Refugee Crisis: A radical proposal

Greece faces an unprecedented migration/refugee crisis. UNHCR reports that more than 100.000 people have arrived in Greece since the start of 2016 alone. With borders closing upstream (Macedonia, Serbia, Austria, Hungary etc) it is not possible for these people to move on.

Turkey is clearly failing (intentionally or not) to live up to its commitments to stem the migrant/refugee flow. The main contributor to the crisis, the Syrian conflict does not seem to be abating. If anything, it is turning into a regional war, and a focal point of international competition reminiscent of cold-war proxy conflicts.

I had suggested in the summer that Greece should treat the refugee emergency in the same way it would treat an earthquake and mobilise emergency response to house and care for those arriving over the summer. Things have become so much worse since the summer, even such response will not do any more.

It is important to understand one thing, Greece is alone in this. Europe should help, other states should agree to take on significantly higher numbers of refugees. Turkey should do something, other than bomb the Kurds. A lot of things should and could happen but they won’t. What is happening is that Greece will have another million people stranded there over the course of the year. I guess, this will stop when the conflict areas empty of non-combatants, but we are a few million away from that yet.

What can happen is that Europe pays for Greece to care for the people stranded there, while everyone else talks and talks pretending to work towards a lasting solution, or the war in Syria burns itself out. No one likes this? No one does. It is happening, it will happen. Greece being recalcitrant will lead to all these people being stuck there without the funding to care for them. Hear that Mr Tsipras?

If people are to stay in Greece for the medium to long term, where are they going to stay?

Here comes the radical part of this proposal.

pogoni

They can come stay in my home. I come from Epirus, Ioannina in fact. My grandfather is from Meropi (Robates) in the Pogoni region bordering Albania.

The Region of Epirus, located in the northwest of Greece. The total area of the region is 9.203 square kilometers, of which 14% is agriculture land, 52% is covered by grassland, 26% is forest and 3% represents the surface waters, while built up areas and other uses account for the remainder of the land. The 74% of the region, is mountainous areas.

According to the census of 2001 Epirus has a population of 353.820 inhabitants, which represents the 3,3% of the total population of Greece. The population density is 38-inhabitants/ square km, which corresponds to less than a half of the average population density in Greece.

The region of Pogoni has a population of 9000 (2011 census) and a surface of 740km².

meropi

We have been complaining for decades about the depopulation of our villages along the border. Of houses falling down, of infrastructure staying unused. The area is full of villages with houses and no people. With fields and no farmers. People used to live there. They lived there for centuries. They could live there again, rebuild the villages with European funds (blood money if you want to call it that).

What about the people who own the land? The government could lease it from them, it could even expropriate it as a measure of last resort. Indeed the government has already expropriated a lot of it as many up there cannot pay the property taxes. Would we give people’s summer houses over the migrants? Well, yes. Would we create Muslim villages in our border towns and villages? Yes.

Any right-winger nationalist itching to call me a traitor can go ahead, and I hope when their own children flee a war someday they get the same treatment Greece is dishing out to refugees at the moment.

My family was evacuated by the British to Corfu during the civil war. They could have let my grandmother get killed.

Our towns rehoused refugees after the Balkan Wars ended in 1923, they could have refused them. The Greeks from Turkey who fled after the end of the war were as alien to the local population in Epirus as the current refugees are. Do not hide behind nationalist myths of fraternity based on religion and language. They did not recognize each other as kin.

dilofo2

You don’t like giving over our empty villages to the refugees? Where would you like them to go? Walk up and down the motorways till they all die? What will people do up there you ask? They will live in safety, farm the land. It is a better existence than walking to Calais or Berlin and better than being killed by Assad or Daesh. In any case, they will not be imprisoned there, they can leave if they want, but Greece will have done its duty, will have offered them an alternative to a life on the road or death at the hands of the jihadists. I do not make a distinction between migrants and refugees here. They are both fleeing terrible fates.

Come on, lets face reality and start suggesting things. The above is a suggestion, bad one perhaps, but it is a suggestion. If my kids were fleeing a war I would like someone to suggest something like this. Or perhaps us living in London or Paris do not expect to survive the next war.

Ok, I do not currently live in the areas I recommend are given over, but I will give up my summer house and inheritance entitlements if need be. What would you give?

@iGlinavos

Casual Contracts in HE

 

This is a message from Sally Hunt sent to UCU members:

Dear colleague,

A question for you. Is the proliferation of casual contracts in higher education ‘a small problem’?

