Feb 252017
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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The Financial Times’ Special Report (2/16/2017) published a four-page spread on the ‘use and possible dangers of artificial intelligence (AI)’. Unlike the usual trash journalists who serve as Washington’s megaphones on the editorial pages and political columns, the Special Report is a thoughtful essay that raises many important issues, even as it is fundamentally flawed.

The writer, Richard Walters, cites several major problems accompanying AI from ‘public anxieties, to inequalities and job insecurity’. Walters pleads with those he calls the ‘controllers of autonomous systems’ to heed social and ‘political frictions’ or face societal ‘disruption’. Experts and journalists, discussing the long-term, large-scale destruction of the working class and service jobs, claim that AI can be ameliorated through management and social engineering.

This essay will proceed to raise fundamental issues, questions leading to an alternative approach to AI relying on class analysis. We will reject the specter of AI as a ‘Frankenstein’ by identifying the social forces, which finance, design and direct AI and which benefit from its negative social impact.

Basic Questions: Demystifying AI

The best and the worst of the experts reporting on AI assert that it is an autonomous system, devoid of any link to the class structure within which it operates. Their version of technological determinism, above and beyond the needs and demands of capitalists, fits neatly with the corporate ideology of the trash journalists and pundits.

The fundamental questions that must be raised include: 1) AI, for whom?; 2) How are the productivity gains of AI to be distributed between capital and labor? 3) How are work time, income and pensions distributed between the owners of technology and the labor force?; and 4) What kinds of socio-economic activity does AI serve?

Artificial Intelligence and related technological innovations are financed, designed, controlled and ultimately applied by the major corporations and financial institutions in order to reduce the cost of labor and to enhance profits and competitiveness between capitalist rivals.

AI and similar capitalist technological changes, along with the overseas relocation of information technology and manufacturing production are the principal destroyers of workers’ employment and living standards in the US.

AI technology, alongside vast spending for imperial wars and military procurement, multi-billion dollar bank-bailouts and the promotion of finance-over-productive capital represent the forces driving down wages, salaries, living standards, pensions and, lately, life expectancy for the marginalized working class and rural population.

The innovators and promoters of AI, whether individuals or small groups, seek capitalist support to finance, market and ‘acquire’ their ‘discoveries’. In fact, the entire industry has been built upon large-scale, tax-funded public research centers and university laboratories, which have paid for the buildings as well as the scientists’ and professors’ salaries.

Most of IT and AI related profits are distributed among the military-industrial complex, the chemical agro-industrial monopolies and the transport and consumer goods manufacturing elites. While garbage journalists and experts cite ‘AI’s contribution to health, education and social services, they forget to clarify that these ‘innovations’ are controlled by private health corporations, private ‘charter’ schools and public sector education elites intent on increasing profits, lowering teachers’ salaries, slashing programs and undermining student learning. The dismal, fragmented and mal-distributed state of healthcare and education in the United States are never seriously discussed because they put the lie to the absurd claims made about the benefits of AI and IT for the broader population.

Far from being ‘autonomous’ and subject to abstract ‘controllers’, AI, IT, and high technology serve to concentrate wealth, power and profits for multiple sectors of the ruling class who determine how such technologies will be used.

The financiers of AI and their partners direct the scientists, engineers and marketers. The garbage journalists are paid to proclaim the arrival of ‘history-making’ innovations. The media describe AI as ‘machine learning, a form of advanced pattern recognition technology to make judgments by analyzing large amounts of data (which) could supplement human thought’ (FT Special Report, 2/17/2017).

Contrary to the above-mentioned assumptions, the ‘judgments’ are made by the ruling class, using parameters and metrics determined by the elite, deciding on what kinds of ‘patterns are to be recognized’ in order that they can derive the kind of information they need to enhance profits, make war, maximize killing and engineering massive layoffs of workers. In a word, class assumptions dictate AI, IT, and the use of these innovations.

Conclusion: Alternatives

If class determines AI, and in present-day America that means the ruling class, then only changes in the class structure can pose different questions and answers to our originally stated problems. Only by sharpening the class struggle, which changes who rules the banks, factories and social institutions, will new assumptions direct AI and IT and other innovations.

Only workers, professionals and scientists, who replace the prioritizing of profits with meeting social needs, can produce an AI that lowers the retirement age, increases national health care, facilitates workers’ decision making, distributes high quality education and information to the citizenry, reduces inequalities and shifts earnings from capital to labor.

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.

Feb 242017
 

By , 99GetSmart

Woman posing with a car beading the ‘People’s Special Operations’ emblem (Photo: TürkiyeHaberMerkezi)

Woman posing with a car beading the ‘People’s Special Operations’ emblem (Photo: TürkiyeHaberMerkezi)

The upcoming referendum could affect Turkey’s constitution and governance for decades to come. Amid declining public support, Erdoğan’s closest circles take radical steps to stay in power.

On 16 April Turkey will hold a constitutional referendum on whether or not to significantly extend the executive powers of the presidency. The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been mobilising all its resources to guarantee the passing of the momentous 18-clause constitutional reform.

AKP’s shrinking support and alliances with the far-right

Despite several spikes in approval — to an all-time high point of 49.5% following the destructive military campaign in southeastern Turkey that left dozens of cities almost razed and after the 15 July coup attempt — both Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP have seen an overall decline in public support since winning a disappointing 40% in June 2015 election. The politically motivated purge of over a hundred thousand people from their jobs, the hushed economic crisis and the extensive pressure on the political opposition have taken their toll.

As a result, the AKP has responded by aligning with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Judging by the results of the latest general election, the two parties’ combined support would amount to 66%. This is barely below the 67% required to change the constitution without a public vote in the parliament, where parties need 60% of the quorum to bring any proposal to a referendum. Hence, amid the campaigns for the constitutional referendum, an open alliance has been declared between the ruling AKP and Turkey’s fourth-largest parliamentary party, the MHP.

Current polls suggest that the constitutional reform is unlikely to pass: the ‘Yes’ vote has 42% support. A failure to win the referendum is expected to further shrink the AKP’s support.

The referendum atmosphere could hardly be seen to comply with democratic standards, with high level officials calling the ‘No’ voters “terrorists, separatists, and criminals”.

The image of the president

Fearing popular protests similar to those in 2013, or another coup attempt, the AKP has been preparing local branches for an uncertain future. The media has reported that members of the AKP youth are being offered armed training, but most recently a new formation has made the headlines. ‘Stay Brotherly Turkey’, a group initiated by Orhan Uzuner, the father-in-law of President Erdoğan’s son, has been preparing a so-called ‘Communications Network’, designed to be able to take millions of people to the streets swiftly to oppose any future uprising, revolt, or coup attempt.

The Network has been preparing extensive WhatsApp messaging groups, all coordinated by Uzuner, yet independent of each other. Each group member is asked to start their own local group with their close contacts.

According to Uzuner, the Network’s main aim is to “unify people around the image of President Erdoğan”. While the group-leaders share recent developments and information regarding the president, the content in the groups themselves is advised not to touch on political discussions and party politics, uniting primarily around Erdoğan’s persona.

The group also actively participates in the ‘Yes’ campaign.

Purchasing equipment and providing training

According to the daily Cumhuriyet, the Network has purchased the necessary equipment to operate but needs to invest more to guarantee its operations. It has begun establishing radio stations, applying for nation-wide frequencies and naming local operators for wireless transmitters.

The group also intends to establish a system of loud-speakers and sirens to be able to continue broadcasting during power cuts and Internet shut-downs. The systems are to be constructed in apartment buildings, shops and even cars. Moreover, each member is being encouraged to obtain hand-held megaphones to be used on streets.

The group also trains its members in four different categories, all certified by official institutions and directorates: first-aid training certified by the Ministry of Health, drone aviation training by the General Directorate of Civilian Aviation, wireless transmission licensing courses and information and data security training.

Stay Brotherly Turkey also invites members to use the walkie-talkie app Zello. The app currently has 300 members and the password for the group is ‘1071’, which is the date the Turks defeated the Armenians and entered Anatolia from the city of Manzikert; an important reference for Turkish nationalists.

Arming the members

The 18 articles of ‘Presidential Constitution’ (Infographic: dokuz8HABER)

The 18 articles of ‘Presidential Constitution’ (Infographic: dokuz8HABER)

At its January meeting Stay Brotherly members were informed about the group’s working strategy and communication methods. “We are one Turkey. Whatever they do we will not be divided. We are united around the epitome of liberty and our leader President Erdoğan. We do not want him to get harmed in any way. The smallest apparatus we have is a whistle. I have a megaphone in my car. There are also weapons to be used in times of necessity. We must be prepared,” Uzuner stated at the meeting. The following day Uzuner made a statement saying he was misunderstood, that he had meant not weapons but sirens.

Another group called ‘People’s Special Operations’ (Turkish: Halk Özel Harekat), which emerged after the 15 July coup attempt, uses police-like emblems, posing with weapons and extensively sharing calls for the reinstatement of the death penalty, raises fears of a parallel militia force loyal to President Erdoğan.

While the ‘No’ vote still seems to be in the lead, the delicate alliance of the far-right MHP and the AKP appears increasingly fragile and might opt to secure its accomplishments from 15 years in power at all costs. Combined with the sinister warnings of civil war by other AKP officials, the criminalisation of the opposition and the arrest of elected members of parliament, such groups, their statements and activities create a climate of fear that threatens to undermine the free nature of the upcoming referendum.

Feb 242017
 

By Michael Nevradakis99GetSmart

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Dear friends and listeners,

Here’s the latest print pieces from Dialogos:

Our Article on Political Developments in Brazil and Similarities with the European South

Our latest article, taking a look at political developments in Brazil preceding and following the ouster of democratically-elected president Dilma Rousseff, and the many similarities and parallels which exist between Brazil and the European South, including Greece, has been published in Mint Press News. This article focuses on the politics of the previous Workers’ Party governments in Brazil and whether they were truly progressive, the harsh austerity which has been implemented by the non-elected president Michel Temer, and the many similarities of Brazil’s situation with countries like Greece.

Find this article here: http://www.mintpressnews.com/brazils-manufactured-coup-the-shock-doctrine-returns-to-latin-america/224823/.

