greydog

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

Aug 012015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Netanyahu and Erdoğan

Netanyahu and Erdoğan

Introduction

The rulers of the two most powerful authoritarian regimes in the Middle East are launching major wars to reconfigure the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has declared war by proxy on Iran, announcing full-scale military mobilization within Israel (July 27 -29) and organizing the biggest political campaign of ultra Zionist Jews in Washington. The purpose of this two-pronged propaganda blitz is to defeat the recently signed US-Iranian agreement and start another major Middle East war. Ultimately, Netanyahu intends to take care of his ‘Palestinian Problem’ for good: complete the conquest and occupation of Palestine and expelling the Palestinian people from their homeland – the single most important foreign policy and domestic goal of the Jewish state. In order to do this, Israeli leaders have had to systematically campaign for the destruction of the Palestinians regional supporters and sympathizers – Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Iran.

Erdoğan’s Multiple Wars

At the same time, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan has launched a major war against the Kurdish people and their aspirations for a Kurdish state. This has followed closely on several recent incidents beginning with the bombing (with cooperation from Turkish intelligence ) of a Kurdish youth camp, killing and wounding scores of young secular activists. Within days of the massacre of Turkish-Kurdish youth, Erdoğan ordered his air force to bomb and strafe Kurdish bases within the sovereign territories of Iraq and Syria and Turkish security police have assaulted and arrested thousands of Kurdish nationalists and Turkish leftist sympathizers throughout the country. This has all occurred with the support of the US and NATO who provide cover for Erdoğan’s plans to seize Syrian territory, displace Kurdish civilians and fighters and colonize the northern border of Syria – under the pretext of needing a ‘buffer zone’ to protect Turkish sovereignty. Such a massive land grab of hundreds of square kilometers will end the long standing support and interaction among Syrian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurdish populations who have been among the most effective opponents of radical Islamist groups.

Erdoğan’s newly declared war on the Kurds has complex domestic and regional components (Financial Times 7/28/15, p 9): Within Turkey, the repression is directed against the emerging electoral-political power of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party. Erdoğan plans to discredit or outright ban this political party, which had won a surprising number of seats in the recent parliamentary election, call for new elections, secure a ‘majority’ in Parliament and assume dictatorial ‘executive powers’.

Regionally, Erdoğan’s invasion of Syria is part of his strategy to expand Turkey’s borders southward and westward and to provide a platform from which Turkey’s favorite jihadi clients can launch assaults on the secular government in Damascus and Aleppo. The bombing of Kurdish villages and camps in Iraq and Syria are designed to reverse the Kurd’s military victories against ISIS and will justify greater repression of Kurdish activists backing autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Erdoğan is counting on Turkey’s agreements with the US and NATO for overt and covert collaboration against the Kurds and against Syrian national sovereignty.

Netanyahu’s Proxy Wars

Netanyahu’s multifaceted political offensive is designed to drag the US into a war with Iran. His strategy operates at many levels and in complex complimentary ways. The immediate target is the nuclear agreement recently signed between the White House and Iran. Part of longer-term strategy to destroy Iran includes the formation of a coalition of Middle East states, especially Gulf monarchies, to encircle, confront and provoke war with Iran. This political-military strategy is being pushed by leading Zionists within the highest circles of the US Government.

All the major Israeli political parties, and most Israeli voters support this dangerous policy against Iran. The Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish Organizations in the US have been mobilized to bully, bribe and bludgeon the majority of Congress into following Netanyahu’s dictates. Every US Congressperson is being ‘visited’ and presented with propaganda sheets by leaders, activists and full time functionaries of AIPAC, the Jewish Confederations and their billionaire political donors. All the major US press and TV media parrot Netanyahu’s call for ‘war on the peace accord’ despite massive US public opinion against any escalation of the conflict.

At the highest levels of US Executive decision-making top Zionist officials avoid association with AIPAC’s public polemics and thuggish bluster, all the while promoting their own political-military ‘final solution’ … for eliminating Iran as an adversary to Israeli-Jewish supremacy in the Middle East. In the State Department and Departments of Commerce, Defense and Treasury, US-Israeli agents acting as special Middle East advisers, ambassadors and insiders push Netanyahu’s policies to undermine any normalization of relations between the US and Iran.

A recent proposal written by Professor Phillip Zelikow in the Financial Times (7/23/15, p. 9 ) entitled “To Balance (sic) the Nuclear Deal, Defeat ISIS and Confront Iran” is chilling.

The former ‘Executive Director of the ‘9/11 Commission Investigation Report’, uber-insider Zelikow promotes the formation of an ingenious coalition, in the name of fighting ISIS, but whose real purpose is to “confront Iranian ambitions”. Zelikow’s “coalition” includes Turkey, which will be assigned to attack Iran’s regional allies in Syria and Lebanon (Hezbollah) – all in the name of “fighting ISIS”.

The bland, bespectacled and most respectable Professor Zelikow lays out Netanyahu’s own bloody hit list down to the most minute detail – but tidied up with a thin veneer of ‘confronting ISIS’ to obscure his real agenda. This is no blustering AIPAC thug or open Neo-Con war monger beating the drums…

Zelikow’s ‘anti-ISIS coalition’ will ultimately go after the Iraqi Shia militia and their main supporters among Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – hewing closely to Netanyahu’s strategy!

Zelikow was a major inside advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Twelve years after the US invaded, occupied and destroyed Iraq, Zelikow pops up again to promote a policy of sending US combat troops to serve Israel’s regional interest. He writes, “The military side [of the ‘coalition’] will need more Americans on the ground to offer meaningful combat support among the coalition”. (FT ibid).

Zelikow is clearly aware of US public opinion in favor of diplomacy with Iran and against the US engaging in more ground wars in the Middle East, when he writes that a ‘military effort is not an alternative to diplomacy.” Zelikow and his bosses in the Israeli Foreign Office know any US military intervention with such a “coalition” would lead to the destruction of the US-Iran Agreement and another major ground war with US troops fighting for Israel once again!

Considering his position as a highly connected insider, Zelikow’s attempts to sabotage the Iran-US agreement presents a far greater danger to world peace than all the noisy lobbying by the 52 Zionist organizations active in Congress.

Zelikow has been a highly influential security adviser to the US Executive and State Department since the early 1980’s under Reagan. He was appointed ‘special adviser to the State Department’ in 2007, a position held earlier by Neo-Con operative Wendy Sherman and followed by war-monger, Victoria Nuland. In 2011 President Obama appointed him to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

He came to national prominence when President Bush appointed him Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission where he directed the highly controversial (and highly censored) 9/11 Commission Report against much public opposition. The appointment was made after Bush first choice of Henry Kissinger had created a media storm – Kissinger was never a serious choice with an insider-gatekeeper like Zelikow waiting in the wings. He was a controversial choice because of his role as intimate advisor to Condaleeza Rice and his authorship of the notorious Bush national security strategy promoting pre-emptive war, published in September 2002.

Phillip Zelikow suppressed any discussion of Israel’s role as a major catalyst for US involvements in the Afghan and Iraq wars. As executive-director of the 9/11 Commission Report, Zelikow assumed the role of editor and censor. He ignored the history of Israeli Mossad operations in the US, especially in the run-up to the attack on September 11, 2001. The report made no mention of the fake ‘moving’ van filled with Israeli spies arrested on September 11, 2001 while celebrating and photographing the destruction of the World Trade Center complex. Nor did he discuss the quiet ‘deportation’ of the Israeli agents. The report contains no discussion of the scores of phony Israel “art students” who operated in South Florida around US military installations and in the vicinity of the apartment of the alleged 9-11 hijackers. They too were quietly arrested and deported.

He also suppressed discussion of the Defense Department’s ‘Able Danger Project’, which showed US intelligence awareness of the hijackers presence and activities much earlier dating back to 1997.

In October 2001, the first ‘anthrax attack’ occurred – first sickening and killing a photojournalist at a scandal sheet in Florida. National news programs featured an interview with … the re-packaged ‘al Qaeda’ and ‘bioterrorism’ expert Professor Zelikow (his lack of Arabic and scientific credentials notwithstanding …) who declared the anthrax to be ‘weapons grade’ and ‘definitely from a state sponsored military lab’, implying Iraq. (He was correct in the ‘military lab’ part of his declaration – only the facility was the US Weapons Lab at Fort Detrick. Zelikow’s role in accusing the embargoed and beleaguered regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of the anthrax hysteria was crucial in the public build-up for the case to invade Iraq, echoed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s call for the destruction of Iraq. Master-performance complete, ‘scientist’ Zelikow’s interview (among others) has disappeared from the ‘web’.

Zelikow’s ‘expertise’ (such as it is) and usefulness to Israel derives from his articles on the political usefulness of ‘false flags’ and catastrophes – events concocted or instigated by imperialist powers to push a traumatized public into unpopular wars and draconian domestic police state policies. His work has centered on the manipulation and exploitation of ‘events’ to push public policy – and include the Cuban Missile Crisis, the re-unification of Germany, policing Northern Ireland, (but not Middle East studies or bio-weaponry’). His expertise is in the historical use of the ‘public myth’- whether the Riechstag Fire or Pearl Harbor. In Foreign Affairs, November-December 1998, he co-authored an article with the current US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, entitled Catastrophe Terrorism where a ‘watershed event’ could result in ‘horror and chaos’ pushing the US public to accept the destruction of ‘their civil liberties, wide-spread surveillance, detention and use of deadly force …

Zelikow continues to push the “false flag” script: In 2001 with the “anthrax hysteria” and now with the “Iran threat hysteria” … What is not surprising is that in both instances he hews closely to Israel’s strategic goal of utterly destroying countries, which have opposed Israel’s dispossession, occupation and expulsion of Palestinians – Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon and now Iran.

Zelikow is a long-term, major asset for Israel, working quietly and effectively while the AIPAC bullies break down the doors of Congress. He never held a prominent position in the Cabinet or White House post like the brazen Zion-Cons Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, Perle, Abrams and Levey who aggressively pushed the country into war with Iraq. Wolfowitz and company have scuttle back into obscurity under the cover of lucrative private positions while Zelikow continues to work inside pushing the Iran war agenda out of the limelight.

Zelikow’s role is far more discrete and important to Israel over the long haul than the loudmouths and thugs of AIPAC and other Zionist fronts. On the surface he pursues his academic and university administrative career (an excellent cover) while repeatedly inserting himself into crucial public discussions and quietly assuming strategic positions to advise on events or policies which have ‘turning point’ consequences and where his deep ties to Israel are never discussed.

Zelikow has one asset, which his bullying and blustering Zionist comrades lack and another which he shares with them. Zelikow is a great con-man – claiming knowledge about anthrax, Middle East relations, and military strategy. He spouts … pure unadulterated rubbish with authoritative finesse! …  Claiming legal and investigative expertise he controlled the 9/11 Commission Report and denied the American people any open and relevant discussion of the event. He even likened the Commission Report skeptics to ‘an infection’ within American public opinion – apparently relying on his ‘expertise’ in biological warfare …

What Zelikow does have in common with the raging bulls of Zionism is his constant resort to vituperation against any country or movement identified as a target by Israel. He consistently refers to the secular government of Syria (under attack by jihadi terrorists) as a “terrorist regime”. He calls the Iraqi militia fighting ISIS “Shia torture squads”. This is part of a build-up to push the US into ground war for Israel against Iran and its allies.

Unlike Turkey’s Erdoğan who uses his own armed forces to launch an all-out war to dispossess, terrorize and colonize ethnic Kurdish territories in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, Israel’s Netanyahu relys on his overseas (US) high level operatives to set in motion the wheels of war. Within days of attacks of September 11, 2001, Israel’s leading mouthpiece in the US Senate, Joseph Lieberman presented the roadmap for US wars for the next decade and a half – declaring that “the US must declare war on Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon and Iran”, despite the complete absence of these countries’ involvement in the event.

Is he a prophet or just a highly successful agent? Zelikow will push for a ‘coalition’ of Middle East dictators and monarchs to fulfill Israel’s dream as dictated by Joseph Lieberman in September 2001. This is a dream of waging devastating war against Iran leading to its partition, similar to the de facto partition of Iraq, Syria and Libya, resulting in a Middle East forever ravaged by  sectarian strife, foreign occupations, balkanized and devoid of any possibility of regaining civilized life. Israel can then carry out its brutal final solution: the dispossession and expulsion of all Palestinians and establishment an expanded, purely Jewish state – surrounded by unspeakable destruction and destitution …

Conclusion

Erdoğan expands ‘Turkoman frontier’ into Syria and Iraq – despite the fact that Turkey has never shown any interest in the Turkoman minorities. To that end, he allies with ISIS terrorists to uproot Kurds, everywhere extending into Turkey. Erdoğan, like, Netanyahu, wants a ‘pure’ ethnic state – one Jewish, the other Turkish! Both brutal leaders have no regard for the sovereignty of neighboring states, let alone the security of their civilian populations. Both depend on the military support of the US. Both are in the process of igniting wider and more destructive wars in the Middle East. Netanyahu and Erdoğan want to reconfigure the Middle East: Turkey seizes Kurdistan and Syria; Netanyahu expands military dominance in the Persian Gulf through the destruction of Iran.

