Jul 152014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Leading management consultants, top government officials and prominent financial journalists are proposing, what they dub, “labor reforms” as the solution for double-digit unemployment and underemployment, economic stagnation and the decline of capital investments.

“Labor Reform” as the Concentration of Power and Profits

First of all, the term “labor reform” is just a euphemism for labor regression, the reversal  of laws and practices that workers and employees secured through decades of struggle against employers.

The idea that “labor reforms” would create jobs for the unemployed has been tried and disproven over the past decade. Throughout Europe, in particular Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland and France, laws facilitating firings, pay differentials between short-term and long-term contract workers and speed-ups have not reduced unemployment, which still remains at depression levels.

What neo-liberal economists and journalists call “labor market flexibility” is really all about  increasing the power of the bosses to impose reductions in wages, dominate and dictate work rules, intensify management bullying in the workplace and  fire workers without just cause or redress.  Likewise “wage flexibility” means giving management the exclusive power to unilaterally lower wages, to alter work contracts, to stratify payments between workers, to downgrade job categories in order to lower wages and to increase output, and to pit unemployed workers against employed workers, temporary workers against long-term workers.

The Consequences of “Labor Reform”:  Rising Inequalities

Labor reforms” are not policies designed to end unemployment, encourage economic recovery and increase capital expenditure. They are not an economic strategy. The principle goal is to concentrate power in the hands of the bosses in order to lower labor costs, increase profits and double-up production from a reduced workforce.

The growing disparity of power between capital and labor resulting from “labor reforms” is the key factor producing inequality. Neo-liberals attribute growing inequality to technological changes, ignoring the fact that it is the growing power of capital that determines how productivity gains, from the introduction of technological innovations, are distributed between capital and labor.

Labor Reform” and the Astronomical Rise of Workplace Bullying

Most liberals focus on the problems of sexual harassment and intra-working class bullying.  These problems certainly require attention and correction. But far more pervasive and with far-reaching consequential is management harassment of all workers of both genders. Because ‘labor reforms’ allow management to fire workers without due process and because union shop stewards do not exist in 88% of the private and public workplaces, management intervenes in everyday workplaces, arbitrarily increasing work assignments and downgrading work performance. And many times it does so with verbal and some times, physical abuse. Management no longer faces workplace solidarity: it can abuse workers, isolate and harangue them, threaten and dictate ultimatums. Any self-defense is immediately interpreted as insubordination and the worker is fired – an example to others to unconditionally submit. Intimidation takes the form of hiring temporary low-wage workers to compete with permanent employees, or threatening to ‘relocate’ the factory. Macro and micro personal bullying is today an integral part of capital – labor relations.

Bullying has an economic function – it is designed to increase output, inculcate obedience and raise profits. But management bullying has profound negative psycho-social effects on workers. Verbal abuse, face to face intimidation, arbitrary downgrading without recourse and other everyday indignities cause depression, a loss of self-worth dignity. This leads  to self-abuse, worker and family violence and/or a ‘chain of bullying’ of those below … children, spouses, neighbors and outsiders (immigrants).

The bullying by management does not merely express itself in victimizing workers but also in forcing them to enter in “co-operative relations” where they are supposed to “share” tasks, responsibilities and innovations, without rewards or say in the distribution of material benefits or in the shaping of workplace power relations. It’s bad enough to be bullied and exploited, its worse to be forced to co-operate with management bullies, to smile at indignities and praise the degrading relationships.

The Most Vulnerable:  Unemployed, Temporary and Young Workers

The most brutalized sectors of the workforce are the unemployed and temporary young workers, which the neo-liberal ideologues argue will be the beneficiaries of “labor market flexibility”.  In fact, lowering the status of employed workers has not created jobs for the unemployed.  Temporary workers are hired at the lowest level, paid less than half the wage of permanent workers and can be fired with no notice. Most young ‘temps’ work with the promise of a permanent job and are driven to compete with a multitude of others . . .  yet only a few are rehired when the contract ends and, even among them, it is usually another temporary contract. Unemployed workers are subject to intense interviews that go far beyond their work capabilities: they are interrogated regarding their readiness to obey, submit and collaborate with management—this is a key factor in getting hired. Temporary workers are encouraged by management to exceed existing work norms, to work overtime without extra payment, thus fostering animosity and hostility among permanent workers. The unemployed are there to pressure the temp; the temp is employed to compete with the permanent; the young are hired to replace older workers near retirement age to lower pension payments. Veteran workers fear that the younger workers they are assigned to train will then take their jobs or force them into early retirement with a loss of their pension and benefits. Management fosters distrust, hostility, competition and bullying among workers which undermines solidarity by dividing workers between temps and ‘permanent’ workers so they can dominate, intimidate and exploit both.

The on-going drive to strip workers of all protective social legislation and eliminate trade union organization in order to increase profits has allowed capitalists to lessen capital investments in job creating activities. Management bullying at the workplace has become endemic because individual workers have no redress, lack solidarity and have the “choice” of submitting to daily abuse until it become unbearable, or quitting. Management can always find cheap replacements that are more submissive, more willing to endure added job tasks for lesser pay. In many cases, especially among public sector employees, management bullying is a tool to remove and replace competent professionals with political or family cronies. Organizational loyalty replaces professional competence, leading to a decline of public service and advocacy for the citizens, especially the most vulnerable.

Labor Market Reform as a Cover for the Failures of Capital

As we have noted, stripping labor of its rights and concentrating power in the hands of management has not created jobs. The reason is that unemployment and underemployment is a result of the behavior of the capitalist class. They are not investing in job creation!

