Ilargi: European Democracy Is Roadkill

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Yves here. Some of you found a London Review of Books article that I flagged over the weekend, on corruption in Europe and how the US and IMF had succeeded in influencing Italian politics far more widely than is widely recognized, to be a bit of a slog. Ilargi covers some of this terrain in his latest post.

By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor-in-chief of The Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth

There are two elections coming up this week that have the potential to shake up a lot of things, not least of all the global financial markets, both in their own way and for their own reasons. First of all, the May 22-25 European parliament elections, which as far as I’m concerned should simply be declared illegal in at least a few of the 28 EU member countries they’re held in. I find it unbelievable, and I even tend to find it scary, that not one respected member of the respected press has paid any attention to the story that emerged during the course of last week and that I described this way on Friday:

Europe Imitates The Fall Of The Roman Empire

First, there was a passage from Tim Geithner’s new book. Then, there was a 3-part series ‘How The Euro Was Saved’ by Peter Spiegel for the Financial Times. Together, they deliver the following storyline: EU leaders refused to let Greece have a referendum on its bail-out, and toppled PM Papandreou to kill it. Then, afraid that Italian PM Berlusconi would make good on his threat to return to the lira if they stuck to their bail-out conditions, they toppled him. What this means to Europeans is that if they elect a government for their country, and it subsequently falls out of favor with Brussels, they can expect to see it overthrown, and likely have it replaced by a technocrat handpicked by the EU leadership (as happened in Greece and Italy). Ergo: Europe is not a democracy, and pretending otherwise is foolish. Democratic elections in member states are merely empty lip service exercises, because on important topics governments of member states have no say.

In fact, the only journalist who did pick up on it was Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, also on Friday, and while I understand people’s reservations concerning Ambrose, please don’t forget this: as it became known that the EU leadership has no scruples when it comes to bringing down elected governments of member states, AEP was the only one writing for the mainstream media who brought this ultimate betrayal of European democracy, and hence of all European voters, to light.

EU Officials Plotted IMF Attack To Bring Rebellious Italy To Its Knees (AEP)

The revelations about EMU skulduggery are coming thick and fast. Tim Geithner recounts in his book Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises just how far the EU elites are willing to go to save the euro, even if it means toppling elected leaders and eviscerating Europe’s sovereign parliaments. The former US Treasury Secretary says that EU officials approached him in the white heat of the EMU crisis in November 2011 with a plan to overthrow Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s elected leader. “They wanted us to refuse to back IMF loans to Italy as long as he refused to go,” he writes. Geithner told them this was unthinkable. The US could not misuse the machinery of the IMF to settle political disputes in this way. “We can’t have his blood on our hands”.

This concurs with what we knew at the time about the backroom manoeuvres, and the action in the bond markets. It is a constitutional scandal of the first order. These officials decided for themselves that the sanctity of monetary union entitled them to overrule the parliamentary process, that means justify the end. It is the definition of a monetary dictatorship. Mr Berlusconi has demanded a parliamentary inquiry. “It’s a clear violation of democratic rules and an assault on the sovereignty of our country. The plot is an extremely serious news which confirms what I’ve been saying for a long time,” he said.

This is no trifling matter, even though one may get that idea because of the deafening silence we’ve been blinded with so far on this topic. As I write, it scares me anew. In three days, elections begin for a region that holds 500 million people. But there is a tiny group, largely unelected, in Europe’s capital Brussels, that find they have the moral right to handpick their favorites and topple non-favorites who were elected in democratic elections. If it reminds me of one thing, it’s how Salvador Allende lost the power his people voted him into, and lost his life, in Chile in 1972, because the CIA and Milton Friedman’s Chicago Schoolboys wanted someone else, who would serve THEIR purpose, not that of the people. That is what happened in both Greece and Italy, and we can now prove it.

