled union of two million workers, the CGT.  Indeed.  When the CGT feels compelled to take action; to label police attacks as war and to promise to respond in kind, it's trying to pick the low-hanging fruit; to put the movement that overwhelms the boundaries between union and non-union, workers and students, employed and unemployed, documented and documented, back into its own pocket.

International Communist Current urging caution, puts it this way:
We have to be clear: there was nothing spontaneous about Nuit Debout. It’s something which has been prepared and organised over a long period by the radical defenders of capitalism. Behind this “spontaneous” and “apolitical” movement lurk the professionals, the groups of the left and extreme left who use “apoliticism” as a means of control.
Well, OK, and... well, so what?  Was there another way for the movement to develop other than being planned well in advance by new left coalitions, or expanding into blockades of oil and power stations by the CGT?  If there already was an independent autonomous class-for-itself, movement... correct, Nuit Debout  would not have developed, aggrandized, this much support.  But if there were already a class-conscious movement, we wouldn't be discussing this would we? We'd be discussing the success of the French revolution as the opening round of world revolution.

This is how struggles develop, carrying the baggage of all the institutionalized failures that have preceded it. That's the history in the historical materialism.

The origins of the struggle are not the slightest reason in the world to hesitate or "be cautious." It's all the more reason to develop the demands, the organizations, the institutions, that break the domination of the archaic clusters of power-- including the CGT bureaucracy, the new left coalitions-- and clearly this movement contains exactly that potential-- particularly with the almost universal acceptance of the demand to "open the borders"-- to erase the distinction between documented and undocumented workers. The key is how quickly, clearly, and class consciously the French workers and students can link up with those in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Ireland, Poland, Germany with a program that opposes the EU's vision of "capitalism without borders" with a program of revolution; a program not limited to "utilizing" banks or corporations for the "public good," but one of abolishing banks and corporations; a program for the emancipation of labor everywhere from pettiness of production for value.

To its credit, and to the honor of class struggle everywhere, the French youth,  students,  and workers have raised, discussed and reiterated the demand to open the borders to all.  While the  Europe Union everywhere recoils in horror from those driven from their areas of origin by the economic and military conflicts which the European Union itself has aided, abetted, utilized to atomize living conditions, and labor power, in southwest Asia, Africa, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, the French workers, youth, students have demanded open borders, elimination of any fractionalization of workers into "documented" and "undocumented."  Eliminating that boundary is the key to breaking the confinement of the struggle to the theater of the CGT and the Nuit Debout.   That boundary will be eliminated not in Paris, but of Paris, when the students and workers link up with those in the banlieue, and to those risking death at sea to escape from the destruction imposed by capitalism.

Good source for information on the struggle in France:

S. Artesian
May 30, 2016

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Goes Around, Comes Around

1. It's that time of the capitalist cycle again; that time when the previous agreements of Greece with its creditors, previously categorized as (pick one or more) harsh, necessary, draconian, necessary, savage, necessary, painful, necessary, when all that was previously shoved down throats and up asses, when all the signatures on the big fat T.O.U. (They Owe Us) known as an MOU... all that junk has run past its "sell by" date, and needs to be replaced with new and more harsh, necessary, draconian, necessary, savage, necessary, painful, necessary junk.

It's that time when Greece faces another structural review, another progress assessment, another audit, another check-up from the Troika-- IMF, ECB, European Commission-- to see if anyone can find anything resembling a pulse, anything that might indicate there's another bag of blood to be drained from a body stone cold; from flesh freeze dried, petrified and dessicated.

Enough of a pulse, that is, to warrant releasing another tranche, another 3 or 4 billion euros to the same or different Greek government so that the same or different government might immediately return the money in what is a Zombie Apocalypse version of charades:
"You pretend there have been some significant steps taken to 'restructuring the economy,' and we pretend to loan you money."
"You pretend to lend me money, and I pretend to pay you  back." 
Back to back and belly to belly, the same or different Greek government keeps the beat with a clave made of human bone.

2. Like last time, and like the next time, there are those who have doubts about Greece's condition.  Is it living?  Dead?  If it's dead, is this a corpse?

GDP down 26% over 7 years, with another decline registered in 2015?  Yes, but "signs of growth are returning" report the underwriters in their junk prospectus.

Non-performing loans at 40% of total loans, with default rates for consumer loans at 50 per cent? "Bank recapitalization has been successfully completed."

Exports and investment continue to decline, in lock-step with decline in the European Union? "Exports and investment are the keys to recovery."

Unemployment rate at 25 percent, like last time and like next time?  "Labor market reforms are urgently needed"... so that it's easier for employers to lay-off workers.

