greydog

Linda Ross aka greydog is a native Chicagoan who lives and works in Prague. greydog is the founder and editor of 99GetSmart.

Aug 242016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Luka Robotics - While the US has spent trillions in the Middle East for wars on behalf of Israel, China has invested similar amounts in Germany for advanced technology, robotics and digital innovations.

Luka Robotics – While the US has spent trillions in the Middle East for wars on behalf of Israel, China has invested similar amounts in Germany for advanced technology, robotics and digital innovations.

Introduction

China and the United States are moving in polar opposite directions: Beijing is rapidly becoming the center of overseas investments in high tech industries, including robotics, nuclear energy and advanced machinery with collaboration from centers of technological excellence, like Germany.

In contrast, Washington is pursuing a predatory military pivot to the least productive regions with collaboration from its most barbaric allies, like Saudi Arabia.

China is advancing to global economic superiority by borrowing and innovating the most advance methods of production, while the US degrades and debases its past immense productive achievements to promote wars of destruction.

China’s growing prominence is the result of a cumulative process that advanced in a systematic way, combining step-by-step growth of productivity and innovation with sudden jumps up the ladder of cutting edge technology.

China’s Stages of Growth and Success

China has moved from a country, highly dependent on foreign investment in consumer industries for exports, to an economy, based on joint public-private investments in higher value exports.

China’s early growth was based on cheap labor, low taxes and few regulations on multi-national capital. Foreign capital and local billionaires stimulated growth, based on high rates of profit. As the economy grew, China’s economy shifted toward increasing its indigenous technological expertise and demanding greater ‘local content’ for manufactured goods.

By the beginning of the new millennium China was developing high-end industries, based on local patents and engineering skills, channeling a high percentage of investments into civilian infrastructure, transportation and education.

Massive apprenticeship programs created a skilled labor force that raised productive capacity. Massive enrollment in science, math, computer science and engineering universities provided a large influx of high-end innovators, many of whom had gained expertise in the advanced technology of overseas competitors.

China’s strategy has been based on the practice of borrowing, learning, upgrading and competing with the most advanced economics of Europe and the US.

By the end of the last decade of the 20th century, China was in a position to move overseas. The accumulation process provided China with the financial resources to capture dynamic overseas enterprises.

China was no longer confined to investing in overseas minerals and agriculture in Third World countries. China is looking to conquer high-end technological sectors in advanced economics.

By the second decade of the 21st century Chinese investors moved into Germany, Europe’s most advanced industrial giant. During the first 6 months of 2016 Chinese investors acquired 37 German companies, compared with 39 in all of 2015. China’s total investments in Germany for 2016 may double to over $22 billion dollars.

In 2016, China successfully bought out KUKA, Germany’s most innovative engineering company. China’s strategy is to gain superiority in the digital future of industry.

China is rapidly moving to automate its industries, with plans to double the robot density of the US by the year 2020.

Chinese and Austrian scientists successfully launched the first quantum-enabled satellite communication system which is reportedly ‘hack proof’, ensuring China’s communications security.

While China’s global investments proceed to dominate world markets, the US, England and Australia have been trying to impose investment barriers. By relying on phony ‘security threats’, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May blocked a multi-billion dollar Chinese investment-heavy nuclear plant (Hinckley Point C). The pretext was the spurious claim that China would use its stake to “engage in energy blackmail, threatening to turn off the power in the event of international crises”.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment has blocked several multi-billion dollar Chinese investments in high tech industries.

In August 2016 Australia blocked an $8 billion-dollar purchase of a controlling stake in its biggest electricity distribution network on specious claims of ‘national security’.

The Anglo-American and German empires are on the defensive. They increasingly cannot compete economically with China, even in defending their own innovative industries.

In large part this is the result of their failed policies. Western economic elite have increasingly relied on short-term speculation in finance, real estate and insurance, while neglecting their industrial base.

Led by the US, their reliance on military conquests (militaristic empire-building) absorb public resources, while China has directed its domestic resources toward innovative and advanced technology.

To counter China’s economic advance, the Obama regime has implemented a policy of building economic walls at home, trade restrictions abroad and military confrontation in the South China Seas – China’s strategic trade routes.

US officials have ratcheted up their restrictions on Chinese investments in high tech US enterprises including a $3.8 billion investment in Western Digital and Philips attempt to sell its lighting business. The US blocked ‘Chen China’s planned $44 billion takeover of Swiss chemical group ‘Syngenta’.

US officials are doing everything possible to stop innovative billion dollar deals that include China as a strategic partner.

Accompanying its domestic wall, the US has been mobilizing an overseas blockade of China via its Trans-Pacific-Partnership, which proposes to exclude Beijing from participating in the ‘free trade zone’ with a dozen North America, Latin American and Asian members. Nevertheless, not a single member-nation of the TPP has cut back its trade with China. On the contrary, they are increasing ties with China – an eloquent comment on Obama’s skill at ‘pivoting’.

While the ‘domestic economic wall’ has had some negative impacts on particular Chinese investors, Washington has failed to dent China’s exports to US markets. Washington’s failure to block China’s trade has been even more damaging to Washington’s effort to encircle China in Asia and Latin America, Oceana and Asia.

Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Taiwan, Cambodia and South Korea depend on Chinese markets far more than on the US to survive and grow.

While Germany, faced with China’s dynamic growth, has chosen to ‘partner’ and share, up-scale productive investments, Washington has opted to form military alliances to confront China.

The US bellicose military alliance with Japan has not intimidated China. Rather it has downgraded their domestic economies and economic influence in Asia.

Moreover, Washington’s “military pivot” has deepened and expanded China’s strategic links to Russia’s energy sources and military technology.

While the US spends hundreds of billions in military alliances with the backward Baltic client-regimes and the parasitical Middle Eastern states, (Saudi Arabia, Israel), China accumulates strategic expertise from its economic ties with Germany, resources from Russia and market shares among Washington’s ‘partners’ in Asia and Latin America.

There is no question that China, following the technological and productive path of Germany, will win out over the US’s economic isolationist and global militarist strategy.

If the US has failed to learn from the successful economic strategy of China, the same failure can explain the demise of the progressive regimes in Latin America.

China’s Success and the Latin American Retreat

After more than a decade of growth and stability, Latin America’s progressive regimes have retreated and declined. Why has China continued on the path of stability and growth while their Latin American partners retreated and suffered defeats?

Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Ecuador, for over a decade, served as Latin America’s center-left success story. Their economies grew, social spending increased, poverty and unemployment were reduced and worker incomes expanded.

Subsequently their economies went into crisis, social discontent grew and the center-left regimes fell.

In contrast to China, the Latin American center-left regimes did not diversify their economies: they remained heavily dependent on the commodity boom for growth and stability.

The Latin American elites borrowed and depended on foreign investment, and financial capital, while China engaged in public investments in industry, infrastructure, technology and education.

Latin American progressives joined with foreign capitalist and local speculators in non-productive real estate speculation and consumption, while China invested in innovative industries at home and abroad. While China consolidated political rulership, the Latin American progressives “allied” with strategic domestic and overseas multi-national adversaries to ‘share power’, which were, in fact, eagerly prepared to oust their “left” allies.

When the Latin commodity based economy collapsed, so did the political links with their elite partners. In contrast, China’s industries benefited from the lower global commodity prices, while Latin America’s left suffered. Faced with widespread corruption, China launched a major campaign purging over 200,000 officials. In Latin America, the Left ignored corrupt officials, allowing the opposition to exploit the scandals to oust center-left officials.

While Latin America imported machinery and parts from the West; China bought the entire Western companies producing the machines and their technology – and then implemented Chinese technological improvements.

China successfully outgrew the crisis, defeated its adversaries and proceeded to expand local consumption and stabilized rulership.

Latin America’s center-left suffered political defeats in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, lost elections in Venezuela and Bolivia and retreated in Uruguay.

Conclusion

China’s political economic model has outperformed the imperialist West and leftist Latin America. While the US has spent billions in the Middle East for wars on behalf of Israel, China has invested similar amounts in Germany for advanced technology, robotics and digital innovations.

While President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “pivot to Asia” has been largely a wasteful military strategy to encircle and intimidate China, Beijing’s “pivot to markets” has successfully enhanced its economic competitiveness. As a result, over the past decade, China’s growth rate is three times that of the US; and in the next decade China will double the US in ‘robotizing’ its productive economy.

The US ‘pivot to Asia’, with its heavy dependence on military threats and intimidation has cost billions of dollars in lost markets and investments. China’s ‘pivot to advanced technology’ demonstrates that the future lies in Asia not the West. China’s experience offers lessons for future Latin American leftist governments.

First and foremost, China emphasizes the necessity of balanced economic growth, over and above short-term benefits resulting from commodity booms and consumerist strategies.

Secondly, China demonstrates the importance of professional and worker technical education for technological innovation, over and above business school and non-productive ‘speculative’ education so heavily emphasized in the US.

Thirdly, China balances its social spending with investment in core productive activity; competitiveness and social services are combined.

China’s enhanced growth and social stability, its commitment to learning and surpassing advanced economies has important limitations, especially in the areas of social equality and popular power. Here China can learn from the experience of Latin America’s Left. The social gains under Venezuela’s President Chavez are worthy of study and emulation; the popular movements in Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina, which ousted neo-liberals from power, could enhance efforts in China to overcome the business- state nexus of pillage and capital flight.

China, despite its socio-political and economic limitations, has successfully resisted US military pressures and even ‘turned the tables’ by advancing on the West.

In the final analysis, China’s model of growth and stability certainly offers an approach that is far superior to the recent debacle of the Latin American Left and the political chaos resulting from Washington’s quest for global military supremacy.

Aug 182016
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

syrian-rebels-2

For 50 years I’ve been painstakingly cataloguing the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of US foreign policy, building up in the process a very loyal audience.

To my great surprise, when I recently wrote about the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of the Islamic State, I received more criticism from my readers than I’ve gotten for anything I’ve ever written. Dozens of them asked to be removed from my mailing list, as many as I’d normally get in a full year. Others were convinced that it couldn’t actually be me who was the author of such words, that I must have been hacked. Some wondered whether my recent illness had affected my mind. Literally! And almost all of the Internet magazines which regularly print me did not do so with this article.

Now why should this be?

My crime was being politically incorrect. The Islamic State, you see, is composed of Muslims, and the United States and its Western allies have bombed many Muslim countries in the recent past killing thousands of Muslims and causing widespread horror. Therefore, whatever ISIS and its allies do is “revenge”, simple revenge, and should not be condemned by anyone calling himself a progressive; least of all should violence be carried out against these poor aggrieved jihadists.

Moreover, inasmuch as ISIS is the offspring of religion, this adds to my political incorrectness: I’m attacking religion, God forgive me.

Totally irrelevant to my critics is the fact that the religious teachings of ISIS embrace murderous jihad and the heavenly rewards for suicide bombings and martyrdom. This, they insist, is not the real Islam, a religion of peace and scholarly pursuits. Well, one can argue, Naziism was not the real Germany of Goethe and Schiller, of Bach and Brahms. Fortunately, that didn’t keep the world from destroying the Third Reich.