And no, there were no bombs and machine gun heli’s involved this time around, but that’s not where we should put the dividing line. A coup is a coup. And any coup in an ostensibly democratic nation is a crime that the perpetrators need to be dragged in front of a judge and jury for, if not court-martialed. Yeah, well, that sounds lovely, but not a word was said or written. I looked earlier today, and there was only one reference I could find, in the English edition of Greek paper Ekathimerini in which Evangelos Venizelos, finance minister under Papandreou, the Greek PM who was ousted under EU auspices because he wanted the Greek people to decide in a referendum whether they wanted Troika austerity or not, an event in which Venizelos did not play a clean role at all, that same Venizelos who is now leader of PASOK, the party that held power for decades but is presently scraping the voters barrel in polls for this week elections, said:

Barroso did not choose PM, says PASOK chief

“Mr Barroso did not have the main role in the discussion and the process,” said the PASOK chief. “Whoever says this does not have an understanding of the international balance of power and of the roles that EU figures have.” Venizelos also said that Papademos had not been first choice to become interim prime minister. Before he was sworn in on November 11, Parliament Speaker Filippos Petsalnikos and PASOK veteran Apostolos Kaklamanis had been suggested for the role, Venizelos claimed. However, Venizelos defended the decision not to proceed with a referendum, which eurozone leaders insisted should only be on whether Greece should remain in the euro. The PASOK leader suggested that proceeding with the vote would have led to a flight of deposits. “Did anyone want the banks to collapse the next day and the country to default?” he said.

Hmm, Evangelos. That’s how we decide these matters, is it? Maybe the question should be: did anyone want democracy? Because if they did, that was no longer an option, was it? How on earth can someone who’s the leader of a party that’s part of a democratic system, and who apparently hopes to be elected as the leader of a democratic nation, defend the toppling of his former boss in such a way? What the f**k is wrong with you? And what the f**k is wrong with all the journalists who have undoubtedly read the accounts of both the Berlusconi and the Papandreou coups, and decided not to write one single word about them while there are elections in just 3 days in which voters are fooled into thinking their vote counts for something?

Parties that are critical of the EU, if not downright against it, may win large victories in France, Holland, the UK, Finland, Norway, Italy and perhaps more countries. We’ll know by Sunday. But what will that mean? The entire mainstream storyline is HOW are we going to do Europe, not IF we’re going to do it. How fast are we going to hand over ever more powers to a cabal of career “civil servants” who have shown they are more than willing to sweep aside any actually elected politician from any of the 28 EU nations who dare stand in their way, and in the way of their dreams of what Europe should be, damn the people, and damn the democratic process?! Maybe this will give everyone a pause for thought:

Greek Selloff Shows Rush for Exit Recalling Crisis

Bondholders in Europe just got a wakeup call. After a four-month rally in euro-region debt, yields on Italian and Spanish bonds had their biggest one-day jump in almost a year last week as a selloff that started in Greece spread. With bids evaporating and prices sliding, traders poured into derivatives as they rushed to protect against losses. Italy’s and Spain’s bonds extended that slump today. [..]

The risk is that speculative traders, who bought debt on the assumption the European Central Bank would support the market, may try to flee at the same time if the outlook darkens. “You only know how wide the door to the exit is when there are a few of you trying to push through at the same time,” Michael Riddell, fund manager at M&G Group, which oversees $417 billion, said on May 16. “I don’t think liquidity has been that great in peripherals at any stage.”

Prices plunged in the wake of opinion polls suggesting the nation’s governing coalition was losing support before local-government votes and European Parliament elections on May 25. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s coalition partner Pasok, which dominated Greece’s politics for three decades, was ranked sixth in a poll with 5.5% as voters blamed the party for the country’s economic meltdown. The first round of local and regional elections in Greece ended yesterday with no single party winning enough support to declare a decisive victory. In Italy, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s party is facing its first elections since coming to power three months ago, risking a voter backlash amid a sluggish economy and a corruption scandal in Milan.

How much irony is there in thinking that the financial markets are the only hope left for European voters? Democracy is Europe is roadkill until those responsible for toppling Papandreou and Berlusconi have been thrown out, the system has been restructured to ensure no such things can happen again, and the appropriate courts have passed judgment on the guilty parties. None of those things are going to happen, the same old clique that executed the coups will start divvying up the cushy jobs come Sunday night if they haven’t already, and that can only mean one thing: the old continent is morally going going gone. And it’s not just the politicians, or whatever the proper term is for Brussels career wankers, it’s just as much an indictment of the entire world press.

I was going to cover the Ukraine elections this weekend too, but I’ll do that later in the week, Europe’s “monetary dictators” got me riled up plenty for now. And that goes for the entire press corps too. What a bunch of useless parakeets.

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    1. Ronald Pires


      The reports I’ve seen before now have all said it was a wash. I found that odd, as during the run-up, significant gains were being predicted. The abrupt change didn’t seem legit.

