Friday, April 17, 2015

What the Greek Crisis Might Reveal about Global Capitalism

Writing under the pseudonym Tyler Durden (Fight Club fans will recognize that name), the primary author at Zero Hedge has offered an interesting perspective on what the brutally realistic options are for the newly elected Syriza leaders if the party is to represent the democratic aspirations of the Greek people.  Durden places emphasis on the complexity of the current situation and posits, rightly I think, that the Greek people have yet to be presented with a clear picture of what a Euro-member austerity world looks like, compared with a Euro-Exit world.

Zero Hedge offers an insider's view of financial markets and is written by Wall Street traders, under pseudonym, to protect their identities.  What I find most interesting is that Durden’s analysis is very similar to that of Marxian Economists such as Leo Panitch, who have been studying Greece closely and in some cases advising the new Syriza government.

Durden leaves us with his strongly held opinion that Greece will exit the Eurozone financial system. While it is not yet clear that this is a certainty, the inflexible and condescending postures of the IMF leaders and German Finance Minister seem to be pushing Greece closer to the “Grexit” scenario.

The fact that Greece had been ruled by a handful of plutocrat families, who for years were the primary beneficiaries of IMF and Eurozone policies - avoiding taxes and reaping the benefits of debt schemes - seems to have been forgotten.  The moral logic of standard IMF policy is being unwaveringly adhered to in Europe with Germany acting as the moral and fiduciary guardian.

If Marx’s insights gave us nothing else, it is this: there is social cost and social value in all relations, commerce or otherwise.  Neoclassical economic theory has always struggled with this truth, which never seems to fit into its analytical models.  As we once again watch a failure of market economics that puts profits into the pockets of elites while passing their massive, accumulated debts on to working people, we have to take measure of the human cost.

The Syriza leadership seems to be yelling these humane principles into an echo chamber as the EU finance elites talk past them.  The only thing that appears certain now is that whichever decision is taken it will have profound consequences.

Iran: Paranoia, Uncomfortable Facts and Elusive Peace

In their 2007 book, the The Sphinx of Tehran, Yossi Melman and Meir Javedanfar built a narrative around the theory, supported by Israeli intelligence given to Melman, that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a dangerous fanatic whose ideas were framed around a belief in the “Mahdi” and his imminent return.  The Mahdi is the twelfth Imam, the reason we hear the Iranian variant of Shia Islam referred to as “Twelver.”  This theory postulates that Ahmadinejad believed that increased enrichment of uranium could deliver the bomb to the Iranian arsenal by 2007, when Iran would presumably start a war against Israel.  This is an isolated view and the most extreme interpretation of what has been going on inside of Iran; a view not shared by anyone outside of Israel.

As much as Melman’s book offered a great plot for a Ludlum-like thriller, it was severely criticized in the Middle East Policy Council journal that published a review of the book by Gareth Porter.  Porter criticizes the authors for relying too heavily on verbatim Israeli intelligence viewpoints, without critically analyzing them.  He also finds Melman ascribing too much authority to the Iranian president and for equating political campaign rhetoric with actual policy.  Time has proven this view correct as Ahmadinejad has passed from the scene and both rhetoric and actions have changed.

Other odd facts uncomfortably linger:

The Iranian nuclear program was started under the Shah, with support from the United States.

The Ayatollah, Ruholla Khomeini, considered nuclear weapons to be Haram – forbidden under Islamic jurisprudence - and formally proscribed them.

A preexisting, clandestine nuclear program was then shut down.

Iran has publicly and repeatedly renounced weapons of mass destruction and is a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty, The Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Iran does not possess nuclear weapons.

Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty or the Chemical Weapons Convention and has never allowed the IAEA to inspect its nuclear facilities at Dimona, in the Negev desert.

Mordecai Vanunu publicly revealed the secret Israel nuclear weapons program in 1986, and the world has known of it since then.
Vanunu's Photograph of Israel Nuclear Equipment

What a framework for peaceful settlement of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program offers is the opening of a possible détente between the US and Iran, but more importantly the possibility of a détente between Iran and Saudi Arabia.  This would require a great deal of commitment from the US, Russia, Turkey and European allies.  Assuming that the narrow minds of religious extremists will continue to perpetuate a doom-driven status quo and that negotiations are therefore useless, demonstrates a lack of imagination and an adherence to the siege mentality of perpetual war. 

Pursuing dialogue and more dialogue, patiently, persistently and rationally, is the only path to peace.

War has become the easy and financially profitable answer to disputes around the world and history has proven that it sits very comfortably within the capitalist system, often serving as a growth engine during recessionary cycles and slumps.  Its social costs are incalculable.

Peace costs much less, but is more difficult to bring about.