We should also consider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States carried out atrocities against Latin America, including numerous bombings, without the natives ever resorting to the repulsive uncivilized kind of retaliation as employed by ISIS. Latin American leftists took their revenge out on concrete representatives of the American empire: diplomatic, military and corporate targets, not markets, theatres, nightclubs, hospitals, restaurants or churches. The ISIS victims have included many Muslims, perhaps even some friends of the terrorists, for all they knew or cared.

It doesn’t matter to my critics that in my writing I have regularly given clear recognition to the crimes against humanity carried out by the West against the Islamic world. I am still not allowed to criticize the armed forces of Islam, for all of the above stated reasons plus the claim that the United States “created” ISIS.

Regarding this last argument: It’s certainly true that US foreign policy played an indispensable role in the rise of ISIS. Without Washington’s overthrow of secular governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and – now in process – Syria, there would today be no ISIS. It’s also true that many American weapons, intentionally and unintentionally, have wound up in the hands of terrorist groups. But the word “created” implies intention, that the United States wanted to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.

So, you wonder, how do we rid the world of the Islamic State? I’m afraid it may already be too late. The barn door is wide open and all the horses have escaped. It’s not easy for an old anti-imperialist like myself, but I support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS. The West has actually made good progress with seriously hampering ISIS oil sales and financial transactions. As a result, it appears that ISIS may well be running out of money, with defections of unpaid soldiers increasing.

The West should also forget about regime change in Syria and join forces with Russia against the terrorists.

And my readers, and many like them, have to learn to stop turning the other cheek when someone yelling “Allahu Akbar” drives a machete into their skull.

_______________________________

Open letter to William Blum by SnakeArbusto:

Hillary-Angry-300x169

Bill, I’m one of the people who were sure that you couldn’t be the one who wrote your post entitled “Warning! What follows is very politically incorrect.” I’ve read all your books and follow your Web posts and had the pleasure and privilege of hearing you speak and meeting you once. And this just didn’t sound like you. And I’ve just read your follow-up entitled “Political correctness demands diversity in everything but thought.” In these posts you accuse us, your readers, of being blinded by something called “political correctness” to the point where we refuse to admit the evil of “radical Islamic terrorism.”

In my own defense and that of my fellow readers and admirers of your work, I have to take exception to your accusation of “political correctness.” What’s called “political correctness,” to define it in a way I think we can agree on, is an attempt to use language to disguise a reality whose existence we’re unwilling to recognize. Or to be more exact, to avoid using the actual word or term that designates that reality, since the use of that word or term would be offensive to certain groups, and instead use other words or terms that are less offensive. Needless to say, what is truly offensive is the reality in question and not the terms used to describe it, even if the use of a certain word can be hurtful in itself.

But what is the reality we, your readers who are guilty of political correctness, are avoiding? According to you, that there is an organized “armed forces of Islam” that is attacking our Western societies and needs to be destroyed using “Western military and economic power.” You say we’re unwilling to admit that those forces exist, or if we do admit it we justify terror attacks like the one in Nice, or atrocities like the beheading of an ailing 11-year-old, as retaliation for the horrors that Western military and economic power has inflicted on the people of the world for so many decades.

Nobody denies that there’s such a thing as radical Islamism. But what your last two posts boil down to is that They are different from us. We’re bad, but we don’t do what they do. Sure, we firebombed Tokyo and dropped the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; since then we’ve continued devastating the world from a distance – dropping napalm and white phosphorus on people, scattering antipersonnel mines and depleted uranium and Agent Orange all over their countries, letting people slowly die from diseases we control the medications for because we’ve decided it’s politically expedient. And sure, recently we’ve allowed the fact that we actually torture people to peep through all the Shinola about how we’re Not Like That.

But I don’t need to catalogue the evils the Empire has visited and continues to visit on the world, because as you so rightly point out, you literally wrote the book about them. And for generations to come your work will be the foundation for anyone who wants to unlearn, the way you have, the deep-seated metaprogramming all Americans are fed from the cradle on: That we mean well; that we are the champion of freedom and democracy; that we are the big, strong, quiet guy who wants no trouble with anybody but who just can’t stand around and see somebody smaller and weaker than himself get picked on. Let alone get their head sawn off. Sure, you say, We do all that. But We don’t do what They do. Our Boys and Girls don’t saw people’s heads off.

But in fact – and I know you know this, because I learned it from you – it IS Our Boys who are doing it. The US shadow government and the military-financial complex that’s behind it didn’t create the jihadist phenomenon – though it did come into being as a result of Western influence in the Islamic world. But We used it as a Cold War weapon, as you recount in the chapter on Afghanistan in Killing Hope and as others have reported. In your second post you acknowledge the nurturing of radical Islamists, but say that the United States never intended “to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.” Of course We didn’t. We never seem to foresee the consequences of our support for killers and rapists. All we see is the expediency. Let me quote you:

[…] At the beginning there had been some thought given to the morality of the policy. “The question here,” a senior official in the Carter administration said, “was whether it was morally acceptable that, in order to keep the Soviets off balance, which was the reason for the operation, it was permissible to use other lives for our geopolitical interests.”

But such sentiments could not survive. Afghanistan was a cold-warrior’s dream: The CIA and the Pentagon, finally, had one of their proxy armies in direct confrontation with the forces of the Evil Empire. There was no price too high to pay for this Super Nintendo game, neither the hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives, nor the destruction of Afghan society, nor three billion (sic) dollars of American taxpayer money poured into a bottomless hole, much of it going only to make a few Afghans and Pakistanis rich. […]

But aside from the short-term goal of  “giving the Soviets a dose of Vietnam,” Our support for jihadism had a more long-term payoff: creating the specter of Islamic Terrorism to serve as the Enemy we need to justify the existence of the most colossal and expensive military-industrial entity the world has ever seen.

Ever since the first army was formed, the people that army was supposed to be protecting have been propagandized to believe that there was an Enemy just across the border who would come and take their land and rape their women if they didn’t protect themselves against him. He was genetically programmed to dominate, to control. He put the idea of the Homeland above human life itself. He was not even really human. Both sides in every conflict were indoctrinated to believe the exact same things about the other side. In Europe a hundred years ago, the British and French were taught to hate the Hun. And in the USA, the modern advertising industry was born when Edward Bernays was called in to sell Americans the idea of participating in a war “Over There” against that inhuman Hun. Later, after the Second World War, we were told that that Enemy was bent on nothing short of global domination, and that his dedication to his beliefs was absolute, and that he was capable of any act, no matter how heinous, in order to achieve that domination. This time the Enemy was Communism. And we were programmed from the very cradle to believe in the threat. I’m a little younger than you, but I remember the drills in grammar school during the Cold War when we were taught to duck under our little desks in preparation for an attack by the Soviet Communists.

Why? The country was basically on a war economy, and that war economy had saved us from a depression. The military was the backbone of the reconstruction of our industries. What’s more, they were heroes who had saved Europe from Fascism. We elected one of those heroes President. Americans were willing to extend the military an unlimited line of credit. But we needed to “manufacture consent.” We needed an Enemy. And for 30 years or so Communism was that Enemy, and the advertising took on a life of its own. By the ’50s, with help from J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI, who had realized the importance of the press and radio, and later television, the media, and the publishing and entertainment industries, and the schools and churches helped further the Great Lie. We were told over and over again that somehow these people were just not like us; they were capable of putting their ideology above all human feeling, above life itself. Once they had been won over by that inhuman ideology, they were unredeemable – they had become The Other. They were like creatures from outer space who had taken over the bodies of humans and were capable of continuing to act normally, but were devoid of all human feeling, ruthlessly bent on conquering Earth and the human race. In fact, many of the popular horror films of the ’50s used an invasion by extraterrestrials as a metaphor for the Communist threat. In one film, My Son John, the doyenne of American actresses, Helen Hayes, played a mother whose son is indoctrinated by Communists and who actually turns him, her own son, in – sends him to prison rather than see him lose his soul. All to help fight a Cold War that could have been avoided had the US been willing to share influence with the USSR. Both powers could have dismantled their military machines and turned their propaganda efforts toward solving the problems that affect the human race as a whole, rather than convincing their populations that the Enemy on the other side was out to destroy them.

But then came détente and the fall of the Berlin Wall. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, there was an uncomfortable void that needed to be filled. For a while, they tried to sell us the idea that our Enemy was “Instability.” But, according to a document called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” , what was needed was “…some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” And on September 11, 2001 we had that new Pearl Harbor. And we had our Enemy. That Enemy was just as ruthless, just as highly organized, just as dedicated to its ideology, just as international as the International Communist Conspiracy ever was. And that Enemy was just as determined to take over the world.

The Enemy is always depicted as ruthless and inhuman. The problem is that no human being or group of human beings, however you define that group and whatever name you put on it – even if it’s a “politically correct” name – is fundamentally evil. Just as no human being or group is fundamentally good. Because no human being or group of human beings is fundamentally different from any other. That is simply, as we used to say in the old days, a truth we hold to be self-evident. There is no force out there that plots to destroy Us because we’re good and they are evil. Does that mean there’s no such thing as evil? Of course not. And not even the most “politically correct” person will deny that the evil exists. But in insisting that there’s an evil out there that We can root out and destroy, and identifying it as ISIS or Radical Islamic Terrorism or the Armed Forces of Islam, you’re perpetuating the myth of that Enemy the Empire is so determined to get us to believe in.

So what is the real evil? There is a highly organized force, international in scope and totally committed to its beliefs to the point where it is capable of the most unimaginable evil, and that is bent on global domination. But that force is not the Hun, or Nazism, or Russian Communism or Radical Islamic Terrorism. Nobody knows better than you what it is: It’s the Empire itself. The shadow government of the United States of America and its allies and the military machine they have created. NATO. A colossal machine for occupying the planet and making it safe for business, while at the same time extracting wealth from citizens and toward a tiny financial elite. It eats up $895 billion of the $1.1 trillion the US government takes in from individual taxpayers every year, according to the Washington Post. It’s literally sucking the life blood out of the economy. Not to mention the harm it’s doing to the planet we live on. And not to mention the thousands, the hundreds of thousands, of innocent people who have died and who never wanted anything but to go about their lives in peace, and whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time – a place that was of geostrategic interest to the Empire. The same machine for world domination, with its all-pervasive propaganda tentacles, that you say is the antidote to ISIS.

But why are We bent on world domination? Is it because We’re just evil, as we’re told our Enemy is? Is it that greedy, unprincipled people are in control of our governments? No. World domination is simply the way we do business. Wealth as we define it is a blind, faceless force that moves toward concentration under its own power. No one individual makes the decision to do evil. We all do what we feel we need to do to survive, and once in a while we all have to make compromises. And as we move up the scale of success and power, those compromises begin to have more unfortunate consequences. But as long as we believe that our intentions are basically good, we don’t have to take full responsibility. We’re not fundamentally evil, as you suggest the jihadists are. We just don’t know any other way to perpetuate economic growth and concentration of wealth than to dominate – markets, but also land, resources, and populations. The so-called Free Market is only free for the power that dominates. And that domination is the source of the real evil. Your post refers to ISIS’s oil sales and financial transactions. If you look beyond their media portrayal as insane fanatics, you’ll realize that what the jihadists really want is to dominate sources of wealth. In other words, exactly what We do. Business. If they are the Enemy, then so are We.