  1. Banger

    I think the key to this story is the press. It is the mainstream media in our civilization that, much more than the banks and corporations in themselves or the politicians and other “wankers” (EU technocrats), are the chief enemy of civilization. Yes, it’s that bad. These empires of misinformation/PR/Propaganda/Marketing/Advertising are making democracy unusable. A deluded public subject to sophisticated techniques of mind-control that Goebbles touchingly admired that were in their infancy in the work of the The Committee on Public Information (Creel Committee) matured and grew up to be an intricate system of control that even the journos believe in as they twist reality into unrecognizable shapes. Yes, from time to time accurate information is reported on but only if that information does not destroy the basic narrative. This narrative extends, btw, to most movies and even academia–everyone wants into consensus reality otherwise you are left outside staring at the party going on inside the mansions.

    Europe has copied the U.S. press techniques and tendencies with relish as they are copying the U.S. abandonment of democracy and Constitutional rule. Y’all in Europe need to support parties on the left and right who oppose the EU–at least you still have alternatives. But political activism should be focused on the media as much as possible.

    1. James Levy

      I find it interesting that at and The Nation thoughtful essay on the viability of democracy have just been published. I consider neither propaganda, but painful recognition that a whole load of assumptions and values that we hold, or claim to hold, are in frightening flux. The crisis of democracy is not that rich, powerful people are trying to suborn democracy and turn it into de facto oligarchy, it is that so few people are prepared to do anything about it.

      I have always had a visceral dislike of Julius Caesar and his nephew. I have never understood how free men with money, power, office, and military experience let these creeps take away their Republic. I fear that Augustus’s genius for retaining all the forms but none of the substance of Republican governance is a blueprint for what is going to happen to us. Luckily, our oligarchs are still too divided, and too dumb to overturn the apple cart. And it’s cheaper and easier for them to rule through the political class and the media. You wonder why those in the media, and even some of the political class that likes to exercise power via their own volition and not on the orders of their economic overlords, aren’t more vigorously sounding the alarm and organizing to protect their own prerogatives and positions.

      1. Banger

        I suggest you read Michael Parenti’s book on Julius: The Assassination of Julius Caesar. If you want the short version he has a talk on youtube–you’ll see Julius Caesar in a different light.

    2. EoinW

      Agreed! Media is the key to masking all that is going on behind people’s backs. However, I think it was a case of our ruling elites recognizing the value of capturing the MSM and going about doing exactly that. I remember Bill Moyers warning against this in the mid 1990s. Heck I lived briefly in Vancouver in 1988 and both the major newspapers were owned by the same person. This has been a long time coming.

      The only reservation I have is in regards to how much influence this media ever had. I think of most of my friends or co-workers and I’m sure over 90% of them never watch the news – certainly not world news. They get their information hearsay, that’s how disengaged they are. I wonder how much the media bias then matters, or if there are greater societal forces of programming at work.

      1. Banger

        Every program on TV or radio has some kind of news synopsis and holy invocation of the Dow. Your friends may “ignore it” but they hear it like they “ignore” commercials until they just happen to pick up the product for some unknown reason–or choose beer A over beer B because the chick that sidled up to the man in the commercial was sexier. Mind-control is a powerful thing. Also, movies and entertainments of all kids make fun of whoever the villain of the day is on late-night TV, Comedy Central, sit-coms and so on. This is not a centrally planned system of mind-control–though it was close to that when it began but an emergent virtual system of central planning.

  2. vlade

    Can’t remember where I read it now, but it was something that the EU legitimacy is dead and this election is going to prove it by the fact that expected turnout for EU elections is only about high 20s % (accross EU). As compared to 60+ few decades ago…

  3. Harald K

    “Parties that are critical of the EU, if not downright against it, may win large victories in France, Holland, the UK, Finland, Norway, Italy and perhaps more countries.”

    Definitively not in Norway, since we have no say in the EU parliament election, not being members.

  4. F. Beard

    So then, where is the MMT plan to win generations of peace and gratitude by euthanizing the banks?


    The Devil must laugh as generation after generation think they can regulate his money system:

    “The few who understand the system will either be so interested in its profits or be so dependent upon its favours that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that capital derives from the system, will bear its burdens without complaint, and perhaps without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests.” from

    People like Ellen Brown and Dan Kervick have found the Ring Of Power (government-backed credit creation) but like a character or two in Lord Of the Rings they think it can be wielded for good.

