Sunday, May 05, 2013

If the center-left disappears in the EU ...

It could be that if the center-left parties in Europe and the US become enough like the conservative parties, that people will stop voting for the conservative party because they are so happy that now the once-center-left parties can't be easily distinguished between the center-right parties. Unless, say the conservative policies advocated and implemented by the once-center-left parties works out badly, and the voters decide they prefer the center-right.

In this 05/03/2013 cartoon from Yannis Ioannou, Angela "Frau Fritz" Merkel (Deus Merkel) and her archangel Wolf (Finance Minister Schäuble) lord it over the mere mortals of the eurozone

The European social-democratic parties seem determined to give that option an extensive test.

Here's Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the President of the Spanish delegation of the social-democratic party (PSOE) wringing his hands over the fact that some parties are actually protesting the destructive effects of the austerity policies that are devastating a number of EU countries, Spain very much among them. From Beppe Grillo resucita a Berlusconi Huffington Post España 03.05.2013:

A un año de distancia de las próximas elecciones europeas, fines de mayo de 2014, se intensifican las señales de alarma que las anuncian minadas por el espectro del antieuropeísmo, cualquiera que sea su ropaje: nacionalismo, xenofobia, nueva extrema derecha y populismos eurófobos.

[A year away from the next European elections at the end of May 2014, the alarm signals are becoming more intense that announce undermining by the specter of anti-Europeanism {i..e, opposition to the EU}, whatever its guise may be: nationalism, xenophobia, new extreme right and europhobic populisms.]
Are you kidding me? The distrust of the EU in Spain is up north of 70%, and this is all the opposition party has?

French President François Hollande's Socialist Party celebrates it first year since the victorious election of May 6, 2012. And his popularity has plummeted. He got elected promising to defy the austerity policy of German Chancellor Angela "Frau Fritz" Merkel, and embraced it almost as quickly as he was sworn in. Then he got into a war in Mali.

Reuters titled a story of French protests against austerity, Far-left protesters reject austerity on Hollande anniversary by Muriel Boselli 05/05/2013. But in fact, Hollande's center-left Socialist Party got elected by a majority just one year ago on opposing austerity. Boselli reports, "With France on the edge of recession, unemployment at an all-time high and euro zone partners pressing him to cut the budget deficit, Hollande has suffered the sharpest fall in popularity of any president in more than half a century." So it's not just the "far left" that's unhappy. (See also: Stefan Simons, Proteste gegen Präsident Hollande: Enttäuschung, Frust, Wut Spiegel Online 05.05.2013)

From the headline of this article, I learned a new word for austerity policies in the middle of a depression, "austericide", El 'austericidio' ya afecta a todos: Europa se contraerá un 0,4% en 2013 Público 03.05.2013. The article is about the latest EU projections for growth this year. Negative growth, that is. They are now projecting a 0.1% GDP drop for the EU as a whole, 0.4% for the eurozone and 1.5% in Spain, which is already experiencing the highest unemployment in its history.

English News Today reports, 'EU economic growth not just around the corner' 05/05/2013:

Duetsche Welle English's report, Report predicts crisis in eurozone will deepen 05/03/2013

In face of the catastrophically bad results of continued austerity, EU leaders and their master, Frau Fritz, appear to be in a circle-the-wagons mood. EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso, a former conservative Prime Minister of Portugal, last week said in public that austerity along wasn't going to solve the problem, and was immediately blasted by German allies of Frau Fritz. In an interview with Die Welt, he enacted the ritual familiar to Americans who have seen Republican officials or Members of Congress criticize chief Party ideologue Russ Limbaugh and then abjectly repent in public a day or two later. (Florian Eder et al, "Merkel versteht am besten, was gerade in Europa passiert" 04.05.2013)

It's an open question in my mind still whether Frau Fritz sees herself more as Leonid Breshven directing the Warsaw Pact or as meaner version of Helmut Kohl absorbing East Germany after the fall of the Communist regime. But having grown up and made the first (non-political) part of her career in East Germany, she must have reoognized - and no doubt appreciated - the tone of the repentant heretic in Borroso's Welt interview. No one understands the problems of today's Europe in as insightful and unselfish a way as Frau Fritz, to hear Borroso tell it. And Frau Fritz, with her deep and perceptive insight into the scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism Ordoliberalism, has brilliantly defined the nature of the present world situation from the standpoint of the working class One Percent.

