The growth of movements for real change have been a long time coming

Corbyn SandersLast week Tony Blair professed bafflement at the rise – on both sides of the Atlantic – of popular movements by people who in Blair’s view choose to “rattle the cage”. I think this is a mischaracterisation. Those who have been energised into supporting Sanders, Corbyn and movements such as Podemos and Syriza want to break the cage, ending the failed policies that continue to dominate and distort so much of our national discourse. What these movements represent is a desire and hope for something better. I don’t think that is baffling at all. Continue reading

Left Book Club re-launch planned for autumn with first book on Syriza

OvendenFormer London mayor Ken Livingstone is among a string of authors set to be published by a new Left Book Club, which launches this autumn.

A collective of writers, activists and academics have been working on the project with the radical publisher Pluto Press. The project aims to emulate the original 1936-1948 club in provoking thought and debate on the left. Subscribers will pay £40 a year for four (mainly original) books in addition to access to exclusive events, a newsletter and an online discussion forum. The first book, planned for the Autumn, will be Kevin Ovenden’s Syriza: Escaping the Labyrinth, an up-to-date guide to the party’s rise and its struggles in office. Its foreword will be penned by Channel 4 News economics editor Paul Mason. Continue reading

Austerity is a hard untruth for Europe to swallow

MerkelTsiprasThe most galling aspect of the Conservative Party’s ongoing political success is that its all-important austerity narrative is objectively, straightforwardly untrue. Every Conservative politician of note must be fully aware of this, and there are no words to describe the cynicism that it requires to keep trotting out the flagrant lie, year in, year out. The imposition of harsher austerity in the government’s first two years was almost certainly related to the choking-off of growth in that time; in the course of 2012 and 2013, the Treasury quietly sidestepped into the milder fiscal approach advocated by Labour in 2010.

Public sector and welfare cuts have had devastating humanitarian impacts, but the government still sends vast amounts of money sloshing through the economy through Quantitative Easing and other approved channels. David Cameron and George Osborne have carved out a political existence based on a policy which neither man either believes in or has ever fully implemented. Continue reading

The two scenarios now facing Greece

Alexis Tsipras, GreeceThe victory of ‘no’ opens two scenarios. The most likely is the further effort by the Syriza-led government to reach a new agreement with the Troika, but it is not clear why it should be given something that had not been given before. The financial upheaval of recent days may be such as to induce the Troika to grant Syriza an agreement to save the face of all. But the substance would be the continuation of austerity.

Instead, a decisive choice to leave the euro and the EU would put Greece in a situation that would be unique in Europe, a country that decides to regain their economic and democratic independence. This requires enormous political courage and determination. The country would enter into a kind of war economy, or more precisely in an economy of controls, those that the influential Italian economist Federico Caffè saw as necessary to ensure full employment. Continue reading

After Greece votes no, what next?

Alexis Tsipras, GreeceIn time, they might come to call it the Tsipras Gamble. With an impossibly weak hand, no one seriously thought Syriza could pull it off. The verdict of the bail out referendum was predicted to be close, so close that it might well have been Syriza as opposed to Greece heading for the exit door. Predictions were made and screeds written on the genius/idiocy of Tsipras, but whatever side one took everyone inside and outside Greece forecast a tight vote (including, um, me). That, it was suggested (and indeed, was actively hoped-for in some quarters) would have tied the hands of the Greek negotiating team in meetings with the troika.

And so the decisive result, 61% no to 39% yes is of huge significance. It represents two things, both of which are troubling for the status quo across Europe and the nature of the European project itself. In their decadent determination to imprison Greece behind ever thicker walls of debt, the Commission, the ECB, and IMF have progressively undermined the likelihood that the full amount of monies lent will ever be seen again. The demands that the hard pressed majority of the country have to pay up to stay within the (ideologically defined and selectively enforced) set of rules governing relationships between creditors and debtors have set themselves up for a huge fall. Continue reading