      1. Nobody (the outcast)

        Somewhat off-topic: I noticed that NC did not post a link to Randy Wray’s third installment on taxes at his blog. Can’t say that I blame you (and I certainly won’t post a link to it here). He advocates incarceration of the 1% and quotes Rick Wolff for support in dismissing redistribution. So his take could be stated roughly as: if the banks misbehave, then incarcerate their top management. That is a matter of law and law enforcement, but I don’t think F. Beard would accept that as sufficient. He wants economists to suggest tearing the whole thing down and doesn’t seem to be bothered that no one will ever again take them seriously once they make that suggestion.

        1. F. Beard

          Not “tear down”, euthanize. There’s a huge difference.

          We have a great opportunity to eliminate much private debt without adding to the public debt, without disadvantaging non-debtors, without significant price inflation risk and without leaving the banks the ability to harm again.

          And we’re supposed to instead be satisfied with sacrificial scapegoats while the wicked system survives to kill another day?

        2. Lambert Strether

          He did? Banksters in orange jumpsuits going the perp walk? Count me in! More seriously, sometimes we don’t post things because we simply don’t post things. Limited space, limited time.

    1. Benedict@Large

      Amazing how man people making snide remarks about MMT that show by their remarks that they haven’t got a clue of what MMT even is.

      MMT is not a policy prescription. It is merely an operational description. It says, this is how money works; this is what will happen I you change this or that. It cannot however make judgments of right and wrong. Unlike other schools, it leave those judgments to priests ad philosophers.

      1. F. Beard

        MMT is not a policy prescription BenLarge

        Thern what is Wray’s JG if not a policy description?

        1. F. Beard

          make that: Then what is Wray’s JG if not a policy prescription?

          Btw, MMT is a great tool to euthanize the banks instead of leaving them the ability to cause massive damage and injustice.

      2. F. Beard

        Haven’t a clue what MMT is?! MMT is merely a subset of what I advocate while it and a silly JG is all you MMT folks have.

        What, for example, is your proposal to prevent serious price inflation in fiat? Flood the market with newly trained and disciplined minimum-wage-slaves? Will that even work when almost all work is done by robots?

        You guys are the best friends the banking system has ever had.

        1. The Dork of Cork

          We have already had a. full employment programme.

          Did not do Ireland much favours which was late to this game of becoming modern ( whatever that means)
          Women entered the workforce in massive numbers in the Ireland of the 70s 80d & 90s.
          After they ran out of females they decided to import workers from different cultures on a massive scale per capita.

          The problem with this ?
          Nobody asked the most simple question at the time.
          Just who the hell are all these workers working for ???

  5. Jose

    “The PASOK leader suggested that proceeding with the vote would have led to a flight of deposits.”

    Typical of the ignorance of European politicians concerning monetary matters.

    Under the euro and its TARGET2 clearing system, deposits may flee from one member country to another in unlimited amounts. The system can absorb that type of movement smoothly and with no major problem.

    We saw that in 2012, when hundreds of billions of euros migrated from Italy and Spain towards Germany. The Spanish and Italian banking systems didn’t collapse. TARGET2 debit balances increased for Spain and Italy and TARGET2 credit balances increased for Germany. The NCBs of Italy and Spain advanced the necessary reserves to their commercial banks. And that was it.

    People keep confusing two different systems. There are fixed currency areas, where a collapse may arise due to lack of foreign exchange in a member country. And there are single currency areas, such as the eurozone, where no such collapse is possible – where a euro deposited in Spain or Italy or Greece can always be transferred abroad at par value. The clearing mechanism, the ECB and the National central banks are there precisely to – among other things – guarantee such an outcome.

