Dec 282016
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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Introduction

A coup has been underway to prevent President-Elect Donald Trump from taking office and fulfilling his campaign promise to improve US-Russia relations. This ‘palace coup’ is not a secret conspiracy, but an open, loud attack on the election. The coup involves important US elites, who openly intervene on many levels from the street to the current President, from sectors of the intelligence community, billionaire financiers out to the more marginal ‘leftist’ shills of the Democratic Party.

The build-up for the coup is gaining momentum, threatening to eliminate normal constitutional and democratic constraints. This essay describes the brazen, overt coup and the public operatives, mostly members of the outgoing Obama regime.

The second section describes the Trump’s cabinet appointments and the political measures that the President-Elect has adopted to counter the coup. We conclude with an evaluation of the potential political consequences of the attempted coup and Trump’s moves to defend his electoral victory and legitimacy.

The Coup as ‘Process’

In the past few years Latin America has experienced several examples of the seizure of Presidential power by unconstitutional means, which may help illustrate some of the current moves underway in Washington. These are especially interesting since the Obama Administration served as the ‘midwife’ for these ‘regime changes’.

Brazil, Paraguay, Honduras and Haiti experienced coups, in which the elected Presidents were ousted through a series of political interventions orchestrated by economic elites and their political allies in Congress and the Judiciary.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton were deeply involved in these operations as part of their established foreign policy of ‘regime change’. Indeed, the ‘success’ of the Latin American coups has encouraged sectors of the US elite to attempt to prevent President-elect Trump from taking office in January.

While similarities abound, the on-going coup against Trump in the United States occurs within a very different power configuration of proponents and antagonists.

Firstly, this coup is not against a standing President, but targets an elected president set to take office on January 20, 2017. Secondly, the attempted coup has polarized leading sectors of the political and economic elite. It even exposes a seamy rivalry within the intelligence-security apparatus, with the political appointees heading the CIA involved in the coup and the FBI supporting the incoming President Trump and the constitutional process. Thirdly, the evolving coup is a sequential process, which will build momentum and then escalate very rapidly.

Coup-makers depend on the ‘Big Lie’ as their point of departure – accusing President-Elect Trump of 1) being a Kremlin stooge, attributing his electoral victory to Russian intervention against his Democratic Party opponent, Hillary Clinton and 2) blatant voter fraud in which the Republican Party prevented minority voters from casting their ballot for Secretary Clinton.

The first operatives to emerge in the early stages of the coup included the marginal-left Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein, who won less than 1% of the vote, as well as the mass media.

In the wake of her resounding defeat, Candidate Stein usurped authority from the national Green Party and rapidly raked in $8 million dollars in donations from Democratic Party operatives and George Soros-linked NGOs (many times the amount raised during her Presidential campaign). This dodgy money financed her demand for ballot recounts in selective states in order to challenge Trump’s victory. The recounts failed to change the outcome, but it was a ‘first shot across the bow’, to stop Trump. It became a propaganda focus for the neo-conservative mass media to mobilize several thousand Clintonite and liberal activists.

The purpose was to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s electoral victory. However, Jill Stein’s $8 million dollar shilling for Secretary Clinton paled before the oncoming avalanche of mass media and NGO propaganda against Trump. Their main claim was that anonymous ‘Russian hackers’ and not the American voters had decided the US Presidential election of November 2016!

The Big Lie was repeated and embellished at every opportunity by the print and broadcast media. The ‘experts’ were trotted out voicing vitriolic accusations, but they never presented any facts and documentation of a ‘rigged election’. Everyday, every hour, the ‘Russian Plot’ was breathlessly described in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Financial Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, BBC, NPR and their overseas followers in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Oceania and Africa. The great American Empire looked increasingly like a ‘banana republic’.

Like the billionaire Soros-funded Color Revolutions, from Ukraine, to Georgia and Yugoslavia, the ‘Rainbow Revolt’ against Trump, featured grass-roots NGO activists and ‘serious leftists’, like Jill Stein.

The more polished political operatives from the upscale media used their editorial pages to question Trump’s illegitimacy. This established the ground work for even higher level political intervention: The current US Administration, including President Obama, members of the US Congress from both parties, and current and former heads of the CIA jumped into the fray. As the vote recount ploy flopped, they all decided that ‘Vladimir Putin swung the US election!’ It wasn’t just lunatic neo-conservative warmongers who sought to oust Trump and impose Hillary Clinton on the American people, liberals and social democrats were screaming ‘Russian Plot!’ They demanded a formal Congressional investigation of the ‘Russian cyber hacking’ of Hillary’s personal e-mails (where she plotted to cheat her rival ‘Bernie Sanders’ in the primaries). They demanded even tighter economic sanctions against Russia and increased military provocations. The outgoing Democratic Senator and Minority Leader ‘Harry’ Reid wildly accused the FBI of acting as ‘Russian agents’ and hinted at a purge.

The coup intensified as Trump-Putin became synonymous for “betrayal” and “election fraud”.

As this approached a crescendo of media hysteria, President Barack Obama stepped in and called on the CIA to seize domestic control of the investigation of Russian manipulation of the US election – essentially accusing President-Elect Trump of conspiring with the Russian government. Obama refused to reveal any proof of such a broad plot, citing ‘national security’.

President Obama solemnly declared the Trump-Putin conspiracy was a grave threat to American democracy and Western security and freedom. He darkly promised to retaliate against Russia, “…at a time and place of our choosing”.

Obama also pledged to send more US troops to the Middle East and increase arms shipments to the jihadi terrorists in Syria, as well as the Gulf State and Saudi ‘allies’. Coincidentally, the Syrian Government and their Russian allies were poised to drive the US-backed terrorists out of Aleppo – and defeat Obama’s campaign of ‘regime change’ in Syria.

Trump Strikes Back: The Wall Street-Military Alliance

Meanwhile, President-Elect Donald Trump did not crumple under the Clintonite-coup in progress. He prepared a diverse counter-attack to defend his election, relying on elite allies and mass supporters.

Trump denounced the political elements in the CIA, pointing out their previous role in manufacturing the justifications (he used the term ‘lies’) for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He appointed three retired generals to key Defense and Security positions – indicating a power struggle between the highly politicized CIA and the military. Active and retired members of the US Armed Forces have been key Trump supporters. He announced that he would bring his own security teams and integrate them with the Presidential Secret Service during his administration.

Although Clinton-Obama had the major mass media and a sector of the financial elite who supported the coup, Trump countered by appointing several key Wall Street and corporate billionaires into his cabinet who had their own allied business associations.

One propaganda line for the coup, which relied on certain Zionist organizations and leaders (ADL, George Soros et al), was the bizarre claim that Trump and his supporters were ‘anti-Semites’. This was were countered by Trump’s appointment of powerful Wall Street Zionists like Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary and Gary Cohn (both of Goldman Sachs) to head the National Economic Council. Faced with the Obama-CIA plot to paint Trump as a Russian agent for Vladimir Putin, the President-Elect named security hardliners including past and present military leaders and FBI officials, to key security and intelligence positions.

The Coup: Can it succeed?

In early December, President Obama issued an order for the CIA to ‘complete its investigation’ on the Russian plot and manipulation of the US Presidential election in six weeks – right up to the very day of Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017! A concoction of pre-cooked ‘findings’ is already oozing out of secret clandestine CIA archives with the President’s approval. Obama’s last-ditch effort will not change the outcome of the election. Clearly this is designed to poison the diplomatic well and present Trump’s incoming administration as dangerous. Trump’s promise to improve relations with Russia will face enormous resistance in this frothy, breathless hysteria of Russophobia.

Ultimately, President Obama is desperate to secure his legacy, which has consisted of disastrous and criminal imperial wars and military confrontations. He wants to force a continuation of his grotesque policies onto the incoming Trump Administration. Will Trump succumb? The legitimacy of his election and his freedom to make policy will depend on overcoming the Clinton-Obama-neo-con-leftist coup with his own bloc of US military and the powerful Wall Street allies, as well as his mass support among the ‘angry’ American electorate. Trump’s success at thwarting the current ‘Russian ploy’ requires his forming counter alliances with Washington plutocrats, many of whom will oppose any diplomatic agreement with Putin. Trump’s appointment of hardline economic plutocrats who are deeply committed to shredding social programs (public education, Medicare, Social Security) could ignite the anger of his mass supporters by savaging their jobs, health care, pensions and their children’s future.

If Trump defeats the avalanching media, CIA and elite-instigated coup (which interestingly lack support from the military and judiciary), he will have to thank, not only his generals and billionaire-buddies, but also his downwardly mobile mass supporters (Hillary Clinton’s detested ‘basket of deplorables’). He embarked on a major series of ‘victory tours’ around the country to thank his supporters among the military, workers, women and small business people and call on them to defend his election to the presidency. He will have to fulfill some of his promises to the masses or face ‘the real fire’, not from Clintonite shills and war-mongers, but from the very people who voted for him.