Instead CEO’s are paying higher dividends to big stockholders, investment bankers and hedge funds. Corporate directors are channeling billions into acquisitions, buying out competitors and monopolizing markets or simply “broadening the portfolio”. They reap huge salaries and bonuses.

Corporate strategic planners and accountants relocate corporate offices overseas and stash hundreds of billions of dollars offshore to avoid taxes while reducing the availability of capital for job-creating investments at home.

The corporate elite relocates plants and operations “off-shore” to low-wage countries, in the process firing millions of workers and thus creating a massive pool of unemployed workers. ‘Capital flexibility’, not ‘labor inflexibility’ (job protection), is the decisive factor generating and maintaining high unemployment and underemployment: Capital has the “flexibility” to acquire existing firms instead of creating new plants and jobs; it has the ‘flexibility’ to ‘offshore’ its operations and displace millions and it has the ‘flexibility’ to hoard funds and profits overseas, hidden from domestic taxes.

Conclusion

The entire argument for “labor reform” and labor flexibility to create jobs is entirely without merit. Worse it is a subterfuge to cover up the fact that it is “capital flexibility”, which is the cause of unemployment.

Moreover, the vast imbalance between financial and productive investments has led to the diminution of stable well-paying jobs in productive sectors. The movement by the corporate and financial elite toward a high unemployment strategy is predicated on its supreme control over the executive branch of government at the top and iron-fisted control over the workplace at the bottom.

Political-corporate integration is at its highest point in history: “flexible capital”, unrestrained movements of capital, is the dominant state ideology. The inability of trade unions and other organized sectors to challenge state policy has led to their total subjection to threats of capital flight and their acceptance of the imposition of “labor reforms” destroying the social basis for organization.

Capital-State integration at the top is accompanied by worker fragmentation and isolation at the workplace. Here “labor reform” plays a major role in sustaining management absolutism: corporate power at the top corrupts and absolute power at the workplace absolutely corrupts – to paraphrase and adapt Lord Acton to the 21st century.

Workplace bullying by management, is the starting point in an extended chain or domination and exploitation that stretches from the highest levels of corporate headquarters to the lowest office and workplace. Frustrated atomized workers suffering indignities do not strike and do not vote.  They are the silent majority who tell the pollsters they oppose Wall Street, they want a national health system for their family, affordable higher education for their children and stable, secure employment for themselves—but feel powerless and voiceless!

This majority needs a movement to impose ‘capital reforms’: an end to capital flight, mergers, acquisitions and hoarding instead of capital investments. Perhaps the starting point is workplace reform: organizing and fighting management bullying in every day work.

Another response to the escalation of managements workplace bullying is the growth of self-employment, as skilled workers turn to small-scale enterprises and self-managed co-operatives to free themselves from managers constantly looking over their shoulders, barking for greater output and demanding “extra hours and overtime” without compensation.

Decades earlier, a whole generation was raised with the understanding that employment in a larger firm was a collegial experience of sharing knowledge and advancing through meritorious achievements. Today, few skilled workers hold that view:  orporate employment involves a merciless “grind”, abrupt changes in ownership, radical restructuring, high stress workloads and perpetual job insecurity.

The risk of exiting to small-scale individual enterprises may be preferable to the strains and indignities of everyday corporate bullying, even in the public sector. But the bankruptcy rates for small independents remain high.

Socialism anybody?

Jul 072014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

There is no question that over the past decade and a half, Europe, the US and Israel have engaged in a series of bloody wars, inequalities have increased throughout the globe, economic crisis has become endemic and, more recently, right-wing military and civilian regimes have swept to power throughout Asia, North Africa, Europe and Canada.

Yet, despite this generally gloomy picture, important positive developments have emerged raising the possibility of fundamental changes to reverse the current reactionary wave.  I will proceed by outlining these positive developments, taking account of the retrograde context in which they occur.

Reaction and Progress in Asia

The macro-political-economic picture in Asia could not be darker: Right-wing regimes rule in all the major countries. There is a military junta in Thailand and a military-civilian regime in Pakistan.  In Japan, a right-wing Prime Minister is committed to re-arming and expanding its military power.  Rightwing rulers have taken power in Australia, Indonesia, South Korea and India.  In China, inequalities intensify while the number of billionaires and millionaires will soon exceed those in the US.  Regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan support US military intervention and drone attacks within their territory.

In the face of this reactionary setting, there is the rising class struggle of millions of Chinese workers, who have secured major gains in salaries and wages in the course of the last decade, averaging over 10% per year.  The cumulative gains have led to the doubling of monthly wages.  The main reason worker wages have increased can be found in their willingness to engage in strikes, demonstrations and other forms of militant class action.

Rising wages in China have enormous positive global consequences.  Many corporations have relocated from the coastal cities to the interior, thus ‘proletarianizing’ the provinces and widening and deepening the scope for militant labor action.  Meanwhile, many foreign and Chinese corporations have relocated their factories to low wage countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Laos, bringing intensified class struggle. In recent years, militant strikes and violent protests have broken out in Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

There are indications that US capitalists may be ‘on-shoring’ their investments, i.e. re-locating factories and business back to the US, as wages and militancy rise in China and decline in the US.  With the drying up of China as the world’s reserve pool of passive, cheap workers, the global labor market tightens increasing the capacity of workers to successfully struggle for better working conditions and wages.

Chinese outflows of capital this year will exceed inflows, for the first time.  These outflows include speculative investments in high-end real estate in the West and greater investments in extractive sectors in Africa, Latin America, Oceana, Asia, Southern Europe and Ukraine.  This expansion of productive investments will expand the working class and lead to more workers struggles.

