Monday, 28 December 2015



Top events in 2015 that shaped the world and are very likely to continue doing so include the economic slowdown not just in China and India, but in most of the world outside the US. Globalization under the neoliberal model of development continued to devastate the middle class in 2015 as it has in the last three decades, especially in countries where monetarist austerity combined with neoliberal policies took effect. Combined with a fiscal structure that favors corporations and the wealthy, monetarism and neoliberal policies had the effect on a world scale of slowing consumption spending owing to downward pressure on wages, forcing some governments to increase capital spending, especially in the defense sector, to stimulate growth.
Capital goods spending trend will continue in 2016 in a number of developed countries trying to keep GDP growth steady against pressures of a declining world GDP in 2016. At the same time, because of monetarism (austerity) and economic stagnation in less advanced countries, the transfer of capital from the less advanced countries will continue toward the G-7, especially US, China, and Germany. Sociopolitical volatility as a result of downward socioeconomic mobilization in much of the world will entail more uprisings than in 2015, more “terrorist” activity, and greater tendency on the part of popular masses to look for political solutions in the extreme right wing political groups. 

2015 started with the Charlie Hebdo attack by Yemen al-Qaeda-affiliated individuals, the same al-Qaeda that US-NATO ally had been supporting al-Qaeda in Yemen against pro-Iranian Houthis. The year ended with the Paris bombing by ISIL-affiliated individuals in Paris, the same ISIL group also backed by US-EU allies that include Turkey and Saudi Arabia. This policy contradiction on the part of the US and its allies selectively backing terrorists while fighting to destroy them means that the war on terror will continue because the goal is to destabilize the Middle East so that it is easier to control it. Meanwhile, the war on terror, which Muslims believe is a war against by the crusading Judeo-Christian West against their religion, will only intensify because it is the political leverage the West, especially the US has to keep citizens under sociopolitical conformity and distracted from economic and social problems at home. 

Asia, Latin America, and Africa

The biggest development in Asia in 2015, especially China and India, was the economic slowdown that has global impact. Although spending in capital goods is expected to halt some of the stagnation, government efforts to bring public debt under control entail IMF-style monetarist policies that transfer income from the low and middle income groups to the upper while the state as a conduit of economic development applies the breaks on stimulating the economy; this in traditionally quasi-statist countries that rely on public spending for economic stimulus. The neoliberal model that the IMF, banks and corporations are promoting is taking its toll during Asia’s downward cyclical period that will continue in 2016. The Chinese currency joining the world’s reserve currencies after the IMF gave its blessing is a major development in so far as it signals tough decisions for the US in its attempt to manage the burgeoning public deficit and balance of payments deficit. In 2016, China will continue to play the role of trying to engender stability around the world because it has the most to gain as the rising economic power expanding its role, especially in the less developed countries. This is in sharp contrast with the US and its NATO allies that will continue to pursue destabilization policies using overt and covert military means precisely because their global economic influence in relationship to China is dwindling.

The rapid deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan where China looks like would emerge as the beneficiary from US-NATO intervention was another major development in 2015. While the security situation in Afghanistan will only deteriorate in 2016, China will continue making progress toward overtaking the US not only as the world’s largest economy in PPP terms as it is now, but also measured in nominal values as well. This will mean that Japan will have to grow its public debt to grow the economy by spending on defense, as it already has been doing, using China as the pretext for stronger national security. India will also follow Japan’s lead, relying on closer cooperation with Russia while the intense competition for foreign investment will slow its economy against the background of falling commodity prices that will impact all commodity-dependent countries across Asia and the world in 2016.  

Besides the economy, Asia was also in the news because of the climate issue. China’s pollution is well-known, but it was India taking a leading role at the Paris climate conference. That anything will be accomplished to bring climate change under better control remains to be seen given the history of such summit meetings that have not changed much in the last three decades. Moreover, the climate change issue is really one that corporations with investments in solar technology, pollution cleanup, renewable energy, etc. are pushing because there are huge government subsidies involved. In short, climate change is just another means of corporate welfare, although one that people can feel good about. 

