Category Archives: Austerity

From the Neoliberal Revolution to the Supremacy of Financialized Austerity: A Brief History

As an intended outcome of neoliberal doctrine and a natural stage of capitalist development, global financialization constructs a borderless nexus of power in which debt and austerity fuels a cultural, political and economic landscape bound to enduring structures of domination, and creates unprecedented wealth through the accumulation of suffering.


According to economist Richard Wolff, “Capitalism has always and everywhere oscillated between two phases.” One phase is operationalized by free-market doctrine, often referenced as economic liberalism, classical economics, laissez-faire capitalism, or neoliberalism which refers to a “new” or “revived form” of liberal economics. While some economists will distinguish differences between these terms, generally this free-market phase of capitalism is distinguished by a liberal economy where capitalist industry and markets prevail and experience very little (or no) government oversight. In this phase, the state primarily serves as an agent of capitalist interests.

The other phase of capitalism is often referred to as Keynesian economics, the welfare-state, state-capitalism or social democracy. This phase entails state intervention via substantive taxation, regulations, price controls and state administered social programs. To varying degrees, it is a mixed economy driven by both private and public sectors, yet allows for (or requires) the existence of significant social inequality while guaranteeing that a capitalist ruling class will manage the political system. Moderate examples of this phase include the New Deal in the U.S. and the social democracies in Western Europe between 1945 until 1990. More substantial examples of this phase include countries in which a significant portion of their societies’ productive enterprises are state owned and operated. This phase does not include the political economies of socialism or communism.

As Daniel Stedman Jones and anthropologist David Harvey have documented, the ascendance of neoliberal doctrine began in interwar Europe during the 1940s, but found fertile ground in post-World War II America, which provided an optimal ideological milieu for it to thrive and for its uncompromising political and cultural narrative to be crafted. Embraced and transmitted by a network of influential think tanks, corporations, financial institutions, business associations, politicians and journalists; the economic crisis of the 1970s provided a rich opportunity for its champions to roll out this long simmering plan. Since capitalists are well known for creating and exploiting crisis and suffering to pursue their interests, this well positioned network of free-market ideologues and profiteers expeditiously went to work. The core of their plan involved reversing (or not enforcing) New Deal and Great Society programs and the Nixon administration’s schizophrenic domestic polices; while simultaneously imposing a menu of liberal economic polices tied to a (nationalistic) conservative American values crusade (known as the “Culture Wars.”)

In 1973 the U.S. facilitated the overthrow of the democratically elected socialist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, and the installment of the brutal military dictator Augusto Pinochet. This coup d’etat allowed the U.S. to position Chile as a test laboratory for neoliberal restructuring as prescribed by Nobel Laureate economist and free-market ideologue Milton Friedman, along with his Chicago School of Economics trained “Chicago Boys” who ushered in the so called “Miracle of Chile.” Simultaneously in the U.S., Friedman’s liberal economic prescriptions were gradually being implemented throughout the 1970s by both Republicans and Democrats (here and here), then more aggressively in the Reagan (and Thatcher) era of the 1980s. Thereafter, neoliberal doctrine steadily gained cultural, political and economic momentum during the Clinton era and beyond. Steadily, financial institutions were being unleashed across the globe to fulfill their fundamental purpose: to create and seize upon all investment opportunities possible, not matter how brutal, so as to enrich themselves.

Many cultural scholars, including Stuart Hall, Nancy Fraser and David Harvey, emphasize how the neoliberal revolution was not only about economics, but more broadly with the adjoining culture wars, was a means to destroy mounting resistance to the original and long-standing social order of the United States. The social order to be preserved encompasses the intersecting structures of settler-colonialism, white supremacy, capitalism and heteropatriarchy. The threats to be destroyed included the Civil Rights, Black Power, Native American, Chicano, Feminist and LGBTQ liberation movements; as well as the Anti-War and New Left movements. While some within these struggles had revolutionary aims, including emancipation, sovereignty, economic equality; others pursued reforms involving recognition rights, representation and social equity within existing systems. According to Hall, legal scholar Tayyab Mahmud and political scientist Nancy Fraser, no matter the aims, all of these struggles threatened the foundations of the founders’ and the current rulers’ power and cultural design for America. Fraser goes on to explain:

[In the 1960s], this “Golden Age of Capitalism” was shattered. In an extraordinary international explosion, radical youth took to the streets—at first to oppose the Vietnam War and racial segregation in the U.S. Soon they began to question core features of capitalist modernity that social democracy had heretofore naturalized: materialism, consumerism, and “the achievement ethic”; bureaucracy, corporate culture, and “social control”; sexual repression, sexism, and heteronormativity.

As Stuart Hall explains, while racial inequity and terrorism, gender oppression and economic inequality in the U.S. thrived during the short-lived Keynesian (New Deal) era, it softened the blow of capitalism for some, while materially putting the common good on the radar. Yet as Fraser contended:

[T]he feminists of this era recast the radical imaginary. …Problematizing welfare paternalism and the bourgeois family, they exposed the deep androcentrism of capitalist society. Politicizing ‘the personal,’ they expanded the boundaries of contestation beyond socioeconomic distribution—to include housework, sexuality, and reproduction.

According to James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer, the neoliberal revolution on a global scale was largely a reaction to emancipatory movements of colonized peoples the world over struggling to take control of their countries and resources from imperial and colonial rule, often accompanied with strivings for agrarian reform. Tayyab Mahmud describes how the neoliberal revolution set out to impose a social order “across the globe to reverse the setbacks that the economic power and political hegemony of the wealth-owning classes had suffered on account of Keynesian welfare in the West, socialism in Eastern Europe, and nationalism in the global South.”

Embedded within the ideology of free-market capitalism is the notion that state intervention should be minimized so that capitalists are free to maximize market exchanges to their advantage, which in turn stimulates economic growth that benefits all of society. Fundamentally, ideology in inequitable societies is generated by myths that are constructed for the purpose of social control or hegemony. The myth of the free-market is an example of this rule in that state intervention on behalf of capitalism is a long-standing practice and necessity. According to John Clarke, “[d]espite its compelling qualities (natural, necessary, foundational, universal), [the market economy]…everywhere requires to be supported, nurtured, developed —while being protected from ‘interference’—and these nurturing processes require the care-taking work of states.”

This includes policies protecting and facilitating economic activity (through trade agreements, tariffs and subsidies), providing stable and fertile conditions for market growth—including military and covert intervention—and ensuring that a majority of people adhere to its exploitative and inequitable demands through ideological, political and legal means. As Jeremy Bentham wrote in 1843, “Property and law are born and must die together. Before the laws, there was no property: take away the laws, all property ceases.” Accordingly, legal scholar Cass Sunstein points out how the U.S. Constitution (via negative rights) – all the things the federal government cannot do – bolsters the ideology and rule of law of free-market capitalism. With this understanding, Sunstein goes on to claim:

As we know and live it, private property is both created and protected by law; it requires extensive governmental assistance. The same point holds for the other foundation of a market economy, the close sibling of private property: freedom of contract. For that form of freedom to exist, it is extremely important to have reliable enforcement mechanisms in the form of civil courts.