Our Interview with Geopolitical Analyst Alex Christoforou Featured in Mint Press News

Our recent interviews, in English and Greek, with journalist and geopolitical analyst Alex Christoforou, co-founder of TheDuran.com, has been featured in Mint Press News! This is a combination of two recent Dialogos Radio interviews featuring Christodoulou, which aired on our radio broadcast in January and February.

In this interview, Christoforou discusses hot-button political and geopolitical issues, including Trump and the foreign policy he may follow, Russia and its response to developments along its border and in the Middle East, Syria, the Cyprus reunification talks, Brexit and Grexit, and much more.

Find this published interview, in English, here: http://www.mintpressnews.com/durans-alex-christoforou-treating-russia-bogeyman-failed/225175/.

Best,

Dialogos Radio & Media

Feb 232017
 

By 99GetSmart

Originally published at dokuz8HABER:

Fotoğraf: Umut Sen

One of the 121 thousand people who have so far been expelled with a decree ruling in the aftermath of the July 15th coup attempt in Turkey is Betül Celep who has started her personal resistance against decrees. Her resistance is today on its 30th day and is growing.

Betül Celep had been expelled with the decree ruling numbered 679, on January 6th. She has started “the Women’s Decree Resistance” in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district, at the Kalkedon Square on January 23rd. It all started with Betül seeing her name next to a number in a list of people to be expelled from state offices in the aftermath of the July 15th coup attempt. She says she still does not know why she had been expelled, which is also one of her banners asking “Why Did I Get Expelled?” next to her in the square.

It has been a month since she has started her resistance, and over the last month, she has attracted attention of thousands of people, some people have come to join her, and some questioning eyes have asked what was going on. She says she used to be the syndicate representative at her work place, Betül wonders if it was one of her identities that led her to her expulsion; as a socialist, woman, feminist, human rights defender, pacifist. She continuously asks if one or more of these were reason for her losing her job and social rights.

Betül explains, If you lose your job unlawfully, you resist. This I have learned from the workers who had been laid off unlawfully after they demanded their syndical rights in Gebze, Çerkezköy, Şekerpınar. They resist because they want their rights. For this reason I have also decided to resist. I might have been expelled with a decree ruling, that does not matter. I try to raise my voice on a daily basis in this square, I repeat that I do not accept the decrees. I am trying to write our ‘Women’s Decree’ and believe that I have a historical responsibility.”

Every day other people who have been expelled with decree rulings come to visit Betül, and she listens to their stories. She learns of their conditions and tells them of the experiences she has had. She explains that the only way to end the ‘tyranny of decrees’ is to strengthen and expand the resistance and to invite other victims of decree rulings, to tell their stories too. Hence, her desire to be the voice of the decree victims in Kalkedon Square.

The Women’s Decree Resistance includes other women who have joined in and have been standing in solidarity with Betül. It is no longer a personal story, many women come in support, help her organize the square and invite all others. Betül comments on the presence of others in her month-long resistance saying, “What things these eyes have seen over the past month … We have said that a resistance is blooming in this square; in the beginning I was joyful, merry and a rookie. I still have certain flaws due to inexperience, yet I have learned a lot. On the very first day there were crowds, there were women. I have connected with many people, met hundreds of people, even those whose names I can not remember. I have had many beautiful memories, and many disappointments.”

The police has also been present at Betül’s resistance in Kadıköy. She says it was on her first day when she was to announce the decision of resistance that she was presented with ‘options’ to disperse after press statement, to only stay for two days and leave, to just conduct silent sit-in. She responded these warnings that she does not accept their advices and she can think on her own. The level of threat has increased since the first day but did not lead to a point of physical intervention yet. From time to time there are attempts to do that, but the women in the square seem not willing to give in.

Betül still stands in Kalkedon Square in Kadıköy, inviting the people who have been expelled from their jobs with a decree ruling, and encourages them to share their stories as well. She says “the decrees, much-beyond putting people on a trial of hunger, disposes one of all hope under these circumstances.” Betül also explains on her 30th day of resistance that she has come to understand the essence of state, syndicate and significance of assembly.

So far there have been declared 21 decree rulings by the government, expelling more than 121 thousand people. There are various syndicates and unions that have made calls for resistance and protest meetings in various districts of Istanbul and many other cities. Betül Celep’s is one of them, and when she was expelled, on the first day she was a single person, now she is the voice of ’Women’s Decree’.

Follow Betül Celep on twitter @betul_celep_

Feb 192017
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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Introduction

By the end of the first month of President Trump’s Administration we are in a better position to evaluate the policies and direction of the new President. An examination of foreign and domestic policy, particularly from a historical and comparative perspective will provide insights about whether America is heading for a catastrophe as the mass media claim or toward greater realism and rationality. We will proceed by examining whether Trump pursues diplomacy over warfare. We will evaluate the President’s efforts to reduce US foreign debt and trade burdens with Europe and Asia. We will follow with a discussion of his immigration and protectionist policies with Mexico. Finally we will touch on the prospects for democracy in the United States.

Foreign Policy

President Trump’s meeting with the leaders of Japan, the United Kingdom and Canada were largely successful. The Abe-Trump meeting led to closer diplomatic ties and a promise that Japan would increase their investment in automobile manufacturing in the US. Trump may have improved trade relations by reducing the trade imbalances. Trump and Abe adopted a moderate position on the North Korean missile test in the Sea of Japan, rejecting a further military build-up as the liberal-neo-con media demanded.

US-UK meeting, in the post-Brexit period, promised to increase trade.

Trump moved to improve relations with China, clearly backing the ‘single China’ policy and proceeding to re-negotiate and re-balance trade relations.

The US backed the unanimous UN Security Council vote to condemn North Korea’s missile launch. Trump did not consider it a military threat or rising to the level of additional sanctions.

Trump’s policy of reconciliation with Russia in order to improve the war against Islamist terrorism has been stymied. Led by the witch-hunting left liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren, neo-conservative militarists and Democrats pronounced Russia as the primary threat to US national security!

The rabid, ceaseless mass media blitz forced the resignation of Trump’s National Security Adviser, Ret. General Michael Flynn, on the basis of an 18th century law (the Logan Act) that prohibited private citizens from discussing policy with foreign leaders. This law has never been implemented. If it were enforced, hundreds of thousands of American citizens, most especially the big-wigs among the 51 ‘Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’, as well as the foreign affairs editors of all major and minor US media outlets and foreign policy academics would be on the ‘chain-gangs’ with convicted drug dealers. Never embarrassed by absurdity or by trivializing tragedy, this recent ‘Tempest in the Teapot’ has whipped up passionate calls by the media and Democratic Party operatives for a new ‘Nine-Eleven Style Investigation’ into General Flynn talks with the Russians.

Trump’s setback on his National Security Adviser Flynn has put the prospects for improved, less bellicose foreign affairs in danger. It heightens the risk for a nuclear confrontations and domestic repression. These dangers, including a domestic anti-Russian McCarthy-style purge of foreign policy ‘realists’, are exclusively the responsibility of the ultra-militarist Democratic Party-Neo-Conservative alliance. None of this addresses the serious domestic socioeconomic problems.

Rebalancing Foreign Spending and Trade

Trump’s public commitment about rebalancing US relations with NATO, namely reducing the US share of funding, has already started. Currently only five NATO members meet the required contribution. Trump’s insistence on Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, France and 18 other members fulfilling their commitments would add over $100 billion to NATO’s budget – reducing US foreign imbalances.

Of course, it would be far better for all if NATO was disbanded and the various nations re-allocate these many hundreds of billions of dollars for social spending and domestic economic development.

Trump has announced a major effort to reduce US trade imbalances in Asia. Contrary to the claims, often made by foreign trade ‘experts’ in the mass media, China is not the only, or even the largest, among the ‘offenders’ in exploiting unbalanced trade with the US.

China’s current account trade surplus is 5% of its GDP, while South Korea’s is 8%, Taiwan’s 15% and Singapore’s is 19%. Trump’s target is to reduce the US trade imbalances to $20 billion dollars with each country or 3% of GDP. Trump’s quota of $100 billion dollars stands in marked contrast to the ‘Asian Five’s’ (Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore) current trade imbalance of $700 billion dollars in 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund.

In sum, Trump is moving to reduce external imbalances by 85% in order to increase domestic production and create jobs for US-based industries.

Trump and Latin America

Trump’s Latin America policy is focused primarily on Mexico and to a much lesser degree on the rest of the continent.

The White House’s biggest move has been to scuttle Obama’s Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, which favored multi-national corporations exploiting Chile, Peru and Mexico’s work force, as well as attracting the neo-liberal regimes in Argentina and Uruguay. Trump inherits from President Obama numerous military bases in Colombia, Guantanamo, Cuba and Argentina. The Pentagon has continued Obama’s ‘cold war’ with Venezuela – falsely accusing the Venezuelan Vice President of drug trafficking.

Trump has promised to alter US trade and immigration policy with Mexico. Despite the widespread opposition to Trump’s immigration policy, he lags far behind Obama’s massive expulsion of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. America’s deportation champion was President Barack Obama, who expelled 2.2 million immigrants and their family members in eight years, or approximately 275,000 a month. In his first month in office, President Trump has deported just one percent of Obama’s monthly average.

President Trump promises to re-negotiate NAFTA, imposing a tax on imports and enticing US multinational corporations to return and invest in America.

There are numerous hidden advantages for Mexico if it responds to Trump’s policies with its own ‘reciprocal protectionist’ economic measures. Under NAFTA, 2 million Mexican farmers went into bankruptcy and billions of dollars have been spent importing (subsidized) rice, corn and other staples from the US. A ‘Mexico First’ policy could open the door for a revival of Mexican agriculture for domestic consumption and export; this would also decrease out-migration of Mexican farm workers. Mexico could re-nationalize its oil industry and invest in domestic refineries gaining billions of dollars and reducing imports of refined petroleum products from the US. With an obligatory import-substitution policy, local manufacturing could increase the domestic market and employment. Jobs would increase in the formal economy and reduce the number of unemployed youth recruited by the drug cartels and other criminal gangs. By nationalizing the banks and controlling capital flows, Mexico could block the annual outflow of about $50 billion dollars of illicit funds. National-popular policies, via reciprocity, would strengthen the election of new leaders who could begin to purge the corrupt police, military and political leadership.

