Global Political Risk: Surveying the GIPSI

By lambert strether of Corrente.

Here’s another in my series of quote dumps on protests by country; this time, I thought I’d focus exclusively on the GIPSI PIIGS, so-called [See here; here and discussion here]; the southern tier of Europe that is in such distress. Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain. Since Europe is about to close down for the month of August — imagine, a month’s vacation! — I thought this would be a good time to take stock. What I’m seeing from my vantage point: Many strikes, some marches and demonstrations, nothing at all like the indignados, and above all no sense of a “European idea” from the ground up. And yet painful austerity is imposed on all from the top down, and the powers that be use the same playbook everywhere. It’s very curious. The grinding down seems relentless and continual, and yet every so often there is a spark, as in the successful, and to an extent European, resistance to the closing of the Greek broadcaster ERT. I’d love to be wrong on this, but I think the lack of coherence is the story right now. Things correlate in a crisis, and the grinding down is not a crisis.

Much of this material comes from official media, and I’m not making any representations as to accuracy of the report; more sources, please! I included some right wing items — they are part of political risk too, after all — but I left out Irish items about abortion protests and Protestant events in the North.

* * *


Portuguese stage general strike against relentless austerity Reuters 2013-06-27

Portuguese trade unions staged a one-day general strike on Thursday against relentless austerity which has deepened the worst economic slump since the 1970s, but support outside the public transport sector was patchy and the government seemed unlikely to back down. … Previous strikes and protests about the tough terms of Portugal’s 78 billion euro ($100 billion) bailout by the European Union and IMF in 2011 have been largely non-violent, unlike unrest in Greece or more recently Brazil and Turkey. … Thursday’s action also got off to a peaceful start. Nevertheless, public transport came to a virtual standstill as Portuguese, some too hard up to join the strike, expressed their anger and despair about policies which have helped to push unemployment to record levels. … “It’s simple – if I don’t work, I don’t eat. The government disgusts me, the austerity is stifling us, but protesting won’t feed my family,” said Augusto Nery, a 53-year-old electrician.

Lambert here: TINA.

Nurses’ strike hits Portugal hospitals Channel News Asia 2013-07-10

LISBON: Nurses launched a two-day strike in Portugal on Tuesday to protest salary cuts and longer hours imposed as part of the bailed-out nation’s austerity squeeze. … “Medical consultations and surgical operations will have to be cancelled because of the lack of nurses,” said Portuguese nurses’ union chief Jose Carlos Martins. … The union said 87 percent of nurses followed the strike call in the morning in protest at the extension of their work week from 35 hours to 40 hours and salary cuts. It said some nurses earned just 3.40 euros ($4.40) an hour.

Ana Maria Pinto: The Portuguese Opera Singer Who Could (Protest) Classicalite 2013-07-19

Portuguese soprano Ana Maria Pinto has become the face–or perhaps the voice–of popular protest in her native country. Though her published rep list includes such standard soprano fare as Musetta in La bohème or Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, these days she’s as likely to be singing outside in the streets as in Portugal’s opera houses. … It all started, says NPR, on October 5, when Pinto led crowds in song to drown out an address by the nation’s president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, on Republic Day. Security guards were reportedly confused by the fact that the soprano was singing opera. “At the end they asked me, ‘Is this part of the event?’ And I said, ‘No, this is my protest!'” Pinto said. … So, Pinto became an integral part of the protests against the country’s austerity budget. She put protestors’ preference for song over slingshots, or worse, as evidence of their strength as a society. And the soprano has now started the Coro de Intervenção do Porto (Intervention Choir of Porto) to sing in unified protest.


Life on the ledge: Meet Italy’s prolific protester The Local, 2013-06-04

In late May, Marcello Di Finizio climbed onto a ledge on the iconic dome of St Peter’s Basilica, where he hung a banner protesting against Italy’s ‘political horror show’ and called for help from Pope Francis. … [He says] his bold gesture partly reflects the desperation being felt in thousands of similar communities across Italy, where unemployment has reached a record high and the outlook is bleak.  “We need to better understand what’s happening [says Di Finizio] …for Italians, it is even more confusing because the information from the media is controlled. The EU talks about liberation, but the people are asking: liberation for who? It’s the finance guys who win. …. Italians are worried because they no longer understand what’s happening. In politics, there’s no longer a right or a left. Everything sits on top of this EU pyramid. Politics no longer exist in Italy.”

Eiffel Tower strike goes into a second day as Rome’s Colosseum workers plan walkout Daily Mail, 2013-06-26

Two walkouts in the last week by workers at the Colosseum in Rome have caused chaos with visitors – many of whom had purchased their tickets in advance – were turned away at the door. …. Staff said they had outstanding wages still to be paid from January…

Lambert here: Tourism has a fragile and overly optimized supply chain too, as with any other globalized industry.

Costa Concordia captain trial delayed by lawyers strike Reuters, 2013-07-09

The trial of the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which capsized off Italy’s coast last year killing 32 people, was delayed just as it started on Tuesday because of a lawyers’ strike.

Lambert here: A salutary reminder not to project our situation onto other countries. It’s very hard to imagine a lawyer’s strike in the United States, for example.

Italy police probe noose protest against nation’s first black Cabinet minister Japan Times, 2013-07-16

Italian police on Monday were investigating far-right militants suspected of hanging nooses to protest Italy’s first black Cabinet minister, Cecile Kyenge, two days after a senator compared her to an orangutan. … The nooses appeared on lampposts with posters signed by far-right group Forza Nuova in the city of Pescara, where the minister for integration was attending an immigration and citizenship conference.

Gas stations closed in Italy Global Travel Industry News 2013-07-16

Tourists and visitors driving to Italy should fill up their tank prior to crossing the border into Italy starting this weekend. … Gas stations along major freeways will be closed due to a nationwide strike.

Can flowers really hide Italy’s race problem? Channel 4 2013-07-16

Senior Northern League figure Roberto Calderoli (pictured bottom), vice-president of the senate, told a political rally at the weekend that Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge (pictured below) had “the features of an orangutan”. A senator from Beppe Grillo’s Five Star movement today also spoke out in defence of Calderoli’s comments. Serenella Fucksia said: “What did he say that was so negative? I really don’t understand. I believe that if someone had called Mr Calderoli a pig, no-one would have said they were racist.”

The leader M5s: “The sentences Calderoli have had great timing.”  Lettera 43, 2013-07-16. (Google translation. No search results on “Kyenge” for  Grillo’s blog.)

For Grillo ‘indignation towards Calderoni is right. His racist joke to a minister of Congolese origin is to be condemned. ” But this “joke racist drunken bar has the gift of timing.”

Italian doctors strike over cuts to health service Reuters, 2013-07-22

Thousands of doctors went on strike across Italy on Monday to protest against cuts to the country’s health service, raising pressure on Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s government as it seeks further ways to slash spending. … About a hundred medics observing the four-hour strike gathered outside the Economy Ministry in Rome, waving banners and demanding more state resources for healthcare.

