Aug 122017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

After 6 months of blaming Russia for the Democratic Party’s Presidential election debacle, the Party stalwarts have finally realized that the American electorate is not listening.

Democratic Party investigators in Washington still hold hearings and the mass media are still scandal mongering, but the public is not rallying to their cause.

Trump’s demagogy may have lost its appeal, while the Republican Administration purges and internecine squabbles have been met with a huge collective yawn by the public. The Democratic Party proves itself to be a weird sideshow for the vast majority of American voters … and for good reason.

Their perpetual (corrupt and senile) leaders are unwavering supporters of every indignity and economic hardship that the majority of worker families have suffered for the last three decades.

Democratic Party Senator Chuck ‘the Schmuck’ Schumer and Congresswomen Nancy ‘The Loser’ Pelosi have spent a collective sixty-five years in Congress. Their joint tenure marks a period of long decline in working class living standards and even worker life expectancy, while they have made possible the greatest concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1% plutocrats.

The Democratic Party’s ‘Better Deal’ – But for Whom?

In July 2017, nearly a dozen of the top Democratic Party honchos and Congress people met to spin out a new electoral manifesto for American workers which they are marketing as ‘A Better Deal’.

They issued prophetic press releases claiming to have received (presumably from the Holy Mountain) ‘a new vision of the party’. They claimed ‘the vision’ was also the result of their humble ‘listening to the American people’. They confessed that ‘the American people deserve better’. But their sweetly harmonized collective ‘Mea Culpa’ omitted any mention of the four previous Democratic Party Presidential terms, under Bill ‘The Shill’ Clinton and Barak ‘The Con” Obama, which ushered in this deplorable state of affairs for the American working class.

The Democratic Party’s ‘new vision’ wallows in the muddy demagogic footsteps of ‘The Donald’ Trump: Their new ‘product’ is just ‘demagogy lite’.

Tossing electoral fodder to the multitude, they have trotted out three ‘new promises’: 1. cheaper drug prices, 2. the regulation of ‘monopolies’ and 3. more funds to retrain workers. Their new marketing campaign does not include even a tiny whisper about a single payer national health system (favored by the majority of the public and by tens of thousands of doctors and nurses). Their cheap shots on ‘drug prices’ does not mention how Obama and Clinton facilitated the Big Pharma’s pillage of the public for decades. They mention ‘monopolies’ but made no attack on Wall Street billionaires. Their ‘job re-training’ promises have no provision for any national public employment program. The ‘Better Dealers’ with their ‘New Vision’ have banished all mention of ‘trade unions’.

The minimalist program of these old hack Democrats, re-packaged as the ‘Better Deal’, will not attract American workers for several clear reasons:

Reason #1: The Democrats Have a Rotten Record

For the majority of the American electorate there is no reason to believe or trust the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate. The leading Senate Democrat is New York’s ‘Chuck, the Schmuck’ Schumer, best known for his three decade residence in the pockets of Wall Street, his open loyalty to the dictates of Tel Aviv and his cozy relationship with the Brighton Beach mafia.

Schumer promoted the ‘trillion-dollar tax-payer bailout’ of Wall Street while foreclosing on 2 million household mortgages. He consistently defended AIPAC officials caught spying for Israel and has led the Zionist attack against the UN whenever questions of Israel’s war crimes and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people arise. He led the Senatorial Pack of wolves into destroying Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. He has now turned his tribal ire against his ‘fellow’ American citizens, leading the Senate campaign to make criticism of Israel by boycotting Israeli products punishable by a fine of $1 million dollars and 20 years in Federal Prison. Huge numbers of law-abiding Americans who support the BDS movement for justice and international law will now be targeted with felony convictions and loss of their civil rights by the Israel Anti-Boycott Law (S720). That Senator Schumer would condemn thousands of his own compatriots to virtual life imprisonment for the ‘crime’ of exercising their First Amendment Right of Free Speech speaks volumes about his respect for the Constitution. This thug has brow-beaten scores of his fellow representatives in Washington to support this tyrannical legislation by threatening them with the career-ending accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’ if they waver in their fealty to the war criminals in Israel.

Throughout his political career, Senator Schumer consistently supported Federal Reserve free marketer Alan Greenspan, whose wholesale deregulation of the banks and finance sector led directly to the financial crash of 2008.

Geographically closer to Senator Chuck than Tel Aviv are the factory towns, green hills and valleys of Upstate New York where his forgotten constituents have suffered from decades of de-industrialization, 30% de-population and a raging socio-economic crisis of which the opioid epidemic is only part. Meanwhile, the warmonger Schumer prefers to rant for war against North Korea demanding Trump impose trade sanctions on China. If Beijing finally decides to tell Netanyahu how ‘the Shumck’s’ sanction bombast would harm Israel’s lucrative trade with China, a gentle whisper from Tel Aviv would silence Schumer’s bluster.

Peering over his bifocals, ‘Commandante Schumer’ now claims to lead the “The People’s Resistance against Trump”. While his party activists vent against the ‘Trump and the deplorables’ over the internet, Chuck will be attending the Bar Mitzvahs of Brighten Beach mobsters at the Waldorf Astoria and soirees with his Wall Street billionaire backers, consulting over strategy with his real constituents. Under Schumer, New York City has become the most socially and economically polarized and unequal city in the US.

Most voters know that Schumer’s ‘reincarnation’ as a ‘resistance politico’ is laughable and that the Senator’s re-election rests comfortably with the multi-million dollar contributions from his brothers on Wall Street.

Across the nation, most working class voters have dismissed the antics of the Democratic Party’s ‘Maestro of Demagogy’, Bernie Sanders – who spoke pious piffle to the workers while running errands for the ‘Queen of Chaos’, Hilary Clinton, would-be President and life-long Wall Street warmonger.

The citizens rightly reject the Presidential and Senatorial demagogues, Trump and ‘The Schmuck’. According to a recent Bloomberg Poll, 58% of Americans disapprove of the Democrats, a few points lower than the Republicans level of disapproval. An ABC /Washington Post poll revealed that only 37% of Americans believe that the Democratic Party stands for something!

Nine months after the Clinton debacle, the Democrats remain at or below their dismal voter-approval. Trump his skillfully managed to sink a few points below the Democrats.

In other words, nearly 60% of the voters disapprove of leaders from both parties.

The ‘anti-Trump circus and road show’ increasingly takes place to an empty audience. Their “fight” for ‘transgender rights’ attracts the 1% while studiously ignoring the basic life supporting interests of the seventy million Americans (including both transgendered and straight) who work at lousy part-time contingent and minimum wage jobs and desperately need full-time employment at living wages.

In multiple national polls, one hundred and fifty million Americans have registered their support for a national, single payer health system to insure fairness and access to competent medical care. Instead the ‘newly visioned’ Democrats are merely offering cheaper opioids for their social pain. The people want billions of dollars in public investment for deteriorating schools and infrastructures, not bi-partisan (sic) expansion in military spending for seven ongoing wars and new wars in the making.

Warmongers are not Vote-getters

The high level of voter disapproval against the Democrats results from ultra- militarism, as well as their demands for provocative economic sanctions against Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Palestine and China – exceeding Trump and his warmongers.

The voters know that the Democrats ‘new vision’ is a thinly veiled recipe for costly new wars and economic sanctions that will spill their children’s blood, cripple their families futures and reduce job opportunities everywhere for everyone.

New Candidates, Grass-roots Movements and the Democratic Party

The Democratic Party’s fiasco and their election losses, as well as the growing realization that the socio-economic demands of the American people are never going to be addressed by the ‘old-new visionaries’, have led to a new ‘crop’ of candidates for the 2018 elections.

Over 200 Democratic Party candidates have registered to run in 2018 elections, hoping that ‘new faces’ and a new style of demagogy will bring back the disenchanted voters. These much-ballyhooed ‘upstarts’ toss out empty promises to the victims of the dying economy, industrial towns in ruins, villages with social and health crises, big cities with skyrocketing rents and stagnant wages. They offer nothing that can bring workers back to a Democratic Party still tightly controlled by the Tel Aviv-Wall Street shilling, war-mongering Pelosis and Schumers.

The Democratic Party ‘insurgents’ try to imitate the ‘Bernie’ Sanders double- speak, attacking the billionaires while shilling for the oligarchs’ stable of loyal Democratic Party hacks. The ‘new vision’ Democrats have moats in both eyes and a long road to regaining the votes of the disillusioned ‘deplorables’!

Media-sponsored trips to Rust Belt States to bad-mouth ‘The Donald’ and his anti-health agenda provides no alternative to the decades of Democratic Party betrayal on health care, especially during the last Democrat Presidents whose policies facilitated the rise Big Pharma’s prescription opioid epidemic which has killed over 500,000 overworked and underpaid workers since 1999. Their continued refusal to hold these policies and their authors to account does not reflect any vision of a viable solution to the crisis.

Conclusion

In place of the discredited bipartisan electoral system, numerous grass roots groups are emerging: Some are operating parallel to the flurry of new Demo- demagogues while many are working against it.

Many community-based groups have taken radical positions, which demand vast new job programs and public finance for a national, accountable, high quality health care system.

They demand prosecution and long prison sentences for Wall Street swindlers, money launderers, tax evaders and corporate drug pushers.

They demand a 90% tax rate ‘adjustment’ on the trillion dollar corporations- Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google etc.

The grass roots movements are more than just an ‘anti-Trump’ bandwagon (secretly driven by the old pols of the Democratic Party): They are against both parties and all demagogues. They are especially opposed to any phony ‘Better Deals’ coming out of the backsides of the billionaire-backed ‘shilling and dealing’ Democrats!

Aug 032017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Washington and Brussels’ response to foreign affairs challenges, as they face their own political and economic disasters and decline, has been to impose economic sanctions, boycotts and issue increasingly reckless military threats against rival nations. The ruling and main opposition parties in the US and EU have taken over the major media, turning ‘news programs’ into propaganda campaigns promoting violent power grabs (‘regime change’) and self-defeating trade wars.

Washington’s belligerency amounts to merely pounding on empty oil drums on behalf of the US oil giants. Overt hostility prepares for trade wars, military confrontations and possible regional conflagrations … where the US and EU will likely face even greater defeats.

Economic warfare is designed to impoverish nations and create a pretext for sowing internal discord and sabotage, especially through buying political candidates, organizing street mobs and recruiting military vassals.

Washington, hampered by its current internal divisions, is stumbling backwards and forwards towards major catastrophes. The oligarchs in Brussels face complex internal splits and even open rebellion, especially from the EU’s new members.

The referendum around ‘Brexit’ revealed a popular rebellion against decades of deepening class inequalities and the blatant financial power grab by the speculator-banker elite.

Central and Eastern European authoritarians are challenging the Brussels oligarchy. Powerful national bosses in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have embraced Israel’s thuggish Prime Minister Netanyahu in a common move to weaken Brussels.

The break-up of internal cohesion in Washington and Brussels has led to more frantic efforts to externalize their problems, through warfare, in order to retain state power – a kind of ‘building capitalism for a few countries’.

In summary, the on-going break-up of the US-EU bloc has led to increasing reliance on economic warfare, with sanctions, boycotts and tariff walls to confront international trade competitors and regional rivals.

Washington and Brussels have targeted four major countries: Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela. The build-up for waging economic warfare includes daily hysterical demonization of these nations in the mass media, accompanied by the recruitment of regional clients, in order to buttress economic sanctions. The campaign of economic and ideological warfare is designed to provoke internal political divisions in the targeted country in the lead-up to a violent seizure of political power.

Russia: Economic Sanctions and Peripheral Wars

Washington and the European Union have pursued a two-pronged strategy against Russia: On the one hand, they have encircled Russia with NATO and US bases, ships, missile installation, cyberwar centers and communications/spy outposts and troop exercises from the Baltics to Ukraine, Georgia and beyond. On the other hand, they slapped draconian trade sanctions on Russian import and export of military and civilian technology, energy and mining companies, machine goods, agriculture and other commodities, as well as sanctioning individuals, their family members and confiscating Russian property. The openly stated strategic goal is to create such chaos and deprivation that the Russian people will violently overthrow the Putin presidency and restore Russia to vassal status. With a new pliable set of puppet oligarchs in the Kremlin, the West would resume pillaging the country’s resources and wealth, as it did so brazenly during the 1990’s.

The sanctions and military threats have so far boomeranged back onto the West, with the possible exception of the US-EU organized coup in the Ukraine. Economic sanctions have convinced the Russian government and people to redirect their resources to reindustrialize and diversify the economy, substituting local production and increasing agricultural self-sufficiency: In other words, expanding and stabilizing the internal market.

Furthermore, Russia increased its trade and strategic linkages to China and Iran, while retaliating against the EU by cutting off agricultural imports from Poland and Georgia, thereby punishing those farm export sectors. The US-NATO effort to encircle Russia boomeranged: Moscow incorporated the ethnic Russian-majority Crimea (with its strategic Black Sea naval bases) back into Russia via a well organized popular referendum and expanded its military bases and strategic cooperation with the government of Syria, leading to Damascus victory over the terrorist Wahhabi mercenaries. The EU’s own energy companies, especially in Germany and Italy, where millions are dependent on cheap Russian oil and gas imports, have repeatedly violated the US-imposed sanctions.

The brutal power grab in Ukraine brought a weak, decadent oligarch-regime to power, surviving on Western handouts. The putsch-regime in Kiev oversees an increasingly fractured nation – the new face of ‘Western Democracy’.

The resort to weird propaganda ploys, accusing Vladimir Putin of ‘rigging’ the US Presidential elections, has paralyzed US domestic policy, turning Washington into an insane asylum of continental dimensions. Major domestic crises, like the opioid addiction epidemic, which has killed over 500,000 Americans since 1999, go unaddressed, as the politicians and media froth at the mouth in a display of synchronized Russophobia.

US and EU Sanctions and China: Biting the Hand that Feeds

Washington and the EU have repeatedly threatened to impose sanctions on China’s manufacturing exports and retaliate harshly for Beijing’s state policy of financial controls.

Under Obama and Trump, Washington installed anti-missile radar systems in South Korea, clearly aimed at China. The Pentagon sent a naval armada to harass Chinese vessels in the South China Sea. They sold a billion dollars worth of offensive military hardware to the government in Taiwan, while backing separatists in Hong Kong and Tibet, as well as the violent jihadis in western China. US planes have flown over Chinese military airbases and port installations on the islands claimed by China in the South China Sea. Currently, Washington is threatening to invade North Korea, one of China’s trading partners.

Economic sanctions and saber rattling notwithstanding, China continues to advance with giant steps: expanding its economic links through its global investment agreements with sixty countries. It has successfully launched the multi-hundred-billion dollar ‘Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road’ project of railways, roads, ports and other vital infrastructure linking China with its markets in Southeast and Central Asia through to the Middle East, Russia, Europe and beyond. This massive project is currently transforming entire regions and creating millions of jobs and thousands of markets.