More importantly, as Karl Polanyi poignantly claimed in 1944, a decade into the Keynesian project, free-market capitalism cannot “exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have physically destroyed man and transformed his surroundings into a wilderness.” “Ultimately,” according to Polanyi:

The control of the economic system by the market is of overwhelming consequence to the whole organization of society; it means no less than the running of society as an adjunct to the market. Instead of economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economic system.

Scripted by market fundamentalists and advanced through private sector and government partnerships, neoliberalism was constructed to serve as the predominant social imaginary that would propel U.S. hegemony into the 21st century. Spoken of with sacred reverence and disseminated with the discourse that the free-market is the only rational way of organizing social relationships, neoliberalism imposes market logic on citizenship and the public sphere. Consistent with the U.S. founding fathers’ original design, human beings are defined as economic maximizers and governed by individual self-interest, whose value is narrowly equated as being a flexible, self-sufficient worker and uncritical consumer. “This consumer citizen is glorified, construed as willing, resourced and capable of making empowered market-led choices” whereby the very idea of democracy is “a function of consumer choices, and the individual is solely responsible for her or his own well-being, success or failure” (Scott). As Hall, Massey, and Rustin summarized it, neoliberalism “is a reassertion of capital’s historic imperative to profit through financialisation, globalisation and yet further commodification… [and] includes class and other social interests, new institutional arrangements, [and] the exercise of excessive influence by private corporations over democratic processes.”

Beginning in the mid-20th century, Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) became the primary neoliberal instrument, whereby a nation’s illegitimate national debt facilitated financial colonization via the lending institutions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. According to the IMF, “the Bank and the IMF are twin intergovernmental pillars supporting the structure of the world’s economic and financial order.” SAPs are very specific free-market policies that debt-ridden “developing countries” (countries ravaged by franchise and settler colonization throughout the “global south”) must adopt in order to receive new loans to be able to make payments on preexisting debts. SAPs are promoted by the IMF, World Bank and other International Finance Institutions as the only reliable method of “reforming” a deficit-ridden economy and putting “underdeveloped” economies on the road to (free-market) development to enable them to participate more fully in international trade and commerce.

As Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni contends, this conception of development “is an ideology of colonial and neo-colonial modernity… linked to liberal ideology and to the idea of progress” that became “another lever of justifying Western intervention and interference in the internal affairs of Africa.” Ndlovu-Gatsheni goes on to point out how this worldview means “that development of any kind could only take place within the parameters of the capitalist world system that manifested its ugly face within the non-Western world in terms of the slave trade, imperialism and colonialism.” The term and very idea of development now invokes neoliberal hegemony, impeding alternative imaginaries of progress and growth that are not rooted in the ideology of Western Enlightenment and modernity. Anything that deviates from the neoliberal conception of development is dismissed as undeveloped and primitive.

The IMF (largely controlled and funded by the U.S) and the World Bank are part of a network of powerful industrialized nations and financial institutions that are the drivers and beneficiaries of neoliberalism and financialization (here and here). The driving force behind the hardline neoliberal reforms or “conditionalities” attached to SAPs have long resided within the halls of power in the U.S. In 1989 this understanding led the English economist John Williamson to label these reforms as the “Washington Consensus,” which according to Williamson, entailed “a list of ten specific policy reforms, which I claimed were widely agreed in Washington to be desirable in just about all the countries of Latin America, as of 1989.”

The ideologically and operationally reform policies attached to SAP conditionalities include: fiscal discipline; redirecting public expenditure; tax reform; financial liberalization; adoption of a single, competitive exchange rate; trade liberalization (free-trade); elimination of barriers to foreign direct investment; privatization of state-owned enterprises; deregulation of market entry and competition; and secure property rights (Lopes). This list of ten “desirable” reforms is what power brokers in the U.S. were imposing on Latin America for three decades. It also played a significant role in fueling the surge of “Twenty-First Century Socialism” throughout Latin America (here and here).

Austerity measures are best understood by looking at the impact neoliberal policy mandates have on people’s lives once they are enacted. In practice, these vicious instruments of greed and power augment inequality, bolster white supremacy and deepen poverty. Austerity reinforces the fundamental social dynamic of unbridled capitalism – inherently linked to colonialism and white supremacy – which is dependent on a small opulent minority whose power and wealth is solely derived from the domination and exploitation of stratified and disposable groups of people. By design SAPs and their austerity mandates target those who are commonly exploited, dehumanized, subjugated, dispossessed and therefore impoverished by Western nations – Indigenous, Black and Brown people, women, children, the working class, the elderly and those who are sick and disabled.

As an essential instrument in the marketization and financialization (restructuring) of economies, austerity is an essential instrument in expediting the political, social and economic conditions used to rationalize the elimination of barriers that inhibit international investors from maximizing profits by exploiting basic human and civic needs. In practice this entails laying off workers, cutting wages and benefits, gutting social safety nets, while also raising taxes and increasing user fees on essential and life sustaining services. Austerity means reducing spending on and/or privatizing public works, utilities, infrastructure, programs and services, including water, electricity, education, pensions, affordable housing, environmental protections, public health and safety regulators, healthcare and more. It means prioritizing export production at the expense of production for local consumption. Austerity also requires labor market reform, which in addition to cutting wages, benefits and state pensions; also requires eliminating or weakening labor laws that protect the health, safety and job security of workers, including their collective bargaining rights. These labor market reforms are code for what is referred to as a “flexible workforce” (Council of Canadians; Global Exchange; Lissovoy).

The winners of SAPs are the rich, their corporations and their financial institutions (those who control both supply and demand), who are not only the direct beneficiaries of austerity as investor creditors but also as those who take over ownership of government services and infrastructure while receiving a range of government subsidies and bailouts. Of course, the survival, safety and security of the rich do not depend on the public services and programs that are being reduced, eliminated and privatized. Austerity, as the Council of Canadians reminds us, “takes from the poor and transfers it to rich multinationals, bondholders and other financial capitalists. …The more governments are held hostage by private credit rating agencies and the financial elite, the more austerity becomes the norm.”

According to ActionAid International Kenya, IMF/World Bank-targeted countries that fail to enact SAPs see their access to international finance cut off. Such threats to impoverished countries amount to blackmail, since many have no choice but to comply. According to a 2009 IMF working paper, if a borrower country defaults on its IMF/World Bank loans, there are two possible penalties: “reputational costs, which in the extreme could result in absolute exclusion from financial markets, and direct sanctions such as legal attachments of property and international trade sanctions imposed by the countries of residence of creditors.” Thus, as Anup Shah affirms, the ultimate goal of SAPs is to open up a nation’s economy and natural resources to the profit-seeking interests of powerful international investors and corporations, while undermining the fundamental rights and interests of its people. Africa Action went on to point out how:

The albatross of illegitimate debt diverts money directly from spending on health care, education and other important needs. African countries are forced to spend almost $14 billion each year servicing old, illegitimate debts to rich country governments and their institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Much of Africa’s foreign debt is illegitimate in nature, having been incurred by unrepresentative and despotic regimes, mainly during the era of Cold War patronage. More generally, many Africans question the notion of an African ‘debt’ to the U.S. and European countries after centuries of exploitation. They ask, ‘Who really owes whom?’