Far-right group says it protested Italy’s first black cabinet minister UPI, 2013-07-26

[Nuova Forza (New Force), a nationalist group that opposes immigration and wants Italy to ban abortion and support traditional families] has claimed responsibility for blood-smeared mannequins protesting the first black member of the Italian cabinet. … The mannequins were discovered in the central square of Cervia, a small city near Ravenna in northern Italy, police said Friday. Cecile Kyenge was scheduled to visit Cervia a few hours later for Democratic Party meetings, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. … The mannequins, dressed in jackets and jeans, had chests smeared with blood and signs reading “Immigration kills.” Police also found flyers opposing immigration around the square.


Gardaí accused of concealing evidence on baton use Irish Times, 2013-07-29

The troubled relationship between the Garda and the independent agency that polices it has deteriorated further, with the Garda Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) accusing the force of concealing vital evidence about students being hit with batons by gardaí at a protest over college fee increases. … Gsoc also said Garda headquarters delayed to such an extent the provision of evidence that the investigation into the scenes witnessed at the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) protest in Dublin on November 3rd, 2010, was compromised.

Lambert here: Note these Irish protests were a year before the carré rouge protests in Montréal.

Dublin Bus drivers strike over cost cutting plan  Irish Times, 2013-08-04

No Dublin Bus services are operating today after drivers at the company started a strike in protest at cost-cutting measures.


Greece Hit by General Strike to Protest Austerity Times, 2013-07-17

Thousands of Greeks walked off the job Tuesday in a 24-hour general strike called by unions opposing a new round of austerity measures that the government has vowed to enact at the urging of the country’s foreign creditors. The sorest point is a much-delayed overhaul of the Civil Service involving thousands of layoffs and wage cuts,  … The nationwide walkout, called by the country’s two main labor unions, which represent some 2.5 million workers, shut tax offices and other government services, reduced hospitals to emergency staff and disrupted travel. Trains remained in depots and international flights were suspended between noon and 4 p.m. as air traffic controllers joined the action. Public transport workers were running a reduced service to allow Greeks to join protest rallies planned for Athens and other major cities. … The unions’ appeal drew some 16,000 demonstrators onto the streets of the capital, according to a police spokesman who said the rally was “entirely peaceful.” Strikes have become a frequent occurrence as Greece’s economic crisis continues into its fourth year. The turnout Tuesday was moderate by Greek standards, in part because many people, particularly students and civil servants, have left Athens for their villages for the summer break.

Greece approves plan to fire thousands of public sector workers Reuters 2013-07-19

Greece’s shaky coalition government scraped through a vote on Wednesday on a bill to sack public sector workers as thousands chanting anti-austerity slogans protested outside parliament. … The bill includes deeply divisive plans for a transfer and layoff scheme for 25,000 public workers — mainly teachers and municipal police — that had triggered a week of almost daily marches, rallies and strikes in protest. …. About 5,000 Greeks flooded the street outside parliament as the vote neared, with some chanting: “We will not succumb, the only option is to resist” and holding aloft black balloons — though turnout was much smaller than in protests last year. … The reforms were passed hours before German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble — Europe’s leading proponent of austerity blamed by many Greeks for their woes — arrives in Athens for his first visit to Greece since the debt crisis began in 2009.

Protesters attack Greek health minister during hospital visit AFP, 2013-07-19

Greece’s Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis was shoved and hit by protesters Friday during an official visit to a hospital, just as the government is preparing radical changes to the health sector. A former member of extreme right party Laos, he joined conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy last year. Some of the attackers reportedly shouted slogans targeting his extreme right political background.

Fed-up Greeks fight Sunday shopping plans Agence France Presse, 2013-07-21

A new attempt in Greece to open up shops on Sunday in order to fight recession and joblessness has run into opposition from an unlikely alliance of clerics, unionists and Athens shop-owners themselves. …. Along with their bailout, the creditors have also urged Athens to liberalise Greece’s traditionally closed economy. The push to liberalise Sunday opening hours comes as part of that effort …. Shop-owners say relacing the Sunday rules would actually penalise the dwindling number of small family-run businesses who cannot afford to hire extra help for the weekend, while any gain would be small owing to the recession-hit incomes across the country. …. “Eliminating the Sunday break will affect all sectors linked to trade and will soon be extended to the entire working class,” the [PAME] union said.

The heavy price of Greek gold The Ecologist, 2013-07-25

The large-scale clearance on this remote mountain-side [of Mt Kakavos] in north-eastern Greece is only the preliminary part of a gold mining project green-lighted by the country’s cash-strapped government; a development that will see open-pit mines and several huge tailing dams built within a concession that spans over 31,700 hectares of ancient forest and farmland. … Despite harbouring an underground treasure trove of precious metals estimated to be worth as much as €15.5bn (£13.5bn), the Greek government sold the Skouries concession in Halkidiki in 2003 for just €15.3m, in circumstances that remain unexplained.  …  On the roads that surround Skouries, banners hang across lamp posts demanding that “Eldorado go home”. The protesters are a coalition of local people and businesses, alongside academics, anti-austerity advocates and environmentalists. … Protests against the mining site in recent months have been met with tear gas, and running battles have ensued between riot police and protesters. Rania, a grandmother who did not want to give her second name, says she now suffers constant pain after being dragged from her car and stamped on by a police officer whilst attending one such protest.

Unpaid Dodoni Dairy Farmers Protest Greek Reporter 2013-07-27

Hundreds of breeders from Epirus, a Region northwestern of Greece, gathered July 26 outside the Dodoni dairy factory, demanding to be paid for the milk they had delivered and for which they said they had bot been compensated. … Reports said they broke the company’s main gate and tried to invade in the company’s building but were stopped by riot police amid clashes, stone-throwing and tear gas.

A Further Irish Engagement with the Greek Crisis and the Greek Left Counterpunch 2013-07-29. Discursive report of a longish stay in Greece, but detailed and nuanced. Well worth a read.

There followed hours of speakers from many countries, movements and unions, all saying more or less the same thing: how objectionable and oppressive neo-liberalism was and how we needed to combat it together.  There were some multimedia intervals on various struggles and sometimes groups burst into song. It was great to be there with so much harmony of analysis and commitment to common action, but as the hours went on, the energy of it dissipated, as it was repetitious and exhausting. The Irish were tired and hungry and it was approaching 11pm. On the metro, we agreed that such repetition should be banned. When we settled into a café in Metaxourgio, someone said “Sorry, what exactly is wrong with neo-liberalism?” and we all wearily laughed. Unfortunately, we missed the speech of Alexis Tsipras, the finale and the concert that was to follow. … 

The protest [at the attempted closing of ERT, the Greek public broadcaster] turned into an occupation. New territory was being charted now. The journalists and other employees of ERT decided to keep broadcasting. Various internet sites carried the broadcasts. The European Broadcasting Union gave its moral and technical support. The KKE gave over the frequency of its tv service to ERT for long periods. One remarkable feature of this occupation was that the KKE / PAME stood in the same space as Syriza, Antarsya, anarchists and other leftists, offering hope of a more co-operative relationship between these forces. …

[Syriza] are planning for a protracted process, which will include winning multi-party elections, perhaps entering into difficult alliances, undoing damage done, building the new in the shell of the old. On alliances, the preference is for alliances to the left, but Antarsya lack numbers and KKE rebuff all overtures. If only it were otherwise. So what is to be done? Suppose Syriza win the next election on 28% or even 30%. Even with the 50 bonus seats, where will they get the numbers to form a left government? As undesirable as it might be, should making up numbers with elements from Dimar or Pasok not even be discussed? Or should Syriza roll over and let ND form another government to wreak further disaster?