Despite Obama and Trumps’ threats, hundreds of US and EU multi-nationals, especially auto manufacturers, are anxious to increase their investments in China and sign lucrative new joint ventures.

Chinese multi-nationals continue to invest and buy firms in the US, EU, South America and Oceania. Chinese imports of the most advanced technology have strengthened its links with Silicon Valley and Germany.

In contrast, the US trade deficits with China are more a result of the parasitic financialization of the US economy, than any lack of Chinese reciprocity.

Faced with US military encirclement, China has doubled its military spending in recent years, building its first-ever overseas base in Africa, while strengthening its military co-operation with Russia – including massive joint exercises.

In a word, the blowback of this sanction mania has mainly damaged US and EU import-export companies and investors while marginalizing UE-EU capitalists from participating in China’s enormous global infrastructure projects and the emerging regional markets.

While the newly elected government in South Korea has made tentative moves toward de-escalating tensions with the North, attempting to freeze the US THAAD-missile program aimed at China and installed unilaterally while South Korea was undergoing a major constitutional crisis, and mend economic fences with China, the US (with the California coast over 5800 miles to the east) is fomenting war on the peninsula.

With China’s estimated annual growth of 6.7% for 2017 (compared to 2% in the US), it is clear that policy of sanctions and military encirclement is failing.

US-EU Sanctions and Iran

The US is openly violating its nuclear agreement with Iran by imposing new economic sanctions despite the absence of any evidence that Iran has been un-cooperative.T he US threatened US, EU and Chinese oil and banking interests, and pushed policies promoted by the militaristic Israel Firsters who dictate Washington’s Middle East policy. The US has joined with Israel and Saudi Arabia in labeling Iran and its allies in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine as ‘terrorists’.

The sanctions policy has not worked: Iran continues to sign oil exploration and export agreements with the Chinese, EU and Russian oil companies. It is increasing trade with China and plays a major role in OPEC.

Aggressive Israeli and US-Zionist threats have pushed Iran to expand its long and middle range (non-nuclear) missile program while strengthening its military alliance with Russia and Syria.

Iran’s humanitarian aid for Yemen, working to assist millions of Yemenis faced with mass starvation and a horrific cholera epidemic deliberately caused by Saudi Arabia with US and Israeli complicity, has won worldwide admiration and exposed the barbaric nature of the Saudi monarchy throughout the Muslim world.

US violations of its agreements have strengthened Iranian nationalists and weakened pro-Western, neo-liberal currents. No ‘color revolution’ to install a Persian puppet is possible under the daily threat of attack from the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In sum, Iran has more than overcome US sanctions by forging new alliances while reducing US influence regionally and domestically. Iran’s support for Syria has undercut Saudi-US-Israeli backed Wahhabi-terrorists-mercenaries and strengthened the cause of secular, non-sectarian Arab nationalism. Washington’s hardline anti-Iranian policies have backfired. Iran has diversified its economic ties and strengthened its military defenses. Meanwhile the US remains isolated and subject to the dictates of the Jewish state and its hysterical incompetent agents in Washington.

US and Sanctions on Syria

While US and EU sanctions and proxy-military interventions have devastated Syria with the murder of hundreds of thousands Syrians and the displacement of millions of refugees, it clearly failed to achieve its stated strategic goal – ‘regime change’ and the imposition of a client government in Damascus.

Indeed, millions of uprooted, desperate Syrians have fled to the EU, creating a massive refugee and security problem.

Terrorists, including thousands of EU and US citizens, were recruited and trained by the security forces of the EU-US to overthrow the Syrian government. They have been driven from Syria and are increasingly turning their deadly skills against targets in Western Europe.

Syrian defense ties with Russia have consolidated the long-term Russian presence in the Middle East and strengthened strategic ties with Iran and the powerful Hezbollah Party (Lebanon’s ruling coalition partner).

The miserable defeat and retreat of the US bankrolled Wahhabi terrorists convinced President Trump to cut-off military, financial and training support for such a ‘lost cause’ and seek a viable joint US-Russian sponsored cease-fire agreement in southern Syria. US sanctions inflicted a murderous burden on the Syrian people and society but left the government in Damascus intact. After spending scores of billions of dollars equipping and training ISIS and Al Queda mercenaries, the proxy military intervention has not resulted in its stated goal of regime change – it has extended and expanded Syria’s alliances with Russia, Iran and Lebanon, and exposed the brutal incompetence of US-EU-Saudi-Israeli Middle East policy.

EU and US intervention ruined Syria but failed to rule the targeted nation. Paradoxically, it inflamed tensions with the Turkish government and military by choosing to back the Kurdish secessionist militias on its borders. It intensified domestic anti-immigrant and rightist movements in the EU and US, threatening their own ‘clubby’ governing coalitions.

In the end, military intervention and economic sanctions provoked global nuclear tensions without securing any of the stated strategic goals in the Middle East.

Sanctions and Intervention:  Venezuela

For the past 15 years, the US, with support from the EU, has waged covert and overt political and military campaigns to overthrow the Chavista government. Prior to the collapse of the global oil price, this was met with little success. Now, the fall of regional allies, the rise of rightist regimes and the economic vulnerabilities of the Venezuelan mono-economy are threatening the government in Caracas.

In 2002, Washington and the EU backed a failed military-business coup. This was followed by a failed bosses oil lockout in 2003. Washington then supported a failed electoral boycott in 2005 and backed a series of unsuccessful presidential candidates and opposition congressional parties – until 2015.

Meanwhile, US has backed cross-border attacks by Colombian gangster-paramilitary groups against Venezuelan towns and land reform settlements. Its ‘Democracy’ NGO’s have promoted the terrorist sabotage of oil fields, power plants and public transport systems, as well as clinics and police stations.

Repeatedly, the Chavista forces successfully defeated US-backed terrorist sabotage and referendums. However, the oil price crash over the last three years has changed the socio-economic correlation of forces. Declining income from its oil exports have cut Venezuela’s imports of vital food, medicine and manufactured goods.

The US escalated its special operations, providing financing and training via self-styled ‘non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) to opposition parties and violent ‘pro-democracy’ gangs.

The private retail, banking and transport sectors have paralyzed production and consumption through artificial shortages (hoarding), black market activity, speculation and massive overseas transfers of foreign currency.

Unlike other successful governments targeted by the US and EU with sanctions and sabotage, Venezuela has remained incapable of substituting production and diversifying its economy. It did not clamp down on hostile NGO groups, nor did it effectively confront violent street protests and capture the terrorists who attacked and assassinated police and military officials, government workers and civilian supporters of the Chavista government.

As the crisis deepened, the US and EU mass media repeatedly called for a military coup or ‘regime change’ backed by ‘strong international (sic) efforts’, thinly coded language for a US-led invasion in collaboration with the far right regimes of Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.

US-funded street thugs have intimidated bus company owners, small business people, and professionals – and especially targeted public employees who lived in neighborhood with a strong opposition presence, forcing them to close businesses or flee.

Economic sanctions have escalated with open US government threats to seize Venezuelan refineries located in the US (CITGO) and freeze its overseas assets.

CIA and Pentagon operatives have attempted to penetrate the military to ‘turn them’ against the constitutionally legitimate government through bribes and threats against their families.

The prospects of civil war is reaching a crescendo in late July 2017, as the government fought back convoking and winning free elections for a constituent assembly to elect representatives, based on class and community interests, to counter the US-business-controlled Congress, which has been at war with the Presidency. The US and its local and overseas collaborators threaten a total blockade with the seizure of overseas assets leading to a possible civil war and invasion.

Any US-backed war in Venezuela will bring the most retrograde racist oligarchs to power and will result in mass slaughter of the poor and lower middle classes who had benefited from the Chavista social programs, the assassination of their leaders, teachers, intellectuals, artists and activists, the destruction of the economy and wide-spread hunger and disease, in other words, a nightmarish ‘Libyan solution on the Caribbean’. The US may turn back social democracy, but Venezuelan revolutionaries will fight on for their very lives.

Conclusion

The US and the EU have launched major economic and military attacks against Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela. With the exception of Venezuela, imperialist aggression has been defeated and overcome, and the three have registered substantial strategic gains.

Sanctions have boomeranged on their imperialist authors and led to new partnerships and alliances, the diversification of these dynamic economies and stronger defense systems.

The US has taxed and spent well beyond the capacity of its own future generations and yet has lost on the key battlegrounds in Asia and the Middle East. China’s monumental Eurasian infrastructure program stands in stark contrast to the spectacle of lonely US battleships circling rock piles in the South China Sea and US fighter jet parked on isolated airfields of northern Australia. We can pity poor schizophrenic Australia, whose chief trade partner is China, kowtowing to the militarists in Washington while hoping Beijing will look the other way.

The US Congress imposed additional economic sanctions against Russia to drive a wedge between the US and the EU (Germany) as Putin’s economic recovery takes off and the vast Russian market attracts Berlin’s industrialists.

The Zionist-dictated Congressional sanctions against Iran may satisfy Israel’s appetites for another US-Middle East war (to be fought with more American blood and treasure), but the US military command and the vast majority of US citizens are staunchly against another quagmire.

It should be crystal clear to any rational observer: Sanctions do not work against powerful global powers with diversified economies, strong leaders, world markets, resources and skilled workers. Military threats of aggression are turned away by developing defensive strength, including nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles. However the US policy-making elite, especially in the Democratic Party, is anything but rational.

Iran has formidable regional allies and its battle-hardened armed forces possess medium range missiles capable of striking US regional allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia and US bases in the Gulf.

None of these three regional or global powers are susceptible to internal subversions via ‘color revolutions’, NGO sabotage, mass media propaganda or thug-led street violence.

Only Venezuela is vulnerable because the Chavista government did not take the opportunity to diversify its oil dependent economy when oil prices were at a historic high. Furthermore, it tolerated the activities of US funded NGO, which worked with violent coup-fomenting ‘political’ parties and gangs. It kept its reserves and assets within the US and failed to take control of the commanding heights of its national banking system. Despite its mass popular support, the Chavista government allowed the entry of corrupt opportunists into the government and saw the rise of a new class of capitalist speculators diverting oil profits to overseas private accounts.

In summary, US sanctions and military threats can be defeated and converted into victories. Vulnerability, when recognized, can be converted into strength, provided the political leadership has the vision, capacity, resources and strategy to do so.

Jul 252017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

One of the most important outcomes of the Trump Presidency are the revelations describing the complex competing forces and relations engaged in retaining and expanding US global power (‘the empire’).

The commonplace reference to ‘the empire’ fails to specify the interface and conflict among institutions engaged in projecting different aspects of US political power.

In this essay, we will outline the current divisions of power, interests and direction of the competing configurations of influence.

The Making of Empire: Countervailing Forces

The empire’ is a highly misleading concept insofar as it presumes to discuss a homogeneous, coherent and cohesive set of institutions pursuing similar interests. ‘The empire’ is a simplistic general phrase, which covers a vast field contested by institutions, personalities and centers of power, some allied, others in growing opposition.

While ‘the empire’ may describe the general notion that all pursue a common general goal of dominating and exploiting targeted countries, regions, markets, resources and labor, the dynamics (the timing and focus of action) are determined by countervailing forces.

In the present conjuncture, the countervailing forces have taken a radical turn: One configuration is attempting to usurp power and overthrow another. Up to this point, the usurping power configuration has resorted to judicial, media and procedural-legislative mechanism to modify policies. However, below the surface, the goal is to oust an incumbent enemy and impose a rival power.

Who Rules ‘the Empire’

In recent times, executive officials rule empires. They may be prime ministers, presidents, autocrats, dictators, generals or a combination of them. Imperial rulers largely ‘legislate’ and ‘execute’ strategic and tactical policies. In a crisis executive officials may be subject to review by competing legislators or judges, leading to impeachment (soft coup d’état).

Normally, the executive centralizes and concentrates power, even as they may consult, evade or deceive key legislators and judicial official. At no point in time or place do the voters play any significant role.

The executive power is exercised via specialized departments or secretariats – Treasury, Foreign Affairs (Secretary of State), Interior, and the various security services. In most instances there is greater or lesser inter-agency competition over budgets, policy and access to the chief executive and leading decision makers.

In times of crises, when the ruling executive leadership is called into question, this vertical hierarchy crumbles. The question arises of who will rule and dictate imperial policy?

With the ascent of Donald Trump to the US Presidency, imperial rulership has become openly contested terrain, fought over amid unyielding aspirants seeking to overthrow the democratically elected regime.

While Presidents rule, today the entire state structure is riven by rival power centers.

At the moment, all of the power seekers are at war to impose their rule over the empire.

In the first place, the strategically placed security apparatus is no longer under Presidential control: They operate in coordination with insurgent Congressional power centers, mass media and extra-governmental power configurations among the oligarchs (business, merchants, arms manufacturers, Zionists and special interest lobbies).

Sectors of the state apparatus and bureaucracy investigate the executive, freely leaking damaging reports to the media, distorting fabricating and/or magnifying incidents. They publicly pursue a course with the goal of regime change.

The FBI, Homeland Security, the CIA and other power configurations are acting as crucial allies to the coup-makers seeking to undermine Presidential control over the empire. No doubt, many factions within the regional offices nervously look on, waiting to see if the President will be defeated by these opposing power configurations or will survive and purge their current directors.

The Pentagon contains both elements that are pro as well as anti-Presidential power: Some active generals are aligned with the prime movers pushing for regime change, while others oppose this movement. Both contending forces influence and dictate imperial military policies.

The most visible and aggressive advocates of regime change are found in the militarist wing of the Democratic Party. They are embedded in the Congress and allied with police state militarists in and out of Washington

From their institutional vantage points, the coup-makers have initiated a series of ‘investigations’ to generate propaganda fodder for the mass media and prepare mass public opinion to favor or at least accept extraordinary ‘regime change’.

The Democratic Party congressional – mass media complex draws on the circulation of selective security agency revelations of dubious national security value, including smutty gossip, which is highly relevant for overthrowing the current regime.

Presidential imperial authority has split into fragments of influence, among the legislative, Pentagon and security apparatus.

Presidential power depends on the Cabinet and its apparatus in a ruthless fight over imperial power, polarizing the entire political system.

The President Counter-Attacks

The Trump regime has many strategic enemies and few powerful supporters. His advisers are under attack:  Some have been ousted, others are under investigation and face subpoenas for hysterical McCarthyite hearings and still others may be loyal but are incompetent and outclassed. His Cabinet appointees have attempted to follow the President’s stated agenda, including the repeal of Obama’s disastrous ‘Affordable Care Act’ and the rollback of federal regulatory systems, with little success, despite the fact that this agenda has strong backing from the Wall Street bankers and ‘Big Pharma’.