Over the past forty years, neoliberalism has escalated the United States’ imperialistic practice of covertly and militarily intervening in countries as a means to install authoritarian governments as part of its inherent and enduring empire-building mission. SAPs have served the important purpose of establishing U.S. outposts to function as logistical techniques of empire and correspondingly with the objective of building neoliberal and financial infrastructural power within client states and their geographic regions. These interventions also served as geopolitical strategies during the Cold War, rationalizing intervention into sovereign nations as a means to stop the expansion of communism (Steven Hiatt; Meltem Yılmaz Sener).

Since SAPs are an instrument of financial colonization and have therefore met with mass resistance that has widely exposed their violent and despotic nature, in 1999 the IMF and World Bank “put lipstick” on the SAP model, rebranded it and thereafter referred to it as a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). Accordingly, Jenina Joy Chavez Malaluan  and Shalmali Guttal pointed out how “little has changed in the substance, form and process of World Bank and IMF programmes. ‘Poverty’ is used as window dressing to peddle more or less the same Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) to low-income countries that led them into a state of chronic economic crisis to begin with.” Malaluan and Guttal went on to explain:

[This model] has clearly failed over the past twenty years in numerous countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. Countries as diverse as Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, Bolivia, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Indonesia were all forced to apply the Bank-Fund development model at one time or another, and all have suffered from deep and shattering economic crises as a result… [Y]et today, the same policies continue to be supported even more ardently than before…in a new package called the PRSP.

It is reasonable to question if this model has actually failed or, in fact, is a complete success according to its intended purposes.

In its own defense, the IMF claims that its collaboration with its multilateral partners only promotes “good governance” to “combat corruption” (code for countries that pursue more participatory and redistributive political economies) by supporting market integrity, competition and economic development. The IMF goes on to explain that with its instruments of “surveillance, lending, and technical assistance, the IMF covers economic governance issues that fall within its mandate and expertise, concentrating on issues that are likely to have a significant impact on macroeconomic [neoliberal] performance and the sustainability of sound economic policies.” Sound indeed, for those who are on the winning end of its efforts.

Since neoliberal hegemony has ensured that financialization reigns supreme in the 21st century, SAPs/PRSPs are more freely being imposed and enforced in every region of the planet. In the wake of the European debt crisis beginning in 2008, which was a predictable outcome of the dynamics of global financialization, SAP/PRSP austerity-based conditionalities are being attached to loans for indebted Eurozone nations. In the case of Europe, three institutions known as the “Troika” (European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund) are the drivers of wide-scale austerity. Depending on one’s ideological point of reference or personal interests, Greece has become a poster child for being either a victim of SAPs/PRSPs or a fiscally irresponsible nation. According to Warren Weertman, when SAPs/PRSPs were offered up to the Greeks, they “didn’t have to look far to see what impact the [PRSP] policies would have on them. Just across the Mediterranean lay an entire continent littered with examples of failed IMF policies.” This model has served as a final deathblow for many of the social democracies across Europe.

Ireland serves as both a unique and prime example of how the neoliberal revolution is restructuring nations in the northern hemisphere. With its long history of British colonization, Ireland has systematically been recolonized as an outpost for multinational corporations and banks beginning in the 1950s, and even more so in the 1980s. After the 2008 Eurozone crisis, Ireland was thus well positioned to serve as a laboratory for austerity in the era of financialization. Since then, Ireland has been mythologized by the financial press—and propagandized by the larger corporate media—as the “austerity-and-recovery-model” to be replicated in Greece and across Europe (Hearne; Mercille & Murphy; Tax Justice Network,

In line with what I have previously pointed out, from a winner’s perspective, the Irish model is indeed a success, as reported by economist Cillian Doyle in 2015:

Oh sure, there’s been a recovery for some. Ireland’s richest 250 individuals saw their combined wealth increase by 16% to a whopping 75 billion in the last year alone, so it’s fair to say they’re doing ok. Then there’s the multinationals, whose massive profits continue to enjoy de facto tax immunity. And things are even looking up for the politicians, who are planning to give themselves a pay increase as recognition for masterminding this great “recovery.”

What Doyle is referring to is Ireland’s sixty-year history of saving wealthy investors billions as an offshore financial center by offering low corporate tax rates, loopholes and laxity as incentives for transnational corporations to relocate to Ireland (often only on paper). In 1987, the “Wild West” of financialization occupied Ireland via a deregulated financial zone called the Dublin-based International Financial Services Centre (IFSC). The zone became notorious for being a host of choice for international “shadow banks.” Today Ireland or “Treasure Island” (as some corporations affectionately refer to it) is the home of over half of the world’s largest fifty banks and ten out of twenty of the top insurance corporations, while its stock exchange hosts about a quarter of all international bonds (Mercille & Murphy). There is little wonder why Ireland is promoted as the model to be replicated by the financial elite and their proxies in the media—it is an epicenter for global financialization and its instruments of intermediation, securitization, derivatives and hedge fund gambling. Accordingly, the Tax Justice Network reported in 2015 that “many toxic developments in ‘subprime’ markets that triggered the global financial crisis from 2008 can trace their lineage back to Ireland.”

As Rory Hearne reported in the Irish Examiner in July 2015, the Irish losers of the Troika who imposed austerity measures following the 2008 Eurozone crisis have been forced to endure the usual hardships. Between 2008 and 2014, unemployment, child-poverty and single-parent poverty have soared in Ireland. There have been major cuts in public housing and a marked increase in home repossessions, leading to a homelessness crisis in many parts of the country. Cuts to welfare benefits are decimating children’s benefits, fuel assistance programs, access to clothing and footwear and rent support.

These cuts are especially hard for one-parent families and people with disabilities and their caretakers. Ireland’s poor face higher user fees that limit their access to essential services, including water distribution, school transport, prescription drugs, accident and emergency services, chemotherapy treatment, etc. Spending on public infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, roads, transportation, internet and water and sewage treatment has been drastically reduced. Studies show that the quality of secondary- and primary-level education is declining due to cuts in public school funding along with teacher and other student support reductions. School dropout rates are on the rise, while spending on postsecondary education is being cut. Funding for youth organizations and drug prevention and treatment has been significantly reduced.

As is always the case in austerity-ravaged countries, large numbers of Irish youth are being forced to emigrate to find work. In addition, a recent study by Ireland’s National Suicide Research Foundation found that since these austerity measures have been in place, there has been an increase in self-harm rates by 31% in men and 22% in women and the male suicide success rate has increased by 57% (Hearn).

In the United States, the SAP/PRSP model has been imposed more duplicitously over the course of the last 40 years. The successful imposition of this model has involved a succession of corporate-inspired and state-facilitated policies that are reflective of SAP/PRSP conditionalities that have led to creeping austerity. These policies were complemented by a series of both related and unrelated events beginning in the 1970s, including an influx of women (resulting from the women’s movement) and immigrants (due to mass dispossession throughout Latin America) into the labor force, along with technological advances in production and new corporate governance models that prioritized the maximization of shareholder profits by cutting labor costs. All together, these events, along with intensifying attacks against organized labor, led to a surplus of workers and perpetual wage stagnation that enabled debt to become the fundamental catalyst for aggregate demand. Capitalism in the U.S. was once again being unbound from any form of democratizing and redistributive elements, while simultaneously being empowered by the deregulation of banking and finance along with the Federal Reserve’s intentional lowering of interest rates (Wolff).