Greek civil aviation workers call strike against layoffs Reuters, 2013-08-02

Greek civil aviation workers plan to disrupt flights for three days next week in protest at government plans to fire 300 airport staff, their union said on Friday. Greek labour unions have gone on strike repeatedly since early 2010, when the country was plunged into a debt crisis and sought a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to avert bankruptcy. Traffic at major Greek airports is not expected to be disrupted because air traffic controllers are not participating.

Acropolis Sell off in Greek Archaeologists Protest Greek Reporter, 2013-08-03

Greek archaeologists staged a protest against 500 job losses, using the country’s past as symbols of the present which included a cardboard cut out of the Acropolis with a ‘for sale’ sign. … Also on show was a cardboard cut out ship with an EU flag as a sail, featuring Angela Merkel as a figurehead symbolising Greece being driven on a course set by the EU and especially Germany. … Despoina Loutsouba from the Greek Archaeological Union compared the job losses to another ancient practice: “We are shouting about stopping the human sacrifices in Greece and it’s not only Greece it’s all over Europe. It starts here. And if democracy started here and spread everywhere in the world, now the human sacrifices will start here and spread through the world,” she said. Greece has 19,000 archaeological sites, staffed by nearly 7000 people.


Torrevieja Protests Call For Rajoy’s Resignation The Leader, 2013-07-15

The anti-corruption platform, which includes the Group 15-M, Torrevieja Pensioners and Feminists 15.M, gathered on Saturday afternoon at the PP Headquarters in Torrevieja’s Plaza Isabel II, to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the calling of early elections.  …. About thirty protesters carried banners and chanted slogans demanding an end to corruption and the resignation of prime Minister Rajoy who, despite a series of well-documented allegations that he has received illegal cash payments over a period of years, seems prepared to tough it all out knowing that parliament and the nation are about to pack up for the summer. … There are more than 200 cases of corruption currently before the Spanish  courts involving politicians ranging from village mayors to former cabinet ministers, and even the royal family.

Angry at Spanish corruption, protesters break out the chorizos Christian Science Monitor, 2013-07-19

If you walked by the Spanish ruling party’s offices in any of dozens of cities late Thursday, it may have looked a bit like a barbecue. But while there were plenty of chorizos – the succulent, red Spanish sausage – being wielded and, in rare cases, cooked, they were in fact symbols of protest. … In Spain’s slang, “chorizo” also refers to thievery and cheating – the “chorizos” here being Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and ruling Popular Party officials who have come under intense social and political pressure this week following a court-revealed alleged corruption scheme. … The protests, organized through social media networks to demand the resignation of Mr. Rajoy, were small. But they expose growing public anger over corruption, which exacerbates already serious frustration over the grueling economic crisis. There were several injuries and multiple arrests reported, although the marches were largely colorful and peaceful.

Lambert here: This is the only item I found that has the playfulness (the chorizos) I associate with the indignados (and some Occupations).

Madrid anti-Government protests cast shadow over 2020 Olympic bid Inside the Games, 2013-07-19

A shadow has been cast over Madrid’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics as Spanish police clashed with thousands of protestors in the Spanish capital demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. … Although on a considerably smaller scale, the trouble in Spain echoes the problems experienced by fellow 2020 Olympics bidder Istanbul when Turkey was hit by widespread – and widely publicised – anti-Government protests.

Lambert here: The Olympics seem to be having similar effect in Turkey and Spain as the World Cup in Brazil.

Spain hits the streets again against government corruption Digital Journal, 2013-07-19

Dubbed 18J, on Thursday thousands of people in 30 cities right across Spain demonstrated in the streets, protesting government corruption and calling for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his government to resign.  Over 1,000 people rallied outside the Madrid headquarters of the Partido Popular (PP), brandishing banners and chanting “Hands up, this is a stick up!”, “They do not represent us” and “The treasurer has our money!” … Thousands of other Spaniards congregated in Barcelona, La Coruna, Málaga, Valencia and Zaragoza on Thursday, protesting outside party headquarters in each city. In Valencia, activists wrote “Democracy has died here” on the tarmac.  Not to be outdone, the hactivist group Anonymous infiltrated the PP’s website a few hours before the protests began. They splashed their logo on the home page of the website with the words “Government Resignation” underneath.

Protests skyrocket as Spain takes to streets The Local, 2013-07-30

[T]here were 44,233 demonstrations in Spain in 2012, or more than double the 2011 figure of 21,297. …  It also means there were an average of 121 protests per day in 2012. … Andalusia was the protest capital of Spain on a region-by-region basis with the southern region notching up 7,742 protests in 2012. …  Of these, around a third (1,103) involved people demonstrating against political measures and laws. The [Interior Ministry] report shows that just over a third of these demonstrations, or 15,182 concerned workplace relations issues. Almost a quarter (9,780) were protesting political measures and laws and around 10 percent (4,443) centred on neighbourhood issues. Just under 3,000 demonstrations were demonstrations in support of ETA and the release of ETA prisoners. Almost half of all of Spain’s demonstrations in Spain in 2012 were organized by unions, with that number being 18,695. Meanwhile citizen’s groups staged around a quarter of these protests, or 10,566. Business and worker groups were also responsible for a high number of demonstrations at 7,825.

Spanish HP workers to strike indefinitely New Europe, 2013-08-04

Around 2,000 HP employees in Spain, from offices in cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Oviedo, have been called for an indefinite strike that began this morning. After a new plan to cut salaries up to 10% and increase weekly working hours to 60, ended in internal conflicts and layoffs, trade unions from HP Consultant and Applications and HP Outsourcing organised the strike. In León, workers from HP Outsourcing, who already went to strike last October, decided to join the protest and carry placards with the motto: ‘Decent work is not a privilege’. The new plan includes the distribution of 230 working hours unevenly, meaning that Spanish employees might have to work on Sundays without salary. HP told Spanish media Silicon News, that the company is in the middle of discussions with trade unions and that conclusions can not be made yet. HP Spain considers that the new measures are “reasonable” and that they will “minimise adverse effects” for workers. [T]he strike is already causing supply problems to HP clients, including national banks like BBVA, Santander or Caixabank. These financial institutions are suffering several interruptions in their ATM’s services, which are controlled by HP Outsourcing.

Lambert here: Well well. ATMs.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Ignacio

    I feel no simpathy for the PIGS or PIIGS abreviations and prefer the use of GIPSI. I don’t think that Mr. Strether is being despective himself but the use of those abreviations has some despective aroma from its origin so it should be avoided.

