Belmont Club

The Circus that Was Greece and the Freak Show That Was Rome

It is a dramatic convention that all movie epics set in Greece or Rome have to be acted out by players in European accents to lend gravity to the story. But the productions are often funded with American money. Things are no different in real life. The actors in the Eurozone drama may all be European but some of the bills will be sent across the Atlantic.

“A deal being negotiated by world leaders at the G20 summit in Cannes could see the International Monetary Fund (IMF) double in size”. The measure was proposed at the G20 summit after “concerns that the EU plan to save the euro will not be enough to stabilize the world economy.”  The United States provides the largest contribution to the IMF, nearly 2.5 times more than the next largest contributor, Japan. However, the managing directorship of the IMF traditionally goes to a European.  Presently it is Christine Lagarde of France.

Her job: to rattle the tin cup in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The AP says that “European leaders had meant to use the summit of the Group of 20 leading economies in Cannes, France to get foreign powers like China to help with the debt crisis that has rocked the eurozone for the past two years and threatens to push the world economy into a second recession. … One way some countries want to boost confidence is by boosting the resources of the International Monetary Fund.” The hope is that with IMF money in the pot and Italy promising to behave itself that the BRICS countries will be induced to throw more funding into the pool

But the McClatchy newspapers noted that Greece is only the tip of the iceberg.

As was the case in the 2008 U.S. financial crisis, investors quickly identify who they think is the next weak link, and in Europe that’s Italy. It faces enormous financing needs and its embattled prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is fighting for political survival.

“This Italian government will have to get its act together and really put a credible reform program in place. And without these factors, the picture looks quite gloomy,” Iscaro said.

Italy is in the crosshairs because Berlusconi has failed to deliver on promised economic reforms. He was forced to make new promises at last week’s “summit to end all summits,” yet after a Cabinet session Wednesday he arrived mostly empty-handed Thursday at the G-20 meeting of industrialized countries, held in the French seaside city of Cannes.

Although the flamboyant Berlusconi has thus far failed to put his financial house in order the European leaders still have their fingers crossed. Some officials have actually dared to hope that this time he might make good on his promises.

They expect Berlusconi to make clear that “the measures by Italy have not only been announced but will actually be implemented,” said a European official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the meeting.

Until there is a clear commitment from Italy, the rest of the eurozone is reluctant to finalize the overhaul of their bailout fund, which will give it the power to insure investors against a first round of potential losses on bonds issued by shaky countries.

But less optimistic analysts believe Berlusconi’s days as leader of Italy are numbered.  And it isn’t just Italy. Spain, “another large and troubled European economy, already has imposed tough austerity measures and is lumbering through a downturn so severe that one in four Spaniards is unemployed … elections on Nov. 20 are set to completely shift power.”

With the deck chairs on the European ship of state being rearranged at a rapid rate the passengers are beginning to notice the water rising in the bilge. The Guardian writes that despite the desperate measures it may be already too late to keep the ship afloat. Greece may leave the Euro, leaving Italy to fill its entertaining place. The BBC is already speculating on just how Athens can exit stage left, the better for Rome to take the center stage.

Inevitably people will seek out the cause of this meltdown. Slavoj Žižek, a Marxist philosopher who has addressed the Occupy Wall Street crowd, already has the answer. It is because capitalism has failed. And it has certainly failed to provide enough money for the European dream. His began his career as a thinker in an unconventional way. “After four years of unemployment, Žižek gained a job as a recording clerk at the Slovenian Marxist Center” and met a group of scholars who realized they were in the presence of genius.

It was not until the 1989 publication of his first book written in English, The Sublime Object of Ideology, that Žižek achieved international recognition as a social theorist. Since then, he has continued to develop his status as a confrontational intellectual. One of Žižek’s most widely discussed books, The Ticklish Subject (1999), explicitly positions itself against Deconstructionists, Heideggerians, Habermasians, cognitive scientists, and what Žižek describes as New Age “obscurantists”. … Žižek is an atheist…. In 2006, Žižek wrote an opinion piece published in the New York Times calling atheism a great legacy of Europe, and voiced his support for the propagation of atheism in the continent. … He was listed #25 on Top 100 Public Intellectuals Poll.

But one of his main ideas is that a new Marxism is the hope of the future. The problem with the old Marxism is that its defects have not been set to rights. That is the task of modern revolutionaries.

Despite the financial crisis, we do not have a serious leftist attempt to deal with what, in old Marxist terms, we called the critique of political economy. It’s obvious to me that Marx has to be repeated, but repeated not as he was. Isn’t it clear today that with all the problems of natural resources, intellectual property and so on, that the whole notion of exploitation, if it has any meaning at all should be radically redefined? I don’t see enough work of this sort.

On the day after the EU is buried under its own there will be swarms of people trying to set the old statues up again on the sound foundation stones of atheism, Marxism and materialism. This in the certainty that next time they will get it right. For “the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good … it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests … bide its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and … the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.”

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $3.99, print $9.99
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