In 2015, Brazil’s economic and political problems led the top stories along with Argentina returning to neo-liberalism along with other republics to follow. Brazil’s economic miracle is turning into an economic stagflation nightmare for the majority of the people. Venezuela and Argentina are abandoning the remnants of economic nationalism and plunging into neo-liberalism. This means much closer integration with the US and EU, thus strengthening foreign capital to the detriment of national capitalism; this at a time that foreign- led economic growth in Brazil had inspired other countries looking forward to emulating its development model. Like its sister republics dependent on commodity exports that include energy and minerals whose prices have dropped sharply, Brazil’s prospects are very dim until the regional economies begin to grow above 4%. Not that the world economies will soon perform as they did before the recession of 2008, but the IMF and World Bank forecasts paint a dim picture for 2016, especially if we exclude the United States.  

The economic slowdown across Africa, but especially in South Africa along with the problems Nigeria faced fighting Boko Haram rebels top the stories in sub-Sahara Africa. Although Nigeria hardly receives the coverage that France does when it comes to jihadist activities, Boko Haram-related deaths number in the thousands (more than 3,500 according to Amnesty International) in 2015. Because the West has no interest in this issue unless it impacts the Western oil interests in Nigeria, there is very little media coverage and hardly the outrage that one finds when whites are the target of jihadists. 

Meanwhile, in Muslim northern Africa, Libya remained in total tribal-political chaos that is the legacy of US-NATO military intervention in the name of regime change (2011). The fragmentation of Libya and the rise of jihadists is also characteristic of other Islamic countries where foreign intervention was prominent, especially Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Of course, the US and the Europeans blame the people, their leaders and religious, tribal and ethnic rivalries, just as European colonialists did in the 19th century. The US and its northwest European allies deny any responsibility for the chaos and instability that the West created in order to deny spheres of influence to a regional power like Iran or a global one like Russia, while gaining political, economic and strategic influence. This trend will continue in 2016 but it will hardly benefit the US and its northwest EU allies, considering the impasse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria demonstrated that military solutions do not work and in fact they backfire on the interventionists.

ISIL, the West and Russia

The Islamic State ISIL was a top global story in 2015 as it was in 2015 and will be again in 2015. Especially significant for 2015 because of the Paris bombing in November and the flood of refugees that caused political and economic problems for all of Europe, essentially triggering resurgent Western nationalism, xenophobia and racism at much higher levels than we have seen recently. Because of the apparent East-West cooperation after the Paris bombing to devise a strategy to defeat ISIL, the West and Russia story becomes more promising because it could potentially point to renewed US-Russia rapprochement to solve other regional conflicts; at least in areas where military solutions simply have no prospects. 

There were many interesting ISIL-related developments in 2015, among them the Western quest to fight ISIL while indirectly supporting it and facilitating its operations in Syria against the Assad regime and in Iraq as a counterweight to Iran and pro-Iran Shiite elements inside Iraq. Directly related to ISIL was the massive refugee issue for the EU in which Turkey played both sides, managing to receive several billions from the Europeans not to send refugees while at the same time facilitating ISIL operations and continuing to send refugees to the continent.  

The bombing that took place in Paris with many casualties was a human tragedy and a political disaster for Western anti-terrorism policy, although this is not how the Western media portrayed the issue. A day before the suicide bombs in Paris, the bombing in Beirut demonstrated the ease with which jihadists fighting against the Assad regime are able to operate. Three bombings – Paris, Lebanon, Russian plane in Egypt - within a remarkably short span of time demonstrate the reach of an organization that was once backed by US allies in the Middle East, and by the US indirectly in the war that the US started to bring down the Assad regime, all in the name of freedom and democracy, just as the US has been delivering freedom and democracy in Libya among other North African countries.  