James Petras is author of  The End of the Republic and the Delusion of EmpireExtractive Imperialism in the Americas: Capitalism’s New Frontier (with Henry Veltmeyer), and The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle EastRead other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

Dec 212016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Introduction

There are deep flaws in the blogs, media reports, and official statements, which purport to describe world historic events and changes.

These so-called ‘up-to-date’ reports of major world events undergo repeated revisions in hours, days or weeks as the story is being ‘played out’. What might start out as a ‘scoop’ for the upwardly mobile journalist is transformed into a by-word for a ‘critical blogger’ rewriting mainstream reports by simply substituting negatives for pluses (or vice versa).

‘Immediacy’ trumps historical context and structural understanding. Protagonist or antagonists of the moment are demonized, slandered and scandalized, or lauded, praised and iconized.

The practice of deep falsification involves magnifying transient trivia and glossing over world-historic change. The false prophets substitute superficiality for deep understanding.

Soon after proclaiming a ‘major systemic transformation’, which fail to occur, a series of modifications or reversals take over, and the initial ‘great prophesy’ is forgotten – as if the readers of news were afflicted with an epidemic of dementia.

Most political parties, left, right and center, have their own unchanging warped world view to frame everyday minutiae.

For example, on the Left, it is the ‘imminent collapse of capitalism’ or the ‘perpetual stagnation of the capitalist state’, ‘the collapse of democracy’ or ‘the emergence of fascism’. In the absence of any real empirical or historical findings to support their hypotheses, they add escape clauses about ‘tendencies’.

The Center has its own historic narrative, which includes ‘threats from the Left and Right’, and the ‘dangers posed by populists to democratic values’. They cite the overwhelming responsibility to ‘defend Western values’ everywhere, from threats, past, present and future … and especially from independent nations, like Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran and other ‘emerging’ powers, as a pretext to escalate militarism and to bolster support for  vassal states.

The Center repeatedly point to the ‘resilience of Western liberal democratic institutions’ even as police state edicts are dictated to counter dissenting voices, while false prophets predict that China’s robust economy is on the verge of collapse; that democratic Russia is an unstable autocracy; and that the Ukraine is an emerging democracy – while its ‘Right Sector’ and ‘Azov Battalions’ runs amok amidst a kleptocratic, neo-fascist regime

The Right frames its world-historic ideology by stressing the need to (1) revive the Cold War to counter the US global decline; (2) confront the world-wide wave of ‘populism’ threatening ‘liberal’ democracies; (3) portray Brexit as a sign of the European Union’s collapse; (4) equate Trump’s victory with the rise of fascism in the US; (5) emphasize the ascent of bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism, based on the result of a single election; (6) denounce Leftists ‘conspiracy’ writers who ‘falsely’ blame rising class inequalities to free-market monopolies; and (7) explain that  cuts in social expenditures, tax cuts to big capital, increased work hours and decreased pensions are ultimately rewarding the masses.

These mega-narratives lead ‘prophetic academics’ to insist on their infallible insight into the future direction of the world economy, global politics and class relations.

False prophets maintain a veneer of authenticity, by presenting the future in unspecified, ambiguous, general and distant terms, to allow for any or all outcomes – like professional fortune tellers.

Academic and media prophets are enveloped in a mystique of expertise, which allows them to rehash yesterday’s news as deep strategic insights.

False Prophets: Trump

Contrary to the wailings of the Right, Center and Left, Donald Trump is not a fascist, or a nationalist or a populist. An objective assessment of his most recent policies and cabinet appointments show that he is a free-market politician with a propensity to appoint militarists to security positions.

Trump’s populist demagogy most closely resembles President Obama – although the appeal is to a different audience. Trump speaks to impoverished, displaced, skilled workers in the rust belt with campaign promises of a renaissance in manufacturing, upscale suburbanites, and downwardly mobile working women, while appointing billionaire bankers and global business executives to run the economy and set policy. Obama appealed to poor minorities, middle class urbanites and the same business elite.

Like Obama, Trump is an imperialist committed to protecting and projecting US global power. He differs from Obama in emphasis. Obama and his predecessors pursued a primarily military-driven imperialism while Trump will shift the emphasis to economic imperialism.

Trump’s ‘double discourse’, of talking to the masses during the campaign while working for the elite once in office, reflects a long-standing American Presidential tradition.

Editorial writers’ descriptions of Donald Trump lack historical and empirical depth.

Powerful systemic constraints define the rate and scope of any long-term, large-scale changes that Trump might propose. Trump can only introduce minor incremental changes in the behavior of the biggest banks and five hundred most powerful global multi-nationals. Trump might re-negotiate around the edges of some bilateral trade agreements, but he cannot convert the US into a closed self-sufficient economy.

Contrary to the ‘end of the world’ hysteria, promoted by the mass media, Trump has never made any pact with white racists and anti-Semites. There are no major Jewish organizations currently engaged in a struggle against Trump’s ‘fascist hordes’. The KKK is not preparing to burn Goldman Sachs. Since Trump’s election the stock market has jump over a thousand points. Like all of his predecessors from both parties, Trump appointed prominent Jews to key economic and policy positions, including Treasury Secretary. Many editorialists, who rely on selected excerpts of campaign rhetoric and gossip, have presented an unrealistic picture of the trajectory of the US state and economy.

False Prophets: China

The US prophets and self-described ‘experts’ describe China in inflated terms of either its impending doom or its relentless drive toward world supremacy. They rely on the minutiae of the moment or distorted extrapolations, uncertainties and contingent systemic changes. Rigorous analytical accounts are in short supply.

China, according to the free-market financial prophets of doom, suffers from a declining growth rate, shrinking work force, massive capital flight, deep-seated corruption and an impending intra-elite war. According to the prophets of doom, this sets the stage for an economic collapse and a military confrontation with the US empire.

Many of these pronouncements are easily dismissed. For the last 30 years, China’s economy has exceeded 6% and it is steadily developing its high technological work force and scientific innovations. China’s emphasis is on diversifying its production and consumption to domestic and overseas markets. The challenge of its aging work force is met by the increasing development of robotics and computerized productive systems.

China has applied capital controls and limits on capital flight. The national campaign against corruption and real estate speculation in real estate has led to the arrest of over 200,000 officials and executives for fraud, bribery and money laundering via overseas banks.

In other words, the false prophets, parading about as ‘China experts’, have consistently made nonsensical predictions of doom and collapse. Faced with factual refutations, they merely repeat and recycle their prophecies by projecting longer time frames, up to infinity, for the coming of the inevitable catastrophe.

On the other hand, some progressive writers peddle prophesies of China’s endless progress predicting its inevitable emergence as a supreme global power. They convert China’s 30-year pattern of economic growth into a formula guaranteeing ‘harmonious development’, which they claim is based on China’s correct handling of emerging challenges and contradictions. Their predictions of stable future growth assume ever-expanding markets while ignoring the threat of military confrontations with rival imperial powers.

China’s prophets of global power ignore contingencies: Skilled and innovative workers, who are necessary for economic growth, have their own vision of the social structure in which they play a leading role in advancing society.

While robots can substitute for human labor power, it is worker knowledge and initiative that design, produce and adjust the robotic manufacturing system.

Harmony, free markets and mutually beneficial trade alliances are relations that are always changing; only interests remain constant. As China moves from investing in commodities to manufacturing and technology, customers can turn into competitors.

As China emerges as a global power, the outflow of capital and arms and technology increases, and the risks of global rivalry and domestic instability, challenging the Chinese ruling class likewise increase.

Prophecies or predictions depend on (1) the stability of incremental changes in the structure of power; (2) the uncertainty of elite outcomes in world markets and (3) the volatility of domestic class relations.

False Prophets: Latin America

Latin America is almost universally regarded as unstable – a region, where revolutions and counter-revolutions alternate, and electoral regimes rise and fall among neo-liberal, populist and nationalist leaders.

The long-term reality is actually quite different. Latin America has been one of global capitalism’s most stable regions. With few exceptions, property-ownership has remained stable for decades, with entrenched oligarchical elite families enjoying wealth, multiple-luxury properties throughout the world and their own perpetuation.

Electoral regimes may frequently change but the underlying state structures endure for decades. Bureaucratic, military and financial institutions set the margins of change. Neo-liberal, post-neo-liberal and anti-neo-liberal policies come and go, but large-scale mining, export agricultural and banking structures ultimately set the conditions for the growth of economies and demise of governments.

There is a tendency for some academic prophets and writers to use metaphors from astronomy and geology to divide the world. They describe a ‘world-system’ composed of ‘a core, a semi-periphery and a periphery’. Adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing quantities of productive resources, the false prophets solemnly predict how the entire world system will function ‘ad infinitum’.

While data, derived from observations in space, provide scientists with insights into the movements of distant galaxies and the fate of planets, extrapolation to socio-economic and political ‘bodies’ is risky.