In sum, while the Trump policies may cause some short-term losses, it can lead to substantial medium and long-term advantages for the Mexican people and nation.

Democracy

President Trump’s election has provoked a virulent authoritarian campaign threatening our democratic freedoms.

Highly coordinated and endless propaganda by all the major media and the two political parties have fabricated and distorted reports and encouraged elected representatives to savage Trump’s foreign policy appointees, forcing resignations and reversals of policy. The forced resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn highlights the Democratic Party’s pro-war agenda against nuclear-armed Russia. Liberal Senators, who once made grand speeches against ‘Wall Street’ and the ‘One Percent’, now demand Trump reject working with Russian President Putin against the real threat of ISIS while supporting the neo-Nazis in Ukraine. Liberal icons openly push for sending more US warships in Asia to provoke China, while opposing Trump’s policy of favorably re-negotiating trade deals with Beijing.

There are many hidden dangers and advantages in this partisan political warfare.

Trump has exposed the systemic lies and distortions of the mass media, confirming the distrust held by a majority of Americans for the corporate news media. The low opinion of the media, especially held by Americans in the economically devastated center of the country (those described by Hillary Clinton as the ‘deplorables’) is clearly matched by the media’s deep disdain for this huge portion of the electorate. Indeed, the constant media chatter about how the evil ‘Russians’ had hacked the US presidential elections giving the victory to Donald Trump, is more likely a ‘dog whistle’ to mask their unwillingness to openly denounce the ‘poor whites’– including workers and rural Americans – who overwhelmingly voted for Trump. This class and regional element goes a long way to explain the constant hysteria over Trump’s victory. There is widespread fury among the elites, intellectuals and bureaucrats over the fact that Clinton’s big ‘basket of deplorables’ rejected the system and rejected its coiffured and manicured media mouthpieces.

For the first time there is a political debate over freedom of speech at the highest levels of government. The same debate extends to the new President’s challenge from the enormous, uncontrolled police state apparatus (FBI, NSA, CIA, Homeland Security, etc..), which expanded massively under Barack Obama.

Trump’s trade and alliance policies have awakened the US Congress to debates over substantive issues rather than internal procedural quibbles. Even Trump’s rhetorical policies have aroused mass demonstrations, some of which are bona fide, while others are bankrolled by billionaire supporters of the Democratic Party and its neo-liberal expansionist agenda, like the ‘Grand Sugar Daddy of the Color Revolutions’ George Soros. It is a serious question whether this may provide an opening for genuine grass-roots democratic-socialist movements to organize and take advantage of the rift among the elite.

The bogus charges of ‘treasonous’ communication with the Russian Ambassador  against Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, while still a civilian, and the convoking of the Logan Act against civilians discussing foreign policy with foreign governments, opens up the possibility of investigating legislators, like Charles Schumer and several hundred others, for discussing US strategic policy positions with Israeli officials…

Win or lose, the Trump Administration has opened a debate on the possibilities of peace with a nuclear superpower, a re-examination of the huge trade deficit and the necessity to stand-up for democracy against authoritarian threats from the so-called ‘intelligence community’ against an elected President.

Trump and the Class Struggle

The Trump socio-economic agenda has already set in motion powerful undercurrents of class conflict. The media and political class have focused on conflicts over immigration, gender issues, and relations with Russia, NATO and Israel as well as intra-party politics. These conflicts obscure deeper class antagonisms, which grow out of Trump’s radical economic proposals.

President Trump’s proposal to reduce the power of the federal regulatory and investigatory agencies, simplify and lower taxes, curtail spending on NATO, re-negotiate or scrap multilateral agreements and cut the budgets for research, health and education all seriously threaten the employment for millions of public sector workers and officials across the country. Many of the hundreds of thousands of protestors at the women’s rallies and marches for immigration and education are public employees and their family members who are under economic threat. What appears on the surface to be protests over specific cultural, identity or human rights issues are manifestations of a deeper and more extensive struggle between public sector employees and the agenda of a privatizing state, which draws its class support from small business people attracted by lower taxes and less regulatory burdens, as well as private ‘charter school’ officials and hospital administrators.

Trump’s protectionist measures, including export subsidies, pit the domestic manufacturers against multi-billion dollar importers of cheap consumer goods.

Trump’s proposals for deregulated oil, gas, timber, more agro-mineral exports and major infrastructure investments are supported by bosses and workers in those sectors. This has provoked a sharp conflict with environmentalists, community-based workers and producers, indigenous peoples and their supporters.

Trump’s initial effort to mobilize domestic class forces opposed to continued budget-draining overseas warfare and in support of market relations-based empire building has been defeated by the combined efforts of the military-industrial complex, the intelligence apparatus and their supporters in a liberal-neo-conservative-militarist political elite coalition and their mass supporters.

The evolving class struggle has deepened and threatens to tear apart the constitutional order in two directions: The conflict can lead to an institutional crisis and toward the forceful ouster of an elected president and the installation of a hybrid regime, which will preserve the most reactionary programs of both sides of the class conflict. Importers, investors and workers in extractive industries, supporters of privatized educations and healthcare, warmongers and members of the politicized security apparatus may take total control of the state. On the other hand, if the class struggle can mobilize the public sector workers, workers in the commercial sector, the unemployed, the anti-war democrats and progressive IT entrepreneurs and employers dependent on skilled immigrants, as well as scientists and environmentalists into a massive movement willing to support a living wage and unify around common class interests, deep systemic change becomes possible. In the medium term, the unification of these class movements can lead to a progressive hybrid regime.

Feb 142017
 

By Michael Nevradakis99GetSmart

Originally published at MintPressNews:

The Global South is growing unintelligible from the European South amid harsh austerity measures and other maneuverings that suit the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and working class.

Maria de Jesus Oliveira da Costa, known as “Tia Zelia,” takes down an autographed photo given to her by Brazil’s impeached President Dilma Rousseff, to show it to journalists at her restaurant in Brasilia, Brazil, where photos of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also hang. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

Maria de Jesus Oliveira da Costa, known as “Tia Zelia,” takes down an autographed photo given to her by Brazil’s impeached President Dilma Rousseff, to show it to journalists at her restaurant in Brasilia, Brazil, where photos of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also hang. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

BRASILIA, Brazil — Harsh austerity. A 20-year public spending freeze. A non-elected government. A coup backed by the United States and corporate world.

This is the new reality that Brazil has faced following the impeachment and ouster of the democratically-elected Dilma Rousseff in August of 2016 on charges of corruption and her replacement by vice-president Michel Temer, a favorite of Washington.

This is also a new reality that has been met by widespread disapproval, occasional large-scale protests, and a new economic uncertainty for a country which, just a few years ago, was seen as an up-and-coming economic powerhouse, along with the rest of the BRICS, the bloc composed of emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. This optimism has been quickly supplanted by an increasingly volatile social situation in Brazil and great pessimism for the future.

Much has been made in the media about the progressive credentials of the Rousseff government and that of her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, both of whom represented the Workers’ Party (PT) of Brazil. Much has also been made of the mass protests which led to Rousseff’s outster, which bore similarities to protests seen in countries such as Venezuela against the Maduro regime, and the relative lack of protest that the Temer government has faced since ascending to power.

What is actually happening, though? As is often the case in such situations, reality is far more multifaceted and complex than frequently presented, while parallels can be drawn with other austerity-ravaged countries such as Greece.

A radical break or austerity lite?: The Rousseff and da Silva governments

A man pulls a cart with an electoral poster of Workers Party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff, right, at Manguinhos slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. (AP/Felipe Dana)

A man pulls a cart with an electoral poster of Workers Party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff, right, at Manguinhos slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. (AP/Felipe Dana)

The governments of da Silva and Rousseff were often compared to those of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina, in representing a break with the doctrines of neoliberalism, economic austerity, and privatization that much of Latin America experienced during the 1980s and 1990s.

This claim is borne out by some policies and certain economic indicators. In a 2014 article, well-known commentator Pepe Escobar, who frequently focuses on the BRICS nations in his writing, pointed out the tripling of the minimum wage between 2002 and 2014, a decline in unemployment, increased GDP per capita, the repayment of Brazil’s debts to the International Monetary Fund, higher purchasing power, plus social programs which benefited almost 50 million Brazilians.

Similarly, in a 2014 interview with me for Dialogos Radio, investigative journalist Greg Palast cited da Silva’s refusal to privatize state banks and the national oil company, while creating the “Bolsa Familia,” or a minimum income offered to many Brazilians, in an effort to lift them out of poverty. According to Palast, these policies — the opposite of the privatizations and austerity dictated by the International Monetary Fund — fueled Brazil’s phenomenal growth during this time, reaching 7 to 9 percent annually at its peak.

But did da Silva and Rousseff go far enough? Numerous commentators have expressed doubts.

For instance, the Rousseff government appointed Joaquim Levy, known as a pro-austerity “fiscal hawk,” as finance minister (this, it should be noted, was when Temer was Rousseff’s vice president). Scholar and author James Petras, an expert on Latin America, pointed out in November that da Silva implemented IMF-mandated austerity programs soon after being elected, and he appointed neoliberal economists to his cabinet whilst supporting the interests of agribusiness and major oil and mining concerns — all while overseeing policies which left numerous peasant families landless.

The Brazilian “economic miracle,” according to Petras, was a mirage fueled by high export commodity prices which the Brazilian economy temporarily benefited from, enabling programs such as the “Bolsa Familia.”

This was echoed by Palast, who in a 2016 follow-up interview with Dialogos Radio cited the sharp decline of oil prices and collapse of its commodities trade with China, as factors in the Brazilian economic slowdown — and increased unrest in the country prior to Rousseff’s ouster. In turn, Escobar also cited Rousseff’s concessions to big banking and agribusiness interests and a swing to the center as mistakes which also led to the emerging middle class increasingly flirting with the right once economic difficulties began.

In an interview with MintPress, Kat Moreno, a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and visiting scholar for Global Workers’ Rights at the Penn State University, argued that the Rousseff government was quite austere, and that despite a militant, leftist background, the material conditions she faced pressured her to enact austerity policies during her reign.

A recent analysis published by TeleSUR further argues that austerity measures were implemented by the Rousseff government as a defense mechanism of sorts, in an effort to fend off Rousseff’s impeachment by appeasing the right.