I ask because that is what the employers’ body UCEA are reported to have told the government in their response to the HE Green Paper.

UCEA and others also say that forcing universities to publish what proportion of their teaching staff have secure jobs would have a negative impact on quality since it would place universities who use visiting lecturers with outside experience at a disadvantage.

I believe this is a wilful misrepresentation of the truth. By UCU’s count there are more than 100,000 university teachers in the UK who do not have a secure contract.

In many institutions, this hidden, insecure army is what delivers the bulk of undergraduate teaching. The vast majority are not visiting lecturers “popping in” to share their experiences and they deserve the employer’s gratitude rather than to be swept under the carpet or belittled as a minor or small problem.

This week by contrast UCU has again met government to press the union’s case that the working conditions of staff are intimately related to the learning conditions of our students: and to argue that great teachers and their students are being let down by an employment model which institutionalises job insecurity.

While your employers and their representatives seem to see this as a minor issue, UCU disagrees. We have made the tackling of casualisation a central part of our pay claim this year because we believe that everybody deserves job security and because we believe that our students will benefit from that too.

If you missed it you can read more on what I have said about quality and casualisation here.

You can also read more about what UCEA and others have said about the issue in their Green Paper responses here.

Thank you for supporting UCU. Help us grow by forwarding this message to non-members and asking them if they think casualization is ‘a small problem’.

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

redistributed by @iGlinavos

Why is Britain Trying to Leave the EU? A Quick Guide

cameron

I am currently in France and I am surrounded by people posing the same question: What the hell is Cameron doing in Brussels?

For those of you not in Britain, or with other things to do than follow Tory shenanigans, here is a short summary on how we arrived at the Brussels meeting today.

Britain has always been profoundly Eurosceptic. This is because of a variety of historical reasons, but also because Europe has served as an easy scapegoat for whatever is wrong with governance in the UK. Crucially for the right of the political spectrum anti-EU feeling has been a wonderful deflection from the failures of the ruling class and a distraction from rising inequality. It is so much easier to blame distant bureaucrats for failures at home. So much more convenient to blame European workers for unemployment and lack of opportunities for the British working class. The fact that the distortions in the domestic labour market are caused by a predatory elite disadvantaging local workers is by the by.

The consequence of the above is a strongly anti-immigration, anti-EU working class manipulated by a strongly anti-EU City which dreams deregulatory dreams away from the clutches of Brussels. Laughably, the working class vote running away from Labour since the financial crisis landed in the open arms of racist populist UKIP, a party of rich parochial Brits with a gripe against immigration for purely personal gain.

Caught between the financial sector lackeys in the Conservative Party and pressured by UKIP on the right, Cameron felt that he could defuse the tension and secure his position by promising a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU where he to win the 2015 election. It is widely believed that at the time the promise was made no one (including Cameron himself) thought he would win, therefore the referendum promise was a wonderful political ploy with no real consequence.

Alas, the wise British people voted for another 5 years of austerity (hear that Greeks? People on occasion vote enthusiastically for more pain!). The election promise of Cameron had to become reality. Cameron’s internal political games became a critical danger for the country. The majority of business, academia in its entirety and most people who know what the EU actually is and does are strongly opposed to the prospect of exit. Yet, a referendum is an unpredictable thing (hear that Mr Tsipras?). The Leave campaign in this referendum is heavily dependent on often unvoiced racist and anti-immigrant feelings in British society. Given a chance to express themselves, aligned and backed by rich financiers, who knows what might happen?

How could Cameron now step back from his promise to give the British public another (they already had a referendum on EEC membership in 1975) stab at an exit? The answer the government came up with was the famed ‘negotiation’. A completely bogus political theater designed to allow the PM to favour the Staying-In option, while at the same time heading a strongly Eurosceptic party. Do not kid yourselves, what has been happening during the last few months and the last few days in Brussels has very little content. It is an ersatz fight, whose sole purpose is to allow Cameron to sidestep his own miscalculations.

Where does this leave the Staying-In campaign? Whatever Cameron brings back from Brussels can be safely ignored. Good deal or bad deal (on Tory terms) does not matter. What matters is that Britain outside the EU is a bad idea both for Britain and the EU. There are a lot of things wrong with the EU, and a lot subject to negotiation and change. Yet, this referendum is an internal political game which has nothing to do with the deficiencies of the EU in its current incarnation.

