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Sunday, September 22, 2013

What is the 'global race'?

Conservatives love to talk about the 'global race' – but what does it really mean? And is Ed Miliband right to say that that David Cameron's party have taken the concept in a dangerous direction?

A year ago, when the government was more drifting and unpopular than it is now, a short, fierce book was published by five young Tory MPs. "The British are among the worst idlers in the world," claimed Britannia Unchained. "As the world becomes more competitive, Britain will have to work harder to keep up."

A debate about the "idlers" charge briefly boiled in radio phone-ins and newspaper columns. But within a few weeks attention had moved on. References to the book dwindled. From its policy-wonk subtitle, "Global lessons for growth and prosperity", to its headachy statistical tables, Britannia Unchained seemed of specialist interest only – just another Westminster pamphlet.

Except that, starting at last year's Conservative party conference, there were signs that the book was on to something. The first came in the speech by George Osborne, which suddenly shifted from his usual cheap but nimble party point-scoring to a more ambitious, international argument: "Western democracies," he said, "are being outworked, outcompeted and outsmarted by new economies … And the truth is, some western countries won't keep up, they won't make the changes needed … They'll fall further and further behind."

Two days later, in his leader's address, David Cameron made the metaphor explicit: "We are in a global race today … How will we come through it? It's not complicated. Hard work."

Dominic Raab, one of the authors of Britannia Unchained, is not quite prepared to claim credit for supplying Cameron and Osborne with what, belatedly, may be one of their few persuasive governing themes. "We had quite a lot of interest in the book from across the backbenches, and from various people in and out of government," he says, perhaps mindful of sometimes being tipped in Westminster as a future Tory star. "But it did occur to me, as I sat there at conference, listening to the speeches, that some of what we had written had … resonated."

Last September, the phrase "global race", used in reference to Britain, appeared twice in British national newspapers. In October, 17 times; in November, 38; in December, 65. Usage has barely dipped since. Much of it has been by Cameron himself: in his 2013 New Year message; in a party political broadcast in March; in set-piece speeches to business conferences; in more informal remarks to journalists; even, slightly bafflingly, in a speech in July to promote to the world the British legislative approach to same-sex marriage.

Almost every other senior Conservative has also caught what the Daily Telegraph parliamentary sketchwriter Michael Deacon calls "global race fever": from ultra-loyalists such as the education secretary Michael Gove and party chairman Grant Shapps to loose cannons such as Michael Heseltine and Ken Clarke, from usually measured Tory thinkers such as David Willetts to the loosest cannon of all, Boris Johnson. Further down the Tory food chain, "the global race" theme pervades strategy meetings about how the Conservatives plan to present themselves, both at their party conference and at the 2015 general election.

Rushed into use shortly after the 2012 Olympics, by a party whose key figures went to expensive schools that fetishise sport and general competitiveness, "the global race" is hardly the most subtle or socially sensitive of rhetorical devices. But it has the advantage of flexibility. Britain, the Tories tell us, needs to "win" it, "succeed" in it, and get "to the top" in it; "compete" in it, "thrive in" it, and be "strong" in it; "fight" in it; or merely, "equip" itself for it and "get fit for" it. If Britain fails to do some or all of these things, it will "sink", "lose", "fall behind", be left in "the slow lane", or let "others take over".

This race, we are told, is economic. Our opponents are usually specified: the rising countries of Asia and South America such as China, India and Brazil. Yet the prize is vaguely and promiscuously defined: "jobs", "wealth", "growth", "trade", "talent", "technology", "skills", "capital", "competitiveness", "big ideas", "influence", "innovation", "investment", "investment opportunities", "recovery".

Meanwhile the race is invoked to justify seemingly any government goal or policy: bigger British arms sales abroad and smaller school holidays; tighter immigration controls and looser planning laws; the lavish high-speed rail project HS2 and a leaner Whitehall; harder GCSEs and better childcare; reducing social security and reforming the European Union; promoting the renewable energy industry and the redevelopment of Battersea power station; even dignifying Cameron's recent visit to Kazakhstan.