These two leaders appear to hate each other because they are so similar in arrogance and action …  But according to Professor Zelikow, the US will step in ‘god-like’ to ‘mediate’ the different power grabs among what he mindlessly refers to as the ‘partners of the coalition’

Jul 302015
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

Original post @ A Place Called Space 

Text and Photos by Eirene

Exarheia is one of my favourite areas in Athens. It’s portrayed as a hotbed of anarchist radicalism by the media, as an area that should be avoided at all costs. It’s true that an awful lot of students live here as it’s very close to the University the Polytechnic and a large majority of them are anti-establishment and very radicalised – just looking at the posters around the area is testimony to that. A lot of the resistance that Athens has witnessed in the last years has started here. It’s here that the school boy Alexis Gregoropoulos was murdered by the police, and this sparked off large demonstrations in the streets of Athens.

Large parts of the area are very run-down, but there are also an awful lot of quiet, residential streets. There is a real sense of community here, of people using the area and living in it – a real medley of people: grungy youth, trendies, old ladies wearing twin-sets and pearls carrying their shopping, older men, newspaper under the arm, walking to their favourite cafeteria for a coffee and a read.

There is a palpable energy, a real buzz, with a mix of people who peacefully co-exist. We like it a lot.

Lots of street art all around that tells the story of this city.

The period of the crisis is over... No more lies. Freedom or Death (Freedom or Death was the rallying cry of the Greek war of Independence against the Turks)

The period of the crisis is over… No more lies. Freedom or Death (Freedom or Death was the rallying cry of the Greek war of Independence against the Turks)

 

Your system is wrong

Your system is wrong

As a noun, lathos means mistake. As an adjective it means wrong. Except it’s misspelt: it should be an omicron rather than omega.

‘Lathos’ is everywhere, usually just the word, and I have taken it to mean wrong epoch/wrong times. This time, it’s a phrase: your system is wrong.

 

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No to subjugation

No to subjugation

 

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This is a recurring image throughout the city. And no wonder. In a country where the State launches chemical warfare against its own people, gas masks become a necessary protection in any demonstration.

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We (mistakenly, naively?) thought that there would be no more chemical warfare under the new ‘left’ government. I cannot describe the shock we all felt last week when the Syriza government used tear gas against people who were demonstrating against the new and third bailout programme that has just been accepted.

 

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OXI posters, left overs from before the referendum - lots still around

OXI posters, left overs from before the referendum – lots still around

 

NO to bailout programmes and post-third bailout agreement, someone has added: What do we do now?

NO to bailout programmes and post-third bailout agreement, someone has added: What do we do now?

 

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Sisyphus

Sisyphus

Some compare the present Greek predicament and the imposition of continuous austerity to the labours of Sisyphys who was punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action forever.

 

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Does this refer to the burning of books, or to the fact that books lighten up our lives?

 

Wake up by INO

Wake up by INO

 

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A pity about the red van that was parked in front of this mural that takes up the whole of the ground floor of this house

 

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looking closer, the dedication

 

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On the steps leading to Lykabettus Hill, Asteras 1928, referring to the sports club of Exarheia, founded in 1928. The club has three active sports sections: Men’s baskeball, men’s football and Women’s basketball. The latter team compete in the top division the A1 Ethniki.

 

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The market on the day we visited the area was extremely quiet: very few shoppers, a sign of the times. Our local market is the same – just a fraction of the usual number of people shopping.

 

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This street art that refers to the market.

 

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Jul 272015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

OXIbanner-main

Introduction

The Greek people’s efforts to end the economic depression, recover their sovereignty and reverse the regressive socio-economic policies, which have drastically reduced living standards, have been thrice denied.

First, the denial came as tragedy: When the Greek majority elected Syriza to government and their debts increased, the economy plunged further into depression and unemployment and poverty soared. The Greek people voted for Syriza believing its promises of ‘a new course’. Immediately following their victory, Syriza reneged on their promise to restore sovereignty – and end the subjugation of the Greek people to the economic dictates of overseas bankers, bureaucrats and political oligarchs. Instead Syriza kept Greece in the oligarchical imperialist bloc, portraying the European Union as an association of independent sovereign countries. What began as a great victory of the Greek people turned into a tragic strategic retreat. From their first day in office, Syriza led the Greek people down the blind alley of total submission to the German empire.

Then the tragedy turned into farce when the Greek people refused to acknowledge the impending betrayal by their elected leaders. They were stunned, but mute, as Syriza emptied the Greek treasury and offered even greater concessions, including acceptance of the illegal and odious debts incurred by private bankers, speculators and political kleptocrats in previous regimes.

True to their own vocation as imperial overlords, the EU bosses saw the gross servility of Syriza as an invitation to demand more concessions – total surrender to perpetual debt peonage and mass impoverishment. Syriza’s demagogic leaders, Yanis Varoufakis and Alexis Tsipras, shifting from fits of hysteria to infantile egotism, denounced ‘the Germans and their blackmail’ and then performed a coy belly-crawl at the feet of the ‘Troika’, peddling their capitulation to the bankers as ‘negotiations’ and referring to their overlords as . . . ‘partners’.

Syriza, in office for only 5 months brought Greece to the edge of total bankruptcy and surrender, then launched the ‘mother of all deceptions’ on the Greek people: Tsipras convoked a ‘referendum’ on whether Greece should reject or accept further dictates and cuts to bare bones destitution. Over 60% of the Greek people voted a resounding NO to further plunder and poverty.

In Orwellian fashion, the megalomaniac Tsipras immediately re-interpreted the ‘NO’vote as a mandate to capitulation to the imperial powers, accepting the EU bankers’ direct supervision of the regime’s implementation of Troika’s policies – including drastic reductions of Greek pensions, doubling the regressive ‘VAT’ consumption tax on vital necessities and a speed-up of evictions of storeowners and householders behind in their mortgage payments.  Thus Greece became a vassal state: Nineteenth century colonialism was re-imposed in the 21st century.

Colonialism by Invitation

Greek politicians, whether Conservative or Socialist, have openly sought to join the German-led imperial bloc known as the European Union, even when it was obvious that the Greek economy and financial system was vulnerable to domination by the powerful German ruling class.

From the beginning, the Greek Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) and their Conservative counterparts refused to recognize the class basis of the European Union. Both political factions and the Greek economic elites, that is, the kleptocrats who governed and the oligarchs who ruled, viewed entry into the EU as an opportunity for taking and faking loans, borrowing, defaulting and passing their enormous debts on to the public treasury!

Widely circulating notions among the Left that ‘Germany is responsible’ for the Greek crisis are only half true, while the accusations among rightwing financial scribes that the ‘Greek people are spendthrifts’ who brought on their own crisis is equally one-sided. The reality is more complex:

The crash and collapse of the Greek economy was a product of an entrenched parasitic rentier ruling class –both Socialist and Conservative – which thrived on borrowing at high interest rates and speculating in non-productive economic activities while imposing an astronomical military budget. They engaged in fraudulent overseas financial transactions while grossly manipulating and fabricating financial data to cover-up Greece’s unsustainable trade and budget deficits.

German and other EU exporters had penetrated and dominated the Greek markets. The bankers charged exorbitant interest rates while investors exploited cheap Greek labor. The creditors ignored the obvious risks because Greek rulers were their willing accomplices in the ongoing pillage.

Clearly entry into and continued membership in the EU has largely benefited two groups of elites: the German rulers and the Greek rentiers. The latter received short-term financial grants and transfers while the former gained powerful levers over the banks, markets and, most important, established cultural-ideological hegemony over the Greek political class. The Greek elite and middle class believed ‘they were Europeans’ – that the EU was a beneficent arrangement and a source of prosperity and upward mobility. In reality, Greek leaders were merely accomplices to the German conquest of Greece. And the major part of the middle class aped the views of the Greek elite.

The financial crash of 2008-2009 ended the illusions for some but not most Greeks. After 6 years of pain and suffering a new version of the old political class came to power: Syriza! Syriza brought in new faces and rhetoric but operated with the same blind commitment to the EU. The Syriza leadership believed they were “partners”.

The road to vassalage is rooted deep in the psyche of the political class. Instead of recognizing their subordinate membership in the EU as the root cause of their crisis, they blamed ‘the Germans, the bankers, Angela Merkel, Wolfgang Schnauble, the IMF, the Troika ... The Greek rulers and middle class were in fact both victims and accomplices.

The German imperial regime loaned money from the tax revenues of German workers to enable their complicit Greek vassals to pay back the German bankers …  German workers complained. The German media deflected criticism by blaming the ‘lazy Greek cheats’. Meanwhile, the Greek oligarch-controlled media deflected criticism of the role of the parasitical political class back to the ‘Germans’. This all served to obscure the class dynamics of empire building — colonialism by invitation. The ideology of blaming peoples, instead of classes, is pitting German workers against Greek employees and pensioners. The German masses support their bankers, while the Greek masses have elected and followed Syriza – their traitors.

From Andreas Papandreou to Alexis Tsipras: Misconceptions about the European Union

After Syriza was elected a small army of instant experts, mostly leftist academics from Canada, the US and Europe, sprang up to write and speak, usually with more heat than light, on current Greek political and economic developments. Most have little knowledge or experience of Greek politics, particularly its history and relations with the EU over the past thirty five years.

The most important policy decisions shaping the current Syriza government’s betrayal of Greek sovereignty go back to the early 1980’s when I was working as an adviser to PASOK Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. At that time, I was party to an internal debate of whether to continue within the EU or leave. Papandreou was elected on an anti EU, anti NATO platform, which, like Tsipras, he promptly reneged on– arguing that ‘there were no alternatives’. Even then, there were international and Greek academic sycophants, as there are today, who argued that membership in the EU was the only realistic alternative – it was the ‘only possibility’. The ‘possibilistas” at that time, operating either from ignorance or deceit, were full of bluster and presumption. They denied the underlying power realities in the structure of the EU and dismissed the class capacity of the working and popular masses to forge an alternative. Then, as now, it was possible to develop independent alternative relations with Europe, Russia, China, the Middle East and North Africa. The advantages of maintaining a protected market, a robust tourist sector and an independent monetary system were evident and did not require EU membership (or vassalage).

Above all, what stood out in both leaders, Andreas Papandreou and Alexis Tsipras, was their profound misconception of the class nature of the dominant forces in the EU. In the 1980’s Germany was just beginning to recover its imperial reach. By the time Syriza-Tsipras rose to power (January 2015), Germany’s imperial power was undeniable. Tsipras’ misunderstanding of this reality can be attributed to his and his ‘comrades’ rejection of class and imperial analyses. Even academic Marxists, who spouted Marxist theory, never applied their abstract critiques of capitalism and imperialism to the concrete realities of German empire building and Greece’s quasi-colonial position within the EU. They viewed their role as that of ‘colonial reformers’ – imagining that they were clever enough to ‘negotiate’ better terms in the German-centered EU. They inevitably failed because Berlin had a built-in majority among its fervently neo-liberal ex-communist satellites plus the IMF, French and English imperial partners. Syriza was no match for this power configuration. Then there was the bizarre delusion among the Syriza intellectuals that European capitalism was more benign than the US version.

EU membership has created scaffolding for German empire-building. The take off point was West Germany’s annexation of East Germany. This was soon followed by the incorporation of the rightwing regimes in the Baltic and Balkans as subordinate members of the EU – their public assets were snapped up by Germany corporations at bargain prices. The third step was the systematic break-up of Yugoslavia and the incorporation of Slovenia into the German orbit. The fourth step was the takeover of key sectors of the Polish and Czech economies and the exploitation of cheap skilled labor from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and other satellite states.

Without firing a shot, German empire-building has revolved around making loans and financial transfers to the new subordinate member states in the EU. These financial transactions were predicated upon the following conditions: 1) Privatization and sale of the new member states’ prized public assets to mainly German as well as other EU investors and 2) Forcing member states to dismantle their social programs, approve massive lay-offs and meet impossible fiscal targets. In other words, expansion of the contemporary German empire required austerity measures, which transformed the ex-communist countries into satellites, vassals and sources of mercenaries – a pattern which is now playing out in Greece.

The reason these new German ‘colonies’ (especially Poland and the Baltic States) insist on the EU imposing harsh austerity measures on Greece, is that they went through the same brutal process convincing their own beleaguered citizens that there was no alternative – resistance was futile. Any successful demonstration by Greek workers, farmers and employees that resistance to empire was possible would expose the corrupt relationship between these client leaders and the German imperial order. In order to preserve the foundations of the new imperial order, Germany has had to take a hardline on Greece. Otherwise the recently incorporated colonial subjects in the Baltic, Balkan and Central Europe states might “re-think” the brutal terms of their own incorporation to the European Union. This explains the openly punitive approach to Greece – turning it into the ‘Haiti of Europe’ analogous to the US’ long standing brutalization of the rebellious Haitians – as an object lesson to its own Caribbean and Latin American clients.

The root cause of German intransigence has nothing to do with the political personalities or quirks of Angela Merkle and Wolfgang Schnauble: Such imperial leaders do not operate out of neurotic vindictiveness. Their demand for total Greek submission is an imperative of German empire-building, a continuation of the step-by-step conquest of Europe.