Borroso actually said, "Es ist nicht Frau Fritz' Merkels oder Deutschlands Schuld, was in Frankreich oder Portugal passiert. Jeder sollte vor seiner eigenen Türe kehren, da gibt es genug zu tun. Es ist völlig unfair, Maßnahmen als Zwang eines einzelnen Landes oder einer Institution darzustellen." ("It is not Frau Fritz' Merkel's or Germany's fault what happens in France or Portugal. Everyone should put their own house in order, that enough to do. It is completely unfair to represent {austerity} measures as pressure from one single country or a single institution.")

He made a similar statement to Bloomberg Businessweek's Diane Brady in European Commission President José Barroso on His Job's Challenges 04/18/2013. "We have a problem of leadership," he said. But he didn't mean that the problem was his own or Frau Fritz' leaderhsip:

We need leaders who can tell their people, "Our problems were not created because of what others are doing. It’s because of past mistakes in our own country." You have to have the courage to explain that to your own people. There is a tendency to Europeanize the problems and to nationalize the successes. When things are going well, it reflects my merit as a prime minister or minister. When things go badly, it's the fault of those guys in Brussels. I believe that’s holding us back from making faster changes.
Maybe one day, not so long away, someone can do a monument to the former European Union in the shape of a giant tombstone and right that on it.

Here's Valentí Puig singing the same song in Regeneración o antipolítica El País 04.05.2013

Meanwhile, there's this. Lucía Abellán y Alejandro Bolaños, La Comisión Europea empeora la previsión económica de Rajoy para 2013 El País 03.05.2013

And next door in Portugal, more austericide! Portugal se aprieta más el cinturón y despedirá a 30.000 funcionarios Público 03.05.2013. Euronews reports on the ugly news in Portuguese PM looks for unity over austerity cuts 05/04/2013:

He called for unity. Good luck with that!

Heckuva job, Frau Fritz! Heckuva job! Boaventura de Sousa Santos in El Diktat alemán Público 03.05.2013 provides a more reality-based view. He relates how German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble recently told US Treasure Secretary Jacob Lew that there was no contradiction between austerity policies and growth, and that we should just forget about such a false debate. This is even more delusional than EC President Barroso said in the Businessweek interview quoted above, "The existential crisis regarding the euro is behind us." We seem to be look at some big-time denial of basic economic realities here.

Sousa Santos describes the current Diktat from Frau Fritz as national-authoritarian on Germany's part, an accurate description. And he says that finding politically viable alternatives to it is "el mayor desafío que hoy han de afrontar las sociedades europeas" ("the greatest challenge that European societies have to confront today.") Now, he's really reaching when he traces Frau Fritz' tendencies toward authoritarian rule in the eurozone to the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814). Der alte Fritz himself would be a more plausible predecessor if we're going back that far.

But he's right in saying that "es preocupante comprobar que el poder económico alemán se ha convertido en una fuente de ortodoxia europea que beneficia unilateralmente a Alemania, en contra de lo que quieren hacer creer" ("it's disturbing to realize that the German economic power has been converted into a source of European orthodoxy that benefits Germany unilaterally, in contrast to what it would have us believe.")

As Wolfgang Münchau notes, Frau Fritz' dogmatic adherence to austerity economics even seems to hold in the face of the current weakening economic condition of Germany itself. (Die letzte Waffe der EZB Spiegel Online 01.05.2013) The ECB just lowered interest rates in face of the weakening conditions in the EU and the eurozone, setting off silly but predictable howls of impending inflationary dangerous from the defenders of austericide policies. But with interest rates already up against the zero lower bound, the ECB's ability to stimuluate much if any economic activity by lower interest rates is doubtful in the extreme. For the same reason, the inflation fears are spurious. But the only other way to stimulate the eurozone economies is for Germany in particular to pursue expansionary fiscal policy in the form of higher government spending. Instead, Frau Fritz, supported by the main opposition parties the SPD and the Greens, is sticking to austericide.

Frau Fritz is obviously happy representing the interest of the European One Percent at the expense of everyone else. If the supposedly center-left parties in the EU want to represent any wider public than the One Percent, they'd better get it together soon and start doing so aggressively. Because even uglier advocates of One Percent rule are working hard on figuring out how to take advantage the misery that the German austerity Diktat is causing. So are more unapologetically left groups, some of whom probably will do a much better job of representing the majority interest than most of the EU social-democratic parties have done so far in this depression. The social-democratic parties could find themselves in the state of their sister party PASOK in Greece, which has collaborated its way to near-nonexistence already.

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