According to Tayyab Mahmud and David Harvey, this new “state-finance nexus” extensively unleashed the reach of financial markets throughout society, primarily entangling Black, Brown and Indigenous people, poor whites and the working-class in general in a new credit-debt driven economy. Costas Lapavitsas points out that in the wake of escalating neoliberal austerity mandates, finance capitalism and its predator creditor character thus became the supreme arbiter of wages, job security and working conditions as well as a means to access essential (and privately controlled) goods and services including housing, public utilities and infrastructure (including education), social services, health care, pensions, etc.

According to the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO), “the international integration of financial markets has been a major driver of falling wage shares…in advanced economies.” Referring to the ascendance of neoliberalism, the ILO went on to claim that the “switch in the 1980s to corporate governance systems based on maximizing shareholder value and the rise of aggressive returns-oriented institutions, including private equity funds, hedge funds and institutional investors, put pressure on firms to increase profits, especially in the short term.” Greased by neoliberal ideology and practices, finance capital’s call for even more profits has only intensified demands for even greater worker flexibility within a landscape with very little to no worker protections and union density.

Lost within financialization, according to Byasdeb Dasgupta and Eckhard Heine, is the long run perspective for a “real economy” (one that produces goods and services) and sustainability of emerging surplus accumulation patterns and trends. Instead, the financialized economy prioritizes buying and selling in financial markets and depends on a short-term and quick time approach to maximizing shareholder power, enticing speculative returns from every circuit of global capital and exploiting variations in interest and foreign exchange rates in different capital markets. As Dasgupta points out, since it cannot derive high rates of surplus from the real economy for expansion, it depends on “labor in transit” in order to guarantee the requisite surplus generation to further the cause of finance. Continuous movement is its primary feature in that workers move from job to job and back and forth from unemployment to employment while also continuously moving from one location to another. Naturally, these dynamics make labor solidarity even more difficult.

Working in concert with financialization, neoliberal ideology reinforces the market-based belief in individual responsibility, which complements the restrictive legal parameters by which subjugated groups are expected to engage in desperate strategies for survival. People are therefore made to think, feel and act as neoliberal subjects who are expected to engage in the speculative financialized economy as risk-taking “debt instruments” who alone are responsible for determining if they survive or thrive. As Max Haiven aptly put it:

[Financialization] offers up a toolbox for understanding social life. In an age of neoliberal austerity, we are all encouraged to approach ourselves as isolated risk-managers, judiciously investing our energies towards our own personal goals and objectives and seeking always to better our position and “corner the market” in whatever sphere of life.

The regime of austerity that is attached to unfettered capitalism requires those who are systematically impoverished to endure a perpetual gauntlet of unemployment, low-wages, job and housing insecurity, food insecurity, exposure to toxins, psychological stress, chronic health conditions, medical emergencies, expensive and highly inadequate health care and no social safety nets. This forces the most vulnerable in society to take on insurmountable debt as targets of predatory lending tactics through the provision of “overextension” (loans or extensions of credit that are larger than what the borrower can repay) (Mahmud). Overextension is also known as subprime lending, which is a term that found its way into the national lexicon via the mortgage crisis associated with the “Great Recession” of 2008.

Overall, the unleashing of financial capitalism on already inequitable societies, such as that of the U.S., has only intensified neoliberalism’s debilitating impact on social movements worldwide, notably through “the mechanisms of the debt crisis in the Global South and mass layoffs at the heart of the labor movement in the Global North” (Arrighi & Silver). This is a landscape where debt is sutured with discipline and where mass suffering fuels an economy that strengthens pre-existing power structures, while creating immense wealth for a few from nothing of intrinsic value (Korten; Mahmud).

Plagued by overwhelming debt from mortgages, student loans, credit cards, automobile loans and other predatory schemes; workers are even more fearful of upsetting their employers. This especially holds true in terms of workers taking collective action to make basic improvements in their wages and working conditions. For those whose wages do increase, instead of buying the consumer goods they produce, it is immediately extracted by creditors, health and other insurance companies and drug monopolies. Those who still aspire to live “The American Dream” by becoming homeowners are forced to lock themselves even further into debt serfdom through high cost and high interest home mortgages. Within this landscape, those who are targeted most by the predatory nature of the financialized economy are serially being exploited as workers, indebted “customers” and increasingly in “pay for success” derivative schemes, otherwise known as Social Impact Bonds (Hudson; Greenwood & Scharfstein; Martin, Kersley, & Greenham).

As has always been the case under capitalism, desperation, uncertainty, exploitation, inequity and inequality are central to its power. Financialization is considered to be a natural stage of capitalist development and takes these realities to a whole new level. Its power structures are aligning domestic and international policy agendas to fit its interests, resulting in the expansion and intensification of militarism, imperialism, colonization, genocide, exploitation, inequity and disenfranchisement. Since these forces are driven by Western powers, white supremacy and Christian hegemony (and their associated constructs of patriarchy) are deeply embedded within their ideologies and practices, particularly in the United States.

It is important to remember that capitalism was born from the imperialist settler colonial and chattel slavery empires of Europe and the Americas. This made for a perfect union between the ideology of white supremacy and the economic and political relations under capitalism, especially since imperialistic aspirations, settler colonial rule and capitalist structures all require certain people to be ideologically constructed as inferior to enable them to be identified as disposable and/or exploitable labor. Capitalist production was well positioned to be an integral component of structural racism, therefore incentivizing more intensive and expansive racialized methods of resource appropriation and accumulation by dispossession. These structural dynamics provided fertile ground for neoliberalism and financialization to flourish in the 21st century.

As Paula Butler claims, “Racism—more precisely, white supremacy—has been a constitutive element of colonialism and the establishment and expansion of capitalism in the modern era, from the 15th century to the present.” According to Bhattacharya, Gabriel and Small,  “capitalist expansion has depended so heavily on mythologies of race and their attendant violence that the double project of racial and economic subjugation is a constitutive aspect of this expansion.” In effect, capitalism and white supremacy are structurally bound.

Neoliberal-fueled financialization strengthens capitalism’s imperialist propensity to seize and occupy territory and material and virtual sources of wealth in order to racialize and subjugate its occupants so as to exploit and dispose of them at will. According to Bhattecharyya et al. “The power of whiteness lies in its capacity to impoverish, starve, contaminate and murder, all seemingly within the bounds of legality.”

Arturo Escobar named these horrific global realities “social fascism,” while S.B. Banerjee referred to these forms of structural violence as “necrocapitalism” or death capitalism.

Banerjee defines necrocapitalism as, “contemporary forms of organizational accumulation that involve dispossession and the subjugation of life to the power of death.” Necrocapitalism “creates states of exceptions where ‘democratic rights are confined to a political sphere’ while continuing forms of domination, exploitation and violence in other domains.” Paula Butler claimed that the term necrocapitalism “captures the ideological and material context of unfettered market forces in which capital’s right to profit legally and legitimately eradicates livelihoods and subjugates life, thus producing death.”

