Tom, though depressed and strongly repelled by his father's sullenness, and the dreariness of home, entered thoroughly into his father's feelings about paying the creditors; and the poor lad brought his first quarter's money, with a delicious sense of achievement, and gave it to his father to put into the tin box which held the savings.
George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
It is a moral truism that debt must be repaid. In George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, the son of the main character considers it his personal duty to bail out his bankrupt father. The shame of the financial loss would have ruined the moral standing of the whole family. When the crisis broke out in 2008, Europe started to impose this logic on its communities. Greece had to repay its debt, regardless of whether its citizens voted for the governments that indebted them, whether they ever profited from the debt, or whether they even knew that their government was in debt.
Under international law this moral truism does not hold sway. Sovereign states are not like Victorian families. They are allowed to cancel their debt. This law is guided by the principle that countries are first and foremost responsible for their citizens and only then to other countries or credit markets. To protect the interests of the financial industry and the governments of lender countries, the moral rhetoric of the European sovereign debt crisis has neglected this fundamental right. Banks, international organizations and economically more powerful nation-states have reinterpreted debt in a way that makes citizens accountable for the budget deficits of their past governments. ... More
The documentary Palikari: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre (2014, Nickos Ventouras) narrates one of the “bleakest and blackest” chapters in American labor history, the Ludlow Massacre.1 A hundred years earlier, on April 20, 1914, in Ludlow, Colorado, a strike for basic labor rights by exploited miners and their families, mostly immigrants, was violently ended by state militia. In the fight, the strikers’ tent colony was machine-gunned and burned to the ground, leaving over twenty people dead, including women and children. Louis Tikas (1886-1914), a Cretan immigrant and union organizer born Ilias Anastasios Spantidakis, was shot in the back in cold blood, as were two other strikers. Still considered a politically volatile event, in fact a dangerous past for the nation laying open the synergy of state and capital to brutally put down labor, Ludlow does not commonly find a place in celebratory official memory. Historians take note of its absence in public history textbooks. However, when Colorado inaugurated the Ludlow Centennial Commemoration in September 2013, a yearlong, statewide remembering of Ludlow, it marked a significant departure, adding an official seal so to speak to remembering what functions as an enduring symbol of working class struggle in the United States.2 ... More