The President’s Napoleonic pretensions have been systematically undermined by continuous disparagement from the mass media and the absence of plebian support after the election.

The President lacks a mass media base of support and has to resort to the Internet and personal messages to the public, which are immediately savaged by the mass media.

The principal allies supporting the President should be found among the Republican Party, which forms the majority in both the Congress and Senate. These legislators do not act as a uniform bloc – with ultra-militarists joining the Democrats in seeking his ouster.

From a strategic perspective, all the signs point to the weakening of Presidential authority, even as his bulldog tenacity allows him to retain formal control over foreign policy.

But his foreign policy pronouncements are filtered through a uniformly hostile media, which has succeeded in defining allies and adversaries, as well as the failures of some of his ongoing decisions.

The September Showdown

The big test of power will be focused on the raising of the public debt ceiling and the continued funding of the entire federal government. Without agreement there will be a massive governmental shutdown – a kind of ‘general strike’ paralyzing essential domestic and foreign programs – including the funding of Medicare, the payment of Social Security pensions and the salaries of millions of government and Armed Forces employees.

The pro-‘regime-change’ forces (coup makers) have decided to go for broke in order to secure the programatic capitulation of the Trump regime or its ouster.

The Presidential power elite may choose the option of ruling by decree – based on the ensuing economic crisis.  They may capitalize on a hue and cry from a Wall Street collapse and claim an imminent threat to national security on our national borders and overseas bases to declare a military emergency. Without support from the intelligence services, their success is doubtful.

Both sides will blame each other for the mounting breakdown. Temporary Treasury expedients will not save the situation. The mass media will go into a hysterical mode, from political criticism to demanding open regime change. The Presidential regime may assume dictatorial powers in order ‘to save the country’.

Congressional moderates will demand a temporary solution: A week-to-week trickle of federal spending.

However, the coup-makers and the ‘Bonapartists’ will block any ‘rotten compromise’. The military will be mobilized along with the entire security and judicial apparatus to dictate the outcome.

Civil society organization will appeal to the emerging power configurations to defend their special interests. Discharged public and private employees will march as pensioners and schoolteachers go without funding. Lobbyists, ranging from oil and gas interests to defenders of Israel, will each demand their priority treatment.

The power configuration will flex their muscles, while the foundations of Congressional, Judicial and Presidential institutions will shake and shutter.

On the positive side, internal chaos and institutional divisions will relieve the mounting threat of more overseas wars for the moment. The world will breathe a sigh of relief. Not so the world of stock markets: The dollar and the speculators will plunge.

The dispute and indecisions over who rules the empire will allow for regional powers to lay claims on contested regions. The EU, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel will face off with Russia, Iran and China. No one will wait for the US to decide which power center will rule.

Jul 132017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Over the past quarter century progressive writers, activists and academics have followed a trajectory from left to right – with each presidential campaign seeming to move them further to the right. Beginning in the 1990’s progressives mobilized millions in opposition to wars, voicing demands for the transformation of the US’s corporate for-profit medical system into a national ‘Medicare For All’ public program. They condemned the notorious Wall Street swindlers and denounced police state legislation and violence. But in the end, they always voted for Democratic Party Presidential candidates who pursued the exact opposite agenda.

Over time this political contrast between program and practice led to the transformation of the Progressives. And what we see today are US progressives embracing and promoting the politics of the far right.

To understand this transformation we will begin by identifying who and what the progressives are and describe their historical role. We will then proceed to identify their trajectory over the recent decades.

We will outline the contours of recent Presidential campaigns where Progressives were deeply involved.

We will focus on the dynamics of political regression: From resistance to submission, from retreat to surrender.

We will conclude by discussing the end result: The Progressives’ large-scale, long-term embrace of far-right ideology and practice.

Progressives by Name and Posture

Progressives purport to embrace ‘progress’, the growth of the economy, the enrichment of society and freedom from arbitrary government. Central to the Progressive agenda was the end of elite corruption and good governance, based on democratic procedures.

Progressives prided themselves as appealing to ‘reason, diplomacy and conciliation’, not brute force and wars. They upheld the sovereignty of other nations and eschewed militarism and armed intervention.

Progressives proposed a vision of their fellow citizens pursuing incremental evolution toward the ‘good society’, free from the foreign entanglements, which had entrapped the people in unjust wars.

Progressives in Historical Perspective

In the early part of the 20th century, progressives favored political equality while opposing extra-parliamentary social transformations. They supported gender equality and environmental preservation while failing to give prominence to the struggles of workers and African Americans. They denounced militarism ‘in general’ but supported a series of ‘wars to end all wars’.  Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson embodied the dual policies of promoting peace at home and bloody imperial wars overseas. By the middle of the 20th century, different strands emerged under the progressive umbrella. Progressives split between traditional good government advocates and modernists who backed socio-economic reforms, civil liberties and rights.

Progressives supported legislation to regulate monopolies, encouraged collective bargaining and defended the Bill of Rights.

Progressives opposed wars and militarism in theory … until their government went to war.

Lacking an effective third political party, progressives came to see themselves as the ‘left wing’ of the Democratic Party, allies of labor and civil rights movements and defenders of civil liberties.

Progressives joined civil rights leaders in marches, but mostly relied on legal and electoral means to advance African American rights.

Progressives played a pivotal role in fighting McCarthyism, though ultimately it was the Secretary of the Army and the military high command that brought Senator McCarthy to his knees.

Progressives provided legal defense when the social movements disrupted the House Un-American Activities Committee.

They popularized the legislative arguments that eventually outlawed segregation, but it was courageous Afro-American leaders heading mass movements that won the struggle for integration and civil rights.

In many ways the Progressives complemented the mass struggles, but their limits were defined by the constraints of their membership in the Democratic Party.

The alliance between Progressives and social movements peaked in the late sixties to mid-1970’s when the Progressives followed the lead of dynamic and advancing social movements and community organizers especially in opposition to the wars in Indochina and the military draft.

The Retreat of the Progressives

By the late 1970’s the Progressives had cut their anchor to the social movements, as the anti-war, civil rights and labor movements lost their impetus (and direction).

The numbers of progressives within the left wing of the Democratic Party increased through recruitment from earlier social movements. Paradoxically, while their ‘numbers’ were up, their caliber had declined, as they sought to ‘fit in’ with the pro-business, pro-war agenda of their President’s party.

Without the pressure of the ‘populist street’ the ‘Progressives-turned-Democrats’ adapted to the corporate culture in the Party. The Progressives signed off on a fatal compromise: The corporate elite secured the electoral party while the Progressives were allowed to write enlightened manifestos about the candidates and their programs … which were quickly dismissed once the Democrats took office. Yet the ability to influence the ‘electoral rhetoric’ was seen by the Progressives as a sufficient justification for remaining inside the Democratic Party.

Moreover the Progressives argued that by strengthening their presence in the Democratic Party, (their self-proclaimed ‘boring from within’ strategy), they would capture the party membership, neutralize the pro-corporation, militarist elements that nominated the president and peacefully transform the party into a ‘vehicle for progressive changes’.

Upon their successful ‘deep penetration’ the Progressives, now cut off from the increasingly disorganized mass social movements, coopted and bought out many prominent black, labor and civil liberty activists and leaders, while collaborating with what they dubbed the more malleable ‘centrist’ Democrats. These mythical creatures were really pro-corporate Democrats who condescended to occasionally converse with the Progressives while working for the Wall Street and Pentagon elite.

The Retreat of the Progressives: The Clinton Decade

Progressives adapted the ‘crab strategy’: Moving side-ways and then backwards but never forward.

Progressives mounted candidates in the Presidential primaries, which were predictably defeated by the corporate Party apparatus, and then submitted immediately to the outcome.

The election of President ‘Bill’ Clinton launched a period of unrestrained financial plunder, major wars of aggression in Europe (Yugoslavia) and the Middle East (Iraq), a military intervention in Somalia and secured Israel’s victory over any remnant of a secular Palestinian leadership as well as its destruction of Lebanon!

Like a huge collective ‘Monica Lewinsky’ robot, the Progressives in the Democratic Party bent over and swallowed Clinton’s vicious 1999 savaging of the venerable Glass Steagall Act, thereby opening the floodgates for massive speculation on Wall Street through the previously regulated banking sector. When President Clinton gutted welfare programs, forcing  single mothers to take minimum-wage jobs without provision for safe childcare, millions of poor white and minority women were forced to abandon their children to dangerous makeshift arrangements in order to retain any residual public support and access to minimal health care. Progressives looked the other way.

Progressives followed Clinton’s deep throated thrust toward the far right, as he out-sourced manufacturing jobs to Mexico (NAFTA) and re-appointed Federal Reserve’s free market, Ayn Rand-fanatic, Alan Greenspan.

Progressives repeatedly kneeled before President Clinton marking their submission to the Democrats’ ‘hard right’ policies.

The election of Republican President G. W. Bush (2001-2009) permitted Progressive’s to temporarily trot out and burnish their anti-war, anti-Wall Street credentials. Out in the street, they protested Bush’s savage invasion of Iraq (but not the destruction of Afghanistan). They protested the media reports of torture in Abu Ghraib under Bush, but not the massive bombing and starvation of millions of Iraqis that had occurred under Clinton. Progressives protested the expulsion of immigrants from Mexico and Central America, but were silent over the brutal uprooting of refugees resulting from US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the systematic destruction of their nations’ infrastructure.

Progressives embraced Israel’s bombing, jailing and torture of Palestinians by voting unanimously in favor of increasing the annual $3 billion dollar military handouts to the brutal Jewish State. They supported Israel’s bombing and slaughter in Lebanon.

Progressives were in retreat, but retained a muffled voice and inconsequential vote in favor of peace, justice and civil liberties. They kept a certain distance from the worst of the police state decrees by the RepublicanAdministration.

Progressives and Obama: From Retreat to Surrender

While Progressives maintained their tepid commitment to civil liberties, and their highly ‘leveraged’ hopes for peace in the Middle East, they jumped uncritically into the highly choreographed Democratic Party campaign for Barack Obama, ‘Wall Street’s First Black President’.

Progressives had given up their quest to ‘realign’ the Democratic Party ‘from within’: they turned from serious tourism to permanent residency.  Progressives provided the foot soldiers for the election and re-election of the warmongering ‘Peace Candidate’ Obama. After the election, Progressives rushed to join the lower echelons of his Administration. Black and white politicos joined hands in their heroic struggle to erase the last vestiges of the Progressives’ historical legacy.

Obama increased the number of Bush-era imperial wars to attacking seven weak nations under American’s ‘First Black’ President’s bombardment, while the Progressives ensured that the streets were quiet and empty.

When Obama provided trillions of dollars of public money to rescue Wall Street and the bankers, while sacrificing two million poor and middle class mortgage holders, the Progressives only criticized the bankers who received the bailout, but not Obama’s Presidential decision to protect and reward the mega-swindlers.

Under the Obama regime social inequalities within the United States grew at an unprecedented rate. The Police State Patriot Act was massively extended to give President Obama the power to order the assassination of US citizens abroad without judicial process. The Progressives did not resign when Obama’s ‘kill orders’ extended to the ‘mistaken’ murder of his target’s children and other family member, as well as unidentified bystanders. The icon carriers still paraded their banner of the ‘first black American President’ when tens of thousands of black Libyans and immigrant workers were slaughtered in his regime-change war against President Gadhafi.

Obama surpassed the record of all previous Republican office holders in terms of the massive numbers of immigrant workers arrested and expelled – 2 million. Progressives applauded the Latino protestors while supporting the policies of their ‘first black President’.

Progressive accepted that multiple wars, Wall Street bailouts and the extended police state were now the price they would pay to remain part of the “Democratic coalition’ (sic).

The deeper the Progressives swilled at the Democratic Party trough, the more they embraced the Obama’s free market agenda and the more they ignored the increasing impoverishment, exploitation and medical industry-led opioid addiction of American workers that was shortening their lives. Under Obama, the Progressives totally abandoned the historic American working class, accepting their degradation into what Madam Hillary Clinton curtly dismissed as the ‘deplorables’.

With the Obama Presidency, the Progressive retreat turned into a rout, surrendering with one flaccid caveat: the Democratic Party ‘Socialist’ Bernie Sanders, who had voted 90% of the time with the Corporate Party, had revived a bastardized military-welfare state agenda.

Sander’s Progressive demagogy shouted and rasped on the campaign trail, beguiling the young electorate. The ‘Bernie’ eventually ‘sheep-dogged’ his supporters into the pro-war Democratic Party corral. Sanders revived an illusion of the pre-1990 progressive agenda, promising resistance while demanding voter submission to Wall Street warlord Hillary Clinton. After Sanders’ round up of the motley progressive herd, he staked them tightly to the far-right Wall Street war mongering Hillary Clinton. The Progressives not only embraced Madame Secretary Clinton’s nuclear option and virulent anti-working class agenda, they embellished it by focusing on Republican billionaire Trump’s demagogic, nationalist, working class rhetoric which was designed to agitate ‘the deplorables’. They even turned on the working class voters, dismissing them as ‘irredeemable’ racists and illiterates or ‘white trash’ when they turned to support Trump in massive numbers in the ‘fly-over’ states of the central US.

Progressives, allied with the police state, the mass media and the war machine worked to defeat and impeach Trump. Progressives surrendered completely to the Democratic Party and started to advocate its far right agenda. Hysterical McCarthyism against anyone who questioned the Democrats’ promotion of war with Russia, mass media lies and manipulation of street protest against Republican elected officials became the centerpieces of the Progressive agenda. The working class and farmers had disappeared from their bastardized ‘identity-centered’ ideology.

Guilt by association spread throughout Progressive politics. Progressives embraced J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI tactics: “Have you ever met or talked to any Russian official or relative of any Russian banker, or any Russian or even read Gogol, now or in the past?” For progressives, ‘Russia-gate’ defined the real focus of contemporary political struggle in this huge, complex, nuclear-armed superpower.

Progressives joined the FBI/CIA’s ‘Russian Bear’ conspiracy: “Russia intervened and decided the Presidential election” – no matter that millions of workers and rural Americans had voted against Hillary Clinton, Wall Street’s candidate and no matter that no evidence of direct interference was ever presented. Progressives could not accept that ‘their constituents’, the masses, had rejected Madame Clinton and preferred ‘the Donald’. They attacked a shifty-eyed caricature of the repeatedly elected Russian President Putin as a subterfuge for attacking the disobedient ‘white trash’ electorate of ‘Deploralandia’.

Progressive demagogues embraced the coifed and manicured former ‘Director Comey’ of the FBI, and the Mr. Potato-headed Capo of the CIA and their forty thugs in making accusations without finger or footprints.