In his 2014 interview, Palast cited Rousseff’s return to IMF-sponsored austerity policies and the reduction of pensions as factors which were disastrous for the Brazilian economy, calling the IMF “a society of poisoners,” while in his 2016 interview, he cited Rousseff’s political inexperience and her inability to effectively communicate with the public as factors which made her impeachment possible.

An uprising from below or from above?

Soldiers stand guard outside Planalto presidential palace where protesters have projected the word “Impeachment” on the building, as they call for the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, March 21, 2016. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

Soldiers stand guard outside Planalto presidential palace where protesters have projected the word “Impeachment” on the building, as they call for the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, March 21, 2016. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

2013 could be seen as a hallmark year for Brazil, one in which the tide began to turn against the ruling PT. The “Brazilian Spring” — following in the footsteps of the protests seen in Turkey that year, the Arab Spring, protests of the “indignants” in Spain and Greece, and the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 — emerged out of protests against public transportation fare increases and perceived government corruption. These protests could be seen as having served as a “dress rehearsal” of sorts for those which followed in 2015 and 2016, when fed-up Brazilians took to the streets en masse, including an estimated 7 million citizens during a March 2016 protest, to rally against worsening economic conditions and continued government corruption.

Or did they?

It has been pointed out that the protests of 2015-2016, leading up to the impeachment of Rousseff were not led by the impoverished or the working class, but by such groups as the Free Brazil Movement (MBL) and Students of Liberty (EPL).

Who are these groups?

In this March 18, 2015 photo, anti-government protest leader Kim Kataguiri poses for a picture in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AP/Andre Penner)

In this March 18, 2015 photo, anti-government protest leader Kim Kataguiri poses for a picture in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AP/Andre Penner)

Largely consisting of well-to-do, white academic circles, it has been revealed that they were financed by the decidedly right-wing Atlas Economic Research Foundation, itself funded by the notorious Koch brothers.Pepe Escobar has described the events of 2015-2016 as a “white coup,” fueled by the country’s major media outlets, who were “salivating” for regime change.

This scenario closely mirrors the protests seen recently in Venezuela against the increasingly embattled Maduro regime. Venezuela, like Brazil, has been battered by falling commodities prices — especially the sharp decline in the price of oil. This has brought to the forefront protests, led by right-wing elements seeking regime change and sensing an opportunity to make it happen.

Such protests are also not confined to Latin America. Greece, itself embattled by years of economic depression and austerity, has begun to see occasional (but, for the time being, relatively small-scale) protests led by supporters of the center-right parties such as New Democracy.

Prior to the country’s July 2015 referendum on approving or rejecting an austerity package demanded by Greece’s European “partners,” these elements organized fairly large protests in favor of “yes” (accepting austerity in order to “remain in the European Union”). In turn, smaller protests in 2016, organized with such social media hashtags as ftanei pia (“enough already”) ironically protested the austerity measures imposed by the purportedly left-wing Syriza-led government whilst supporting closer EU ties and the New Democracy party.

Similar to Brazil, Greece’s major media groups — all owned by oligarchic interests with a huge stake in the country’s major economic sectors — have vehemently supported austerity and supported the “yes” vote in the 2015 referendum.

Speaking to MintPress, Guilherme Giuliano, at Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of São Paulo and member of the “Catso” social workers’ autonomous collective, described the 2016 protests as not having been solely against Rousseff or her government. Nevertheless, the protests were co-opted by certain parties and movements and used as a catalyst for the coup against Rousseff.

Kat Moreno described the MBL as one of the movements which freely took to the streets, while other protest movements not organized by formal actors and representing poorer strata of society were met with police repression.

Petras classifies the capitulation and eventual fall of the PT governments, led by da Silva and Rousseff, as another in a long string of failures of the left. These “failures” have also been evident in countries such as Greece, where Syriza was, in January 2015, elected on promises to “tear up” Greece’s memorandum agreements with its lenders and to put an end to austerity but has instead faithfully continued enforcing such policies and signed further austerity agreements with the country’s lenders, implementing further cuts and reneging on all of its pre-election pledges.

The ‘shock doctrine’ returns to Latin America

A police officer pepper sprays demonstrators as a scuffle breaks out during a protest against the money spent on Rio’s 2016 Summer Olympics on the route of the Olympic torch, in Niteroi, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.

A police officer pepper sprays demonstrators as a scuffle breaks out during a protest against the money spent on Rio’s 2016 Summer Olympics on the route of the Olympic torch, in Niteroi, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.

In her 2007 book “The Shock Doctrine,” Naomi Klein highlights how the global capitalist class uses crises and disaster situations — both real and invented — as an opportunity to pounce upon suffering countries when they are at their weakest, imposing harsh austerity christened as “free market” policies and imposed, when necessary, by force, including police violence and brutality.

This has been characteristic of Brazil following Rousseff’s impeachment and Temer’s takeover.

It has also been characteristic of the crisis-hit countries of the European South, where protesters in Greece have been dispersed and stunned into submission by tear gas and police violence which invariably goes unpunished, while riot police enforcing home foreclosures is a common sight in Spain.

Klein traces the origins of the “shock doctrine” to the neoliberal doctrine first espoused by economists such as Milton Friedman, the father of the “Chicago School” of economics, which Latin American countries such as Chile became intimately familiar with under autocratic regimes such as that of Augusto Pinochet.

It is ironic, therefore, that Klein openly and vocally supported the Syriza government prior to the January 2015 elections in Greece which first brought it to power. But she has remained conspicuously silent since then, while Syriza has continued the policies of its predecessors. Nevertheless, the “shock doctrine” serves as a useful guide to explain what is happening in such countries today, including Brazil.

In another one of his analyses on the Brazil situation, Escobar classified Brazil as a victim of a “hybrid war” launched by the world’s neoliberal elite one which is also targeting other BRICS nations such as Russia.

How has the “shock doctrine” unfolded in Brazil?

With a lot of shock, and a lot of awe, to say the least.

From left: Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff , Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of China Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma sit during a signing ceremony at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (Sergei Ilnitsky/AP)

From left: Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff , Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of China Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma sit during a signing ceremony at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, Thursday, July 9, 2015. (Sergei Ilnitsky/AP)

A 20-year federal freeze on public spending was almost immediately imposed by the Temer regime, placing caps on spending for health care, education, and social expenditures and shrinking a welfare state which, according to Moreno, was already much more limited than its European counterparts. This was followed up by the announcement of job cuts in the public sector (despite rising unemployment which has more than doubled since the country’s recent economic peak), and a special “Christmas gift” for Brazilian workers: the expansion of the workday from 8 to 12 hours, complete with a reduction in the lunch hour.

This closely resembles the sharp reduction in pay, dismantling of collective bargaining rights, and massive layoffs which have been seen in countries like Greece. (There, pensioners were treated to a “Christmas gift” of their own by the Syriza-led government: a paltry “Christmas bonus” used by the government as a ludicrous PR stunt after it had already slashed most pensions by approximately 50 percent in 2016 and announced further tax increases for 2017.) In Brazil, environmental regulations have also been scrapped or relaxed, posing a particular threat to the country’s indigenous peoples.

In a rare moment of frankness, Temer told an audience of business and foreign policy elite assembled in New York in September that Rousseff — who was no radical while in office — did not go “far enough” in implementing the harsh economic reforms demanded by Temer’s party.

The new Temer government does not feel itself constrained in any way in terms of going “far enough.” Corruption charges are now being faced by da Silva, who currently leads overwhelmingly in opinion polls for Brazil’s next presidential elections, and members of his family.

Not even bothering to keep up appearances, Temer’s appointed cabinet consists exclusively of wealthy white men, while his government attempted to legislate self-amnesty for itself in September — a privilege already enjoyed by members of the Greek parliament and Greek government ministers, who are immune from prosecution for any crimes committed while in office and who regularly “write off” internal parliamentary investigations into previous governments’ wrongdoings.

This comes as the Temer government, which led the ouster of Rousseff on corruption charges, is itself facing corruption scandals.

In such a climate, it is inevitable that corruption will “trickle down” to other sectors of society. Brazil is currently said to be experiencing a far-right resurgence, shattering the common image of the country as one of racial inclusiveness and harmony.

Tourists to Brazil now have the unique opportunity to visit a real-life plantation and be served by black “slaves.” Police violence, already a major problem under the Rousseff administration, continued to grow in 2016 and 2017. There’s also the increasing prison riot crisis, which has been encouraged by elements within Temer’s government who view it as an effective means of culling the population in the country’s overcrowded prisons.

How have Brazilians responded?

Demonstrators march with a sign that says in Portuguese “Get out Temer” and a drawing of Cuba’s late President Fidel Castro, as they demand the impeachment of Brazil’s President Michel Temer in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP/Andre Penner)

Demonstrators march with a sign that says in Portuguese “Get out Temer” and a drawing of Cuba’s late President Fidel Castro, as they demand the impeachment of Brazil’s President Michel Temer in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP/Andre Penner)

The spotlight of the international media was thrust upon Brazil in 2013 and again prior to Rousseff’s impeachment in 2016, when protests sprung up in the streets—which may have been fueled, at least in part, by Koch-funded and wealthy elements in Brazilian society.

With a regime in place which may not be supported by the majority of Brazil’s population but is very much supported by the global banking and business elite and by Washington, protests against Temer’s government have not been afforded the same level of coverage, perhaps giving the impression that the Brazilian populace has resigned itself to a tacit acceptance of the new regime. Reality, however, seems to be a bit more nuanced.

There have been both strikes and protests on a fairly wide scale in Brazil since Temer’s takeover, including protests which erupted following the enactment of the 20-year public spending freeze, further significant protests against the Temer government on Brazil’s Independence Day, and a strike of workers at oil refineries all across the country at the end of the year.

These movements are accompanied by abysmal approval ratings for the new government in multiple public opinion surveys, even if approval ratings and poll numbers are often meaningless or inaccurate. Just look at the low approval ratings and exceptionally high re-election ratings for members of the U.S. Congress, for instance, or the multiple polls which all but assured a Hillary Clinton victory in the U.S. presidential elections, or the public opinion polls in Greece which have repeatedly been not just grossly inaccurate but always in a pro-austerity direction. For instance, Greek polling firms predicted a neck-and-neck referendum result in July 2015, when in fact, the “no” vote rejecting the European Union’s proposed austerity package received an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote.