On the real planet Earth, the so-called ‘periphery’ of the ‘world system’ subsumes countries, economies, social structures, states and inter-state relations with entirely distinct composition, behavior and histories. Cuba, a ‘peripheral state’, differs in every respect from Haiti, Guatemala and scores of other likewise categorized nations. And among the ‘core’ countries, the US invades, occupies and plunders dozens of countries every decade, while China engages in ‘trade’. Iran, among the ‘semi-peripherals’, has not invaded any neighbor for two centuries, while Israel, a fellow ‘semi-peripheral’, has ravaged a dozen countries in the past 50 years.

False Prophets: Russia

Western prophets on the right and left predicted that the break-up of the USSR would augur a period of harmony, democracy and widespread prosperity. The true believers claimed ‘anything was better than Stalinism’ while ignoring the fact that Stalin was dead for a half-century.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev oversaw the transformation of the USSR’s allied nations into pillaged satellites of the Western imperial powers. He blindly accepted US Presidents Bush and Ronald Reagan’s promises that the US would not expand NATO and would not transform the newly emerging post-Soviet nations into military bases. What emerged was a crippled and encircled Russia, which had been converted into a Beggar-State of oligarchs and swindlers who seized over a trillion dollars of public property, wealth, land and resources in less than ten years. Gangsters murdered their way into public office through US-manipulated sham elections, celebrated by the Western press. Living standards for millions of post-Soviet citizens collapsed, resulting in the greatest decline of life expectancy, health, culture, science and education in peacetime history.

Contrary to the predictions of Western prophets Russia rebuilt its state and economy. The new political leadership, headed by Vladimir Putin, replaced the dipsomaniac puppet President and mobsters favored by Washington. Living and health standards have vastly improved; production, agriculture, exports, national security, science and culture have recovered.

The angry  false prophets, then promoted a new pseudo-scientific assertion that the re-emergence of the Russian state and its recovering economy led inexorably to autocratic rule by a former KGB official, who violated ‘Western values’ by…. jailing swindler billionaires and self-made oil mobsters and re-appropriating vital national assets.

Western editorialists ceaselessly denounce the popularly elected President Putin for his crime … of refuting the bankruptcy of their prophecies.

Despite reams of reports by the ‘experts’, despite their wide circulation in the mass media and their citations by top Western officials, the Russian state and economy, just like the Chinese, are not on the verge of collapse nor are they declining or facing popular revolts.

False Prophets: The Left

The shallow, self-serving Left prophets of progressive governments in Latin America, as well as admirers of Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China, fail to recognize the structural, historical and class constraints that determine and limit policies.

First and foremost, they fail to recognize the socio-economic continuities within these states. In all three regions, elites and oligarchs continue to control the commanding heights of the economies, despite occasional expropriations and sporadic reforms.

Secondly, even the most ‘progressive’ regimes rely on Western markets and investors limiting their long-term growth.

Thirdly, the long-term dependence on extractive exports, global demand and fragile mono-culture economies weakens the long-term stability of Russia and Latin America.

The absence of a socialist democratic alternative to the brutal capitalist restoration in China undermines the optimistic perspective of progressive prophets.

Conclusion

The debate among experts, regarding the rise or decline of the Imperial West or the progressive forces in China, Russia and Latin America, fails to consider their ‘hidden resources and liabilities’. These include the untapped scientific discoveries, the failure to develop alternative resources and innovations, as well as the ongoing repression of skilled workers. The Western prophets underestimate how the reliance on the paper economy has squandered immense social and productive value.

The ongoing cultural deformations, perversions and falsifications of information and analysis at the behest of established power centers, has clouded any real understanding of everyday life and greatly reduced our chances for a future without barbaric wars and social exploitation.

Culture is an everyday phenomenon determining how economies and states, rulers and ruled see the world, exercise power or are forced to submit.

We have witnessed the spread of cultural squalor into language and life, with only an occasional respite, when people overcome their everyday stupor and create a momentary burst of creative political, economic, social and cultural energy, which can lead to transformations.

Humdrum incremental changes, left and right, and the reality of continuities, limit and ultimately reverse social reforms and corrupt language to serve the ruling powers. We must move forward against the flatulence of everyday life by rejecting the false prophets and by writing, speaking and acting against crackpot sages. Our progress toward a new order must be firmly rooted in our everyday struggles writ large.

Dec 192016
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Originally published at MintPressNews:

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Vladivostok, Russia in 2012.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Vladivostok, Russia in 2012.

‘That’s not a democracy, when three two-bit punk judges who don’t amount to anything overrule the majority vote of the British people! … There are not any democracies in the West,’ Roberts tells Michael Nevradakis in this wide-ranging interview.

ATHENS, Greece — The post-election climate in the United States has been nothing short of bizarre. Recount efforts in several states are being championed by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, accusations have repeatedly been made that the “Russian menace” influenced the presidential elections and the victory of Donald Trump, and that Russia is also behind an online disinformation campaign which the mainstream media describes as “fake news.”

One of the websites accused of delivering “fake news” is that of former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury under President Ronald Reagan, Paul Craig Roberts. An author and analyst and former Wall Street Journal editor, Roberts has become a vocal critic of neoliberalism, austerity, and those who seek confrontation with Russia and China.

In this interview, originally aired on Dec. 8 on Dialogos Radio, Roberts discusses Trump’s electoral victory and Hillary Clinton’s defeat, what interests may be behind the electoral recount efforts, the “Brexit” vote and recent Italian referendum result, and the conflict in Syria. He also shares his reaction to the accusations of delivering “fake news.”

MintPress News (MPN): Why did Donald Trump win the election, and what does a Trump presidency mean for the United States and for the world?

Paul Craig Roberts (PCR): We don’t know yet what it will mean. We know what we hope it will mean. Trump won because he spoke directly to the people in a way that they haven’t experienced in my lifetime. He told them that the ruling oligarchy did not and would not have their interests in mind, that they had been sold out with the oligarchy moving their jobs offshore to where labor is cheaper while still expecting from the unemployed American workforce to buy the products that are brought in from China and Indonesia and India and elsewhere. This resonated with people, as they have been experiencing this now for roughly a quarter of a century. There’s been no growth in real median family income in decades. Young people can’t find jobs to support an independent existence. The value of a university education is collapsing because there is no employment for that type of an education, and people realize that the economic policy of the country has been captured by the oligarchs and serves only a very few interests. The consequence has been a massive change in the distribution of income inside the United States. The United States now has one of the worst income distributions in the world. In fact, it’s worse than income distributions in many Third World gangster states.

[Trump] spoke directly to these things. He also said that he would not see the point of conflict with Russia, which no one sees in an era of thermonuclear weapons, and he also said that he didn’t understand the function of NATO, 25 years after the Soviet collapse. This also resonated with the public, because they understand that all of these supposed threats are bleeding them in order to put hundreds of billions of dollars into armaments industries. That’s the reason why he won the election, and the reason we are hopeful is that we assume he is sincere about this. We assume he’s sincere because of the fierce opposition he has from the ruling oligarchy and from their media “presstitutes,” who did anything they could to demonize Trump, to turn him into a “Putin agent,” and so forth. But the public ignored them, or at least enough of the public ignored them for Trump to carry almost all of the states except for a few really large cities on the coast.

MPN: Do you believe President-elect Trump will keep his campaign promises, and what do you make of his Cabinet selections thus far?

PCR: We don’t know if he will be able to. The oligarchy’s candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost, so the oligarchy lost the election, but they did not lose it by such a great margin that they’ve given up. They’re still in the fight, they’re still there. Trump has a billion dollars but they have trillions. They’re well-established. They have many, many servants and think tanks and university faculty and the media [on their side], and of course, the neoconservatives, who have dominated American foreign policy since the Clinton regime. So they’re still there, and Trump is in combat with these people.

Trump’s appointments, we don’t know whether they will support what he wants to do or not. If they support him, they are the type of people he needs. They are well-to-do, they’re self-confident, they don’t need money from the oligarchs, they don’t have to worry about their careers when they leave government. So he does have the kind of person you’ve got to have if you’re president, to bring about any change. So the real question is, will they support him or will they go with the oligarchs? We don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. We can’t judge them based on their past associations. I don’t think any of them are actual representatives of an oligarch’s agenda. So there’s a chance they will support him and that they will be strong enough people that he’ll have the government that will actually do something. But you can’t take it for granted, because as I said, the oligarchs lost but they weren’t routed. They’re still there.

MPN: What would a Hillary Clinton victory have meant for the United States and the world, particularly in terms of foreign policy?

PCR: It would have meant war with Russia and China and the end of life on Earth. She’s an insane warmonger, she demonizes Russia and the president of Russia, calling him the “new Hitler.” She said that the South China Sea is an area of the United States’ national interest. You can’t be more provocative than this, and if you have a president who convinces Russia and China that they’re going to be attacked, they’re not going to sit there and wait. So we really have escaped Armageddon by the defeat of Hillary Clinton. This would have been the worst possible outcome imaginable. Of course, it would have been bad on the other score — jobs, I mean, she’s the agent of the big banks, they made her rich! She and her husband have a personal fortune of $120 million, given to them by the oligarchs, and their foundation has $1.6 billion, also given to them but not just by domestic oligarchs, but by oligarchs abroad. [The Clintons] sold influence for money.