German empire-building emphasizes economic conquests, which go hand-in-hand with US empire-building based on military conquests. The same economic satellites of Germany also serve as sites for US military bases and exercises encircling Russia; these vassal states provide mercenary soldiers for US imperial wars in South Asia, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

Syriza’s economic surrender is matched by its spineless sell-out to NATO, its support of sanctions against Russia and its embrace of US policies toward Syria, Lebanon and Israel.

Germany and its imperial partners have launched a savage attack on the working people of Greece, usurping Greek sovereignty and planning to seize 50 billion Euros of vital Greek public enterprises, land and resources. This alone should dispels the myth, promoted especially by the French social democratic demagogue Jacques Delores, that European capitalism is a benign form of ‘social welfarism’ and an ‘alternative’ to the savage Anglo-American version capitalism.

What has been crucial to previous and current versions of empire-building is the role of a political collaborator class facilitating the transition to colonialism. Here is where social democrats, like Alexis Tsipras, who excel in the art of talking left while embracing the right, flatter and deceive the masses into deepening austerity and pillage.

Instead of identifying the class enemies within the EU and organizing an alternative working class program, Tsipras and his fellow collaborators pose as EU ‘partners’, fostering class collaboration – better to serve imperial Europe: When the German capitalists demanded their interest payments, Tsipras bled the Greek economy. When German capitalists sought to dominate Greek markets, Tsipras and Syriza opened the door by keeping Greece in the EU. When German capital wanted to supervise the take-over of Greek properties, Tsipras and Syriza embraced the sell-off.

There is clear class collaboration within the Greek elite in the destruction of nation’s sovereignty: Greek banker oligarchs and sectors of the commercial and tourist elite have acted as intermediaries of the German empire builders and they personally benefit from the German and EU takeover despite the destitution of the Greek public. Such economic intermediaries, representing 25% of the electorate, have become the main political supporters of the Syriza-Tsipras betrayal. They join with the EU elite applauding Tsipras’ purge of left critics and his authoritarian seizure of legislative and executive power! This collaborator class will never suffer from pension cuts, layoffs and unemployment. They will never have to line up at crippled banks for a humiliating dole of 65 Euros of pension money. These collaborators have hundreds of thousands and millions stashed in overseas bank accounts and invested in overseas real estate. Unlike the Greek masses, they are ‘European’ first and foremost – willing accomplices of German empire builders!

Tragic Beginnings: The Greek People Elect a Trojan Horse

Syriza is deeply rooted in Greek political culture. A leadership of educated mascots serving overseas European empire-builders. Syriza is supported by academic leftists who are remote from the struggles, sacrifices and suffering of the Greek masses. Syriza’s leadership emerged on the scene as ideological mentors and saviors with heady ideas and shaky hands. They joined forces with downwardly mobile middle class radicals who aspired to rise again via the traditional method: radical rhetoric, election to office, negotiations and transactions with the local and foreign elite and betrayal of their voters. Theirs is a familiar political road to power, privilege and prestige. In this regard, Tsipras personifies an entire generation of upwardly mobile opportunists, willing and able to sellout Greece and its people. He perpetuates the worst political traditions: In campaigns he promoted consumerism over class consciousness (discarding any mobilization of the masses upon election!). He is a useful fool, embedded in a culture of clientelism, kleptocracy, tax evasion, predatory lenders and spenders – the very reason his German overlords tolerated him and Syriza, although on a short leash!

Tsipras’ Syriza has absolute contempt for democracy. He embraces the ‘Caudillo Principle’: one man, one leader, one policy! Any dissenters invite dismissal!

Syriza has utterly submitted to imperial institutions, the Troika and their dictates, NATO and above all the EU, the Eurozone. Tsipras/ Syriza reject outright independence and freedom from imperial dictates. In his ‘capitulation to the Germans’ Tsipras engaged in histrionic theatrics, but by his own personal dictate, the massive ‘NO to EU’ vote was transformed into a YES.

The cruelest political crime of all has been Tsipras running down the Greek economy, bleeding the banks, emptying the pension funds and freezing everyday salaries while ‘blaming the bankers’, in order to force the mass of Greeks to accept the savage dictates of his imperial overlords or face utter destitution!

The Ultimate Surrender

Tsipras and his sycophants in Syriza, while constantly decrying Greece’s subordination to the EU empire-builders and claiming victimhood, managed to undermine the Greek people’s national consciousness in less than 6 months. What had been a victorious referendum and expression of rejection by three-fifths of the Greek voters turned into a prelude to a farcical surrender by empire collaborators. The people’s victory in the referendum was twisted to represent popular support for a Caudillo. While pretending to consult the Greek electorate, Tsipras manipulated the popular will into a mandate for his regime to push Greece beyond debt peonage and into colonial vassalage.

Tsipras is a supreme representation of Adorno’s authoritarian personality: On his knees to those above him, while at the throat of those below.

Once he has completed his task of dividing, demoralizing and impoverishing the Greek majority, the local and overseas ruling elites will discard him like a used condom, and he will pass into history as a virtuoso in deceiving and betraying the Greek people.

Epilogue:

Syriza’s embrace of hard-right foreign policies should not be seen as the ‘result of outside pressure’, as its phony left supporters have argued, but rather a deliberate choice. So far, the best example of the Syriza regime’s reactionary policies is its signing of a military agreement with Israel.

According to the Jerusalem Post (July 19, 2015), the Greek Defense Minister signed a mutual defense and training agreement with Israel, which included joint military exercises. Syriza has even backed Israel’s belligerent position against the Islamic Republic of Iran, endorsing Tel Aviv’s ridiculous claim that Teheran represents a terrorist threat in the Middle East and Mediterranean. Syriza and Israel have inked a mutual military support pact that exceeds any other EU member agreement with Israel and is only matched in belligerence by Washington’s special arrangements with the Zionist regime.

Israel’s ultra-militarist ‘Defense’ Minister Moshe Yaalon, (the Butcher of Gaza), hailed the agreement and thanked the Syriza regime for ‘its support’. It is more than likely that Syriza’s support for the Jewish state explains its popularity with Anglo-American and Canadian ‘left’ Zionists…

Syriza’s strategic ties with Israel are not the result of EU ‘pressure’ or the dictates of the ‘Troika’. The agreement is a radical reversal of over a half-century of Greek support for the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people against the Israeli terrorist state. This military pact, like the Syriza regime’s economic capitulation to the German ruling class, is deeply rooted in the ‘colonial ideology’, which permeates Tsipras’ policies. He has taken Greece a significant step ‘forward’ from economic vassal to a mercenary client of the most retrograde regime in the Mediterranean.

Jul 252015
 

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

The deadly suicide bombing on July 20th in Suruç, Turkey which left 32 young activists dead and dozens of others severely wounded has shaken the country. The moment of the explosion was captured on camera, and in the aftermath forensics investigation began. The bomber’s identity has now been confirmed to be a 20-year-old Mechanical Engineering student at Adıyaman University, Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, who had disappeared with his brother Yunus Emre Alagoz in 2014.

The two brothers had been on the “wanted list” with high suspicion of terrorist activities since their father had filed a complaint in November 2014. The two brothers allegedly left their home town of Adıyaman for Gaziantep and later for Kilis, from where they set out for a training camp in Syria. After the training camp in Syria, they illegally re-entered Turkey and visited their home without getting caught twice. It has also been figured out that the brothers went to Syria at the same time as Orhan Gonder, who had carried out a bombing attack in Diyarbakır two days before the 2015 general elections at an HDP rally.

Video of the initial explosion:

23 Suicide Bombers on Wanted Lists

A total of 18 families in Adıyaman have filed complaints and reported that their children have joined ISIS. A total of 23 names remain on the “wanted for possible terrorist activities” list of the Turkish police.

The suicide bomber Abdurrahman Alagoz is also reported to have been detained by the police earlier and then released, even though his name appeared on the Wanted list. An HDP member of parliament for the city of Kars stated that there are several local sources confirming this detention and possible camera footage and there will be an investigation. The Diyarbakır bomber had also been detained and released by the police prior to the bloody attacks.

In another note, the city of Adıyaman appears to be known for infamous bombers. The city of 250,000 inhabitants comprises Turkish, Kurdish, Sunni and Alevi people, with a high level of conservative lifestyles. In the most recent elections Adıyaman’s five representatives were divided into long-time governing Islamist AKP (4) members and members of the pro-Kurdish Socialist party HDP (1). The multiethnic and multi-religious city has mostly been peaceful until the “tagging” of Alevi Housesin recent years.

Islam Tea House: Frequent Address of Bombers

In the city of Adıyaman the Alagoz brothers had opened a tea house named “Islam” which was frequently visited by both Diyarbakır and Suruç bombers. According to the Daily Cumhuriyet, the tea house later was closed down after three months of operation by the municipality and police for lack of official papers, and now the building is being used as an advertising agency. Witnesses say that usually around 50 people would visit the tea house and police would surveil the vicinity 24/7.

When the tea house was first opened, local shop owners filed complaints out of suspicion and the tea house was raided, upon which the owners protested saying “We live in a Muslim majority country; is it illegal to grow beard?”

Neighboring shop owners also stated that during the deadly October 6-7 clashes, the tea house stayed closed for several days and it has been reported that the people hanging out there would say they were going to Kobane to join ISIS forces. They have been saying that mostly young people in their twenties would visit the tea house and families of the disappeared children would come to seek clues to there sons’ whereabouts.

The Adıyaman chairperson of the main opposition party CHP stated that they will file a report on the disappeared children and ISIS recruitments in the city. A CHP representative states that there are rumors of 300 people joining ISIS from the city of Adıyaman.

Photo: DÖDEF – Demokratik Öğrenci Dernekleri Federasyonu

Photo: DÖDEF – Demokratik Öğrenci Dernekleri Federasyonu

 

Photo: DÖDEF – Demokratik Öğrenci Dernekleri Federasyonu

Photo: DÖDEF – Demokratik Öğrenci Dernekleri Federasyonu

 

Photo: DÖDEF – Demokratik Öğrenci Dernekleri Federasyonu

Photo: DÖDEF – Demokratik Öğrenci Dernekleri Federasyonu

 

Photo: DÖDEF – Demokratik Öğrenci Dernekleri Federasyonu

Photo: DÖDEF – Demokratik Öğrenci Dernekleri Federasyonu

 

Jul 202015
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

The Art of Haiti Cover

The influence of history, religion, and politics on the emergence of a dynamic art movement in Haiti is the subject of this 28 minute award-winning documentary film.

The Art of Haiti juxtaposes images from everyday life with the radiant works of twelve prominent painters and includes interviews with renowned artists Philome Obin and Rigaud Benoit. In addition to delving into historical and political influences, the uneasy co-existence of Christian and Vodoun beliefs is explored through detailed retrospectives of artists influenced by the Vodoun religion, Hector Hyppolite and Andre Pierre.

The Smithsonian Institution contributed to the high quality digitizing of the original 16mm negative so that the DVD could be used as a reference during their restoration of several murals from the destroyed Cathedrale Sainte-Trinite in Port-au-Prince. The film serves as a permanent record of these beautiful murals, filmed years before the Cathedrale was destroyed during the earthquake of 2010.

 

“I very much enjoyed seeing [The Art of Haiti].”    – Alan Lomax, American Folklorist.

“The film would be excellent for classes in Black History and Culture, Latin American studies, Art and Art History and Social Studies. A wonderful way to present the history and daily culture of Haiti to your students.”    – Northeast  Conference on the Teaching of Languages.

“A skillfully edited work which makes effective use of color and music. The Art of Haiti can be highly recommended to those interested in art and in Black and Caribbean culture.”                 – Library Journal.

“The African diaspora as far as art is concerned, is made vivid in Mamalakis’ film, The Art of Haiti.”    – Ramon Price, former Chief Curator, DuSable Museum of African American History,  Chicago.

Produced and directed by Mark Mamalakis

 

AWARDS

Chicago International Film Festival – 3 awards

French Cultural Services Award

Silver Plaque award, Documentary: Arts/Humanities

Illinois Award

 

OFFICIAL SELECTION

Anthropology Film Festival, Field Museum, Chicago.

Museum of Modern Art, NY

Festival International Du Film Des Metiers & D’Art, Aubusson, France

International Festival of Films on Art, Asolo, Italy.

Film Center, The Art Institute of Chicago.

 

TO ORDER

mrkfilms.com, info@mrkfilms.com, Tel. 312/315-2181

Institutional pricing includes PPR $125.00

K-12 Schools $65.00

Home video pricing $29.95

28:35 Minutes

16mm to DVD

English

Completed 1982 and updated in 2014.

 

Jul 192015
 

By Éric Toussaint, Rosa Moussaoui, CADTM, 99GetSmart

Éric Toussaint before the Greek Parliament on 17 June 2015, in the presence of Zoe Konstantopoulou, president of the Greek Parliament and several ministers

Éric Toussaint before the Greek Parliament on 17 June 2015, in the presence of Zoe Konstantopoulou, president of the Greek Parliament and several ministers

Éric Toussaint interviewed by Rosa Moussaoui, Special envoy in Athens for  L’Humanité

Has Athens really been subjected to a financial coup d’état over recent weeks as claimed by many Greek and foreign observers?