In summary, the sharp and sustained rise in Chinese wages, resulting from the class struggle, has world historical significance as it ripples through the global economy by setting in motion a chain of positive socio-political movements.

The Larger Significance of the Afghan War

The prolonged US war in Afghanistan, now in its 13th year, and Washington’s defeat and retreat in the face of an unconquered Taliban national resistance, has enormous consequences for US empire-building, as well as domestic public opinion and nationalist resistance movements worldwide.

First and foremost the war has turned the vast majority of Americans against new military interventions, especially those involving ground troops.  The “Afghan Syndrome” (replacing the ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ of the 1970’s and 1980’s) has become an obstacle to the launching of new military empire-building projects.

Obama’s ‘humanitarian’ intervention in Libya was confined to bombing cities and infrastructure while unable to send American ground troops to effectively occupy the country, set up a secure puppet government and seize the valuable oil fields.  As a result, its flimsy puppet government in Tripoli has collapsed and Libyan oil production is minimal.  Libya is a fragmented ‘failed state’ ruled by tribal armies with its once modern infrastructure in ruin.

Likewise the US is forced to wage war against the secular nationalist government in Syria via proxy jihadi mercenaries, as the “Afghan Syndrome” blocks greater and more direct US troop involvement.

Despite enormous pressure on the US President and Congress to launch a war against Iran from Israel’s fifth column, the so-called ‘Israel Lobby’, the ‘Afghan syndrome’ has limited Washington to rely on economic sanctions.   The uncontrolled, violent deterioration in the Middle East caused by US overt and covert wars has forced an opening for diplomatic negotiations with Teheran – to the fury of militarists in Tel Aviv and their US agents.  In other words, the defeat of the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, as well as the enormous and destructive cost of a prolonged occupation to the US economy, has weakened the capacity of the US Empire to invade, occupy and pillage resource-rich adversaries, today and in the near future.

How Middle East Wars for Israel Weaken the US Presence in Latin America and Asia

Washington has thrown away trillions of dollars of public money and suffered major casualties in pursuit of endless wars in the Middle East, which were vigorously promoted by the domestic Zionist power configuration at the behest of Israel.

Because of this influential power configuration, the US has lost significant economic, political and diplomatic influence in its traditional spheres of control in Latin America and Asia.  US market shares in both regions have declined.  New regional organizations, excluding the US, have proliferated throughout Latin America.  China has expanded its own lucrative trade relations throughout both regions, further eroding US hegemony.

While Zionist influence over US policy is pernicious, eroding domestic sovereignty and undermining democracy within the US, the focus of US policy on the interests of Israel has clearly undermined the US presence in Latin America and Asia.

As long as the US continues to intervene in the Middle East, it will be unable to effectively intervene against popular uprisings and center-left governments in Latin America.  By channeling its resources to prop up hereditary tyrants in the Gulf and Egypt’s brutal military junta, the US has not been able pursue its more traditional role in Latin America.

The US has plenty of regional allies and clients in the Middle East and North Africa, but they lack popular legitimacy and rule through terror and repression.  In Turkey, mass protests have erupted against the Erdogan regime, including important sectors of the militant Turkish working class.  Kurds, Islamists and leftists have gained influence inside Turkey and along its borders.  Meanwhile, Turkey’s regional trading partners, such as Iraq, are in turmoil and trade has collapsed.  While Prime Minister Erdogan may win elections, his legitimacy among the population is tarnished and his ambition to be a major regional leader is severely diminished.

Israel continues to extract billions of dollars in annual US aid (tribute) while dispossessing and starving the Palestinians. Nevertheless the growing internationalboycott and divestment movement is undermining the power of Tel Aviv’s overseas “lobbies” to direct US and EU policy.  Israel has never been so isolated, feared and despised in the eyes of the world’s people.  International public opinion polls have repeatedly ranked Israel’s policies as a major source of war and instability in the world today.

In the US and EU, more voices than ever are speaking out against Israel’s crimes against humanity, despite the campaigns by major Zionist organizations to blacklist, threaten and punish critical voices.  Increasingly the power of the Israel lobby relies on its numerically small Zionist power elite – the millionaires and billionaires who own the mass media and who bankroll its political campaigns.  The leaders of major Jewish organizations in the US are facing a significant decline in membership especially among young generations of American Jews, unwilling to commit their energies and resources to a militarist, racist Israel.

The Gulf States:  Precarious Clients, Dubious Allies

            The Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, have offered “paper” support for US wars in the Middle East at a cost.  Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain rule over their restive populations by coercion.  Majorities are demanding democratic freedom and, in some cases, have engaged in large-scale protests despite brutal repression.  US military bases in the region will be vulnerable when these pro-democracy majorities finally overthrow the family-based monarchic dictatorships.

Moreover, the Gulf regimes are playing a dangerous double game:  They publicly support the US while secretly funding the Sunni Islamist terrorists opposing US proxies, (the ‘moderate’ rebels) in Syria and the puppet government in Iraq.  The Gulf States financed the bloody ‘regime changes’ in Egypt and Libya, while the US may have been content (and better served) to arrange power-sharing agreements.  The Saudi monarchy has joined with Israel in trying to sabotage any US negotiations with Iran.  While, on paper, the US may have ‘clients and allies’ throughout the Middle East, these lack legitimacy, stability and trust . . . weak foundations from which to project US power.  They are a constant drain on financial resources and have no public sympathy among the US electorate.

Europe:  Crisis, Expansion and Resistance

While the European Union expands its territory with the de-facto annexation of the western Ukraine and Moldavia, and NATO stations its military facilities on the frontiers of Russia, the EU’s economy is suffering from the longest and deepest period of recession and stagnation since the Great Depression.