The quest to destabilize and ultimately overthrow Syria’s President Assad has failed in the last four years and made matters worse for all regional powers but also for the EU and US that believe the only option is a military one until it proves a resounding failure. The US and its European and regional allies have managed to create a new force that has some appeal at least with the radicalized Sunni Muslims not just in Syria and Iraq but across the Middle East and wherever there are Muslims who feel that the Judeo-Christian West has sided with the state of Israel and has been trying to destroy Islam under the pretext of terrorism. Now that US secretary of State John Kerry has been in talks with Russia about how to stabilize Syria there are hopes on limited spheres of influence for imperialists dividing the spoils. While this may temporarily contain the threat of ISIL, the Western crusade against Islam will produce more jihadist groups in the future that target not just the West, but also Russia with a considerable Muslim population in many of the former Soviet republics of Eurasian region. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin demonstrated once again in 2015 that he is indeed an authoritarian nationalist leader with Tsarist imperialist tendencies, but one who respects the traditional global balance of power and prefers diplomatic settlement of conflicts because Russia is much weaker than the combined force of NATO. This does not mean Putin is shy about using force, as clearly shown by his aggressive policy to prevent NATO-Western encirclement or containment policy as the US-EU intervention in Ukraine has demonstrated in the last four years, while maintaining a foothold as a regional player in the Middle East as Russian support for the Syrian government against ISIL has also shown. 

In 2016, there are likely to be resolutions on several fronts between Russia and the West, revolving around the Middle East but also Ukraine whose population has been struggling economically since the Russia-Western confrontation over this country rich in natural resources but very corrupt political leadership divided between Russia and the West. This means that resolution is most likely in the Ukraine because it is simply too costly for the West to finance a right-wing pro-Western regime that is essentially as corrupt and oligarchic in composition as the previous pro-Moscow one. We are also likely to see the end of the Syrian conflict. This has been very costly for the imperialists of the East and West, indirectly benefiting China and Iran while draining and dividing Europe owing to the refugee question. 

We may also see some resolution to the conflicts in Libya and Yemen along the lines of the Syrian model, although both Yemen and Libya present greater challenges than Syria because of much deeper tribal/ethnic divisions. Much will depend on the Palestinian situation where the Israeli apartheid state will become much more aggressive toward the Palestinians. This is largely because the Palestinians have no leverage other than the anemic international boycott movement against companies doing business with Israel. 

The US government has already been cracking down on any entity trying to boycott Israel, making it difficult to carry out. The policy of the US toward the Middle East will remain one of blind devotion to apartheid in Israel, while divide and conquer the Arab countries, instigating as much tribal/religious/ethnic/political division as possible to weaken national unity. Meanwhile, US government, media and pundits will blame the victims for the consequences of external intervention, just as they blame the Palestinians who are victims of Israeli racist apartheid policies. Although it defies logic and common sense to blame the victim, it is the logic of the imperialist that we find commonly used in the 19th century by Europeans to justify their colonial exploitation of the non-Western world. 

Iran as the de facto Hegemonic Power in the Middle East
In 2015, finally there was a US-Iran deal, despite massive rightwing opposition in the US allied with Israel. The reason was that powerful US-based and EU-based corporations wanted a market share in Iran, but also because the more the US tried military solutions in regional conflicts it instigated in the Middle East, the more powerful Iran was becoming with Russia and China behind it. Does the US-Iran agreement (14 June 2015) that calls for Iran to abandon nuclear weapons ambitions in exchange for lifting of Western sanctions mean a new era in relations between the US and the Middle East? Syria, Turkey, and Egypt publicly praised the deal as a step forward because it would mean greater regional stability and greater economic integration that would benefit all the economies. 

There are those who applaud the US for ignoring Israel and its extreme right-wing allies in the US that have done everything in their power to sabotage the negotiations between Iran and the West. Naturally, there are the pro-defense industry elements that regret these developments as much as those hiding behind a right wing ideology to justify animosity of any kind of rapprochement between the West and Iran, an Islamic republic that has been openly anti-West since 1979. Others see this deal as an opportunity to contain Israel from pursuing military adventures, as well as Saudi Arabia funding jihadists while claiming to support the struggle of the Palestinians but all along siding with Israel on its opposition to Iran as the major power that has a dominant voice to determine the regional balance of power. 

The Iran nuclear deal may collapse at any time, if the US deems it is in its interest to derail it. However, the only beneficiaries from the Iranian economic integration were Russia and China, and it is unlikely Western corporations like General Electric are going to walk away from multi-billion dollar opportunities. In short, globalization has taken precedence over a sanctions policy that had failed in Iran, just as it failed to bring Russia to its knees for annexing the Crimea. Iran is the undisputed Middle East power and will remain so for a long time, at least as long as Russia and China are skeptical about US regional hegemonic intentions.    