    1. Maju

      Totally in agreement, Ignacio. The use of the term “PIIGS” or similar is as racist as calling Kyenge “orangutan”. I believe I was the one who first proposed “GIPSI”, it’s surely less aggressive, but nowadays I would rather prefer some other term like “the periphery”, “Southern Europe” or, if you wish to be very precise maybe something “the Atlanto-Mediterranean periphery” (neither Portugal nor Ireland border the Mediterranean and Spain only partly so).

      But I also think that, regardless of the terms used, there is an actual element of intra-European racism in all the rest: from the myth (a total myth) of “lazy southerners” spread by the German and other media to the outragingly different treatment of saving banks in Southern Europe and Germany (these are being overprotected, for example).

      This is a pan-European problem that largely stems of a pan-European policy designed from nationalist parameters, notably German nationalist ones. If the euro (and related measures) would be designed to fit the needs not just of German capital but of all the Eurozone’s, then the problems would be much smaller for all and better distributed. An overvalued euro and extremely generous free trade agreements with the outer world are what actually damage Europe the most. Of course these measures harm much more average economies like those of the South than elite ones like the one of Germany – but the negative effects in the mid run are destructive for all Europe.

      1. from Mexico

        The reigning racial order these days looks something like this:

        • White Americans are the master race

        • The White peoples of other Anglosphere nations (the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand) are inferior to White Americans

        • Europeans are inferior to them

        • Europeans of the perifiery are inferior to them

        • All other peoples of the world are inferior to them

        1. from Mexico

          That should have read:

          • White Europeans are inferior to them

          • White Europeans of the periphery are inferior to them

          • All other peoples of the world are inferior to them

          The beauty of this is that those into race-thinking, regardless of where they rank in the order, can find a happy place in this order. Golden Dawn members, for instance, even though they rank very low in the order, have no problem finding people who are inferior to them and that they can look down upon. Thus they do not challenge the racial order, but relish it.

          Ralph Ellison, in “An Extravagance of Laughter,” explains how race-thinking works as an instrument of political and social control, and why TPTB so often evangelize it to the proles, even though they themselves are inveterate class-thinkers:

          In the South of that day the bottom rung of the social ladder was reserved for that class of whites who were looked down upon as “poor white trash,” and the area immediately beneath them and below the threshold of upward social mobility was assigned to Negroes, whether educated or ignorant, prosperous or poor. But although they were barely below the poor whites in economic status (and were sometimes better off), it was the Negroes who were designated the South’s untouchable caste. As such, they were perceived as barely uncontrollable creatures of untamed instincts, and a group against whom all whites were obligated to join in the effort required for keeping them within their assigned place. This mindless but widely held perception was given doctrinal credibility through oppressive laws and an endless rhetorical reiteration of anti-Negro stereotypes. Negroes wre seen as ignorant, cowardly, thieving, lying, hypocritical and superstitious in their religious beliefs and practices, morally loose, drunken, filthy of personal habit, sexually animalistic, rude, crude and disgusting in their public conduct, and aesthetically just plain unpleasant. If a few were not, it was due to the presence of “white” blood…

          In brief, Negroes were considered guilty of all the seven deadly sins except the sin of pride, and were seen as sometimes comic but nevertheless threatening negative to the whites’ idealized image of themselves. Most Negroes were characterized, in the jargon of sociology, by a “high visibility” of pigmentation which made the group easily distinguishable from other citizens, and therefore easy to keep in line and politically powerless. This powerlessness was justified and reinforced by stereotypes, which denied blacks individuality and allowed any Negro to be interchangeable with any other…

          In this denial of personality (sponsored by both law and custom), anti-Negro stereotypes served as an efficient and easily manipulated instrument of governance. They…helped bind the poor whites to the middle and upper classes with whom they shared ethnic identity. Being uncomfortably close to Negroes in economic status, the poor whites clung to the stereotypes as to a life raft in turbulent waters, and politicians were able to use their fear and antipathy toward blacks as a surefire source of power. Because not only were the stability of social order and the health of business seen as depending upon white dominance, but the sanctity of the moral order as well…

          Thus, by pitting the interests of the poor whites against those of the Negroes, Southern congressmen countered the South’s Civil War defeat by using its carefully nurtured racial conflict as a means for amassing great political power in Washington… Their memories of the War Between the States, of Reconstruction, and the difficult times that followed the Haynes-Tilden Compromise had long been mythologized both as a means for keeping Negroes powerless, and for ensuring the loyalty of poor whites in keeping them so…. It was Booker T. Washington who had warned that it is impossible to keep another man in a ditch without remaining there with him; unfortunately this advice came from a powerful Southern leader who was also an ex-slave.

          More and more, through depression and war, America lived up to its claim of being the land of opportunity whose rewards were available to the individual through the assertion of a second self. But for many poor and unambitious Southern whites the challenge of such an assertion was far less inviting than clinging to the conviction that they, by the mere fact of race, color, and tradition alone, were superior to the black masses below them.

          I myself never cease to be amazed at the tremendous material sacrifices so many people will make in order to gain some feeling of superiority over others.

          1. from Mexico

            Marxist thinkers, as Hannah Arendt explains, because they are so deeply consumed by class-thinking, are almost blind to the fact that TPTB “feed the prejudices of the masses” and that race-thinking is such an effective “instrument to rule masses” because racist slogans are “highly effective in mobilizing large strata of the population”:

            In Marxist terms the new phenomenon of an alliance between mob and capital seemed so unnatural, so obviously in conflict with the doctrine of class struggle, that the actual dangers of the imperialist attempt — to divide mankind into master races and slave races, into higher and lower breeds, into colored peoples and white men, all of which were attempts to unify the people on the basis of the mob — were completely overlooked.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              I think that quote is a little outdated. These days, most if not all those to the left of, say… David Brooks? have a visceral, if not necessarily a systematic, understanding of the cultural (even spiritual) tools used to divide us. There was certainly a great of labor done in this field post-60s, a lot of it coming from Gramsci’s notion of hegemony.

            2. Lambert Strether Post author

              Well, as you point out, “TPTB … are inveterate class-thinkers.”

              So given that the people who rule the word are, in your words, “deeply consumed by class-thinking,” it probably makes a good deal of sense to understand how they rule the world, how they think they rule the world being part of that ongoing project.

              1. zygmuntFRAUDbernier

                Sycophants, yes-men and those who are loyal to the elites are rewarded with “higher status”, no hassles, and good money. These lower-tier forces of the status quo in turn distribute patronage, favours and so on to obedient tier 3 tools, who deal with tier 4 tools, … who deal with little bosses, who deal with working class men, who deal with their wives, who deal with the kids; at the bottom of the hierarchy lies the family dog.

            3. Tim Mason

              I am surprised. I had thought that Arendt would have read Marx. Evidently she did not. Marx was well aware of the use of the mob by the ruling classes. How could he not have been? It was not, as Arendt suggests here, by any means a new phenomenon even when Marx was writing, and he had occasion to see it in action.

              As to racism, here is Marx in 1870 :

              And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial center in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker
              hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he feels himself a member of the ruling nation and so turns himself into a tool of the aristocrats and capitalists of his country against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the “poor
              whites” to the “n…..s” in the former slave states of the U.S.A. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker at once the accomplice and the stupid tool of the English rule in Ireland.

              This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organization. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And that class is fully aware of it.