MPN: What is your reaction to the recount effort being led by Jill Stein? Who do you believe is behind all of these efforts?

PCR: The oligarchs, obviously. I mean, Jill Stein couldn’t get any funding for her presidential campaign, but she instantly got something like five or six or seven times the amount of funding she got for her entire campaign, for the recount! Where did that money come from? Not her supporters. And what this is about … the oligarchs were positioned to steal the election for Hillary. But they got deceived by their own propaganda, that she was the shoo-in winner, The New York Times telling them that it was 94 percent certain that she would be elected. They didn’t bother to steal the election, because they didn’t think they needed to. And they were shocked, everyone was shocked — that is, not the people voting for him, but the media, the oligarchs, the established interests. They were shocked by the election results, and so they’ve used Jill Stein, who really has no standing in this issue, since it doesn’t involve her campaign, she has no chance of benefiting from a vote recount. So they’re using this corrupt woman, who sold out the Green Party, to try and throw a monkey wrench into the Electoral College. The only states being recounted are the three that he won which he wasn’t expected to win [Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin], and his margin in these three states is not very great. They’re not recounting votes in states that he lost by small margins, only where he won by small margins. This is an effort to steal the election from the working class who elected him, and Jill Stein is part of it.

MPN: One of the reactions of the mainstream media has been to attack online news outlets which they claim are delivering so-called “fake news.” Your website was included on this list of alleged “fake news sites.” What’s your response to these claims, and who do you believe are the true purveyors of fake news?

PCR: We know the true purveyors are the media, the press prostitutes. We call them “presstitutes.” The mainstream media throughout the West is totally corrupt and has no integrity. What you see happening is that the independent internet media is taking away the oligarchy’s control over the explanations that people receive. So everywhere you see the subscription rates of newspapers falling dramatically, the viewers of TV programs falling dramatically, and internet readership rising. And so this is an effort to try to discredit the people who actually tell the truth by identifying them with Russia. They are hoping that all the demonization of Russia during Obama’s second term has aroused fears that the “Russian menace” is back, and they’re hoping this fear is substantial and that by associating those of us who challenge their lies, with Russia, they will discredit us.

Who’s funding it? We don’t know, because the people who prepared this list, no one knows who they are. When the Washington Post gave it [the group PropOrNot] all that publicity, they very carefully did not say who these people are. It is a new internet site that didn’t exist before a couple of months ago. Who is funding it? I would say the National Endowment for Democracy, which is a U.S. State Department-funded [organization]. It could be the CIA. It could be George Soros. But it is an oligarch operation, which, of course, involves the military-security complex, because they are the greatest beneficiaries, in terms of money and power, of all the threats, all the wars. They want a Russian threat, for their budgets and for their police state powers. Those are the people who are most likely funding it, but it hasn’t worked! All it did was to provide people with 200 sites they could go to, to find out what the truth is!

I think it’s failed, but it shows the desperation of the oligarchs, and what they will do now is, they will use the people they still control, in the House and the Senate — the oligarchs will get some type of legislation passed that will put pressure on people who dissent from official lines of the oligarchy, that dissent from stories they plant in the “presstitute” media. And so it’s going to be perhaps harder to express dissent or tell the truth in the United States, but we’ll just have to see what they do to Trump. Some people say that he was always a fake, but that doesn’t make sense to me because the oligarchs didn’t need him when they had Hillary. And they clearly didn’t want Trump in the election. They tried to deny him the Republican nomination, and then they used the media against him in very vicious ways during the presidential campaign. Trump said once that he believes in revenge, and I hope he does. I hope he exacts revenge on the oligarchs.

MPN: What has been the aftermath of the Brexit vote for Britain, and have the doom-and-gloom scenarios regarding the impact on the British economy come to fruition?

PCR: No, of course not. The opposite! What’s happened with Brexit is, I think it’s been overturned. The United States is not going to permit Brexit, Washington won’t permit it. Now, this may change with Trump, but under Obama, you may remember he traveled to London to tell the British prime minister to forget all about leaving the EU. The EU is a creation of the CIA. It was created so that the United States could more easily maintain control of Europe. It’s easier to control the EU Commission than to control 20-something different governments. What has happened is, the United States government used three corrupt British judges that decided, “Well, the people may have voted, but you did not really have to pay attention to them, it’s all up to Parliament and Parliament can decide that we’re not [leaving].” And, of course, Washington is now lobbying the Parliament very hard, with promises and money and, no doubt, threats.

So I don’t think Brexit will happen, it’s being overturned. The notion that it would take two years to get out — when that came out, instantly I said, “They’ll never get out.” Two years is all Washington needs to overturn it. I think it’s already overturned with that court ruling. So we had three two-bit punk judges overruling the majority vote of the British people, and they call it democracy! What kind of democracy is it? That’s not a democracy, when three two-bit punk judges who don’t amount to anything overrule the majority vote of the British people! And they call it democracy, oh boy! What a joke! There are not any democracies in the West. Europe is a collection of American vassals. It’s been that way since World War II.

MPN: Italian voters recently voted no in a referendum on amendments to the nation’s constitution. What does this vote, in your estimation, mean for Italy and for Europe?

PCR: It’ll end up being overturned, like the Brexit vote. Just like they are trying to overturn Trump’s election! I mean, that’s what this vote recount is about. It’s the oligarchy trying to overturn the people’s will, just like the three judges in Britain, like what happened in Greece [in the July 2015 referendum]. The vote, in itself, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Brexit hasn’t happened, I don’t think it ever will. We don’t even know if Trump is going to be president. But that’s the whole purpose of the vote recount, to block it. They wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. They’ve got all kinds of agents to use, all kinds of things to do.

One of our best journalists, Chris Hedges, who has had to go independent because the prostitute media no longer will publish his work … he’s concluded that elections can’t change anything, only revolution can change things. I think that’s what the oligarchy is proving. They are proving that you can’t change things with elections, because it’s really not a democracy, it’s a facade, and when the people vote, in come the oligarchs and they overturn it one way or the other. How will they overturn the vote in Italy? I don’t know, but they’ll overturn it, or they’ll ignore it, or some judge will rule that Italian law is subject to EU law, that EU law is supreme. They can do all kinds of things.

MPN: Do you believe that we are heading toward that revolution that Chris Hedges spoke of?

PCR: I don’t know. It depends on the people. They don’t seem to be nearly as feisty as they used to be. In previous times in the United States, when we reached this kind of situation, the government was scared of the people and had to make concessions. I don’t see the government afraid of the people today. They’ve got a police state established, they’ve got internment camps built, they’ve militarized the police, the police are as well armed as the military, the police routinely shoot people down the streets. I just don’t know how hard the people have to be pressed. Maybe they just simply will cease to have any gain in their living standards and some slight declines over time but won’t actually be facing starvation and homelessness, as they have in the past. So who knows? I don’t know. But I don’t think they will succeed in changing anything with elections. Possibly, Trump being the kind of very strong-willed, determined, ego-type person that he is, that’s the kind of person you need for a leader if things are going to be changed. You can’t have some conciliatory, shrinking violet who wants to get along with everybody. You can’t get change out of that.

It could well be that Trump is already rich, he doesn’t need any more money, he has a big ego, and he wants to go down in history as the man who saved America, “Trump the Great.” So if he has that kind of a goal, then the oligarchs are up against a real formidable president. If he can find other people to back him, we can get some change. But it remains to be seen. We can’t know that in advance. That’s the hope. What the result is, we don’t know, but that’s the hope. The hope is … Trump has a huge ego, wants to be “Trump the Great,” wants to save America, and that that’s more important than having a few more billion dollars, that he doesn’t care about all these people, these oligarchs, they haven’t supported him. So maybe something will happen, we’ll just have to see. Maybe they’ll prove Chris Hedges wrong. But it’s hard to bet one way or another.

MPN: What’s your take on recent developments in Syria, including the attempted invasion of Syria by Turkish troops, and what do you believe we’ll see in Syria going forward in light of a Trump presidency?

PCR: As far as I can tell, the Russians and Syrians have won that war. They’ve defeated the Washington-supported ISIS. The Obama regime sent ISIS to Syria to overthrow [Syrian President Bashar] Assad when the Russians prevented our involvement. So that way we can pretend we don’t have anything to do with it. But I think the Russians, as I said, defeated ISIS. I think it could have happened much sooner, but [Russian President Vladimir] Putin kept pulling out, kept trying to appease the Europeans, hoping they would see they didn’t need to be American puppet states, but he seems now to have finished the job, more or less. I don’t think the Turks would be permitted to invade Syria, the Russians would just tell them no. And, I don’t think the Turks think they are a match for Russia or that the Turks are stupid enough to think Europe and the United States are going to come to their aid if they get in a war with Russia.