The EU, German Hegemony under neo-liberal Policies, and Europe Southern and Eastern Periphery

Besides the Iran-US nuclear negotiations, Germany enjoyed center-stage in 2015 and Chancellor Angela Merkel was person of the year for a number of mass media journals. Although Germany has been at the center of downward socioeconomic mobilization across Europe, something the will continue in 2016, the neoliberals are delighted because the richest Europeans continue to concentrate wealth under monetarist policies that choke off growth.  Germany’s leverage stems from its massive economic power within the EU and clearly as the dominant country it has the ability to stabilize or destabilize as it wishes. At the same time, Germany feels the pressure from the US and China, pressure it resents as we have seen over the disagreements on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. In its quest for global power status, Germany wants a freer hand in the EU that it considers its back yard, just like the US considers the Caribbean and Central America its back yard. With France politically and economically weak, the major obstacle to Germany is the persistence of anti-EU sentiment coming out of the UK. It is possible that the UK will have an even larger economy than Germany at some point before 2024, and this is something that Germans take into account when they position themselves for hegemony today. In short, the German-UK power struggle is important today, though hardly fierce enough for these two economic rivals to go to war as they did in 1914.

Greece was one of the biggest stories in 2015, but only because Germany made it so. Not just the mainstream media throughout the world, but the social media has been covering the drama unfolding in Greece, a drama that actually started in early 2010 when the creditors decided to make borrowing expensive for the Greek government. In May 2010, Greece opted for IMF-style austerity and massive cuts in public spending and public sector jobs, combined with higher indirect taxes, measures the EU and IMF promised would lower the public debt and stimulate higher growth rates on a sustainable basis. Promises notwithstanding, the result has been one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, negative GDP growth, accompanied by much higher debt. 

In 2015 was whether the German-IMF led dogmatic neoliberals prevail or whether the reformers who believe that the German-imposed patron-client integration model in the EU is forcing Greece and the periphery members into neo-colonial status. Germany failed to conquer Europe by going to wars twice in the 20th century, but it is now trying to achieve the same result through the route of economic hegemony. However, it has very powerful allies in multinational banks and corporations of the entire Western World and this is why it is so powerful against those trying to maintain a bit of their national sovereignty in order to present the illusion of democracy to their citizens.  

Beyond the very tragic issue of millions suffering lower living standards, and beyond the very real prospect of their continued suffering for a number of years under such conditions, there is the fear that other countries could also meet with a similar fate as Greece. The question for EU leaders must be to what degree is Greece and for matter all of the periphery (southern and eastern European countries) sovereign and to what degree do citizens have a voice in the illusion of a democratic process that really belongs to the banks and multinational corporations that the state represents? 

Finally, Germany took the world’s spotlight because of one the largest corruption and fraud scandals in our time. The Volkswagen emissions scandal was only the tip of the iceberg and the very clear manifestation of the level of corruption in the private-public sector. It is not that VW was promoting itself as the “eco-friendly” corporation, but that it enjoyed the backing of its government that went along with the scandal until it broke. However, this is hardly the biggest scandal considering that Deutsche Bank  which has a long history of corruption along with Siemens, have also been immersed in corruption, again with government complicity. Despite all of these corporate scandals linked to the Merkel government that at the very least failed to prevent them and at worst had a complicit role in them, the corporate media presented Merkel as the political hero of 2015! This is not to imply that corporate corruption that is estimated at more than $100 billion is limited to Germany, because it is actually an integral part of capitalism as many books and articles have shown. (c. h. Ferguson, Predator Nation, 2013; M. J. Lynch, Corporate Crime, Corporate Violence, 2015)

American Guns, Racism and Xenophobia 

Throughout 2015, the headlines about domestic development in the US were about gun violence, racism and xenophobia that are an integral part of the institutional mainstream and not just Republican Party rhetoric intended to distract from low wages and downward pressures on income. In fact, the Washington Post revealed that the US government is planning to raid more than 100,000 illegal aliens, thus depriving the Republicans of a major issue in the presidential campaign in 2016. At the same time, the Obama administration has done absolutely nothing except to give speeches on the matter of gun violence and police shootings of black youth.  If civil rights leaders from the 1950s and 1960s came back to life today, they would be enraged that racism remains an integral part of the culture and institutional mainstream,, with only a thin veil of political correctness to conceal its hypocrisy. 