With its portentousness, official ubiquity and obviousness as a metaphor, "the global race" could almost be a catchphrase from The Thick Of It or Yes, Minister. Especially when politicians mix it with other grandiose metaphors, as Cameron did at last year's Tory conference: "A global race … means an hour of reckoning for countries like ours. Sink or swim. Do or decline."

And yet, the phrase is beginning to embed itself in modern politics – more effectively than Cameron's previous, cuddlier concept, "the big society". The phrase has spread far, too, through the machinery of British government. This is from the official blog of Scott Wightman, British ambassador to South Korea: "Education … is really the only way that a developed country can keep up in the global race for prosperity. In Korea, education is at the heart of how this country has transformed itself …"

The underlying implication of the global race idea – that the world is getting harsher and Britons should toughen up accordingly – seems to fit these unforgiving times, with zero-hours work contracts and punitive public attitudes to welfare claimants.

"There is a lot of fear at the moment," says TUC economist Nicola Smith, "and the small-state, deregulatory part of the Tory party is using 'the global race' idea to try to exploit it." One of her rightwing counterparts, Philip Booth of the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs, also sees a potency to the global race metaphor: "It plays on the idea in people's minds that British manufacturing is in decline. And it plays to the business support for the Tory party – to people who are engaged, say, in the day-to-day business of undercutting a German car company."

Nationalism, declinism, insecurity, acceptance of diminished wages and working conditions, a certain puritanism – Britain has been exhibiting these classic symptoms of difficult economic periods for half a decade now. Focus groups organised by the Conservatives have reportedly shown that voters with these feelings are receptive to "global race" rhetoric. As Raab puts it: "Do we want to be Greece in 40, 50 years' time?" It will probably take more than a few months of better economic news to make this underlying fear go away.

Besides, talk of a more competitive world is not just Tory scaremongering. "We're moving into much more bracing times," says Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World and former editor of Marxism Today. "For a very long time, the west was extremely privileged, by privileged access to commodities during colonial times, for example." The left-leaning American economist Robert Reich, labor secretary under Bill Clinton, sees international competition "intensifying". Jacques says the solution for Britain, if there is one, will not be comfortable: "I do think that kids don't work nearly hard enough. It's no use ordering them [to]. You have to create a new mentality."

But haven't we been here before? Fifty years ago this autumn, Harold Wilson, then an eager young Labour leader and prime minister-in-waiting, made a famous speech to his party conference. "There is no more dangerous illusion than the comfortable doctrine that the world owes us a living," he said. "From now on, Britain will have just as much influence in the world as we can earn … We must use … all the energies and skills of our people … We shall need a totally new attitude."

Since the 60s, Labour prime ministers have been just as keen as Conservative ones to tell Britons to pull their socks up. "[The] forces of change driving the future don't stop at national boundaries," Tony Blair warned another party conference in 1999. "Fail to develop the talents of any one person, we fail Britain." In 2008, Gordon Brown wrote in the Observer that "winning the global race to the top" would require the "unlocking [of] all of the talent of all of the people".

The Blair and Brown governments aimed to prepare Britons to cope with globalisation through increased state spending on education, employment training and childcare. "Government has an essential role to play in investing in the human resources ... needed to develop an entrepreneurial culture," wrote the New Labour guru Anthony Giddens, with a whiff of Whitehall-knows-best, in his influential 1998 book The Third Way. One of the origins of this approach was a UN strategy called "social development", which for decades had aimed to increase the economic "capacities" of citizens of poor countries. The implication that Britain was now a developing country, too, at least in its population's preparedness for globalisation, was not dwelled on by Giddens and other New Labour thinkers.

Under Blair and Brown, the actual phrase "the global race" was rarely used by British politicians, but it gradually became a favoured concept on the business pages of rightwing newspapers, especially the Times. Then the coalition took office, and New Labour's free-spending response to the global race was abandoned in favour of the Conservatives' much more austere one, which argues that globalisation requires less investment in Britons – cuts in workers' rights and welfare– rather than more.

