Hair[cuts] of the Dog[s]
1. All that was lacking was the puff of white smoke….. and a hall of mirrors. All that was lacking to the labor and delivery of the latest infant heir to crumbling euro-throne; all that was lacking to the latest bailout, financial stabilization facility, firewall, vaccine, blood-brain barrier; all that was lacking to the birth of the latest in still-born messiahs riding into town in the back of a limousine and on the backs of seventeen asses was that smoke and that hall of mirrors reflecting into infinity the image of latest in the line of hairless, toothless, witless offspring of smoke and mirrors capitalism.
Staring at their latest product, Herr Sarkozy and Madame Merkel, held hands and spoke to each other as one:
"Mein Liebling er sieht genau wie wir. Ma Cherie, il regarde juste comme nous."
It was October 27, 2011.
2. Marx, prior to plunging into the study of political economy, has to settle accounts with Hegel. It is Hegel's mastery of critical philosophy that has revealed itself incapable of apprehending the true conditions of history, of human beings creating the conditions of their own existence. Critical philosophy at its zenith cannot apprehend the material basis for its own existence, which is that conditions of sustaining the society are antagonistic, contradictory, opposed to the social labor process.
At a point, the point being the intersection of the concrete organization and functioning of the society with human need, critical philosophy exhausts itself. Abstract criticism capitulates to things as they are, unable to expose relations as they become manifest.
At this point, Marx undertakes his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. There is a material, "passive," basis for Marx's own work and that is the intersection of Germany's backward political relations combined with the modern economic conditions that have already taken root there. The Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right stands as a record of Marx's encounter with this uneven and combined development. Marx's "A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right—Introduction" is the overture to what would become the enduring theme, the symphonic collection he would produce as his opus—historical materialism.
This "Introduction" is just that and in it Marx actually reestablishes critique but not as or in the abstract, as speculative inquiry. Rather, critique is demonstrated, not described, as the quality, the condition, the product of human activity itself, the product of the labor process.
Critique is reshaped, or rather re-produced as an expression, manifestation of the conflict, the antagonism, the contradiction that produces and reproduces human beings as social beings, as they create their own social existence in the mediation of their natural existence through their facility, capability, potential, necessity for social labor.
Critique, reshaped, reproduced, is also restored as the immanent critique, the critique inherent in the conditions, relations of existence, erupting, and disrupting, the state of existence, of being.
It is in his "Introduction" that Marx gives immanent critique it's "sweetest" most poetic expression, stating, almost throwing away the statement that "…these petrified conditions must be made to dance by singing to them their own melody." The musicality of the immanent critique is not just that it sings in the voice recognizing the contradictions, but that the song is those contradictions achieving a voice. It's not just that the "music" is in the right key, but that the music is the key itself.
Now voice assumes its power in exposition, in relating the origins and prospects, the history of the petrified, obsolete, but still respiring conditions. With capitalism, as it accumulates its contradictions, the "singing" is performed by its very defenders, its agents, its governors, administrators, advocates in the very act of defending, governing, administering to, and advocating the conditions of capital.
It happens, sometimes, that the song begins with a sigh of relief:
"I believe the debt crisis affecting Spain and the Eurozone in general has passed." So said Spain's Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez-Zapatero in September of 2010. Six months later, the passing was of Rodriquez-Zapatero himself as he announced he would not stand for reelection… as if it were his choice, his decision. Rodriquez-Zapatero was compelled to move up the date for national elections in accordance with the wishes of holders of the Spanish sovereign, and corporate, debt. Ever the singer, always with the song, Rodriquez-Zapatero, in announcing the early elections, crooned "I believe that the basis for economic recovery and the foundations of a new stage of growth in Spain have been laid."
Other verses of the song might include frank admissions as to the dysfunctional function of capital accumulation:
"Our industry has destroyed billions of dollars in value, and we have been at that task year after year. The financial crisis did not cause the problems we face, it unmasked them, laid them bare, and deprived us of any pretence of denial," sang Sergio Marchionne, CEO Fiat SpA, in late September 2011.
Sometimes, the song has a verse of simultaneously expressing recognition and disbelief:
"We have experienced the most sustained fall in living standards since the Great Depression," hummed Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England.
Other verses appear without being credited to any particular author, as if they were part of the public domain, the common knowledge of all:
"The large banks [in opposing the conditions agreed upon in the Basel III round of banking requirements] are seeking to undo the moderate progress that has been made, using the very crisis they helped trigger as an excuse."
Sometimes verses appear speculating about what might have, could have, and should have happened:
"What could, and in the original design of the eurozone, should have happened was no financing, huge depression, falling nominal wages, massive defaults, and, after years of devastation, a recovery. This would have been adjustment without financing. What did happen was financing with quite limited true adjustment through ECB funding of dubiously solvent banks, and via lending from other governments and the International Monetary Fund, for Greece, and Portugal."—Martin Wolf, October 12, 2011 Financial Times.
On occasion, the singer gives voice to thoughts, and words so ignorant of history, that the very denial of the past appears as foreshadowing the future:
"Nor is a common fiscal policy sufficient for a successful monetary union. Neither the European Commission nor the German government can put tanks on the streets of Athens." John Kay, October 25, 2011 Financial Times.
Mr. Kay apparently has no knowledge of that minor event in the history of capitalism known as the Second World War when the German government did exactly put tanks on the streets of Athens. And if Mr. Kay has no knowledge of WW II, how can we expect him to have recognized the melody of the Horst Wessel Lied to which his words were synchronized?