Is Britain trying to leave the EU? The short answer is no. This is a fight between different factions of the right, that by miscalculation and mistake may lead to a political earthquake. Let us hope that it does not come to pass. Let us work towards preventing it.

toixos

@iGlinavos

 

The politics of sadness

tsipras banner

What motivates policy making? Is it the practical recognition that courses of action can have beneficial outcomes? Is it an ideological commitment to a cause of action? Is it, perhaps, the desire to stay in power for power’s sake, through the use of lies, diversion and distraction?

I have often wondered in this blog what is the point of the self-proclaimed ‘first time left government’ of Greece. This was a pertinent question ever since the compromise was made in the summer of 2015 to accept the new bailout and keep the country in the Euro. It became a pressing question in the September 2015 election (which returned said government). It is an urgent, some say desperate question in the spring of 2016.

After Syriza changed course away from memorandum bashing in favour of memorandum acceptance (in practice if not in rhetoric), it ditched its ideology and long practice of ‘resistance’ in favour of a new type of pragmatism. Why would anyone consider Mr Tsipras though different from Venizelos and Samaras who espoused the same type of pragmatism? This presented a critical problem for Syriza, as the recognition that there is no alternative to Euro membership and Troika cooperation would negate their political presence.

Syriza is a party with an activist base that grew from 4% of the vote to above 35% on the assumption that they were ideologically different and did not share the same ‘pragmatism’ as the hated ‘memorandum’ & Troika-controlled governments that came after Papandreou absconded the ‘throne’ in 2010. How does one traverse the thin line between ideological difference and pragmatic acceptance of a reality defined by ‘others’?

The answer, laughable as it may be, was to accept to implement a programme (pragmatic choice) that Syriza is ideologically opposed to and continuously promises to resist, but -wait for it- be sad about it. There it is therefore, the political capital of Tsipras rests on the government being sad about what it is doing to its people, regretting the necessity of implementing horrible measures, being unhappy when signing the laws that prolong the ‘austerity’ this government was created to fight against.

There is an endless series of examples of Ministers signing austerity measures with grief. The PM announces every opportunity he gets that he is sad to do this, that he has been blackmailed by the Europeans. When faced with the question: Don’t you think Samaras and Venizelos were also blackmailed, Tsipras answers: Yes, but they thought these measures were good, they were going to help the country. We (Syriza-Anel) do not think these measures are good, we don’t think they will help, yet we do them, in sadness.

The question that immediately comes to mind to anyone not brainwashed by ‘anti-austerity’ perpetual-protest nonsense is: How could a government that thinks it is doing the wrong thing govern? How can it implement the measures it decries as wrong? How can it successfully pass evaluations by external bodies (ie Troika)?

It cannot is the short answer. This explains why Syriza-Anel are unable to govern on any level. They are paralysed between an ideological commitment to resistance and serving their client-base whose very survival depends on the continued disbursement of bailout funds. The inescapable conclusion is that this study in contradictions (too many to recount here) has failed. In failing it is dragging the country further down the hole it is in.

Does Mr Tsipras and Mr Kammenos care? Many believe they do not. They are glued to their chairs and will do and say anything to stay in power. The result is lies, diversion and distraction to maintain support while the country sinks.

Tsipras being sad about implementing ‘necessary’ measures he thinks are wrong is like a rapist regretting raping a young girl. He has to do it, as he cannot satisfy his urges otherwise, he knows it is wrong but it has to be done. He is sad about it.

Mr Tsipras and Mr Kammenos need to offer an alternative plan for Greece with honesty. If they cannot, they need to leave. As they will not leave of their own accord the Greek people need to choose others to ‘save them’ next chance they get. Everything else is a dangerous waste of time.

kolos tsipras

@iGlinavos

Resistance for its own sake

varouzombie

We all resist so much. We have to. Or do we?

What are we actually resisting all the time? As academics, as scholars we take pride in our capacity to critique, analyse, deconstruct. To what end?

I am as responsible as the professor next to you. I wrote aplenty about neoliberalism, capitalism, democracy, the deficiencies of the state, the EU, the constitution, participation, emancipation.

For a while I felt secure behind the veil of critique that shields academia from real life. My job was to deconstruct I told myself, not to propose policy solutions. This was a job for the politicians.

Alas, the politicians offered no solutions. People like me took power in Greece, in Portugal, threaten to take power in Spain. Even in the US a ‘socialist’ candidate is making headway, unheard of.