I can’t argue with your recoiling in horror at people who are capable of acts like the mass slaughter in Nice, even in retaliation for the horrible acts that have been done to them. I won’t say that the firebombing of Tokyo or Hiroshima and Nagasaki or any of the evils the Empire has perpetrated since, or all of them collectively, are worse. But somehow a person committing a heinous act out of anger and hatred is not evil in the same way as a power that kills callously, without feeling, simply as a way of doing business, without any cruelty, with no hard feelings toward the people we’re killing from far away, as if they were characters in a video game. What inspires horror in me is a power that would just as soon kill you as dig a well in your village if it’s good for business.

Is there no alternative to the American Way? I would like to believe there is. So would the leaders of other countries – Russia, China, the BRICS countries – who believe in a multipolar world. But the military-financial complex, and the US economy and the large part of the world economy that depends on it, is bent on keeping a multipolar world from coming into being. And we in the “developed” countries are very attached to the comforts the American Way provides. We’re in this world domination thing too deep. So we’re preparing ourselves to believe that there can be a “kinder, gentler” form of world domination. We’re preparing to elect Hillary Clinton Leader of the Free World. But when Clinton says, in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, that in spite of what “other nations” may say, America intends to “Help more people in more places live up to their God-given potential,” you and I know that what she really means is that We plan to dominate even more populations and control even more territory and exploit even more resources and create and deploy even more weapons, and that the ultimate result of such an attitude will be more evil.

So, Bill, we “politically correct” readers are not shielding our eyes from the real nature of the evil that needs to be combated. We’re just asking you to look behind the media mask for the real face of that evil.

Aug 172016
 

By Banu Adiyaman, 99GetSmart

Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen and OKC Thunder center Enes Kanter. (NonDoc)

Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen and OKC Thunder center Enes Kanter. (NonDoc)

ISTANBUL — Enes Kanter, a center for the Oklahoma City Thunder, was recently disowned by his family for following and backing the so-called cleric Fethullah Gülen after a small military junta linked to Gülen launched an attempted coup July 15 in Turkey. Kanter announced he has changed his name to Enes Gülen.

Kanter appears to be a young man simply finding shelter in a father figure in the U.S. The Gülen movement is very good and experienced at attracting and ensuring the loyalty of young people through their schools in Turkey and all over the world. Some say Gülen has given Kanter an incredible honor by comparing him with the Prophet Muhammad’s adopted child Zaid bin Harith, who did not leave Muhammad after his family wanted to take him back.

In reality, it is much easier for Kanter to continue following Gülen after the coup attempt because he does not live in Turkey. Gülen himself lives in Pennsylvania.

Harsh decisions

Since the coup attempt, Turkey has embarked on a massive purge of all elements linked to Gülen from a range of institutions, detaining or sacking tens of thousands of people. The number of people dismissed from governmental services is nearing 70,000 as of the writing of this article.

In light of this climate, people in Turkey are forced to choose their sides between the Gülen movement and the government very harshly nowadays. Simply being a secularist or having always openly denounced military coups and Gülen’s hizmet (“service”) movement — even when mutual affection between AKP and Gülen was at its warmest point — would still leave doubt in the government’s eyes as to your loyalties. Therefore, even if you prefer simply to abstain from the ruling authority’s current protests and demonstrations against the coup and its backers, you can still be stigmatized as a “coup supporter” or even a “traitor.”

This could be part of why Kanter’s father, Mehmet Kanter, a lecturer at Medeniyet University, released a statement saying that his family condemned his son’s actions.

“We think that he was hypnotized and being used by Gülen. We are rejecting Enes and are asking him to change his surname. I apologize to the President [Erdogan] and the Turkish people for having such a child.”

Enes’ father’s position as a lecturer in a country in which almost 1,000 public and private university employees have been fired in a few months leaves little chance for his family to survive in Turkey if they had backed their son. Also, Mehmet’s claim that Enes is being used and deceived by Gülen likely has a base: the 24-year-old has invested in the so-called service movement, which was confirmed by recent hacking revealing Enes’ Twitter messages to a Turkish comedian linked to Gülen.

Gülen: Former political insider deemed ‘terrorist’

Since late October, Gülen has appeared on the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Turkey’s “most wanted terrorists” list, designated in the red category to indicate the highest threat level. Before earning such a dubious distinction, Gülen had close relationships with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and had many followers in the police, army, judiciary and the governmental system. However, Gülen’s increasing demands to share power with President Recep Tayip Erdogan led the way for tension between the two parties to reach a climax.

Given the background between Gülen and Erdogan, Kanter made headlines owing to his strong support for Gülen even after the coup attempt, and he drew widespread criticism for that — access to his Twitter account is still banned in Turkey. (Similarly, Turkish singer Sıla’s concerts have been canceled recently over her remarks about a “democracy” rally Aug. 7 in Istanbul, which she described as a “show” and where Erdogan hinted at the return of the death penalty in Turkey.)

What goes around …

Ideas don’t change overnight, but it is satisfying, to say the least, for one’s sense of justice to see that Gülenists can’t get away with all their bad karma after years of dominance and cronyism in the judiciary, the military, police organizations and ministries, eliminating non-Gülenist elements with unbelievably designed plots regardless of merit, experience and competence.

I hope karma will ensure what goes around comes around for others and allow us to be in the front row to see when they get theirs, too.

 

“IF YOU’RE REALLY A MEAN PERSON YOU’RE GOING TO COME BACK AS A FLY AND EAT POOP.”
― KURT COBAIN

Aug 102016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

trump-putin-obama-erdogan43

“Many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested”.

James Clapper, US Director of Intelligence on Turkish Coup (Financial Times 8/3/16, p. 4)

Introduction

Washington has organized a systematic, global, no holds barred campaign to oust Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump from the electoral process. The virulent anti-Trump animus, the methods, goals and mass media resemble authoritarian regimes preparing to overthrow political adversaries.

Comparable propaganda efforts led to political coups in Chile in 1973, Brazil 1964, ad Venezuela in 2002. The anti-Trump forces include both political parties, a Supreme Court judge, Wall Street bankers, journalists and editorialist of all the major media outlets and the leading military and intelligence spokespeople.

Washington’s forcible and illegal ouster of Trump is part and parcel of a world-wide campaign to overthrow leaders and regimes which raise questions about aspects of the imperial policies of the US and EU.

We will proceed to analyze the politics of the anti-Trump elite, the points of confrontation and propaganda, as a prelude to the drive to oust opposition in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The Anti-Trump Coup

Never in the history of the United States, has a President and Supreme Court Judge openly advocated the overthrow of a Presidential candidate. Never has the entire mass media engaged in a round-the-clock one-sided, propaganda war to discredit a Presidential candidate by systematically ignoring or distorting the central socio-economic issues of their opposition.

The call for the ouster of a freely elected candidate is nothing more or less than a coup d’état.

Leading television networks and columnists demand that the elections be annulled, following the lead of the President and prominent Republican and Democratic Congressional and Party leaders.

In other words, the political elite openly rejects democratic electoral processes in favor of authoritarian manipulation and deception. The authoritarian elite relies on magnifying tertiary, questionable personal judgement calls to mobilize coup backers.

They systematically avoid the core economic and political issues which candidate Trump has raised – and attracted mass support – which challenge fundamental policies backed by the two Party elites.

The Roots of the Anti-Trump Coup

Trump has raised several key issues which challenge the Democratic and Republican elite.

Trump has drawn mass support and won elections and public opinion polls by:

(1)  rejecting the free trade agreements which has led major multinationals to relocate abroad and disinvest in well-paying industrial jobs in the US

(2)  calling for large scale public investment projects to rebuild the US industrial economy, challenging the primacy of financial capital.

(3)  opposing the revival of a Cold War with Russia and China and promoting  greater economic co-operation and negotiations.

(4)  rejecting US support for NATO’s military build-up in Europe and intervention in Syria, North Africa and Afghanistan.

(5)  questioning the importation of immigrant labor which lowers job opportunities and wages for local citizens.

The anti-Trump elite systematically avoid debating these issues; instead they distort the substance of the policies.

Instead of discussing the job benefits which will result from ending sanctions with Russia, the coupsters screech that ‘Trump supports Putin, the terrorist’.

Instead of discussing the need to redirect investment inward to create US jobs, the anti-Trump junta mouth clichés that claim his critique of globalization would ‘undermine’ the US economy.

To denigrate Trump, the Clinton/Obama junta resorts to political scandals to cover-up mass political crimes. To distract public attention, Clinton-Obama falsely claim that Trump is a ‘racist’, backed by David Duke, a racist advocate of “Islamophobia”. The anti-Trump junta promoted the US- Pakistani  parents of a military war casualty  as victims of Trump’s slanders even as they rooted for Hillary Clinton, promotor of wars against Muslim countries and author of  military policies that sent thousands of US soldiers to their grave.

Obama and Clinton are the imperial racists who bombed Libya and Somalia and killed, wounded and displaced over 2 million sub-Saharan Black-Africans.

Obama and Clinton are the Islamaphobes who bombed and killed and evicted five million Muslims in Syria and one million Muslims in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

In other words, Trump’s mistaken policy to restrict Muslim immigration is a reaction to the hatred and hostility engendered by the Obama- Clinton million-person Muslim genocide.

Trump’s “America First” policy is a rejection of overseas imperial wars – seven wars under Obama-Clinton. Their militarist policies have inflated budget deficits and degraded US living standards.

Trump’s criticism of capital and job flight has threatened Wall Street’s billion-dollar profiteering – the most important reason behind the bi-partisan junta’s effort to oust Trump and the working class’s support for Trump.

By not following the bi-partisan Wall Street, war agenda, Trump has outlined another business agenda which is incompatible with the current structure of capitalism. In other words’ the US authoritarian elite does not tolerate the democratic rules of the game even when the opposition accepts the capitalist system.

Likewise, Washington’s quest for ‘mono-power’ extends across the globe. Capitalist governments which decide to pursue independent foreign policies are targeted for coups.

Obama-Clinton’s Junta Runs Amok

Washington’s proposed coup against Trump follows similar policies directed against political leaders in Russia, Turkey, China, Venezuela, Brazil and Syria.

Russian President Putin has been demonized by the US propaganda media on an hourly basis for the better part of a decade. The US has backed oligarchs and promoted economic sanctions; financed a coup in the Ukraine; established nuclear missiles on Russia’s frontier; and launched an arms race to undermine President Putin’s economic policies in order to provoke a coup.

The US backed its proxy Gulenist ‘invisible government’ in its failed coup to oust President Erdogan, for failing to totally embrace the US Middle East agenda.

Likewise, Obama-Clinton have backed successful coups in Latin America. Coups were orchestrated in Honduras, Paraguay and more recently in Brazil to undermine independent Presidents and to secure satellite neoliberal regimes. Washington presses forward to forcibly oust the national-populist government of President Maduro in Venezuela.

Washington has escalated efforts to erode, undermine and overthrow the government of China’s President Xi-Jinping through several combined strategies. A military build-up of an air and sea armada in the South China Sea and military bases in Japan, Australia and the Philippines; separatist agitation in Hong Kong, Taiwan and among the Uyghurs; a US- Latin American- Asia free trade agreements which excludes China.

Conclusion

Washington’s strategy of illegal, violent coups to retain the delusion of empire stretches across the globe, ranging from Trump in the US to Putin in Russia, from Erdogan in Turkey to Maduro in Venezuela to Xi Jinping in China.