Political correctness as a veil of a racist and unjust society, the American culture of racism has been an integral part of the police force in American society, no matter the civil rights movements and laws on the books. Reinforcing the racist police culture is the “war on terror” and the culture of counter-terrorism since 9/11. The result is institutionalization of “collective psychopathology” to the degree that torturing people, violating their civil rights and their human rights is the now the norm that the media accepts as necessary, and often criticizes those who dare question the abuses of law enforcement in American cities and CIA torturers. The US Senate report on CIA torture revealed that the US looked to Israel as a model for justifying torture on the basis of preventing “imminent attack” in the future. That the US would use Israel, an apartheid society, as a model makes sense if one accepts that the US like Israel in a state of perpetual war with potential Muslim enemies. 
Gun violence 2015
According to the U.S. State Department, the number of U.S. citizens killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2001 to 2013 was 350. In addition, we compiled all terrorism incidents inside the U.S. and found that between 2001 and 2013, there were 3,030 people killed in domestic acts of terrorism.* This brings the total to 3,380. According to the US government, a total of 406,496 people have been killed from 2001 to 2013, while during the same period, which includes 9/11, 3,380 people were killed on US soil and abroad as a result of what the State Department labels “terrorism”.  Ironically, the issue for the media is terrorism and social violence, not institutionalism racism and xenophobia prompted by the reality of downward pressures on incomes, especially on minorities suffering high unemployment and much lower income levels than whites. As long as people believe there is an enemy to hate – domestic and foreign, a Nazi propaganda tactic that Hitler used in the 1930s -this covers up all other problems and distracts people from issues of their daily material lives. 

America does not have a monopoly of racism, despite its history as a slave-owning society that first eliminated the native population in a quest for land grab. Nor does the US have a monopoly of xenophobia targeting Muslims and Latinos. However, the US is a world leader and its example is emulated in other predominantly white societies. The culture of racism and xenophobia along with gun violence will become much more pronounced as the socioeconomic conditions become difficult for the middle class in 2016 and beyond. 


They are not taking out the champagne glasses at the Clinton campaign at the end of 2015, but they are at least dusting them to host their millionaire and billionaire financial contributors and their politically-correct liberal friends trying to mobilize popular support for the presumptive nominee of the Democrat Party in 2016. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article arguing that there is no way Hillary could win after eight years of a black Democrat president. I had no idea two years ago the Republicans would be divided into as many factions, with the populist (racist-xenophobic, pro-gun segment) prevailing over the traditional Rockefeller branch that has its roots on Wall Street and a handful of king-makers. When Jeb Bush sounds rational within the context of the other candidates, this is indicative of how far to the right the party has drifted. The mistake kingmakers made in 2015 was to bring in populists to widen the popular base because in so doing the party assumed many poles of political power now difficult to centralize under a consensus candidate that is acceptable both the financial elites and the disgruntled white Christian fundamentalist xenophobe through many parts of the US. 

The presidential race has revealed that neo-Fascism is now very much acceptable as part of the Republican agenda, and just under the politically correct carpet for some conservative Democrats as well. For the Republicans to win the White House in 2016, Democrats would have to stay home in much larger numbers than ever before because the Latino and Black vote is decisive and highly unlikely it will go to the Republican nominee, even if Carson and/or Rubio is on the ticket as VP. In 2004, President G.W. Bush captured 44% of the Latino vote to win the White House, while in 2012, Mitt Romney received a mere 23% of same voting bloc and lost to Obama. This scenario assumes a Trump or Cruz victory with Bush dropping out. Things may change drastically and by some miracle a Rockefeller Republicans like Bush prevails during a divided Republican convention where chaos could prevail as it did for Democrats in 1968 or perhaps closer to 1980 when Ted Kennedy did not embrace Jimmy Carter. 