After six years of crisis with no end in sight, objective reality refutes any remaining notions of capitalism in Europe as a ‘self-rectifying’ system capable of sustaining growth and prosperity.  On the contrary, with inequalities widening and wages, salaries and the social safety net in sharp decline, class polarization is growing.  All the objective conditions for a revival of class struggle are present.

With even harsher retrograde measures (“austerity”) imposed on the populations by oligarchs in Brussels, workers and salaried employees, in both the public and private sectors, are showing uneven and sporadic signs of mass resistance.  This will lay the groundwork for more general and systematic confrontations in the not too distant future.

Even as the European Union overextends itself, seizing control of the western Ukraine via a repugnant and brutal proxy putsch regime, it has ignited a partisan revolt in the industrial eastern Ukraine.  Workers and employees have set up a popular democratic republic and are engaged in a war of national resistance against the EU collaborator junta in Kiev.

The EU and the US threats of harsher sanctions against Russia have provoked furious criticism from major sectors of the capitalist class in Germany, France, the US, Italy and elsewhere.  The US National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce have published editorials and full-page ads in all the influential financial media, arguing that new sanctions against Russia will lead to losses of billions of dollars in trade and investments and cost hundreds of thousands of US jobs.

The significance of this current break between the capitalist class and the imperial state clearly highlights the conflict between Washington based-militarists and market-based producers and investors.  If and when this conflict deepens, there will be the potential for a broad-based, well-financed coalition opposed to the militarist vision of ‘globalization’

In the meantime, Russia and China have moved toward a new political, economic and military alliance in response to sanctions.  Trade in rubles and renminbi (instead of dollars and euros) is expanding.  The domestic economy is becoming the motor force of China’s new growth model.  Local industry is replacing European imports via “import substitution” in Russia.

In sum, Washington and Brussels’ sanctions and bellicose threats against Russia and China are having a boomerang effect.  They are costing Western manufacturers and exporters significant market shares in large dynamic countries and fomenting deep internal divisions within the ruling classes in the US and EU.

Rising Class and National Struggles in the EU

Class struggle from below intensifies in the EU.  In Greece, the leftwing partySyriza, controls the municipal governments in Athens and throughout Attica, and currently leads in the national polls.  In France, the neo-liberal, militarist, so-called “Socialist” regime of President Francois Hollande has lost credibility and hovers at 19% public support.  It wallows in economic stagnation with double-digit unemployment and an unending series of scandals.  The popular revolt against “austerity” and the Brussels dictatorship grows . . . So far, unfortunately, this public anger has been most effectively capitalized by the nationalist Right, but hopefully, the nationalist left will be re-energized by the crisis, intensify class contradictions in the near future and seize the opportunity to organize and lead.

In Spain, the nationalist left movements in the Basque country and Catalonia are challenging the Rightist regime in Madrid and the ‘neo-liberal nationalists’ in Barcelona and Bilbao.  A state crisis looms, where the vast army of unemployed youth (50%) could play a major role in radicalizing the independence movement.

Latin America:  The Center-Left, the Right and the Left

Into the second decade of the 21st century, many of the illusions of the Left and its fears about US Empire have faded.  So-called ‘21st century socialism’, has not ‘socialized’ any economies while the US has not succeeded in orchestrating regime change and installing its neo-liberal clients in any major South American countries.  The exception is Honduras, a nation in shambles, with tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the US-installed military-civilian junta – including thousands of Honduran children crowding US deportation camps.

What has emerged is a triangular struggle between established center-left regimes backed by electoral majorities, US-backed rightist parties and leftist-backed social movements and trade unions.

The US has secured support for its new Trans-Pacific Alliance from Colombia, Chile, Peru and Mexico. However, this has not undermined the independent regional trade and cooperation organizations, which exclude the US, such as UNASUR and ALBA. Both Chile and Peru, close US ‘allies’, depend far more on their trade with China than with the US.

Over the past decade, Washington has succeeded in orchestrating two coups – Honduras and Paraguay – both marginal and in decline.  But it has so far failed in three much larger and vibrant nations:  Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Washington maintains seven military bases in Colombia, but Bogota has signed trade, military and political agreements with Venezuela to end cross border military incursions and mutually respect their political sovereignty.

The center-left has consolidated political power in Uruguay and Bolivia, and to a lesser degree in Brazil and Ecuador.  Nevertheless, the center-left’s dependence on agro-mineral exports and foreign finance capital has caused domestic economic stagnation.  This has led to the growth of right-wing electoral parties and violent coup-attempts in some countries while promoting the growth of significant left-led social movements and direct action in others.  In Venezuela, the right has engaged in election violence, bloody attacks by hired thugs, destructive street demonstrations with the burning of clinics and power stations, as well as an elite-orchestrated campaign to sabotage the economy.  In the midst of double-digit inflation, political street violence and a crime wave, the center-left’s popular base has been eroded in Venezuela.

Washington has used its courts to attack Argentina by ruling in favor of the so-called ‘vulture’ capitalists or speculative investment funds which had purchased Argentine debt after its severe economic crisis and are now pushing the country toward defaulting on its current foreign debt or depleting its foreign reserves to reward the ‘vultures’.

President Obama continues the US half-century boycott against Cuba in splendid isolation at home and abroad, in spite of both international and domestic opinion in favor of normal relations with Havana. The growing violent right-wing opposition against the center-left in Venezuela and Argentina has polarized their political systems.  As the right-wing advances and the governments give way, popular movements and mobilizations intensify and increase political volatility.  While the danger of right-wing takeovers is growing, so are opportunities for the Left to gain significant support from the traditional mass base of the Center-Left.