These nuclear weapons are very, very powerful. Russia can wipe out all of Europe in a few minutes. For these itty-bitty European politicians to be running around fomenting trouble with Russia, they’ve got to be insane. There’s no way Europe can come out of this. The same with the United States. Here we are demonizing Russia and China. These are powerful nuclear powers. We can’t possibly survive a conflict with them, no one can. It’s all insanity, it’s nonsense. Europe is unable to produce leadership that’s intelligent. Putin, he’s intelligent. For some reason the Chinese can produce intelligent leadership. Who in Europe has intelligent leadership? Nobody. Maybe we finally have it with Trump, we don’t know yet. But there’s not any intelligent leadership, none in Europe.

Dec 152016
 

By 99GetSmart

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

The 8th edition of Istanbul’s Which Human Rights Film Festival (WHRFF) was launched on December 9th, on the eve of the International Human Rights Day. The opening ceremony was a tribute to the city’s iconic Emek Movie Theatre, demolished in 2013 to make place for a shopping mall.

Three years after the unsuccessful attempt to defend the heart of the city’s cinema scene, which also paved the way to the Gezi resistance movement, hundreds of viewers gathered at Şişli Urban Cultural Centre for the premiere of the documentary Audience Emancipated: The Struggle for the Emek Movie Theater.

The premiere coincided with the opening of a cinema multiplex under the name of “Emek Hall” at the Grand Pera shopping mall that was constructed on the original site. 

The Cinema

The original Emek Movie Theatre was as old as Turkish cinema itself. Located in the historical building of Cercle d’Orient (built 1884) the cinema opened its doors to public in 1924. It was originally called Melek Sineması or Angel Cinema as a reference to the Art Nouveau angel sculptures at the entrance of the former structure, and was the oldest cinema hall in Republican Turkey. 

The building was originally constructed for purposes other than film screenings. Among others, it used to serve as a theatre hall and as the gathering place for Istanbul’s cultural life. Its giant hall and the lounge, which could welcome hundreds, was ultimately found suitable for film festivals. 

Located on Istiklal, one of the most crowded avenues in Europe, the hall had been the home of Istanbul Film Festival for decades and the most popular cinema hall in the country for almost a century. It had left a deep mark in the social memory of the city.

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

Writing about a cinema-goer, Yusuf Atılgan, an early republican Turkish novelist, argues of the importance of being able to walk out into the city after watching a film and to be part of the society in order to digest what she or he had just watched.

Yeşilçam (Green Pine) Street, at which Emek’s entrance was located, gave the name to Turkish Cinematosphere. For Turkey, Green Pine is what Hollywood is for the US.

Emek cinema was not just any other movie theatre screening expensive international productions with profit-oriented mentality but a social space, which allowed young directors and independent films to find a screen and flourish.

The Film

At the opening of the WHRFF, the Cultural Center was filled with activists, architects, directors, researchers, students, labourers, former managers of Emek and many other people. They arrived well ahead of the screening to be united around the memory of the lost movie theatre and the ongoing struggles for presence in the city. 

The famous banner of Emek was placed in the hall, reading “Emek is Ours, Istanbul is Ours”. Many old friends met once again under this banner, the excitement was palpable.

“Emek is ours, Istanbul is ours” (Photo: Gürkan Özturan)

“Emek is ours, Istanbul is ours” (Photo: Gürkan Özturan)

Audience Emancipated captures the activism for the right to the city in Istanbul, such as the Emek is Ours Platform and their years-long struggle against demolition or neglect of cultural spaces, low-income residential neighbourhoods and parks. 

The 48-minute-long documentary summarizes the stages of demolition and resistance against it, stating the significance of this building for the cultural life of the city and the lure of profits for the investors, despite the court decisions marking the structure for preservation and other court decisions dictating a halt on demolition/construction works. 

However, experts, architects, the judiciary and even internationally renowned directors, such as Costa Gavras, stated opinions against demolition of the structure. And even though there were given many official decisions by courts to stop demolition, none of these were heard by the government, municipality, investors and construction companies went ahead with their plans. 

Now, a shopping mall enchants the luxurious consumers of Istanbul in the increasingly de-cultured and profiteering atmosphere of Istiklal Avenue. 

In the film, the mayor and construction company experts explain to the media how the Emek Hall will be preserved, not at the street level on ground floor but, thanks to the “modern preservation technique called ‘moving’, it will be dragged to the eight floor of the new shopping mall, exactly as it is.” This statement caused an uproar of laughter during the screening. 

After the screening, there was a period of discussion, quite emotional moments as the two former operators of Emek cinema came up on the stage. They had avoided the construction site in order not to see the demolition three years ago; and they had seen it for the first time, on screen. Their hands were shaking as they held onto the microphone and spoke about the times when they thought they’d be running Emek for their whole lives.

Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat

Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat

Right after them, Master Architect Mucella Yapıcı, the general secretary of the Turkish Union of Architecture and Engineering Chambers, Istanbul Metropolitan Branch, took the stage and emphasized the significance of reclaiming the city and social memory. She drew attention to the destructive populism wave of demolishing urban spaces and living areas for humans and animals, as well as trees in the city. As a final remark she reiterated the importance of not giving in and losing morality in the face of this expanding threat. “We must continue putting things on top of each other, building up culture and future,” she added. 

In the discussion after the screening, there was a consensus to boycott the shopping malls and unsocial profit spaces that destroy and demolish the memory of the city without even asking the people suffering the consequences or living there. 

The trailer of Audience Emancipated:

Dec 142016
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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Introduction

In recent times, and probably since the establishment of universal voting, presidents-elect have systematically violated or broken their promises to their supporters.

This essay begins with the campaign promises of the outgoing President Barack Obama and the President-Elect Donald Trump. We will then examine the reasons why rhetorical populist, peaceful and democratic promises always accompany campaigns and are immediately followed by the victor appointing cabinet members who are committed to elite-driven, militarist and authoritarian policies – so far from the expectations of the voters.

Obama: Style and Substance

Barack Obama, like all demagogues, promised American voters that he would end the US military occupation of Iraq, close the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, end torture and secrecy, defend civil liberties, protect mortgage holders swindled by Wall Street bankers, introduce a real health care reform and develop a path to citizenship for undocumented migrant workers and their families.

Above all, Obama promoted the notion that he was ‘the historic African-American President’ tasked with fulfilling the promises of the civil rights revolution. Obama spoke to civil and human rights activists, promising an end to racial violence and inequality. He promised to end state intrusion and violation of individual freedoms.

The ‘Historic Black President’: Unprecedented Number of Broken Promises

All Presidents, to a greater or lesser degree, have broken electoral pledges. But, far and away, President Barack Obama broke more and bigger promises over his two terms than any of his predecessors. His administration was one of making and then immediately revising and reversing promises to his supporters. Every one of his promises for social reform, health care and foreign policy based on diplomacy and respect merely served as a prelude to imposing new and more regressive policies and launching more wars.

The record is clear: Over the eight years of his presidency, Obama degraded the expectations of every popular constituency that he courted and won during the campaigns. Black Americans voted for Obama 10 to 1 during both campaigns! Despite the overwhelming support form African Americans, income inequalities between white and black workers increased, deadly police violence against Afro-Americans increased, and white vigilante assaults, including the torching of Afro-American churches, multiplied. Non-violent African-American drug offenders (dealers and users) were incarcerated at a rate far exceeding their white counterparts, while the giant pharmaceutical corporate elites and the doctors prescribing highly addictive narcotics and fueling the opioid addiction epidemic counted their mushrooming profits with total impunity.

Obama pursued seven wars and scores of violent covert operations, exceeding his predecessor, President George Bush, Jr. His wars led to the greatest combined numbers of dispossessed, wounded and murdered Africans, Arabs, South Asians and Eastern Europeans in world history.

Obama transferred $2 trillion dollars from the US Treasury to bail two dozen Wall Street banks, which then continued to foreclose on the homes of 3 million working class households – contrary to his campaign rhetoric.

Leading multi-national corporations successfully hid over $2 trillion dollars of profits in overseas tax havens. The President occasionally mouthed some ‘lollipop rhetorical criticism’ against the big corporate tax evaders while continuing to tax the over-worked working people – whose living standards steadily declined.

Militarists infected the entire Obama administration to an extent not seen since the warmongers Harry Truman and Winston Churchill cynically launched the Cold War.

Obama pursued a policy of encircling Russia with US and NATO military bases stationed from the new US’ Baltic satellites to the Balkans, from the Mediterranean to the Caucuses.

The Obama regime financed the violent putsches and bloody attempts at ‘regime change’ in Ukraine, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Honduras and Yemen – with devastating result to millions of displaced and destitute people. No other warlord, past or present, can match the Obama regime in sowing misery and mayhem.

Obama: Speaks in Tongues

Obama, ever the chameleon, spoke in different accents and cadences to different audiences: To the young, he jived with rappers, hoopsters, baseball stars and stage and screen celebrities. To black church ladies, this Honolulu-born and bred graduate of the elite Punahou academy and Harvard Law School, would adopt a southern Baptist drawl – completely foreign to the speech of his mother and grandmother. When he turned to his sophisticated white Chicago groomers and supporters in the finance sector, he reverted to speaking with a deep well-modulated gravitas.

