By Robin Mathews
Read part four here, part three, part two, part one
Canadians had a taste of incipient fascism with the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper. Flagrant abuse of Parliament. Vicious attacks on organized labour. Deliberate destruction of pubic information and record. Perversion of the National Police Force. Even (I claim) a false, fabricated court action (nationally celebrated) to destroy an enemy. And … much, much more.
Fascism, we remember, is the merging of government and large private Corporations, turning Parliament, the law, the courts, the military and police, as well as conventional press and media (and, often, Opposition Parties) to the task of empowering and enriching the wealthiest, their friends and supporters, while suppressing democratic and humane resistance.
The neo-liberal, neo-fascist face of politics has not been present in Canada only. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has taken place in the midst of a sharp division in Europe. On the one side is a drive to create a sharing, democratic community. On the other is a powerful drive by international capital, banks, and U.S. global policy to create a Gigantic European Market – intending the unimpeded rape of the European population to create a massive profit-centre for the super-rich.
On one side (at its best) is the European Parliament where (for instance) the so-called ‘racist’, Right Member of the European Parliament, Nigel Farage (just-resigned leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party) tangled with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
Juncker represents international capital and imperial globalization, in fact. Former prime minister of Luxemburg – a super, offshore Tax Haven – Juncker was revealed by ‘Lux Leaks’ to have benefitted from favours done for flagship international capitalist entities like Apple and Amazon. (Le Monde diplomatique, July, 2016, p. 7) Fellow EU Commissioners are unperturbed by the revelations of ‘Lux Leaks’. Jean-Claude Juncker presses on unscathed ….
The vote by Britons to leave the European Union is a huge indication of the EU rift.
Take France. For months its people have been in the streets fighting fascist government moves. The French Socialist Party (in power) led by a bland neo-liberal Francois Hollande sells out everything democratic (in league with the European Commission) in order to bring down and oppress the French population.
To force through a punishing labour law, the Hollande forces didn’t have the proposed new legislation debated within their own Party (the Socialist Party!!) at all, anywhere, at any time (where real improvements to present labour/management problems might have been presented). The punitive bill (in the face of huge public opposition) was pushed through the National Assembly without a word of debate.
The European Commission (called by some ‘EU government’) is strangely independent of the European Parliament. The Commission is a neo-liberal, austerity-supporting, employer-backing, worker-punishing ally of international capital and imperial globalization. It wants, in short, a precarious position for labouring people: to be hired in direct competition with one another, without overall ruling Labour Law, for low (or no!) starting wage, with no guarantee of employment, with easy firing available to employers, with no guarantee of working hours or overtime pay regardless of hours of work demanded, and with a minimum of social insurance.
When those principles are hardened into law – the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund say – unemployment will drop, Gross Domestic Product will rise, and the new laws will bring sunny days to the European population.
The fundamental conflict throughout Europe is between “austerity” and what might be called “infrastructure spending”. Neo-liberalism pretends that removing spending power from the population will stabilize government debt and increase active enterprise. It knows that is false. But by bringing the population to its knees, neo-liberals can take over government and use it to enrich international capital.
The opposition to neo-liberalism argues that fair wages, public spending on good infrastructure, and public involvement in new enterprise produces tax revenue and assures health for private enterprise and the overall economy.
In Italy, president Matteo Renzi has managed a coup that destabilizes and threatens the work force. He has won increasing diminishments of labour’s rights and securities. In 2010 the law severely restricted the possibility of cases of employer abuse. In 2012 employers were given great freedom to fire at will for “economic reasons”. Firing can go almost unexamined. A clause was introduced allowing “positions” to be changed, meaning employees are, in effect, fired without recourse – the “position” is no longer there. In effect, Italy now permits what are called contracts of indeterminate time rather than of determinate time. Hiring and firing can be conducted profitably for employers – at the same time affecting (falsely) employment statistics.
Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi
Renzi’s so-called ‘Jobs Act’ falls on a working population in Italy so stripped of defenses that no worker reaction is expected that compares with resistance action in France. In Italy the new laws smash labour. Between 2014 and 2015 the instability of young Italians’ working life rose from 43% to 55%. The rate of unemployment of youth between 15 and 24 years moved from 30% to 40%. [Andrea Fumagalli, “Jobs Act”, Le Monde diplomatique, July, 2016. P.8]
A total neo-liberal, Matteo Renzi has overseen the lowering of taxes for corporations and the very rich as well as the privatization of energy, transportation, and the postal services. Those moves, neo-liberals vow, will increase investment, production, and employment.
At the same time a study done (February 2016) by the Transnational Institute on Industry and Privatization in Europe (Le Monde diplomatique, July 2016, p. 12) concludes “there is no proof to demonstrate that privatized industries provide better service”. Indeed, it records “the wave of privatizations has made salaries fall, has degraded working conditions, and has increased earning inequality”.
Some of the Italian young are now being asked to work for nothing as a way to build a record that will lead to a CDI – a contract of indeterminate time or – put another way, to a condition in which the employee may be fired at will, without examination of cause.
Meanwhile in the birthplace of democracy, Greece, a calamity deepens as a “troika” in (real) control of Greek affairs tears Greece to pieces.
Many agree Greek publicly-owned infrastructure entities need restructuring. But the “informal group”(!) shaped by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (the “troika”) to auction off Greece will hear of no reconstruction. Everything (so far nineteen privatizations) is to be forcibly sold: ocean ports, airlines and fields, airports, gas, electricity, rail, etc. And the Greek people are to lose (and have lost) wages, pensions, and social protections of all kinds.
A highly effective (and increasingly profitable) proposal for reconstruction was put forward to expand and improve airports and related facilities in public hands. It “ran into categorical refusal by the troika” (Le Monde diplomatique, July 2016, p. 6).
Writing of the enormous, dishonest, manipulated Greek calamity, Niels Kadritzke reports that, repeatedly, single bidders appear, set their own terms for sale, and make huge acquisitions. The “auction” has one person attending! Of the German winning bid for airport ownership and control Kadritzke described the three bidders involved as “an exceptional number for Greek privatizations”. Describing the German win in the airport matter as suspect, Kadritzke suggests that sale after sale robs Greece of any on-going revenue as taxes are slashed or erased and terms of ownership allow unlimited freedom to exploit the Greek people.
Of the German airport acquisition, Kadritzke writes: “In sum, there is in this matter the ingredients of flagrant conflict of interest in violation of all European regulations concerning the process of calling for and receiving offers to purchase – without speaking of the most elementary violation of decency.” (No action on that questionable “sale” (or any other) has been taken by any authority.)
Greek Prime Minister, Alex Tsipras
Greece is not going through anything like an auction. Nothing as honest as that. It is being violently shredded and internationally privatized with the apparent hope on the part of the European Commission and imperial globalizers that NOTHING will be able to put it back together.
Prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who helped create and build the new Syriza Party to save Greece from what is, in fact, happening, appears to have joined the most destructive elements of the European Union.
Of the sell-off of the port of Piraeus to China (COSCO), Tsipras praises it as bringing closer ties between China and Greece.
In the guise of building a cooperative European Community, international capital and imperial globalizers are slashing at the European population with the intention of bringing it to its knees. So far, imperial globalization has had astonishing success. When the people of Europe awaken, take hold, and decide to change direction, the Brexit upheaval in Britain will look like a pleasant afternoon Garden Party on the lawn at Buckingham Palace.
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About the author
Robin Mathews is a professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and a regular contributor to American Herald Tribune