Africa:  The Historic General Strike in South Africa

While the former-nationalist rulers in South Africa, Angola, and Mozambique continue to pillage the treasury and enrich themselves in partnership with the US-EU-Chinese mining corporations, South African mine workers are creating a potentially radical alternative.  For five months, the South African platinum miners have been engaged in the longest, most disciplined and most successful strike in the history of Africa.  Despite the brutal massacre of 39 miners by the ruling black bourgeois regime (African National Congress), the opposition of the biggest global mining companies in Africa and the sellout leadership of the trade union confederation, the miners have held fast.  Following their success, trade union militants are organizing a new trade union confederation and a new workers’ party. Their leaders have introduced a new spirit of hope and struggle among millions of poor, unemployed and marginalized black Africans.

The United States:  Small Victories Can Lead to Big Movements

It is tempting to be pessimistic about progressive change in the United States with its anemic and politically irrelevant trade union federation and co-opted peace movement; the decline of independent grass-roots organizations; the co-optation of Black and Latino politicians by the Wall Street-dominated Democratic Party and the successful State crackdown on the “Occupy Movement”.

At the international level the Obama regime has increased its support for direct and proxy intervention in Syria, Iraq and the Gulf region.  Washington has given over 2 billion dollars in military aid to the brutal Egyptian military junta. Obama has released another five hundred million dollars in aid to the armed mercenary forces invading Syria. Hundreds of US Special Forces and thousands of armed ‘contractors’ have been sent to Iraq and one thousand US Marines are ready ‘off-shore’…

On the other hand there are signs of hope on the horizon. Over 80% of the US public have rejected Obama’s war mongering, especially his ambitions to ‘re-enter’ Iraq.

It was US public opinion and letters to their Congressional representatives that blocked Obama’s plan to bomb Syria.  His callous embrace of the Egyptian coup and dictator has alienated the vast majority of secular democrats and moderate Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East.

Obama’s spineless support of Israel’s settler land grabs and the ‘business-as-usual’ complicity of US corporations with radical Jewish colonists in the West Bank are increasingly opposed by the European Union, leading Christian churches (the US and Canadian Presbyterians, among others) and by the growing world-wide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.

In local US elections, we have seen a real, consequential socialist elected to the Seattle City Council.  The Chicago teachers union is leading a massive city-wide struggle, based in the Black and Mexican-American neighborhoods, against the draconian school closures and teacher lay-offs initiated by the ex-Wall Streeter, former Obama ‘Chief of Staff’, US-Israeli dual citizen, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.  A broad trade union – community based coalition has formed to challenge Emmanuel’s corrupt money machine and austerity policies in the forthcoming mayoral elections.

Alternate media web sites, critical of politicians pandering to Wall Street and deeply opposed to new wars, now inform millions of American citizens as they seek their place in popular movements.

For the first time, the two principle business lobbies, the National Manufacturers Association (NAM) and the US Chamber of Commerce (USCC) have come out in public opposition to Washington’s sanctions against Russia.  The fact that big and small, local and international businesspeople recognized that US military interventions, economic sanctions and boycotts hurt their profits, limit their access to markets and cost thousands of domestic jobs is a major political breakthrough.  For over two decades, US business interests, especially Big Oil, have been bullied into silence, while Israel’s thuggish “Lobby” has successfully pushed for sanctions against Iraq and then a full-scale invasion, and then more sanctions targeting Iran, Syria and Lebanon.  The recognition that this has hurt US investors, cut access to international markets, eliminated hundreds of thousands of US jobs and caused the price of fuel to soar for hundreds of millions of US consumers has finally been brought home.  The current push for sanctions against Russia does not have the rabid support of the pro-Israel lobby and US businesses interests are effectively finding their courage to face the politically-isolated militarists in Washington and certain sectors of the military-industrial complex.  Nevertheless, this might not bode well for the Zionist push for future wars and sanctions in the Middle East.

Our hope is not a Panglossian dream.

The institutional power of the warmongers and the Wall Street-Washington revolving door is a major entrenched force in the US.  But we also should recognize that we can win and we have won elections at the local level through new community-based organizations.  We constitute ‘the mainstream’ in our opposition to the new wars in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

The enemy, “capitalism”, is powerful, but it has manifestly failed to generate new well-paying jobs needed to sustain a decent, stable standard of living for the ‘99%’.  It cannot provide efficient, quality health care and educational opportunities for US citizens.  It cannot fund an adequate national pension system or protect and build secure communities and jobs.  No one buys into the capitalist “success stories” any more, stories that bamboozled our parents and grandparents from the 1940’s – 1990’s.  The main picture of capitalism today is one of economic breakdowns, home foreclosures, Wall Street swindles, impunity for corporate criminals, rampant corruption, prolonged crisis, declining living standards, stagnation and cut backs in vital social services.

Only in their splendid isolation, far from the American public, can the overpaid academic economists and financial media mouth-pieces boast of the victory of capitalism – but they are counting only the soaring profits and increasingly concentrated wealth of the top 1% while ignoring the impoverishment of the 99%.

We are united with the majority on the economy and in opposition to the launching of more wars abroad.  We share a clear understanding of the current oligarchical nature of the US political system.  When we move from our shared vision to effective organizing, from protest to politics, from narrow to broad issues, from Democratic Party hacks to genuine, independent grass-roots leaders, we can join the rest of humanity fighting with dignity for a better world.  We can find allies and inspiration among the hundreds of millions of Chinese workers successfully doubling their wages every seven years, among the courageous armed workers in Eastern Ukraine fighting for democracy and self-determination, among the militant miners in South Africa, among the majority of democratic socialists in Greece, among the left nationalists in the Basque and Catalan nations and the popular democrats in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and elsewhere.