              But the evil does not stop here. It continues across the ocean. The antagonism between English and Irish is the hidden basis of the conflict between the United States and England. It makes any honest and serious cooperation between the working classes of the two countries impossible. It enables the governments of both countries, whenever they think fit, to break the edge off the social conflict by their mutual bullying, and, in case of need, by war with one another.

        2. Alejandro

          Insert WASP pre-qualifier in 1 & 2 and the pyramid applies within our borders as well. The broken-mirrored hypocrisy is in the “P” as JC himself inquired; “If a man cannot love his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

        3. Jose

          Wait a minute!

          White Americans (number one) are themselves a mixture of Anglo whites (number two in the ranking) euro whites (number 3) and europeriphery whites (number 4).

          How can then white Americans, who include a large component of euro and europeriphery whites, be “superior” to “pure” anglo-whites? The racial “math” simply doesn’t add up.

          Looks like American exceptionalism, caught in its own contradictions, has just taken another hit here.


          1. from Mexico

            Yes, but what you fail to see is that this is a feature, and not a bug:

            Without the elite and its artificially induced inability to understand facts as facts, to distinguish between truth and falsehood, the movement could never move in the direction of realizing its fiction. The outstanding negative quality of the totalitarian elite is that it never stops to think about the world as it really is and never compares the lies with reality.


            [The intellectual elite has a] terrible, demoralizing fascination in the possibility that gigantic lies and monstrous falsehoods can eventually be established as unquestioned facts, that man may be free to change his own past at will, and that the difference between truth and falsehood may cease to be objective and become a mere matter of power and cleverness, of pressure and infinite repetition.

            [The elites] are surrounded by a carefully elaborated system of “scientific” proofs which do not have to be convincing for the completely “uninitiated,” but still appeal to some vulgarized thirst for knowledge…


            [The scientific aspect of racism] is secondary and arises first from the desire to provide watertight arguments, and second because their persuasive power also got hold of scientists, who no longer were interested in the result of their research but left their laboratories and hurried off to preach to the multitude their new interpretations of life and world.


            Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of thier sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.

            –HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism

            Franois Haas very much stresses the role that science played in transforming racism from a mere ruling device to the main ideological weapon of imperialistic politics:

            Although notions of race have a long history, it was ironically the Scientific Revolution followed by the Enlightenment and then the Age of Reason, emphasizing science and rationality, that were the wellsprings for biologically based racism. The earlier division of humans into races had produced opposing views that were hotly debated. The nonhierarchical, biologically homogeneous model held no race as superior. The hierarchical model placed whites, most notably Northern Europeans, at the top and Blacks at the bottom (7). The hierarchical construct eventually won out and Blacks were relegated to inferiority. This concept of intrinsic value or defect (popularized in the 1860s as Social Darwinism) was clearly articulated by Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911) in “The science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race (8).”


            It is important to remember that the Germans looked to U.S. antimiscigenation and sterilization laws as models for their racial laws. Antimiscigenation laws in the U.S. had a history dating back to the colonial period.


            Despite the outrage at Nazi racial policy, Allied authorities were unable to classify sterilizations as war crimes, because similar sterilization laws had been enforced in some states since 1907 and had been upheld by the Supreme Court. In Buck v. Bell (1927), the majority decision, written by Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., used modern opinions of science to support the Virginia sterilization law: “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from breeding their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting Fallopian tubes. . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Although compulsory sterilization ended after the war in Germany, in the US, 11 African-American girls were sterilized in 1972. The Oregon Board of Eugenics, which was renamed the Board of Social Protection, existed until 1983, the last forcible sterilization occurring in 1981.


        4. Maju

          More or less like under the Nazis, right?

          However don’t forget that racism is a social-cultural construct to justify on alleged cultural or biological grounds the status quo. That way, for example, Japanese were considered “whites” in Apartheid South Africa, etc.

      2. Jim Haygood

        ‘There is an actual element of … racism in … the myth (a total myth) of “lazy southerners”

        Eh, we used to get that in the U.S. too. For instance, Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of New York’s Central Park) in The Cotton Kingdom:

        Interested in the slave economy and commissioned to write articles for the New York Times, Olmsted made extensive tours throughout the South from 1852 to 1857.

        Olmsted was a fervent opponent of slavery, and his journeys through Texas and the other slave states confirmed his deep-seated antipathy to forced servitude and to the South in general.

        Glad that ol’ regional prejudice is all gone now! /sarc

        1. from Mexico

          That’s just great.

          As Robert Huges explained in Culture of Complaint:

          Since our new-found sensitivity decrees that only the victim shall be the hero, the white American male starts bawling for victim status too.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      The headline and the text have been revised; I should really do more European work. I wasn’t aware that the FT had banned the acronym since since 2010. Yikes!

      1. Maju

        Better late than never, Lambert. However it still surprises me somewhat that you needed FT confirmation and some criticisms instead of just your own train of thought to understand something so blatantly obvious.

        “GIPSI” may be somewhat less outrageous but it’s still an acronym full of racism, I must say. And, as I said before, I believe I was the one inventing it, in comments to this blog, as some sort of lesser evil. However I realize that it still conveys the myth of southerner “laziness” (romantic idealized vision of the “Gypsy” lifestyle) and it may also be offensive to the Roma (Gypsy) people as well.

        So I would discourage its usage as well.

    3. Bobito

      Given the virulent racism against gypsies in most of the Mediterranean, I think the GIPSI acronym is at least as problematic as the PIIGS acronym.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      IPSIG, for pity’s sake. Can be pronounced and doesn’t have any connotation at all, unlike the proffered GIPSI, Southern Tier, periphery, etc., all of which could give rise to the same discussion from a different starting point.

      Works as a mnemonic too, since the initials run from West to East. Oh, no….

  2. middle seaman

    Our OWS seems a more profound, better spread and with global implication. Notably, the permanent political system was quite apathetic about OWS. While federal, state and local governments have forcefully and sometime brutally disrupted, evicted and jailed the protesters.

    We have, therefore, a plus on depth and organization and a big minus on force and brutality. Not your typical American reaction.

    1. andrew

      The google translation of Grillo’s comment leaves a lot to be desired …

      Per Grillo «l’indignazione verso Calderoli è giusta. La sua battuta razzista verso un ministro di origini congolesi è da condannare». Ma questa «battuta razzista da ubriaco da bar ha il dono della tempestività».

      That should be something more like

      “For Grillo, ‘the indignation toward Calderoli is right. His racist joke directed at a minister of Congolese origin is to be condemned.’ But this ‘racist joke of a drunk in a bar has the gift of causing a commotion.'”

      On my brief reading, the “But” and “gift” in the above are both ironic: he is saying (this follows the rest of the article in context) that the joke has the utility, to the interested media, of permitting the creation of a scandal and a ruckus that distracts from actual policy/consequences of a racist character, in this case the deportation of a mother and her daughter (the Ablyazov case) to Kazakhstan.