Éric Toussaint: Yes and no. What was decisive was the result of political decisions made by political institutions, though obviously complicit with financial interests. The coup d’état was not directly led by financial powers, but by institutions, the European Commission and the heads of State and Government of the Eurozone. Germany was not the only country involved. Mariano Rajoy in Spain, or Pedro Passos Coelho in Portugal, not to mention the Finnish, Latvian and other decidedly neoliberal governments clearly wanted to demonstrate to their respective populations that the options presented to the European peoples by the Syriza government were unworkable. So the primary motivation was political. Clearly though the private banking sector and the multinational corporations also wanted to show that it is impossible to turn away from austerity policies. However, it must be remembered that Greece’s principal creditors are public institutions; since 2012 when they managed to unload their Greek debt, private banks are not the most interested party. The debt restructuring that took place permitted them to comfortably withdraw. Today, despite the failure of the economic policies that have been imposed on Greece, the European Commission, the ECB and the Eurozone countries are adamant that Greece continues on the path of neoliberalism. Remember that the IMF is also a political institution.
Alexis Tsipras expected assurances for debt relief in return for his capitulation to the austerity policies. The creditors have merely acquiesced to a discussion scheduled for this year on a possible debt restructuring starting from 2022. Why this obstinacy, while the IMF itself now considers the debt as unsustainable?
Éric Toussaint: I think that a Debt Restructuring is feasible before 2022. The creditors will say “not before 2022” because they know that this plan will not work and that the debt payment will be unsustainable. They will restructure this debt provided the neoliberal reforms are pursued. Debt is a means of blackmail, an instrument of domination. Basically, in the Greek case, the creditors are not so much motivated by profit, pertinent as it is, as by teaching a lesson to their own people and the peoples of other peripheral countries that there is no question of deviating from the model. For Hollande to say, “Look, even Tsipras and the radical left cannot escape the economic stranglehold!” is a way of vindicating his own abdication in 2012 on the promise to renegotiate the European treaty on fiscal stability.

Did Tsipras have any other choice vis- à-vis the violent attacks from the creditors? Does the alternative boil down to an exit from the Euro?

Éric Toussaint: I don’t think so. The choice was not necessarily between Grexit and remaining in the Euro Zone equipped with a new austerity plan and continuing to pay the debt. It was possible to stay in the Euro Zone by disobeying the creditors through legal means. Human rights violations are at stake here. The Greek authorities should have suspended the debt payment; retrieved control over the Bank of Greece (Antonis Samaras appointed its CEO, who has not served the interests of the country); and created a complementary electronic currency that could have helped to cope with the liquidity crisis, whilst remaining within the Euro Zone.

The State should also have taken the following steps:
1. Organize an orderly liquidation of banks and transfer the assets to the public sector (guaranteeing deposits up to € 100,000) whilst ensuring the protection of small shareholders and recovering the cost of cleansing the banks from the wealth of major international shareholders.
2. Reduce VAT on goods and basic utility services; reduce direct taxes on low income and assets; and levy heavy taxes on the income and wealth of the richest 10% (particularly the richest 1%).
3. Stop privatization and reinforce public services.

After the Greek Parliament adopted the disastrous agreement of 13 July, the prospect of a voluntary exit from the Euro is obvious. That there is no favourable solution for the peoples within the Euro Zone is now evident to more and more Greek and other European people. In case of a voluntary exit from the Euro Zone, the above propositions remain fully valid and a redistributive monetary reform must accompany them (see Greece: Alternatives to the Capitulation).

The ECB, one of the masterminds of the coup, is flooding the financial markets with liquidity and boosting speculation. Can capital generation serve the real economy, social needs and human development?

Eric Toussaint: Of course but this not what the ECB has been doing! Mario Draghi is not “independent”. He is the interface between major private banks and the governments of the Euro Zone. The ECB has deliberately destabilized the Greek economy to suit its own as well as other creditors’ purpose.

Translation : Suchandra de Sarkar, Mike Krolikowski and Christine Pagnoulle

 

Eric Toussaint, Author

Eric Toussaint, Author

Eric Toussaint is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège. He is the President of CADTM Belgium, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. He is the co-author, with Damien Millet of Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. He is the author of many essays including one on Jacques de Groote entitled Procès d’un homme exemplaire (The Trial of an Exemplary Man), Al Dante, Marseille, 2013, and wrote with Damien Millet, AAA. Audit Annulation Autre politique (Audit, Abolition, Alternative Politics), Le Seuil, Paris, 2012. See his Series “Banks versus   the People: the Underside of a Rigged Game!” Next publication : Bankocracy Merlin Press, Londres, May 2015 (English version).

Since the 4th April 2015 he is coordinator of the Truth Commission on Public Debt.

 

Jul 172015
 

By Eric Toussaint, CADTM, 99GetSmart

arton11971-e8690

On 5 July 2015, by a referendum initiated by the government of Alexis Tsipras and the Hellenic Parliament, the Greek people overwhelmingly rejected the austerity measures imposed by the institutions that were known as the Troika. It was a splendid victory for democracy.

However the agreement reached on Monday, 13 July will lead to fresh austerity measures over several years. This completely contradicts the will of the Greek people expressed in the referendum. During the night of 15th to 16th July, it was adopted thanks to the support of four right-wing parties (PASOK, Potami, New Democracy, Independent Greeks) that brought their votes to Tsipras while 32 Syriza MPs voted against and 7 abstained.

This agreement forces Syriza to abandon essential commitments made during the 25 January 2015 election campaign, which led to its historically significant victory. Syriza has binding responsibilities towards the Greek people and it is tragic that they were not respected, especially since the people very clearly showed their support both on 25 January and 5 July 2015. |1|

The Greek government’s concessions to the creditors include pension cuts (Syriza had promised to restore a 13th month to people who receive pensions of less than 700 euros per month) and an extension of the retirement age; wages will remain restrained; labor relations will become more precarious; there will be an increase in indirect taxes, including those paid by lower income earners; the continuation and acceleration of privatization; the accumulation of new illegitimate debts to repay previous debts; the transfer of valuable Greek assets to an independent fund; further relinquishing of key elements of sovereignty, giving an upper hand to the creditors in matters of legislative power, etc.

Contrary to claims that in return for these detrimental concessions Greece will get three years of respite and will significantly boost its economic activity, it will in fact be impossible to create the primary fiscal surplus announced in the plan considering the continued check on household purchasing power and public expenditure.

Harmful consequences are inevitable: in a few months or early next year at the latest, creditors will attack the Greek authorities for failing to comply with their commitments in terms of primary fiscal surplus and will introduce new demands. Neither the Greek people nor their government will have any respite. The creditors will threaten to bring the promised disbursements to a halt if new austerity measures are not implemented. The Greek authorities will be caught up in a spiral of concessions.

The Truth Committee on Public Debt established by the President of the Greek Parliament has documented in its preliminary report made public on 17 and 18 June 2015 that the debt claimed by the present creditors must be considered illegitimate, illegal and odious. |2| The Committee has also shown that its repayment is unsustainable. On the basis of arguments derived from international and domestic law, the Greek government should have taken a sovereign decision to suspend debt repayment for the time that the debt audit takes to run its full course. Such a suspension of debt payment is quite possible. Since February 2015, Greece has paid €7 billion to creditors without receiving the €7.2 billion previously agreed upon in the bailout program that ended 30 June 2015. Other amounts that should have been paid to Greece have not been transferred: the interest earned by the ECB on Greek securities, the projected balance for the recapitalization of banks, etc. If Greece suspends debt payment to its international creditors, it will save nearly €12 billion by the end of 2015 and the creditors would be compelled to make concessions. |3| A radical reduction in the amount of debt could lead the way either to negotiation or to repudiation.

Contrary to the widespread claim that suspending payment would result in exiting the euro, it would have been possible to stay in the Euro if a series of sovereign measures of self-defense and economic recovery such as a strict control on banks, currency, and taxation (see below) had been implemented. It would have been perfectly possible to eschew the ECB’s, the Eurogroup’s and the EC’s unacceptable and illegitimate injunctions. The Tsipras government decided otherwise, and this has led to a tragic subordination to EU supervision, to more austerity and to the selling off of the Greek national heritage.

It is now clear that negotiations cannot convince the European Commission, the IMF, the ECB and the neoliberal governments in other European countries to take measures that respect the rights of Greek citizens as well those of the people in general. The referendum of 5 July, to which those institutions were fiercely opposed, did not convince them. Instead, in contradiction with basic democratic rights, they have radicalized their demands. Without taking strong and sovereign measures of self-defense, the Greek authorities and the Greek people will not be able to put a stop to the human rights violations perpetrated by the creditors. A host of measures should be taken at EU level to restore social justice and true democracy. Technically, it is not difficult but it must be noted that with the balance of power prevailing in the European Union, the countries with progressive governments can hope neither to be heard nor supported by the European Commission, the ECB, or the European Stability Mechanism. On the contrary, these institutions as well as the IMF and the neoliberal governments are actively opposing the current Greek experiment to demonstrate to all the people of Europe that there is no alternative to the neoliberal model. However, if the Greek authorities adopt strong measures they can gain genuine concessions or simply force the institutions to recognize the decisions taken. It is also vital to find an alternative strategy by initiating massive popular mobilizations in Greece and other European countries. The Greek authorities could draw on that to thwart the attempts to isolate them — attempts that the forces opposed to change in favor of social justice will waste no time in making. In turn, such a stand from the Greek government would empower popular mobilizations and encourage the mobilized people to have confidence in their own strength.

On top of the suspension of the payment of illegitimate, illegal, odious and unsustainable debt, here are a number of alternatives to the conditions in the agreement between Tsipras and the creditors, to be urgently submitted to democratic debate, that are likely to help Greece recover:

1. The Greek state is by far the main shareholder of the major Greek banks (representing more than 80% of the Greek banking sector) and it should therefore take full control of the banks in order to protect citizens’ savings and boost domestic loans to support consumption. First, the State should have assumed its majority stake in the banks and turned them into public-sector companies. Then, the State would have organized the orderly liquidation of these banks whilst ensuring the protection of small shareholders and savers (guaranteeing deposits up to 100,000 €). The State would have recovered the cost of cleansing the banks from major private shareholders who have caused the crisis and then abused public support. To do this it would have had to seize part of their assets which reach far beyond the banking sector. A ’bad bank’ should have been created to isolate and hold toxic assets with a view to their liquidation. Those responsible for the banking crisis should have been sued to pay once and for all. The financial sector must be thoroughly cleaned up and made to serve the people and the real economy.

2. The Greek authorities should retrieve control over the central bank. Yannis Stournaras, the current CEO (appointed by the government of Antonis Samaras), invests all his energy in preventing the changes that the people call for. He is a Trojan Horse that serves the interests of large private banks and neoliberal European authorities. The central bank of Greece should be made to serve the interests of the Greek population.

3. The Greek authorities also had the opportunity to create an electronic currency (denominated in euros) for internal use in the country. The public authorities could raise pensions and salaries in the public services and grant humanitarian aid to people by opening credit accounts for them in electronic currency that could be used for several kinds of payment: electricity and water bills, payment for transport and taxes, purchases of food and basic goods, etc. Contrary to a baseless prejudice, even private businesses would do well to voluntarily accept the electronic method of payment as it will allow them to sell their goods and settle payments to the government (payment of taxes and for the various public services they use). The creation of this additional electronic currency would reduce the country’s needs in euros. Transactions in this electronic currency could be made by mobile phones as is the case today in Ecuador.

4. The restrictions on capital flows must be maintained while the price of consumer goods must be controlled.

5. The privatization agency must be dissolved and replaced by a national
asset management agency (with an immediate halt to privatizations) which will be responsible for protecting the public assets while generating revenue.

6. New measures should be adopted to achieve more tax justice, reinforcing those already taken, notably by levying heavy taxes on the richest 10% of the population (particularly the richest 1%), both on their income and on their assets. Similarly, it would be beneficial to significantly increase the tax on big companies’ profits and to withdraw the tax exemptions for ship-owners. Heavier taxes should be imposed on the Orthodox Church, which only paid a few million euros in taxes in 2014.

7. Taxes on small incomes and wealth and on essential goods and services should be significantly reduced. This would benefit the majority of the population. A whole series of basic utility services should be free (public transport, electricity, and water to a certain limited level of consumption, etc.) These social-justice measures would revive consumption.

8. The fight against tax evasion should be intensified by establishing substantial deterrents. Considerable amounts can thus be recovered.

9. An extensive public plan for job creation should be implemented to rebuild the public services destroyed by years of austerity (for example, health and education) and to pave the way for the necessary ecological transition.

10. This support to the public sector should be accompanied by measures which provide active support to small private ventures that are key elements in the Greek economy.

11. Public domestic borrowing measures may be adopted by issuing public debt securities within national borders. In fact, the State must be able to borrow to improve the living conditions of the population, for example by carrying out public utility works. Some of this work can be financed by the current budget through assertive policy choices, but government borrowing could enable other projects, broader in scope — for example the massive development of public transport to replace private cars; developing the use of renewable energy; creating or reopening local railway services throughout the urban and semi-urban sectors of the country; renovating, rehabilitating or constructing public buildings and social housing while reducing energy consumption and providing quality amenities. Such measures can also finance the ambitious plan for job creation outlined above.