Demonstrators protest Brazil’s President Michel Temer after a military Independence Day parade in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

Demonstrators protest Brazil’s President Michel Temer after a military Independence Day parade in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

Despite the protests that have taken place ever since Temer took over in Brazil, Kat Moreno points out the factors that have prevented them from being more widespread or long-lived.

According to Moreno, some strata of society do not feel safe in taking to the streets, and Moreno cites fear as a “strong variable” to consider when examining responses to the political situation in the country, as a result of the high degree of police repression and brutality, which has been especially evident during protests of left-wing groups and protesters who are not affiliated with any major organization or party.

Such a situation could also be said to foster “protest fatigue,” which is often seen as a factor in the lack of wide-scale protest in Greece and other crisis-stricken countries of the European South in recent years. Following large-scale protests seen in the 2010-2012 period, which peaked with the movement of the “Indignants” in Spain and Greece in the spring and summer of 2011 and which were eventually met by a violent and heavy-handed police response, protests have largely disappeared or been confined to ephemeral and single-issue efforts without longevity.

In Greece, a common response to questions as to why Greeks no longer take to the streets is that protesters will simply get tear gassed again and sent back home. The “shock doctrine” described by Naomi Klein may also serve as another psychological factor: When protests turn out to be fruitless and unpopular policies are rammed through despite opposition, feelings of discouragement and despair become more prevalent and serve as obstacles to further action.

To some extent, Brazilian society may be experiencing some of these symptoms.

Familiar Tactics

Brazil’s acting President Michel Temer arrives to speak, at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Brazil’s acting President Michel Temer arrives to speak, at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Escobar refers to the “toolbox” of tactics employed in Brazil leading up to Rousseff’s ouster. This set of strategies included the creation of manufactured consent amongst the populace, for the impeachment and the new regime.

This bears a great similarity to the cases of countries such as Greece, where public opinion polls conducted by polling firms which are not independent of the state and which are commissioned by pro-austerity media outlets have repeatedly shown vast majorities purportedly in favor of EU and eurozone membership at all costs, while the very few independent surveys conducted in Greece, such as those by Gallup International, have actually found such majorities to be slim or nonexistent.

Manufactured consent is used to legitimize the austerity policies which then follow, and to characterize any dissent as belonging to a small, marginal minority.

Indeed, similarities between the case of Brazil and the case of countries of the European South such as Greece abound. Just as the Temer government has not been elected and overthrew a government which apparently did not go “far enough” in its austerity regime, the EU imposed a non-elected technocrat prime minister, Lucas Papademos, a former banker, on Greece in late 2011 to ensure that a new package of austerity measures and “reforms” would be railroaded through parliament.

At around the same time, a non-elected prime minister, Mario Monti, was also installed in Italy, with the blessings of the EU — technocrats from which described this unelected government as “the best thing that ever happened to Italy” during a visit of mine to the EU in 2013 as part of a week-long academic program. Italy is now being governed by no less than its third consecutive non-elected prime minister.

The Greek referendum overwhelmingly rejecting EU-proposed austerity was shot down in short order, replaced by an austerity package even harsher than that which had originally been proposed, and even more onerous than the two prior memorandum agreements signed by Syriza’s predecessors, the New Democracy and PASOK (“socialist”) political parties.

The manufactured consent and “shock doctrine” which imposed the “bitter medicine” of austerity on Greece could be viewed as a pre-emptive strike against any thoughts of “Grexit,” a Greek exodus from the Eurozone or even the EU, much like the “hybrid war” against countries like Brazil and Russia described earlier by Escobar.

A man holds a sign that reads in Portuguese “Respect, I’m a teacher, the vandal is the state” at a burning barricade set up by protesters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP/Silvia Izquierdo)

A man holds a sign that reads in Portuguese “Respect, I’m a teacher, the vandal is the state” at a burning barricade set up by protesters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP/Silvia Izquierdo)

Kat Moreno identifies certain parallels between the Global South, of which Brazil is part, and the European South, which has in recent years experienced much of the same IMF-supported austerity which Latin America is all too familiar with. She highlights the “clear relationship” between being a part of the Global South and being dependent on and the hostage of the international financial system.

And in looking to the future, it is difficult to say who can lead these countries, whether it is Brazil or Greece or Spain or Italy, out of their current death spiral unscathed. Guilherme Giuliano points out that what has been happening in Brazil, as in Greece, Argentina (where the Kirchner government was replaced by one much friendlier to Washington and to global capital), or even the United States, are symptoms of a global crisis — a crisis which, according to Giuliano, “nobody has a progressive way out.”

Indeed, many progressives and much of the global left seem to be focused more strongly on identity politics and a notion of a world without nations or states. In doing so, they have supported such undemocratic, austerity-driven institutions as the EU, while demonizing phenomena such as the “Brexit” as the exclusive realm of racists and xenophobes, widening their chasm with vast sections of the poor and working classes in the process.

Meanwhile, a blind eye has been turned to the actions of former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in conjunction with Wall Street, supported right-wing coups and electoral takeovers all across Latin America, from Brazil to Venezuela to the Honduras. In this vein, James Petras chastises “left politicians who speak to the workers and work for the bankers.”

As for Brazil, Moreno describes the country as finding itself at a crossroads.

“People are seeking autonomy over their destinies, but where it is going we are not sure,” she said. “It can lead to neo-fascism, or it could go towards leftist  positions.”

 

Feb 112017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

clinton_bush_obama_trump

‘De Omnibus Dubitandum’

Everything is to be Doubted

Introduction

President Trump is deeply embedded in the politics of the deep state structure of American imperialism. Contrary to occasional references to non-intervention in overseas wars, Trump has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors.

While neoconservatives and liberals have raised a hue and cry about Trump’s ties to Russia, his ‘heresies’ over NATO and his overtures to peace in the Middle East, in practice, he has discarded his market humanitarian’ imperialism and engaged in the same bellicose policies of his Democratic Party presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.

Because he lacks the slick ‘demagogy’ of former-President Obama, and does not slather his actions with cheap appeals to ‘identity’ politics, Trump’s crude, abrasive pronouncements drive young demonstrators into the streets in mass actions. These demonstrations are not-so-discretely supported by Trump’s major opponents among the Wall Street bankers, speculators and mass media moguls. In other words, President Trump is an icon-embracer and follower, not a ‘revolutionary’ or even ‘change agent’.

We will proceed by discussing the historical trajectory, which gave birth to the Trump regime. We will identify ongoing policies and commitments determining the present and future direction of his administration.

We will conclude by identifying how current reaction can produce future transformations. We will challenge the current ‘catastrophic’ and apocalyptic delirium and offer reasons for an optimistic perspective for the future. In brief: This essay will point out how current negatives can become realistic positives.

Historical Sequences

Over the past two decades US presidents have squandered the financial and military resources of the country in multiple unending, losing wars, as well as in trillion dollar trade debts and fiscal imbalances. US leaders have run amok provoking major global financial crises, bankrupting the largest banks, destroying small mortgage holders, devastating manufacturers and creating massive unemployment followed by low-paid unstable jobs leading to collapse in living standards for the working and lower middle classes.

Imperial wars, trillion dollar bail-outs for the billionaires and unopposed flight of multinational corporations abroad, have vastly deepened class inequalities and given rise to trade agreements favoring China, Germany and Mexico. Within the US, the major beneficiaries of these crises have been the bankers, high-tech billionaires, commercial importers and agro-business exporters.

Faced with systemic crises, the ruling regimes have responded by deepening and expanding US Presidential powers in the form of presidential decrees. To cover-up the decades-long series of debacles, patriotic ‘whistle-blowers’ have been jailed and police-state style surveillance has infiltrated every sector of the citizenry.

Presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama defined the trajectory of imperial wars and Wall Street plunder. State police, military and financial institutions are firmly embedded in the matrix of power. Financial centers, like Goldman Sachs, have repeatedly set the agenda and controlled the US Department of Treasury and the agencies regulating trade and banking. The ‘permanent institutions’ of the state have remained, while Presidents, regardless of party, have been shuffled in and out of the ‘Oval Office’.

The ‘First Black’ President Barack Obama pledged peace and pursued seven wars. His successor, Donald Trump was elected on promises of ‘non-intervention’ and promptly picked up Obama’s ‘bombing baton’: tiny Yemen was attacked by US forces, Russia’s allies in the Donbas Region of Ukraine were savaged by Washington’s allies in Kiev and Trump’s ‘more realist’ representative, Nikki Haley, put on a bellicose performance at the UN in the style of ‘Madame Humanitarian Intervention’ Samantha Power, braying invectives at Russia.

Where is the change? Trump followed Obama by increasing sanctions against Russia, while threatening North Korea with nuclear annihilation in the wake of Obama’s major military build-up in the Korean peninsula. Obama launched a surrogate war against Syria and Trump escalated the air war over Raqqa. Obama encircled China with military bases, warships and warplanes and Trump goose-stepped right in with warmongering rhetoric. Obama expelled a record two million Mexican workers over eight years; Trump followed by promising to deport even more.

In other words, President Trump has dutifully picked up the march along his predecessors’ trajectory, bombing the same targeted countries while plagiarizing their maniacal speeches at the United Nations.

Obama increased the annual tribute (aid) to Tel Aviv to a whooping $3.8 billions while bleating a few pro-forma criticisms of expanding Israeli land-grabs in Palestine; Trump proposed to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem while blubbering a few of his own mini-criticisms of illegal Jewish settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

What is overwhelmingly striking is the similarity of Obama and Trump,’s policies and strategies in foreign policy, their means and allies. What is different is their style and rhetoric. Both ‘Change Agent’ Presidents immediately break the same phony pre-election promises and function well within the boundaries of the permanent state institutions.

Whatever differences they have are a result of contrasting historic contexts. Obama took over the collapse of the financial system and sought to regulate banks in order to stabilize operations. Trump took over after Obama’s trillion-dollar ‘stabilization’ and sought to eliminate regulations – in the footsteps of President Clinton! So ‘much ado’ about Trump’s ‘historic deregulation’!