The Progressives’ far right- turn earned them hours and space on the mass media as long as they breathlessly savaged and insulted President Trump and his family members. When they managed to provoke him into a blind rage … they added the newly invented charge of ‘psychologically unfit to lead’ – presenting cheap psychobabble as grounds for impeachment. Finally! American Progressives were on their way to achieving their first and only political transformation: a Presidential coup d’état on behalf of the Far Right!

Progressives loudly condemned Trump’s overtures for peace with Russia, denouncing it as appeasement and betrayal!

In return, President Trump began to ‘out-militarize’ the Progressives by escalating US involvement in the Middle East and South China Sea. They swooned with joy when Trump ordered a missile strike against the Syrian government as Damascus engaged in a life and death struggle against mercenary terrorists. They dubbed the petulant release of Patriot missiles ‘Presidential’.

Then Progressives turned increasingly Orwellian: Ignoring Obama’s actual expulsion of over 2 million immigrant workers, they condemned Trump for promising to eventually expel 5 million more!

Progressives, under Obama, supported seven brutal illegal wars and pressed for more, but complained when Trump continued the same wars and proposed adding a few new ones. At the same time, progressives out-militarized Trump by accusing him of being ‘weak’ on Russia, Iran, North Korea and China. They chided him for his lack support for Israel’s suppression of the Palestinians. They lauded Trump’s embrace of the Saudi war against Yemen as a stepping-stone for an assault against Iran, even as millions of destitute Yemenis were exposed to cholera. The Progressives had finally embraced a biological weapon of mass destruction, when US-supplied missiles destroyed the water systems of Yemen!

Conclusion

Progressives turned full circle from supporting welfare to embracing Wall Street; from preaching peaceful co-existence to demanding a dozen wars; from recognizing the humanity and rights of undocumented immigrants to their expulsion under their ‘First Black’ President; from thoughtful mass media critics to servile media megaphones; from defenders of civil liberties to boosters for the police state; from staunch opponents of J. Edgar Hoover and his ‘dirty tricks’ to camp followers for the ‘intelligence community’ in its deep state campaign to overturn a national election.

Progressives moved from fighting and resisting the Right to submitting and retreating; from retreating to surrendering and finally embracing the far right.

Doing all that and more within the Democratic Party, Progressives retain and deepen their ties with the mass media, the security apparatus and the military machine, while occasionally digging up some Bernie Sanders-type demagogue to arouse an army of voters away from effective resistance to mindless collaboration.

Jul 082017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Throughout the US and European corporate and state media, right and left, we are told that ‘populism’ has become the overarching threat to democracy, freedom and … free markets. The media’s ‘anti-populism’ campaign has been used and abused by ruling elites and their academic and intellectual camp followers as the principal weapon to distract, discredit and destroy the rising tide of mass discontent with ruling class-imposed austerity programs, the accelerating concentration of wealth and the deepening inequalities.

We will begin by examining the conceptual manipulation of ‘populism’ and its multiple usages. Then we will turn to the historic economic origins of populism and anti-populism. Finally, we will critically analyze the contemporary movements and parties dubbed ‘populist’ by the ideologues of ‘anti-populism’.

Conceptual Manipulation

In order to understand the current ideological manipulation accompanying ‘anti-populism’ it is necessary to examine the historical roots of populism as a popular movement.

Populism emerged during the 19th and 20th century as an ideology, movement and government in opposition to autocracy, feudalism, capitalism, imperialism and socialism. In the United States, populist leaders led agrarian struggles backed by millions of small farmers in opposition to bankers, railroad magnates and land speculators. Opposing monopolistic practices of the ‘robber barons’, the populist movement supported broad-based commercial agriculture, access to low interest farm credit and reduced transport costs.

In 19th century Russia, the populists opposed the Tsar, the moneylenders and the burgeoning commercial elites.

In early 20th century India and China, populism took the form of nationalist agrarian movements seeking to overthrow the imperial powers and their comprador collaborators.

In Latin America, from the 1930s onward, especially with the crises of export regimes, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, embraced a variety of populist, anti-imperialist governments. In Brazil, President Getulio Vargas’s term (1951-1954) was notable for the establishment of a national industrial program promoting the interests of urban industrial workers despite banning independent working class trade unions and Marxist parties. In Argentina, President Juan Peron’s first terms (1946-1954) promoted large-scale working class organization, advanced social welfare programs and embraced nationalist capitalist development.

In Bolivia, a worker-peasant revolution brought to power a nationalist party, the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR), which nationalized the tin mines, expropriated the latifundios and promoted national development during its rule from 1952-1964.

In Peru, under President Velasco Alvarado (1968-1975), the government expropriated the coastal sugar plantations and US oil fields and copper mines while promoting worker and agricultural cooperatives.

In all cases, the populist governments in Latin America were based on a coalition of nationalist capitalists, urban workers and the rural poor. In some notable cases, nationalist military officers brought populist governments to power. What they had in common was their opposition to foreign capital and its local supporters and exporters (‘compradores’), bankers and their elite military collaborators. Populists promoted ‘third way’ politics by opposing imperialism on the right, and socialism and communism on the left. The populists supported the redistribution of wealth but not the expropriation of property. They sought to reconcile national capitalists and urban workers. They opposed class struggle but supported state intervention in the economy and import-substitution as a development strategy.

Imperialist powers were the leading anti-populists of that period. They defended property privileges and condemned nationalism as ‘authoritarian’ and undemocratic. They demonized the mass support for populism as ‘a threat to Western Christian civilization’. Not infrequently, the anti-populists ideologues would label the national-populists as ‘fascists’ … even as they won numerous elections at different times and in a variety of countries.

The historical experience of populism, in theory and practice, has nothing to do with what today’s ‘anti-populists’ in the media are calling ‘populism’. In reality, current anti-populism is still a continuation of anti-communism, a political weapon to disarm working class and popular movements. It advances the class interest of the ruling class. Both ‘anti’s’ have been orchestrated by ruling class ideologues seeking to blur the real nature of their ‘pro-capitalist’ privileged agenda and practice. Presenting your program as ‘pro-capitalist’, pro-inequalities, pro-tax evasion and pro-state subsidies for the elite is more difficult to defend at the ballot box than to claim to be ‘anti-populist’.

‘Anti-populism’ is the simple ruling class formula for covering-up their real agenda, which is pro-militarist, pro-imperialist (globalization), pro-‘rebels’ (i.e. mercenary terrorists working for regime change), pro crisis makers and pro-financial swindlers.

The economic origins of ‘anti-populism’ are rooted in the deep and repeated crises of capitalism and the need to deflect and discredit mass discontent and demoralize the popular classes in struggle. By demonizing ‘populism’, the elites seek to undermine the rising tide of anger over the elite-imposed wage cuts, the rise of low-paid temporary jobs and the massive increase in the reserve army of cheap immigrant labor to compete with displaced native workers.

Historic ‘anti-populism’ has its roots in the inability of capitalism to secure popular consent via elections. It reflects their anger and frustration at their failure to grow the economy, to conquer and exploit independent countries and to finance growing fiscal deficits.

The Amalgamation of Historical Populism with the Contemporary Fabricated Populism

What the current anti-populists ideologues label ‘populism’ has little to do with the historical movements.

Unlike all of the past populist governments, which sought to nationalize strategic industries, none of the current movements and parties, denounced as ‘populist’ by the media, are anti-imperialists. In fact, the current ‘populists’ attack the lowest classes and defend the imperialist-allied capitalist elites. The so-called current ‘populists’ support imperialist wars and bank swindlers, unlike the historical populists who were anti-war and anti-bankers.

Ruling class ideologues simplistically conflate a motley collection of right-wing capitalist parties and organizations with the pro-welfare state, pro-worker and pro-farmer parties of the past in order to discredit and undermine the burgeoning popular multi-class movements and regimes.

Demonization of independent popular movements ignores the fundamental programmatic differences and class politics of genuine populist struggles compared with the contemporary right-wing capitalist political scarecrows and clowns.

One has only to compare the currently demonized ‘populist’ Donald Trump with the truly populist US President Franklin Roosevelt, who promoted social welfare, unionization, labor rights, increased taxes on the rich, income redistribution, and genuine health and workplace safety legislation within a multi-class coalition to see how absurd the current media campaign has become.

The anti-populist ideologues label President Trump a ‘populist’ when his policies and proposals are the exact opposite. Trump champions the repeal of all pro-labor and work safety regulation, as well as the slashing of public health insurance programs while reducing corporate taxes for the ultra-elite.

The media’s ‘anti-populists’ ideologues denounce pro-business right-wing racists as ‘populists’. In Italy, Finland, Holland, Austria, Germany and France anti-working class parties are called ‘populist’ for attacking immigrants instead of bankers and militarists.

In other words, the key to understanding contemporary ‘anti-populism’ is to see its role in preempting and undermining the emergence of authentic populist movements while convincing middle class voters to continue to vote for crisis-prone, austerity-imposing neo-liberal regimes. ‘Anti-populism’ has become the opium (or OxyContin) of frightened middle class voters.

The anti-populism of the ruling class serves to confuse the ‘right’ with the ‘left’; to sidelight the latter and promote the former; to amalgamate right-wing ‘rallies’ with working class strikes; and to conflate right-wing demagogues with popular mass leaders.

Unfortunately, too many leftist academics and pundits are loudly chanting in the ‘anti-populist’ chorus. They have failed to see themselves among the shock troops of the right. The left ideologues join the ruling class in condemning the corporate populists in the name of ‘anti-fascism’. Left-wing writers, claiming to ‘combat the far-right enemies of the people’, overlook the fact that they are ‘fellow-travelling’ with an anti-populist ruling class, which has imposed savage cuts in living standards, spread imperial wars of aggression resulting in millions of desperate refugees-not immigrants –and concentrated immense wealth.

The bankruptcy of today’s ‘anti-populist’ left will leave them sitting in their coffee shops, scratching at fleas, as the mass popular movements take to the streets!

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

Jun 282017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

The most striking feature of recent elections is not ‘who won or who lost’, nor is it the personalities, parties and programs. The dominant characteristic of the elections is the widespread repudiation of the electoral system, political campaigns, parties and candidates.

Across the world, majorities and pluralities of citizens of voting age refuse to even register to vote (unless obligated by law), refuse to turn out to vote (voter abstention), or vote against all the candidates (boycott by empty ballot and ballot spoilage).

If we add the many citizen activists who are too young to vote, citizens denied voting rights because of past criminal (often minor) convictions, impoverished citizens and minorities denied voting rights through manipulation and gerrymandering, we find that the actual ‘voting public’ shrivel to a small minority.

As a result, present day elections have been reduced to a theatrical competition among the elite for the votes of a minority. This situation describes an oligarchy – not a healthy democracy.

Oligarchic Competition

Oligarchs compete and alternate with one another over controlling and defining who votes and doesn’t vote. They decide who secures plutocratic financing and mass media propaganda within a tiny corporate sector. ‘Voter choice’ refers to deciding which preselected candidates are acceptable for carrying out an agenda of imperial conquests, deepening class inequalities and securing legal impunity for the oligarchs, their political representatives and state, police and military officials.

Oligarchic politicians depend on the systematic plundering Treasury to facilitate and protect billion dollar/billion euro stock market swindles and the illegal accumulation of trillions of dollars and Euros via tax evasion (capital flight) and money laundering.

The results of elections and the faces of the candidates may change but the fundamental economic and military apparatus remains the same to serve an ever tightening oligarchic rule.

The elite regimes change, but the permanence of state apparatus designed to serve the elite becomes ever more obvious to the citizens.

Why the Oligarchy Celebrates “Democracy”

The politicians who participate in the restrictive and minoritarian electoral system, with its predetermined oligarchic results, celebrate ‘elections’ as a democratic process because a plurality of voters, as subordinate subjects, are incorporated.

Academics, journalists and experts argue that a system in which elite competition defines citizen choice has become the only way to protect ‘democracy’ from the irrational ‘populist’ rhetoric appealing to a mass of citizens vulnerable to authoritarianism (the so-called ‘deplorables’). The low voter turn-out in recent elections reduces the threat posed by such undesirable voters.

A serious objective analysis of present-day electoral politics demonstrates that when the masses do vote for their class interests — the results deepen and extend social democracy. When most voters, non-voters and excluded citizens choose to abstain or boycott elections they have sound reasons for repudiating plutocratic-controlled oligarchic choices.

We will proceed to examine the recent June 2017 voter turnout in the elections in France, the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico. We will then look at the intrinsic irrationality of citizens voting for elite politicos as opposed to the solid good sense of the popular classes rejection of elite elections and their turn to extra-parliamentary action.

Puerto Rico’s Referendum

The major TV networks (NBC, ABC and CBS) and the prestigious print media (New York Times, Washington Post, and Financial Times) hailed the ‘overwhelming victory’ of the recent pro-annexationist vote in Puerto Rico. They cited the 98% vote in favor of becoming a US state!

The media ignored the fact that a mere 28% of Puerto Ricans participated in the elections to vote for a total US takeover. Over 77% of the eligible voters abstained or boycotted the referendum.

In other words, over three quarters of the Puerto Rican people rejected the sham ‘political elite election’. Instead, the majority voted with their feet in the streets through direct action.

France’s Micro-Bonaparte

In the same way, the mass media celebrated what they dubbed a ‘tidal wave’ of electoral support for French President Emmanuel Macron and his new party, ‘the Republic in March’. Despite the enormous media propaganda push for Macron, a clear majority of the electorate (58%) abstained or spoiled their ballots, therefore rejecting all parties and candidates, and the entire French electoral system. This hardly constitutes a ‘tidal wave’ of citizen support in a democracy.

During the first round of the parliamentary election, President Macron’s candidates received 27% of the vote, barely exceeding the combined vote of the left socialist and nationalist populist parties, which had secured 25% of the vote. In the second round, Macron’s party received less then 20% of the eligible vote.

In other words, the anti-Macron rejectionists represented over three quarters of the French electorate. After these elections a significant proportion of the French people – especially among the working class –will likely choose extra-parliamentary direct action, as the most democratic expression of representative politics.

The United Kingdom: Class Struggle and the Election Results

The June 2017 parliamentary elections in the UK resulted in a minority Conservative regime forced to form an alliance with the fringe Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a far-right para-military Protestant party from Northern Ireland. The Conservatives received 48% of registered voters to 40% who voted for the Labor Party. However, 15 million citizens, or one-third of the total electorate abstained or spoiled their ballots. The Conservative regime’s plurality represented 32% of the electorate.

Despite a virulent anti-Labor campaign in the oligarch-controlled mass media, the combined Labor vote and abstaining citizens clearly formed a majority of the population, which will be excluded from any role the post-election oligarchic regime despite the increase in the turnout (in comparison to previous elections).

Elections: Oligarchs in Office, Workers in the Street

The striking differences in the rate of abstention in France, Puerto Rico, and the UK reflect the levels of class dissatisfaction and rejection of electoral politics.

