A message of hope for 2017 from Greece

Did you enjoy 2016?

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Pretty much everyone I met who is not Greek and does not visit Greece regularly has had the same question for me in 2016: “So, how are things in Greece, its quiet now, no? Better?”.

This post answers this question (if you were minded to ask) but also unexpectedly carries a message of hope in these dark times, a little indication of how 2017 might be the beginning of a recovery for Europe (at least) despite the annus horribilis 2016.

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How are things in Greece? I think the closest parallel is drowning in quicksand. So long as you don’t move, nothing gets better. If you try and move, you sink a little deeper.

Syriza’s government has been a circus of horrors, whichever way you look at it. Since they took power in 2015 (as has been well documented in this blog) they have lurched from one disaster to another, from one conflict to another, from one (endless) ‘negotiation’ to another. They have achieved a series of ‘political solutions’ which is code for defeat and capitulation. They have interpreted the demands of Greece’s creditors in the most destructive and senseless manner, to the degree that even the IMF thinks the country is dying, stuck in a mire of growth chocking measures.

Most of the time Syriza has done nothing to improve the situation in the country (staying put in the quicksand). Some of the time (usually after botching another round of ‘negotiations’) they have legislated a new raft of fiscal measures (wiggling in the quicksand and sinking a little deeper).

Nothing has improved in Greece and nothing is changing for the better. My answer to my earnest enquirers is that Greece continues to sink as people slowly eat away any left over cash saved before the crisis. This is not to say that some have not benefited. Syriza friends and family are finding jobs in new PM’s offices. Syriza journalists are being hired at resurrected ERT. The party goes on for the few, for a little while longer. Far-right lunatics (forming the junior coalition partners) continue to bless fighter jets, while police cars cannot move for the lack of fuel. There is ample comedy, within the tragedy.

No, things are not improving in Greece.

So where is the message of hope for 2017 the headline to this post advertises?

Greece has been one of the first places where the wave of populist lies and ‘anti’ propaganda led a band of bandits to power. Greece pioneered the escape to fantasy in 2015, proudly followed by the British people electing to torch their economy through Brexit and the Americans electing to have a stab at torching the world by voting for Trump.

As the first piece of this puzzle of a (often farcical) rerun of the 1930s, Greece may be a good place to speculate on possible futures.

I had argued in 2014, mistakenly believing that those who speak nonsense and act crazy are putting on a show to excite the mentally handicapped sections of the electorate (I was wrong, they are stupid, devious and crazy), that a failure for Syriza would leave the political system in such a sorry state, the electorate would lurch further to the extremes after having witnessed the failure of both establishment parties and their populist antagonists. Who would benefit? Golden Dawn, the Greek neo-nazi (but fat and hairy) variant was first in line.

Alas, this does not seem to be happening. The failure of Syriza to drag Greece out of the quicksand is shifting support to traditional parties, like New Democracy (under its new centrist leader Mitsotakis). Syriza’s antics have served to demystify the idea of the ‘left’ as morally superior. Tsipras has laid bare for all to see how what he leads is not ‘the left’ but a group of opportunist, amoral, ignorant and incompetent power-hungry populist have-beens. Even a population as jaded as the Greeks, after 6 years of crisis, realise that the ability to govern and a broad plan (even a Euro-friendly one) is better than banditry and chaos lorded over by power-mad buffoons.

And here is the message of hope for 2017. After the populist experiment has failed, people can come back from the populist abyss. Perhaps the explosion of discontent that brings the sewer to power dissipates after the experience of governance via populists. Perhaps even the attempt to blame ‘others’ for failure won’t convince people who suffer the consequences of bad decisions.

I admit that things look bad at the moment for Europe and the world. There is a chance however that in 2017, Germans will trust Angela Merkel with another term, ensuring continuity for the European project. The French could return a mainstream president (anyone but Le Pen), thus ensuring the stability of the Euro, The Italians could keep at bay the populist buffoonery of Beppe Grillo.

Britain may ameliorate its Brexit experiment in self-harm.

Unfortunately, the Americans cannot help us here, as Trump is entitled to run a world-wide, real-life version of the Apprentice for 4 years. If the world doesn’t end on his account, we may look back at 2017 as the year that things came back from the brink.

They might. Considering the alternative, they must.

Cheer up and enjoy your mince pies.

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@iGlinavos

The consequences of Brexit

Since 2016 I have been writing on the potential consequences of Brexit. Before the referendum, the aim was to inform the public of the dangers ahead, were Leave to prevail. After the referendum, the aim is to steer policy away from a hard-Brexit.

After Theresa May confirmed she is after a Hard Brexit, I wrote an explanation of what this means for the City, and by consequence the country.

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The prospect of Brexit is already making every wage earner in Sterling poorer, as explained in my Marmitegate piece for The Conversation.

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While we knew of the potential effects of a Brexit vote on currencies, few people appreciate what a hard-Brexit (with no successor agreement) will mean for investment and trade. My article on opportunities for Eastern European investors in a hard-Brexit scenario should surprise many on the Leave side.