The ‘winter of discontent’ in the form of mass protests against Trump’s ban against immigrants and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries follows directly from Obama’s ‘seven deadly wars’. The immigrants and refugees are direct products of Obama’s invasions and attacks on these countries leading to murder, injury, forced displacement and misery for million of ‘predominantly’ (but not exclusively) Muslims. Obama’s wars have created tens of thousands of ‘rebels’, insurgents and terrorists. The refugees, fleeing for their lives, have been largely excluded from the US under Obama and most have sought safe havens in the squalid camps and chaos of the EU.

As terrible and illegal as Trump’s border closure to Muslims and as promising as the mass public protests seem, they are all the result of the near decade long policy of murder and mayhem under President Obama.

Following the policy trajectory – Obama shed the blood and Trump, in his vulgar racist style is left to ‘clean up the mess’. While Obama has been made into a ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ peace maker, grumpy Trump is soundly attacked for picking up the bloody mop!

Trump has chosen to tread the path of obloquy and faces the wrath of purgatory. Meanwhile, Obama is off playing golf, wind surfing and flashing his ‘devil may care’ smile to his adoring scribblers in the mass media.

As Trump stomps down the path laid out by Obama, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators fill the streets to protest the ‘fascist’, with scores of major mass media networks, dozens of plutocrats and ‘intellectuals’ of all genders, races and creeds writhing in moral outrage! One is left confused at the deafening silence of these same activists and forces when Obama’s aggressive wars and attacks led to the deaths and displacement of millions of civilians, mostly Muslim, and mostly women – as their homes, weddings, markets, schools and funerals were bombed.

So much for American muddle-headedness! One should try to understand the possibilities that arise from a massive sector finally breaking their silence as Obama’s glib warmongering has been transformed into Trump’s crude march to doomsday.

Optimistic Perspectives

There are many who despair but there are more who have become aware. We will identify the optimistic perspectives and realistic hopes rooted in current reality and trends. Realism means discussing contradictory, polarizing developments and therefore we accept no ‘inevitable’ outcomes. This means that outcomes are ‘contested terrain’ where subjective factors play a leading role. The interface of conflicting forces can result in an upward or downward spiral – toward more equality, sovereignty and liberation or greaterconcentration of wealth, power and privilege.

The most retrograde concentration of power and wealth is found in the oligarchic German-dominated European Union – a configuration which is under siege by popular forces. The United Kingdom voters chose to exit from the EU (Brexit). As a result, Britain faces a break-up with Scotland and Wales and an even greater separation from Ireland. Brexit will lead to a new polarization as London-based bankers depart to the EU and free market leaders confront workers, protectionists and the growing mass of the poor. Brexit fortifies nationalist-populists and leftist forces in France, Poland, Hungary and Serbia and shatters the neo-liberal hegemony in Italy, Spain,Greece, Portugal and elsewhere. The challenge to the EU oligarchs is that popular insurgency will intensify social polarization and can bring to the fore progressive class movements or authoritarian nationalist parties and movements.

Trumps ascent to power and his executive decrees have led to highly polarize electorates, increased politicization and direct action. The awakening of America deepens internal fissures between small ‘d’ democrats, progressive women, trade unionists, students and others against the big ‘D’ Democratic Party opportunists, speculators, life-long Democratic warmongers, bourgeois black ‘D’ Party hacks (the mis-leaders) and a small army of corporate-funded NGO’s.

Trumps embrace of the Obama-Clinton military and Wall Street agenda will lead to a financial bubble, bloated military spending and more costly wars. These will divide the regime from its trade union and working class supporters now that Trump’s cabinet is composed entirely of billionaires, ideologues, rabid zionists and militarists (as opposed to his promise to appoint ‘hard-nosed’ deal-making businessmen and realists). This could create a rich opportunity for movements to arise which reject the truly ugly face of Trump’s reactionary regime.

Trump’s animosity to NAFTA, and advocacy of protectionism and financial and resource exploitation will undermine the corrupt, murderous, narco-neoliberal regimes which have ruled Mexico for the past 30 years since the days of Salinas. Trump’s anti-immigration policy will lead to Mexicans choosing to ‘fight over flight’ in confronting the social chaos created by the narco-gangs and gangster police. It will force the development of Mexico’s domestic markets and industry. Mass domestic consumption and ownership will embrace national-popular movements. The drug cartel and their political sponsors will lose the US markets and face domestic opposition.

Trump’s protectionism will limit the illegal flow of capital from Mexico, which amounted to $48.3 billion in 2016 or 55% of Mexico’s debt.  Mexico’s transition from dependency and neo-colonialism will deeply polarize the state and society; the outcome will be determined by class forces.

Trump’s economic and military threats against Iran will strengthen nationalist, populist and collectivist forces over the neo-liberal ‘reformist’ and pro-Western politicians. Iran’s anti-imperialist alliance with Yemen, Syria and Lebanon will solidify against the US-led quartet of Saudi Arabia,Israel, Britain and the US.

Trump’s support for Israel’s massive seizure of Palestinian land and its ‘Jews-only’ ban against Muslims and Christians will lead to the ‘shaking off’ of the multi-millionaire Palestinian Authority quislings and the rise of many more uprisings and intifadas.

The defeat of ISIS will strengthen independent governmental forces in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, weaken US imperial leverage and open the door to popular democratic secular struggles.

China’s President Xi Jinping’s large-scale, long-term anti-corruption campaign has led to the arrest and removal of over a quarter-million officials and businesspeople, including billionaires and top Party leaders. The arrests, prosecution and jailing has reduced the abuse of privilege, but more important, it has improves the prospects for a movement to challenge vast social inequalities. What began from ‘above’ can provoke movements from ‘below’. The resurrection of a movement toward socialist values can have a major impact on US vassal states in Asia.

Russia’s support for democratic rights in Eastern Ukraine and the re-incorporation of Crimea via referendum can limit US puppet regimes on Russia’s southern flank and reduce US intervention. Russia can develop peaceful ties with independent European states with the break-up of the EU and the Trump electoral victory over the Obama-Clinton regime’s threat of nuclear war.

The world-wide movement against imperialist globalism isolates the US-backed right-wing power grab in South America. Brazil, Argentina and Chile’s pursuit of neo-liberal trade pacts are on the defensive. Their economies, especially in Argentina and Brazil, have seen a three-fold increase in unemployment, four-fold rise in foreign debt, stagnant to negative growth and now face mass-supported general strikes. Neo-liberal ‘toadyism’ is provoking class struggle. This can overturn the post-Obama order in Latin America.

Conclusion

Across the world and within the most important countries, the ultra-neoliberal order of the past quarter century is disintegrating. There is a massive upsurge of movements from above and below, from democratic leftists to nationalists, from independent populists to the right-wing reactionary ‘old guard’: A new polarized, fragmented political universe has emerged. The beginning of the end of the current imperial-globalist order is creating opportunities for a new dynamic democratic collectivist order. The oligarchs and ‘security’ elites will not easily give way to popular demands or step down. Knives will be sharpened, executive decrees will issue forth, and electoral coups will be staged to attempt to seize power. The emerging popular democratic movements need to overcome identity fragmentation and establish unified, egalitarian leaders who can act decisively and independently away from the existing political leaders who make dramatic, but phony, progressive gestures while seeking a return to the stench and squalor of the recent past.

Feb 082017
 

By Michael Nevradakis99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends,

This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature a timely interview with Brown University professor of political economy, author and analyst Mark Blyth. Blyth will speak to us about global economic developments, including the policies likely to be pursued by new U.S. president Donald Trump, Brexit and its likely impact on the British economy, the real reasons why voters chose Trump and Brexit, the state of the economy in Greece, the results of austerity in the EU, and much more.
 
Tune in for this interview this week, on Dialogos Radio!
 
For more details and our full broadcast schedule, which begins today, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6679.
 
Best,
Dialogos Radio & Media
Feb 052017
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

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“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Alice in Wonderland

Since Yalta, we have a long list of times we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia. We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard. – General James Mattis, the new Secretary of Defense 1 

If anyone knows where to find this long list please send me a copy.

This delusion is repeated periodically by American military officials. A year ago, following the release of Russia’s new national security document, naming as threats both the United States and the expansion of the NATO alliance, a Pentagon spokesman declared: “They have no reason to consider us a threat. We are not looking for conflict with Russia.” 2

Meanwhile, in early January, the United States embarked upon its biggest military buildup in Europe since the end of the Cold War – 3,500 American soldiers landed, unloading three shiploads, with 2,500 tanks, trucks and other combat vehicles. The troops were to be deployed in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary and across the Baltics. Lt. Gen. Frederick Hodges, commander of US forces in Europe, said, “Three years after the last American tanks left the continent, we need to get them back.”

The measures, General Hodges declared, were a “response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea. This does not mean that there necessarily has to be a war, none of this is inevitable, but Moscow is preparing for the possibility.” (See previous paragraph.)

This January 2017 buildup, we are told, is in response to a Russian action in Crimea of January 2014. The alert reader will have noticed that critics of Russia in recent years, virtually without exception, condemn Moscow’s Crimean action and typically nothing else. Could that be because they have nothing else to condemn about Russia’s foreign policy? At the same time they invariably fail to point out what preceded the Russian action – the overthrow, with Washington’s indispensable help, of the democratically-elected, Moscow-friendly Ukrainian government, replacing it with an anti-Russian, neo-fascist (literally) regime, complete with Nazi salutes and swastika-like symbols.

Ukraine and Georgia, both of which border Russia, are all that’s left to complete the US/NATO encirclement. And when the US overthrew the government of Ukraine, why shouldn’t Russia have been alarmed as the circle was about to close yet tighter? Even so, the Russian military appeared in Ukraine only in Crimea, where the Russians already had a military base with the approval of the Ukrainian government. No one could have blocked Moscow from taking over all of Ukraine if they wanted to.

Yet, the United States is right. Russia is a threat. A threat to American world dominance. And Americans can’t shake their upbringing. Here’s veteran National Public Radio newscaster Cokie Roberts 3 bemoaning Trump’s stated desire to develop friendly relations with Russia: “This country has had a consistent policy for 70 years towards the Soviet Union and Russia, and Trump is trying to undo that.” Heavens! Nuclear war would be better than that!