The UK elections provided the electorate with something resembling a class alternative in the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn. The Labor Party under Corbyn presented a progressive social democratic program promising substantial and necessary increases in social welfare spending (health, education and housing) to be funded by higher progressive taxes on the upper and upper middle class.

Corbyn’s foreign policy promised to end the UK’s involvement in imperialist wars and to withdraw troops from the Middle East. He also re-confirmed his long opposition to Israel’s colonial land-grabbing and oppression of the Palestinian people, as a principled way to reduce terrorist attacks at home.

In other words, Corbyn recognized that introducing real class-based politics would increase voter participation. This was especially true among young voters in the 18-25 year age group, who were among the UK citizens most harmed by the loss of stable factory jobs, the doubling of university fees and the cuts in national health services.

In contrast, the French legislative elections saw the highest rate of voter abstention since the founding of the 5th Republic. These high rates reflect broad popular opposition to ultra-neoliberal President Francois Macron and the absence of real opposition parties engaged in class struggle.

The lowest voter turn-out (72%) occurred in Puerto Rico. This reflects growing mass opposition to the corrupt political elite, the economic depression and the colonial and semi-colonial offerings of the two-major parties. The absence of political movements and parties tied to class struggle led to greater reliance on direct action and voter abstention.

Clearly class politics is the major factor determining voter turnout. The absence of class struggle increases the power of the elite mass media, which promotes the highly divisive identity politics and demonizes left parties. All of these increase both abstention and the vote for right-wing politicians, like Macron.

The mass media grossly inflated the significance of the Right’s election victories of the while ignoring the huge wave of citizens rejecting the entire electoral process. In the case of the UK, the appearance of class politics through Jeremy Corbyn increased voter turnout for the Labor Party. However, Labor has a history of first making left promises and ending up with right turns. Any future Labor betrayal will increase voter abstention.

The established parties and the media work in tandem to confine elections to a choreographed contest among competing elites divorced from direct participation by the working classes. This effectively excludes the citizens who have been most harmed by the ruling class’ austerity programs implemented by successive rightist and Social Democratic parties.

The decision of many citizens not to vote is based on taking a very rational and informed view of the ruling political elites who have slashed their living standards often by forcing workers to compete with immigrants for low paying, unstable jobs. It is deeply rational for citizens to refuse to vote for within a rigged system, which only worsens their living conditions through its attacks on the public sector, social welfare and labor codes while cutting taxes on capital.

Conclusion

The vast majority citizens in the wage and salaried class do not trust the political elites. They see electoral campaigns as empty exercises, financed by and for plutocrats.

Most citizens recognize (and despise) the mass media as elite propaganda megaphones fabricating ‘popular’ images to promote anti-working class politicians, while demonizing political activists engaged in class-based struggles.

Nevertheless, elite elections will not produce an effective consolidation of right-wing rule. Voter abstention will not lead to abstention from direct action when the citizens recognize their class interests are in grave jeopardy.

The Macron regime’s parliamentary majority will turn into an impotent minority as soon as he tries carry out his elite promise to slash the jobs of hundreds of thousands of French public sector workers, smash France’s progressive labor codes and the industry-wide collective bargaining system and pursue new colonial wars.

Puerto Rico’s profound economic depression and social crisis will not be resolved through a referendum with on 27% of the voter participation. Large-scale demonstrations will preclude US annexation and deepen mass demands for class-based alternatives to colonial rule.

Conservative rule in the UK is divided by inter-elite rivalries both at home and abroad. ‘Brexit’, the first step in the break-up of the EU, opens opportunities for deeper class struggle. The social-economic promises made by Jeremy Corbyn and his left-wing of the Labor Party energized working class voters, but if it does not fundamentally challenge capital, it will revert to being a marginal force.

The weakness and rivalries within the British ruling class will not be resolved in Parliament or by any new elections.

The demise of the UK, the provocation of a Conservative-DUP alliance and the end of the EU (BREXIT) raises the chance for successful mass extra-parliamentary struggles against the authoritarian neo-liberal attacks on workers’ civil rights and class interests.

Elite elections and their outcomes in Europe and elsewhere are laying the groundwork for a revival and radicalization of the class struggle.

In the final analysis class rule is not decided via elite elections among oligarchs and their mass media propaganda. Once dismissed as a ‘vestige of the past’, the revival of class struggle is clearly on the horizon.

Jun 182017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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You can’t build socialism with dollar signs in your eyes”

— Fidel Castro

Introduction

Many experts and commentators describe the political process in Latin America as one of ‘alternating right and left governments’. Journalists focus on the abrupt regime changes from democratic to authoritarian; from neo-liberal to progressive programs; and from oligarchs to populists.

The financial media present the ‘right’s’ socially regressive policies and strategies as ‘reforms’, a euphemism for the re-concentration of wealth, profits and property into the hands of foreign and domestic oligarchs.

Leftwing intellectuals and journalists paint an image of socio-economic transformations under Latin America’s ‘left’ regimes where ‘the people’ take power, income is redistributed and growth flourishes.

The rise and demise of left and right regimes are typically attributed to ‘economic mismanagement, social crisis, political manipulation and erroneous strategic policies’.

Orthodox economists, under the presumption that greater profits ‘create’ the foundation for long-term stability and growth, prescribe a series of ‘structural reforms’. ‘Structures’ refer to measures and institutions, which strengthen the organization of the governing elite and their socio-economic backers.

A deeper analysis of both left and right wing perspectives shows that the basic understandings are flawed; there are fundamental misunderstandings regarding the long-term, large-scale continuity of the developmental process crossing political persuasions.

As a result, the left and right socio-economic classes and political elites exaggerate the dynamics of development while profoundly underestimating its ‘stasis’ or resistance to change.

The most striking aspect of Latin American development is not the change of regimes, but the stable continuities of the (1) class structure, (2) ownership of the strategic sectors of the economy, (3) rates of profit, (4) pattern of foreign trade and (5) principal recipients of state credit.

Viewed from this perspective, it is clear that leftwing as well as rightwing electoral victories result in mere incremental changes in the ownership of the means of production, finances and distributions. The basic structures remain intact.

Increases in progressive taxes by the left, as well as tax cuts by the right, are puny compared with the large-scale pervasive tax evasion by the elite. Massive capital flight to offshore holdings offset any increase in public revenue. Capital flight and the transfer of export earnings to overseas subsidiaries in low tax countries distort any real redistribution of income.

As a result, ‘progressive’ taxes fail to reduce real upper class income. Any increase in income for workers and salaried employees result from volatile cyclical economic shifts, which are subject to abrupt reversals undermining medium term improvements in livelihood.

For example, progressive re-distributive programs are based on the size and scope of commodity prices, which, in turn, increase or reduce consumption. This is best understood as a function of the domestic structural continuities and the volatility of global demand for agro-mineral exports. When progressive regimes face the challenge of rising unemployment, income inequalities and economic crisis, regime shift occurs with the ‘rise of the right’ exacerbating the economic crisis and social regression.

The negative indicators, seen during a cyclical downturn when a left regime is in power, become more acute with the ascendency of the right. Structural continuities persisting under both progressive and rightist regimes, and not specific policies, account for this lack of real change.

The socio-economic downturns under progressive regimes, which is usually related to decreased global commodity demand, are largely responsible for the electoral victory of succeeding right-wing regimes.

The continued socio-economic declines, under rightist regimes, inevitably lead to a renewed crisis, as is happening in Brazil and Argentina.

In all cases, class and economic continuities under left regimes are much more important in determining their trajectories and their short and medium-term incremental improvements. Likewise the rise and decline of rightwing regimes are based on electoral victories linked to the gross opportunism of the established oligarchical classes seeking fast gains and quick flight. Regimes may change with dizzying frequency but the state and class power remain constant.

Corruption: The Engine of Left and Right Growth

A sober review of Brazil’s corruption nexus between the PT (Lula) and the oligarchy leads to the following observations:

Inequalities are based on large-scale, long-term corruption linking new progressive leaders with traditional rightwing politicians and elite economic actors.

Coalitions or partnerships between left and right parties and leaders represent kleptocracy, not democracy.

It is clear that the greater the dependency on revenues from the extractive sector (minerals, oil and gas), the more intense the party competition, the more pervasive the corruption and the wider the web of kleptocrats.

The more intense competition between the elite and Party, the less the people have any access to the economic pie defining class society.

Corruption greases the wheels of political campaigns, elections and strategic appointments within state institutions, whether ‘progressive’ or ‘rightist’.

In other words, electoral politics and ‘free markets’ function smoothly and without turmoil when the competing parties engage in a mutually compatible coalition of corruption facilitating big business contracts.

Despite uprisings, electoral change of regimes, and palace coups, this immutable system of mutually shared corruption reduces the possibility of any real working-class based transformations.

Institutionalized corruption turns ‘dissent’ into vehicles for recycling politicos between progressives and rightists.

The more the kleptocratic regimes ‘change’ the greater the continuity of class structure and economic ownership. Plus ça change …!

While popular movements and trade unions struggle and organize, searching for alternatives, their political leaders eagerly anticipate forming elite consensus and coalitions to share public office and public loot.

Outgoing rightwing regimes leave a legacy of public debts, corruption, privatized public resources and obligations to powerful domestic and foreign bankers who control the commanding heights of the economy. The incoming leftist regimes agree to assume all the debt and obstacles and none of the assets and gains.

The political decision by left regimes to accommodate this legacy eliminates the possibility of implementing basic changes and confines their policy to incremental, symbolic gestures passing as ‘change’.

It is the left’s choice to adapt itself to the kleptocratic legacy and not their progressive ideology or working class voters, which defines the real political-economic and class character of the ‘popular regimes’.

To illustrate and document the ‘transitions’ to piece-meal adjustments forward and backwards in Latin America, it is necessary to outline the ‘political turning points’ and how they were subverted.

The Democratic Option

With the demise of the military and authoritarian regimes between the 1960’s and 1980’s, the domestic and foreign ruling classes faced the real prospects of ceding political power and losing strategic ownership and wealth. In reality, the ruling class gave up very little and gained infinitely more. Socio-economic changes were aborted: the politicos of the left and right negotiated a convenient pact with the military and business elite. The left received political office, patronage and minimal incremental changes. In exchange, the entire class and property system remained intact.

The authoritarian transition to electoral pacts precluded any democratic option. Worse, the socio-economy accommodations among foreign and domestic business elites and the upwardly mobile middle class politicos ensured the continuation of the onerous and repressive class structure.

Cooption of elected officials opened the door for deeper and more inclusive forms of corruption and broadened the net of political patronage to include trade union leaders and the increasingly ambitious operatives from the NGO sector.

The Debt Crises and the Debt Default

Business-military regimes profited from corrupt multimillion-dollar arms purchases and padded their overseas bank accounts from the high interest loans they signed with foreign and domestic bankers. Because these loans were not used for public projects, the debt should have been reneged as illegal by subsequent popular-leftist regimes. Instead, the tax-paying workers and employees were left to pay off the loans.

The illegal debts totally constrained the incoming electoral regimes, precluding policies aimed at domestic growth, including increases in investments and consumption.

Numerous investigations have demonstrated the corrupt nature of the debt process: Loans, borrowed by the Treasury, were transferred to overseas private accounts. This should have served as the legal bases to reject payments to the lenders. However, the business-military borrowers, who were responsible for the illicit debt, were exonerated by successive right-left electoral coalitions.

The left-right political pacts quickly rejected any idea of defaulting on the debt because of their eagerness to take office. The possibility of ending the onerous debt payments was shut down. Instead, these regimes adopted more austerity programs, prolonged debt payments and the intensification of the neo-liberal agenda.

The Golden Age of Rightist-Imperial Plunder: the 1990’s

The elected left-right ‘coalition’ regimes, the continued payment of illegal debt and the ruling class austerity programs quickly led to hard rightwing regimes.

Inflation, accompanying the policies of the combined popular-right ‘consensus’ governments led to the collapse of the ‘electoral left’ and the rise of the neo-liberals.

Thousands of the most lucrative banking, manufacturing, transport and extractive national industries were ‘privatized’ to foreign and domestic oligarchs, often in corrupt crony-ridden deals.

Bankers, landowners, real estate and media moguls prospered.

Meanwhile, landless peasants, industrial workers and debtors were exploited and dispossessed.

Western imperial centers, led by the ‘Bill’ Clinton regime, pushed for Wall Street-brokered regional trade and investment pacts.

In the United States, the decade of the 1990’s would be celebrated as the ‘golden age’ of imperial plunder of Latin America’s agro-mineral wealth, the exploitation of its labor and the dispossession of its rural communities. A mega-wave of financial swindles and IMF-imposed ‘stabilization pacts’ wiped out the savings of millions of small business-people and salaried employees, while consolidating the political and economic power of the oligarchy.

The grossly corrupt ‘presidential troika’ of Carlos Saul Menem in Argentina, Henrique Fernando Cardoso in Brazil and Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada in Bolivia, replaced the stable demand-side economic policies, including import-substitution industrialization, with supply-side programs, emphasizing agro-mineral exports and imperial-centered integration policies.

The neo-liberal, imperial-centered, privatized politico-economic regimes lasted less than a decade, but the damage of such pillage to the national economies would last much longer.

The multiple economic imbalances and the institutionalization of large-scale entrenched business-state corruption have undermined competition, efficiency, innovation and any chance for sustained growth.

Vast outflows of profits and interest (pillage flowing to US bank accounts) have undermined production and savings needed to finance growth.

The predictable collapse of this criminal ‘new order’ of agro-mineral exports (pillage), tax evasion and the business-political kleptocracy led to sharp socio-political polarization, state repression and eventually the popular overthrow of these klepto-imperial regimes – Clinton’s ‘Golden Age Partners’.

Mass struggles arose, led by grassroots movements linking the urban unemployed, rural farm workers, the downwardly mobile public and private sector employees, bankrupt small business people and middle class debtors and mortgage holders. These broad based movements directly challenged the pillage.

The catastrophic economic consequences of the ‘neo-liberal’ imperial-centered rule led to the possibility of left regimes riding on the back of mass protest.

Popular Uprising and the Left-Business Pact

The downfall of the neo-liberal regimes of the 1990’s brought left political parties and leaders to the foreground. These emerging leaders of the ‘progressive left’ would replace the ‘old neo-liberal’ right as the new partners of the business, agro-mineral and banking elite – while the academic world celebrated the ‘rising red tide’.

The ‘new pact’ promised to preserve the power of the big business firms and the holdings of national and foreign banks. Most important, the social class hierarchy was unchanged. The ‘left’ took the reins of the kleptocratic networks to finance their own elections and facilitate the upward mobility of a rising left political and NGO elite.