  6. DJG

    I thought that Yves did everyone a service by pointing to Perry Anderson’s brilliant article. The difficulty is that you’d have to know something about Italian politics. It isn’t just knowing who Rodotà is (a minor point). It is also getting past the bilge offered by the Americano-Anglo-Germano elites that the PIGS are just a bunch of irrational Latins who don’t know how to govern themselves because of years of hysterical politics and so on…in other words, studying the situation more than reading a column by Frank Bruni (a major point). Try reading a history of the 1100 years of the Republic of Venice, instead. In the middle of the article, Anderson makes an amazing point: Italy and its politics have been characterized by more citizen revolts in the last few years than the rest of Europe. I don’t think much of Bossi and the Lega Nord or the self-induced-chaotic Grillo, but Grillo (unlike Bossi) has a point. So much of what is reported at this site is commentary on the Anglo-Americano-Germano elites and their self-delusion–Anderson’s article is good at twisting perspective some. And he didn’t even mention that the Italians invented double-entry bookkeeping, checking accounts, branch banking, and the assembly line–all those things that made for early capitalism and that the Anglo-Americano-German elites are skimming Piketty to re-re-re-discover.

    1. Glenn Condell

      It was a great piece. I skimmed some of the more detailed Italian arcana, but the several paragraphs which survey and summarise Europol corruption were masterly. There was little I hadn’t at least heard about but to see it all in toto was a revelation.

  7. John

    Belgium is very pro-EU. And why not with Brussels, EU HQ, at its core.

    However, we have a Flemish nationalist that appears will win a large majority this weekend. They want to separate the north from the south. The nationalist leader, Bart De Wever, is a very authoritarian figure who has many ambitions. He is very rightwing, pro-business and favors pushing aside the monarchy and stopping euros from going south (Walloon).

    What gets me is old fashion whistle call racism by politicians is OK on many fronts here in the EU and right-wingers own it almost exclusively. The media never challenge it and public response is mute. Unfortunately, we can expect to see several race baiters pulling off some wins come Sunday.

    I can understand Meijer’s frustration. Criticizing the Brussels machinery is tantamount to being savagely ostracized. There is a strong echo chamber that slams anyone or anything that tries to have an alternative view. They are held up as unwashed, clueless and should not be taken seriously.

  8. The Dork of Cork

    There is some sort of deep cooperation between Masonic lodges or something.
    Its very much a organic system of bullshit production operationg at a even medium to small scale.
    I picked up a the Irish times on Saturday as I had not had access to the Internet or other papers which all of course have a editorial line and to be honest it made me puke.
    (I have not read the rag in over 10 years)
    The liberal progressives have been exposed now that they have all the apparatus of control.
    They are not what you were thought to think of them.

  9. The Dork of Cork

    There is some sort of deep cooperation between Masonic lodges or something.
    Its very much a organic system of bullshit production operationg at a even medium to small scale.
    I picked up a the Irish times on Saturday as I had not had access to the Internet or other papers which all of course have a editorial line and to be honest it made me puke.
    (I have not read the rag in over 10 years)
    The liberal progressives have been exposed now that they have all the various apparatus of control.
    They are not what you were thought to think of them.

  10. par4

    When are people going to realize that “representative” government is NOT “democracy”? Ever?

  11. Ignacio

    The day before yesterday i watched about 15 minutes of the political debate on european affairs that the public television organized in Spain during the EU elections campaign. It was really depressing and I disconnected soon. Very depressing. Those guys just want their congress seats without bothering to explain what the hell are they supposed to do with it.

  12. The Dork of Cork


    Is the non monetary aspects of the crisis in the west a simple result of the emasculation of the typical male.;jsessionid=170E7240BBC7794BBF6E176B92FFFDC6?sequence=1

    I grew up in the post 1986 challenger diaster moral system where people simply accept that systems (however flawed) must go around in circles even if they serve no purpose.
    Its a system of avoiding conflict to maintain balance in existing structures.

    Anybody who claimed the Shuttle (or anything) was a shit bastardized construct remained in their station.
    “Network managers” got to the top of the food chain with predictable results.

    1. OMF

      Dork, this is an American/international blog. It’s actually a pretty important site. You can’t be flaking out here.

  13. Madmamie

    We’ve known it for a long time but it’s a shock to see the cynicism behind their actions. Everybody should forward this article to all concerned: friends, family, colleagues. I’m voting Front de Gauche on Sunday, as I had already planned to do. Even if voting (“resistance”) is futile we need to make our voices heard in every way possible.

    It’s too bad that this kind of stuff doesn’t ever get translated and published more widely. As usual I’m going to do a quick translation for my friends before we vote but doesn’t anybody realize how many millions of people still don’t speak/read English? Do we really think that English speakers can change the world all by themselves? One “English speaker” at a time…?

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