It is urgent that a transparent policy of public borrowing be defined. Our proposal is:

1 Public borrowing should aim at guaranteeing an improvement in living conditions, discarding the logic of environmental destruction.

2. Public borrowing must contribute to a redistribution of wealth and to reducing inequalities. That is why we propose that the financial institutions, large private corporations and wealthy households be legally bound to purchase – commensurate with their wealth and income – non-indexed government bonds at 0% interest. The remaining population can voluntarily acquire government bonds at an interest rate that will ensure a genuine and positive return (e.g. 3%), above inflation. So if the annual inflation is 2%, the interest rate actually paid by the State for the corresponding year will be 5%. Such a policy of positive discrimination (similar to those adopted against racial oppression in the US, the caste system in India, or gender inequalities) will result in tax justice and less inequality of wealth distribution.

Finally, the Greek authorities should ensure that the Audit Committee as well as other committees working on the memoranda and on war damages can continue their task.

Other additional measures that can be democratically debated and implemented on an urgent basis might complement these first emergency measures based on the following five pillars:

- Socializing banks and a part of currency creation.
- Preventing tax evasion and establishing a fair tax reform to provide the State with the necessary resources for implementing its policies.
- Protecting public property, including the national heritage, and placing it at the service of the entire community.
- Rehabilitating and developing public services.
- Supporting local private enterprises.

It is also important to launch Greece into a process of structural democratic change with active citizen participation. To achieve this constituent process, Greece must convene an election of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new democratically chosen Constitution. Once the Constituent Assembly – which should operate on the basis of grievances and proposals received from the people – adopts the draft, it will be submitted to popular vote.

Exiting the Euro Zone. After the Greek Parliament adopted the disastrous agreement of 13thJuly on the 16th, an alternative must include the possibility of voluntarily exiting the Euro Zone if the Greek people support this prospect. This option is comforted by the Greek Parliament’s capitulation on July 16th and by the very content of the agreement. Moreover the Greek people will soon understand that if they want a future that includes justice and emancipation, Greece must get out of the euro zone. In this case, the above propositions remain valid, especially the socialization of banks similar to the nationalization of France’s banking system after the Liberation. These measures should be combined with a significant monetary reform, inspired by the system implemented by the Belgian government after World War II. This reform will specifically aim at deflating the incomes of those who got rich at the expense of others. The principle is simple: during the changeover to another currency, there should be no automatic parity between the old and the new currency (the existing euro against a new drachma, for example) beyond a certain limit.

The amount exceeding the limit must be blocked in an escrow account and its origin must be justified and authenticated. In principle, any amount exceeding the specified ceiling will be exchanged at a less favourable rate (for example, two former euros against one new drachma). When a criminal origin can be proved, the sum may even be forfeited. Such monetary reform would distribute part of the wealth in a more socially just manner. Another objective of the reform is to reduce the money in circulation in order to fight inflationary trends. To be effective, strict control over capital movements and foreign exchange must be established.

Here’s an example (of course the rates are indicative and may be modified after analyzing the distribution of liquid household savings and the adoption of stringent criteria) :

€1 would be exchanged against 1 new drachma (n.D.) up to 200,000 euros
€1 = 0.7 n. D. between 200,000 and 500,000 euros
€1 = 0.4 n. D. between 500,000 and 1 million euros
€1 = 0.2 n. D. above 1 million euros

If a household owns € 200,000 in cash, it gets 200,000 n.D in exchange.
If it has € 400,000, it gets 200,000 + 140,000 = 340,000 n.D
If it has € 800,000, it gets 200,000 + 210,000 + 120,000 = 530,000 n.D
If it has € 2 million, it gets 200,000 + 210,000 + 200,000 + 200,000 = 810,000 n.D

A genuine alternative logic can be triggered and Greece can finally liberate itself from its creditors’ control. The peoples of Europe could again believe in a change that favors justice.

Translation by Suchandra de Sarkar in collaboration with Christine Pagnoulle, Mike Krolikowski and Snake Arbusto.

Footnotes

|1| The author thanks Stavros Tombazos, Daniel Munevar, Patrick Saurin, Michel Husson and Damien Millet for their advice when he was drafting this document. However, the author takes full responsibility for the content of this text.

|2| See: http://cadtm.org/Executive-Summary-of-the-report

|3| €6.64 billion and €5.25 billion respectively, will be paid to the ECB and the IMF by 31 December 2015. Source: Wall Street Journal, http://graphics.wsj.com/greece-debt-timeline/ consulted on 12 July 2015.

————————————————————-

Eric Toussaint, Author

Eric Toussaint, Author

Eric Toussaint is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège. He is the President of CADTM Belgium, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. He is the co-author, with Damien Millet of Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. He is the author of many essays including one on Jacques de Groote entitled Procès d’un homme exemplaire (The Trial of an Exemplary Man), Al Dante, Marseille, 2013, and wrote with Damien Millet, AAA. Audit Annulation Autre politique (Audit, Abolition, Alternative Politics), Le Seuil, Paris, 2012. See his Series “Banks versus the People: the Underside of a Rigged Game!” Next publication : Bankocracy Merlin Press, Londres, May 2015 (English version). Since the 4th April 2015 he is coordinator of the Truth Commission on Public Debt.

Jul 142015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

North Eastern University

Introduction

Class conflict is always present, endemic, in Latin America. What changes, over time, is the character of the class struggle. By ‘character’ we mean, the principal classes and leaders, who direct in the struggle, set the political agenda and define the parameters of socio-economic changes.

What is striking about the class struggle in Latin America, over the past decade and a half, is its changing character. Although different forms of class struggle overlap in most periods, one of three forms of class struggle predominates. Though there is no uniform pattern of class struggle throughout Latin America, for analytical purposes, we can identify the predominance of one type or another in different time frames.

We will examine class struggle in four countries, which best illustrate the variety of class struggles, the changes in class struggle and the dominant tendencies in the current period.

We have chosen to examine the class struggle in five countries: Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador.  Each of these countries illustrates the swings and changes in the nature of the class struggle.

Analytical Categories

We develop our conception of class struggle along two dimensions; according to the leading class and the time frame in which it exercises predominance; and secondly, the scope and depth (degree of change) of the class struggle.

According to our typology, there are three types of class struggle:

  1. The advance class struggle led by popular classes from below (by popular classes, we including workers, peasants, self-employed, artisans).
  2. The moderate class struggle led by the middle class (professionals, middle and high –level public employees, local, medium and small business people and farmers).
  3. The regressive class struggle led by the upper class and affluent middle class (multi-national corporations, bankers, international financial institutions, agro-mining elites, the imperial state and the military elite).

Over the past decade and a half a rough pattern has emerged, in which one or another type of class struggle has predominated. Between 2000-2005 the class struggle-from-below predominated. The popular classes led a struggle for radical structural change via militant methods – including popular uprisings.

Between 2006-2013 moderate class struggles predominated, as middle class center-left politicians took the lead and mediated demands between capital and labor, diverting popular struggles from structural changes to wage, salary and pension issues, to increases in social expenditures and private consumption and developing public-private partnerships.

From 2013 to the present (2016) the upper class struggle has predominated imposing austerity programs, increasing subsidies and incentives for the MNC, repressing class struggles from below, liberalizing the economy and moving toward free trade agreements with the imperial countries.

We will proceed to apply this typology to the four case studies. We will begin by examining the historical antecedents (prior to 2000) which established the framework for the more recent (15 year) cycle of class struggle.

Brazil: Corporatism and Class Struggle

Two types of class struggle have dominated Brazilian social relations in recent decades. For over two decades of military dictatorships(1964-1984), the dominant classes waged war on the workers, employees and peasants, imposing tripartite agreements between state, capitalists and appointed “union” leaders. The absence of authentic class based unions and the economic crisis of the early 1980’s, set in motion the emergence of the ‘new unionism’. The CUT, based on heavy industry and the MST, the rural landless workers movement, in the rural areas, emerged as leading forces in the class struggle. The deteriorating political control of the military, led to opposition from two directions: (1) the agro-mineral and export bourgeoisie which sought to impose a civilian-electoral regime to pursue a neo-liberal economic development strategy, (2) the new class based unionism which sought to democratize and expand the public ownership of the means of production.

The class based CUT allied with the liberal bourgeoisie and defeated the corporatist, military-backed candidates of the Right. In other words, the combined class struggles-from-below and from-above secured electoral democracy and the ascendancy of the neo-liberal bourgeoisie.

Under the neo-liberal regimes three changes took place which further conditioned the class struggle from below.

  1. The CUT secured legality and collective bargaining rights and became institutionalized.
  2. The CUT and the MST backed the newly formed Workers Party (PT), a party which was dominated by leftist middle class professionals’ intent on taking power through electoral processes.
  3. The CUT increasingly depended on financing by the Ministry of Labor, while the PT increasingly looked toward private contractors to finance their election campaigns.

From the mid-nineties to the election of Lula DaSilva in 2002, the CUT and the MST, alternated direct action and (strikes and land occupations) with electoral politics – backing  the candidates of the PT, which increasing sought to moderate class disputes.     Class struggle from below intensified during the impeachment of neo-liberal President Collar. However, once ousted, the CUT moderated the struggle from below.

With the hyperinflation of the 1990’s, the CUT and MST engaged in defensive class struggles opening the way for the election of hardline neo-liberal Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Under his presidency a severe “adjustment” prejudicing workers was implemented to end inflation. Strategic sectors of the agro-mineral sector were privatized. Lucrative public oil and mining enterprises were privatized and banks were denationalized; agro-business took center stage.

The class struggle-from-‘below’ intensified while Cardoso supported the class struggle-from-above for capital.

MST-led land occupations intensified as did violent repression; workers strikes and popular discontent multiplied.

The PT responded by harnessing the class struggle to its electoral strategy. The PT also deepened its ties to private contractors; and replaced its social democratic program with a clientelistic version of neo-liberalism.

The rising tide of class struggle-from-below led to the presidential victory of the PT whose economic program was based on IMF agreements and ties to the dominant classes.

Under the PT, the class struggle from below dissipated. The MST and the CUT subordinated their struggles to the PT which promoted negotiated solutions with the capitalist class. “Moderate class struggle” excluded structural changes and revolved on incremental changes of wages and consumption and increases in poverty spending.

The electoral success of the PT depended on ever greater financing by private contractors based on awarding billion-reales public contracts for multi-million bribes. The lower class vote was secured by a billion dollar antipoverty program and the vote-getting campaigns of the CUT and MST. The high price of export commodities based on the booming Asian market, provided a vast increase in state revenues to finance capital loans and social welfare.

“Moderate class struggle” led by the PT ended with the bust of the mega-commodity boom. After the second election of Dilma Rousseff (2014), the exposure of massive corruption involving the PT further exacerbated the crises and mass support.

As the economy stagnated, the PT adapted to the crises by embracing the structural adjustments of ruling class. As the PT leaders shifted to the class struggle from above they ignited protest from below among the middle class, workers and employees –and even within the PT itself. Mass demonstrations protested over the decline of public services.

By 2015 the ‘middle’ or ‘moderate’ class struggle bifurcated into a class struggle from above and ‘from below’.

Argentina: High Intensity Class Struggle

Argentina has been the center of high intensity class struggle from above and below, over the last half century. A ruling class backed military dictatorship from 1966-73 harshly repressed trade unions and their political parties (mostly left Peronist formations). In response industrial workers led major uprisings in all of the major cities (Cordoba, Rosario included), ultimately forcing the military – capitalist rulers to retreat and convoke elections.

The period from 1973-76 was a tumultuous period of rising class and guerrilla struggle, high inflation, the emergence of capitalist based death squads and successful general strikes. A situation of ‘dual power’ between factory based committees and a highly militarized state, ostensibly led by Isabel Peron and death squad leader José López Rega were ended by a bloody US backed military coup in 1976.

From 1976-83 over 30,000 Argentines were murdered and disappeared by the military-capitalist regime. The vast majority were working class activists in factories and neighborhood organizations. The military-capitalist class victory led to the imposition of neoliberal policies and the illegalization of all workers organizations and strikes. The high intensity class struggle from above ended the class struggle from below.

The loss of authentic factory and community based workers’ leaders was a historic defeat which impacted for decades.

The subsequent military defeat of the Argentine armed forces by the British in the battle of the Malvinas, led to a negotiated transition in which the neo-liberal economic structures and military elite remained intact. The electoral parties emerged and competed for office, but offered little support to the legalized trade unions.

From 1984-2001, Radical and Peronist Presidents pillaged the treasury, privatized and denationalized the economy, while the re-emerging rightwing Peronist trade unions engaged in ritual general strikes to defuse discontent from below and collaborated with the state.

The economic crash of 2000-2001 led to an explosion of class struggle, as thousands  of factories closed and over one quarter of the labor force was unemployed.

The middle class lost their savings as banks failed. A major popular demonstration in front of the Presidential Palace (Casa Rosado) was repressed resulting in three dozen killings. In response over 2 million Argentines engaged in general strikes and uprisings, seized the Congress and besieged the banks.