The marriage of incremental reforms and populist ideology (21stcentury ‘revolutionary’ demagogy) with oligarchic klepto-capitalism led to both the election of leftist leaders and the demobilization of the populace. A new left political oligarchy was born to enrich itself at the public trough.

Parasitical rentiers continued to evade taxes as ‘left’ bureaucrats looked the other way. The public-private petro-swindlers stuffed the pockets of the new political leaders. The left would secure needed parliamentary votes, as well as allies from the technocratic elite, united in a common goal of rapidly plundering the public treasury.

The global commodity boom, which lasted from 2003 to 2011, fueled the left’s largess in the form of poverty programs and other minimalist measures. Business elites prospered, minimum wages increased and social expenditures, especially ‘survival baskets for the poor’ surged with great fanfare. Worldwide, left academics performed victory dances in this greatly over-rated ‘red tide’.

The left political pact with capital did not lead to the growth of new productive forces to sustain rising incomes for workers and farmers. There were no new technological inputs in the economy. Instead they mounted flashy pharaonic ‘prestige projects’ linked to corrupt contracts to crony capitalists which devoured the growing public revenues from the commodity boom. The patronage machine had never functioned more smoothly!

Predictably, the uncritical left academics celebrated these new ‘radical’ regimes while ignoring mass corruption and right-left alliances. The critics who identified the precarious nature of the regimes’ economic foundations were dismissed or ridiculed.

The collapse of the commodity boom, the growth of massive fiscal deficits, the reversal of the small consumer gains, the loss of access to cheap credit and the visible entrenched corruption within the public-private partnerships provoked mass discontent and protests.

This gave the rightwing political parties the opportunity to ‘clean house’ by ousting their erstwhile partners from the left, reverse the minimalist social pacts and bring back the ‘Golden Age of the 1990’s’. Striking a moral posture against leftist corruption, they abandoned the coalition and took power.

The Left Catastrophe: 2015-2018

In Brazil and Argentina, ‘democratic electoral’ transition meant simply that the klepto-left would be replaced by a more ‘efficient’ klepto-right. Brazilian President Dilma Roussef was ‘impeached’ by a Congress of thieves and her kleptocrat supremo Vice-President Michel Temer assumed power. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner was succeeded by Mauricio Macri.

Throughout these changes, the banking, petroleum, construction and meat-packing klepto-oligarchy manages to operate with the same mafia principles regardless of the ‘tint’ of the presidency: Lucrative contracts, captured markets and record profits continue to allow the flow of illicit payoffs to the rightwing presidents, without interruption.

Left academics have ignored the nature of the klepto-state and its pervasive networks of corruption. Many held their noses and dived right into the lie-factories, in exchange for privileged access to the mass media (publicity, talk shows, intellectual and cultural ‘round tables’, etc.), invitations to fancy gatherings at the presidential palace, speaking engagements abroad and an ever-expanding source of side-line income as professors, columnists, advisers, and publicists.

The oligarchs’ marriage of convenience with the left, and their prolonged honeymoon, was financed by million-dollar bribes to the left-right political allies. In exchange, the oligarchs received billions of dollars of lucrative state contracts.

When the Left agro-mineral model collapsed, many of their voters turned to street protests.

The oligarchs and the rightwing parties knew the time was ripe to dump the left presidents. They deftly seized total political power to further concentrate their economic wealth, property and social control over labor.

Kleptocracy in Transition: From ‘Progressive’ to Rightwing

In the last few years, the ascendant rightwing political parties and leaders have implemented their most retrograde agenda: This includes raiding pension funds, raising the retirement age and cutting the budget for social security, public education, and housing and health programs. The oligarchs and the Wall Street bankers seemed too eager to strip the public corpse.

In Brazil, the rightwing alliance’s ambitious plan to seize power by ‘criminalizing’ the left may have backfired.

The right relied on the judiciary for its peaceful return to power. This began successfully with the prosecution and ouster of the left regime through the courts. However the courts did not stop there: They proceeded to investigate, arrest and jail elected politicians from the right creating a crisis of state.

Over one thousand nine hundred congress people, senators, cabinet ministers, public sector executive officers, governors and mayors from right to left have faced or are facing investigation and arrest, including the newly-imposed rightist president Michel Temer in Brazil and the mega-swindler, President of Argentina Mauricio Macri.

Initially, foreign and domestic bankers, speculators and investors, as well as the financial press celebrated the return of the right. The stock markets soared and all made ready for the grand privatizing fiesta of the public sector. When the courts continued to pursue the rightwing politicians and bureaucrats, the pervasive nature of state klepto capitalism was exposed. Members of the business elite joined their politico-partners in jail, and investors pulled out their capital. The press’ celebration of the ‘return of the free market’ faded to a whisper.

As the rightist regimes’ elected leaders went on trial, the klepto ‘market’ economies collapsed. The ‘reformist’ (regressive) business agenda, which had depended on effective presidential power linking klepto-patronage to legislation, retreated. Without their accustomed diet of corruption, elected officials fled. Judges and prosecutors  investigated and undermined the authority of the new rightist regimes.

Faced with weakened and discredited presidential authority, the urban trade unions, rural social movements, students and the unemployed woke up and marched on the presidential palace.

The validity of the elections by rightist majorities has been undermined. Faced with jail for large-scale bribery and fraud, leading executives of the largest conglomerates bargained with the courts, implicating their business partners, party leaders, congress-people and cabinet ministers.

The right wing’s rapid rise and demise has sown consternation among the kleptocratic oligarchy. In just two years, the courts have done more to undermine the power of the oligarchy-business-rightist political nexus than an entire decade of leftist klepto-political rule during the celebrated ‘red tide’!

While in power, the elected left did nothing to dismantle the large-scale kleptocracy they had inherited from the previous rightist regimes of Menem,and De La Rua (Argentina), Cardoso (Brazil) and Sanchez de Losada (Bolivia). This was because they expected to take control of the network and profit from the existing system of business-political pacts.

The left regimes did not end alliances among corrupt bankers and the agro-business elite because it might undermine their own ‘development model’.

Instead, the left appointed its own pliable functionaries to key ministries to mediate and ensure co-operation within the system of klepto-profit sharing.

Only when the business-rightist pact emerged to undermine and eject the elected leftists from power, were they charged with corruption.

To avoid prosecution for business-rightist corruption, the oligarchs gladly shifted their bribe machinery from the right to the left (and vice versa).

The business-left alliance, based on corruption and demagogy, ensured the continued success of neo-liberal extractive capitalism – until the global financial crisis and the collapse of commodity prices ended the happy fiesta.

As the commodity bubble collapsed and the left regimes were forced to borrow heavily to finance their own political survival, deficit spending, corruption, economic stagnation, unemployment and rising deficits which provoked a broad array of opposing forces. These ranged from bankers and investors, to trade unions and informal workers. At no point did the left consider the alternative of fundamentally transforming the agro-mineral economies. Instead they borrowed from the international and domestic banks, slashed social programs and imposed regressive austerity programs – all to maintain their political power.

Corrupt capitalism is the only functional form of capitalism in Latin America to day. It is based on exploiting public resources and government contracts to promote ‘accumulation’. The ‘class struggle’ has been replaced by tri-partite kleptocratic alliances among business, trade unions and the state. In this era, elite deals have replaced class struggle … temporarily.

The Return of the Class Struggle and the Demise of the Klepto-Left

Class struggle returned with the arrest and discredit of the klepto-capitalists and their klepto-left allies.

The rightists’ return to power exploded in their own faces because they reproduced and deepened kleptocratic economies. Their brazen boasts, which seemed to pronounce “all power to the biggest swindlers and political bribe takers”, quickly radicalized the populace.

Beyond the Demise of the Right: Fake and Real Alternatives

The demise of the right and its ‘premature’ departure from power are not the product of a class uprising or mass protests. The judicial system has led the way and forced their retreat.

For this reason, the replacement of the right is an open question.

The business, banking and imperial elites clearly favor a reshuffle of personalities and the trotting out of a new ‘honest face’ to pursue their rightist agenda.

An electoral ‘free-for-all’, where popular left kleptocratic and charismatic leaders emerge, is the left’s choice.

A third alternative would be the recently discredited left returning to office, crippled by ongoing investigations and tied to the old business and political alliances.

None of these ‘alternatives’ will end klepto-capitalist power and practice. None will satisfy mass discontent.

In the wings, there is always the possibility of a ‘moralizing military coup’, led by a military-business-imperial junta, to clear the streets and impose temporary stability. Such a ‘coup’ would be unable to revive economic growth and reverse the socio-economic slide into klepto-capitalism. Moreover, it would unify the unemployed kleptocratic politicos and NGO executives into a ‘peoples’ coalition of ‘democratic opposition forces promising prosperity and freedom’ to buy and sell votes and offices.

The real alternative in Latin America can only emerge and succeed if it begins by rejecting the klepto-left and turns to new ways of selecting leaders and building parties and movements. Direct action, workplace and street occupations, confrontations and the encirclement of banks and MNC headquarters and the implementation of debt and mortgage defaults – all linked to the immediate demands of workers, employees and professionals – can build the foundations of alternative power.

Democratic leadership depends on electoral politics under the control of popular constituent assemblies. They must reject corporate funding. Elected officials’ salaries must be turned over to the movements, which will pay office holders at a scale close to the wage and salaried workers they represent.

Left transformations begin with agrarian reforms and continue through the modernization of production, marketing, processing and linkages to socialized banking and credit systems. Indigenous communities should be incorporated in popular assemblies with rights and representation.

Left programs, which center on nationalizing banks and foreign trade, should build community-controlled banks and credit agencies.

Productive and commercial employment should be based on permanent jobs.

Community-based alliances with employees and workers associations must link up with multi-issue, class-based, gender and ecology movements.

Military industries should be reconverted to domestic production and linked to environmental protection.

Robust investigations and prosecution of corporate tax evasion, capital flight to tax havens by speculators and hedge funds should proceed with due speed.

Convicted bank swindlers and bribe-taking politicians should be punished with mandatory maximum sentences.

The demands and programs, tactics and strategies flowing from a growing educated work force can transform ‘free time’ into learning, leisure, family and friendships.

Local and national defense forces guarding national borders from imperial penetration, drug cartels and criminal gangs should replace the bloated security state and corrupt oligarch-linked military elite.

Technological innovations, including artificial intelligence and robotics, should reduce working hours and increase workplace safety while retaining workers to manage, monitor and innovate the productive process.

Left governments should focus on direct people-to-people diplomacy over and against the elite-led diplomatic deceptions that lead to wars.

Elite ethno-religious groups expressing loyalty to foreign powers and acting as agents against the interests of their homeland should leave and resettle in the country of their chosen loyalties.

Throughout Latin America, left corruption reflects the deep continuities of ownership by the banking, industrial, agro-mineral elites. Left regimes, which choose to link economic growth and investment to the corruption of public agencies and dubious public-private partnerships, are doomed to crisis and defeat.

The illegal enrichment of left political decision-makers results in greater social inequalities because they distribute the pillaged public funds and potential tax revenues into the accounts of private and party elites.

Costly competitive election campaigns are based on corrupt deals. Illicit contracts lead to criminal profits, which lead to the illegal flight of capital to foreign bank accounts.

There is no difference between corruption through ‘bribery’, as in Latin America, and corruption through ‘legal’ multi-billion dollar lobbies in North America: Both purchase politicians and legislation and subvert the interests of the people.

In conclusion and to re-phrase Fidel Catro: ‘You cannot build radical social democracy with dollar signs in your eyes.’ Free market capitalism can only operate through klepto-capitalist, not popular democratic, principles

Corruption flourishes in the context of a monopolized elite mass media and high cost elections under the dictates of capital. Kleptocratic rule is fundamental to capitalism because it promotes the dispossession of small farmers and businesses and the exploitation of workers. Behind and accompanying all great fortunes are enormous and ever growing swindles involving the degeneration of public officials. Corruption is the driving force and very heart of capitalism!

Appendix

Billion-dollar corruption payoffs by just one giant Brazilian construction multi-national, Odebrecht, involved at least eleven Latin American countries, including both left and right regimes.

Brazil’s giant multi-national meat packer, JBS, and the public-private oil company, Petrobras, bribed at least a dozen regimes in Latin America.

Rightwing kleptocracies  bribed by Odebrecht

Panama

Mexico

Colombia

Guatemala

Peru

Dominican Republic

Brazil (1993-2002) and (2016- )

Argentina (1990-2001, 2016-)

Leftwing kleptocracies

Argentina (2002-2016)

Venezuela (1999-2017)

Ecuador (2008-2016)

Brazil (2003-2016)

The United States leads all the world’s kleptocracies in terms of bribes by lobbies, and financial swindlers and money-laundering banks and illegal payoffs by oil and gas companies to politicians and officials.

Brazil’s largest oil (Petrobras), iron ore (Vale), and meat packing (JBS) multi-national corporations financed their overseas acquisitions and markets through bribes financed by low interest loans from the state development bank (BNDES).

Close to one hundred Petrobras officials and political leaders have been convicted and jailed for taking bribes from contractors and developers, including the Treasury Secretary of the ‘Workers Party’.

JBS, the worlds’ second leading beef and pork processor and leading cattle feeder, paid a 3.4 billion dollar fine because it bribed regulators to allow the shipment of contaminated meat products to the US (Walmart), China and throughout Latin America. In a deal with prosecutors, Joesley Batista, CEO of JBS released recordings of Michel Temer, Brazil’s current right-wing president, demanding bribes from the conglomerate to avoid federal prosecution.

During the rightwing Cardoso regime, the initial privatization of Vale, the world’s largest iron mine, was accomplished through grotesque bribes and money laundering.

Leftwing President Lula da Silva allowed klepto-privatization of Vale to move forward. Lula even called for more and bigger Brazilian multi-national swindles. Upon taking office in 2003, President Lula da Silva unrolled the ‘red carpet’ for the business elite, stating that “it is time for Brazilian businessmen to abandon their fear of becoming multi-national businessmen”. The newly emboldened kleptocratic Brazilian conglomerates proceeded to ‘fearlessly’ bribe their way throughout the markets of Latin America, Asia and US. Lula subsequently served as overseas emissary to promote corrupt Petrobras oil contracts with Angola, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Jun 012017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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On a scale not seen since the ‘great’ world depression of the 1930’s, the US political system is experiencing sharp political attacks, divisions and power grabs. Executive firings, congressional investigations, demands for impeachment, witch hunts, threats of imprisonment for ‘contempt of Congress’ and naked power struggles have shredded the façade of political unity and consensus among competing powerful US oligarchs.

For the first time in US history, the incumbent elected president struggles on a daily basis to wield state power. The opposition-controlled state (National Public Radio) and corporate organs of mass propaganda are pitted against the presidential regime. Factions of the military elite and business oligarchy face off in the domestic and international arena. The oligarchs debate and insult each other. They falsify charges, plot and deceive. Their political acolytes, who witness these momentous conflicts, are mute, dumb and blind to the real interests at stake.