"I don't see it as about making Britain a sweatshop," insists Raab. "We have a shrinking share of the populace pedalling harder and harder. Those are the guys whose side we're on." When I ask him whether the government should offer Britons carrots as well as sticks to make them perform better in the global race, there is a long pause. Then he offers more stick: "Education and retirement are being spun out for longer" – that situation, he implies, cannot go on. "Unless we're in a position to compete, the raw truth is we will not produce the kind of jobs we want, and the tax revenue the public sector requires. Our economy will become unsustainable."

Some analysts consider such talk pessimistic. Interestingly, critics of the whole global race idea are not confined to the left. "Economists don't think of trade as a race in any way," says Booth. "The world economy is not a zero-sum game. Countries get richer together. If China carries on reforming and growing, there will be more opportunities there for Britain." Reich agrees: "The race needn't [mean that] every country's citizens lose ground, but some lose more than others … or [that] some can gain only at the expense of others … We can all grow, and at the same time spread prosperity to more people."

He points out that it is increasingly irrelevant to think of global competition in terms of national economies anyway: most big corporations are multinational archipelagos of employees and share holdings. Jacques sees a similar over-simplification in how China is often presented as the global race's great bogeyman. Wages in the top cities there are rising fast, he says; Chinese manufacturing is moving upmarket; and the Chinese state is intimately involved in many of the country's major businesses. None of this suggests that the sole route to economic success is, as the British government's global race rhetoric often implies, simply for citizens to work harder for less while the state steps aside.

Recently, the TUC and Labour have tried to redefine the race as one for better wages and skills and living standards, rather than "a race to the bottom". Ed Miliband has attacked Cameron on the issue in the Observer: "He thinks for Britain to win the global race people have to lose." Yet as often with Labour under Miliband, this effort to change the terms of the debate has been sporadic and as yet has had limited effect. As Reich puts it, in Britain and other rich countries, "creating a 'favourable business environment' remains tantamount to deregulating, reducing wages, cutting taxes on corporations, and giving employers more flexibility to fire at will." Even in Germany, often rightfully cited by the left as taking a different, more socially benign approach to globalisation, the strong economic performance over the past decade has involved a prolonged squeeze on wages.

For now at least, the greatest threat to the government's "global race" argument may be over-use and ridicule. At Conservative party HQ, those working on the 2015 general election campaign are reportedly already sick of the phrase. And in a politician-hating age, a Tory party without great orators or much of a mandate to govern deploys catchphrases – remember "we're all in this together" – at its peril.

In the meantime, global race sceptics may enjoy a half-minute film shot last year in St James's Park and posted on YouTube. It is of George Osborne trying to look comfortable jogging. Those wanting to make Britain lean and mean should perhaps start at the top.

Economic policyEconomicsManufacturing sectorConservativesLabourAndy © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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International Business TimesHow Will The German Election Effect Europe? Spain, Greece React To Merkel ...International Business TimesAngela Merkel's convincing re-election to a third term as Germany's chancellor is the dominant news story across Europe Sunday, as Germany is the chief economic engine and banker for the continent.Will Greece Decide The German Elections? If So, What's Next?ForbesGerman Elections 2013: Here's What You Need to KnowPolicyMicGermans back Merkel on Europe and economyCNNMoneyWall Street Journal -CNBC.comall 891 news articles »


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Angela Merkel's election win is reward for weathering the euro crisis at home

Germans have given the chancellor a third term because living standards have remained stable while mayhem has struck parts of the eurozone

Angela Merkel's triumph in winning a third term with such an improbably high margin sets her and Germany apart in Europe.

More than three years into the European Union's worst ever nightmare, Merkel, uniquely in the eurozone, has been rewarded for her handling of the currency and sovereign debt crisis. Everywhere else voters have punished governments.

Her victory demonstrates the gulf between Germany and the rest of the EU and the eurozone, although it is not clear what impact her third term will have on the direction of the crisis.

Merkel's second term coincided exactly with the euro crisis. As she was forming her coalition with the Free Democrats in October 2009, Greece went belly-up, prompting deep doubts about the common currency and the survival of the EU

She has been resented and criticized across Europe for her crisis management and responses. Berlin became alarmed at the resurrection of the "ugly German" stereotype in neighbouring countries. But German voters have voiced their approval.