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My other published work on Brexit can be accessed via this link.

@iGlinavos

Richmond Park by-election, an insider’s view

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I am writing this for my neighbours in Richmond Park. Tomorrow this constituency has the chance to do something important, to send a strong message to the Brexit theocracy that has usurped power that there can be -and will be- resistance to their incompetent tumble towards a hard Brexit.

I urge all of you not to miss this chance. To go out and vote.

By-elections do not greatly matter usually, they are symbolic affairs where the parties try to get a feel of what the public thinks, or local affairs, decided on local issues. Indeed it is a local issue that sparked this election (Heathrow expansion), but as all candidates are anti-Heathrow, this is not the defining factor at the ballot box.

Still, why does all this matter on a national and European level you may ask.

If Zac (the incumbent MP) is re-elected, it will verify Tory dominance in the face of a defunct opposition and a nascent LibDem revolt. A Zac win will make little in the way of news and will not bother Theresa May in the slightest. He is a Tory, will vote with the Tories, will vote for Article 50. He is supported by UKIP. He ran a disgraceful racist campaign for mayor. He will achieve nothing in preventing a Heathrow expansion. Do you really want to reward his stunt and allow him back into the Commons?

A win for Sarah Olney however (the Liberal Democrat candidate) will make national headlines and international news. It will be a strong message to Theresa May that her shambolic, devious and incompetent administration will face resistance in Westminster and the ballot box. She will be one more MP to vote against Article 50.

Do not miss your chance to send this message.

The Greens and progressives in the borough support Sarah. Labour has betrayed its supporters, offers unconditional support to Brexit and does not represent the constituency’s interests. A vote for the Labour candidate is a wasted vote, a vote of support -at worst- or acquiescence -at least- to the plans of the Brexiteers in No.10.

Resist, take your chance, say no to the disaster of a hard-Brexit.

Vote LibDem tomorrow.

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@iGlinavos

An Open Letter to the John Lewis Partners

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I am writing this letter as a concerned customer, citizen, and in my professional capacity as someone teaching in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility. The reason why I have chosen to do this is the response that the Partnership sent to a campaign requesting that John Lewis and Waitrose stop placing ads in British newspapers that promote hate speech in this country, especially in an environment of increasing violence against many in our society. They have responded on Twitter to communications by @StopFundingHate by arguing that the Partnership does not make editorial judgments on any particular newspaper.

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I wish to demonstrate with the following that this stance violates the Partnership’s CSR commitments and to ask YOU, individual partners, to act in order to guide the Partnership to honour its commitments.

The John Lewis Partnership is guided by a series of principles and rules. Principle 7 states the followingThe Partnership aims to obey the spirit as well as the letter of the law and to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities where it operates.

My contention is that placing ads in newspapers promoting hate, undermining the peaceful co-existence of the inhabitants of this island is detrimental to the wellbeing of the communities in which the Partnership operates.

The Partnership proudly declares in its CSR documentation that In 2015 it carried out a detailed review of their approach to respecting human rights, drawing on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Indeed the Partnership has a long history of positive involvement in human rights issues and in responsible business. This was the result of John Spedan Lewis’s visionary ideas, behaviours and beliefs as your CSR statements correctly highlight.

Placing advertising in newspapers spouting lies, spreading hate and disseminating misinformation that aims to divide the nation and turn sections of the population against each other, betrays the values of the Partnership’s founder.

The Partnership proclaims to be engaged in responsible marketing. This means that its marketing is considerate of customer needs and wishes and protects vulnerable groups.

Do you not consider that the people who fled their countries to escape persecution are vulnerable groups? Don’t you consider that foreign workers, trying to make a life for their families in this country, under difficult conditions, are vulnerable groups? Do you not consider that ethnic and religious minorities persecuted by an abominable press and far-right fanatics are vulnerable groups?

Adhering to the Advertising Standards Authority Code of Practice and other relevant industry codes is not enough if it is done as a tick-box exercise. Do you not proclaim to obey the spirit as well as the letter of rules?

In my research in the field of CSR I argued that voluntarism can be something beyond pretty dressing for corporate branding exercises. I tell my students in Human Rights that CSR has substantive value and that the aim is for businesses to do the appropriate thing because they believe it, not because it scores some marketing points or makes for good tweets.

Other businesses are indeed doing the right thing.

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Have I been wrong about John Lewis?

Crucially, YOU as partners, have YOU being wrong? Do you not aspire for the Partnership to be better?

If you do, then I urge you to heed the calls of the Stop Funding Hate campaign and guide the Partnership to honouring its CSR commitments.

With Regards

Dr. Ioannis Glinavos

@iGlinavos

The sheriff has left town: Trump and a return to the wild-west days of finance

My article on Trump and plans for financial deregulation posted in The Conversation can be accessed here

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The article has also appeared on Newsweek

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On Salon.com (access here)

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And on Economia (access here)

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I wrote a follow-on article, discussing expressly the chances of a return of Glass-Steagall for the Huffington Post. You can view it here.