We are deeply aware of the obstacles, the human costs and the long road ahead.  Nothing is inevitable or pre-determined.  Progress depends on personal commitment and intervention.  We are not alone, we are gaining adherents and we are advancing.  Each of us has a particular national and cultural context, but we all share the universal values of freedom, social justice and solidarity. In the last analysis, it is the struggle for freedom that gives meaning to our everyday life.The institutional power of the warmongers and the Wall Street-Washington revolving door is a major entrenched force in the US.  But we also should recognize that we can win and we have won elections at the local level through new community-based organizations.  We constitute ‘the mainstream’ in our opposition to the new wars in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

The enemy, “capitalism”, is powerful, but it has manifestly failed to generate new well-paying jobs needed to sustain a decent, stable standard of living for the ‘99%’.  It cannot provide efficient, quality health care and educational opportunities for US citizens.  It cannot fund an adequate national pension system or protect and build secure communities and jobs.  No one buys into the capitalist “success stories” any more, stories that bamboozled our parents and grandparents from the 1940’s – 1990’s.  The main picture of capitalism today is one of economic breakdowns, home foreclosures, Wall Street swindles, impunity for corporate criminals, rampant corruption, prolonged crisis, declining living standards, stagnation and cut backs in vital social services.

Only in their splendid isolation, far from the American public, can the overpaid academic economists and financial media mouth-pieces boast of the victory of capitalism – but they are counting only the soaring profits and increasingly concentrated wealth of the top 1% while ignoring the impoverishment of the 99%.

We are united with the majority on the economy and in opposition to the launching of more wars abroad.  We share a clear understanding of the current oligarchical nature of the US political system.  When we move from our shared vision to effective organizing, from protest to politics, from narrow to broad issues, from Democratic Party hacks to genuine, independent grass-roots leaders, we can join the rest of humanity fighting with dignity for a better world.  We can find allies and inspiration among the hundreds of millions of Chinese workers successfully doubling their wages every seven years, among the courageous armed workers in Eastern Ukraine fighting for democracy and self-determination, among the militant miners in South Africa, among the majority of democratic socialists in Greece, among the left nationalists in the Basque and Catalan nations and the popular democrats in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and elsewhere.

We are deeply aware of the obstacles, the human costs and the long road ahead.  Nothing is inevitable or pre-determined.  Progress depends on personal commitment and intervention.  We are not alone, we are gaining adherents and we are advancing.  Each of us has a particular national and cultural context, but we all share the universal values of freedom, social justice and solidarity. In the last analysis, it is the struggle for freedom that gives meaning to our everyday life.

Jun 252014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

There are two major beneficiaries of the two major wars launched by the US government: one domestic and one foreign.  The three major domestic arms manufacturers, Lockheed Martin (LMT), Northrop Grumman (NOG) and Raytheon (RTN) have delivered record-shattering returns to their investors, CEOs and investment banks during the past decade and a half.  The Israeli regime is the overwhelming foreign beneficiary of the war, expanding its territory through its dispossession of Palestinians and positioning itself as the regional hegemon.  Israel benefited from the US invasion which destroyed Iraq, a major ally of the Palestinians; the invasion provided cover for massive Israel’s settler expansion in the Occupied Palestinian territories.  In the course of its invasion and occupation Washington systematically destroyed Iraq’s armed forces and civil infrastructure, shredding its complex modern society and state.  By doing so, the US occupation removed one of Israel’s major regional rivals.

In terms of cost to the United States, hundreds of thousands of soldiers who had served in the war zones have sustained severe physical and mental injuries, while thousands have died directly or indirectly through an epidemic of soldier suicides.  The invasion and occupation of Iraq has cost the United States trillions of dollars and counting.  Despite the immense costs to the American people, the military-industrial complex and the pro-Israel power configuration continue to keep the US government on a wartime economy – undermining the domestic social safety net and standard of living of many millions.

No peaceful economic activity can match the immense profits enjoyed by the military-industrial complex in war.  This powerful lobby continues to press for new wars to sustain the Pentagon’s huge budget.  As for the pro-Israel power configuration, any substantive diplomatic peace negotiations in the Middle East would end their naked land grabs, reduce or curtail new weapons transfers and undermine pretexts to sanction or attack countries, like Iran, that stand in the way of Tel Aviv’s vision of “Greater Israel”, unrivaled in the region.

The costs of almost 15 years of warfare weigh heavily on the US Treasury and electorate.  The wars have been dismal failures if not outright defeats.  New sectarian conflicts have emerged in Syria, Iraq and, now, Ukraine – opportunities for the US arms industry and the pro-Israel lobbies to make even greater profits and gain more power.

The on-going horrendous costs of past and continuing wars make the launch of new military interventions more difficult for US and Israeli militarists.  The US public expresses wide-spread discontent over the burden of the recent past wars and shows even less stomach for new wars to profit the military-industrial complex and further strengthen Israel.

War Profits

The power and influence of the military-industrial complex in promoting serial wars has resulted in extraordinary rates of profit.    According to a recent study by Morgan Stanley (cited in Barron’s, 6/9/14, p. 19), shares in the major US arms manufacturers have risen 27,699% over the past fifty years versus 6,777% for the broader market.  In the past three years alone, Raytheon has returned 124%, Northrup Grumman 114% and Lockheed Martin 149% to their investors.