His language was full of euphemisms: the famous ‘pivot to Asia’ meant an aggressive and dangerous maritime and aerial encirclement of China, with the aim of crippling Asia’s greatest economy.

While he spoke of ‘environmental protections and workers’ rights’, he pushed for a Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement giving multi-national corporations the power to gut labor rights and environmental regulations.

The Obama regime had loudly promised to protect Native-American access to their traditional water and land, as well as cultural, community and religious sites. In practice, he protected the big oil and gas pipelines projects infringing on native lands with brutal militarized police and private mercenary guards, beating and jailing social justice activists and threatening journalists.

Obama has strengthened the enforcement of existing police state surveillance operations despite their violations of constitutional freedoms and he imposed an extension of police state rule, especially against ‘whistle-blowers’. With one of the most secretive administrations in history, Obama has prosecuted, destroyed and imprisoned more heroic public servants – for the ‘crime’ of exposing state crimes to the citizenry. He actively flaunted Federal laws guaranteeing the protection of ‘whistle-blowers’ and has sent a chill throughout the public sector – demoralizing the best of our public servants.

Donald Trump: Electoral Promises and Post-Election Betrayals

Intent on surpassing the broken promises of President Obama, President-Elect Trump quickly reversed his rhetorical campaign promise to ‘drain the swamp’ of Washington and embraced his ‘sworn enemies’ with the fervor of a veteran courtesan. Traditional Republican politicians, business people and Wall Streeters, initially opposed to ‘The Donald’, have all jumped on the bandwagon and into Trump’s open arms.

Trump broke his main campaign promises to the electorate. Announcing he would not ‘jail’ Hillary Clinton for her activities concerning the Clinton Foundation while in office, Trump instead praised her courage and integrity. Upon his election, Trump even pandered to the former President Bill ‘Oval Office sex scandal’ Clinton. While Trump may have a change of heart regarding the sleaze and crimes of the Clintons, his mass supporters have not.

Trump openly praised Hillary Clinton in exchange for her initial decision not to challenge his election victory and ‘transition’. However her use of surrogate Green Party candidate Jill Stein to challenge the election count and the CIA/Democratic Party’s accusations of Russian-Trump-FBI collusion in influencing the campaign may force him to review his decision as the makings of a palace coup-d’etat seem to emerge from ‘the swamp’.

His ongoing private business dealings, which he promised to renounce, have continued – to the consternation of his loyal activist base.

Trump has sent mixed signals with his choices for senior cabinet officials: He broke his promises on economic, diplomatic and foreign policy by appointing or considering several mainstream Republicans for major positions, including a vocal critic for UN Representative. Mainstream Republicans were contemptuous of Trumps mass electoral support base. Nevertheless, Trump has appointed business CEO’s who were more market-oriented and less militaristic than the typical Republican and Democratic establishment politicians.

He also kept his his campaign promise to protect US commerce and industry, by favoring a trade-oriented policy with Russia. He wants to negotiate more advantageous trade agreements with the Chinese president. He has announced his appointment of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, a very concrete move toward ending the sanctions against Russia, which have shut American businesses and energy giants out of that huge market.

Trump has appealed directly to the ‘Israel-Firster’ crowd, vowing to ‘tear up’ the nuclear agreement with Iran, which was so unpopular with militant American and Israeli Jews. Despite calling it the ‘worst agreement in US history’, he appears to have given ‘the nod’ to the big oil and gas interests who are happily signing multi-billion dollar deals with Tehran and to the aerospace giant Boeing to sell a new fleet of passenger jets to Iran.

Electoral demagoguery is not just an Obama affliction. Broken promises are ‘stock and trade’ for all Democratic and Republican Presidents. Deceit and phony populist language are standard fare because these are what capitalist democracy demands of its political representatives.

The Structural Basis of Capitalist Democracy

Under capitalist democracies, Presidents put on the appearance of ‘talking to real folks’ while skillfully working for the biggest capitalists and bankers.

When ‘capitalist democracy’ is under threat and discredited, the search for populist demagogues kicks in. While activists for peace and social justice were organizing huge masses of demonstrators against the banks during the ‘Occupy Wall Street Movement’, the Wall Streeters trotted out America’s “First Black President” to divert the anger of bankrupted mortgage holders, con the white students, fool Latino voters, charm the Black church-ladies and lead them all into the corrupt embrace of the Democratic Party.

When the economy forced millions of people into low-paying dead-end jobs and declining living standards, when globalization impoverished local small and middle business people and shop keepers, a loud mouth billionaire casino king appears on the scene to bark phony populist rhetoric denouncing Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton for her most carnal ties with Wall Street. And he gets elected President of the United States!.

In other words, when capitalism is in crisis the demagogues ‘come out of the woodwork’.

Flamboyant capitalist demagogues replace the normal deceitful standard bearers of corrupt electoral politics. Obama and Trump’s demagoguery won-out over Hillary Clinton’s and Mitt Romney’s boring speech-makers. No matter how outlandish their lies, Hillary and Mitt could not grab the voters’ imagination.

Capitalist democracies have become more fragile as economic crises become entrenched and recoveries are brief and weak. The frequent rise of presidential demagogues, from Obama to Trump, reflects the capitalist elites’ refusal to share any productivity gains with the workers or to pay taxes on overseas/imperial profits and thus lessen the tax burden on wage-earners, or to invest in a productive economy employing well-paid workers rather than engaging in speculation.

‘Capitalist democracy’ can no long deceive the voters. Half of eligible voters abstain from a process that does not reflect their interests. And half of the actual voters reject traditional politicians. To retain any veneer of electoral legitimacy and enable the capitalists to continue their rule, demagogues have to replace the ‘damaged goods’ politicians who have prostituted themselves too openly and too often.

Over eighty percent of voters know that their votes have no impact on political decisions regarding war and peace, domestic inequalities and income distribution – real issues.

Capitalism can no longer reproduce itself through a faux electoral machine. Were it not for the predictable emergence of novelties, like ‘America’s First Black’ Obama or the ‘Shock-Jock’ celebrity Trump to occupy the White House on waves of mass protest votes, tens of millions of absentee and discontented voters might fill the streets, boot out the phony union bosses who ‘speak for’ only 7% of wage earners, and reject the two political parties united ‘at the hip’ in their service to the elite one percent.

Conclusion

Let us imagine that the capitalist demagogues finally lose their mass appeal in the face of repeated broken promises. Let us assume there will be a temporary return to bland, reliable, everyday political hucksters, as this so-called cycle of ‘outsiders’ gets played out. The mass discontent will not go away. As the economic crisis and inequalities grow, extra-parliamentary public outbursts will are inevitable. With them, fear and uncertainty among bankers, speculators and billionaire electronic gadget makers will set in. The much ballyhooed ‘silicon architecture’ will crumble like sandcastles. The capitalist class may have to turn from ballots to bullets. At that point, can they entrust their wealth and status in the hands of thousands of soldiers and police ordered to gun down and round up millions of their fellow American workers? Or are they dreaming of robots…?

James Petras is author of  The End of the Republic and the Delusion of EmpireExtractive Imperialism in the Americas: Capitalism’s New Frontier (with Henry Veltmeyer), and The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle EastRead other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

Dec 062016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

usa-empire-400x249

Introduction

With a few notable exceptions, political leaders are chosen by political leaders, and not by electorates or community-based organizations or popular assemblies. Popular media figures and the so-called ‘pundits’, including academics and self-declared experts and ‘think-tank’ analysts reinforce and propagate these choices.

A collection of terms and pseudo concepts are essential in validating what is really an oligarchical process. These concepts are tagged onto whoever is chosen by the elite for electoral candidates or for the seizure of political power. With this framework in mind, we have to critically analyze the symbols and signs used by popular opinion-makers as they promote political elites. We will conclude by posing an alternative to the ‘propaganda of choice’, which has so far resulted in broken pre-election promises and political debacles.

Language and Pseudo-Concepts: Subterfuges for Manipulated Choices

The usual suspects in the business of mass-manipulation describe their political leaders in the same folksy or pseudo-serious terms that they attribute to themselves: Experts/ intuitive improvisers/ trial and error ‘muddlers’. The ‘experts’ often mean wrong-headed policymakers and advisers whose decisions usually reflect the demands of their current paymasters. Their stated or unstated assumptions are rarely questioned and almost never placed in the context of the contemporary power structures. The experts determine the future trajectory for their political choices. In this way, the views expressed by ‘experts’ are primarily ideological and not some disembodied scholarly entity floating in an indeterminate space and time.

Pundits often promote ‘experience’ in describing the ‘experienced’ leader, adviser or cabinet member. They denigrate the opposition candidate adversary as ‘lacking experience’. The obvious questions to this platitude should be: ‘What kind of experience? What were the political results of this experience? Who did this experience serve?