      I want to emphasize that this is a brief reading in an attempt to correct a problematic translation — I don’t follow Italian politics / current events closely, and welcome correction of my interpretation from more informed parties …

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        It would be nice if other Italian-reading commenters could chime in. I’m trying to get a reading on Grillo. Italian politics is almost completely opaque to me, and it doesn’t help that AFAIK all Italian journalists are licensed by the state, and all AFAIK Italian journals are organs of one party or another.

        Ezra Klein is what he is and writes what he writes, but he has, it seems to me, greater relative autonomy than the typical Italian pundit. (And is all the more effective playing his systemic role because of that.)

  3. from Mexico

    Lambert Strether said:

    Many strikes, some marches and demonstrations, nothing at all like the indignados, and above all no sense of a “European idea” from the ground up… I’d love to be wrong on this, but I think the lack of coherence is the story right now.

    It would be impossible to overemphasize the importance of this: the absense of a unifying idea or theory to counter that of neoliberalism (which is in reality not more nor less than a rebirth of the liberalism that precipitated the upheavals of the 1914 to 1945 era). There was a wonderful discussion of this in one of yesterday’s links:

    So here’s an important German word, which we could well import into English: Deutungshoheit . This translates literally as “interpretative superiority” and is analogous to “air superiority”.

    Deutungshoheit is what politicians and their spin doctors attempt to win by putting forward their interpretations and framings of the semirandom events that constitute the “news”…

    The battle for Deutungshoheit, therefore, consisted in denying any German involvement and projecting the German government, like the people in question, as passive victims of US intrusion….

    In this second phase, the German political elite has shifted its feet; rather than trying to deny any involvement whatsoever, they have instead tried to interpret the possibility of something really outrageous as being necessary for your security, and part of fundamental alliance commitments which cannot be questioned within the limits of respectable discourse. The ur-text here is Die Zeit‘s interview with Angela Merkel, in which Merkel argues that she knew nothing, further that there was a balance to strike between freedom and security, that although some kinds of spying were unacceptable, the alliance came first. The effectiveness of this, at least in the context of the interview, can be measured by astonishingly uncritical questions like the one in which she was asked “what additional efforts were necessary from the Germans to maintain their competitiveness”.

    1. from Mexico

      And if we look at how issues get framed these days, I don’t believe things have changed much, if at all, since Hannah Arendt wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism:

      Hitlerism exercised its strong international and inter-European appeal during the thirties because racism, although a state doctrine only in Germany, had been a powerful trend in public opinion everywhere. [I]n political warfare racism was calculated to be a more powerful ally than any paid agent or secret organization of fifth columnists… Racism was neither a new or secret weapon, though never before had it been used with this thoroughgoing consistency.

      The historical truth of the matter is that race-thinking, with its roots deep in the eighteenth century, emerged simultaneously in all Western countries during the nineteenth century. Racism has been the powerful ideology of imperialistic policies since the turn of our century… Not until the end of the century were dignity and importance accorded race-thinking as though it had been one of the major spiritual contributions of the Western world.

      Until the fateful days of the “scramble for Africa,” race-thinking had been one of the many free opinions which, within the general framework of liberalism, argued and fought each other to win consent of public opinion. Only a few of them became full-fledged ideologies, that is, systems based upon a single opinion that proved strong enough to attract and persuade a majority of people and broad enough to lead them through various experiences and situations of an average modern life. For ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the key to history, or the solution for all the “riddles of the universe,” or the intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws which are supported to rule nature and man. Few ideologies have won enough prominence to survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come out on top and essentially defeated all others: the ideology which interprets history as an economic struggle of classes, and the other that interprets history as a natural fight of races. The appeal of both to large masses was so strong that they were able to enlist state support and establish themselves as official national doctrines. But far beyond the boundaries within which race-thinking and class-thinking have developed into obligatory patterns of thought, free public opinion has adopted them to such an extent that not only intellectuals but great masses of people will no longer accept a presentation of past or present facts that is not in agreement with either of these views.

      –HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        On Totalitarianism was published in 1951. It’s surely of the same order as Das Kapital, or Theory of The Leisure Class, or Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks (the latter first published in the 1950s, and in a critical edition only in the 1970s, so Arendt cannot have taken his work into account). However, for all of those three books, I would most definitely not make the claim that “I don’t believe things have changed much, if at all.” Quite the contrary, and for Arendt, too. For some definition of “change,” of course.

        Adding… And especially for “how issues get framed these days.” If what is meant by this is “how” the conventional wisdom gets formed and propagated, the media and the party environment is not the same as pre-Hitlerian or Hitlerian Germany, or Russia under the Communist Party. Possibly from the 30,000 foot view things look similar, in the same way that Genoese capital looks much like Dutch capital looks like British capital looks like American capital (to move over the globe in historical sequence) but must of us don’t live or work at that rarefied level.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Adding, re 1951: Braudel began in 1949, it’s hard to see how Arendt could have taken account of that school; Wallerstein on world systems; Arrighi; E.P. Thompson with Making of the English Working Class and other books… It borders on absurd to say that “I don’t believe things have changed much, if at all”, and and one of the things that has changed is, exactly, our notion of change, given the historiography (much of it Marxist-inflected) that has appeared since Arendt’s day.

  4. Charis

    The south europeans have “prepared” themselves for the “next crisis” since many decades.I would say since the mid-70s.

    80-90% of homeownership in greece,italy,spain and portugal,very little private debt (in italy and greece),the family and the solidarity between relatives and friends is still the basis for everything.The pillar of the society.It is absolutely normal that if the young people dont find a job the whole family and relatives will help.It has been normal even during good times that young people live in the house of the parents untill they marry.And even more important for the survival is that almost every family has her roots still on the country side.”Leaving the city” and “surviving at the country side” has already becoming a serious alternative.Actually this is the new form of protest.Let me explain..

    Most people have already started to ignore the whole political party-system which is now seen as completely corrupt and useless.This is to some degree “dangerous” as extreme left and right wing parties may get more attention.This is what the governments all over europe not only expect but they also support this.Chaos is the only really task.Chaos and afterwards some kind of dictatorship like we have seen it during the last crisis after 1929.These dicatorships in south europe have been kept alive till 1974(in greece and portugal) and 1982(in spain).Italy already was under the rule of the mafia since the end of the WW2.

    The so called PIGS are actually already “ready” to survive this crisis as they survived all the former ones.There is no young PIGS who has a mother,father,uncle,relative who does not tell him what to expect for the next years.The solidarity in our societies are still very,very high.Otherwise for example in greece you would have much more homeless refugees and hungry asylum seekers turning as consequence criminal on the streets of the big cities.I have many friends in athens and they tell me that at least 10-15% of the athens population are now “illegals” from asia,middle east or north africa.You can find food for free almost every where.Not only in form of organisations and the church but even more so from normal people who are cooking in front of their home,their shop,their bar and give this food for free to everyone who needs it.