The Obama regime makes a grand public show of reducing the military budget via the annual appropriation bill, and then, turns around and announces emergency supplemental funds to cover the costs of these wars. . .thereby actually increasing military spending, all the while waving the banner of ‘cost cutting’.  Obama’s theatrics have fattened the profits for the US military-industrial complex.

War profits have soared with the series of military interventions in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.  The arms industry lobbyists pressure Congressional and Pentagon decision-makers to link up with the pro-Israel lobby as it promotes even deeper direct US military involvement in Syria, Iraq and Iran.  The growing ties between Israeli and US military industries reinforce their political leverage in Washington by working with liberal interventionists and neo-conservatives.  They attack Obama for not bombing Syria and for his withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.  They now clamor for sending US troops back to Iraq and call for intervention in Ukraine.  Obama has argued that proxy wars without direct US troop involvement do not require such heavy Pentagon expenditures as the arms industry demands.  The Obama regime has presented the withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan as a necessary step to reduce US financial and military losses.  This was in response to Wall Street’s pressure to cut the budget deficit.  Obama’s attempt to meet the demands of the US financial sector has come at the price of cutting potential profit for the military industrial complex as well as infuriating Israel and its fanatical supporters in the US Congress.

The Fight over the Military Budget:  Veterans versus the Complex and the Lobby

In the face of rising domestic pressure to reduce the budget deficit and cut military spending, the US military-industrial complex and its Zionist accomplices are fighting to retain their share by eliminating programs designed to serve the health needs of active and retired soldiers.  Soaring disability costs related to the recent wars will continue for decades.  Veteran health care costs are expected to double to 15% of the defense budget in the next five years.  The huge public cost of caring for soldiers and veterans means “bad news for defense stocks” according to financial analysts (Barron’s, 6/9/14, p. 19).

This is reason  why the arms industries promote the closure of scores of Veterans Administration hospitals and a reduction in retiree benefits, using the pretext of fighting fraud, incompetence and poor quality service compared with the ‘private sector’.  The same corporate warlords and lobbyists who clamor to send US troops to back to Iraq and to new wars in Syria and Ukraine, where young lives, limbs and sanity are at great risk, are also in the forefront of a fight to slash funding for the veterans’ medical care.  Economists have long noted that the more dollars spent on veterans’ and military retirees’ health care, the less allocated for war materials, ships and aircraft. Today it is estimated that over $900 billion dollars will have been spent on long-term VA medical and disability services for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  That number is clearly set to rise with each new intervention.

The corporate warlords are urging Congress to increase co-pays, enrollment fees and deductibles for veterans, retirees and active duty personnel enrolled in military health insurance plans, such as Tricare, as well as limiting access to the VA.

The fight over Pentagon expenditures is a struggle over war or social justice:   health services for troops and veterans versus weapons programs that fatten corporate profits for the arms industry.

Jun 172014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Greece is experiencing a triple crisis which has a profound impact on the economy, society and political system.  The economy has experienced a deep, prolonged depression lasting six years and continuing.  Workers and employees have suffered a 40% loss in income and a commensurate decline in medical, pension, educational and welfare benefits.  The political system has witnessed a precipitous decline in electoral support for previously dominant right and center left parties and the rapid rise of  radical democratic-socialist and fascist parties.

The socio-economic effects of the crash of the economy have been exacerbated by the “austerity programs” imposed by the European Unions’ triumvirate. The economic cuts have undermined any economic recovery and accentuated the reductions in employment, social welfare and public investments.

The political consequences resulting from the extremely harsh policies of the EU and their forceful implementation by the right and center parties have been dramatic.  A vast upheaval has shaken the entire political system.  Previously dominant mainstream parties have been increasingly rejected, while formerly marginal democratic socialist and radical right wing parties have made major advances.

The political consequences of the demise of Greek capitalism require a closer look at the prospects for an electoral victory for the democratic socialists in the immediate future.

The Rise of Syriza

The rise of the democratic socialists, more specifically Syriza, has been rapid and substantial.  Between October 2009 and 2014 it has grown by a multiple of five:  In the elections of October 2009 Syriza got 4.6% of the vote (315,665); in May 2012 16.8% (1,061,928) and in the most recent elections for the Euro parliament 26.l6% (1,516,699).  In contrast the two previously dominant parties, the rightwing New Democracy (ND) and the Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) have experienced a precipitous decline.  In October 2009, combined ,they got 77.4%, (5,308, 261); in May 2012, 32% (2,025,555); and in the recent Europarlimentary elections 30.7% (1,753,592).

The Greek Communist Party has also declined, despite the crises, and the militancy of its trade union sector.  In the October 2009 elections, they got 8.4% (428,151); in the June 2012 elections 4.5% (277,227); and in the 2014 elections 6.1% (347,487).

In contrast the neo-fascist Golden Dawn has grown substantially over the same period.  In the October 2009 elections Golden Dawn got .5% (23,566); in June 2012 7% (440,966); and in the Europarlimentary elections of 2014, 9.4% (536,442).

The demise of the neo-liberal right (New Democracy) is accompanied by the rise of the radical nationalist right.  The collapse of the neo-liberal social democrats (PASOK) is accompanied by the rise of the radical left (Syriza) and a new self-styled “center-left”party calling itself “The River” (POTAMI).

The current electoral map of Greece is not defined by a dominant party or coalition.  The bi-party break-down is accompanied by fragmentation and polarization.  Moreover, the most intransigent opponents of the European Union’s austerity program and its executors in Greece are profoundly divided.  The Communist Party and Golden Dawn are mortal enemies of Syriza, thus eliminating any possibility of an “anti-EU” coalition.