We know that Secretaries of Defense William Gates and Donald Rumsfeld and their leading assistants, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were appointed to their high positions and praised for their ‘experience’. This ‘experience’ drove the country into repeated disastrous military engagements, political debacles and unending wars. It would be better to reject officials who are highly ‘experienced’ in creating disasters and appoint those officials experienced in conciliation and reconciliation. Unfortunately the ‘experts’ never discuss these matters in any historical context.

Many political choices are adorned with ‘titles’, such as ‘successful entrepreneur’ and/or ‘prize winning journalist’. This ignores the fact that those ‘bestowing titles’ come from a narrow band of inbred organizations with financial, military or ideological interests looking for near-future rewards from their now titled, prize winning political choice.

Highly certified candidates, we are told, are those eminently qualified to lead, whether they are university academics with prestigious degrees, or doctors, lawyers, or investors who work for leading groups. The most highly vetted officials coming from Harvard University have implemented economic policies leading to the worst crises in the shortest time in world history.

Lawrence Summers, PhD and Harvard University President-turned Treasury Secretary participated in the pillage of Russia in the 1990s and then brought his talent for sowing international chaos home by joining Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. These two ‘experts’ promoted enormous financial swindles, which led to the worst economic crash in the US in seven decades.

Money laundering by the big banks flourished under Princeton Summa Cum Laude and US Treasury ‘Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence’, Stuart Levey. Levey concentrated on implementing brutal economic sanctions against Iran shutting US businesses out of multi-billion-dollar oil deals with Tehran, promoting a huge annual $4 billion-dollar giveaway to Israel and a granting a uniquely privileged trade status for the Jewish state – which cost the US taxpayers additional billions.

Receiving ‘prestigious awards’ does not predict a successful policymaker in contemporary US politics. The underlying ideological commitments and political allegiances determine the appointment of these ‘prize-winning’ leaders. From an objective perspective, any obscure college economics graduate, eager to increase high tech US exports and sign profitable trade agreements with Iran, would have been far more successful political choice as Secretary of Treasury.

Frequently ‘identity’ colors the choice of appointees, especially favoring an ‘oppressed’ minority, even if their field of competence and their political allegiances run counter to the real interests and political needs of the vast majority of American citizens. Some ‘ethnic’ groups wear their identity on their shirt sleeves as a point of entry into lucrative or influential appointments: “Hello, I’m a Jewish graduate of Yale Law school, which makes me the best choice for an appointment to the Supreme Court … where there are already three Jews out of the ten Justices… and only an anti-Semite would consider a fourth to be an ‘over-representation’ of our tiny national minority… whereas the total absence of any WASPs (white Anglo-Protestants) on ‘The Court’ only confirms their historical degeneracy…” Who could object to that?

‘Identity’ appointees are not reluctant to employ scare tactics, including citing old historical grievances and claiming special suffering unique to their heritage, to justify their appointment to privileged, lucrative positions. Their identity also seems to insulate them from any fall-out from their policy catastrophes such as disastrous wars and economic crises, as well as providing impunity for their personal involvement in financial mega-swindles.

Race and claims of victimization often serves as a justification for being a political ‘chosen one’. We are told repeatedly that some appointee, even with a tangential link to skin color, must have suffered past indignities and is therefore uniquely qualified to represent the aspirations of an entire group, promising to eliminate all inequality, right injustices and promote peace and prosperity. Racial identity never prevented three of the worst Caribbean tyrants from robbing and torturing their people: The two Haitian dictators, ‘Papa Doc’ and ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier murdered tens of thousands Haitians, especially among mixed race educated elites. Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista had to slaughter hundreds of Afro-Caribbean sugar workers in Santiago de Cuba before he could enter the exclusive ‘whites only’ Havana Golf and Country Club.

In the United States, it was a ‘man of color’, General Colin Powell, Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, who bombed and invaded black African Somalia and implemented the policy of invading and destroying Iraq and Afghanistan. The carefully groomed ‘First Black President-To-Be’ Barack Obama, was the protégé of a Chicago-based millionaire lobby led by the fanatical ‘Israel-First’ mob, to bring ‘identity’ to its highest level. This charade culminated in the ‘First Black President’ and promoter of seven devastating wars against the poorest people of the world receiving the Nobel Peace Prize from the he Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in the presence of the King of Norway and a committee composed of five members appointed by the Storting (Norwegian Parliament). Such is the power of identity. It was of little comfort to the hundreds of thousands of Libyans and South Sahara Africans murdered, pillaged, raped and forced to flee in rotting boats to Europe, that the NATO bombs destroying their country had been sent by the ‘Historic Black US President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner’. When the wounded, captive President of Libya, Muammar Gadaffi, the greatest proponent of Pan-African integration, was brutalized and slaughtered, was he aware that his tormentors were armed and supported by ‘America’s First Black President’? A video of Gadaffi’s gruesome end became a source of gleeful entertainment for the ‘Feminist’ US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who would go on to cite her ‘victory’ over the Libyan President in her bid to become ‘The First Female President of the US”.

The question is not about one’s race or identity, but whose interests are served by the Afro-American leader in question. US President Barack Obama served Wall Street and the Pentagon, whereas Malcolm X and Martin Luther King had a long and arduous history of leading peoples’ movements. MLK joined the striking Afro-American garbage workers in Memphis and the autoworkers in Detroit. Malcolm X organized and spoke for the Harlem community – while inspiring millions.

Gender labels covered the fact that a politically chosen woman ruled on behalf of a family-led tyranny, as in the case of Indira Gandhi in India. The financial lords of the City of London financiers, and the mining and factory bosses in Great Britain chose the very female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who launched multiple wars abroad and smashed trade unions at home. Madame Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who promoted seven wars resulting in the deaths, injuries, displacement and rape of 5 million African and Middle Eastern women and destruction of their families, had the unconditional support of the top 20 Wall Street banks when she ran to become the ‘First Woman President of the United States’.

In other words, political appointments chosen for their ‘gender identity’ bring no special qualities or experience that would recommend them as progressive. When political and business elites choose a female for a high political office, they do so because it serves their interests to put a progressive political gloss on their reactionary policies. The ‘gender emphasis’ is most effective on liberals and the advocates of ‘identity over class politics’. In reality it is a vacuous symbol rather than real power and highlights elite upward mobility.

Often media moguls, publicists and corporate leaders laud the ‘social background’ of a candidate. They use such criteria to groom and co-opt upwardly mobile workers, trade union officials and community militants. ‘Chosen leaders’ from minority or oppressed backgrounds are put in charge of discipline, work-place speed-ups and lay-offs. They sometimes adopt ‘workers’ language, splicing rough anti-establishment curses with their abuses as they fire workers and cut wages. One’s past social background is a far less useful criterion than current social commitments. As Karl Marx long ago noted, the ruling class is not a closed caste: It is always open to co-opting bright and influential new members among upwardly mobile labor leaders and activists.

Labor leaders receive ‘special favors’, including invitations to political inaugurations and corporate meetings with all the travel and luxury accommodations paid. Elites frequently transform past militant leaders into corporate policemen, ready to identify, exclude and expel any genuine emerging local and shop floor militants. Public and private labor relations experts frequently describe a labor militant’s ascent to the elite as an ‘up by his own bootstraps operation’ – putting a virtuous gloss on the ‘self-made worker’ ready to serve the interests of the corporate elite! The primary feature that characterizes these ‘boot-strappers’ is how their sense of ‘solidarity’ turns upward and forward toward the bosses, and not backward and downward toward the working masses, as they transform into ‘boot-lickers’.

Many examples of these ‘upward and forward’-looking political choices are found among entertainment celebrities, sports heroes, media figures and pop musicians. Rap singers become ghetto millionaires. And ‘working-class hero’ rock musicians, the well-wrinkled as well as the young, charge hundreds of dollars a seat for their rasping and grasping performances while refusing to play on behalf of striking workers.

The popular music, promoted by the elite, contain country and working class lyrics, sung with phony regional twangs to entertain mass audiences even as the successful performers flaunt their Presidential awards, luxury mansions and limos. The political and corporate elite frequently choose phony working class or ethnic identity celebrities to endorse their products, as the gullible public is encouraged to purchase useless commodities, electronic gadgets and gimmicks, and to support reactionary politicians and politics. There are a few celebrities who protest or maintain real mass solidarity but they are blacklisted, ostracized or past their peak earning power. Most celebrities prefer to shake their backsides, mouth raunchy language, snort or smoke dope and slum a bit with their bodyguards, but the political elite have chosen them to distract and depoliticize the young and discontented. They are paid well for their services.

Conclusion

The concepts, symbols and signs of the ruling class determine who will be the political ‘choices’ for leaders and officials. Political elites co-opt upwardly mobile ‘identities’, among minorities and workers, carefully assessing which of their qualities will contribute to the desired elite outcomes. This is how working class and community-based electorates are seduced into voting against their real class, national, community, gender and racial economic interests.

Renegades, demagogues, soothsayers and other charlatans of many races, ethnicities, genders and proclivities run for office and win on that basis.

