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Collateral damage: Austerity, Europe and the IMF November 14, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics.

Reading the Guardian report yesterday morning about a young Egyptian who working in Greece was tortured by his employer was sick-making. As was the certainty that this was yet another indication of a societal collateral damage from the austerity measures imposed on that state.

The details of the case are clear. Walid Taleb was summarily dismissed from his work as a baker because the owners son had returned from military service. When he asked for two months unpaid wages he was attacked, beaten, had €12,000 savings taken from him and taken to a barn where he was tortured.

The owner of the bakery is a former New Democracy councillor and mayor.

It’s the sense of a society that is tilting towards an utter degradation that is most obvious. And this isn’t an error or an accident in the broader sense. These are the results of a political discourse and economic system that has been deeply inflected by racism and fascism – and while I hesitate to suggest they’re the inevitable outcome of economic dynamics they seem like a likely outcome – and allowed to be. Most notable was the response of the state in relation to medics who dismissed Walid’s injuries and police who then detained him prior to attempting to deport him to Egypt.

What takes it beyond random racism is that response by the state. The point at which state structures degrade to the degree that a citizen, any citizen, whether a national or not, is unable to call upon them for assistance in the reasonable expectation that they will deliver safety and security is the point at which the integrity (in the broad sense) of the state is lost.

And yet the great and the good appear utterly oblivious to this. The IMF is pushing for the Greek government to fulfil its debt obligations by 2020. Some in the EU are looking to 2022.

All these figures appear utopian given that there is a consensus that they’re unsustainable.

Consider the following:

Luxembourg’s prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker said euro zone finance ministers want to push back the target for Greece to achieve a “sustainable” debt by two years to 2022 but IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said the fund remains attached to the existing 2020 target.
“We clearly have different views,” Ms Lagarde told reporters. “What matters at the end of the day is the sustainability of the Greek debt so that that country can get back on its feet and re-access the private market in due course,” she said.

It is when socio-economic goals are distorted to such an end, and are entirely oblivious to what is happening on the ground, that it is self-evident that all rationality has fled the scene.

“In Europe, decisions are always made when the knife is, so to speak, at our throats, when the abyss is near,” Belgian minister Steven Vanackere told reporters as the talks began last night.

Vanackere, to his credit, has at least some grasp of the Greek plight, but even he seems unaware that that abyss is already open wide.


1. ejh - November 14, 2012

And yet the great and the good appear utterly oblivious to this

This is the extraordinary thing. Everybody can see what’s happening. But they swwan about as if there was some rational process going on tht just needed to be adjusted a little here or there to get back on track.

Obviously it’s partly because they’re personally insulated from the crisis. It’s partly because some of them benefit personally from the policies being followed. But isn’t it also because in order to change course, they would have to admit error, and that’s something they’re really not prepared to do?

I was just thinking last night that this is how the Great War happened. And how it was able to go on in the way it did for quite so long.


maddurdu - November 14, 2012

Joe Higgins made a similar comparison on the first session of this Dail;

This is not the first time an Irish political establishment responded to an Irish and Europe-wide crisis by sacrificing its people. Nearly 100 years ago, the forebears of today’s speculating European financiers and their political clients plunged into war in a vicious competition for markets, raw materials and profits. The Irish Parliamentary Party of the day will forever be remembered in infamy for its campaign to dragoon a generation of youth to feed the insatiable appetite of the imperial war makers. Today, by sacrificing our people, our services and our youth to feed the equally insatiable appetite of the wolves in the European and world financial markets – faceless, unelected and unaccountable – first Fianna Fáil and the Greens, then Fine Gael and Labour play an equally shameful role as the Irish Parliamentary Party. It was a great Irish socialist, James Connolly, who, in opposition to that conflict, called for a torch to be lit in Ireland that would, “not burn out until the last throne and the last capitalist bond and debenture” was burned. How deeply ashamed James Connolly would be today that the Labour Party he founded marches into Dáil Éireann to become part of a Government that will burn not the bondholders, the speculators or the grasping big bankers but the Irish people, the working class, the unemployed, the poor and the low and middle-income workers.


2. PaddyM - November 14, 2012

Meanwhile, also on the front page of today’s Irish Times:

The Government is also facing an escalation in pressure from the troika to do more to achieve big savings on hospital consultants’ pay and drug spending and to follow the example of Greece in the delivery of health “efficiencies”.

An example of Greek “efficiencies”.


CL - November 14, 2012

What has become very clear in the aftermath of the Storm here in NYC is the vital necessity of the public sphere. Its not going too far too say that modern civilization depends on social and physical infrastructure. The attack by the IMF and the EU on everything public is extremely dangerous and appears now to be reaching the point where the usual civilized norms are breaking down and barbarism looms.


ejh - November 14, 2012
Michael Carley - November 14, 2012

Hmmm …

`a flood of illegal immigrants … ravage a once proud health-care system’


ejh - November 14, 2012

Yes, well, that’s the WSJ for you. But the malaria is the bit to take note off.


Michael Carley - November 14, 2012

Indeed, although I wonder if the WSJ talked of the pride of the Greek health service before the present crisis.


Roddy - November 15, 2012

It is a fair point to say that Greece has had unsustainable levels of immigration over the last 10 years. It was a by-product of low interest money and the hyper aggressive capitalism of the last decade, same happened here.


3. que - November 14, 2012

somewhat on topic. I cant see how a win would help them prevent any future bans but it sure would make it harder



4. Eugene - November 14, 2012

Austerity is not policy or a strategy to solve the people problems. It is a strategy which is many sided. Firstly, to make the people pay for the crisis of the system. Secondly, its about the transfer of wealth upwards from the people to the monopolies and the ruling class.

Also, to take full advantage from the crisis when the working class has lost political confidence and social democracy/labour has abandon its own strategy and has fully embraced neo-liberalism. Is to drive home that advantage and roll back the gains made by the working class over the last six decades or more. Austerity is working for them as designed.

It is about protecting the interests of ruling class and monopoly capitalism. In a society with irreconcilable class antagonisms that is the roll of the state. No point having state power if you don’t use it to impose your class interests.

Austerity was never design to solve the peoples problems. The governments across the EU and across the capitalist world whatever their political complexion are doing what is necessary to save the system. The impact on the people is of minor concern.

We are now experiencing what the EU/IMF have been inflicting on the people of the under developed world for a century or more. Which most people in the west either turned a blind eye to or did not want to know as they benefited indirectly from the mass exploitation of workers – children, women and men.

Do people really believe that the ruling classes of France, Britain, Germany, Holland, Belgium (Irish)or combined within the EU gave a dam about the suffering their uneven trading relations had/have on the great majority of the people of this beleaguered planet of ours?

These pictures of suffering are about manufacturing fear to bring about the necessary consent.


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