October 31, 2009
The current economic crisis, despite (or maybe because) of the hullaballoo about its premature ‘end’, gives a good perspective on the failures of liberal economic policy. Precisely those nations that had in the past attempted a get-rich-quick scheme by relying on extreme liberalism to draw in capital in search of unrestricted territory for expansion are now the ones suffering the most from the inevitable cyclical collapse that is attendant on the movement of capital.
Such ‘success stories’ of liberal development as Ireland and Iceland have gone into deep recession. Read the rest of this entry »
Hugo Chávez Frías, the current President of Venezuela, was first elected to this office in 1998 and was inaugurated in 1999, now ten years ago.
He had already been a remarkable figure on the Venezolan political scene after having attempted a leftist military coup against the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. In those days, the oil kleptocracy of Pérez failed and a series of riots by the poor majority of Venezolans, the so-called ‘Caracazo’, destabilized the government. Pérez had been a self-styled social-democrat, but had submitted his country to the liberal rule and ‘reforms’ of the International Monetary Fund, which disappropriated the people of their public goods and bled dry the urban population by abandoning the policies of gasoline subsidy. As a result, the Caracazo erupted and the army intervened to violently repress the revolts against this organized comprador thievery and the umpteenth case of betrayal by social-democracy. Progressive sections of the military, led by Chávez, attempted a coup against Pérez. The coup failed and Chávez was imprisoned, but Pérez was removed from office and his successor freed the coup perpetrators.
In 1998, Chávez’s new “Fifth Republic Movement” (MVR) obtained an absolute majority of votes in the Presidential elections, with Chávez himself as the candidate, defeating the rightist American-trained economist Henrique Salas Römer. Read the rest of this entry »
October 26, 2009
For the third time in about as many decades, the specter of massive famine looms over the Horn of Africa region and Ethiopia in particular. Some 13.7 million people are now estimated to be in need of urgent food aid, when at the same time the rations doled out to the poor peasants of Ethopia by aid NGOs and the UN World Food Programme have been slashed as the crisis has severely cut donations.(1) These programmes support some 12 million people in the area and the rations are already small as is, causing a further crisis. The Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2002 already warned that the impending famine could be even worse than the great famine of 1984, which killed about one million people.(2) At that time, the actual famine was narrowly avoided. Read the rest of this entry »
October 25, 2009
Recent times have seen a strong increase again in the number of industrial actions in the public or semi-public sectors, probably under the influence of the current crisis. Recently the court in Amsterdam enjoined the unions from striking in the public transport of the three largest cities in the Netherlands. This strike had been intended as a means of exerting public pressure against the plans of the Dutch government to increase the retirement age to 67.(1) In the meantime the United Kingdom is now witness to a large-scale action by the union CWU against the plans by Royal Mail to implement severe cuts in the services and pensions.(2) The latter of these however threatens to have a counterproductive effect, since Royal Mail is already under significant pressure under the name of privatization. If the mail services were to fully compete, the result would be that the private competitors would be able to obtain all the lucrative mail services by offering worse labor conditions, whereas the Royal Mail, because of its obligation to service, would be stuck with the ‘unprofitable’ mail (as is being seen to some extent already).
A different problem however with industrial action in the public services is the severe pressure they put on public opinion. Read the rest of this entry »