Sometimes a verse is sung by a bozo bagman in charge of the bourgeoisie's government, who having filled his pockets with loot, his cabinet with girlfriends, and his bed with minors, gives voice to the stirring principles of popular sovereignty:
"No one in the Union can appoint themselves as administrator and speak in the name of governments elected by and made of the people of Europe. No one can give lessons to a partner."—Silvio Berlusconi, October 24, 2011. Note: Does not apply when giving lessons to Greece, Ireland, Portugal, or Hungary. No longer applies to Italy.
And sometimes the bozo bagman has to hog the spotlight, and sing more than one verse:
"Italy does not feel the crisis. The restaurants are full, the planes are fully booked, and the hotels are fully booked as well." –Silvio Berlusconi, November 4, 2011.
Followed by this:
"Reports of my resignation are without foundation."—Silvio Berlusconi, November 8, 2011.
Followed by this:
"Once this finance law is approved along with the amendment on everything which Europe has asked of us and which the Eurogroup has asked for, I will resign so that the head of state can open consultations." –Silvio Berlusconi.
And after all that, all that and more, the music is truly just beginning.
3. That the October 26 "plan"--in actuality nothing more than another discourse on wings, prayers, not so good intentions and who's paving and who's paying on the toll road to hell-- announced at the close of the EU's Brussels "summit" could be regarded seriously as a "breakthrough" revealed just how closely related are magical thinking and political economy in the defense of capitalist property.
The statement "welcomed" the progress evinced by Ireland, "the important steps taken by Spain," Italy's commitment to a "structural reforms," a "balanced budget," and another round of "important" steps taken by Portugal.
All these steps and reforms and commitments are precisely the opposite of what is claimed. These "commitments" are in fact the abrogation of previous commitments. All this progress amounts to is regression. None of these steps will balance any budgets. Progress here means increasing the level of poverty. Reform means preserving the republic of debt. Commitment means commitment to the rights, the liberty, the sovereignty of the bondholders. And this too is an expression of the immanent critique. Nothing is what the bourgeoisie say it is. Everything will be the opposite of what the bourgeoisie say it will be.
In the European Union, everyone's a partner, but some are senior partners and some are junior partners. The Brussels statement proclaimed:
The mechanisms for monitoring of implementation of the Greek programme must be strengthened, as requested by the Greek government. The ownership of the programme is Greek and its implementation is the responsibility of the Greek authorities.
Short version: do as we tell you to do, and we will be telling you what to do.
The statement continued:
…the [European] Commission, in cooperation with the other Troika [IMF, ECB] partners, will establish…a monitoring capacity… to work in close and continuous cooperation with the Greek government…and offer assistance in order to ensure the timely and full implementation of the reforms.
Short version: we told you we'd be telling you what to do.
Everyone's a partner, everyone cooperates, life is a party, and everyone gets an invitation and a prize.
The Private Sector Involvement [PSI] has a vital role in establishing the sustainability of the Greek debt. [The careful reader will note that according to the EU it is the debt that must be sustained, not the Greek economy, not the living standards or the welfare of the Greek people.] …To this end we invite Greece, private investors and all parties concerned to develop a voluntary bond exchange with a nominal discount of 50% on notional Greek debt held by private investors. The Euro zone Member States would contribute to the PSI package up to 30 bn euro. On that basis, the official sector stands ready to provide additional program financing of up to 100 bn euro until 2014, including the required recapitalization of Greek banks. The new programme should be agreed by the end of 2011 and the exchange of bonds should be implemented at the beginning of 2012.
Who knew that the summiteers of the European Union had such an acute sense of humor? Who would have guessed that Merkel and Sarkozy were the Nichols and May of debt restructuring?
The Brussels statement makes no mention of any restructuring of debt service amounts, neither the annual amounts nor the cumulative amount of debt service to be assessed to Greece as its cost for being invited to this party. The Brussels statement makes no mention of the duration of the new bonds to be issued in this exchange, the annual interest to be paid.
Just as financing is nothing [and in this case, literally], and refinancing is everything, the notional amount of the outstanding debt is nothing. Debt service is everything. The annual amounts of debt service are part of everything. The duration of the debt service is another part of everything. The cumulative debt service makes up the yield to maturity, and yield to maturity really is everything.
The Brussels statement explicitly identifies the willingness of the EU to absorb e30 billion in losses, and provide another e100 billion to recapitalize Greek banks as the banks would suffer severe losses and depletion of its core capital through this consensual bankruptcy. Moreover, the sovereign debt of Greece purchased by the ECB, or pledged to the ECB as collateral by private banks as part of the ECB's "unlimited liquidity" program would be sequestered from the exchange program.
But on the critical issues of yield, and duration, "mum" was the word. The silence speaks volumes.
"Here," says our angel Merkel non-Lovett, "take a seat and help yourself to 30 billion in meat pies. The barber will be right with you."
Cue the barber. From stage right enters Nick Sarkozy non-Todd, humming the Contours smash hit from the 60s "First I Look at the Purse."
"Who's next?" inquires Nick. "Have no fear. The razor is rubber, the scissors are plastic, and the clippers buzz but can't clip. I pretend to give you a haircut, and you pretend it hurts."
S. Artesian, 2 December 2011
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