The conflict is between US-EU imperialism backed by their local clients against endogenous regimes rooted in nationalist alliances.

The struggle is ongoing and sustained and threatens to undermine the political and social fabric of the US and the European Union.

The top priority for the US Empire is to undermine and destroy Trump by any means necessary. Trump already has raised the question of ‘rigged elections’. But each elite media attack of Trump seems to add to and strengthen his mass support and polarize the electorate.

As the elections approach, will the elite confine themselves to verbal hysteria or will they turn from verbal assassinations to the ‘other kind’?

Obama’s global coup strategy shows mixed results: they succeeded in Brazil but were defeated in Turkey; they seized power in the Ukraine but were defeated in Russia; they gained propaganda allies in Hong Kong and Taiwan but suffered severe strategic economic defeats in the region as China’s Asian trade policies advanced.

As the US elections approach, and Obama’s pursuit of his imperial legacy collapses, we can expect greater deception and manipulation and perhaps even frequent resort to elite-designed ‘terrorist’ assassinations.

Aug 082016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

For the past decade, the US intelligence agencies operating in Turkey have worked closely with the increasingly influential parallel government of Fethullah Gulen. Their approach to power was, until recently, a permeationist strategy, of covertly taking over political, economic, administrative, judicial, media, military and cultural positions gradually without resort to elections or military coups. They adopted flexible tactics, supporting and shedding different allies to eliminate rivals.

In 2010 in support of Erdogan, they played a major role in arresting and purging 300 Kemalist – military officials.  Subsequently the Gulenists moved to prosecute and weaken the Erdogan regime via revelations of family corruption uncovered by their intelligence officials and publicized by its mass media outlets.

The Gulenists shared several important policies with Washington which favored “the convergence” that led up to the July 15, 2016 coup.

The Gulenists backed US-Israeli policies in the Middle East; opposed the ‘independent’ and erratic power projections of Erdogan; favored pro-Western free market policies; accepted US relations with the Kurds; rejected any accommodation with the Russians.

In other words, the Gulenists were far more reliable, dependent and subject to the dictates of EU-NATO-US policy throughout the Middle East than the Erdogan regime.

Erdogan was aware of the growing power of the Gulenists and their growing links to Washington.  Erdogan moved decisively  and successfully, to pre-empt the Gulenist power grab by forcing a premature coup.

Erdogan Power Bloc Defeats Gulenist Presence

The Gulenists were a powerful force in the Turkish state and civil society. They had a strong presence in the civil bureaucracy; among sectors of the military, the mass media and educational installations; and among technocrats in the financial agencies. Yet they were defeated in less than twenty-four hours, because Erdogan had several undeniable strengths.

First and foremost, Erdogan was an unmatched political leader with a strategy to retain power and a powerful active mass popular base. The Gulenists had nothing comparable.

Erdogan had a superior intelligence and military command which infiltrated and undermined the Gulenists who were totally unprepared for a violent confrontation.

The Gulenists ‘permeationist’ strategy was unprepared and totally incapable of seizing power and mobilizing ‘the street’.

They lacked the cadres and organized grass roots support which Erdogan had built from the bottom-up over the previous two decades.

Erdogan’s insider and outside Islamic-Nationalist strategy was far superior to the Gulenist insider-pro-US liberal strategy.

US Miscalculations in the Coup

The Gulenists depended on US support, which totally miscalculated the relations of power and misread  Erdogan’s capacity to preempt the coup.

The major flaw among the US advisers was their ignorance of the Turkish political equation: they underestimated Erdogan’s overwhelming party, electoral and mass support. The CIA overestimated the Gulenists support in their institutional elite structures and underestimated their political isolation in Turkish society.

Moreover, the US military had no sense of the specifications of Turkish political culture – the general popular opposition to a military-bureaucratic takeover. They failed to recognize that the anti-coup forces included political parties and social movements critical of Erdogan.

The US strategists based the coup on their misreading of the military coups in Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Yemen which ousted nationalist and Islamic civilian regimes.

Erdogan was not vulnerable in the same way as President Mohamed Morsi (June 30, 2012 – July 3, 2013) was in Egypt – he controlled intelligence, military and mass supporters.

The US-Gulenists military intelligence strategy was unplanned, uncoordinated and precipitous – Erdogan’s counter-coup forced their hand and struck decisive, sweeping blows that demoralized the entire Gulenist super-structure. Thousands of supporters fell like clay pigeons.

The US was put on the defensive – the rapid dissolution of their followers forced them to disown their allies and fall back on general, unconvincing ‘humanitarian’ and ‘security’ criticisms of Erdogan. Their claims that the Erdogan purge would weaken the fight against ISIS had no influence in Turkey. Washington’s charges that the arrests were ‘mistreating and abusing’ prisoners had no impact.

The key political fact is that the US backed an uprising which had taken up arms and killed Erdogan loyalist military personel and innocent unarmed civilians opposed to the coup undermined Washington’s feeble protests.

In the end the US even refused refugee status and abandoned their Gulenist General’s to Erdogan’s fate. Only Fethullah Gulen himself was protected from extradition by his State Department handlers.

Consequences of the US-Gulen Coup

Washington’s failure to bring down Erdogan could have enormous repercussions throughout the Middle East, Western Europe and the United States.

Erdogan ordered seven thousand troops to encircle the strategic NATO airbase in Incirlik, Turkey, an act of intimidation threatening to undermine NATO’s major nuclear facility and operational base against Syria, Iraq and Russia.

Turkish intelligence and cabinet officials have called into question ongoing political alliances, openly accusing the US military of treason for its role in the coup.

Erdogan has moved to reconcile relations with Russia and has distanced his ties with the European Union.

If Turkey downgrades its ties with NATO, the US would lose its strategic ally on the Southern flank of Russia and undermine its capacity to dominate Syria and Iraq.

Washington’s leverage in Turkey has been dramatically reduced with the decimation of the Gulenist power base in the civilian and military organizations.

Washington may have to rely on the anemic, unstable and servile Syriza – Tsipras regime in Greece to ‘anchor’ its policies in the region.

The failed coup means a major retreat for Washington in the region – and a possible advance for Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Russia.

There are two caveats to this proposition. After Erdogan ‘completes’ the purge of Gulenists’ and condemns Washington, will he be willing and able to pursue a new independent policy or will he simply tighten internal control and ‘renegotiate’ a NATO agreement?

Will Erdogan consolidate political control over the army or will the defeat of the Gulenists be a temporary outcome which will unleash new military factions which will destabilize the political regime?

Finally, Erdogan depends on Western finance and investment which is highly resistant to backing a regime critical of the US, the EU and NATO. If Erdogan faces economic pressures from the West can he turn elsewhere or will he, in the face of capitalist ‘realities’ retreat and submit?

Erdogan, temporarily may have defeated a US coup, but history teaches us that new military, political and economic interventions are on Washington’s agenda.

Jul 282016
 

By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

(Flickr/Merton Wilton)

(Flickr/Merton Wilton)

Turkey has opened its first Traitors’ Cemetery in the aftermath of the July 15th coup attempt and Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor announced that the first burial has taken place.

“There is a place needed, to be called the cemetery of the traitors; all passers-by to curse when around it. All those walking by should curse and spit on it; there shall be no resting in peace for them, even in their graves.” –Kadir Topbas, Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor


Some days it feels like life in Turkey is a chapter in a dark and deep dystopian novel. Today is one of those days. On July 20th, only days after the failed coup attempt, Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor, Kadir Topbaş announced his will to open a cemetery for the traitors who participated in the bloody coup on July 15th. According to media reports, the cemetery has just been opened and the first burial taken place.

The first body buried is Captain Mehmet Karabekir who killed the community chief in Istanbul’s Acıbadem neighbourhood on the night of the coup attempt. The mayor announced that the family of the dead did not want his body, so he was to be buried somewhere and the ‘Traitors’ Cemetery’ was the venue for this occasion. The cemetery is located in Istanbul’s Pendik district, at the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s ‘dog shelter’.

Previously, the religious authority of the Prime Minister’s Office, Diyanet had announced that there would be no religious services for those who died in an attempt to overthrow the government through a violent coup. Denial of religious services had previously been discussed for certain leftist/progressive academics and journalists, yet no matter how much reaction there was from right-wing supporters, the services still took place.

However, there are also many unknown graveyards of notable rebels of the state; Sheikh Said, the leader of an Islamist/Kurdish uprising in the 1920s; Seyid Rıza, the religious leader of the Kurdish movement in the 1937-38 Dersim Rebellion; Said Nursi, an influential Kurdish Sunni cleric in the early years of the Republic who later inspired many Islamist movements formation and rhetoric. Their graveyards are still unknown to date.

Apart from rebel leaders, the body of Aziz Güler, who had gone to Rojava to fight against ISIS, was kept waiting for 2 months at the border before being given to his family for burial; and another disturbance occurred when Şafak Yayla, the perpetrator who had taken prosecutor Mehmet Kiraz hostage at the Istanbul Court Palace, was killed, and his family had to bury him in the front yard of the house after violent mobs threatened to attack the body, which finally ended with his family pouring cement on the gravesite.

Attacks against graveyards are also a recurring theme in Turkey’s history. After the 1960 military coup, when the prime minister at the time, Adnan Menderes, and two of his ministers were hanged by Alparslan Türkeş (later founder of far right Nationalist Movement Party MHP), their bodies were buried in a neglected state on İmralı island –currently where the PKK leader Öcalan is kept in solitary confinement. However, Menderes’ remains were carried to a mausoleum in 1990.

The idea of a ‘Traitors’ Cemetery’ and its location at the dog shelter feels like it is straight out of a dystopia, or a horror film. However, this is the reality in Turkey; still a country that feeds on hostility, even regarding the dead. Yet, the word ‘traitor’ is used quite loosely by almost everyone, and who knows, perhaps some of those who are accusing each other of treason might lie side by side in that cemetery someday.

Jul 242016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan prepared a list of targets for arrest even before the coup (sic) was launched”, European Commission official on Turkey (FT 7/19/2016).

Introduction

The coup in Turkey was made to order. A group of military officers and police officials were set-up to seize power by senior intelligence operatives in the Erdoğan regime. They were allowed to drop a few bombs, seize bridges and buildings before they were encircled, rounded-up and arrested using a list of targets for arrest prepared even before the so-called coup. In the midst of this fake coup, the ‘vacationing’ Erdoğan flies into Istanbul unharmed, of course, because his vacation resort was bombed after he had left. He seizes the mass media, denounces the coup, rouses the Muslim masses and sets about on a mass purge of Turkish society, concentrating on the civil service, teachers and administrators, the military, the courts and judges. Indeed every institution capable of independent action or reputedly critical of Erdoğan is closed. After a week over 60,000 people had been purged.

Why did Erdoğan resort to a coup? Why did Erdoğan purge Turkish society? What policies will follow Erdoğan’s power grab?