Millions of unemployed and impoverished workers and middle class assemblies, representing nearly 50% of the population, dominated the streets. But fragmentation and sectarian disputes, prevented a serious alternative government from emerging even in the midst of intense class struggle from below

However intense class struggle from below toppled three presidents in less than two years (2001-2002); but the mass protest remained without leaders or a hegemonic party.

In 2003 a left of center Peronist, Nestor Kirchner was elected and under the pressure of the mass movements, imposed a moratorium on debt and financed an economic recovery based on rising commodity prices and rechanneling debt payments. Unemployment and poverty levels declined sharply, as did the class struggle from below.

From 2003-2013, middle class led class struggle emerged as the dominant feature. Militant leaders of the unemployed workers and the trade unions were co-opted. The Kirchner regime ended military impunity. It tried and jailed hundreds of military officials for human rights crimes, gaining the support of all the human rights groups.

Middle class struggle stimulated labor reforms and the recovery of capitalism; ended the capitalist crises and de-radicalized the workers struggle. The Kirchner regimes (Nestor and Cristina Fernandez) channeled the revenues from the mega-commodity boom, to increases in wages, salaries and pensions. It also subsidized and attracted foreign and domestic agro business and mining capitalists.

By the end of the decade (2003-2013) the capitalist class felt secure; the threats from below were diluted. High growth led to increases in class struggle from above. Agro-business organized boycotts to lessen taxes; Buenos Aires business and professional groups regrouped and organized mass protests. Left parties and trade unions, co-opted or fragmented, engaged in economistic struggles. Some sectarian leftist groups, like the Workers Party even joined the rightwing demonstrations.

By 2012 the commodity boom came to an end. The rightwing dominated the political horizon. The Kirchner- Fernandez regime leaned to the Right, embracing extractive capitalism as the economic paradigm.

From 2013-2015, the center-right and right dominated electoral politics. The trade unions were once again under the leadership of rightwing Peronists (Moyano, Barrionuevo etc.). Poplar movements were in opposition but without any significant political representation.

After a decade and a half, the cycle of the class struggle had gone round from intense class struggle-from-below, to middle class-mediated class struggle, to the re- emergence of the class struggle-from-above.

Bolivia: From Popular Uprisings to Andean Capitalism

For the better part of a half century, Bolivia had the reputation of possessing the most combative working class in Latin America. Led by Bolivian Labor Confederation (COB) and the mine workers, dynamite in hand, they led the revolution of 1952 which overthrew the oligarchy, nationalized the mines and, with the support of the peasantry carried out a far-reaching agrarian reform. However, in the aftermath, of the revolution, the workers and trade unions disputed power with an alliance of middle class politicians, the National Revolutionary Movements (MNR) and peasants.

The uprising and revolution were aborted. Over the following decade, pitched battles between leftist miners and a re-assembled military-peasant alliance lead to a US backed coup in 1962. The US backed Rene Barrientos as “President”. From 1964-68, the dictatorship imposed draconian measures on the mining communities and liberalized the economy by decreeing IMF structural reforms.

In reaction a nationalist-military revolt, led by General Ovando, rose to power and proposed to nationalize Gulf Oil.

In 1970 a major working class revolt installed J. J. Torres to power. Even more important the uprising installed a worker-peasant legislative assembly. With a majority of worker legislators and a substantial minority of peasants, the ‘”Popular Assembly” proceeded to pass radical legislation, nationalizing major banks, resources and factories. A sharp polarization resulted. While civil society moved to the radical left, the state apparatus, the military, moved toward the right. The workers’ parties possessed radical programs, the right monopolized arms.

In 1971 the Torres regime was overthrown, the workers’ Assembly dissolved, the trade union illegalized, many militants were killed, jailed and exiled.

From 1972-2000, military rulers, rightwing and center-left regimes alternated in power and reversed the changes instituted by the 1952 revolution. Radical or revolutionary movements and trade unions demonstrated a great capacity for class struggle and ability to overthrow regimes, but they were incapably of taking power and ruling – a practice, which continued in the new century.

Between 2000-2005 major popular rebellions took place, including the ‘water-war’ in Cochabamba in 2000; a mass worker peasant uprising in La Paz in 2003 which ousted neo-liberal incumbent President Sanchez de Lozado; and a second uprising in 2005 which drove incumbent President Carlos Mesa from power and led to new elections and the victory of radical coca peasant leader Evo Morales to the Presidency.

From 2006-2015 and continuing forward. Morales and his MAS party (Movement to Socialism) ruled, ending the period of intense class struggle and popular uprisings.

Morales’ government implemented a series of piecemeal socio-economic reforms and cultural changes, while incorporating and co-opting peasant movement and trade union leaders. The net effect was to de-radicalize popular movements in civil society.

The key to the stability, continuity and re-election of Morales was his ability to separate socio-economic and culture reforms from radical structural changes. In the process, Morales secured the electoral support of the mass of peasants and workers, isolated the more radical sectors and ensured that the class struggle would revolve around short term wage and salary issues that would not endanger the stability of the government.

The key to the recurrent revolutionary class struggle in Bolivia was the fusion of a multiplicity of demands. High intensity class struggle resulted from the multiple points of social-ethnic, national and cultural oppression and class exploitation. Immediate economic demands were linked to class struggles for long-term, large scale systemic changes.

The major protagonists of the social upheavals suffered from and demanded an end to deep and pervasive ethno-racial discrimination and indignities. They rejected foreign capitalist pillage of natural resources and wealth which provided no positive returns for the mining and rural communities. They fought for Indian self-rule and presence in government. They resented the denial of symbolic Indian presence in public or private spaces.

Low wages relative to profits and hazardous employment with no compensatory payments radicalized the miners. In this context where workers and Indians were denied governmental access and representation, they relied on direct action- popular upheavals and demands for social revolution were the route to secure social justice.

The coming to power of Evo Morales opened the door to a new kind of mass politics, based essentially on his ability to fragment demands. He implemented cultural and economic reforms and neutralized demands for socio-economic revolution.

President Morales convoked a new constitutionals assembly which included a strong representation of Indian delegates. Bolivia was renamed a ‘Plurinational’ State. Formal recognition and approval of the ‘autonomy’ of Indian nations was approved. He frequently met and consulted with Indian leaders. Symbolic representation de-radicalized the Indian movements.

The government took majority shares in joint ventures with gas and oil corporations and increased the royalty and tax rates on profits of mining companies. Morales rejected outright nationalization under worker control.

Morales denounced imperialist intervention in Bolivia and elsewhere, and expelled US Ambassador Goldberg for plotting a coup together with the extreme right opposition in Santa Cruz. He expelled the Drug Enforcement Agency and the US military mission for meddling in internal affairs.

He increased salaries and wages, including the minimum incrementally each year between 5% and 10%, and social spending.

These reforms were compatible with long-term contracts with dozens of major foreign multi-national mining companies which continued to reap and remit double digit profits. Though the government claimed to ‘nationalize’ foreign owned mining companies, in most cases it meant simply higher tax rates, compatible with the rates in the major capitalist countries. The revolutionary demands to socialize the ‘commanding heights of the economy’ faded and revolutionary mass energies were diverted into collective bargaining agreements.

While the government paid lip service to and celebrated indigenous culture, all the government’s major decisions were made by mestizo and “European” descended technocrats. MAS bureaucrats over-ruled local assemblies in the selection and election of candidates.

While government legislation proposed ‘land reform’ the ‘hundred families’ in Santa Cruz still controlled vast plantations, dominating the agro-export economy. They continued receiving the vast majority of government credits and subsidies. Poverty and extreme poverty rates were reduced but still affected the majority of Indians. Public lands, offered for Indian settlement were located far from markets and with few support resources. As a result  few families were resettled.

While Evo articulated an anti-imperialist discourse to the people he constantly travelled abroad to Europe seeking and signing off on lucrative private investment deals.

Corruption crept into the MAS party and pervaded its officials in Cochabamba, El Alto and La Paz.

The net effect of Evo’s domestic reform and cultural inclusive agenda was to neutralize and marginalize radical critiques of his macro-economic adaptation to foreign capital.

His affirmation of Indian culture neutralized the opposition of Indian-peasants and farmworkers to the euro-Bolivian plantation owners who prospered under his ‘extractive export strategy’.

The class struggle focused on narrow economic issues directed by trade union leaders (COB) who consulted and negotiated agreements in accordance with Evo’s economic guidelines.

Under President Morales, the class struggle from below diminished; popular rebellions disappeared; and collective bargaining took center stage. The Morales decade witnessed the lowest intensity of class struggle in a century.

The contrast between the 1995-2005 decade and the 2006-2015 period is striking. While the earlier period, under Euro-Bolivian rulers, witnessed at least several general strikes and popular uprising, during the later decade there were none. Even the hostile, racist landowning and mining oligarchy of Santa Cruz eventually came to political agreements and ran on joint electoral slates with the MAS, recognizing the benefits of fiscal conservatism, social stability, capitalist prosperity and class peace.

Under Morales conservative fiscal regime, Bolivia foreign reserves increased from under $4 billion to over $15 billion – an achievement which pleased the World Bank but left the vast majority of peasants still below the poverty line.

In large part the success of Evo in defusing the class struggle and channeling ‘radicalism’ into safe channels was due to the incremental changes which were underwritten by the mega-commodity boom – the decade long rise in commodity prices.

Iron, oil, tin, gold, lithium, soya prices soared and allowed Morales to increase state expenditures and wages, without affecting the wealth and profits of the agro-mineral elite. As the mega boom ended in 2013-2015, and nepotism and corruption in official circles flourished, the MAS party lost provincial and municipal elections in major cities. The MAS regime plagued by corruption scandals attempted to foist unpopular candidates on the mass base and lost. The main opposition was from the center-right middle class. The dormant and coopted COB and peasant movements continued to back Morales but faced an increasingly rebellious rank and file. The electoral decline may to foretell a revival of the radical class struggle.

Ecuador: The Emergence of Middle Class Radicalism

Ecuador has a long history of palace coups of little social-economic consequences, up until the first half-decade of the 21st century.

The prelude to the popular upheavals of the recent period was a ‘decade of infamy’.  Rightwing oligarchical parties alternated in power, pillaging billions from the national treasury. Overseas bankers granted high risk loans which were transferred to overseas accounts. Major oil companies, namely Texaco, exploited and contaminated large tracts of land, and water, with impunity. Client regimes granted the US a major military bases in Manta, from which it violated Ecuadorean air and maritime sovereignty. Ecuador surrendered its currency and dollarized the economy, eliminating its capacity to elaborate sovereign monetary policy.

The class-ethnic struggle in Ecuador is deeply contradictory. CONAIE (Indigenous, Nationalities Confederation of Ecuador founded in 1986), led major uprisings in the 1990’s and was the driving force in toppling oligarch Jamil Mahuad in 2000. Yet it allied with rightwing Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez and formed a three person junta which eventually gave in to US pressures and allowed vice president and oligarch, Gustavo Noboa to assume the Presidency.

In the run-up to the Presidential elections of 2002, CONAIE and the trade union led by the oil and electrical workers unions intensified the class struggle and mobilized the working class and Indian communities. However, in the 2002 presidential elections CONAIE’s political arm Pachakutik and most of the militant trade unions backed Lucio Gutierrez. Once elected Gutierrez embraced the agenda of the Washington Consensus, privatized strategic sectors of the economy and backed US policy against Venezuela and other progressive governments in the region. Gutierrez arrested and dismissed militant oil worker leaders and promoted agro-mineral exploitation of Indian territory.

Despite CONAIE’s eventual disaffection, Pachakutik remained in the government up until Gutierrez was ousted in 2005 by a movement largely made up of a disaffected middle class ‘citizens’ movement’.

Subsequently, during the 2005 elections, the trade unions and CONAIE backed Rafael Correa. Less than two years later they denounced him for supporting petroleum company exploitation of regions adjoining Indian nations.

CONAIE and the trade unions intensified their opposition in 2008 precisely when Correa declared the national debt illegitimate and defaulted on Ecuador’s $3 billion dollars debt and reduced bond payments by 60%.CONAIE and Pachakutik were marginalized because of their opportunist alliances with Gutierrez. Their attacks on Correa, as he proceeded to increase social expenditures and infrastructure investments in the interior further diminished their strength. In the elections for a Constituent Assembly, Pachakutik barely received 2% of the vote.

While the trade unions and CONAIE continued to mobilize in support of ethno-class demands, Correa increased support among Indian communities via infrastructure programs financed by the mega-commodity boom, large scale loans from China and the reduction of debt payments.

Faced with declining support from the popular classes, CONAIE and sections of the trade unions supported a US backed police coup attempt on September 30, 2010. Pachakutik leader Clever Jimenez called the right wing coup a “just action”, while tens of thousands of people demonstrated their support for Correa and his Country Alliance Party (Alianza PAIS).

Correa’s “Citizen Revolution” (Revolucion Ciudadana) is essentially based on the deepening of the extinctive capitalist developmental model rooted in mining, oil, hydro electrical power and bananas.

During the mega commodity boom from 2006-2012, Correa expanded health, education and welfare provisions, while limiting the power of the coastal elite in Guayaquil.