    This is my take on things.Since I am a PIGS you may find my analysis somehow interesting.Maybe it looks like that our resistance has been “sleepy” during the last months but this means nothing.We know very well what the ruling class soon will “unleash” on us and I believe that we are as good prepared as possible.But the next stage of mass resistance will not be against some austerity laws or some corrupt politicians but against the attempts of the ruling class to spread chaos,to divide the society and the following dicatorship.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Charis, I think that’s really useful. One the one hand, it’s nice to have some of the sources of GIPSI resilience (I did say “so-called”) explained. On the other hand, these sources must be under tremendous stress, if what Galbraith says about elders going through garbage cans in Athens for food is correct.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      On food:

      You can find food for free almost every where.Not only in form of organisations and the church but even more so from normal people who are cooking in front of their home,their shop,their bar and give this food for free to everyone who needs it.

      I’d love links on that if you can point me to a Greek blog or site.

      Second, I like this a lot because it creates a picture of Golden Dawn’s soup kitchens as parasitically created on top of this organic solidarity. Both oppose the State as currently constituted but in your telling the social basis is different. (GD would serve as a catchment for those who, for one reason or a another, are unable to connect to the networks you describe.)

      Third, I like this because it connects to the permaculture work that I periodically point to. In case the food chain goes pear-shaped, for whatever reason, it will be good if people are prepared to grow their own food with an ethos of sharing with others.

      1. charis

        Ofcourse you have people searching food in dustbins in athens.Dont you have these people every where in the USA?I have seen such people (and even more than in greece) here in germany where I am right now for my buisness.There are 1,5 million germans who depend on the soup kitchens of the private organistaion “die Tafel””.The only difference is that the soup kitchens in south europe are not “hidden” but on open places where everyone can see it.

        As for my comment about the private persons how give food to the can see it every where in athens.And they give not only food but also rooms for people to sleep in.This is one reason we have “only” 20.000 homeless people all over greece despite the huge number of illegals..If you compare this number to other european countries like germany or france it is very small even in relation to the population size.

        1. charis

          As for sources:

          Just one example.I choose this link because the guy who does this is jobless himself.

          The english version of the detailed “homeless-report” of the athens university.

          All over greece 250.000 persons need the soup kitchens from the church and private persons.


          A report about people from athens and thessaloniki who say that they have already started to return to the country side.The numbers are high.Over 1,5 million.

          Hope it helps.

          1. charis

            This is true.Soup kitchens have not been seen since WW2 in athens.Homeless people did not exist untill 2011.

            As for the last link..

            I know.Actually this is what the ruling class fears most.Hundreds of thousands people returning to “their roots” is not exactly what they wanted.They expected chaos and “civil unrests” in athens even back in 2011 when everyone talked about a military junta.This was their wet dream.Greece as example of what will happen to every country which does resist to austerity:Chaos and civil war.What a coincidence if this example would also be the ancient birthplace of democracy?

            The so called PIGS returning to the country side in big numbers is equal to a silent revolution.It does not only means that you turn the back on the state and the corrupt system.In south europe it also means to return to your own culture,your family,your own arts,your folklore,your ethno music and traditional dancing,language and much much more..

            Me and many,many other PIGS are convinced that this is the only real way of resistance.Me personally thinks this could be a step into more direct democracy.

            1. Paul

              Hello Charis – Central Italy here
              inlaws bitterly complaining about the fact that it is no longer possible to breed livestock at home — due to EU regulations borne from the necessity of “safeguarding” public health (hem…).

              So the ordinary, non agrarian folks (i.e. those who do not work the land to generate income) that used to have their own pigs, cows, sheep can no longer afford to comply to the rules & regulations… .and at the end of the day must buy most of their staples at the supermarket (want to talk about food safety!?)…

              On the other hand unemployment is rising, and cash-at-hand to invest in good land is scarce. So sooner or later they will be forced to sell their land just to make ends meet. I think we all know who is going to be on the buying side and at what price….

              Yes the close-knit familial network is still surviving, but with the better hands and brains emigrating to work to Germany, Sweden or to the study at universities overseas, the least fortunate are the ones left manning the fort. And for the lack of any visible sign of economic improvement they are increasingly keeping their resources (food, money) at home instead of sharing amongst the community.

              Sadly many influential observers (i.e. Barroso in 2009 IIRC) had warned that EU would implode in a mess of civil unrest and suffering.
              But as we know a crisis is too much of a good thing to waste, especially for those who have the financial resources to “buy when the blood is running in the streets”….

                1. Paul

                  …Care to ask Mr. Peter Brabeck?
                  He would probably answer that food isn’t a right, and it’s best regulated by market forces, ’cause shareholders and CEOs know better

              1. Charis

                Hi Paul..I expect this same sooner or later here in greece.To be more precise it has ofcourse already started.But till yet they failed completely to implement these “EU-laws”.It may be because we greeks are a little bit more anarchistic than you folks..(joking).

                I guess if the situation in italy gets as worse (I mean jobless rates over 20% like in greece or spain) no government will dare to shut down any private dwellings.Or at least you should ignore such laws like we do.They cant forbid you to feed yourselves in the midst of a global crisis..We do not live in a feudalistic slavery.Or do we?

                One other rather “positive sign” for us PIGS:

                According to the OECD 50% of the young south europeans who left during the last years for germany and scandinavia to find work (the article is talking about spaniards and greeks) do not stay longer than 12 months.For me this is no surprise.The job situation in germany and scandinavia is horrible.You may find many part time and low wage jobs.But after paying your rent(most of the time more than half of a part time/lowcost-job-wage) almost nothing is left.This for being far away from your family,friends and culture is not enough for most PIGS to stay in the north.

    3. Bobito

      While there is truth to what you write, it overlooks how demographics have changed. In much of Spain the immigrant population (many by now citizens), reaches 1/5 or 1/4 of the population. Most of us do not have any extended family nearby, nor own a home, nor have any other obvious safety net. This is surely the reason that many immigrants are returning to whence they came (most of the current emigration from Spain consists of former immigrants to Spain). We are a substantial portion of the population, although completely unrepresented in the political process.

      On the other hand it is completely true that people, native Spaniards or immigrants equally, have lived through crises before, and take it in stride, even if they are angry about it and its causes, and know how to deal with it.

      1. charis

        Hi Bobito,

        I hear you my friend.And to be honest it is the same in greece.The immigrants and most of all the desperate refugees and “illegals” are the real victims of this crisis every where in the south.Allthough you will find solidarity from the “natives” it is the immigrants who “pay” for all the desperation and the anger from many citizins.The chrisi avgi-fascists do not habe gained because “of the crisis” but because nobody from the government,EU or UNO cares about the refugees and immigrants in general.So many,many refugees and “illegals” get so desperate that they have no other choice than to steal or becoming a “criminal”..which again works for the racists and fascists.We live in difficult times.I wish I could give some reasonable “advise” for you what to do but there is none.I guess to return to the homelands in which now civil wars and unrests are raging would be a stupid and arrogant advise.

  5. Paul Tioxon

    There is no alternative, right now. Systemic risk, a global nation state system, transnational capital flows based on national currencies means that most people are incorporated into a global system. We would not have systemic risk, if there were alternatives. Cuba and N Korea are not significant enough and are not my idea of any kind of alternative that I would want. TINA means that we are all socialized to live this way, in our times and to live differently would mean that we would not be the people who are today, with the learned expectations and sets of behavior that we use everyday to get by and live. TINA does not mean that we are paralyzed from envisioning, thinking, planning or acting for a different future. Aside from any individual efforts to change, the unified results of individual efforts will still need social efforts. Building social relationships as one person or family to live in concert with others is confronted with already established social orders, set by powerful economic and political networks of other families and their instrumental extensions of their will and vision for life, the corporations.