Regardless of who wins the White House, America is a status quo nation unlikely to deviate very far from its current neoliberal path on economic policy and interventionism in foreign affairs. The idea that the presidential elections really means very much aside from gay marriage, abortion and lifestyle issues is absurd as history has shown. The differences between the political parties are stylistic and not substantive intended to project the image of “real choice” to voters. American voters are given two candidates paid for the financial elites and whose interests they will serve even if they have not received money from millionaires and billionaires. In the end, as history has shown, it makes little difference which one wins to the lives of the middle class and workers.  

Wednesday, 23 December 2015


The thesis of this brief article is that reformism does not work and only leads to even greater sociopolitical conformity. This is as much the case today in Greece that has tried it, as in Spain endeavoring to try it under its new progressive PODEMOS party, as it has been throughout history. One reason that EU and US investors are bullish on Spanish securities, despite a temporary setback the day after the elections is because they know that the anti-austerity PODEMOS party will conform exactly as SYRIZA in Greece and neoliberal policies will prevail no matter who is in government.    

Spain’s PODEMOS and Greece’s SYRIZA: Doomed Reformism
The general elections of Spain on 20 December 2015 sent mild shock waves across Spain’s markets, especially the banks that have benefited from government bailouts at the enormous expense of the general taxpayer. However, the rest of the European markets actually rose on the news, precisely because politicians and investors know it is highly unlikely that the anti-austerity party PODEMOS coming in with roughly 22% of the vote, third behind the Socialists and the ruling Conservative party, will not amount to any systemic change. The markets, politicians, and the world learned this lesson after the Greek anti-austerity party SYRIZA became even more pro-austerity than its conservative Socialist predecessor despite winning on an anti-austerity platform in January 2015. In short, the progressive reformist agenda of Greece’s SYRIZA which was very similar to PODEMOS quickly transformed into a neo-liberal pro-IMF monetarist one once in government.  

Does PODEMOS have a different agenda than SYRIZA under Alexis Tsipras, and thus a different fate awaits it because its secretary-general Pablo Iglesias will stick to campaign promises of reform? Although the mainstream media focuses on the cult of personality in our age of celebrity politicians and businessmen, the reality is that even after Tsipras embraced austerity and neoliberal policies, Iglesias continued to support him. This is indicative that PODEMOS is more or less a party of petty bourgeois reformism that will quickly fold within the neoliberal mainstream, although it arose from the need to fill a political gap that the Socialists left when they embraced austerity and neo-liberalism. 

The Socialist parties of Spain, Greece, Portugal and France that prevailed in the Reagan-Thatcher decade of the 1980s converted to neoliberal parties and were hardly different than their conservative counterparts in policy, despite the leftist rhetoric. Both Iglesias and Tsipras had roots in leftist (Euro-Communist – anti-Stalinist) politics in their youth, but both moved toward a more reformist social-democratic orientation that built careers against neoliberal policies and austerity. Just as in the 1980s when neoliberal policies prevailed against European Socialist parties advocating social-democracy, and just as the populist nationalist parties of Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia have caved under the pressures of  globalization promoting neoliberalism, the fate awaiting Spain’s PODEMOS will be no different. The sooner their voters absolve themselves of such illusions and seek a genuine alternative to neoliberalism and austerity the better chance they will have to escape the fate of their counterparts in other countries that tried the road of bourgeois reformism. 

The pro-neoliberal media in Spain and Greece and across the world have been labeling PODEMOS and SYRIZA as “far left”, “radical left”, “ultra-left wing” and anti-capitalist, which aspires to create a regime similar to that of the later Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Although it is true that the rhetoric of both PODEMOS and SYRIZA, parties that have declared solidarity, share some ideological elements of Socialism, they are also committed to “enlightened capitalism”, Keynesian economics, and a return to the old EU integration model based on interdependence rather than German political and economic hegemony. If we set aside the ideological rhetoric intended to win the disgruntled voters, which is not so different than EU Socialist parties fully committed to austerity and neoliberalism, and if we focus on the reformist contradiction of promising to change the neoliberal model into a rational enlightened capitalist one that would have a broad middle class as its social base, the question is whether finance capital would voluntarily yield its privileges for the sake of social harmony under a democratic system.