With the end of the boom and decline in prices, Correa attempted to weaken left and trade union opposition by passing restrictive labor legislation and extending petrol exploration into the Indian highlands.

In November 2013, trade unions, especially in the public sector formed a ‘United Workers Front’ to protest against Correa’s legislation designed to curtail the organization of independent public sector unions.

In the 2014 municipal elections the rightwing oligarchical parties defeated Correa in the major cities, including Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca. Once again CONAIE and the trade unions focused their attack on Correa and ignored the fact that the beneficiaries of his decline was the hard neo-liberal right.

In June 2015 the hard right led by the Mayor of Guayaquil Jaime Nebot and millionaire banker Guillermo Lasso led a series of massive protests, over a progressive inheritance tax. They sought to oust Correa via a coup. Pachakutik supporters participated in the protests, CONAIE attacked Correa and called for an uprising instead of backing his progressive inheritance tax.

In other words the anti-extractive Indian-labor coalition, the United Workers Front and CONAIE, favored the ousting of post neo-liberal extractive capitalist’ Correa, but in reality facilitated the ascent to power of the traditional oligarchical Right.

Conclusion

The class ethnic alliances in Bolivia and Ecuador have had divergent outcomes. In the former, they brought to power the Center-left government of Evo Morales. In the latter they led to opportunist alliances, political defeats and ideological chaos.

The class struggle from below has led to a variety of political outcomes, some more progressive than others. But none have resulted in a worker-peasant-Indian regime, despite the claims of some popularly elected presidents like Evo Morales.

The class struggle has demonstrated a cyclical pattern, rising in opposition to rightwing neo-liberal regimes, (De la Rua in Argentina, Cardoso in Brazil, Sanchez de Losado in Bolivia, Mahuad in Ecuador), but ebbed with the coming to power of center-left regimes. The exception is in the case of Ecuador where the main protagonists of the class struggle backed the rightist regime of Lucio Gutierrez – and fell in disarray.

The key to the success of the center-left regimes was the decade long boom in commodity prices, which allowed them to dampen the class struggle by piece meal reforms, and increases in wages and salaries. The incremental reforms weakened the revolutionary impulses from below.

The de-compression of the class-struggle and the channeling of struggle into institutional channels, led to the co-option of sectors of the popular leadership, and the separation of economic demands from struggles for popular political power.

From a historical perspective the class struggle succeeded in securing significant reductions in unemployment and poverty, increases in social spending and the securing of legal recognition.

At the same time, the leaders of the class-based movements more or less abided by the extractive capitalist model, and accepted the devastating impact on the environment, economy and communities of indigenous peoples.

Minority sectors of the popular movements in Brazil struggled against the Workers’ Party regime’s devastation of the Amazon rain forest and the displacement of Indian communities.

Everywhere President Evo Morales spoke at international forums in defense of the Mother Earth (Pacha Mama) while in Bolivia he opened the Tipnis national reserve to oil and mining exploitation – committing Matricide against Pacha Mama!

Likewise in Argentina President Cristina Fernandez faced no trade union opposition when she signed a major agreement with Monsanto, to further deepen genetic altered grain production and a major oil agreement with Chevron-Exxon to exploit oil and gas exploitation by fracking in the Vaca Muerto (Dead Cow) complex.

In Ecuador the CONAIE-Gutierrez agreement and subsequent support of Correa led to a deepening of ecological exploitation and diminished opposition to Correa’s extractive capitalism.

The biggest blow to the extractive capitalist model did not come from the class struggle but from the world market. The decline of commodity prices led to the large scale reduction of the flow of overseas extractive capital.

However, the decline of commodity prices weakened the center-left and led to a resurgence of the class struggle from above. In Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil, the upper classes have organized large scale street protests and were victorious in municipal and state elections. In contrast the class struggle organizations remain wedded to defensive economic struggles over wages and welfare cuts by their former center-left allies.

The rise of the class struggle from above occurs during: 1) the demise of center-left regimes, 2) the economic crises of a commodity based extractive capitalist development model, 3) the co-optation and or demobilization of the class struggle organizations.

In Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia, the rightwing led class struggle from above, aims for political power: to oust the center-left, and the re-imposition of  neo-liberal free trade policies. They seek to reverse social spending and progressive taxation, dismantle regional integration and reinstate repressive legislation.

Over the next five year period 2015-2020, we can expect the return of the hard neo-liberal right, and the break-up of tripartite (labor, capital, government) cooperation, and the return of bi-partite capital-state rule.

Cut loose from easy negotiations involving steady incremental gains, the popular movements are likely to combine the struggle for short term gains with demands for long-term structural changes. Revolutionary class consciousness is likely to re-emerge in most cases.

The return of the Right will intensify class struggle and regressive socio-economic measures across the board. It may unify disparate sectors of the urban and rural working population. Once again the stage may be set to put in motion the dynamics of social revolutionary class struggle.

Jul 132015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

The post neo-liberal regimes which flourished in five Latin American countries in the first decade of the 21st century were a product of three inter-related historical processes. The breakdown of the neo-liberal development model, which in turn ignited mass popular movements for radical political-economic transformations; the incapacity of the mass movements to produce a viable alternative worker-peasant based regime; the beginning of a decade long mega commodity boom which provided a huge influx of revenues which allowed the center-left regimes to finance a capitalist recovery, and secure support from the extractive capitalist sector and finance generous increases in wages, salaries and pensions.

These hybrid, extractive capitalist-national-populist regimes were repeatedly elected until the middle of the second decade of the 21st century. The capitalist-populist electoral coalition encountered major opposition with the end of the commodity boom. The fall in world-market prices led to demands by the techno-capitalist elites for measures of fiscal constraints aimed at reducing social expenditures. At the same time they insisted the regimes grant fiscal largesse for the agro-mineral elite by lowering capital gains taxes and increase fiscal incentives for investors.

As a result, the end of the commodity boom led to the termination of the center-left brokered “consensus”. In its place the regimes faced a right-left crossfire: rightwing business associations led successful electoral challenges and large scale street mobilizations, and the left-wing trade unions and social movements resisted through strikes in defense of existing social gains. The question raised by this left-right crossfire is whether this spells the end of the post neo-liberal, hybrid regimes and the return of neo-liberal regimes or class based leftist politics?

What is not in question is the increased class polarization and the challenges to the stability of post neo-liberal regimes.

Clearly the global conditions which sustained the broad social coalition of post neo-liberalism have changed for the worst. The deteriorating prices of commodities and the corresponding decline in revenues that sustained it are no longer present.

The conditions are set for a change in development strategy and socio-economic policies. These changes will necessarily result from the nature and impacts of the attacks from the crossfire between Right and Left.

We will proceed by analyzing the nature and impact of the Right-Left crossfire under five post neo-liberal regimes in Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela.

We will then proceed to evaluate the relationship of class forces resulting from this conflict and the probable outcomes, including the ways in which the post neo-liberal regimes respond to the crossfire.

Finally, we will address the reason why, in the immediate aftermath of the decline of the post neo-liberal regimes, the Right will probably return to power, rather than the Left.

Ecuador: President Correa and the Right-Left Crossfire

Throughout the months of June-July 2015, a coalition of business, banking and big city mayors led large scale demonstration opposed to progressive inheritance and excess profit taxes proposed by President Correa. At the same time, the left led by CONAIE and a sector of the labor movement also organized mass protests denouncing repressive labor reforms and oil exploitation contracts encroaching on Indian communities.

President Correa convoked large scale pro-government demonstrations backed by supporters of his “Citizens Revolution” and sectors of the Indian and trade unions.

The rightwing-business mobilization which began as a tax protest escalated toward calls to oust the government – a coup.

The Right-Left opposition, however, faced a mobilized public, which included large sectors of the urban middle and lower class.

In the confrontation, the Rightwing opposition movement was far stronger and better organized than the Left – and more likely to be the principle beneficiary of any coup.

While a coup attempt is possible, the Right is firmly ensconced in institutional power, namely they control three of the most important municipal governments. The Right is not likely to risk a coup which, if defeated, would lead to strengthening Correa’s Presidency.

The anti-Correa left seems to reject the idea that what is at stake in this confrontation is the question of democracy. For the left the ouster of Correa is the primary objective. They ignore the fact that a ‘regime change’ would mean a return to oligarchical pro-US rulership and the end of democratic rights.

Correa’s strategy of relying on extractive capital to finance social reforms, has strengthened the Right economically, while alienating sectors of the progressive Indian movement. He has in turn used state revenues to reach the non-CONAIE Indian communities especially in the Amazon region.

The Right in 2014 gained electoral victories in major cities thanks to the end of the commodity boom. Even if the coup fails, they have at least forced Correa to retreat and withdraw his inheritance tax.

Argentina: The End of Kirchnerism and the Return of the Hard Right

Despite repeated electoral victories based on a decade of social reforms financed by the extractive commodity boom the Nestor Kirchner – Cristina Fernandez regimes have not created a distinct political presence capable of challenging the resurgent neo-liberal right.

The “Front for Victory” party which supports President Fernandez is made up of rightwing Peronists, provincial neo-liberals (supporters of ex-President Menem) and a motley collection of trade union officials and political opportunists.

Facing the end of the mega commodity boom and the decline of government revenues, the post neo-liberal regime of Fernandez deepened ties with the major foreign oil companies. The regime turned away from indexing wages and salaries to rising inflation which provoked a wave of strikes from left and rightwing trade unionists.

The rightwing mayor of Buenos Aires, Macri and his Republican Proposal Party (RPP) tightened its control over the capital and waged war on the regime. Backed by the major agro business, banking and industrial associations, the RPP is a serious contender to win the Presidential elections.

The Frente de Izquierda de los Trabajadores (FIT) and related left wing parties received approximately 7% of the vote in the Buenos Aires municipal elections. However, one sector of the left trade unions have played an ambiguous game. The ‘Partido Obrero’ (the Workers Party) has mobilized its trade union activists in common cause with rightwing Peronist union bosses in general strikes and road blockages.

Clearly the main beneficiary of the demise of the Kirchner era, and the dissolution of the progressive coalition backing it, will be the neo-liberal right led by Macri and the right wing Peronists.

Even President Fernandez’s choice of right wing Vice President Scioli as a Presidential candidate is a recognition that the capitalist-worker alliance is finished.

The Right Peronists allied with the agro-financial-industrial elite will compete with the far right neo-liberals for office.

The left will be marginalized from the electoral process and will rely on its trade union militants to forestall major reductions in social expenditures, public sector salaries and the deepening of the extractive capitalist model.

If the past and present is any indication, the left trade unionists will concentrate on wage-salary struggles and street action in opposition to privatization of public enterprises that lead to the discharge of workers and the reversion of collective bargaining agreements.

In summary the political advance of the class struggle from above will narrow the focus of the struggle from below to a defensive mode.

However, it is likely that the adoption of radical neo-liberal measures will lead to greater inequalities, unemployment and devastation of the environment. Corporate environmental damage should fall heaviest on the provinces away from the concerns of the Buenos Aires right and left. Mass ecological protests are likely in the provinces.

Recent history teaches us that the implementation of neo-liberal measures leads to great imbalances and volatility. The model is prone to deep crises, such as took place in 2000 – 2003. The very success of the class struggle from above in imposing its policies provides the bases for a return of intense class struggle from below. This was the case a decade and a half ago (2001-2003).

Brazil: The Post Neo-Liberal Lefts’ ‘Conversion’ to the Rightwing Agenda

While the class struggle from below politicized and mobilized the electorate to vote into office the Workers Party (WP) in 2002, and re-elect it three times, at no point did  Presidents, Lula Da Silva and Dilma Rousseff move beyond the neo-liberal policies of their predecessors. Instead, taking advantage of the commodity boom and huge influx of revenues from high oil, iron, soya, beef and other agro-mineral prices, the PT regimes increased social expenditures, the minimum wage and easy credit for mass consumption.

The PT, with the collaboration of its trade union affiliate the CUT, replaced class consciousness with mass consumerism.

The class struggle in the factories and the countryside diminished, as the CUT and MST negotiated agreements with the regime. The PT, in turn, increasingly depended on large scale bribes and swindles with major construction companies to finance its electoral campaigns and to purchase the loyalty of opposition congresspeople in order to pass legislation.

The PT under Lula organized Brazil’s biggest clientelistic, multi-billion dollar anti-poverty program. The PT regime financed a $60 dollar monthly family subsidy program that ensured large electoral majorities in the Northeast of Brazil.

The left opposition to the PT, both electoral and trade union, was marginalized. In contrast the right wing PMDB allied with the PT, in a power sharing agreement, to pass legislation and share the multi-billion dollar windfalls from the bribe taking. The neo-liberal Social Democratic Party retained positions of power in Sao Paulo including the governorship.

With the end of the commodity boom (2012-2016) the economy stagnated. Revenues to fund the clientelistic programs diminished. The foreign flow of capital declined. Trade and fiscal deficits emerged. The PT’s large scale pillage of the public oil giant Petrobras provoked mass unrest, led by the upper and middle class.

The PT’s extravagant spending on sports complexes for the World Cup Games and the Olympics outraged the urban middle and lower classes. They organized multi-million mass protests over deteriorating educational, health and transport facilities and the lack of public housing for the poor.

