What’s in a Name?

“In the mid-1970s F.M. Esfandiary (Fereidoun M. Esfandiary / فریدون اسفندیاری) legally changed his name to FM-2030 … to break free of the widespread practice of naming conventions that he saw as rooted in a collectivist mentality, and existing only as a relic of humankind’s tribalistic past. He viewed traditional names as almost always stamping a label of collective identity—varying from gender to nationality—on the individual, thereby existing as prima facie elements of thought processes in the human cultural fabric which tended to degenerate into stereotyping, factionalism, and discrimination.”

< Wiki: FM-2030

Munich, not yet Vichy

Many, especially those in the pockets of the military industrial complex, think that at Munich in 1938 it should have been possible to foresee that allowing Germany to seize control of Czechoslovakia, even under a flmsy diplomatic veil, would have fearsome consequences.

A few days ago I re-posted on the July Agreement in which Germany and its Allies publicly inflicted abject status on Greece, this with we don’t know exactly which threats concerning the consequencces of a Grexit from the eurozone.

Was this, I asked, another Versailles, as the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis asserted? Or shouldn’t we better see this ukase in the light of the collaborationist Vichy government under Germany occupation, which the hobbled Greek one might then come to resemble?

Instead of Vichy, let me now paste in the trope of Munich. 

Vichy works as a simile up to a point, but there is an functioning parliament in Greece, with representatives  stretching from the openly fascist extreme right to what the bourgeois media call the extreme left, by which they mean those who speak openly of capitalism and class conflict. This was not the case in occupied France, where the only real opposition was underground and led by communists, who had, incidentally, stopped talking much about capitalism and class for the sake of national unity, résistance oblige.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but there are many analogies between what happened at Munich in 1938 and what Europe as a whole signed onto in July, 2015. Germany has not actually invaded Greece, but a crucial stage has now been passed in the developing crisis in which Europe finds itself. Instead of melting away, geopolitics is returning with a vengeance, dialectically one might say, right into heartland of those who were expressly trying to supercede it, wipe it by compromise away.  Henceforth it will be hard to speak of Europe without speaking of its internal power relations, in particular of German hegemony.

The eventual consequences of the Summer of 2015 are still latent, or as the French say, larvées. Only time will tell if this moment will mark the beginning of the end of Thomas Mann’s European Germany, as a German Europe becomes the new order of things, and as neo- and crypto-fascist movements proliferate outside of Germany but increasingly within.

The Surplus Value of Data

Data and ownership of it has increasingly become not just the measure but the object and engine of economic and political power. Corporations and states which do not control it on their own are merely producing it for others. From one perspective, data resembles property, property being, as Proudhon put it, theft, theft from the Commons. From another “neo-Marxist” perspective, data is analogous to “work value”. Our activities are the source of every bit of human data out there, but the value obtained from our data activities is alienated from us in the same way the surplus value of labor is extracted from workers in the old industrial order of things. Concern for privacy, typically turning around a question of “bourgeois” individual rights, is only a sideshow compared to the transformation in social relations occurring before our eyes.

Versailles or Vichy?

Bastille Day, 2015

Yanis Varoufakis was far from the only one to attack the July, 2015 A Greekment, as it has been called, and from across the whole political and economic spectrum (see for example the Bastille Day piece by Wolfgang Munchau in the Financial Times). For the erstwhile Greek Minister of Finances, this deal, virtually an ukase, amounts to a new Versailles, the notorious treaty which ended the First World War, laid the blame for that catastrophe entirely at the feet of the Germans and led at least in part to the rise of Fascism in Europe. I am not sure that Versailles is the right metaphor, since the Germans did have the power to rise again, while the Greeks clearly don’t. In any event, the shoes are obviously on the other feet.

Maybe Vichy would be a better simile for the new Greek government which is sure to come, whether by election or coalition shift, regime change whatever term will be used. After utter defeat at the beginning of World War Two at the hands of German tanks, as opposed to banks, the French government retreated to the old spa town of Vichy and tried to eke out some autonomy within the narrow margin of maneuver left to them. The backbone of the French Resistance was Communist, despite all subsequent Gaullist myth-making, but alone it was never going to evince the Germans. As we know, it took the combined forces of the Soviet and Allied armies to do so.

ThIs morning I went back and re-read Varoufakis’ two-year old piece on his “erratic Marxism”. Another ideological casualty of events as they have unrolled is surely the relative moderation expressed in that essay: http://www.theGuardian.com/news/2015/feb/18/yanis-varoufakis-how-i-became-an-erratic-marxist.

All this to say that François Mitterand may have committed a critical blunder when he offered Helmut Kohl the Eurowiedervereinigung shorty after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Maybe the Anschluss of the German Democratic Republic was unavoidable, but it does look like the Germans were able to take the gift horse of the Euro and turn it to their own purposes, unlike the Trojans, the metaphor begs me to add.

Henceforth, emerging through the fog of peace are five new tiers of Europeans: the German Alphas (notionally including the Ostis), the Beta honorary Aryans from the North (to which some Belgians are foolish enough to imagine they belong), the Latin Gammas (including the French), the slavish Slav and Baltic Deltas (whose allegiance or better infeudation to Germany is exacerbated by the boogey-man Putin, to whom and for which the Germans now owe much), and finally the Greek Epsilons.

(Yes, I know, I have left out the Brits — par anticipation?)

Immediately after the Second World War, the Allies initially proposed the “pastoralization” of defeated Germany, in other words its de-industrialization. Instead of this Morgenthau Plan, the more development-focused Marshall plan was adopted as US policy, which set the grounds for the rise of Germany as an industrial power and what has become the European Union. No such luck for the Greeks.

Europe, shorn of its veneer, is beginning to like its old self again.