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@iGlinavos

 

 

How to cope with defeat: Lessons from Brexit

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I do not normally do reassurance, so consider this a one-time election special.

A Trump Presidency will not end the world.

Here I said it. I hope you feel better.

A second Trump Presidency WILL end the world however.

Our efforts, and by our I mean all internationalist liberal people anywhere, should be concentrated on preventing this calamity from repeating itself next time around, be it in 2020 or whenever. Consider this a strategic retreat if you will.

Liberal internationalism has suffered a heavy defeat in the election of Trump in the USA. It suffered a serious blow by the Leave win in the EU Referendum in Britain. It would be dealt a long lasting wound by a Le Pen win in France.

There are some things we cannot change. Enough people have revolted against social liberalism that mandated political correctness and acceptance of others as equals. People resent women, foreigners, other races, religions. They always have and they probably always will. They also strongly resent being told they are inferior and wrong, even though these behaviours are inferior and wrong.

Enough people had enough of elites that supposedly operate for their own purposes and interests away from them. They resent the lack of vision, the lack of connection, the excess of a system that blew off the greatest economic crisis for a century and kept on going.

Enough people feel threatened by things outside their control shaping their lives.

All this we knew. What we did not appreciate is the establishment’s inability to shape people’s behaviour when they do get to express a policy changing opinion (eg at the ballot box). We also (at least in the case of Brexit) did not appreciate that a section of the establishment would co-opt this rebellion for its own purposes.

All this you know already, and there are millions of articles, op-eds and blog posts written about it as we speak.

What everyone is wondering about is what to do about it. How does one fight back against this irreversible (it seems) lurch to the right, towards populism, towards a darkness with echos of the 1930s?

After Trump’s victory I no longer believe this descent can be halted. Greece elected ignorant self-serving populists in an act of rebellion against ‘foreign occupiers’. The British chose to throw themselves off a cliff in the hope of something new. The Americans have just elected perhaps the least appropriate person to ever run for the Presidency. It is happening, it will happen elsewhere, nothing you can say or do can put a stop to it.

What does one do then?

The answer is capturing and controlling the narrative of the extremists’ failure.

What is so dangerous about this global phenomenon is not the extremes taking power, it is how they will use their failures to create a narrative that leads inexorably to conflict.

Lets take the example of Brexit.

The idea of Brexit is based on a series of un-achievable dreams. During the EU Referendum we failed to convince the majority of voters that wishing for a unicorn does not create one. Our task post-referendum is to convince people that the unicorn did not appear because it never existed, not because we Remainers did not join in wishing for one.

Brexit will fail as a project because it cannot deliver on its promises of restricting immigration and ensuring prosperity at the same time. It can either attempt to restrict immigration with catastrophic consequences for economic performance (for a variety of reasons explained elsewhere on this blog), or it can deliver a manageable drop in living standards for zero progress on any of its key objectives. There is no upside to Brexit and no silver lining, at least for the people who voted for it.

What is important is how a narrative explaining this failure develops. A careful, fact based, relentless effort needs to be made to demonstrate that the failure of Brexit is due to incompetent government, unrealistic aims, incoherent promises and contradictory policy goals. This needs to be homed-in on a daily basis for weeks, for months, for years. It may not prevent (and will not prevent) Brexit from happening, but it will lay the blame squarely where it belongs: at the hands of those who argued for Leave and carried it out.

Failing to control the narrative will lead to a surging nationalist right placing the blame at the hands of “Remoaners”, pro-EU traitors, evil vindictive Europeans, bribed or bamboozled foreigners, Enemies-of-the-People Judges.

Failing to demonstrate, carefully and thoroughly that the Brexit government is responsible for the disruption that is to follow will lead to an entrenchment of the worse aspects of Leave: The racism, the anger, the violence. It will lead to violent conflict.

Similarly with Trump. The Trump Presidency will spectacularly sink in its myriad incompatible, incoherent, un-achievable promises. Who gets the blame for the failure will determine the nature of US politics and the shape of the world for generations to come.

Failed governments, bad policies, rotten ideologies crumble and fall. Look at Soviet Communism if you need any examples. Trump’s rotten politics should not take 70 years to disintegrate. They should not outlast his first term.

The job of Democrats, of progressives, of liberals in the USA and the world is to highlight, publicize and fact check day in and day out the failures of the Trump regime.

It will be difficult in this supposedly post-fact, post-rationality, expert-hating political environment, but people are not that blind to the reality around them. Blaming others only works for a little while for regimes that burn out very fast. Hitler came to power in 1933 and would not have lasted till 1945 were it not for the war. America is not Nazi Germany. When Trump fails, it will be obvious. The task is to control the narrative and prevent him from spinning it as the fault of ‘wreckers’ and traitors within.

There it is therefore America and World. We have failed, we have been defeated. We will rise again. Reality is our ally, we just have to pull our sleeves up and this nightmare will one day be over.

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@iGlinavos