"Structural reforms essential..." this time like last time like next time to reduce the portion of GDP absorbed by the government?  Sure, but as GDP declines precipitously because of the government programs to reach compliance with the MOUs, the portion of GDP attributable to the government increases, expands.

Thirty-six percent of those age 16 and younger living in poverty, or at imminent risk of falling into poverty?  Not the Troika's worry, this time, like it wasn't the Troika's worry last time, like it won't be the Troika's worry next time.

3. Unlike last time, that great mass of professional, professorial, and professing leftists have little enough to say this time about the great opportunity the Syriza government represents.  No unrepentant Marxists, or Lenin's tomb raiders are out there cheerleading:  "Give me a T;  Give me an S..."

Syriza has had its 7 months of fame..  Alex who?  What was that other guy's name--the guy with the motorcycle?  The game theorist?  Begins with a V...?

No telegrams of support and congratulations flooding into Athens from the Panitchs and Gindins of the world.

Here's the only telegram that did arrive-- "In this life, you're on your own..." and that one was a mis-delivery, intended for Prince's funeral.  Oh well, it fits.

Short-attention-span socialists of the world unite!  You have nothing to lose, literally.  Others do, but that's not your problem, this time, or next time...Let's go crazy!  Let's get nuts!

4. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today... let's see we need something old-- that's easy, the Troika; we need something blue-- how about the Aegean?  That's blue and we can use it in our tourism campaigns... and we need something borrowed... don't even ask, everything is borrowed; and we need something new...  Hmmmmm.... whatever could that be?

Here's something new:  this time the IMF is indicating it might not participate in this MOU; it may refuse to commit to funding the agreement.  The IMF is arguing that the Troika must commit to debt relief for Greece that will reduce the size of the debt by 2018, before the due dates on the bonds funding the bailouts.

Wolfgang Schäuble (he's a Tweeter! follow him at clutched his heart, but fortunately, he came up empty.  Burning rubber, Wolf wheeled around, fixed the managing-director of IMF, Ms Christine Lagarde, in his sights and said, "Sie sind nicht mehr in Frankreich, Madame Lagarde."  

Herr Schäuble is of the old school, the school that knows that the really important thing is the pretense at paying the debt.  The sanctity of the debt may itself be a pretense, but it maintains its power only through demanding real sacrifice.  Capital may be fictitious or not, but money is the real thing and has to be repaid, even if the repayment is an illusion.  The motion is what's important; the motion of repayment, like a tic, like a compulsion,  is its own reason, its own meaning.

Madame Lagarde,  well schooled in France at Nanterre La Défense, seasoned as Minister of Industry and Commerce, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Finance in the governments of Chirac and Sarkozy, and under indictment in France for her responsibility or irresponsibility in the handing over of €404 million in government money to Bernard Tapie, thinks that Greece's debt is unsustainable.

Unlike Syriza and its once upon a time make believe it's too difficult to leave the EU supporters.- Lagarde believes the debt has to be reduced before the bonds come due because of that unsustainability. Lagarde recognizes that waiting to adjust the debt load by means of extending maturities, or allowing a partial moratorium, at the time the instruments come due, risks an unstructured, catastrophic default of Greece on the entirety of the debt before their maturity.  It is not a risk associated with sufficient reward to warrant the play.

Unlike the Syriza government and its supporters Lagarde recognizes that if the debt is not sustainable then default is inevitable.  She also knows that an "unsupervised" default represents a far greater threat to the domination of capital than it does to the welfare of the Greek people, who really would be better off if the entire system simply collapsed.

Delay in devaluing this debt that cannot be sustained, that is "protected" specifically by not being trade-able, exchangeable, of value in secondary markets, means the when the instruments "mature" their zero value will be realized, and all at once.  The IMF, the ECB, and the German government are then in the position of being the "bad bank," holding the non-performing assets, and will be placed in circumstances no different than those that currently plague the commercial banks of the EU.

Maintaining the debt at unsustainable levels, requiring unachievable primary budget surpluses of the government, also jeopardizes the big prize in this circle of jerks-- and that is the so-called labor reform measures.  The Greek government will be debilitated to the point where it cannot effectively function to discipline the working class and implement the abolition of labor protections, the roll back of pension guarantees.  That threat to that "project" of the bourgeoisie goes well beyond the borders of Greece.  Failure to achieve "labor reforms" in Greece due to insistence of primary budget surpluses and accumulating reserves to overpay an overvalued debt threatens the future of capitalism everywhere in Europe.

The managing-director is bourgeois.  She's not stupid.

The simple, humane, reasonable solution is immediate repudiation of the debt, the MOUs, and the Syriza government.

May 14, 2016