Prelude to the Coup

Over the past 5 years Erdoğan has suffered a series of political, economic and diplomatic failures and defeats, seriously undermining his dictatorial and territorial ambitions. His air force shot down a Russian military jet operating within Syrian territory. The images of Turkish jihadi mercenaries murdering a Russian pilot as he parachuted to safety, as well as a member of the Russian rescue party, caused the Russian government to halt the multi-billion-dollar Russian tourism industry in Turkey and cancel lucrative business deals. He broke relations with Israel, which undercut a lucrative gas and oil offshore contract. His support for ISIS and other violent Salafist mercenary groups operating in Iraq and Syria provoked a rupture with Syria and Iran. His subsequent effort to disavow Turkey’s links with ISIS led to a series of horrific terror bombings by jihadi cells implanted in the country. Turkey’s diplomatic position in Egypt deteriorated as Erdoğan sought to maintain his ties with the Muslim Brotherhood after it had been ousted from power by a US sponsored Egyptian military coup.

Domestically, Erdoğan alienated the secular Kemalist military and civilian political-economic elite via trumped up trials and media purges. Erdoğan’s heavy-handed assault on liberal and leftist protestors over environmental issues increased Western concern. His brutal handling of the labor protests following the 2014 Soma coal mine disaster, when over 300 workers were killed, further isolated him.

Erdoğan’s war on the Kurdish independence movements in Turkey, Iraq and especially in Syria, where they were allied with the US against the jihadi terrorist ISIS, added to domestic unrest and international isolation.

In order to consolidate his executive power, Erdoğan had first allied with the extensive Gulenist-Islamist networks in Turkey in order to undermine the Kemalists and then he turned around to purge his former allies.

Faced with enemies and adversaries at home and overseas, Erdoğan decided on a dual strategy of improving his ties abroad, especially his links with Russia and Israel while launching a total war on domestic critics.

Fabricated Coup and the Permanent Purge

Erdoğan’s intelligence operatives within the military command encouraged or even provoked his critics in the General Staff, who were fed up with his bungling and disastrous policies, to mount a coup. They gave the rebellious military sufficient space and resources to provide a semblance of authority while retaining strategic control over the air force and key ground troops. They may have feigned sympathy to the launching of a premature uprising … doomed to defeat. Once the heavily infiltrated rebel units moved, the entire Erdoğan operation struck. Hapless conscripts thought they had been called out for military exercises, only to find themselves encircled, arrested and even lynched. The dissidents were isolated, their advances paralyzed, their leaders incapacitated. Erdoğan’s loyalist within the Turkish Air Force flew the triumphant president into the ‘liberated’ Istambul International airport to the cheers of his adoring civilian supporters.

Erdoğan immediately decreed a massive purge – in the name of the fatherland. A real coup had indeed taken place – Erdoğan’s total power grab. The entire political, military, judicial and police system was stripped of personnel within hours. There were over 20,000 arrests, beatings and disappearances. There were calls to re-introduce the death penalty.

Erdoğan’s power grab eliminated key US assets among the Gulenist and eliminated independent Supreme Court officials and secular republican officials. The president was free to rebuild an entire civil, governmental and military apparatus with his own loyalists. His control over the media and the educational institutions was total.

Rule Under Erdoģan

Erdoğan’s pre-emptive coup, purge and power grab will result in a monolithic state which Erdoģan will shape into his long-sought version of an Islamist regime. The new regime announced a ‘State of Emergency’, which places all Turks under strict compliance with Erdoğan’s policies.

Erdoğan’s “New Order” will launch large-scale operations against the Kurds, with no respect for the Syrian or Iraqi national borders. Erdoğan will ensure compliance with Islamist decrees designed to enforce conformity. He will succeed in imposing a dictatorial ‘Presidential’ regime. And parliament, if necessary will be bypassed; his ‘electoral’ mandate will be ensured.

In the immediate aftermath, mass detentions will strengthen the state – and Erdoğan’s generals, allied religious authorities and street thugs will call the shots.

Unleashing force and violence against his domestic enemies, however, may lead to internal disputes among the new predators over the spoils of victory. The economic elite may accept the New Order, but only if and when Erdoğan tones down his rhetorical attacks on the US and the EU.

Erdoğan has yet to develop a strategy on replacing the purged (‘Gulenist’) professionals within the civilian economy and public bureaucracy – especially the schools and judiciary. The impetuous reversals of his reckless policy of confrontation with Russia, Syria, Israel, Iran, Iraq and the Kurds are likely to generate new layers of discontent, especially among his current military commanders.

Erdoğan’s New Order arises from the breakdown of civil society and long-term alliances. He may remain in power in Ankara but he will be viewed as more of a local political thug than a partner among the regional big powers.

Erdoğan’s external allies will exploit his isolation and radical bombast to forge lucrative alliances.Israel will push for favorable gas and oil deals; Russia will insist that Erdoğan abandons his ISIS allies. The US will demand he cease attacks on the Kurds. The EU will use the ongoing purge and re-institution of the death penalty to finally declare Turkey unfit to join the European Union. Bankers and foreign investors will wait for Erdoğan to stop his rampage over the financial sector and ‘get serious’ about the economy.

Erdoğan’s dream of lifetime rulership presiding over an Islamic Neo-Ottoman caliphate, buttressed by street mobs, praetorian guards and crony capitalists makes for an unstable and unruly Turkey. Erdoğan’s military loyalists have their own rivalries and ambitions. Now that Erdoğan has established his ‘military road to power’, he has set a clear precedent for other ‘Erdoğan’s’ to take the same route.

In the short-run Erdoğan needs to restart the economy, stabilize the political system and establish a semblance of international order.

Erdoğan cannot and probably will not prolong tensions with the US over the Gulen affair. Glen will remain in Pennsylvania, in the CIA’s ‘regime change’ pocket. Meanwhile, he has eliminated most of the Gulenist agents capable of working with the US as a fifth-column. The question is whether he now moves back to his role as a ‘valued’ NATO junior partner, or if he will launch an intensified war against the US’s strategic Kurdish allies?

Erdoğan’s ties with Russia are precarious. There is no reason for the Russians to trust him. He has fallen somewhere between the need for reconciliation with Russia and the desire to continue his proxy war against the government of Syria.

In the end Erdoğan may have secured power and undertaken a vast domestic purge of his enemies, but he has lost the regional war while bearing the consequences of millions of war refugees and a deeply entrenched jihadi terrorist threat within Turkey.

Jul 232016
 

By Eric Toussaint, CADTM, 99GetSmart

Bolivar Boulevard, Venezuela - Luis Robayo/AFP

Bolivar Boulevard, Venezuela – Luis Robayo/AFP

From the start of the struggle for independence, Simón Bolívar |1|, like other independentist leaders, launched a policy of internal indebtedness (which ended up benefiting the local ruling class) and external indebtedness toward Britain and its bankers. In order to borrow abroad, he engaged part of the nation’s wealth as collateral and agreed to free-trade agreements with Britain. The bulk of the sums borrowed never reached Latin America because the bankers in London skimmed off enormous commissions, charged actual interest rates that were abusive, and sold the securities for well below their face value. Certain Latin American representatives appointed by the independentist leaders also withheld large commissions at the source, or else simply stole part of the amounts borrowed. As for the rest, another large share of the borrowed amounts was used directly to purchase weapons and military equipment from British merchants at exorbitant prices. Out of what eventually made it to Latin America – that is, only a small percentage of the loan amounts –, large sums were misappropriated by certain of the new authorities, military leaders and the local dominant classes. A series of quotations from Simón Bolívar accompanied by commentary by Luis Britto clearly show that the Libertador gradually became aware of the debt trap into which he and the new independent States had fallen. Simón Bolívar did not seek to enrich himself personally by taking advantage of his functions as head of State, unlike many leaders who came to power thanks to struggles for independence.

The terms of external indebtedness were highly favourable to Britain 

In November 1817, Simón Bolívar appointed a special envoy to London to obtain external financing on credit. In the letter of accreditation he wrote, he granted enormous powers: “And in order that he may propose, negotiate, adapt, conclude and sign in the name and under the authority of the Republic of Venezuela any pact, convention and treaty founded on the principle of its recognition as a free and independent State, and in order to provide support and protection, stipulating to that end all the necessary conditions for indemnifying Great Britain for its generous sacrifices and provide it with the most positive and solemn proofs of a noble gratitude and perfect reciprocity of services and of sentiments” (Luis Britto, p. 395). Luis Britto |2| makes the following comment: “The accreditation is conceived in very broad terms: it is possible to agree to “any condition necessary.” The representative and the lenders may make use of it with the greatest freedom.” (Britto p. 395). Initially, the debts contracted were exclusively to serve the war effort.

Referring to the creation of Gran Colombia (Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador) in 1819, Britto notes: “This integration has as its consequence the amalgamation of the debts contracted by each of the political bodies. Accordingly, Article 8 of the Constitution clearly stipulates: “All debts which the two peoples have contracted separately shall be recognised jointly and severally as the national debt of Colombia; and all the goods of the Republic shall be collateral for their repayment.” Britto continues: “Not only were the debts constitutionally consolidated; by virtue of the Constitution, all public commodities of the nascent political body were to constitute guarantees. Unfortunately this operation was not carried out with the transparency that would have been desirable, since the registers of the operations were incomplete and confused.”

Rosa Luxemburg, nearly a century later, considered that these loans, while necessary, had served as an instrument of subordination of the young States being created: Though foreign loans are indispensable for the emancipation of the rising capitalist states, they are yet the surest ties by which the old capitalist states maintain their influence, exercise financial control and exert pressure on the customs, foreign and commercial policy of the young capitalist states.” |3| I have analyzed the link between the policy of indebtedness and free trade agreements in the first half of the 19thcentury in Latin America in “How Debt and Free Trade Subordinated Independent Latin America,”.

The new elites profit from internal debt and refuse to pay taxes 

The British Consul, Sir Robert Ker Porter, mentions conversations with Simón Bolívar in his journal, and in the entry for Wednesday 15 February, 1827, observes that “Bolívar confesses to an internal debt of 71 millions of dollars, in paper, to be paid by the Govt. Hundreds of individuals have speculated deeply, and most usuriously in the paper…” According to the Consul, the paper was sold for US dollars by persons in urgent need at 60% of its value, and in certain cases 25% and even 5% of its face value. He goes on to explain that according to his sources almost no officials had kept any cash, spending it all in this “immoral and antipatriotic speculation.” He says that Vice-President Santander is said to possess two million in these bonds, which he is said to have purchased for $200,000 (see Britto, op. cit. p. 378). Luis Britto adds the following comment: “These speculators are in turn closely related to numerous officers and republican politicians, who are making large fortunes at the expense of the blood of their troops” (p. 380). And he adds: “The mere announcement of rigorous tax measures strikes fear into the hearts of civil servants like the Intendant Cristóbal Mendoza, who suddenly tendered his resignation.” (p. 380).

The national debt will oppress us 

The words written by Simón Bolívar in a letter sent on 14 June, 1823 to Vice-President Francisco de Paula Santander (the one mentioned by the British Consul in his notes in 1827) are striking: “In the end we will do everything, but the national debt will oppress us.” And, referring to the members of the local ruling class and the new powers: “The national debt engenders a chaos of horrors, calamities and crimes and Monsieur Zea is the spirit of evil, and Méndez the spirit of error, and Colombia is a victim whose entrails these vultures are tearing to shreds: they have already devoured the sweat of the Colombian people; they have destroyed our moral credit, and in exchange we have received meagre support. Regardless of the decision taken regarding this debt, it will be horrible: if we recognise it, we cease to exist, and if we do not… this nation will be the object of opprobrium.” (Britto, p. 405). We see clearly that Simón Bolívar, who had become aware of the debt trap, rejects the prospect of repudiation.