As the corporate media continues to focus on how the fallout of the European debt crisis and the Central Banks’ (the Troika) austerity prescriptions are affecting (or inflicting) European countries, finance capital continues its original mission of targeting and pillaging entire continents populated by Black, Brown and Indigenous people. In this persistent quest, billions of people are subjected to a life of unrelenting hardship and suffering, while the perpetrating institutions and governments refuse to acknowledge the racialized power structure that is fueling the global political economy. Since the Western power structures that are responsible for the brutality of neoliberalism and financialization are the “rule of law,” formal redress and accountability is nonexistent. Instead, racial violence is effectively denied and veiled by racially coded discourses that invoke color-blindness, soft multiculturalism, and philanthropic intent or by hiding behind airs of neutrality and economic rationalism. The slick beneficiaries and agents of neoliberalism and financialization deflect and spin charges that their wealth is derived from exploitation and barbaric practices of dispossession structurally tied to historic and ongoing manifestations of white supremacy and colonization.

Under this globalized cultural political economy, seeking relief or justice within state institutions and civil society is largely futile. In the 21st century, civil, political and economic rights are more than ever at odds with the interests of capital. Governments either function as proxies for finance capitalism or face being subjugated by it. This ensures that national governments are even more unresponsive to the needs and demands of those who reside within their borders, borders that are non-existent for financial investors and increasingly punitive for dispossessed groups, often referred to as “illegal immigrants” and “refugees.” As Nancy Fraser put it, there is “a new form of imperialism that doesn’t have the clean geography of the colonists there and the colonized here.”

In this landscape, banks and other global financial institutions are setting and enforcing the rules that govern social relations in societies across the globe, including relations between states and their citizens. States have largely become subjects of bond markets and Central Banks, (such as the Troika). These are the layers of power that operate above states and control what states can or cannot do. In sum, the plutocrats of this finance empire have no national loyalties, they possess no conscience, their domain knows no borders, their institutions have no center and their wealth has no real material value. Thus, looking to the state for protections or engaging in traditional strategies of resistance needs to be seriously reconsidered.

“Greece has been a laboratory on a way out of a capitalist crisis”

Rally in Athens in support of OXI (“NO”) in the run-up to the 2015 referendum

The crisis in Greece has no end in sight. While the media cheered a recent agreement between the Syriza government and creditors, there is no escaping the reality of an unsustainable debt, a completely destroyed economy in which successive austerity programs have brought immense suffering to the Greek people. To better understand the current situation in Greece, and how it may develop from here, we have interviewed Mariana Tsichli, a lawyer and a member of the political council of left-wing party Laïkí Enótita (Popular Unity), or LAE. This party was founded after the 2015 referendum “betrayal” by people who left Syriza, notably former minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, and other left-wing forces. We talk about the most recent memorandum, the measures it entails, the way out of the crisis and the task of building a united front in Greece.


Ricardo Vaz: On June 15th there was an enthusiastic announcement that an agreement had been reached in the Eurogroup. Why was this so important both for the creditors and for the Greek government?

Mariana Tsichli: For the Greek government it was important because it is a way to ensure that it will remain in office and avoid any uncontrollable political evolution in Greece. For the creditors, I think it is important because they are trying to make an example out of Greece. Not only the creditors, but also the upper classes in Europe and in Greece itself, they are trying to make an example out of us to show that there is no alternative way out of the financial crisis, that there is no other way but to destroy the interests of the working class and of all the people that have been seriously harmed by this situation of the past seven years.

It is not just about the Greek bankruptcy, or the Greek debt. Because in absolute terms the Greek debt is not very large in terms of the eurozone economy. But if we could show people in other European countries that there is another way, then this could lead to radical evolutions in other countries, like Spain or even France. And this would be a very big problem politically and financially for the bourgeoisie and the upper classes in the EU and around the world. So this was an important agreement for them in that regard.

RV: Before this agreement the Greek government had already agreed to several measures that had already been passed in parliament. There was also slight change of discourse from “austerity” to “structural reforms”. What were these latest implemented measures?

MT: There are austerity measures in this memorandum, which is the fourth one. There are measures regarding the decrease in the tax-free threshold in Greece. The tax-free threshold has been lowered to 5600€ per year (less than 500€ a month), after that you start paying taxes. There are also measures about reduction of pensions, from 2019 or 2020 onwards. And the funny thing is that Syriza, during the reform of the pension system last year, their basic argument was that they were reforming the pension system in order to protect the lower pensions and not reduce them! But with these measures they are reduced.

There are also measures regarding privatisations of public sector enterprises. The main one is the public power company, PPC. And there is also a plan to privatise water, and also to sell very big portions of land, which were until now under public ownership, to certain investment funds, mostly foreign. These are the main changes, as well as some changes regarding labour law. Also on this matter Syriza had promised to change labour laws in a less conservative way and restore some protective measures that existed in Greece before 2011, but this has not happened. And this agreement ensures that current labour legislation will remain in place until at least 2020.

RV: You were saying these are reforms beyond 2020. Is this not also beyond Syriza’s term in office?

MT: Yes! And this is very original. I believe it has never happened before. Even in 2011, or before the elections of 2015, the right-wing governments then in power would not agree to measures that exceeded their term. But Syriza has done that, despite the fact that the other parties have not voted in favour of these measures in parliament.

RV: There is this idea that is sold to by the mainstream press, especially in northern countries, that the bailouts have been a generous help to Greece, and that they have not worked either of because of some inherent genetic Greek characteristics… What have the bailouts really been about? Do you get the sense that Greece has been a laboratory to test how much suffering can be imposed on a people?

MT: Yes, the belief that the Greek people are lazy, or the Greek state had too many expenditures, and that is what brought the financial crisis in Greece, is a myth, and there are numbers that prove that this is a myth. For example, government spending in healthcare, education, pensions, public sector wages, etc., was lower than the average of the eurozone countries. In my opinion it is clear that this is about an experiment. Greece has indeed been a laboratory on a way out of a capitalist crisis, and the experiment so far has not worked very well.

It has definitely not worked for the majority of the people. But it has not worked very well for the upper classes either, at least until now. On the one hand, they have succeeded in imposing a great decrease in salaries in both private and public sectors and also in imposing reforms in labour law and other aspects of the social relations which work in favour of the upper classes’ interests. But, on the other hand, there has been a destruction in Greece. The GDP has fallen by 27% in seven years, the biggest decrease since WW2 in any capitalist country. The unemployment is about 30% now, it is higher amongst younger and the most educated people. Every year about 1-2% of the country’s labour force is lost to immigration. And there has also been also a very big decrease in wages, about 27% if you add up after all these years, 30% in pensions, and there has been a decrease of around 35% in domestic consumption of the private sector.

Facts and myths: the left plot shows the average number of hours of work in Greece, Portugal, France and Germany (from 2000-2016), and the right plot shows the fall of Greek GDP since 2008.

On the whole, there are huge problems regarding the Greek economy, its productivity has declined in a dramatic way. Industrial production has declined by 30% and in what has been a complete destruction of the interests of the working class but also of the economy as a whole. I believe that the rate of decline of all economic indicators was not foreseen even by those who designed the memoranda. So it is definitely an experiment on how much austerity can be imposed on the people of a country, but until now, even with all the cuts and reforms that have been imposed, this strategy has not yet worked. We are in the 7th straight year of recession and there are very big problems in the Greek economy. That, of course, does not mean that the strategy will not work for the upper classes in the future, but if it works it will mean a permanent reduction in income, healthcare, pensions and so on for the vast majority of the people in Greece. This is why we need another political solution.