PODEMOS arose from the ashes of the politically bankrupt and corrupt Socialist Party that had embraced neoliberal policies and austerity as have the Socialist parties of France, Greece and Portugal. Its appeal is the disgruntled middle class of Spain that sees its future in doubt and fears that the EU’s fourth largest economy is not so different than Greece. After all,  Greece  and Spain have the highest unemployment in the EU above 20 percent, they both have contracting economies, they both have rising debt-to-GDP levels despite five years of austerity, and they both have dim prospects for recovery that would improve living standards for the working class and middle class. 

Above all, a segment of the population in Spain that backs PODEMOS knows that the EU of today is not the EU of pre-2008 that rested on an integration model of interdependence, with EU funds subsidizing the weaker economies to lift them closer to the levels of the northwest core in Europe. The PODEMOS voters know as do those in SYRIZA that the hard euro currency only helps to strengthen large capital in the EU and within it Germany that exerts financial control and through it determines fiscal policy, trade policy, labor policy and everything impacting society from health to education.  In short, PODEMOS backers know very well as do their Greek counterparts that there is no such thing as national sovereignty, no such thing as popular mandate, no democracy because the new model of integration based on a patron (core sector)-client (periphery and semi-periphery) is now in effect and it is no different than the US model of regional integration that has kept US southern neighbors in a state of dependency since the Spanish-American War. 

PEDEMOS appeals to young intellectuals for the most part who are still idealistic enough to believe in reformism, just as their Greek counterparts who are now thoroughly disillusioned that SYRIZA has turned out to be much worse than the Conservative and Socialist party in terms of caving to IMF-German austerity and neoliberal policy demands.  The structure of the young-reformist appealing party will end up as SYRIZA in Greece because it has no commitment to grassroots organizing and to systemic change that will end the patron-client integration model and assert national sovereignty based on a social justice framework. If PODEMOS comes to power,  its fate will be exactly as that of SYRIZA that served to co-opt the disgruntled anti-austerity, anti-neoliberal masses, de-radicalized them and served them on a silver platter to the neoliberal political and financial establishment of EU and international capitalism. 

Like SYRIZA in Greece that has actually taken austerity and neoliberal policies even farther to the right than the previous right-wing government, PODEMOS will follow the same path, assuming it comes to power. As long as it is in the opposition, it will insist that it is against austerity and neoliberal policies, that it represents the middle class and workers, that it wants a new kind of integration model because it supports Spain’s place within the EU; in other words, arguments that the Greek SYRIZA voters heard many times until they faced the reality of a party that betrayed every single promise made and caved to domestic financial and global financial and political interests.  
Not just the “austerity” countries of southern Europe but the entire continent is struggling for new leadership that breaks away from representing the finance capital. Some voters have drifted to the far right. However, as the election results demonstrated in France, the Marine Le Pen’s National Front came in third because the political pendulum has shifted so far to the right that the traditional conservatives have embraced a segment of the extreme right wing agenda. On the left, voters cannot go to the bankrupt Communist parties because the memory of a failed Soviet bloc remains too close and the majority of the people want to maintain the crumbs they have under the existing political economy rather than risk a new social order.     

Despite its NAZI past revealing itself in financial, economic and political hegemony under a conservative-led coalition government, Germany has managed to dilute if not efface national sovereignty in the EU because capitalists of all countries see greater benefits accruing to them under the patron-client model than under national capitalism that Russia is pursuing. In short, the fear of isolation from the regional and global economy forces the established elites to embrace the devil they know. PODEMOS and SYRIZA come along to co-opt a segment of the population that wants reforms that include national capitalism and national sovereignty as part of the mix but not outside the framework of international capitalism. This blatant contradiction simply does not work because it is irreconcilable. The end result is that reformist parties like SYRIZA and PODEMOS opposed to neoliberal and austerity (monetarist) policies only wind up de-radicalizing the masses and marginalizing them by reinforcing the idea that the political, business and social representative of neoliberalism advocates, namely there is no choice other than what exists now because the quest for social justice is futile as it will lead to social, economic and political insecurity. 