Two months later, Simón Bolívar again wrote to Vice-President Santander on the subject of the debt and referred to the situation of the new authorities in Peru: “The government of Riva Agüero is the government of a Catilina associated with that of a Chaos; you cannot imagine worse scoundrels or worse thieves than the ones Peru has at its head. They have devoured six million pesos in loans, scandalously. Riva Agüero, Santa Cruz and the Minister of War alone have stolen 700,000 pesos, solely in contracts let for equipping and embarking troops. The Congress has demanded to be shown accounts and has been treated like the Divan of Constantinople. The manner in which Riva Agüero has behaved is truly infamous. And the worst thing is that between the Spanish and the patriots, they have brought about the death of Peru through their repeated pillaging. The country is the most costly on earth and there is not a maravedí left for its maintenance.” (in Britto, p. 406)

Simón Bolívar, pushed to the wall by the creditors, was prepared to cede public commodities to them. In 1825, he offered to repay the debt by transferring a part of Peru’s mines, which had been abandoned during the war of independence (see Britto p. 408 and following); in 1827, he attempted to develop a quality tobacco crop to sell to Britain to pay the debt (Britto, p. 378-382); in 1830 he offered to sell unused public land to the creditors (Britto, p. 415-416).

Simón Bolívar threatens to denounce the oppressive debt system to the people 

On 22 July, 1825, Simón Bolívar wrote to Hipólito Unanue, Peru’s Prime Minister: “The masters of the mines, the masters of the Andes of silver and gold, are seeking loans of millions in order to poorly pay their little army and their miserable administration. Let all this be told to the people, and let our abuses and our ineptness be forcefully denounced, so that it may not be said that government protects the abominable system that is ruining us. I repeat, let our abuses be denounced in the “Government Gazette”; and let pictures be painted there that offend the imagination of the citizens.” (Britto, p. 408).

In December 1830, Simón Bolívar died in Santa Marta (on the Caribbean coast of Colombia), at a time when Gran Colombia was in strife and abandoned by the ruling classes of the region.

Translated by Snake Arbusto and Christine Pagnoulle

Thanks to Lucile Daumas for her French translations of quotations in Spanish, which served as basis for the English translations (by CADTM).

Footnotes

|1| Simón Bolívar, who was born 24 July, 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela and died on 17 December 1830 at Santa Marta, Colombia was a Venezuelan general and politician. He is an emblematic figure, with the Argentine José de San Martín and the Chilean Bernardo O’Higgins, of the emancipation of the Spanish colonies in South America from 1813. He participated decisively in the independence of present-day Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Bolívar also played a part in the founding of Gran Colombia, which he wished to see become a great political and military confederation including all of Latin America, and of which he was the first President.

The honorary title of Libertador was given him initially by the Cabildo of Mérida (Venezuela), then ratified in Caracas (1813), and is still associated with him today. Bolívar encountered so many obstacles in bringing his projects to fruition that he referred to himself as “ the man of difficulties” in a letter to Francisco de Paula Santander in 1825.

As a major figure of universal history, Bolívar is today a political and military icon in many countries in Latin America and around the world, who have given his name to many squares, streets and parks. His name is also borne by a State of Venezuela, a department in Colombia, and even a country – Bolivia. Statues of him are found in most large cities in Latin America, but also in New York, New Orleans, Lisbon, Paris, London, Brussels, Cairo, Tokyo, Québec, Ottawa, Algiers, Madrid, Tehran, Barcelona, Moscow and Bucharest.

Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sim%C3%B3n_Bol%C3%ADvar

|2| Luis Britto García is a Venezuelan man of letters, playwright, historian and essayist born in Caracas on 9 October 1940. In 2010 he published, in Spanish, a work devoted to Simón Bolívar: El pensamiento del Libertador – Economía y Sociedad, BCV, Caracas, 2010 http://blog.chavez.org.ve/temas/libros/pensamiento-libertador/. In May 2012, Luis Britto García was appointed to the Venezuelan Council of State, “the highest circle of advisers to the president,” by President Hugo Chávez. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_Britto_Garc%C3%ADa

|3| Rosa Luxemburg. 1913. The Accumulation of Capital, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1969, Chapter 30 II, p. 89 https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1913/accumulation-capital/

Author

Eric Toussaint is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. He is the author of Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012 (see here), etc. See his bibliography:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89ric_Toussaint He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. Since the 4th April 2015 he is the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt.
Jul 172016
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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Introduction

The European Union is controlled by an oligarchy, which dictates socio-economic and political decisions according to the interests of bankers and multi-national business. The central organs of power, the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have systematically imposed austerity programs that have degraded working conditions, welfare programs, and wages and salaries.

EU policies demanding the free immigration of non-unionized workers to compete with native workers have undermined wage and workplace protections, union membership and class solidarity. EU financial policies have enhanced the power of finance capital and eroded public ownership of strategic economic sectors.

The European Union has imposed fiscal policies set by non-elected oligarchs over and against the will and interests of the democratic electorate. As a result of EU dictates, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland have suffered double-digit unemployment rates, as well as massive reductions of pensions, health and educational budgets. A huge transfer of wealth and concentration of decision-making has occurred in Europe.

Rule by EU fiat is the epitome of oligarchical rule.

Despite the EU’s reactionary structure and policies, it is supported by Conservatives, Liberals, Social Democrats, Greens and numerous Leftist academics, who back elite interests in exchange for marginal economic rewards.

Arguments for the EU and their Critics

The pro-EU power elite base their arguments on concrete socio-economic interests, thinly disguised by fraudulent ideological claims.

The ideological arguments backing the EU follow several lines of deception.

They claim that ‘countries’ benefit because of large-scale transfers of EU payments. They omit mentioning that the EU elite secures the privatization and denationalization of strategic industries, banks, mass media and other lucrative national assets. They further omit to mention that the EU elite gains control of domestic markets and low wage labor.

The EU argues that it provides ‘free movements’ of capital, technology and labor – omitting the fact that the flows and returns of capital exclusively benefit the powerful imperial centers to the detriment of less advanced countries and that technology is controlled and designed by the dominant elites which also monopolize the profits. Furthermore, the ‘free flow of labor’ prejudices skilled productive sectors in less developed countries while reducing salaries, wages and benefits among skilled workers in the imperial centers.

The EU: A Self-Elected Dictatorship of Empire Builders

‘Integration into the EU’ is not a union of democratic participants; the decision-making structure is tightly controlled by non-elected elites who pursue policies that maximize profits, by relocating enterprises in low tax, low wage, non- unionized regions.

European integration is an integral part of ‘globalization’, which is a euphemism for the unimpeded acquisition of wealth, assets and financial resources by the top 1%, shared, in part, with their supporters among the top 25%.

The EU promotes the concentration of capital through the merger and acquisition of multi-national firms which bankrupt local and national, medium and small scale industries.

Political and Academic Satraps of the EU Elites

The European Union’s oligarchy has organized a small army of highly paid politicians, functionaries, advisers, experts and researchers who support the European Union in a manner not unlike NGO workers in the developing world – answerable only to their ‘foreign’ paymasters.

Numerous Social Democrats draw stipends, travel expenses, lucrative fees and salaries as members of commissions and serve on impotent ‘legislative’ assemblies.

Academics advise, consent —and draw duplicate salaries from membership in the EU bureaucracy. Journalists and academics ‘front’ for the EU oligarchy by playing a leading propaganda role. For example, they have been busy slandering British pro-democracy, anti-EU voters by (1) calling for a new referendum and (2) questioning the right of the working class electorate to vote on issues like the recent EU referendum.

The leading financial press adopts a demagogic pose accusing the pro-democracy voters of being ‘racists’, ‘nativists’, or worse, for ‘opposing Eastern European immigration’.

In fact, the vast majority of workers do not oppose immigrants in general, but especially those who have taken once-unionized jobs at wages far below the going rates for established workers, on terms dictated by employers and with no ties or commitment to the community and society. For decades British workers accepted immigrant labor from Ireland because they  joined unions at wage rates negotiated by union leaders, won by long workers struggle and voted with the majority of English workers. Under the EU, Britain was flooded with Eastern European workers who acted as ‘scabs’ displacing skilled British workers who were told it was ‘progress’. This acted to destroy the prospects of their own children entering a stable, skilled labor market.

The financial press’s lurid descriptions of the British workers’  anti-EU ‘racism’ against Polish immigrant labor ignores the long history of Warsaw’s virulent hostility to immigrants–namely the refugees from the wars in the Middle East. The Polish government and population exhibit the most furious opposition to sheltering the thousands of Middle East and African war refugees, while claiming that they are not ‘Christians’ or might pose cultural or even terrorist threats against the ethnically pure Polish population.

Some of the British workers’ hostility toward Polish workers has a recognized historical basis. They have not forgotten that Polish strike breakers took the side of  ‘Iron Lady’ Thatcher’s militarized assault against unionized UK miners during the great coal strikes and even offered to export coal to aid the Conservative government in breaking the strike. As such, EU-Polish immigrant workers are not likely to integrate into the militant British working class culture.

The Polish regime’s aggressive promotion of the economic sanctions against Russia has further undermined English jobs linked to that large and growing market.

The financial press ignores the fact that Polish immigrants ‘scab’ on unionized British workers in the construction industry, undercutting long-established UK plumbers, electrical workers, carpenters and laborers – who have multiple generational ties to their communities and work. The EU elites use the importation of Polish workers to strengthen the reactionary labor policies of the employers

After the fall of Communism, Polish workers backed a succession of right-wing regimes in Warsaw, which privatized and denationalized industries and eroded their welfare system leading to their own impoverishment. Poles, instead of fighting against these neo-liberal regimes at home, headed for England and have been helping the British bosses ever since in their own anti-labor campaigns to reduce wages and decrease worker access to decent, affordable housing, public services, education and medical care.

The Eastern Europeans became the willing recruits of the EU reserve army of labor to raise profits for industrial and finance capital thus further concentrating wealth and power into the hands of the British oligarchs.

To label British workers’ antipathy to these EU policies over the free entry of cheap immigrant labor, as ‘racist’, is a blatant case of blaming workers for opposing naked capitalist profiteering. It is not hard to imagine how the Poles would react if skilled Syrian electricians were taking their jobs!

The pro-EU prostitute press claims that the pro-democracy voters are ‘anti-globalization’ and a threat to England’s living standards and financial stability.

In fact, labor votes in favor of trade but against the relocation of English industry overseas. Labor votes for for greater investment in the UK and greater regional diversity of productive, job-creating sectors, as opposed to the concentration of capital and wealth in the parasitic finance, insurance and real estate sectors concentrated in the City of London.

The EU-City of London-financial oligarchy have priced labor out of the housing market by promoting the massive construction of high-end luxury condos for ‘their kind of immigrant’, i.e. the millionaire and billionaire Chinese, Russian, Indian, Eastern European and US plutocrats who flock to London’s famous tax-evasion and money-laundering expertise.

The scribes of the EU-City oligarchy who claim that exit from the EU will lead to a cataclysmic breakdown are blatantly scaremongering. In fact, the stock and bond market, which declined for less than a week, rebounded sharply, as trade, production and demand were scarcely affected by the vote.

