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A dictatorship of capital in the home of democracy

The global “psychological operation”, aka psyops, that helped to secure last night’s vote of confidence in the Greek parliament for the hastily reorganised Pasok cabinet is a clear expression in its historical birthplace of the negation of democracy.

Massive demonstrations in Syntagma Square in front of Parliament, accompanied by general and other strikes have delivered that message. Yet all of the notions of the will of the people, all citizens having a say, equal participation, self-determination have melted into the air.

On the eve of the confidence vote “inspectors” from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) arrived in Athens to reinforce the hurricane of warnings of the terrible consequences for Greece should it fail to adopt the prescribed measures.

These are designed to ensure that the monstrously, impossibly, unsustainably indebted country meet its obligations to other governments, banks and financial institutions.

These two unelected agencies represent the interests of the participants in the global financial system – the banks, hedge funds, bond dealers, speculators and gamblers in derivatives that stand to lose unimaginable sums of unearned, mostly imagined title to wealth.

And the pressure is certain to mount in the days running up to July 3, when the “socialist” government must vote – if the “international community” has its way – to make a new, even more severe assault on its own people who clearly can’t and won’t take any more.

Let’s not suggest for one moment that there’s a global conspiracy, that the psyops operators are acting according to an agreed plan, (although who knows what was discussed earlier this month at the annual Bilderberg meeting).

No conscious conspiracy is needed to excite the credit ratings agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor, who’ve simply continued to do their job – putting a set of letters (CCC, the lowest) to the likelihood that Greece will be able to pay the interest on its debts – simultaneously ensuring that soaring interest rates put it into the realm of the impossible.

Nobody needs to tell the banks and investors who’ve lent to Greece that the only way to defer the looming global breakdown is to close down any drain on profitability, to eliminate public sector spending, to transfer whatever is left to the for-profit corporations.

But why is Greece’s debt so important that it has become the focus of world attention? Compared to the amount the US owes – its national debt is approaching $14 trillion – it hardly seems worth bothering about.

There are plenty of people talking of a new Lehman moment, a reference to its collapse in 2008 which triggered the present financial crisis. They are only too aware of the interconnected web of debt dependency that ties together countries, corporations and populations.

German, French and British-based banks have massive holdings of Greek debt that would be worthless if a default takes place. And banks have so far only written off around half the vast overhang of fantasy finance created in the globalisation period from the 1980s onwards.

Where does Greece fit into all of this? It is the home for the world’s largest fleet of merchant ships. Close to 4,000 vessels, approximately one fifth of the world’s total, carry oil and many other commodities around the world in tankers and containers making a huge contribution to world trade.

With trade certain to collapse as it did in 2008 – when it plummeted by 90% – and tourism, Greece’s second largest source of income certain to fall as living standards in the rest of Europe decline, Greece hasn’t a hope of sustaining its repayments.

In 508BC, following a popular uprising, the government of Athens was reorganised around an assembly of all of the citizens. It was an early model of democracy. In the ferment of political discussion on the squares of cities, towns and villages of Greece, Cairo, and Madrid a new richer concept of democracy is emerging.

Its needs to embrace the ending of the dictatorship of capital over people’s lives and the principles of self-determination expressed, for the first time, through demos and kratos – people and power.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor
22 June 2011

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