As Bill Clinton famously remarked, "it's the economy stupid". And Germans have given Merkel a third term because, despite big problems forecast for the future, German living standards, jobs and prosperity have remained stable while mayhem has struck across large parts of the eurozone.

A detailed opinion poll by Pew in May found striking contrasts in Europe on how the Germans saw themselves and how the public in other countries saw them. It concluded that Germans were living "on a different continent" from the rest of the EU.

That finding appears confirmed by the election and is likely to generate further political and psychological problems in Europe's efforts to emerge from such a deep crisis.

Since the Greek emergency snowballed in 2010, 12 governments have fallen in a eurozone of 17 countries, whether of the right or the left. Merkel is the only leader to buck this trend.

The political upheaval shook not only the bailed out or ailing countries, such as Greece, Ireland, or Spain, but also hit the creditor countries doing OK through the turmoil, such as Finland, Slovakia or the Netherlands. Germany is the exception in this pattern.

The popular backlash has taken the form of an anti-incumbency insurgency, with voters largely following a kick-the-bums-out script. Except in Germany.

And from Greece to Italy to the Netherlands, the testing political times have also seen the rise of anti-European mavericks and populists on the hard left and on the extreme right seeking to usurp mainstream political elites. Again, Germany remains the most notable exception to this pattern.

Merkel has been the dominant figure in drafting Europe's response to the crisis, the architect of austerity, a word that she privately professes to despise. Her approach has been incremental, cautious, always only acting at the last minute. She has been accused of dithering, lacking resolve and boldness.

But her winning a third term, with an increased share of the vote for her Christian Democrats than in 2009 no less, will vindicate her confidence in the way she has dealt with the challenge. She will be encouraged to carry on as heretofore, not least since she is confident that the heat is going out of the crisis and that her emphasis on savings, cuts, and structural reforms in the stricken eurozone economies is beginning to pay off.

This suggests there will be little quick change in her policies on Europe, unless there are major developments in a big ailing country such as Italy or France.

She is under no pressure at home to change in any case. The main opposition Social Democrats and Greens might bicker and attack her policies, but where and when it matters, in the chamber of the Bundestag in Berlin, they have always voted with her on the key decisions.

The opposition to Merkel on the euro has come from within her own ranks, defecting backbenchers, her junior coalition partner, the FDP, and from her Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.

Depending on the complexion of the new coalition, that domestic opposition may grow. That hinges on whether the country's first euro-sceptic party, the Alliance for Germany, makes it over the 5% hurdle into parliament and whether the FDP manages likewise. Early projections showed both tanatalisingly close but below the threshold.

An FDP out of parliament may opt to sharpen its euro-scepticism as a tool of recovery. An AfD that gets in or narrowly misses might seek to use next year's European parliament elections to increase its support.

And if a grand coalition of strengthened Christian Democrats and weakened social democrats emerges, the German parliament will become a rubber stamp, perhaps helping protest movements to make a lot of noise on the political fringes.

But Merkel's victory runs counter to most of the political trends across Europe in the past three years, making her Europe's unassailable leader, however uneasy she might be in that role.

Angela MerkelGermanyEurozone crisisEuropean UnionEuropean monetary unionEconomicsEuroIan © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