Fake news, fake issue

The entire emphasis has been on whether a particular news item is factually correct or incorrect. However, that is not the main problem with mainstream media. A news item can be factually correct and still be very biased and misleading because of what’s been left out, such as the relevant information about the Russian “invasion” of Crimea mentioned above. But when it comes to real fake news it’s difficult to top the CIA’s record in Latin America as revealed by Philip Agee, the leading whistleblower of all time.

Agee spent 12 years (1957-69) as a CIA case officer, most of it in Latin America. His first book, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, published in 1974 revealed how it was a common Agency tactic to write editorials and phoney news stories to be knowingly published by Latin American media with no indication of the CIA authorship or CIA payment to the particular media. The propaganda value of such a “news” item might be multiplied by being picked up by other CIA stations in Latin America who would disseminate it through a CIA-owned news agency or a CIA-owned radio station. Some of these stories made their way back to the United States to be read or heard by unknowing North Americans.

The Great Wall of Mr. T

So much cheaper. So much easier. So much more humane. So much more popular. … Just stop overthrowing or destabilizing governments south of the border.

And the United States certainly has a moral obligation to do this. So many of the immigrants are escaping a situation in their homeland made hopeless by American intervention and policy. The particularly severe increase in Honduran migration to the US in recent years is a direct result of the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Manuel Zelaya, after he did things like raising the minimum wage, giving subsidies to small farmers, and instituting free education. The coup – like so many others in Latin America – was led by a graduate of Washington’s infamous School of the Americas.

As per the standard Western Hemisphere script, the Honduran coup was followed by the abusive policies of the new regime, loyally supported by the United States. The State Department was virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere in not unequivocally condemning the Honduran coup. Indeed, the Obama administration refused to even call it a coup, which, under American law, would tie Washington’s hands as to the amount of support it could give the coup government. This denial of reality continued to exist even though a US embassy cable released by Wikileaks in 2010 declared: “There is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 [2009] in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”. Washington’s support of the far-right Honduran government has continued ever since.

In addition to Honduras, Washington overthrew progressive governments which were sincerely committed to fighting poverty in Guatemala and Nicaragua; while in El Salvador the US played a major role in suppressing a movement striving to install such a government. And in Mexico, over the years the US has been providing training, arms, and surveillance technology to Mexico’s police and armed forces to better their ability to suppress their own people’s aspirations, as in Chiapas in 1994, and this has added to the influx of the oppressed to the United States, irony notwithstanding.

Moreover, Washington’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has brought a flood of cheap, subsidized US agricultural products into Mexico, ravaging campesino communities and driving many Mexican farmers off the land when they couldn’t compete with the giant from the north. The subsequent Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) brought the same joys to the people of that area.

These “free trade” agreements – as they do all over the world – also resulted in government enterprises being privatized, the regulation of corporations being reduced, and cuts to the social budget. Add to this the displacement of communities by foreign mining projects and the drastic US-led militarization of the War on Drugs with accompanying violence and you have the perfect storm of suffering followed by the attempt to escape from suffering.

It’s not that all these people prefer to live in the United States. They’d much rather remain with their families and friends, be able to speak their native language at all times, and avoid the hardships imposed on them by American police and other right-wingers.

Mr. T., if one can read him correctly – not always an easy task – insists that he’s opposed to the hallmark of American foreign policy: regime change. If he would keep his Yankee hands off political and social change in Mexico and Central America and donate as compensation a good part of the billions to be spent on his Great Wall to those societies, there could be a remarkable reduction in the never-ending line of desperate people clawing their way northward.

Murders: Putin and Clintons

Amongst the many repeated denunciations of Russian president Vladimir Putin is that he can’t be trusted because he spent many years in the Soviet secret intelligence service, the KGB.

Well, consider that before he became the US president George HW Bush was the head of the CIA.

Putin, we are also told, has his enemies murdered.

But consider the case of Seth Rich, the 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot dead on a Washington, DC street last July.

On August 9, in an interview on the Dutch television program Nieuwsuur, Julian Assange seemed to suggest rather clearly that Seth Rich was the source for the Wikileaks-exposed DNC emails and was murdered for it.

Julian Assange: “Our whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often face very significant risks. A 27-year-old that works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons, as he was walking down the street in Washington, D.C.”

Reporter: “That was just a robbery, I believe. Wasn’t it?”

Julian Assange: “No. There’s no finding. So … I’m suggesting that our sources take risks.” (See also Washington Post, January 19, 2017)

But … but … that was Russian hacking, wasn’t it? Not a leak, right?

If you’ve been paying attention over the years, you know that many other murders have been attributed to the Clintons, beginning in Arkansas. But Bill and Hillary I’m sure are not guilty of all of them. (Google “murders connected clintons.”)

America’s frightening shortage of weapons

President Trump signed an executive order Friday to launch what he called “a ‘great rebuilding of the Armed Forces’ that is expected to include new ships, planes, weapons and the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.” 4

This is something regularly advocated by American military and civilian leaders.

I ask them all the same question: Can you name a foreign war that the United States has ever lost due to an insufficient number of ships, planes, tanks, bombs, guns, or ammunition, or nuclear arsenal? Or because what they had was outdated, against an enemy with more modern weapons?

That tired old subject

Senator Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General, declared two years ago: “Ultimately, freedom of speech is about ascertaining the truth. And if you don’t believe there’s a truth, you don’t believe in truth, if you’re an utter secularist, then how do we operate this government? How can we form a democracy of the kind I think you and I believe in … I do believe that we are a nation that, without God, there is no truth, and it’s all about power, ideology, advancement, agenda, not doing the public service.” 5

So … if one is an atheist or agnostic one is not inclined toward public service. This of course is easily disproved by all the atheists and agnostics who work for different levels of government and numerous non-profit organizations involved in all manner of social, poverty, peace and environmental projects.

Who is the more virtuous – the believer who goes to church and does good deeds because he hopes to be rewarded by God or at least not be punished by God, or the non-believer who lives a very moral life because it disturbs him to act cruelly and it is in keeping with the kind of world he wants to help create and live in? Remember, the God-awful (no pun intended) war in Iraq was started by a man who goes through all the motions of a very religious person.

Christopher Hitchens, in 2007, in response to conservative columnist Michael Gerson’s article, “What Atheists Can’t Answer”, wrote: “How insulting is the latent suggestion of his position: the appalling insinuation that I would not know right from wrong if I was not supernaturally guided by a celestial dictatorship … simply assumes, whether or not religion is metaphysically ‘true’, that at least it stands for morality. … Here is my challenge. Let Gerson name one ethical statement made or one ethical action performed by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever.”

Gerson, it should be noted, was the chief speechwriter for the aforementioned very religious person, George W. Bush, for five years, including when Bush invaded Iraq.

Phil Ochs

I was turning the pages of the Washington Post’s Sunday (January 29) feature section, Outlook, not finding much of particular interest, when to my great surprise I was suddenly hit with a long story about Phil Ochs. Who’s Phil Ochs? many of you may ask, for the folksinger died in 1976 at the age of 35.

The Post’s motivation in devoting so much space to a symbol of the American anti-war left appears to be one more example of the paper’s serious displeasure with Donald Trump. The article is entitled “Phil Ochs is the obscure ’60s folk singer we need today”.

My favorite song of his, among many others, is “I ain’t marching anymore”:

Oh I marched to the battle of New Orleans
At the end of the early British war
The young land started growing
The young blood started flowing
But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

For I’ve killed my share of Indians
In a thousand different fights
I was there at the Little Big Horn
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying
But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

(chorus)
It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all?

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

(chorus)
For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning I knew that I was learning That I ain’t marchin’ anymore

Now the labor leader’s screamin’
when they close the missile plants,
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore,
Call it “Peace” or call it “Treason,”
Call it “Love” or call it “Reason,”
But I ain’t marchin’ any more,
No, I ain’t marchin’ any more

Ironically, very ironically, Donald Trump may well be less of a war monger than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

 

Notes

  1. Washington Post, January 13, 2017
  2. Agence French Presse, January 4, 2016
  3. NPR, January 9, 2017
  4. Washington Post, January 28, 2017
  5. The Daily Beast, January 12, 2017, reporting on remark made November 14, 2014

 

 

Feb 032017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

During his inaugural speech, President Trump clearly and forcefully outlined the strategic political-economic policies he will pursue over the next four years. Anti-Trump journalist, editorialists, academics and experts, who appear in the Financial TimesNew York TimesWashington Post and the Wall Street Journal have repeatedly distorted and lied about the President’s program as well as his critique of existing and past policies.

We will begin by seriously discussing President Trump’s critique of the contemporary political economy and proceed to elaborate on his alternatives and its weaknesses.

President Trump’s Critique of the Ruling Class

The centerpiece of Trump’s critique of the current ruling elite is the negative impact of its form of globalization on US production, trade and fiscal imbalances and on the labor market. Trump cites the fact that US industrial capitalism has drastically shifted the locus of its investments, innovations and profits overseas as an example of globalization’s negative effects. For two decades many politicians and pundits have bemoaned the loss of well-paid jobs and stable local industries as part of their campaign rhetoric or in public meetings, but none have taken any effective action against these most harmful aspects of globalization. Trump denounced them as “all talk and no action” while promising to end the empty speeches and implement major changes.

President Trump targeted importers who bring in cheap products from overseas manufacturers for the American market undermining US producers and workers. His economic strategy of prioritizing US industries is an implicit critique of the shift from productive capital to financial and speculative capital under the previous four administrations. His inaugural address attacking the elites who abandon the ‘rust belt’ for Wall Street is matched by his promise to the working class: “Hear these words! You will never be ignored again.” Trump’s own words portray the ruling class ‘as pigs at the trough’ (Financial Times, 1/23/2017, p. 11)

Trump’s Political-Economic Critique

President Trump emphasizes market negotiations with overseas partners and adversaries. He has repeatedly criticized the mass media and politicians’ mindless promotion of free markets and aggressive militarism as undermining the nation’s capacity to negotiate profitable deals.