RV: And there is also the matter that the bailout money has not stayed in Greece…

MT: Most of it has been to repay the public debt. And despite this the public debt has only increased and it continues to increase, even after the PSI1 and the measures that have been taken in 2011, 2012. The Greek debt has not stopped increasing and it is clearly not sustainable.

RV: You said that this agreement allows the Syriza(-ANEL) government to survive until the end of their term. But do you feel that they have a strategy beyond this? Finance minister Tsakalotos, for instance, said there was “light at the end of the tunnel”.

MT: I believe that at the end of the tunnel there will be a fifth memorandum probably! I think that the political situation in Greece has been slightly stabilised by this agreement, in the sense that the government and Tsipras have proven that they are able to sign literally anything that is proposed to them, in order to stay in office. And in truth there were no protests from inside Syriza either, despite the measures involved.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras flanked by French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel in a recent EU summit.

The truth is also that the Greek upper classes support Syriza at the present time, and so do the major EU states. Because it is a government that will impose any measure without any protest, and the political cost will be on Syriza and not on (major opposition party) New Democracy, which is the preferable solution in the end for the Greek bourgeoisie and the major EU states. So the strategy is to keep Syriza, if that is possible, in office until the end of its term, to let Syriza impose all the measures, and then have another more preferable solution centred around New Democracy which will not have suffered the political cost.

And I believe that Syriza wants to comply with this strategy in order to ensure it will have a major political role in the future. It will not only stay in office now, but it will also try to be the second biggest party in the Greek parliament after the next elections. So I think that in a way they are all kind of satisfied. But, of course, it is also true that there cannot be any light at the end of the tunnel and there cannot be any solution as there are no means of relieving the Greek debt and debt service. This is why the only solution to this situation is the people’s movement and a wholly different strategy to exit the financial crisis in favour of the interests of the working class and the vast majority of the people.

RV: PM Tsipras always argued that implementing austerity measures was a necessary sacrifice in order to get debt relief. But with this agreement and debt relief is postponed for the future…

MT: And, of course, they did not get anything. I think the creditors are waiting to see that the measures will be implemented, the ones that are described in the fourth memorandum and any other measures which will be needed after that. They are also waiting to see if the Greek economy can sustain at least part of the payment of its debt and I believe that they are also waiting for a change in the political situation. I believe it is more possible to give debt relief to the next government, around New Democracy, than to Syriza. And until now, this proves to be true, in the sense that the debt relief has been promised by Syriza to the Greek people for more than a year now, but still nothing happens.

RV: Your party, LAE, was formed in 2015 after the referendum, in the run-up to the elections. It was formed in part by people who left Syriza, like former minister Lafazanis, and other left-wing factions such as yours, which came from Antarsya. Can you briefly describe the party’s strategy at the moment and how you are mobilising against this new wave of austerity?

MT: I believe that there are two basic milestones in regard to the strategy of LAE for this period. The first of them is establishing a program for an alternative way out of the crisis, which will be a program that protects the interests of the working class and of the social groups that have been destroyed by the crisis. And it is a program that has some basic points2:

  • The first, and perhaps one of the most important, is the exit from the eurozone.
  • Also, the immediate refusal to pay the Greek debt and our goal is for this debt to be cancelled.
  • And another basic point is the nationalisation of the banking sector and the basic sectors of the Greek economy, which have been or are now in the process of being privatised.

These are the main points of LAE’s program for this period, to provide an alternative way out of the financial crisis. The second milestone is our belief that in order to implement such a program, all the left-wing forces in Greece have to agree on the basic points of the program and form a united front. There are currently many forces in the Greek left that could agree on these points, but there is a problem in the Greek left-wing forces, which is a historical problem, the fact that they have always been and still are very many fronts, organisations, fractions and so on. We believe that it is necessary to solve this problem in order to be able to mobilise the people against the measures.

LAE demonstration against the new memorandum in front of the Greek parliament. LAE leader Panagiotis Lafazanis is in the centre.

The truth is that the Greek people are very disappointed and they do not just need to be mobilised against this measure or the other, they need to see an alternative solution to the whole problem. This is the main issue. At the moment we are supporting the strikes that are about to happen in the coming days in some areas of the Greek public sector and we are also continuing a political campaign regarding the program and the front of left forces in Greece, with many political events all around Greece.

RV: It seems like there is no way around the issue of exiting the eurozone. Costas Lapavitsas (also a member of LAE) has been stressing this for years, even in 2015 after Syriza took office, and studying this issue in detail…

MT: Yes, we share the same views regarding the matter of the eurozone. I think that exiting the eurozone is the only way to solve the Greek problem. In fact, the Greek problem has its roots in the eurozone and the effect that it had on the economy and the social relations in Greece. By entering the eurozone the Greek economy changed in a lot of ways. There was a big decrease in industrial and agricultural production, and there were advantages only for the banking sector, tourism, also shipping, all these sectors in which the capitalists and the big enterprises were interested in and in which they had an advantage. And there were also many changes in the social relations in Greece after entering the eurozone. Without exiting there is no way out.

Also after the crisis started we had no ability to devalue our currency, so the whole strategy of the bourgeoisie was to do an internal devaluation by cutting wages, pensions, income in general.

RV: Wages become the only factor of adjustment…

MT: Yes, they are the only factor. So without having a national currency in order to have the ability to use the devaluation to change some factors in the Greek economy, without the ability to protect Greek production, industrial or agricultural, and basically without the ability to impose measures that will change the relations in the Greek economy and production in favour of the majority of the people, there is no way of exiting the crisis in favour of the working class. So I believe that exiting the eurozone is completely imperative.

Mariana Tsichli is a member of LAE’s political council

RV: What are your thoughts on the idea of creating a convergence of countries which are in a similar situation, for example, southern European countries?

MT: This is a thing that might happen, but in my opinion there is a pre-requisite that the people in each of these countries have their own movements and change the situation in their respective countries. This would, of course, involve exiting the eurozone and the EU, and this convergence I believe would be a next step in such a plan.

RV: You talked about upcoming strikes, and there is also a garbage crisis developing. Do you think this could be a kind of “hot summer” of protests coming?

MT: It is possible, but, of course, in a smaller scale than the previous “hot summers” of Greece, especially the summer of 2011. There are many difficulties, and the main one is that most of the people are very disappointed because they had hoped that through Syriza’s government there might be some change in the political and economical situation. They supported this change by voting “No” in the referendum but then they felt betrayed on a very large scale. When the referendum happened there was indeed a part of the Greek people that was ready to fight for another solution, even to leave the eurozone or maybe even leave the EU, even if they did not describe it perfectly. After that, there was a big disappointment. But this year there have been (relatively) small things, in comparison to things that happened in Greece from 2010 to 2012, which show that this might be the beginning of some new movements in Greece. But it is still very early to say.

There have been certain events concerning the public sector. Last year there was a very big strike to protest the reform of the pension system, mostly by lawyers, technicians, doctors and so on. This year we have had larger strikes than a year ago. All of this shows that Greek people are very disappointed and that if they are presented with an alternative way out they may be able to mobilise again and to fight for an alternative solution.

RV: Is there also a risk of fascist party Golden Dawn growing in this crisis?