German Election Results: Merkel On Way To Winning Third Term As Chancellor

* Merkel's conservatives eye strongest result since 1990 * Chancellor has outside chance of absolute majority * FDP allies at risk of exiting parliament * Merkel could still be forced into "grand coalition" By Stephen Brown and Noah Barkin BERLIN, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Angela Merkel was on track to win a third term as chancellor in a German election on Sunday after her conservatives scored their best result in decades, but it was unclear whether she could avoid being forced into a coalition with her leftist rivals. Television exit polls showed Merkel's conservative bloc - the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) -- on 42 to 42.5 percent, which if confirmed would be their strongest score since 1990. That gives the conservatives an outside chance of securing an absolute majority on their own, which would be a historic success for the 59-year-old Merkel, whose steady leadership during the euro zone crisis has made her hugely popular at home. "It's a super result," said Merkel, flashing a broad smile. But the survival of her centre-right coalition with the Free Democrats (FDP) was in question, with the business-friendly party on 4.7 percent, shy of 5 percent mark needed to remain in parliament. Adding to the uncertainty was a new eurosceptic party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which stood at 4.9 percent, just a whisper below the threshold needed to enter the Bundestag. Support for the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) stood at 26 percent, the environmentalist Greens were on 8 percent and the hardline Left party was at 8.5 percent. That was good for a combined score of 42.5 percent, roughly in line with the result of Merkel's conservatives on their own. Short of her own majority and barring a late bounce for the FDP, Merkel will almost certainly have to enter coalition talks with the SPD, with whom she ruled between 2005 and 2009. Negotiations could last months and a new government could adopt more leftist policies like a minimum wage and tax hikes for top earners. "We won't be committing to any coalition this evening," SPD second-in-command Andrea Nahles said, reflecting deep resistance within the party to partnering with Merkel for the second time in a decade. Some of Germany's European partners hold out hope that the SPD could push Merkel to soften her stance towards struggling southern euro states like Greece, but the chances of major shifts in policy are slim. Merkel, the daughter of a Protestant pastor who grew up behind the Iron curtain in East Germany, is now on track to become the third post-war chancellor to win three elections, after her mentor Helmut Kohl and Konrad Adenauer.


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Dolce&Gabbana are anything but austere in gilded collection for women next summer

by  Associated Press Dolce&Gabbana's looks flaunt the riches by DANIELA PETROFF, Associated Press - 22 September 2013 12:03-04:00

MILAN (AP) — Dolce and Gabbana seemed to be saying, "If you got it flaunt it," in their latest summer collection loaded with gold coins.

The treasury of Greek and Roman coins appeared in print on silk dresses and skirts, as tassels on bags and shoes or as ostentatious buckles on leather belts, or simply as jewelry.

Underlining the message, the design team Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana sent a bevy of models down the runway all in gilded lace for their traditional show finale.

"We wanted to do something more daring to pursue the idea of absolute creativity which leaves free rein to imagination," Gabbana said ahead of Sunday's show in their ex-cinema headquarters.

The designers, who have long taken inspiration from Sicily, in recent seasons have focused more concretely on the island's treasures. Already in the menswear shows for summer last June, Dolce&Gabbana featured Greek temples, which appeared again in the women's collection for summer 2014 painted across silk outfits.

The show's backdrop was an orchard of blooming almond trees — one of Sicily's natural wonders. The delicate pinkish blossoms appear as appliques on feminine organza dresses and also tops.

The collection oozed luxury, from the colored fur stoles, and even tops, to gold-encrusted mini-dresses with matching gilded bags.

The majesty of the footwear was not in the usual super-high heel, but in the myriad of coins that adorned them.

News Topics: Lifestyle, Fashion, Beauty and fashion, Milan Fashion Week, Fashion shows, Events, Entertainment, Arts and entertainment, Fashion design

People, Places and Companies: Milan, Italy, Sicily, Western Europe, Europe

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Germany's views on the European crisis won't change after today's elections

Post-election, Germany will still be cautious and resistant to grand plans, no matter how much Europeans want it to act

During the worst moments of the euro crisis, foreign leaders were amazed at the European approach to summer holidays. However bad things were, nothing stood in the way of the road to the beach, with a promise that nothing was to be done until September came round. This year summer has been extended, and Europe's leaders seem to be hanging around even longer before doing anything meaningful.

They have been waiting, of course, for the German elections today before springing into action with long wish lists for the reinvention of Europe. But no matter what their hopes are, and no matter how vital Berlin is to European politics, post-election Germany is likely to prove a grave disappointment.

The past five years have seen Germany forced into a role of reluctant hegemon, its political and diplomatic clout enhanced to match its doubtless economic heft. It's the paymaster, the conductor and the driver. For other European leaders, sick of fire-fighting, Germany is now also the great hope if they are to move the European Union forward and solve the crisis at its roots. Other than an admission that Greece may need yet more money, they have understood that now is not the time to throw up issues that are bound to make Merkel and the German people feel uncomfortable. Just wait until after the elections, they think, and then we can make real progress.