The elite pay a relatively small fee for procuring the services of prestigious, certified, titled and diversified candidates to elect or appoint as leaders.

Elite power only partially depends on the mass media, money and power. It also needs the services of the concept and language masters, identity promoters and propagandists of the embellished deed.

Stripping away the phony veneer of the ‘chosen’ politicians requires a forceful critique of the signs and symbols that cloak the real identity of the makers and breakers of these leaders. And it requires that they be exposed for their proven failures and disasters, especially their role in leading America into an unending series of political, military and economic debacles.

James Petras is author of  The End of the Republic and the Delusion of EmpireExtractive Imperialism in the Americas: Capitalism’s New Frontier (with Henry Veltmeyer), and The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle EastRead other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

Dec 022016
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

1019309274

What can go wrong?

That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant.

That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant.

That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant.

What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia. His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of US regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

Even more so is his appointment of General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. Flynn dined last year in Moscow with Vladimir Putin at a gala celebrating RT (Russia Today), the Russian state’s English-language, leftist-leaning TV channel. Flynn now carries the stigma in the American media as an individual who does not see Russia or Putin as the devil. It is truly remarkable how nonchalantly American journalists can look upon the possibility of a war with Russia, even a nuclear war.

(I can now expect a barrage of emails from my excessively politically-correct readers about Flynn’s alleged anti-Islam side. But that, even if true, is irrelevant to this discussion of avoiding a war with Russia.)

I think American influence under Trump could also inspire a solution to the bloody Russia-Ukraine crisis, which is the result of the US overthrow of the democratically-elected Ukrainian government in 2014 to further advance the US/NATO surrounding of Russia; after which he could end the US-imposed sanctions against Russia, which hardly anyone in Europe benefits from or wants; and then – finally! – an end to the embargo against Cuba. What a day for celebration that will be! Too bad that Fidel won’t be around to enjoy it.

We may have other days of celebration if Trump pardons or in some other manner frees Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and/or Edward Snowden. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton would do this, but I think there’s at least a chance with the Donald. And those three heroes may now enjoy feeling at least a modicum of hope. Picture a meeting of them all together on some future marvelous day with you watching it on a video.

Trump will also probably not hold back on military actions against radical Islam because of any fear of being called anti-Islam. He’s repulsed enough by ISIS to want to destroy them, something that can’t always be said about Mr. Obama.

International trade deals, written by corporate lawyers for the benefit of their bosses, with little concern about the rest of us, may have rougher sailing in the Trump White House than is usually the case with such deals.

The mainstream critics of Trump foreign policy should be embarrassed, even humbled, by what they supported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Instead, what bothers them about the president-elect is his lack of desire to make the rest of the world in America’s image. He appears rather to be more concerned with the world not making America in its image.

In the latest chapter of Alice in Trumpland he now says that he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton, that he has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he had vowed to withdraw the United States, and that he’s no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea. So whatever fears you may have about certain of his expressed weird policies … just wait … they may fall by the wayside just as easily; although I still think that on a personal level he’s a [two-syllable word: first syllable is a synonym for a donkey; second syllable means “an opening”]

Trump’s apparently deep-seated need for approval may continue to succumb poorly to widespread criticism and protests. Poor little Donald … so powerful … yet so vulnerable.

The Trump dilemma, as well as the whole Hillary Clinton mess, could have probably been avoided if Bernie Sanders had been nominated. That large historical “if” is almost on a par with the Democrats choosing Harry Truman to replace Henry Wallace in 1944 as the ailing Roosevelt’s vice-president. Truman brought us a charming little thing called the Cold War, which in turn gave us McCarthyism. But Wallace, like Sanders, was just a little too damn leftist for the refined Democratic Party bosses.

State-owned media: The good, the bad, and the ugly

On November 16, at a State Department press briefing, department spokesperson John Kirby was having one of his frequent adversarial dialogues with Gayane Chichakyan, a reporter for RT (Russia Today); this time concerning US charges of Russia bombing hospitals in Syria and blocking the UN from delivering aid to the trapped population. When Chichakyan asked for some detail about these charges, Kirby replied: “Why don’t you ask your defense ministry?”

GK: Do you – can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.

KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.

GK: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government?

KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.

MATTHEW LEE (Associated Press): Let me –- hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of us are, so it’s -– she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned -– from a state-owned –

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.

LEE: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.

KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.

……

KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.

One has to wonder if State Department spokesperson Kirby knows that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking about RT, declared: “The Russians have opened an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive.”

I also wonder how Mr. Kirby deals with reporters from the BBC, a STATE-OWNED television and radio entity in the UK, broadcasting in the US and all around the world.

Or the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described by Wikipedia as follows: “The corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas … and is well regarded for quality and reliability as well as for offering educational and cultural programming that the commercial sector would be unlikely to supply on its own.”

There’s also Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Radio Liberty (Central/Eastern Europe), and Radio Marti (Cuba); all (US) state-owned, none “independent”, but all deemed worthy enough by the United States to feed to the world.

And let’s not forget what Americans have at home: PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio), which would have a near-impossible time surviving without large federal government grants. How independent does this leave them? Has either broadcaster ever unequivocally opposed a modern American war? There’s good reason NPR has long been known as National Pentagon Radio. But it’s part of American media’s ideology to pretend that it doesn’t have any ideology.

As to the non-state American media … There are about 1400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam while they were happening, or shortly thereafter? Or even opposed to any two of these seven wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe (February 18, 1968) surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”. Has the phrase “invasion of Vietnam” ever appeared in the US mainstream media?

In 2003, leading cable station MSNBC took the much-admired Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq. Mr. Kirby would undoubtedly call MSNBC “independent”.

If the American mainstream media were officially state-controlled, would they look or sound significantly different when it comes to US foreign policy?

Soviet observation: “The only difference between your propaganda and our propaganda is that you believe yours.”

On November 25, the Washington Post ran an article entitled: “Research ties ‘fake news’ to Russia.” It’s all about how sources in Russia are flooding American media and the Internet with phoney stories designed as “part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders”.

“The sophistication of the Russian tactics,” the article says, “may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on ‘fake news’.”

The Post states that the Russian tactics included “penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.” (Heretofore this had been credited to Wikileaks.)

The story is simply bursting with anti-Russian references:

  • An online magazine header – “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”
  • “the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”
  • “more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.”
  • “stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”
  • “The Russian campaign during this election season … worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with ‘buzzy’ content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.”
  • “Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience”
  • “They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt. It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”
  • “Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the ‘Brexit’ departure of Britain from the European Union.”
  • “Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports.”
  • “a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia”

A former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is quoted saying he was “struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.” McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics. “They don’t try to win the argument. It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.” [Cynicism? Heavens! What will those Moscow fascists/communists think of next?]

The Post did, however, include the following: “RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election.” RT was quoted: “It is the height of irony that an article about ‘fake news’ is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insinuations that the network has originated even a single ‘fake story’ related to the US election.”

It must be noted that the Washington Post article fails to provide a single example showing how the actual facts of a specific news event were rewritten or distorted by a Russian agency to produce a news event with a contrary political message. What then lies behind such blatant anti-Russian propaganda? In the new Cold War such a question requires no answer. The new Cold War by definition exists to discredit Russia simply because it stands in the way of American world domination. In the new Cold War the political spectrum in the mainstream media runs the gamut from A to B.

Cuba, Fidel, Socialism … Hasta la victoria siempre!

The most frequent comment I’ve read in the mainstream media concerning Fidel Castro’s death is that he was a “dictator”; almost every heading bore that word. Since the 1959 revolution, the American mainstream media has routinely referred to Cuba as a dictatorship. But just what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

No “free press”? Apart from the question of how free Western media is (see the preceding essays), if that’s to be the standard, what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control almost all the media worth owning or controlling?

Is it “free elections” that Cuba lacks? They regularly have elections at municipal, regional and national levels. They do not have direct election of the president, but neither do Germany or the United Kingdom and many other countries. The Cuban president is chosen by the parliament, The National Assembly of People’s Power. Money plays virtually no role in these elections; neither does party politics, including the Communist Party, since all candidates run as individuals. Again, what is the standard by which Cuban elections are to be judged? Is it that they don’t have private corporations to pour in a billion dollars? Most Americans, if they gave it any thought, might find it difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic election, without great concentrations of corporate money, would look like, or how it would operate. Would Ralph Nader finally be able to get on all 50 state ballots, take part in national television debates, and be able to match the two monopoly parties in media advertising? If that were the case, I think he’d probably win; which is why it’s not the case.

Or perhaps what Cuba lacks is our marvelous “electoral college” system, where the presidential candidate with the most votes is not necessarily the winner. Did we need the latest example of this travesty of democracy to convince us to finally get rid of it? If we really think this system is a good example of democracy why don’t we use it for local and state elections as well?

Is Cuba a dictatorship because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement of five years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

Would Washington ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known members of that organization? In recent years the United States has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents. While others may call Cuba’s security policies dictatorship, I call it self-defense.