The result of SYRIZA’s betrayal of voters’ trust was that one-third of its elected parliamentary members left the party, arguing that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras betrayed the goals of national sovereignty and national capitalism in exchange for political power and benefits that accrue to him and his political supporters under crony capitalism that has always worked to the detriment of the vast majority in Greece since the nation-state was founded in 1832. Assuming it comes to power, PODEMOS will face the same dilemma as SYRIZA and in the end it will follow a similar path because the neoliberal political, business and social establishment have the ability to crush any reformist opposition. Popular grassroots movement intent on systemic reform is the only fear of the neoliberal establishment, and this is not what PODEMOS and SYRIZA represent.  

The fact that we have a capitalist international order in the last five centuries is indicative that reformism has never worked to bring about systemic change. Attempts at “reform from within the system” are actually a conservative concept first introduced by the conservative British MP Edmund Burke immediately after the French Revolution. In short, those backing the existing social order argue that if the social contract is not satisfactory to a segment of the population we can have a few changes but without altering the system in which the privileged elites retain their roles. Both SYRIZA and PODEMOS have accepted the conservative definition of reformism, deluding the voters that there is hope for change when in fact structural change does not come via reforms because it never has. Having the best of all possible worlds, capitalism that entails a hierarchical society where social justice is lacking, but at the same time achieving social democracy is a glaring contradiction. 

In Greece there are just 12 families that own 80% of the wealth and enjoy dominant influence in the media and political arena, there is also the role of international capitalists whose interest public policy takes into account because of IMF-EU-imposed austerity policies since 2010. In the last five years, the wealthiest people in Greece have actually become wealthier because of austerity and neoliberal policies that transferred wealth from the public sector and lower income groups to the upper class and foreign financial interests. Is the situation so different in Spain than it is in Greece? Just ten billionaires own the vast majority of the wealth, headed by Amancio Ortega worth more than $80 billion, making him richer than Bill Gates.

The massive capital concentration in Spain as well as Greece is largely the result of fiscal policies that drain income from the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder and transfer it to the top and from the southern EU countries to Germany and the northwest. This is a prescription for: a) unsustainable GDP growth; b) chronic high unemployment; c) low living standards and downward socioeconomic mobility; d) high debt-to-GDP levels that rises as austerity and neoliberal policies continue; and e) the inevitability of political apathy, which is exactly what the political and financial elites want, and polarization in society. This means increasingly authoritarian policies disguised under neoliberalism as democratic because people have the right to vote. SYRIZA has proved that reformism is an illusion that causes more damage to the struggle for social justice than the traditional European conservatives and Socialists embracing austerity and neoliberal policies. If it ever comes to power, PODEMOS will prove the same thing.    

Greece continues to have a rising debt-to-GDP ratio because its GDP has been shrinking owing to austerity policies that have slashed consumption by about 30%, or the equivalent of the drop in GDP. The patron-client model means that Greece will be reduced to a periphery dependent semi-colony with living standards roughly equal to its Balkan neighbors, exactly as Germany demanded. Because social security benefits have dropped dramatically and the new retirement age has been raised to 67, this means labor values have dropped as well along with all asset values. The reason that foreign investors are optimistic about Spain is precisely because they see asset values continuing to drop as they are in Greece, led by labor value declines.

The failure of reformism in Greece and Spain may not necessarily lead to a rise of a genuine grassroots anti-capitalist movement under a leftist political party. On the contrary, neo-Fascism lurking about throughout the Western World has been laying the groundwork as socioeconomic conditions deteriorate and more people lose confidence in the consensus around which the parliamentary system has been built. As the mainstream conservative parties incorporate aspects of neo-Fascism, using counter-terrorism as the pretext, people would not need to gravitate to the openly neo-Fascist and neo-Nazi parties, just as the case of France demonstrated in the recent elections. The crisis of parliamentary democracy is already apparent in a number of EU countries, merely by the fact that people lack trust in any of the existing political parties and in the constitutional system as representative of the broader masses. As capitalism continues to polarize social groups, and as reformism proves that it is not more than another broken promise to voters, a segment of the population will look to ultra-right wing populist leadership for solutions, and therein rests the danger of neo-Fascism in the 21st century.