The bad news is that these hopes of real progress are based on a misreading of Germany and are likely to be confounded.

Germany's domestic preoccupations tend to be underestimated by outsiders. Its evident economic strengths and their own comparative weaknesses have led the rest of Europe to regard modern Germany as a cash-rich colossus of our age. But despite its successes, it has real concerns that have come out in the election campaign. Germans worry about income inequalities, awful demographic projections, faltering investment levels, crumbling infrastructure, and inadequacies in higher education and in research and development.

Seen from elsewhere, these may not look particularly bad, but in Germany they are significant enough to shrink any wider ambitions to lead the continent.

At the same time, Germans believe their undoubted successes are due to their own efforts (especially compared with those feckless southern Europeans). They went through their own painful reforms, getting wage costs under control and making their own high-quality exports competitive through hard work. That, they say, is the secret to their success, rather than splashing money about – and that is why Germany continues to emphasise austerity as the route to economic success.

It can be argued that Germany has benefited from membership of the euro, presenting it with an in effect undervalued currency, and the fortuitous explosion in demand for its high-quality manufactures by China. It can also be argued that austerity as a cure is harming the patient rather than healing it. But no matter: wider hopes that German largesse will result in a growth strategy capable of stimulating the entire European economy will remain unfulfilled, even after the election.

Germans are also concerned about the institutional direction in which Europe is going. From elsewhere in the EU, for instance, banking union is seen as a key part of the solution to the crisis, to stabilise the European project and to disentangle state finances from bank finances. But Germany has dragged its feet on this (as in other areas of fundamental reform), and the legal and political hurdles that are being thrown up to this and other areas of reform that make Germans feel instinctively uneasy are unlikely to disappear once any new coalition government has taken power. Germany has become used to its slow, pragmatic and legalistic approach to dealing with the crisis, and – unless dangerous instability returns to the markets – it will not change this.

Loftier ambitions for Europe on the world stage are also set to be frustrated. David Cameron's parliamentary defeat over intervention in Syria came as a surprise to most, given the leading role Britain – and France – typically play in European foreign policy. Germany's decision not to join in was no surprise. But many believe Europe will only be a global force with Germany involved, given its size and importance. And although Europe needs Germany if it is to have a true strategic focus, Germany itself lacks such a focus, preferring commerce to diplomacy. This will not change.

European leaders holding their breath for Germany's elections should not confuse their own hopes for Germany with that country's own intentions, whoever wins power and however free of electoral constraints its politicians are.

It is a long way from providing the energy and vision that the rest of Europe feels are necessary to solve the crisis at its roots. Post-election Germany will have a similar approach to pre-election Germany: legalistic, cautious and resistant to grand plans and gestures, no matter how much its European neighbours are looking to it to act. They might as well have stayed on the beach.

GermanyEuroAngela MerkelEuropeEuropean UnionUlrike Gué © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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Greece resumes talks with creditors as strikes planned

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Greece resumes talks with European Commission European Central Bank International Monetary Fund to review progress on stabilizing finances

Americans' addiction to debt /Story-MediuaBoxPosition: 2 --> Story-MediaBoxPosition: 3 empty --> Story-MediaBoxPosition: 4 empty ...


Greece braces for week of fresh strikes

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Greece resumes talks with its creditors; issues to include privatizations

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Greek geek haven Erminia Kamel explains why Zorba opens up Egypts ballet season

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Merkel eyes third term in tight German election

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6,000-year-old Wine Discovered in Kavala

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Nafplio Planning to Construct Waterway

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Global X Funds (GREK): Greece mulls way to avoid another bailout

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Winning back the desperate

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Greek Democracy 'Endangered' by Golden Dawn as Creditors Fly in For Fresh ... Democracy 'Endangered' by Golden Dawn as Creditors Fly in For Fresh the 'troika' of international creditors flies into Athens on Sunday for discussions on a new bailout, experts fear unrest and far-right violence fuelled by austerity could worsen if loan conditions are too harsh. Representatives from the EU, the ...