The struggle between the Presidential oligarch and the Opposition oligarchs has profound consequences for their factions and for the American people. Wars and markets, pursued by sections of the Oligarchs, have led opposing sections to seek control over the means of political manipulation (media and threats of judicial action).

Intense political competition and open political debate have nothing to do with ‘democracy’ as it now exists in the United States.

In fact, it is the absence of real democracy, which permits the oligarchs to engage in serious intra-elite warfare. The marginalized, de-politicized electorate are incapable of taking advantage of the conflict to advance their own interests.

What the ‘Conflict’ is Not About

The ‘life and death’ inter-oligarchical fight is not about peace!

None of the factions of the oligarchy, engaged in this struggle, is aligned with democratic or independent governments.

Neither side seeks to democratize the American electoral process or to dismantle the grotesque police state apparatus.

Neither side has any commitment to a ‘new deal’ for American workers and employees.

Neither is interested in policy changes needed to address the steady erosion of living standards or the unprecedented increase in ‘premature’ mortality among the working and rural classes.

Despite these similarities in their main focus of maintaining oligarchical power and policies against the interests of the larger population, there are deep divisions over the content and direction of the presidential regime and the permanent state apparatus.

What the Oligarchical Struggle is About

There are profound differences between the oligarch factions on the question of overseas wars and ‘interventions’.

The ‘opposition’ (Democratic Party and some Republican elite) pursues a continuation of their policy of global wars, especially aimed at confronting Russian and China, as well as regional wars in Asia and the Middle East. There is a stubborn refusal to modify military policies, despite the disastrous consequences domestically (economic decline and increased poverty) and internationally with massive ethnic cleansing, terrorism, forced migrations of war refugees to Europe, and famine and epidemics (such as cholera and starvation in Yemen).

The Trump Presidency appears to favor increased military confrontation with Iran and North Korea and intervention in Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

The ‘Opposition’ supports multilateral economic and trade agreements, (such as TTP and NAFTA), while Trump favors lucrative ‘bilateral’ economic agreements. Trump relies on trade and investment deals with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates and the formation of an aggressive military ‘axis’ (US-Saudi Arabia-Israel -Gulf Emirates) to eventually overthrow the nationalist regime in Iran and divide the country.

The ‘Opposition’ pursues wars and violent ‘regime change’ to replace disobedient ‘tyrants’ and nationalists and set up ‘client governments’, which will provide bases for the US military empire. Trump’s regime embraces existing dictators, who can invest in his domestic infrastructure agenda.

The ‘opposition’ seeks to maximize the role of Washington’s global military power. President Trump focuses on expanding the US role in the global market.

While both oligarchical factions support US imperialism, they differ in terms of its nature and means.

For the ‘opposition’, every country, large or small, can be a target for military conquest. Trump tends to favor the expansion of lucrative overseas markets, in addition to projecting US military dominance.

Oligarchs: Tactical Similarities

The competition among oligarchs does not preclude similarities in means and tactics. Both factions favor increased military spending, support for the Saudi war on Yemen and intervention in Venezuela. They support trade with China and international sanctions against Russia and Iran. They both display slavish deference to the State of Israel and favor the appointment of openly Zionist agents throughout the political, economic and intelligence apparatus.

These similarities are, however, subject to tactical political propaganda skirmishes. The ‘Opposition’ denounces any deviation in policy toward Russia as ‘treason’, while Trump accuses the ‘Opposition’ of having sacrificed American workers through NAFTA.

Whatever the tactical nuances and similarities, the savage inter-oligarchic struggle is far from a theatrical exercise. Whatever the real and feigned similarities and differences, the oligarchs’ struggle for imperial and domestic power has profound consequence for the political and constitutional order.

Oligarchical Electoral Representation and the Parallel Police State

The ongoing fight between the Trump Administration and the ‘Opposition’ is not the typical skirmish over pieces of legislation or decisions. It is not over control of the nation’s public wealth. The conflict revolves around control of the regime and the exercise of state power.

The opposition has a formidable array of forces, including the national intelligence apparatus (NSA, Homeland Security, FBI, CIA, etc.) and a substantial sector of the Pentagon and defense industry. Moreover, the opposition has created new power centers for ousting President Trump, including the judiciary. This is best seen in the appointment of former FBI Chief Robert Mueller as ‘Special Investigator’ and key members of the Attorney General’s Office, including Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein. It was Rosenstein who appointed Mueller, after the Attorney General ‘Jeff’ Session (a Trump ally) was ‘forced’ to recluse himself for having ‘met’ with Russian diplomats in the course of fulfilling his former Congressional duties as a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This ‘recusal’ took significant discretionary power away from Trump’s most important ally within the Judiciary.

The web of opposition power spreads and includes former police state officials including mega-security impresario, Michael Chertoff (an associate of Robert Mueller), who headed Homeland Security under GW Bush, John Brennan (CIA), James Comey (FBI) and others.

The opposition dominates the principal organs of propaganda -the press (Washington Post, Financial Times, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal), television and radio (ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS/ NPR), which breathlessly magnify and prosecute the President and his allies for an ever-expanding web of unsubstantiated ‘crimes and misdemeanors’. Neo-conservative and liberal think tanks and foundations, academic experts and commentators have all joined the ‘hysteria chorus’ and feeding frenzy to oust the President.

The President has an increasingly fragile base of support in his Cabinet, family and closest advisers. He has a minority of supporters in the legislature and possibly in the Supreme Court, despite nominal majorities for the Republican Party.

The President has the passive support of his voters, but they have demonstrated little ability to mobilize in the streets. The electorate has been marginalized.

Outside of politics (the ‘Swamp’ as Trump termed Washington, DC) the President’s trade, investment, taxation and deregulation policies are backed by the majority of investors, who have benefited from the rising stock market. However, ‘money’ does not appear to influence the parallel state.

The divergence between Trumps supporters in the investment community and the political power of the opposition state is one of the most extraordinary changes of our century.

Given the President’s domestic weakness and the imminent threat of a coup d’état, he has turned to securing ‘deals’ with overseas allies, including billion-dollar trade and investment agreements.

The multi-billion arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates will delight the military-industrial complex and its hundreds of thousands of workers.

Political and diplomatic ‘kowtowing’ to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should please some American Zionists.

But the meetings with the EU in Brussels and with the G7 in Siciliy failed to neutralize Trump’s overseas opposition.

NATO’s European members did not accept Trump’s demands that they increase their contribution to the alliance and they condemned his reluctance to offer unconditional US military support for new NATO members. They showed no sympathy for domestic problems.

In brief, the President’s overseas supporters, meetings and agreements will have little impact on the domestic correlation of forces.

Moreover, there are long-standing ties among the various state apparatuses and spy agencies in the EU and the US, which strengthen the reach of the opposition in their attacks on Trump.

While substantive issues divide the Presidential and Opposition oligarchs, these issues are vertical, not horizontal, cleavages – a question of ‘their’ wars or ‘ours’.

Trump intensified the ideological war with North Korea and Iran; promised to increase ground troops in Afghanistan and Syria; boosted military and advisory support for the Saudi invasion of Yemen; and increased US backing for violent demonstrations and mob attacks in Venezuela.

The opposition demands more provocations against Russia and its allies; and the continuation of former President Obama’s seven wars.

While both sets of oligarchs support the ongoing wars, the major difference is over who is managing the wars and who can be held responsible for the consequences.

Both conflicting oligarchs are divided over who controls the state apparatus since their power depends on which side directs the spies and generates the fake news.

Currently, both sets of oligarchs wash each other’s ‘dirty linen’ in public, while covering up for their collective illicit practices at home and abroad.

The Trump’s oligarchs want to maximize economic deals through ‘uncritical’ support for known tyrants; the opposition ‘critically’ supports tyrants in exchange for access to US military bases and military support for ‘interventions’.

President Trump pushes for major tax cuts to benefit his oligarch allies while making massive cuts in social programs for his hapless supporters. The Opposition supports milder tax cuts and lesser reductions in social programs.

Conclusion

The battle of the oligarchs has yet to reach a decisive climax. President Trump is still the President of the United States. The Opposition forges ahead with its investigations and lurid media exposés.

The propaganda war is continuous. One day the opposition media focuses on a deported student immigrant and the next day the President features new jobs for American military industries.

The emerging left-neo-conservative academic partnership (e.g. Noam Chomsky-William Kristol) has denounced President Trump’s regime as a national ‘catastrophe’ from the beginning. Meanwhile, Wall Street investors and libertarians join to denounce the Opposition’s resistance to major tax ‘reforms’.

Oligarchs of all stripes and colors are grabbing for total state power and wealth while the majority of citizens are labeled ‘losers’ by Trump or ‘deplorables’ by Madame Clinton.

The ‘peace’ movement, immigrant rights groups and ‘black lives matter’ activists have become mindless lackeys pulling the opposition oligarchs’ wagon, while rust-belt workers, rural poor and downwardly mobile middle class employees are powerless serfs hitched to President Trump’s cart.

Epilogue

After the blood-letting, when and if President Trump is overthrown, the State Security functionaries in their tidy dark suits will return to their nice offices to preside over their ‘normal’ tasks of spying on the citizens and launching clandestine operations abroad.

The media will blow out some charming tid-bits and ‘words of truth’ from the new occupant of the ‘Oval Office’.

The academic left will churn out some criticism against the newest ‘oligarch-in-chief’ or crow about how their heroic ‘resistance’ averted a national catastrophe.

Trump, the ex-President and his oligarch son-in-law Jared Kushner will sign new real estate deals. The Saudis will receive the hundreds of billions of dollars of US arms to re-supply ISIS or its successors and to rust in the ‘vast and howling’ wilderness of US-Middle East intervention. Israel will demand even more frequent ‘servicing’ from the new US President.

The triumphant editorialists will claim that ‘our’ unique political system, despite the ‘recent turmoil’, has proven that democracy succeeds … only the people suffer!

Long live the Oligarchs!

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

May 222017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Whatever has been written about President Emmanuel Macron by the yellow or the respectable press has been mere trivia or total falsehood.

Media lies have a purpose that goes beyond Macron’s election. Throughout Europe and North America, bankers and manufacturers, NATO, militarists and EU oligarchs, media moguls and verbal assassins, academics and journalists, all characterized the election victory of Macron as a ‘defeat of fascism’and the ‘triumph of the French people’.

Macron and ‘What People’?

First of all, Macron received only 46% of the actual vote. Over 54% of eligible French voters either abstained, spoiled their ballots or voted for Marine Le Pen, the nationalist populist. In other words, 26 million voters rejected or ignored Macron’s candidacy versus 20.6 million voters who endorsed him. This was despite an unremitting push for Macron from the entire French and European mass media, all of the major political parties and the vast majority of academics, journalists, publishers, undertakers and doormen.

In a word: Emmanuel Macron is a minority President, unpopular to most of the French electorate.

There are some very sound political and socio-economic reasons why Macron’s candidacy would be rejected by most of the French people, while receiving full support from the ruling class.

Secondly, there was a phony image of Macron as the ‘novice, untainted by old-line corrupt politics’. The financial and business press busily painted an image of the virgin Manny Macron bravely prepared to introduce ‘sweeping reforms’ and rescue France – a sort of banker-Joan of Arc against the veteran ‘fascist’ Marine Le Pen and her ‘deplorable’ supporters.

The reality is that Macron has always been a highly experienced member of the most elite financial-political networks in France. He served as a senior executive in the notorious Rothschild banking conglomerate. In a few short years ‘Saint Manny’ had accumulated millions of euros in commissions from fixing corporate deals.

Macron’s financial colleagues encouraged him to accept the post of Economic Minister under the decrepit regime of President Francois Hollande. Banker Macron helped the ‘Socialist’ President Hollande shed any of his party’s pro-labor pretensions and embrace a radical anti-worker agenda. As Economic Minister Macron implemented a 40 billion euro tax cut for businesses and proposed far-right legislation designed to weaken workers collective bargaining rights.

The Hollande-Macron proposals faced massive opposition in the streets and parliament. With the government’s popular support falling to the single digits, the anti-labor legislation was withdrawn or diluted … temporarily. This experience inspired Macron to re-invent (or re-virginized) himself: From hard-assed rightwing hack, he emerged the novice politico claiming to be ‘neither right nor left’.

The totally discredited ‘Socialist’ Hollande, following the example of France’s financial elite, supported presidential candidate Macron. Of course, whenever Macron spoke of representing ‘all France’, he meant ‘all’ bankers, manufacturers and rentier oligarchs – the entire capitalist sector.

In the first round of presidential voting, Macron’s candidacy divided the elites: Bankers were split between Macron and Fillon, while many social democrats, trade union officials and ‘identitarian’-single issue sectarians would end up voting Macron.

Macron won by default: Fillon, his far right bourgeois rival was snared in a political- swindle involving ‘family’ and his finicky supporters switched to Macron. The Socialists defected from their discredited Hollande to the ‘reconstructed choirboy’ Macron. Meanwhile, the ‘left’ had rediscovered ‘anti-fascism’: They opposed the national-populist Le Pen and slithered under the bankers’ backdoor to vote for Macron.

Almost one-third of French electorate abstained or showed their contempt by spoiling their ballots.

Throughout the election theatrics, the media breathlessly reported every frivolous ‘news’ item to polish the halo of their ‘novice’ Macron. They swooned over the ‘novelty’ of Macron’s teen age ‘love affair’ and subsequent marriage to his former schoolteacher. The media played-up the charmingly ‘amateurish’ nature of his campaign staff, which included upwardly mobile professionals, downwardly mobile social democrat politicos and ‘off the street’ volunteers. The mass media downplayed one critical aspect: Macro’s historic ties to the big bankers!

Behind the carefully crafted image of a ‘political outsider’, the steely eyed Macron was never influenced by the swooning media propaganda: He remained deeply committed to reversing fifty years of working class advances in France in favor of the financial class.

Macron’s Power Grab: En Marche to Defeat the Working Class

Immediately upon his election, Macron presented his first major piece of legislation: The ‘liberalization’ (reversal) of France’s progressive and socially protective labor laws.

President Macron promised to eliminate industry-wide labor-capital negotiations, in favor of factory-by-factory negotiations. Undermining industry-wide collective power means that each monopoly or conglomerate can dominate and isolate workers in their work place. Macron envisions a complete shift of power into the hands of capital in order to slash wages, increase work hours and reduce regulations on workplace safety and worker health. The proposed anti-labor laws represent a return of capitalist power to the golden age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – precisely why the financial elite anointed Macron as ‘President of all France’.

Even more important, by destroying a unified, labor movement and the power of workers’ solidarity, Macron will be free to radically restructure the entire socio-economic system in favor of capital!