The hysteria-peddlers among the financial press resounded . . . in the minds and pockets of the City of London speculators. They rightly feared that their own lucrative financial operations could relocate overseas.

Conclusion

If and when the EU – City end their oligarchical control over the British economy, workers will gain an opportunity to debate and elect freely their own representatives and have a say in their own government. Leaving the EU is just the first step. The next move will be to change the rules for immigrant labor to accord with the standards of wages and conditions set by UK trade union organizations.

The following steps would include subordinating the banks to the needs of industry, investment in public housing for workers and the development of local technology for domestic producers.

The cleavage between productive labor and the EU parasites and their political hangers-on requires a new political leadership with a democratic foreign policy, which precludes overseas wars and imperial alliances.

The break with the EU logically and persuasively argues for a break with NATO and an opening toward free trade with Russia, China and the new dynamic global markets. The end of the EU can help weaken the strategic partnership between the European and City of London oligarchs. No doubt, the latter will not go without a class war of unprecedented ferocity, involving financial lockouts, manufactured fiscal crises, street mobs and parliamentary coups at the top of their agenda.

Only if the democratic electoral majority becomes a cohesive and combative class movement, in and out of Parliament, can they convert the referendum from a temporary electoral win to a stable basis for structural transformation.

Only a democratic majority can implement a fair and equitable immigration policy that strengthens labor and welfare policies and which would be based on the traditional values of British trade unionism and not on some criteria parroted by the ‘house servants’ for the lords of the EU-London ‘Downton Abbey’.

Jul 132016
 

By James Petras and Robin Eastman-Abaya, MD, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

The white working class in the US has been decimated through an epidemic of ‘premature deaths’– a bland term to cover-up the drop in life expectancy in this historically important demographic. There have been quiet studies and reports peripherally describing this trend – but their conclusions have not yet entered the national consciousness for reasons we will try to explore in this essay. Indeed this is the first time in the country’s ‘peacetime’ history that its traditional core productive sector has experienced such a dramatic demographic decline – and the epicenter is in the small towns and rural communities of the United States.

The causes for ‘premature death’ (dying before normal life expectancy – usually of preventable conditions) include the sharply increasing incidence of suicide, untreated complications of diabetes and obesity and above all ’accidental poisoning’ – a euphemism used to describe what are mostly prescription and illegal drug overdoses and toxic drug interactions.

No one knows the total number of deaths of American citizens due to drug overdose and fatal drug interactions over the past 20 years, just as no central body has kept track of the numbers of poor people killed by police nationwide, but let’s start with a conservative round number – 500,000 mostly white working class victims, and challenge the authorities to come up with some real statistics with real definitions. Indeed such a number could be much higher – if they included fatal poly-pharmacy deaths and ‘medication errors’ occurring in the hospital and nursing home setting.

In the last few years, scores of thousands of Americas have died prematurely because of drug overdoses or toxic drug interactions, mostly related to narcotic pain medications prescribed by doctors and other providers. Among those who have increasingly died of illegal opioid, mostly heroin, fentanyl and methadone, overdose, the vast majority first became addicted to the powerful synthetic opioids prescribed by the medical community, supplied by big chain pharmacies and manufactured at incredible profit margins by the leading pharmaceutical companies. In essence, this epidemic has been promoted, subsidized and protected by the government at all levels and reflects the protection of a profit-maximizing private medical-pharmaceutical market gone wild.

This is not seen elsewhere in the world at such a level. For example, despite their proclivity for alcohol, obesity and tobacco – the British patient population has been essentially spared this epidemic because their National Health System is regulated and functions with a different ethic: patient well being is valued over naked profit. This arguably would not have developed in the US if a single-payer national health system had been implemented.

Faced with the increasing incidence of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans dying from suicide and overdose from prescription opioids and mixed drug reactions, the Armed Forces Surgeon General and medical corps convened ‘emergency’ US Senate Hearings in March 2010 where testimony showed military doctors had written 4 million prescriptions of powerful narcotics in 2009, a 4 fold increase from 2001. Senate members of the hearings, led by Virginia’s Jim Webb, cautioned not casting a negative light on ‘Big Pharma’ among the largest donors to political campaigns.

The 1960’s public image of the heroin-addicted returning Vietnam War soldier that shocked the nation had morphed into the Oxycontin/Xanax dependent veteran of the new millennium, thanks to ‘Big Pharma’s’ enormous contracts with the US Armed Forces and the mass media looked away. Suicides, overdoses and ‘sudden deaths’ killed many more soldiers than combat.

No other peaceful population, probably since the 1839 Opium Wars, has been so devastated by a drug epidemic encouraged by a government. In the case of the Opium Wars, the British Empire and its commercial arm, The East India Company, sought a market for their huge South Asian opium crops and used its military and allied Chinese warlord mercenaries to force a massive opium distribution on the Chinese people, seizing Hong Kong in the process as a hub for its imperial opium trade. Alarmed at the destructive effects of addiction on its productive population, the Chinese government tried to ban or regulate narcotic use. Its defeat at British hands marked China’s decline into semi-colonial status for the next century – such are the wider consequences of having an addicted population.

This paper will identify the (1) the nature of the long-term, large-scale drug induced deaths, (2) the dynamics of ‘demographic transition by overdose’, and (3) the political economy of opioid addiction. This paper will not cite numbers or reports – these are widely available. However they are scattered, incomplete and generally lack any theoretical framework to understand, let alone confront, the phenomenon.

We will conclude by discussing whether each ‘death by prescription’ is to be viewed as an individual tragedy, mourned in private, or as a corporate crime fueled by greed or even a pattern of ‘Social-Darwinism-writ-large’  by an elite-run decision making apparatus.

Since the advent of major political-economic changes induced by neoliberalism, America’s oligarchic class confronts the problem of a large and potentially restive population of millions of marginalized workers and downwardly mobile members of the middle class made redundant by ‘globalization’ and an armed rural poor sinking ever deeper into squalor. In other words, when finance capital and elite ruling bodies view an increasing ‘useless’ population of white workers, employees and the poor in this geographic context, what ‘peaceful’ measures can be taken to ease and encourage their ‘natural decline’?

A similar pattern emerged in the early ‘AIDS’ crisis where the Reagan Administration deliberately ignored the soaring deaths among young Americans, especially minorities, adopting a moralistic ‘blame the victim’ approach until the influential gay community organized and demanded government action.

The Scale and Scope of Drug Deaths

In the past two decades, hundreds of thousands of working age Americans have died from drugs. The lack of hard data is a scandal. The scarcity is due to a fragmented, incompetent and deliberately incomplete system of medical records and death certificates – especially from the poorer rural areas and small towns where there is virtually no support for producing and maintaining quality records. This great data void is multi-faceted and hampered by the problems of regionalism and a lack of clear governmental public health direction.

SKULL_RX_iStock_000007073329Large-400x400Early in the crisis, medical professionals and coroners were largely in ‘denial’ and under pressure to certify ‘unexpected’ deaths as ‘natural due to pre-existing conditions’ – despite overwhelming evidence that there had been reckless overprescribing by the local medical community. Fifteen to twenty years ago, the victims’ families, isolated in their little towns, may have derived some short-term comfort from seeing the term ‘natural’ attached to their loved-one’s untimely death. Understandably, a diagnosis of ‘death by drug overdose’ would evoke tremendous social and personal shame among the rural and small-town white working class families who had traditionally associated narcotics with the urban minority and criminal populations. They thought themselves immune to such ‘big city’ problem. They trusted ‘their’ doctors who, in turn, trusted ‘Big Pharma’s’ assurances that the new synthetic opioids were not addicting and could be prescribed in large quantities.

Despite the local medical community’s slowly growing awareness of this problem, there was little public attempt to educate the at-risk population and still fewer attempts to rein in the over-prescribing brethren physicians and private ‘pain-clinics’. They, or their nurse practitioners and PA’s, did not counsel patients on the immense dangers of combining opioids and alcohol or tranquilizers. Many, in fact, were not even aware of what their patients were prescribed by other providers. It is common to see healthy younger adults with multiple prescriptions from multiple providers.

Through the last few decades under neoliberalism, rural county heath department budgets were stripped because of business-promoted austerity programs. Instead, the federal government mandated that they implement expensive and absurd plans to confront ‘bio-terrorism’. Often, health departments lacked the necessary budget to pay for the costly forensic toxicology testing required for documenting drug levels in suspect overdose cases among their own population.

fda-drug-approvalFurther compounding this lack of quality data, there was no guidance or coordination from the federal and state government or regional DEA regarding systematic documentation and the development of a usable database for analyzing the widespread consequences of overprescribing legal narcotics. The early crisis received minimal attention from these bodies.

All official eyes were focused on the ‘war on drugs’ as it was being waged against the poor, urban minority population. The small towns, where over-prescribing doctors formed the pillars of the local churches or country clubs, suffered in silence. The greater public was lulled by media mis-education into thinking that addiction and related deaths were an ‘inner city’ problem, one that required the usual racist response of filling up the prisons with young blacks and Hispanics for petty crimes or drug possession.

But within this vacuum, white working class children were starting to dial ‘911’…because, ‘Mommy won’t wake up…’.  Mommy with her ‘prescribed Fentanyl patches’ took just one Xanax too many and devastated an entire family unit. This was the prototype of a raging epidemic. All throughout the country these alarming cases were growing. Some rural counties saw the proportion of addicted infants born to addicted mothers overwhelm their unprepared hospital systems. And the local obituary pages published increasing numbers of young names and faces besides the very elderly –never printing any ‘cause’ for the untimely demise of a young adult while devoting paragraphs for a departed octogenarian.

Recent trends demonstrate that drug deaths (both opiate overdose and fatal mixed interactions with other drugs and alcohol) have had a major impact on the composition of the local labor force, families, communities and neighborhoods. This is reflected in the lives of workers, whose personal life and employment has been severely impaired by corporate plant relocations, downsizing, cuts in wages and health benefits. The traditional support systems, which provided aid to workers damaged by these trends, such as trade unions, public social workers and mental health professionals, were either unable or unwilling to intervene before or after the scourge of drug addiction had come into play.

The Dynamic Demography of Drug-Induced Death

Almost all publicized reports ignore the demography and differential class impacts of prescription-related drug deaths. The majority of those killed by illegal drugs were first addicted to legal narcotics prescribed by their providers. Only the overdose deaths of celebrities manage to hit the headlines.

Most of the victims have been low wage, unemployed or under-employed members of the white working class. Their prospects for the future are dismal. Any dream of establishing a healthy family life on one salary in ‘Heartland America’ would be met with laughter. This is a huge national population, which has experienced a steep decline in its living standards because of deindustrialization. The majority of fatal overdose victims are white working age males, but with a large proportion of working class women, often mothers with children. There has been little discussion about the impact of an overdose death of a working age woman on the extended family. They include grandmothers in their 50’s living with three generations under one roof. In this demographic, women often provide critical cohesion and stability for several generations at risk – even if they had been taking ‘Oxy’ for their chronic pain.

Apparently the US minority population has so far escaped this epidemic. Black and Hispanic Americans had already been depressed and economically marginalized for a much longer period – and the lower rate of prescription drug deaths among their populations may reflect greater resilience. It certainly reflects their reduced access to the over-prescribing private-sector medical community – a grim paradox where medical ‘neglect’ might indeed have been ‘benign’.

