Politburo uber alles

By Pepe Escobar

Ah, those good old Cold War/Soviet Union days when an army of Kremlinologists was hooked on every imperceptible move by an inscrutable politburo.
Wait a minute. Who would have thought that two decades after the end of “real socialism” politburos would be back in fashion?
China does it – see their nine-member standing committee, the holy of the holies inside their 25-member politburo. And proving once more Slavoj Zizek’s thesis that the marriage of capitalism and democracy is over, “free” Europe also does it – with relish, even doubling down on China’s notorious Gang of Four.
Meet the Gang of Eight
The eurozone is now in fact run by an eight-member politburo.

What a sterling job. This Gang of Eight is accountable to no one, except mythical Zeus with his trademark thunderbolts. In the liquid modernity era, Zeus goes by the name of the God of the Market. The only thing that matters to the Gang of Eight is what financial markets – run by the God – want; mere mortals, as in European voters, are at best a nuisance.
Ergo, eurozone national governments are totally meaningless. The shots are called by a troika formed by the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission (EC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). All of them gloriously unelected.

Europe’s politburo goes by the innocent acronym GdF, French for Groupe de Francfort (Frankfurt Group), established last month. They met no less than four times during the recent, spectacularly failed Group of 20 debt festival in Cannes. Here’s the full technocratic list – with a few politicians thrown in.

1 and 2: “Merkozy”, that mongrel cross-pollination of German Chancellor Angela “Iron Cross” Merkel and neo-Napoleonic French President Nicolas Sarkozy. As much as bling bling stalwart Sarko may pose as a king – in the guise, among others, of Great Liberator of Libya; and as much as he refers to La Merkel as “La Boche” (in a French World War II derogatory way), the “Merk” part in “Merkozy” displays the real cojones at the European Union (EU).

3: The slick Chanel/Wall Street merger Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, who inherited her post from former savior of capitalism turned self-imploded French presidential candidate, notorious trans-Atlantic woman-lover Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK). Madame Lagarde herself is a proven financial quantity, as former chair of international law firm Baker and McKenzie.

4: Former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International Mario Draghi, now president of the all-powerful European Central Bank (ECB). The technocrat who pushed Italy into the euro, now widely hailed by financial hacks as “the savior of Europe”.

5: The president (since 2004) of the European Commission (EC), Jose Manuel Barroso, essentially an unspeakably dour power-hungry bureaucrat.

6: The president of the European Council (since 2009) Herman van Rompuy, a faceless, former Belgian senator and prime minister who vehemently opposes Turkey’s accession to the EU.

7: European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs (since 2010) Olli Rehn, from Finland, a self-effacing former top bureaucrat in charge of the EU’s enlargement.

8: The chairman of the group of European Finance Ministers (since 2005), Jean-Claude Juncker, a former prime minister of Luxembourg whom The Economist describes as a “fanatical federalist”.

Elections are for sissies
Way beyond the Rabelaisian, trashy/reality show version of the last days of the Roman Empire personified by former Italian prime minister Silvio “bunga bunga” Berlusconi, and the travails of forming a government of national unity headed by super-technocrat, former European commissioner Mario Monti, who Italians call “Super Mario”, there’s only one road map ahead as far as the EU is concerned; implacable “austerity”, duly supervised by Madame Lagarde and her IMF minions.

Super Mario, by the way, is a total Gang of Eight man; former EU commissioner, international adviser for Goldman Sachs, European chairman of David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission and key member of the Bilderberg Group.

Even a populist neo-liberal such as Il Cavaliere – a former darling of the global plutocracy – could not find a way to implement in Italy the hardcore austerity roadmap imposed by the ECB, the IMF and creditor banks. When The God of the Market – the only true oracle of liquid modernity – speaks, reality bends over. No wonder Van Rompuy uttered these oracular words last Friday in Rome; “The country needs reforms, not elections.”

No one even needs to pry open Brussels corridors or sit with the odd functionary over steak frites and Bordeaux to know how much the EU hates democracy. For instance, no one knows how the (unelected) governing council of the all-powerful ECB votes, because everything they do is secret.

Hardcore neo-liberalism, as imposed by the Gang of Eight, is like a Mafia treatment; first they go for your knees – amputating social rights. Then they go for your throat – amputating political rights. For the “cattle” that will carry the burden of endless austerity – European voters – there’s not much left except the odd general strike or screaming their lungs out in the streets.

It won’t matter much that Italy’s “fundamentals” are excellent – including high levels of private savings, low private debt, a stable banking system and a trade surplus in manufacturing.

From Greek to Latin, the problem with Greece and Italy has nothing to do with the EU’s alleged dysfunctional periphery. The point is the excesses of casino capitalism – financial capital operating in total deregulation. Thus the pre-eminence of this glossy/shady character – the liquid modernity technocrat – averse to democracy yet legitimate enough to call for popular repression, all in the name of satisfying the Almighty financial God.

There’s no (political) difference in conducting regime change with “humanitarian” bombing or through the God of the Market’s thunderbolts.

As for the necessary firewall that would “save” Italy from its debt – over 1.9 trillion euros (US$2.6 trillion) – it is a humongous 1 trillion euros. It won’t happen – first of all because the Almighty Emperor Hu (Jintao) has snubbed this latest invention by the Western barbarians. Emperor Hu certainly knew avant la lettre the Orwellian-style European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) would be revealed as a monumental scam, as the EFSF bought hundreds of millions of euros of its own bonds. You don’t need to be Nouriel Roubini to bet the euro may be on the way of breaking down.

“Merkozy” – responsible for 48% of the eurozone’s gross domestic product – and the Gang of Eight are now first-class practitioners of neo-colonial power. What the Gang of Eight is truly after is essentially a rich man’s EU, as breached in a near-apocalyptic Reuters story. [1] Get ready because from now on, the euro won’t unify Europe; it will spearhead its balkanization.

1. French and Germans explore idea of smaller euro zone, Reuters, November 9.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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