President Trump’s immigration policy is closely related to his strategic ‘America First’ labor policy. Massive inflows of immigrant labor have been used to undermine US workers’ wages, labor rights and stable employment. This was first documented in the meat packing industry, followed by textile, poultry and construction industries. Trump’s proposal is to limit immigration to allow US workers to shift the balance of power between capital and labor and strengthen the power of organized labor to negotiate wages, conditions and benefits. Trump’s critique of mass immigration is based on the fact that skilled American workers have been available for employment in the same sectors if wages were raised and work conditions were improved to permit dignified, stable living standards for their families.

President Trump’s Political Critique

Trump points to trade agreements, which have led to huge deficits, and concludes that US negotiators have been failures. He argues that previous US presidents have signed multi-lateral agreements, to secure military alliances and bases, at the expense of negotiating job-creating economic pacts. His presidency promises to change the equation: He wants to tear up or renegotiate unfavorable economic treaties while reducing US overseas military commitments and demands NATO allies shoulder more of their own defense budgets. Immediately upon taking office Trump canceled the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and convoked a meeting with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate NAFTA.

Trump’s agenda has featured plans for hundred-billion dollar infrastructure projects, including building controversial oil and gas pipelines from Canada to the US Gulf. It is clear that these pipelines violate existing treaties with indigenous people and threaten ecological mayhem. However, by prioritizing the use of American-made construction material and insisting on hiring only US workers, his controversial policies will form the basis for developing well-paid American jobs.

The emphasis on investment and jobs in the US is a complete break with the previous Administration, where President Obama focused on waging multiple wars in the Middle East, increasing public debt and the trade deficit.

Trump’s inaugural address issued a stern promise: “The American carnage stops right now and stops right here!” This resonated with a huge sector of the working class and was spoken before an assemblage of the very architects of four decades of job-destroying globalization. ‘Carnage’ carried a double meaning: Widespread carnage resulted from Obama and other administrations’ destruction of domestic jobs resulting in decay and bankruptcy of rural, small town and urban communities. This domestic carnage was the other side of the coin of their policies of conducting endless overseas wars spreading carnage to three continents. The last fifteen years of political leadership spread domestic carnage by allowing the epidemic of drug addiction (mostly related to uncontrolled synthetic opiate prescriptions) to kill hundreds of thousands of mostly young American’s and destroy the lives of millions. Trump promised to finally address this ‘carnage’ of wasted lives. Unfortunately, he did not hold ‘Big Pharma’ and the medical community responsible for its role in spreading drug addiction into the deepest corners of the economically devastated rural America. Trump criticized previous elected officials for authorizing huge military subsidies to ‘allies’ while making it clear that his critique did not include US military procurement policies and would not contradict his promise to ‘reinforce old alliances’ (NATO).

Truth and Lies: Garbage Journalists and Arm Chair Militarists

Among the most outrageous example of the mass media’s hysteria about Trump’s New Economy is the systematic and vitriolic series of fabrications designed to obscure the grim national reality that Trump has promised to address. We will discuss and compare the accounts published by ‘garbage journalists (GJ’s)’ and present a more accurate version of the situation.

The respectable garbage journalists of the Financial Times claim that Trump wants to ‘destroy world trade’. In fact, Trumps has repeatedly stated his intention to increase international trade. What Trump proposes is to increase US world trade from the inside, rather than from overseas. He seeks to re-negotiate the terms of multilateral and bilateral trade agreements to secure greater reciprocity with trading partners. Under Obama, the US was more aggressive in imposing trade tariffs that any other country in the OECD.

Garbage journalists label Trump as a ‘protectionist’, confusing his policies to re-industrialize the economy with autarky. Trump will promote exports and imports, retain an open economy, while increasing the role of the US as a producer and exporter. The US will become more selective in its imports. Trump will favor the growth of manufacturing exporters and increase imports of primary commodities and advanced technology while reducing the import of automobiles, steel and household consumer products.

Trump’s opposition to ‘globalization’ has been conflated by the garbage journalists of the Washington Post as a dire threat to the ‘the post-Second World War economic order’. In fact, vast changes have already rendered the old order obsolete and attempts to retain it have led to crises, wars and more decay. Trump has recognized the obsolete nature of the old economic order and stated that change is necessary.

The Obsolete Old Order and the Dubious New Economy

At the end of the Second World War, most of Western Europe and Japan resorted to highly restrictive ‘protectionist’ industrial and monetary policies to rebuild their economies. Only after a period of prolonged recovery did Germany and Japan carefully and selectively liberalize their economic policies.

In recent decades, Russia was drastically transformed from a powerful collectivist economy to a capitalist vassal-gangster oligarchy and more recently to a reconstituted mixed economy and strong central state. China has been transformed from a collectivist economy, isolated from world trade, into the world’s second most powerful economy, displacing the US as Asia and Latin America’s largest trading partner.

Once controlling 50% of world trade, the US share is now less than 20%. This decline is partly due to the dismantling of its industrial economy when its manufacturers moved their factories abroad.

Despite the transformation of the world order, recent US presidents have failed to recognize the need to re-organize the American political economy. Instead of recognizing, adapting and accepting shifts in power and market relations, they sought to intensify previous patterns of dominance through war, military intervention and bloody destructive ‘regime changes’ – thus devastating, rather than creating markets for US goods. Instead of recognizing China’s immense economic power and seek to re-negotiate trade and co-operative agreements, they have stupidly excluded China from regional and international trade pacts, to the extent of crudely bullying their junior Asian trade partners, and launching a policy of military encirclement and provocation in the South China Seas. While Trump recognized these changes and the need to renegotiate economic ties, his cabinet appointees seek to extend Obama’s militarist policies of confrontation.

Under the previous administrations, Washington ignored Russia’s resurrection, recovery and growth as a regional and world power. When reality finally took root, previous US administrations increased their meddling among the Soviet Union’s former allies and set up military bases and war exercises on Russia’s borders. Instead of deepening trade and investment with Russia, Washington spent billions on sanctions and military spending – especially fomenting the violent putchist regime in Ukraine. Obama’s policies promoting the violent seizure of power in Ukraine, Syria and Libya were motivated by his desire to overthrow governments friendly to Russia – devastating those countries and ultimately strengthening Russia’s will to consolidate and defend its borders and to form new strategic alliances.

Early in his campaign, Trump recognized the new world realities and proposed to change the substance, symbols, rhetoric and relations with adversaries and allies – adding up to a New Economy.

First and foremost, Trump looked at the disastrous wars in the Middle East and recognized the limits of US military power: The US could not engage in multiple, open-ended wars of conquest and occupation in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia without paying major domestic costs.

Secondly, Trump recognized that Russia was not a strategic military threat to the United States. Furthermore, the Russian government under Vladimir Putin was willing to cooperate with the US to defeat a mutual enemy – ISIS and its terrorist networks. Russia was also keen to re-open its markets to the US investors, who were also anxious to return after years of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry imposed sanctions. Trump, the realist, proposes to end sanctions and restore favorable market relations.

Thirdly, it is clear to Trump that the US wars in the Middle East imposed enormous costs with minimal benefits for the US economy. He wants to increase market relations with the regional economic and military powers, like Turkey, Israel and the Gulf monarchies. Trump is not interested in Palestine, Yemen, Syria or the Kurds – which do not offer much investment and trade opportunities. He ignores the enormous regional economic and military power of Iran, Nevertheless Trump has proposed to re-negotiate the recent six-nation agreement with Iran in order to improve the US side of the bargain. His hostile campaign rhetoric against Tehran may have been designed to placate Israel and its powerful domestic ‘Israel-Firsters’ fifth column. This certainly came into conflict with his ‘America First’ pronouncements. It remains to be seen whether Donald Trump will retain a ‘show’ of submission to the Zionist project of an expansionist Israel while proceeding to include Iran as a part of his regional market agenda.

The Garbage Journalists claim that Trump has adopted a new bellicose stance toward China and threatens to launch a ‘protectionist agenda’, which will ultimately push the trans-Pacific countries closer to Beijing. On the contrary, Trump appears intent on renegotiating and increasing trade via bilateral agreements.

Trump will most probably maintain, but not expand, Obama’s military encirclement of China’s maritime boundaries which threaten its vital shipping routes. Nevertheless, unlike Obama, Trump will re-negotiate economic and trade relations with Beijing – viewing China as a major economic power and not a developing nation intent on protecting its ‘infant industries’. Trump’s realism reflect the new economic order: China is a mature, highly competitive, world economic power, which has been out-competing the US, in part by retaining its own state subsidies and incentives from its earlier economic phase. This has led to significant imbalances. Trump, the realist, recognizes that China offers great opportunities for trade and investment if the US can secure reciprocal agreements, which lead to a more favorable balance of trade.

Trump does not want to launch a ‘trade war’ with China, but he needs to restore the US as a major ‘exporter’ nation in order to implement his domestic economic agenda. The negotiations with the Chinese will be very difficult because the US importer-elite are against the Trump agenda and side with the Beijing’s formidable export-oriented ruling class.

Moreover, because Wall Street’s banking elite is pleading with Beijing to enter China’s financial markets, the financial sector is an unwilling and unstable ally to Trump’s pro-industrial policies.

Conclusion

Trump is not a ‘protectionist’, nor is he opposed to ‘free-trade’. These charges by the garbage journalists are baseless. Trump does not oppose US economic imperialist policies abroad. However, Trump is a market realist who recognizes that military conquest is costly and, in the contemporary world context, a losing economic proposition for the US. He recognizes that the US must turn from a predominant finance and import economy to a manufacturing and export economy.

Trump views Russia as a potential economic partner and military ally in ending the wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine, and especially in defeating the terrorist threat of ISIS. He sees China as a powerful economic competitor, which has been taking advantage of outmoded trade privileges and wants to re-negotiate trade pacts in line with the current balance of economic power.

Trump is a capitalist-nationalist, a market-imperialist and political realist, who is willing to trample on women’s rights, climate change legislation, indigenous treaties and immigrant rights. His cabinet appointments and his Republican colleagues in Congress are motivated by a militarist ideology closer to the Obama-Clinton doctrine than to Trumps new ‘America First’ agenda. He has surrounded his Cabinet with military imperialists, territorial expansionists and delusional fanatics.

Who will win out in the short or long term remains to be seen. What is clear is that the liberals, Democratic Party hacks and advocates of Little Mussolini black shirted street thugs will be on the side of the imperialists and will find plenty of allies among and around the Trump regime.