While there may be few class-based studies looking at comparative trends in ‘overdose deaths’ among urban minorities and rural/small town whites from sociology, public health or minority-studies university departments, anecdotal evidence and personal observation suggest that minority urban populations are more likely to provide assistance to an overdosing neighbor or friend than in the white community where addicts are more likely to be isolated and abandoned by family members ashamed of their ‘weakness’. Even the practice of ‘dumping’ an overdosed friend at the entrance of an emergency department and walking away has saved many lives. Urban minorities have greater access and familiarity with the chaotic big-city emergency rooms where medical personnel are skilled at recognizing and treating overdose. After decades of civil rights struggles, minorities are possibly more sophisticated in asserting their rights regarding use of such public resources. There may even be a relatively stronger culture of solidarity among the marginalized minorities in rendering assistance or an awareness of the consequences of not taking someone’s neighbor to the ER. These urban survival mechanisms have been largely absent in the white rural areas.

Nationwide, US doctors had long been dissuaded from prescribing powerful synthetic opioids to minority patients, even those in significant pain. There are various factors here, but the medical community has not been immune to the stereotype of the Hispanic or black urban addict or dealer. Perhaps, this widespread medical ‘racism’ in the context of the prescription opioid epidemic has had some paradoxical benefit.

Whatever the reason, urban minority addicts, while experiencing overdose in large numbers are more likely to survive an opiate overdose than small town or rural whites, unfamiliar with narcotics and their effects.

In the rural and small-town (deindustrialize) US heartland there has been an enormous breakdown in community and family solidarity. This has followed the destruction of a century-old stable employment base, especially in the manufacturing, mining and productive agricultural sectors. Only post-Soviet Russia experienced a similar pattern of declining life expectancy from ‘poisoning’ (alcohol and drugs) following the nationwide destruction of its socialized full employment system and the breakdown of all social services. Furthermore the loss of the tough Soviet police apparatus and the growth of an oligarch-mafia class saw the tremendous in-flooding of heroin from Afghanistan.

The growth of opioid addiction is not based on ‘personal choice’, nor is it the result of shifts in cultural life styles.  While all class and educational levels are included among the victims, the overwhelming majority are younger white working class and the poor. They cover all age groups, including adolescents recovering from sports injuries, as well as the elderly with joint and back pain. The surge of addiction is a result of major shifts in the economy and the social structure. The regions most affected by overdose deaths are those in deep, prolonged and permanent decline, including the former ‘rust belt’ regions, small manufacturing towns of New England, Upstate New York, Pennsylvania and the rural South and agricultural, mining and forestry regions of the west.

This is the product of private executive decisions to (1) relocate productive US companies overseas or to distant, non-union regions of the country, (2) force once well-paid employees into lower paid jobs, (3) replace American workers with skilled and unskilled foreign immigrants or poorly paid ‘temps’, (4) eliminate pension and health benefits and (5) introduce new technology – including robots- which cuts the labor force by rendering human workers redundant. These changes in the relationship of capital to labor have created enormous profits for senior executives and investors, while producing a surplus labor force, which puts even greater pressure on young first-time workers and workers with seniority. There have been no effective job protection/ sustainable job creation programs to address the decades of declining well-paid employment. Good jobs have been replaced by minimum wage, service sector ‘MacJobs’ or temporary poorly paid manufacturing jobs with no benefits or protections. All across this devastated heartland, expensively touted programs, such as ‘Start-Up New York’, have failed to bring decent jobs while spending hundreds of millions of public money in free PR for state politicians.

The drug addiction epidemic has been most deadly precisely in those regions of industrial job loss and working wage decline, as well as in the depressed, once protected, agricultural and food processing sectors where union jobs have been replaced by minimum wage immigrants. The loss of stable employment has been accompanied by a slashing of social services and tremendous cuts in benefits – just when such services should have been bolstered.

Precisely because the so-called ‘drug problem’ is linked to major demographic changes resulting from dynamic capitalist shifts, it has never been the focus of elite-run government and corporate foundation grant research – unlike their fixation on the ‘radicalization of Muslims’ or ‘trends in urban crime’. Research tended to focus on ‘minorities’ or merely nibbled at the periphery of the current phenomenon.  Good studies and data would have provided the rationale and basis for major public programs aimed at protecting the lives of marginalized white workers and reversing the deadly trends. The decade-long, nation-wide absence of research and data into this phenomenon has justified the glaring absence of an effective governmental response. Here the ‘neglect’ has not been ‘benign’.

In parallel with the increase in opioid addiction, there has been an astronomical increase in the prescription of psychotropic drugs and anti-depressants to the same population – also highly profitable to ‘Big Pharma’. The pattern of prescribing such powerful, and potentially dangerous, mood altering medications to downwardly mobile Americans to ‘treat’ or numb normal anxieties and reactions to the deterioration in their material condition has had profound consequences. Such individuals, often on unemployment assistance or MEDICAID, may be expected to follow a complex daily regimen of up to nine medications – besides their narcotic pain medications, while trying to cope with their crumbling world.

Where a dignified job with a decent wage would effectively treat a marginalized worker’s despair without unpleasant or dangerous ‘side effects’, the medical and mental health community has consistently sent their patients to ‘Big Pharma’. As a result, post-mortem toxicological analyses often show multiple prescribed psychotropic medications and anti-depressants in addition to narcotics in cases of opioid overdose deaths. While this may constitute an abdication of the medical provider’s responsibility to patients, it is also a reflection of the medical community’s utter helplessness in the face of systemic social breakdown – as has occurred in the marginalized communities where drug overdose deaths concentrate.

Demographic studies, at best, identify the victims of drug addiction. But their choice to treat their despair as an ‘individual problem’ occurring in a ‘specific, immediate context’ overlooks the greater political and economic structures, which set the stage for premature death.

The Political Economy of Overdose Deaths

When the remains of a young working class overdose victim is wheeled into a morgue, his or her untimely demise is labelled a ‘self-inflicted’ or ‘accidental’ opioid overdose and a great cover-up machine is turned on: The sequence leading up to the death is shrouded in mystery, no deeper understanding of the socio-cultural and economic factors are sought. Instead, the victim or his/her culture is blamed for the end-result of a complex chain of elite capitalist economic decisions and political maneuverings in which a worker’s premature death is a mere collateral event. The medical community has merely functioned as the transmission belt in this process, rather than as an agent for serving the public.

The vast majority of overdose fatalities are, in reality, victims of decisions and losses far beyond their control. Their addictions have shortened their lives as well as clouded their understanding of events and undermined their capacity to engage in class struggle to reverse this trend. It has been a perfect solution to the predictable demographic problems of brutal neoliberalism in America.

Wall Street and Washington designed the macro-economy that has eliminated decent jobs, cut wages and slashed benefits. As a result millions of marginalized workers and the unemployed are under tremendous tension and resort to pharmacologic solutions to endure their pain because they are not organized. The historical leading role of trade union and community organizations has been eliminated. Instead, redundant workers are ‘charged by Big Pharma’ to dig their own graves and class leaders are nowhere to be found.

Secondly, the workplace has become much more dangerous under the ‘new economic order’. Bosses no longer fear unions and safety regulations: many workers are injured by the accelerating pace of work, longer hours, faulty job training and lack of federal supervision of working conditions. Injured workers, lacking any judicial, trade union, or public agency protection rightly fear retaliation for reporting their work injury and increasingly resort to prescription narcotics to cope with acute and chronic pain while continuing to work.

When employers allow workers to report their injuries, the low coverage and limited treatments available, encourage providers to over-prescribe narcotics on top of other medications with potentially dangerous interactions. Many pain clinics, contracted by employers, are eager to profit from injured clients while pharmaceutical companies actively promote powerful synthetic narcotics.

A vicious chain is formed: The pharmaceutical industry’s mass production of narcotics has been among its most profitable products. Corporate pharmacy chains fill the prescriptions written by tens of thousands of ‘providers’ (doctors, dentists, nurses and physician assistants) who have only a limited amount of time to actually examine an injured worker. The deteriorating work conditions create the injury and the workers become consumers of Big Pharma’s miracle relief – Oxycontin or its cousins – which a decade of drug salesmen had touted as ‘non-addicting’. A long line of highly educated professionals, including doctors and other providers, pathologists, medical examiners and coroners carefully paper over the real cause, the corporate decision makers, in order to protect themselves from corporate reprisals should they ‘blow the whistle’. Behind the scientific façade there is a Social Darwinism that few are willing to confront.

Only recently, in the face of incredible numbers of hospitalizations and deaths from narcotic overdose, the federal government has started to release funds for research. Academic-medical researchers have started to collect and publicize data on the growing epidemic of opiate deaths; they provide shocking maps of the most affected counties and regions. They join the chorus in urging the federal and state agencies to become more actively involved in usual panacea: ‘education and prevention’. This beehive of activity has come two decades too late into the epidemic and reeks of cynicism.

Funding for research into this phenomenon will not result in any effective long-term programs for confronting these small community-based ‘crises of capitalism’. There is no institution willing to confront the basic cause: the devastation of capitalist– labor relations in post-millennial America, the corrupt nature of state-corporate-pharmaceutical linkages and the chaotic, profit-driven character of our private medical system. Very few writers ever explore how a national, public, single-payer, health system would have clearly prevented with epidemic from the beginning.

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Conclusion

Why does the capitalist-state and pharmaceutical elite sustain a socio-economic process, which has led to the large-scale, long-term death of workers and their family members in rural and small town America?

One ready and convincing hypothesis is that the modern dynamic corporate elite profits from the results of ‘demographic change by overdose.’

Corporations gain billions of dollars in profits from the ‘natural decline’ of redundant workers: slashing social services and job benefits, such as health plans, pension, vacation, job training programs, allowing employers to increase their profits, capital gains, executive bonuses and raises. Public services are eliminated, taxes are reduced and workers, when needed, can be imported – fully formed – from abroad for temporary employment in a ‘free labor market’.

Capitalists profit even more from the technology gains – robots, computerization, etc. – by ensuring that workers do not enjoy reduced hours or increased vacations resulting from their increased productivity. Why share the results of productivity gains with the workers, when the workers can just be eliminated? Dissatisfied workers can turn inward or ‘pop a pill’, but never organize to retake control of their lives and future.

Election experts and political pundits can claim that white American workers reject the major establishment parties because they are ‘angry’ and ‘racist’. These are the workers who now turn to a ‘Donald Trump’. But a deeper analysis would reveal their rational rejection of political leaders who have refused to condemn capitalist exploitation and confront the epidemic of death by overdose.

There is a class basis for this veritable genocide by narcotics raging among white workers and the unemployed in the small towns and rural areas of American: it is the ‘perfect’ corporate solution to a surplus labor force. It is time for American workers and their leaders to wake up to this cruel fact and resist this one-sided class war or continue to mourn more untimely deaths in their own drug-numbed silence.

And it is time for the medical community to demand a ‘patient-first’ publicly accountable national health system that rewards service over profit, and responsibility over silent complicity.

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Please note James Petras new collection of essays with Clarity Press:

THE END OF THE REPUBLIC AND THE DELUSION OF EMPIRE

            ISBN: 978-0-0072870-5-9, $24.95/ 252 pp./ 2016