But there is often a pronounced lack of governance from the professionals of critique. The best example is Prof. Varoufakis. We have written similar stuff in similar ways based on different, yet consistent literature. We reference Stigliz, Krugman, Marx, Foucault. We critique away. But, when the crisis reaches us, we come face to face with life, then we need to propose policy as well as to whinge about the inequalities of capitalism, the deficiencies of the EU, the errors of bureaucracy. We need to propose solutions that help, rather than hurt the population.

We need to improve the lives of real people, rather than the abstractions of voters, citizens, activists.

Why all this reflection you may wonder? Who cares what I critique anyway? The reason for this post is the inauguration of Varoufakis DiEM25, the lurch into Utopia.

Thinking ‘Utopia’ is exactly why we got into this mess to begin with. Tsipras and his band of merry bandits were thinking Utopia. Had no vision as to how to run an actual country with actual breathing people (and yes this includes breathing people who need to feed, beyond the Syriza close and dear who get cushy state jobs).

Varoufakis, urging us to debate, think, engage with the abstract aim of ‘improving’ the EU is asking us to continue to do what we have been doing already. Sit on the couch and pen blog posts about democracy and participation.

Greece is sinking, Europe is disintegrating. Varoufakis and his buddies are dreaming. Let them dream, but the rest of us need to wake up.

monkey

@iGlinavos

Lefty zika-heads and Brexit

lefty idiots

The lack of a positive message:

The ‘stay’ campaign in the EU referendum is having difficulty finding its feet. The reason for this is the lack of a clear, easily transmittable positive message about the EU. It is possible to win on the basis of fear, scaring voters about the consequences of an exit. This seems to have been the strategy of the stay campaign in the Scottish referendum. The issue is however that this is a dangerous strategy for two reasons. First, negative campaigns do not work very effectively. Second, negative campaigns do not settle the issue conclusively.

If pro-Europeans want to win this referendum and stop the demagogues of the right from demanding another one in a few years, they need to offer a positive narrative about Europe. Can one be found however that will work for the ‘leave’ leaning British voter?

I am not so sure. We can all come up with a fairly convincing list of arguments on why Brexit is a bad idea, but can we think of reasons why staying in the EU is good, other than the velocity of existing arrangements?

EU law is positive in protecting the consumer as most lawyers know. This is unlikely to have much impact on a public ‘disgusted’ with ‘health and safety gone mad’ and other such tripe.

Should we try and convince the public that EU immigration is good for the country? It is, but good luck with that argument. So far as third country immigration is concerned and the refugee crisis, best not go there at all.

Let’s show how EU institutions have effectively dealt with economic crisis in the Eurozone… Eh, maybe not.

You get I hope the nature of the problem. The ‘stay’ campaign needs a positive narrative, for sure. How to come up with one is less sure.

 

Lefty zika heads:

An additional problem is the attitude of the left towards the EU

There is a problem with the Corbynite Left. Actually there are many problems with the ‘grassroots’ non-Parliamentary left, but I will focus on just one.

They are an unpredictable danger for the In-camp in the EU Referendum. The reason for this is that the condemnation of the EU as a neoliberal, pro market Leviathan, may lead significant numbers of young, newly energized voters (by the Corbyn effect) to vote for Brexit. They may do so thinking that this enables more discretion and more options in their attempt to re-balance the state-market relationship in Britain.

The idea that a Britain outside the EU may allow socialist type alternatives is a fallacy for two reasons.

Reason one is that Socialism in One Country (Социализм в одной стране in Stalin’s words) does not work. The theory held that given the defeat of all the communist revolutions in Europe in 1917–1921 except Russia’s, the Soviet Union should begin to strengthen itself internally. That turn toward national communism was a shift from the previously held Marxist position that socialism must be established globally (world communism). The British hard left seems to think that while leftist movements have failed in Europe (Syriza abandoned its leftist pretenses in Greece, Podemos is fizzling out etc), a left alternative could be built in Britain, starting with Corbyn taking power in 2020.

It will not, because Corbyn cannot and will not win in 2020. No pollster, or betting shop or academic who has looked at the numbers think that Corbyn has a better chance of winning than a snowball materializing in hell.

Reason two is that in the short term defeat in the EU Referendum and Brexit will launch the country sharply to the right. In the mayhem that will ensue, the left message will be lost in the nationalist fervor and right wing anti-immigrant, racist politicking that will dominate between 2017 and 2020.