The PT was caught in a Right-Left crossfire. President Rousseff responded by adopting the entire political economic agenda of the neo-liberal right. Social expenditures were cut, pensions and poverty programs were reduced.

Rousseff appointed hardline neo-liberals to head the Finance and Agricultural Ministries.

Rousseff pledged to privatize the majority of infrastructure – ports, airfields, highways and railroads.

Rousseff agreed to break Petrobras public monopoly on off-shore oil exploitation, auctioning off to Shell the most lucrative sites.

In other words instead of resisting the advance of the upper class struggle from above, Rousseff joined it and implemented its agenda.

In contrast, on the Left, the urban mass movements rose and fell or were reduced to occasional local protests. The CUT and MST remained passive or even supported the Rousseff regime using the pretext of a mythical coup threat.

In other words, the class struggle from above led by  financial, agro-mineral and commercial capital found a willing accomplice in the PT President.

The conversion of the PT into an ally of the hardline neo-liberal Right was also evident in Rousseff’s pledge of collaboration on promoting free trade with the Obama regime, thus backing Washington’s drive to re-assert hegemony in the hemisphere.

If the class struggle from below brought the PT to power, the very same party neutralized and disarmed and ultimately betrayed their former allies by embracing the economic elites, who were engaged in class struggle from above.

The correlation of forces in this new context is heavily weighted in favor of a rightwing return to power and a prolonged period of class struggle from above in the pursuit and implementation of a radical neo-liberal agenda.

Bolivia: From Left-Right Confrontation to Accommodation and Continuity

The center-left government of Evo Morales has swept to three electoral victories (2005-2016) secured the backing of the major trade union and peasant confederations; and proceeded to deepen the extractive capitalist model, despite the decline in world commodity prices.

Morales party, the Movement to Socialism (MAS) was the prime beneficiary of the worker-peasant uprisings of 2003 and 2005 which ousted neo-liberal Presidents Sanchez de Losada and Carlos Mesa. With mass support and the backing of the Armed Forces, President Morales easily put-down a coup (2009) originating in Santa Cruz and backed by the US Ambassador, USAID and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

As the MAS government consolidated its hold over national, state and municipal governments, its ranks were filled with opportunists defecting from other parties – diluting its original popular base.

At the center of policymaking, especially in the economic realm, technocrats and fiscal conservatives predominated.

Morales utilized anti-imperialist rhetoric, criticizing US imperial wars and intervention in Venezuela and Honduras and elsewhere, to disarm critics of his extensive links to dozens of foreign multi-national mining corporations operating in Bolivia.

He embraced ‘Mother Earth” rhetoric, while opening highways and mining operations in nature preserves (TIPNIS).

Through co-optation of trade union leaders and incremental wage increases’ Morales de-radicalized the trade union movement. Through symbolic representation, anti-poverty spending and regulation of coca farming he secured the support of the bulk of the Indian movement.

In effect Morales has de-radicalized the working class-Indian movements, while encouraging the growth and prosperity of his new allies among the agro-mineral elites.

The result has been a resurgence of a ‘new right’ based on the middle class in the principle cities.

The ‘new right’ attacks widespread, large scale corruption in state and municipal government. It exploits popular grievances over the failure of MAS officials to implement socio-economic programs and the abuses of power by the governing elites.

In the state and local elections of 2014, the MAS suffered major defeats in La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and most other cities, including in its former proletarian bulwark El Alto.

The decay of the MAS, and the rise of the Right and, to a lesser degree, the eco-socialist left, has, however, not directly affected the popularity of Morales. He was quick to decry the corruption rampant in the MAS and call for a ‘rectification’.

The shift in the correlation of forces toward right-wing resurgence, however, is tempered by the working relations emerging between local and state opposition officials and the national government.

While ideological differences persist, Morales moderate socio-economic policies, especially his conservative fiscal and pro-extractive policies, neutralize any right-wing challenge for state power.

The leftwing attack on extractivism has received backing from several peasant leaders and NGOs. MAS policies promoting agro-exporters has alienated landless peasants. The mostly symbolic representation of Indians has provoked opposition from militant Indian leaders.

Nonetheless, the left-Indian-ecology opposition remains fragmented. The left has been unable to fashion a national political coalition, to compete electorally with the MAS and the middle class right. Their main venue is street protests, road blockages and public demonstrations.

In the meantime the right has secured local and provincial political platforms to challenge the Morales regime in future elections.

Venezuela: The Right-Left Confrontation

Venezuela has been the center of the most intense class struggle in Latin America for over a decade and a half.

On the one hand, the upper-class and the US have resorted to every instrument of class struggle from above. These include a military coup (2002); a bosses lockout of the strategic oil industry in 2002/3; a recall referendum and violent street protests leading to 43 deaths in 2015/15; capitalist induced consumer goods shortages; paramilitary operations; contraband activities to provoke scarcities; US funded electoral campaigns.

In response the Venezuelan Socialist government under the leadership of Hugo Chavez and Maduro, backed by its mass organizations – trade unions and community based movements and the loyalties of the military – has mobilized and defeated rightwing violent assaults in the streets, factories and fields as well as at the ballot box.

The Venezuelan Socialists combined the struggle from below with radical structural changes by the government. In response to the failed coup thousands of community based councils were formed. In response to the oil lockout, the oil workers and technicians took control.

The government nationalized and reallocated oil revenues to finance vast social programs, raising income, instituting a free national health program and establishing tuition free universities.

The class struggle in Venezuela was internationalized. The US established seven military bases in Colombia and trained paramilitary death squads for cross border attacks in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government responded by supporting popular struggles in Colombia.

Washington launched an international “war on terror” – a pretext for wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen; Venezuela opposed it and rallied support in Latin America.

Washington sought to secure a US centered Latin American Free Trade agreement. Venezuela and its center-left allies in Latin America rejected it.

Venezuela countered by organizing and backing two new regional organizations which excluded the US: ALBA for the Andean countries and Petro Caribe including mainly Caribbean and Central American countries.

Throughout the greater part of the decade and a half of class struggle (1999-2015) the correlation of forces favored the leftist Venezuelan government over the US backed Venezuelan rightist elites.

To a large degree the intensity of the bipolar class struggle precluded the emergence of a tri-polar struggle as is the case in Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina.

Most of the radical left functions as tendencies within the Venezuelan Socialist Party. Likewise on the right, the divisions between the electoralists and the coup advocates are blurred, especially during elections and street confrontations.

The intensity and duration of high levels of class struggle in Venezuela, is largely a function of the deep and pervasive involvement of the US imperial state in all facets of the class struggle.

As we have seen in Bolivia and Ecuador, and more so in Venezuela, the intervention of the US imperial state agencies exacerbated class struggle by escalating the organizational and material resources to the upper classes. This forced the center-left in the Socialist Party to radicalize its socio-economic to secure mass support.

US destabilization efforts in Venezuela served as the catalyst for President Chavez to adopt a socialist, anti-imperialist agenda and to promote the wide diffusion of socialist ideology among the popular classes.

In a word, the combination of upper class socio-economic and US imperialist demands reinforced the extremist nature of the class struggle from above. Rightwing extremism in turn provoked a radicalization of the class struggle from below.

The intransigent Venezuelan upper class – US opposition to redistributive socio-economic policies, their total rejection of an independent “Bolivarian” foreign policy and increased social expenditures, forced the Socialist government to take measures changing the structures of property ownership: the government expropriated oil and bauxite firms, large scale farms and several factories.

However with the onset of the collapse of oil prices, the class struggle from above gained momentum. The Socialist government is vulnerable because it did not diversify its economy. As a result, as revenues declined, social programs were reduced.

Private capital remained dominant in the retail and banking sector. Taking advantage of their strategic positions the elites induced shortages and capital disinvestment, provoking shortages and unemployment.

The death of President Chavez created a leadership problem. In response the US intensified its support for groups engaged in violent destabilization campaigns, attempting to lay the groundwork for an upper class electoral victory in the Congressional elections in December 2015 as a prelude to a referendum revoking President Maduro’s term in office

Under conditions of economic stagnation, declining revenues, consumer goods shortages and inadequate administration responses, the class struggle from above has advanced. The class struggle from below has shifted into a defensive mode.

This raises the question of whether the left’s decade long favorable correlation of forces can continue in the immediate future.

Conclusion

The decade long commodity boom coincided with the rise of center-left parties and the eventual ‘moderation’ of intense class struggle from below.

The key to the rise and dilution of the class struggle is found in the changing political, economic and global context in which it is located.

In most instances, the mass socio-political movements, when fully mobilized, can establish a favorable correlation of forces as evidenced in the overthrow or electoral defeat of incumbent neo-liberal regimes. However, the proponents of class struggle from below have difficulty in forming a worker-peasant government.

In all cases, except Venezuela, center left political leaders rose to power and filled the political vacuum. While they initially met some of the immediate popular demands, in the course of ruling, they diluted and de-radicalized the class struggle from below.

The case of Venezuela is exceptional in part because of the continuous intervention of the US imperial state which undermined the possibility of a successful center-left political compromise between capital-labor.

The correlation of class forces is in constant flux, reflecting larger political and economic processes. In the context of the demise of neo-liberalism, the class struggle from below became the radical axis of political power. The class struggle from below gained adherents among broad sectors of the impoverished middle class, the unemployed and the self-employed.

The ascendancy of the center-left governments had a major impact in moderating the class struggle.

The capitalist class recovered its influence as the economy prospered and the popular classes were de-radicalized.

The end of the commodity boom, created a zero-sum situation, in which the center-left turned right and the capitalist class launched a new wave of class struggle from above.

As a result, the class struggle from below, much weakened, took a ‘defensive turn’ trying to secure the reforms achieved over the previous decade.

In other words, the social dynamics of the class struggle is deeply influenced by two key factors: the state of the economy (breakdown, stagnation) and the class nature of the political incumbents (neo-liberals, center left).

When rightwing neo-liberal regimes preside over economic breakdowns, the class struggle-from-below gains ascendancy.

When the economy goes into crisis under a center-left regime and the commodity boom ends leading to economic stagnation, class struggle-from-above gains force and the Right moves to take state power.

These tendencies are deeply influenced by the role and intervention of the US imperial state. By radicalizing the class struggle from above, the imperial state destabilizes center-left options and deepens the class struggle from below.

The weakening of the economy and the neoliberal compromises of the center-left results in the triangulation of the class struggle between the rising right, the retreating center, and the defensive left.

Throughout Latin America, the class struggle is a constant. As Karl Marx rightly observed, it is ‘the motor force of history’. But in each period, as we have seen in our case studies, the direction of ‘history’s’ movements is largely dependent on which class forces dominate.

The likelihood of a revival of intense class struggle from below is high, given the data recently published by the World Bank’s Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the WB report, the de-accerelation of the Latin American economies threatens to relegate over 40% of the population, back into poverty (208 million people) (La Jornada 7/9/15, p. 1).

This group which recently emerged from poverty is “vulnerable” because in large part its improvement was a result of the commodity boom – which has ended.

Downward mobility of this class may initially adversely affect the center-left, but it will likely move left when the right returns to power. Downwardly mobile middle classes ‘gyrate’, looking for salvation from whichever classes can stabilize their position and prevent their impoverishment.

Jul 082015
 

By Gökçe Sandal, 99GetSmart

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Istanbul’s LGBTI parade during ‘Pride Week 2015’ had earlier been declared unlawful by the Istanbul Governor, the reason being that Pride and the Islamic holy month of Ramadan coincided with each other. The Governor’s declaration outlawing Pride, combined with excessive police violence against the Pride-goers, added more flames to the already homophobic assessment of the mainstream pro-government media and resulted in boosting of prejudices and homophobia even further in the society.

The reason for the sudden ban was stated to be the parade’s coinciding with the holy month of Ramadan. This statement declares a division between the faithful, moral Muslims, and the members and/or supporters of the LGBTI groups, and defines the two camps as two naturally conflicting identities that cannot coexist. Therefore the statement strengthens the preconceived idea of these two identities as two distinct groups and leads to increased tensions between the two groups. The religious reasoning behind the ban has brought about discussions about the “people of Loot”, a tribe that in Islamic belief was wiped out by Allah due to their practice of homosexuality.

Only a week after the events that took place in Istanbul – the police intervention into Pride –, the Ankara-based ‘Young Islamic Defense’ group hung posters all over the capital, with the following Hadith passage: “Whoever you find doing the deed of the people of Loot, kill them.” This open call for massacre and hate crime is directly targeting the members of the LGBTI groups in Turkey, as the poster has a photo from the previous week’s parade in its background.

The group has also posted a manifestation on their website which declares the LGBTI members to be remnants of the Loot tribe that need to be destroyed, thus encouraging various kinds of hate crimes by justifying them on the grounds of religion.

Even though homosexuality is not conceived of as a crime in Turkey, it is not recognized, or even referred to, in the laws. In addition, general public awareness of and tolerance towards the LGBTI movement in Turkey is not very high. The state’s own interruption of the movement legitimizes these negative views held by the public and provides a freer environment for hate speech, while making LGBTI people all the more vulnerable to actions that may result from this atmosphere charged with hate and intolerance.