    So, for me, TINA is a reality. But TINA is not paralysis of my ability to act based on deliberated differences of thought, ideas, plans and carefully considered analysis, shared and developed with others. Building new social relations with others, with the purpose of building alternative institutions that are a conscious reflex to the collapsing capitalist order has grown beyond old labels and categories but can be identified by common traits that can be easily observed by many people from many political perspectives. One of the oldest, and I believe tried and true alternatives, is cooperation over competition. The first modern attempts to provide a counter to the expanding capitalist model of social relations taking over England was the cooperative movement. The first use of the word socialism has been traced to the founders of cooperatives in England. This is simple enough to to understand. Social isolation from rising individualism in the market based economy was to be countered by building social relations, interconnections among individuals in their everyday lives, via cooperatives. A cooperative society vs a competitive individuals in aggregate, atomized, transactional, one off meetings over and over and over, until you are too old to work and be productively profitable.

    Here is a link to hear about anti-TINA activity.

    1. zygmuntFRAUDbernier

      There was an early computer game called Hamurabi, . If the player (as dictator), tried for example to favor trading in grain for exotic luxuries, a famine could ensue and he would be overthrown. With the mediocrity/vices inherent in (a portion) of humans, things get pretty bad and then “the people” reassert themselves over the rulers, with revolution and counter-revolution or “restauration”. The cycle goes on forever (maybe).

    2. F. Beard

      Cuba and N Korea are not significant enough and are not my idea of any kind of alternative that I would want. Paul Tioxon

      Oh, so our way of life REQUIRES a government-backed counterfeiting cartel or else … dull, grey Communism?

      uh, no.

      And now that we aren’t threatened by significant enemies is when we have NO EXCUSE for not reforming our money system to make it ethical since the money system itself is now our Enemy Number 1 and perhaps has been for centuries.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks very much. Sounds like the US. However, I have to say, whenever I see an activist group using FaceBook I am filled with despair. Forget about the NSA because they’ll get what they want [waves!] — think of the insitutional memory and documentation of the past just disappearing into the ether….

  6. Black Coffee and Sardines

    Remember the Arab spring (version 1.0) where social media (american corporate networks) were touted as makin’ all the difference? That might be so, and whether making all the difference is good or bad, depends on who controls the technology. As it is now ,Egypt is blighted and foreclosed upon.

  7. Dan Kervick

    I think part of the issue is that the ideal of European unity is a profound one, with deep historic roots, that has long characterized the progressive and universalist strain in European thought. It’s not going away. Americans make a mistake is advocating disaggregation of the Eurozone and a return to national currencies. For one thing, it’s none of our business. Secondly, it is a relic of American Europhobia. Third, it plays into the hands of the nationalist right, which is why most European progressives want nothing to do with it.

    Perhaps Europeans made a mistake in moving into the unified currency to quickly without building some kind of fiscal union at the same time. But it’s too late now, and returning to nationalism and national currencies is a non-starter. It will be viewed as a catastrophic defeat for the European ideal.

    Fiscal union seems unrealistic in the present moment, but movements in that direction are the only way for Europe to emerge from stagnation.

    1. F. Beard

      Actually, the Euro might survive as a purely private money, backed by the existing private debts owed in it. But a pseudo gold-standard is way too stupid to be government-privileged … not that any private money creation should be privileged by government since that’s fascism.

  8. scraping_by

    The standard history books I zipped through as a school lad said that England and France gave up their Asian and African colonies after WWII from financial and moral exhaustion. Made them all independent nations because they couldn’t afford the military to keep the locals down and couldn’t find enough second sons of the upper crust to run the local shadow governments.

    Wonder if these protests will raise the cost of Germany’s Southern European colonies past what the homeland can bear…

  9. allcoppedout

    Excellent compendium Lambert. Writing-up day-job admin today with the Test match on and occasional flips to rolling news, the only EU story in the UK was the Gibraltar dispute with Spain (could have been a re-run of coverage when Spain still suffered Franco).
    On the racism, Mexico’s use of Arendt remains appropriate. We’ve just had Farrage, leader of UKIP (respectable fascism), complaining that stops of foreigners by our immigration cops were despicable and just ‘not the British way’. Farrage is a very likeable performer, maybe not unlike Colonel Blimp – and thus may be very dangerous. Quite what the ‘British way’ is given our vile real history is largely unknown here. Everyone here thinks the denizens of Gibraltar sensible in accepting British rule rather than that of oily Spaniards short on democratic abilities etc.

    We should say that racism is not just a white thing – everyone does the ‘chosen people’ rubbish and debate of the real issues has been lost in political correctness – itself a vile form of superiority. One can even think of some clowns who would accuse Mexico of being racially inspired in laying out the status quo. Even Dennis Healy (Labour oldie) was able to describe those south of the olive line as inveterately corrupt recently in New Statesman. Some Indians in the UK still adhere to their vile caste system. Our politicians urge us to be proud of British heritage, whilst requiring ‘foreign Britishers’ to do tests those born here fail.

    The issue of racism allows politicians to escape dialogue on the real issues, knowing various hints can appeal to our lazy ignorance and prejudice. Only weather in the English Channel of 1558 prevented a slightly darker white colour dominating the world – and possibly a much worse one in racist terms. We need to know more about how what tolerance we have arises and to develop more. Sooner or later we have to declare what we will not tolerate and understand it is not racist to despise miserable treatment of women, others and so on. From what space do we make such claims given racist ignorance is prevalent in all societies? What would a moral science be? – some modern answers can be found at in the conversations and video sections.

    An important issue for those of us who want fairness and tolerance is how so much racism, sexism and the rest survive longstanding education. Mexico’s scheme is right – until you go to, say, places in the Middle East. How do we create a moral landscape in which love for our nearest and dearest is just one beacon on a hill amongst many others such as the one of fraternal care of the Other? And where does chronic sexist, gay hating, women demeaning religion lie in such a landscape, or neo-liberalism and the rich?

  10. Paul

    Sorry – from my italian perspective I don’t see the incoherence (unfortunately).
    It’s the old adage of the frog in the pot of warming water – the dire news trickle down amongst the summer infotainment reports, intermixed with the occasional show of starlets, quasi-nudity, soccer team acquisitions, Berlusconi’s desperate comeback, his 27 yo fiancée, etc,etc.
    The social fabric has frayed long time ago and this nuclearized and unconnected mass of millions of households just isn’t up to any form of organized protest…

    And let’s put it this way: if a competent movement like OWS / Zuccotti Park (THAT was a highpoint) has apparently disintegrated* how can we expect anything similar to ever emerge in southern Europe, where folks traditionally tend to yield to the stronger powers?


    * (yes, feeble echoes of that protest just survive on these pages, on zerohedge, amongst the teapartiers, on motherjones…but still not at the level of tension/intensity that would be called to get some real *change*, *real* jobs and not Amazon hand downs)

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