As Corbyn will have forfeited the higher ground (pro-immigration, pro-internationalist) by not supporting clearly and unequivocally  staying-in, he will suffer even worse in the General Election.

Voting for a Britain outside the EU for the working class is equivalent to turkeys voting for Xmas. Voting for Britain outside the EU is voting for a 1000 year Tory rule (if you will excuse the unpleasant analogy).

Does the working class really want to align itself with the Hedge Fund managers who will support the Leave campaign out of unashamedly expressed self interest? Really?

Now is the time for the working class, the left, to come out strongly in support of the EU.

Thinking people of course do not like what the EU has become. Nonetheless, the interests of the working class and the left are best served by Britain staying in and working for a better future for everyone.

Socialism in One Country did not work too well for the Russians either.

Despite the obvious nature of the above, groups of fantasists like LabourLeave are digging the grave of the working class campaigning for Brexit. In what follows I try to explain why they are wrong, without becoming too offensive.

 

Hello, I am Kevin:

Let us explore the position of a fictional left leaning voter, currently in the (persuadable) leave group. We shall call this chap Kevin.

Kevin works as a teaching assistant at a University. He is on modest pay, but aspires to an academic career which will see a steady improvement in his salary, coupled with the security of a permanent job. He is a self-proclaimed lefty and supported Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest.

Kevin hates Europe. For a lot of the more ‘radical’ British left, Europe is a neoliberal nightmare. The ever-closer Union by stealth is building a market based leviathan that sucks away sovereignty and effectively outlaws any policy incompatible with economic orthodoxy. Kevin always held this view, but two recent events have solidified his position as an enemy of the EU.

The first is the crisis in the Eurozone and the treatment of Greece. The depression in Greece, Kevin argues frequently, gave birth to a left alternative. Syriza came to power in 2015 and fought valiantly against the forces of Euro-neoliberalism under the command of Prof. Varoufakis. The Syriza rebellion however was crushed by Merkelism and the unrelenting neoliberal fiends of the Eurogroup. Varoufakis was ousted and Tsipras capitulated after being blackmailed into submission. The EU was always seen as undemocratic, but the latest events make it worse than that. The EU, at least in its Eurozone part, will go out of its way to undermine and subvert democracy, to crush dissent. Schaeuble will roll over anyone who objects to German ordo-liberalism.

The second event is the TTIP negotiation. For decades Europe, while pursuing a liberalising agenda, had resisted American influence on full scale marketisation. Some protection remained for certain market sectors and a European welfare state survived to a degree. While this was not optimal in Kevin’s view, it was still better than the do-or-die American culture. Then the European Commission embarked on secret negotiations on a grand trade deal. A trade deal that would bring the worse of Anglo-saxon capitalism to Europe, a deal that would even lift corporations out of the jurisdiction of national courts, creating ‘special’ investment tribunals tasked with protecting the expectations of the market against the rights of citizens.

All this was too much for Kevin. He will vote for Britain to leave the European Union. His last act of solidarity to the Greeks will be to drop his ballot in the box and stick it to Schaeuble.

Hang on a second….

What would the day after the referendum be like for our friend Kevin? All polling suggests that Corbyn is set to lose in the 2020 general election, and lose badly. If Labour lost in 2010 (being accused of the financial crisis), lost in 2015 (where it tried to advocate for the poorest in society), will it win in 2020 on a classical left agenda?

Lets assume that it will not (at least the bookies do).

Kevin has proudly rejected the ‘neoliberal’ EU, so that he is tormented at home by a Thatcherite right? The Tories, if ‘leave’ wins the referendum are likely to lurch further to the right. Kevin will be left with a country turning right, lose social protections guaranteed by EU norms, lose access to the European Court of Justice, probably lose the Human Rights Act to a reduced Bill of Rights created by a revanchist right. Kevin will have shut himself off, not only from the market lovers of Brussels, but also from social movements and progressive parties that are trying to argue for a more socially inclusive Europe in the European Parliament.

Kevin will be alone, at the mercy of a domestic predatory elite that cares nothing for him.

The message for Kevin and all the Kevins of the Corbynite left out there is this: Yes the EU is flawed and neoliberal and in need of serious change. Leaving the EU will leave you at the mercy of Mr Cameron, Mr Osborne and their ‘business’ friends.

Perhaps Kevin should think about where the biggest threat to any left alternative comes from. It does not come from Europe.

homer

@iGlinavos

PS. I will be happy to come explain this in person (at my own cost) to any LabourLeave supporters and help them come to their senses.