Concentrating all power and profits in the hands of the capitalist class, Macron’s legislative agenda will free him to fire over 150,000 public employees, drastically reduce public spending and investment and privatize critical public financial, energy and industrial sectors.

Macron will shift the balance of power further away from labor in order to increase profits, reduce middle and working class social, health and educational services and to decrease corporate taxes from 33.3% to 25%.

Macron plan will strengthen the role of the French financial elite within the European Union’s oligarchical structure and allow the bankers to impose harsh ‘austerity’ policies throughout Europe.

In the sphere of foreign and military affairs, Macron fervently supports NATO. His regime will back the aggressive US military policies toward Russia and the Middle East – especially the violent breakup of Syria.

President Macron’s reactionary, ‘liberalizing’ agenda will require his party and allies to gain a majority in next month’s parliamentary elections (June 2017). His strategy will consist of ‘diversity in appearance and hard, single-minded reactionary policies in content’.

The ‘diverse’ groups and individuals, allied with Macron, are largely composed of fragmented collections of opportunists and discredited politicos mainly in search of office. Under Macron, the parliament will include everything from old-line rightwing social democrats, as well as single-issue environment and gender opportunists, allied with conservatives looking for a chance to finally savage France’s labor laws.

If successful in the coming elections, Macron’s parliament will legitimize the policies of his far right Prime Minister and Cabinet. If Macron fails to secure an outright majority, he is sure to patch together a coalition with veteran right-wing politicos, which, of course, will be ‘balanced’ with 50% women. Macron’s coalition of dinosaurs and ‘women’ will eagerly smash the rights and living standards of all workers – regardless of gender!

Macron hopes to win sufficient parliamentary votes to negotiate alliances with the traditional conservative parties and the rump of the Socialist Party to consolidate the rule of the Troika: the bankers, the EU and NATO.

President Macron: By the Ballot or the Bullet

            There is no doubt that the French working class, the salaried public and private employees, the unemployed youth, students and public health workers will take to the streets, with the backing of 60% or more of the public, including the 33% who voted for Marine Le Pen.

Strikes, general and partial, of long and short duration, will confront the Macron regime and its far right, self-styled ‘transformative’ agenda.

Rothschild’s errand boy, Manny Macron cannot mobilize supporters in the streets and will have to rely on the police. Many parliamentary backers are fearful of both the problem (strikes) and the solution (police repression).

The Corporate Elite: President Macron Adopts  Napoleonic Decrees

In 2016 when Macron was the Economic Minister in the President Francois Hollande’s regime, he introduced a new regressive labor policy dubbed the ‘El Khomri’ law (named after the reactionary Labor Minister Myriam El Khormi). This led to massive street demonstrations forcing Hollande to withdraw the legislation. Now as President, Macron proposes a far more rigid and destructive labor law, which his corporate colleagues insist he implement by the ‘ballot’ if possible or the ‘billy club’ if necessary. In other words, if he cannot win the support of the National Assembly, he will implement the labor law by presidential decree.

The President of MEDEF (Mouvement des Entreprises de France), the employers’ federation, Pierre Gattaz, has demanded immediate implementation of policies to crush labor. Macron will outlaw labor protests via presidential decreeand cut parliamentary debate in order to transform the elite’s ‘El Dorado’ of all (labor) reforms (sic) into reality.

The entire leadership of the capitalist class and financial press backs Macron’s bid to govern by decree as a ‘good idea in the circumstances’, (Financial Times, 5/10/17, pg. 2). Macron’s ‘Napoleonic’ pretentions will inevitably deepen class polarization and strengthen ties between the militant trade unions and Le Pen’s industrial working class supporters.

We face an approaching time of open and declared class war in France.

Conclusion

Reality has quickly cut through the lies about the origin of Emmanuel Macron’s electoral victory. Brutal police truncheons, wielded in defense of Macron’s election triumph, will further reveal the real faces of French ‘fascism’ better than any editorial by the French ‘left’. The fascists are not to be found among Le Pen’s working class voters!

The fools within the French academia, who backed the Rothschild candidate in the name of ‘fighting fascism at all cost’, will soon find themselves wandering among the workers’ street barricade, dodging the clouds of teargas, on the way to their cafes and computers.

The ruling class chose Macron because they know he will not back down in the face of street demonstrations or even a general strike!

The intellectuals who backed Macron as ‘the lesser evil’ are now discovering that he is the greater evil. They are not too late to be … irrelevant.

Macron’s grandiose vision is to introduce his hyper-capitalist ideology throughout Europe and beyond. He proposes to transform the EU into a ‘competitive capitalist paradise under French leadership’.

Given the historic role of the French worker, it is more likely that Macron will not succeed in implementing his ‘labor reforms’. His decrees will surely provoke powerful resistance from the streets and the public institutions. When he falters, his parliamentary supporters will fracture into little warring clans. Factory owners will bemoan the workers who occupy their plants and bankers will complain that the farmers’ tractors are blocking the roads to their country villas.

The Germans and British elite will urge their ‘little Napoleon’ to hold firm, for fear the ‘French contagion’ might spread to their somnolent workers.

On the one hand, Macron’s successful decree can open the way for a transformation of capital-labor relations into a modern 21st century corporate state.

On the other, a successful general strike can open the door to a Europe-wide revolt. Macron’s enigmatic (and meaningless) slogan ‘neither right nor left’ is now exposed: He is the  “Bonaparte of the Bourse”!

May 182017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

The Project for the New Middle East

For the past 20 years Washington has aggressively pursued the age-old imperial strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ throughout the Middle East, Southwest Asia and East Africa. Frustrated at its inability to control national policy of various independent nation-states, Washington used direct and indirect military force to destroy the central governments in the targeted nations and create patchworks of tribal-ethno-mini-states amenable to imperial rule. Tens of millions of people have been uprooted and millions have died because of this imperial policy.

Washington’s strategy of fragmentation and secession follows closely the “Greater Israel Plan” set forth by Israeli politico-military writer Oded Yinon in February 1982 and published by the World Zionist Organization. Yinon maintained that the key to Israel’s domination of the Middle East rested on fostering ethno-religious and regional divisions. Following the Yinon Plan, in the first instance, Tel Aviv signed accords with Jordan and Egypt to break-up Arab regional support for the Palestinians. It then proceeded to fragment what remained of Arab-Palestine into small warring enclaves between the West Bank and Gaza. Israel then sub-divided and settled wide swatches of the West Bank with the collaboration of the corrupt ‘Palestinian Authority’ under Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s ‘divide and conquer’ strategy toward the Greater Middle East depended on its placement of ‘Israel First’ officials in top policymaking positions of the US Defense, State and Treasury Departments and the power of the Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) — the so-called “Israel Lobby” – to control the US Congress and Presidency in matters related to Israel.

The Israeli Mid-East strategy of fragmenting and weakening pro-Palestinian governments thus become the official US policy toward Arab countries.

This policy has not been limited to the Arab Middle East: Israel and US policymakers intervened to undermine the ‘pro-Palestinian’ government of Sudan by supporting a secessionist war to create a huge resource-rich ‘Southern Sudan’ conglomeration of tribal warlords, leaving a devastated region of mass murder and famine.

Somalia, Libya and Ethiopia were also riven by regional wars financed and armed by the US with overt and covert Israeli operatives and advisers.

Israel’s policy to weaken, fragment and destroy viable developing countries, differed from the traditional policies of colonial regimes, which sought to conquer and exploit unified nation-states. Washington has blindly followed Israel’s imperial ‘model’ without assessing its impact on US interests and thus undermining its past practice of economic exploitation of viable nation states.

‘Israel First’ officials within the US federal administrative policy-making bodies played a decisive role in fabricating the pretexts for the 2003 US invasion and destruction of Iraq. They pushed fake ‘documents’ alleging Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and they promoted a plan to sub-divide the country in three ethnically ‘cleansed’ regions: Kurds (as Israel’s allies) in the North, impoverished Sunnis in the center and easily controlled Shia tribal leaders in the South.

The policy of dismantling a central government and promoting regional fragmentation backfired on the US authorities in Iraq: Sunni insurgents, often trained by experienced Baathist (former Iraqi Army) officers, formed the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS), which took over major cities, slaughtering all non-Arab, non-Sunni residents, and threatened to established an independent state. The Shia-led government in Baghdad turned to Iran for support, forcing the US, Israel and the Kurds to declare war against ISIS, while trying to retain the weakened Sunni tribal clients. No viable central government remains in the once powerful multiethnic republic of Iraq.

The US joined Saudi Arabia in invading and bombing Yemen to destroy the Houthi rebels and favor the Sunni Salafist groups allied to al Qaeda. The goal was to weaken Yemen and prevent popular Yemini revolts from spreading to Saudi Arabia as well as undermining any Houthi alliances with Iran and expression of support for Palestine.

The US directly invaded Afghanistan expecting to easily conquer and ‘neatly’ subdivide that enormous region and ‘skillfully’ pit the various regional ethno-tribal groups against each other – while setting up a lucrative and militarily strategic site for launching future wars against US (and Israeli) rivals in Iran, Central Asia and China.

The battle-hardened Afghan Islamist Pashtun guerrilla-fighters, led by the Taliban, and unified by ethno-religious, national, tribal and extended family ties and customs, have successfully resisted this divide and conquer strategy. They now control most of the countryside, infiltrating and influencing the armed forces and police and have driven the US forces into garrison airbases, reliant on dropping mega bombs from the stratosphere.

Meanwhile, blinded by the media propaganda reports of their ‘successes’, Washington and the NATO powers launched a bloody surrogate war against the secular nationalist government of Syria, seeking to divide, conquer and obliterate an independent, pro-Palestine, pro-Iran, ally of Russia.

NATO’s invading armies and mercenary groups, however, are sub-divided into strange factions with shifting allegiances and patrons. At one level, there are the EU/US-supported ‘moderate’ head-chopping rebels. Then there are the Turkey and Saudi Arabia-supported ‘serious’ head-chopping al Qaeda Salafists. Finally there is the ‘champion’ head-chopping ISIS conglomeration based in Iraq and Syria, as well as a variety of Kurdish armed groups serving as Israeli mercenaries.

The US-EU efforts to conquer and control Syria, via surrogates, mercenaries and terrorists, was defeated largely because of Syria’s alliance with Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Syria has effectively been ‘chopped up’ by competing imperial and regional powers leading to a possible confrontation among major powers. The US-Kurdish-Turkey conflict provides the most immediate danger of serious open warfare among major nations.

Among the myriad surrogate groups that Washington supported in its seemingly contradictory policy of violently overthrowing the Syrian government in Damascus while seizing territory from ISIS, Pentagon strategists have relied most heavily on the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (YPG). The US escalated its military support for the YPG, promising heavy arms and increased US ground and air support. Meanwhile, the YPG expanded its control of the Kurdish regions in Syria especially along the Turkish border, creating a powerful territorial tie of Syrian-Kurds with Turkish-Kurds and Iraqi-Kurds. The US generous supply of heavy weapons to the YPG has increased the Kurds capacity to fight Turkey for the establishment of a contiguous ‘Greater Kurdistan’. Moreover, the US government has publicly informed Turkey that its armed forces will provide a ‘shield’ to protect the YPG – and indirectly the PKK – from Turkish attack.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is acutely aware that the YPG’s goal is to partition Southeastern Turkey and Northern Syria and form a Kurdish state with Iraqi Kurdistan. US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ pledge that ‘Washington is committed to protecting its NATO ally (Turkey)’ is ambiguous at best and most likely a hollow promise. Washington is counting on the Kurds as a strategic ally against both Damascus and ISIS. Only after accomplishing their twin goals in Syria might the Pentagon turn against the Kurds and support the Turkish government.

Complicating this scenario, the Israelis have long-standing ties with the Iraqi Kurds as part of their own divide and conquer strategy. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv has been bombing Damascus, aiding ISIS fighters in southern Syria (with material and ‘humanitarian’ medical treatment) while supporting YPG against the Syrian and Turkish militaries.

The Erdoğan regime is in a quandary: A victory for the Kurdish YPG and their occupation of territory along its border will materially threaten the ‘unity of the Turkish state’. An armed, unified Kurdish presence in this region will result in enormous pressure on Erdoğan from the nationalist political parties and supporters and the Turkish Armed Forces. On the other hand, if Erdoğan launches cross border attacks on the Pentagon-supported YPG it will directly face US ground and air power.

President Erdoğan is clearly aware that the US was involved with the silent ‘Gulanist’ permeation of the Turkish state leading up to the 2016 abortive Gulanist coup. Erdoğan’s scheduled meeting with US President Donald Trump in mid-May may not resolve the impending Turkish-Kurdish confrontation in Syria where the US is committed to protecting the YPG.

Washington hopes to convince President Erdoğan that the YPG will hand this strategic territory over to an amorphous, minuscule puppet Arab-led militia, presumably made up of non-Kurdish collaborates of the US-NATO-Saudi war against Damascus. It is hard to imagine the veteran politician Erdoğan believing a Pentagon plan for the YPG to just hand over its territorial patrimony after having fought and died to secure the region. The US is in no position to force the YPG to surrender its gains because the YPG is crucial to the Washington-Israeli-Saudi plan to destroy the central government in Damascus and fragment Syria into weak tribal mini-states.

Erdoğan’s imminent failure to get Washington support for his war with the Kurds will force him to play his ‘nationalist’ card: There will be more pro-Palestine rhetoric, more opposition to a Cyprus accord, more pro-Russia posturing and the ‘discovery’ of more and greater ‘internal threats’ to the great Turkish State.

Will Erdoğan be able defuse the hostility among his own and independent nationalist supporters?

One point is clear: A territorially-based powerful Kurdish militia, armed by the US, will be far more formidable threat to the unity of the Turkish state than the previous ill-armed rag-tag guerrillas in the mountains of northern Iraq.

It will be a humiliating defeat if Erdoğan surrenders to Pentagon demands and tolerates a US-YPG alliance on Turkey’s border. Erdoğan has some powerful options of his own: Turkey might deny the US Armed Forces access to its huge airbases in Turkey thus weakening NATO’s ‘southern flank’. A Turkish threat to withdraw from NATO altogether would have greater repercussions. Even the slightest hint of exercising these options would set off a ‘second coup’ against Erdoğan. This would involve a more serious US-NATO-backed uprising by senior Turkish officers, ‘nationalists’, democratic secularists and Kurds in major urban centers with ‘Gulanist’ politicians and bureaucrats waiting in the wings.

President Trump and the Pentagon may gain a foothold against Damascus with Kurdish surrogates in Northern Syria, but the loss of Turkey will be a strategic setback. Behind all of this confusion and devastation the partition of Syria and, eventually of Turkey, fits in very well with Greater Israel’s ‘Oded Yinon Plan’ for subdividing Muslim countries.

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