Greek neo-Nazi charged in fatal stabbing

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The great Greek debate 'a straw man'

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These Art Kids Are Hosting an Ancient Greek Sacrifice in Bushwick

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Germany votes with Merkel set for third term

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Greek Yogurt: Greece’s Weapon of Mass Consumption Revealed

To begin with, there are practical reasons. When the Teddy Boys began the practice, the traditional ceramic containers were replaced with plastic ones. Their lighter weight made them a way to add insult without injury. Also, yogurt is fairly ...


Bill Nicklow Longtime Greek restaurateurA self-made man who served many

Greek restaurateur Bill Nicklow came to America ... Nazis burned his village and killed his father. In his pockets, young Billy carried only $3. In his heart, he carried a rich love and devotion for his family that stayed strong throughout ...


Sweet treats highlight Valpo Greek Fest

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When right is wrong

by  Monnet Matters

Pavlos Fyssas was murdered in Greece on 18 September.

He was a musician and noted left-wing activist. He was killed by a man who admitted to be a member of the far-right Golden Dawn ; which has brazenly adopted the apparel and tactics of the 1930s. They are not simply a neo-Nazi organisation – they represent Nazism reincarnated.  Like Jobbik in Hungary, they are not simply a thuggish, marginal movement so easy to dismiss, they are an organised party, whose uniform – and, yes, they adopt the clothes and tactics of the past – is an obvious visual indicator of their political views.

They have seats in the national assembly, and have their eyes on returning candidates to the European Parliament in May next year. With the general rise in populist, extremist, and perhaps more pertinently, anti-political feeling in Europe right now (especially in economically marginal countries like Greece), the rise of parties like the Golden Dawn makes some kind of sense. 

It used to be a crass generalisation to accuse someone of being “a Nazi” if they had vaguely right-wing views, but in certain, newer, cases it appears that has become the case. It is as if the famous maxim by George Santayna has horrifically come true, “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” 

It seems that the past has been forgotten; not just in terms of the longer historical view of

European wars, but also in the fact that the post-war ideal that brought about European integration in the first place, and which  stemmed from a desire to escape the kind of horrendous political ruptures that divided the continent, should be put t an end. Sadly, there is an upsurge in the opposite feeling.

Greece and Hungary are the most visible examples; but other illustrations exist. In the Netherlands, for instance; in Denmark and Finland also.  The National Front in France is already making moves to secure a political group (and with it, therefore, more speaking time and funds) in the European Parliament. They crave respectability. Sadly, there are those who are seemingly only too willing to give it to them. 

There has been some talk about the Greek government moving against the Golden Dawn. Maybe this is the, for want of a different cliché, the smoking gun. The fears are genuine from the political establishment; that the party (which mobilises local support horribly efficiently, hence their ongoing recent success). But without a willingness to engage in a proper political debate, the threat is useless. The current political establishment – and Greece should not be signalled out by any means – is not willing to do this. It would only expose their own lack of ideas. On a local level, this happened in Italy with Beppe Grillo, and that didn’t last long, you can only stretch a joke so far. But parties like the Golden Dawn, Jobbik, True Finns and the rest, are not a joke. As the murder of Pavlos Fyssas  expose, there agenda is not political engagement but murderous contempt for the current system.

The current system is flawed. But murder is no solution. Banning political parties is one solution, but maybe, and this would require a huge effort on behalf of those in power who quiver at the thought of rhetoric, rather that recognise it as the greatest weapon in their arsenal, we might just remember the words of Germaine Greer: “To kill a man is simply murder; it is revolution to turn him on.” 



Merkel eyes third term in first German vote since euro crisis

By Noah Barkin BERLIN (Reuters) - In the first German election since Europe's debt crisis erupted four years ago, voters are likely to give Angela Merkel a third term on Sunday, but may force her into a coalition with her leftist rivals and catapult a new anti-euro party into parliament. The vote is being closely watched by Berlin's European partners, with some hoping Chancellor Merkel will soften her approach towards struggling euro states like Greece if she is pushed into a 'grand coalition' with the Social Democrats (SPD). ...