MT: At the moment I would say that this threat is relatively smaller than it was some years ago. That is because the traditional political parties which historically have defended the bourgeoisie interests in Greece are reforming in a way. New Democracy is reforming. Also the small parties that in recent years have been formed around fractions of New Democracy or PASOK are shrinking, the political situation is more stabilised, so the bourgeoisie has no need to resort to the fascists.

But the fascists also have begun again to stage attacks. There had not been any major attacks for more than a year, after the trial for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas began3 But last month there have been new attacks, against people that the fascists thought were anarchists or leftists. In one recent incident a student was very badly injured. So this is a problem which is again severe but overall their power and influence seems to be decreasing.

RV: One final question: Yanis Varoufakis has been saying that the EU has its problems, but it is reformable, it can be democratised. Of course, other people disagree. What are your thoughts on the “reformability” of the European Union?

MT: I believe in a sense the reality disagrees with Yanis Varoufakis, and it was shown through the outcome of his strategy regarding the Greek problem and the economy. Anyway, I think there is no question of “reform” of the EU in a more democratic or in a less conservative way. The only reform that can be possible is an even more conservative reform, and historically all EU reforms have gone in the same direction.

The EU was designed and structured to impose the neoliberal social relations to its members, because in some of the member-states, when this process started, these relations and neoliberalism were not as stable and not as deep as in countries such as the US and the UK. So I think the EU is a process that has been designed in order to impose such a model on the people, and thus it cannot change. The only solution for the people is to exit the EU.

• First published at Investig’Action

  1. Private Sector Involvement (PSI) was a component of the second Greek bailout, in 2012. Part of the agreement hinged on private investors accepting losses in the Greek bonds they held.
  2. In a recent interview with João Ferreira of the Portuguese Communist Party (part 1 and part 2), he also discussed three very similar measures to take Portugal out of the current situation: exiting the eurozone, renegotiating the debt and taking control of the banking sector (before moving to other sectors of the economy).
  3. Anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas was murdered on September 17, 2013, in Athens. After a huge outpouring of antifascist protests a massive case trial was brought against 70 members of Golden Dawn, making the case that the party was directly responsible for scores of beatings and killings of migrants and political opponents, with indifference or even collusion from state authorities.

The Poison of Commercialization and Social Injustice

In cities and towns from New Delhi to New York the socio-political policies that led to the Grenfell Tower disaster in west London are being repeated: redevelopment and gentrification, the influx of corporate money and the expelling of the poor, including families that have lived in an area for generations. To this, add austerity, the privatization of public services and the annihilation of social housing and a cocktail of interconnected causes takes shape. Communities break up, independent businesses gradually close down, diversity disappears and another neighbourhood is absorbed within the expensive homogenized collective.

People living in developed industrialized countries suffer most acutely, but developed nations are also being subjected to the same violent methodology of division and injustice that led to the murder of probably hundreds of innocent people in Grenfell Tower.

The rabid spread of corporate globalization has allowed the poison of commercialization to be injected into the fabric of virtually every country in the world, including developing nations.

As neoliberal policies are exchanged for debt relief and so-called ‘investment’, which is little more than exploitation, the problems of the North infiltrate the South. Economic cultural colonization smiles and shakes hands, wears a suit and causes fewer deaths than the traditional method of control and pillaging, but it is just as pernicious and corrosive.

In the Neo-Liberal world of commercialization everything is regarded as a commodity. Whole countries are regarded as little more than marketplaces in which to sell an infinite amount of stuff, often poorly made, most of which is not needed. In this twenty-first century nightmare that is choking the life out of people everywhere, human beings are regarded not as individuals with particular outlooks fostered by differing traditions, backgrounds and cultures; with concerns and rights, potential and gifts and heartfelt aspirations, but consumers with differing degrees of worth based on the size of their bank account and their capacity to buy the corporate-made artifacts that litter the cathedrals of consumerism in cities north, south, east and west.

Those with empty pockets and scant prospects have no voice and, as Grenfell proves, are routinely ignored; choices and opportunities are few, and whilst human rights are declared to be universal, the essentials of living — shelter, food, education and health care — are often denied them. Within the land of money, such rights are dependent not on human need but on the ability to pay, and when these rights are offered to those living in poverty or virtual poverty, it is in the form of second and third rate housing, unhealthy food, poorly funded and under-staffed education and health services. After all, you get what you pay for; if you pay little, don’t expect much, least of all respect.

The commercialization of all aspects of our lives is the inevitable, albeit extreme consequence of an economic model governed by profit, fed by consumption and maintained through the constant agitation of desire. Pleasure is sold as happiness, desire poured into the empty space where love and compassion should be, anxiety and depression ensured. But there’s a pill for that, sold by one or other of the major benefactors of the whole sordid pantomime, the pharmaceutical companies. Corporations, huge and getting bigger, are the faceless commercial monsters who own everything and want to own more; they want to own you and me, to determine how we think and what we do. These faceless corporate entities are given rights equivalent to nations and in some cases more; they have incalculable financial wealth and with it political power. They devour everything and everyone in their path to the Altar of Abundance, assimilate that which springs into life outside their field of control and consolidate any organization which threatens their dominance.

Commercialization is a headless monster devoid of human kindness and empathy. It sits within an unjust economic system that has created unprecedented levels of inequality, with colossal wealth concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer men (the zillionaires are all men), whilst half the world’s population attempts to survive on under $5 a day and the Earth cries out in agony: every river, sea and stream is polluted, deforestation is stripping huge areas of woodland, whole Eco-systems are being poisoned and the air we breathe is literally choking us to death. Apathy suffocates and comforts us, distractions seduce us and keep us drugged: “Staring at the screen so we don’t have to see the planet die. What we gonna do to wake up?” screams the wonderful British poet Kate Tempest in Tunnel Vision. “The myth of the individual has left us disconnected, lost, and pitiful.”

How bad must it get before we put an end to the insanity of it all? It has got to end; we can no longer continue to live in this fog. During a spellbinding performance of Europe is Lost at Glastonbury Festival, Tempest stood on the edge of the stage and called out, We are Lost, We are Lost, We are Lost”. We are lost because a world has been created based on false values — “all that is meaningless rules” — because the systems that govern our lives are inherently unjust, because we have been made to believe that competition and division is natural, that we are simply the body and are separate from one another, because corporate financial interests are placed above the needs of human beings and the health of the planet. Excess is championed, sufficiency laughed at, ambition and greed encouraged, uncertainty and mystery pushed aside. The house is burning, as the great teacher Krishnamurti put it, Our House, Our World — within and without — both have been violated, ravaged, and both need to be allowed to heal, to be washed clean by the purifying waters of social justice, trust and sharing.

Systemic external change proceeds from an internal shift in thinking — a change in consciousness, and whilst such a shift may appear difficult, I suggest it is well underway within vast numbers of people to varying degrees. For change to be sustainable it needs to be gradual but fundamental, and have the support of the overwhelming majority of people — not a mere 51% of the population.

Kindness begets kindness, just as violence begets violence. Create structures that are just and see the flowering of tolerance and unity within society; Sharing is absolutely key. After Grenfell hundreds of local people shared what they had, food, clothes, bedding; they shopped for the victims, filling trolleys with baby food, nappies and toiletries. This happens all over the world when there is a tragedy — people love to share; giving and cooperating are part of who we are, while competition and selfishness run contrary to our inherent nature, resulting in sickness of one kind or another, individual and collective.

