The Joys of Neo-liberalism

A commentary on policies which threaten the middle-class and marginalise it, while enriching the rich further. The economic doctrine of neo-liberalism threatens to de-stabilize democracies or perhaps even usher in an era of authoritarian rule.

Sometimes I think all this Koran burning business and the uproar over the Romas in Europe, is whipped up deliberately by the corporate owned media to detract or distract us from something far more pernicious: the cancerous spread of unchecked neo-liberal economic policies.

My purpose is not to diminish the pure folly or a stated intention of such an act as the immolation of a “holy book,” or to try to mitigate the immorality of en masse deportations , but to focus on policies which lead to all kinds of fanaticism and extremism, when they are implemented ” stock, lock, and barrel”; namely, unrelenting neo-liberalism, which destroys the social fabric within states, increases poverty rates, fosters criminality and corruption and then eventually eviscerates the state structure itself. It’s nasty stuff.

The Czechs, French, Greeks man the barricades!

A Czech friend working in international development in Yemen, alerted me recently to the news of 6,000 public sector workers, who are to be sacked by the newly elected neo-liberal regime led by right leaning ODS (The Civic Democratic Party) prime minister Petr Nečas . (The youthful, Mr. Nečas is the ideological offspring or son of Dr. Frankenstein; a disciple of the current president and former “mad professor” of neoliberal dogmas, Vaclav Klaus.) He seems to be running amok. Like a slasher, he’s doing a “hatchet job” not only on the public sector domestically ; the planned spending cuts (to reduce the budget deficit) will hit Czechs living and working abroad too.

The small but relatively prosperous nation of ten million, which has been through 20 years of unprecedented in its size, scale and pace, “pro-market” reforms such as de-regularisation, massive privatisation, health system overhaul in the name of greater efficacy etc., plans also to shut down embassy and consular operations in many diplomatic missions abroad, including in Sanaa. Huge strikes or “walk-outs” are planned for next week (September 21st) which will likely paralyse the Czech capital, as they have this past month, places like Paris, Athens and the London tube.

If we look further to “emerging nations” and markets like South Africa, we see it’s faced with similar social-civil and labour strife. Due to what? This is caused by the same neo-liberal methods used in the richer states to dismantle what is left of the middle class and the so called’ “welfare state” on which they depend on for their well-being and future.

Returning to Europe, this month in France there have been huge public sector strikes to show the government, the workers’ ire with planned reforms to their pensions and threatening job security. In Greece, the government’s diktat (which recall the militaristic zeal of the juntas which ran the country in the 1970s…) to impose draconian budget cuts, freezing wages and raising taxes all to please foreign creditors proceeds apace.

The IMF and the EU act as enablers (in well-tailored suits) to make sure neo-liberal policies are enacted, and austerity measures enforced, to the last letter and no matter what the price to socio-economic stability. In the end, the average Greek (not the yacht owner who evades taxes, or the corrupt official “on the take”) to put it less than grandiloquently, gets to be royally shafted . Athens is doing everything possible to avoid defaulting on its debts re-payments like Argentina did in 2001.

However, calculated reasoning and reflective deductions, tells me, the country is likely to do just that: stop paying off its creditors by the end of this year. This, of course, would lead to a crisis in the Eurozone (Spain, Portugal etc.) But so then, so what? Will the earth stop spinning, or the sun not rise the morning after? Re-financing of the Greek debt under less brutish terms of re-payment, is better than plunging the country into third world like status, where the well-being of banks always triumphs over that of the workers’-pensioners’-taxpayers’. Re-structuring Greece’s debt payments is more humane and rational, than exacting more pain on the population or, yes, even, provoking perhaps a return to military rule. Greece, the last time I checked, is still in Europe, and not in sub- Saharan Africa. Hence, the IMF can’t do to the Greeks what it does to the Congolese or Zambians.

Welcome to the new world war: on the world’s middle-class population

The new reality in the post-2008 financial crash (or just two years after the demise of Lehman brothers) is not the so called “war on terror”. Albeit , that’s already scary enough, above all, those underwear explosives hidden in an African’s nickers on a passenger air-liner… But the most frightening prospect we already face, is the unrelenting and systematic attack on or against the middle class, which is now in full swing. The devastation from this almost messianic campaign to impoverish the middle-class strata of our societies , in my view, will have far greater implication for global security than any terrorist plot or any dormant “sleeper cell” will have or has had in the past.

The middle class is under siege by greedy banks, exploitative corporations who have out-sourced and shipped “decently paying jobs” to Hyderabad and or Guangzhou1 and Shylock-like states, seeking to squeeze every last shilling out of the overburdened debt-ridden taxpayer to pay for the follies of “drunken bankers”. For their part, unionised workers in Europe, are seeing their wages stagnate or shrink. The ravages of chronic or prolonged unemployment, is another factor debilitating or crippling the “average wage earner” who fears for his or her job and their family’s welfare, while being mired in intractable debt.

If industrialised states continue to “vampirize” the middle- classes as they have until today, then the developed democracies world-wide will be destabilised, and media stunts by “off-keel” pastors will seem like mere light entertainment for the disgruntled somewhat distracted masses.

  1. See “India shouldn’t even think of getting into low value manufacturing,” David Lee, The Economic Times, 03/09/10. []
Michael Werbowski is a graduate of post communist studies from the University of Leeds, UK. Read other articles by Michael.

2 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on September 21st, 2010 at 9:18am #

    Nothing could better illustrate the sheer desperation of the neo-liberals that Mr Werbowski’s claim that there might be a return to military rule in Greece! When the Wall St banksters attacked the euro via Greece, they thought the result would be like a firecracker in the middle of a flock of sheep. The EU leaders would panic and scatter in all directions. TINA and all that! The plan was to provoke a German bailout of Greece, then attack, in turn, the other countries sneered at as Piigs, provoking astronomical bailouts. That, they hoped, would generate a taxpayer revolt in Germany, bringing down the euro, if not the EU itself, and making sure that the EU didn’t escape from under the American Empire’s jackboot. Instead of that, European leaders closed ranks and Greece didn’t default. So Mr Werbowski, a Canadian freelance journalist who worked in the 1990s for the conservative Czech newspaper Lidové Noviny, is just the latest horrified neo-liberal propagandist to try to bamboozle American progressives into believing that the EU and the euros are condemned to collapse (TINA!). Neither shows the slightest sign of collapsing, and indeed, the healthy fall in the value of the euro is starting to generate a boom in Europe’s export-driven economy! Hence, Mr Werbowski’s “calculated reasoning and reflective deductions” which tell him that Greece is going to default any day now! Of course, Mr Werbowski torpedoes his own argument by pointing out the difference between an EU Member State like Greece and other countries. You attack Greece (or Latvia!), you take on the whole EU, the world’s largest economy, so those of us who are citizens of small Member States say “thank God for the EU! Without it thing would probably be much, much worse!”. I should also add in passing that what is “better” or “more humane and rational” in regard to Greece is a matter for the Greeks, and not for Mr Werbowski or any other foreigner. And the Greeks, including the Greek Communist Party (KKE), are calling for a strengthening of the EU, not its abolition.

  2. David Silver said on September 23rd, 2010 at 7:34pm #

    Michael- I think you forgot about the working class