Sharing is the answer to a great many of our problems and needs to be placed at the heart of a new approach to socio-economic living, locally, nationally, and globally. It is a unifying principle encouraging cooperation, which, unlike competition, brings people together and builds community. The fear of ‘the other’, of institutions and officials dissipates in such an environment, allowing trust to naturally come into being, and where trust exists much can be achieved. In the face of worldwide inequality and injustice the idea of sharing as an economic principle is gradually gaining ground, but the billions living in destitution and economic insecurity cannot wait, action is needed urgently; inaction and complacency feed into the hands of those who would resist change, and allows the status quo to remain intact.  We sleep so deep, it don’t matter how they shake us. If we can’t face it, we can’t escape it. But tonight the storm’s come,” says Kate Tempest in Tunnel Vision. Indeed, we are in the very eye of the storm, “The winter of our discontent’s upon us” and release will not be found within the corrupt ways of the past, but in new forms built on ancient truths of love and unity held within the heart of all mankind.

Britain’s Real Terror Apologists

Despite a vicious smear campaign to denigrate Britain’s Labour leader as a “terrorist sympathizer,” Jeremy Corbyn still pulled off an amazing achievement in the general election.

Hardly has a politician in any Western state been so vilified with character assassination, and yet he has proven to be most popular Labour leader in Britain since the Second World War.

After weeks of trailing his Conservative rival Theresa May in the polls, Corbyn’s socialist manifesto appealed to a record number of voters – closing the gap between the parties to only two percentage points behind the Tories.

This was in spite of a concerted media campaign to destroy Corbyn in the eyes of the British public as a “terrorist stooge.” The irony here is that the Conservative party is forming a governing coalition with a little-known Northern Ireland party whose history is steeped in British state terrorism. (More on that in a moment.)

For Corbyn, the election outcome was a stunning moral victory. For Prime Minister May it was a humiliating defeat. The Conservatives lost their overall majority in the British parliament and now they have to rely on this reactionary fringe party from Northern Ireland to form a government.

May called the snap election because she thought her party would increase its majority and also because she calculated that Corbyn’s socialist direction of Labour would be wiped out. Many Blairite naysayers in his own party thought so too.

The opposite happened. The British public largely rejected May and her neoliberal capitalist, pro-austerity, pro-NATO policies. They instead rallied behind Corbyn. Granted, the Tories still won the election – only narrowly – but the surge in support for Labour under Corbyn means that he has galvanized a party that stands a strong chance of winning if another election is called. And that could be soon, perhaps in the coming months owing May’s shaky ad hoc government collapsing.

Another riveting factor in all this is that Corbyn’s success came amid a torrential Tory and right-wing media campaign to denigrate him as a terrorist sympathizer. The propaganda onslaught was conducted for months since May called the election back in April. And it grew to a frenzy as election day approached last Thursday, especially when the opinion polls showed Labour steadily whittling away the earlier Conservative support.

The day before the public went to the polling booths, the Daily Mail ran the front page headline: “Apologist for terror,” with Jeremy Corbyn’s photo below. It looked like a “wanted poster” from the Wild West. The only thing missing was the subhead with the words: “Wanted dead or alive.”

The scurrilous allegation pounded over and over by the largely pro-Conservative British media that Corbyn is “soft on terrorism” stems from his otherwise principled history of campaigning on international justice and peace.

Over his 35 years as an MP, he has voiced consistent support for Palestinian rights under illegal Zionist occupation; he has supported Hezbollah resistance against Israeli and American aggression; and during the conflict in Northern Ireland, Corbyn gave a voice to Irish Republicans who were being assailed by British military violence.

Many other international causes could be mentioned, such as Corbyn opposing British government weapons dealing with the despotic Saudi regime which is propagating terrorism in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

He has also campaigned to abandon nuclear weapons and is critical of NATO’s reckless expansion in Europe, which have earned him the jingoistic pillorying by the British establishment of “being soft on Russia.”

Corbyn has never condoned terrorism. Rather he has always sought to properly put it in a wider context of other parties also, unaccountably, using terrorism and thus fueling conflict.

This brings us to so-called Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from Northern Ireland whose 10 MPs Theresa May’s Tories are now relying on to form a government. This party was formed in the early 1970s by the firebrand Protestant preacher Ian Paisley. While Paisley mellowed in later years before his death in 2014, he spent most of his career preaching vile hatred against Catholics and Irish Republicans, whom he saw as a threat to the political union between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain. In British-run Northern Ireland, it wasn’t acceptable to have a democratic aspiration for an independent Ireland. You were either a pro-British unionist or a “threat.” So much for British democracy.

Senior members of Paisley’s pro-British party played a crucial role in smuggling massive caches of weapons into Northern Ireland during the 1980s to illegally arm unionist paramilitaries. These paramilitaries went on to murder hundreds of innocent people simply because they were Catholics, who tended to be Republican. A favored tactic of these paramilitaries was to storm into pubs and homes and indiscriminately mow people down with assault rifles.

One notorious pro-British killer was Gusty Spence who belonged to the Ulster Volunteer Force paramilitary. He later expressed remorse and deplored Ian Paisley, the DUP founder, as the person who incited him to murder innocent Catholics due to his sectarian hate speech.

The paramilitary murder gangs were not just supported covertly by members of the DUP. The British government of Margaret Thatcher – Theresa May’s predecessor and political heroine – orchestrated these same death squads in a covert policy of “dirty war.”

British military intelligence colluded with the pro-unionist militants to assassinate Republican politicians and ordinary Catholics alike in a covert policy of state-sponsored terrorism. The objective was to terrorize people in submitting to British rule over Northern Ireland, rather than allowing the island country to become united and independent.

The British government provided intelligence and cover for the death squads and the unionist politicians had helped supply the AK-47 assault rifles and Browning handguns smuggled from Apartheid South Africa.

This secret dirty war policy of the British government and their unionist proxies in Northern Ireland has been uncovered by investigative journalists such as Paul Larkin (see his groundbreaking book “A Very British Jihad: Collusion, Conspiracy and Cover-up in Northern Ireland”); as well as human rights campaign groups like Belfast-based Relatives for Justice and Pat Finucane Centre.

Not even the present government of Theresa May can deny this murderous legacy in Ireland, although there is a determined silence now as she fights for her political survival in the wake of the British election disaster.

It is a proven fact that May’s Conservative party and the unionist politicians whom she is now partnering with to govern Britain were complicit in terrorism.

Northern Ireland has since gained a peace settlement in which unionist and republican politicians have been able to work together to form a local governing administration. The Irish peace process was possible partly because of the courageous and principled intervention by British politicians like Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn has never apologized for terrorism. He has sought to overcome it by making politics work. The same cannot be said for Theresa May’s Conservative party. It was an accomplice and an apologist for a covert policy of state-sponsored terrorism during Northern Ireland’s recent 30-year conflict.

The very party whom she is now allied with for governing Britain – the DUP – were also apologists for paramilitaries who routinely smashed their way into family homes and slaughtered victims in cold blood in front of their loved ones.

The ongoing muted policy of May’s government and her unionist proxies about their murderous legacy in Ireland is a testimony to who the real apologists for terror are.

• This article was first published by Sputnik