The same problem is evident on the Right.  New Democracy and allied parties combine for only 27.4% of the electorate and are on a downward slope.

PASOK’s embrace of the neo-liberal agenda has led to the loss of nearly 85% of its voters (2.5 million) over the past 5 years. Many of their supporters among public sector employees have turned to Syriza.

The new ‘center-left’ party, “The River”, which gained 6.7% of the electorate has yet to decide which bloc to support, essentially bargaining to see with whom it can gain the most government posts.

Given the current dynamics of declining pro-EU support and increasing radicalization, what options does Syriza have, if it is to come to power?

Syriza:  Perspectives and Options

Syriza is the only realistic political vehicle on the Left with mass support, trade union backing and the electoral machinery for forming a government.  Its political trajectory has been in ascendance – up to point.

The fundamental problem is that after its spectacular rise between 2009 and 2012, it has stagnated.  In the June 2012 elections it got 26.9% and in the May 2014 elections 26.6%.  It appears that Syriza has hit an electoral barrier.  Despite the fact that it is Greece’s leading electoral party; it appears to be unable to advance further and secure a parliamentary majority.  This raises the question of alliances with political parties to the Left or Right.  Moreover, the internal divisions within Syriza complicate any overtures to possible electoral partners.  Syriza has drawn leaders, cadres and supporters from the former Maoist, Trotskyist and radical left.  Numerous PASOK middle level leaders and electoral supporters have flocked to Syriza.  Many defected as a result of PASOK’s responsibility for the crises and support for the “austerity” pact with the EU.  In addition a number of ex-Communist trade unionists are now backing Syriza as the only realistic alternative to the Right; many have repudiated Communist Party sectarianism and hostility toward other leftist formations.  The current leadership of Syriza has, so far, been able to maintain cohesion by balancing harsh critiques of the austerity pact, which satisfies the radical sectors, with a refusal to exit the EU, which accommodates the social-democratic wing of the Party.

At some point in the coming period Syriza will have to make some hard choices,if it is to form an alternative government.  Each of the following options has advantages and disadvantages, costs and benefits.

The Radical Option

Syriza opts to ally with the Communist Party.  This is a very difficult choice as the CP demands full compliance with its program, an equal sharing of key posts in a future government and recognition of its vanguard role.  Given the fact that, electorally, the CP represents less than one-quarter of the voting strength of Syriza these are totally unacceptable terms to all sectors of the democratic left.  The CP would have to accept that it will be a minority partner and that it would have to moderate some of its radical demands.  The CP fears that Syriza is just another version of PASOK – a party that gives left signals and makes right turns.  Its basic argument  that Syriza’s refusal to exit the EU is a sign of its basic opportunism, has some merit.  But it refuses to even consider tactical electoral alliances, or offer critical support in forming municipal governments.

In any case, even if the CP and other smaller radical left groups joined a Left  coalition, it would only add 8.6% to the electoral total, resulting in a precarious parliamentary majority subject to defections from the social-democratic wing of Syriza and face constant threats of defections by Communist maximalists.

The Moderate Option

Syriza could form an alliance with the so-called center-left parties – PASOK and River parties – on the bases of a minimum program which would involve a commitment to remain in the EU based on renegotiating debt payments and the austerity programs, increasing public spending and ending the privatization of strategic economic sectors.  This opening to the Right, would endanger the internal equilibrium of Syriza:  it risks a split with the powerful radical sector, thus reducing its overall representation in Parliament.

Even if the Syriza left were to be pacified by offers of ministerial posts and promises of ‘hard negotiations’ with the EU, it is not likely to succeed in securing substantial concessions from the EU.  Sectors of the latter are likely to welcome a Greek exit.  Others will insist on full compliance with only slight modifications regarding the size of budget surpluses, increases in public spending and the terms of privatization.  For the EU, the substance of the austerity program, the scope and depth of privatization, and the obligations to meet interest payments are non-negotiable.  In other words to remain in the EU, Syriza would have to continue the basic policies of its rightwing predecessor.  To remain in the EU Syriza would have to capitulate and become an updated version of PASOK – and lose its mass base in the next elections.  Syriza leaders could procrastinate, with phony  promises of a future break with the EU when ‘the time is more propitious’ or it could exit from the EU, losing its center-left allies, but hoping to recoup new supporters through alternative policies.

The ‘Middle Road’

Syriza could continue as an independent political movement, without radical left or center-left coalitions, working to accumulate forces from the stagnant Communists and the disintegrating right-center regime.  It could use its leadership of local and regional governments to demonstrate its effectiveness and capacity to govern and ameliorate harsh national policies.  It could transform its voting pluralities in Athens and Attica into majorities via community based councils, administrating social programs, food kitchens, public works, clinics and public security.

Conclusion:  Perspectives

Syriza, in government and out of the EU, could re-allocate debt payments, based on a debt moratorium, to public investments.  It could revert to a national currency and end the fiscal constraints of the EU strait-jacket on budgets, incomes and employment.  Control over monetary policy would allow Syriza to devaluate, to raise the effective taxes on the kleptocratic millionaires.  It could stimulate the economy and end the deflationary effects of the austerity programs.  Protective tariffs, foreign exchange controls and revitalization of public sector enterprises could stimulate the local market.  Flexible monetary policy could increase tourism.  The cut-off of funding from the EU could be compensated by a 50% cut in military spending and an exit from NATO.  The government could finance start-ups of high tech, small and medium size enterprises by the large numbers of educated Greeks currently overseas or unemployed.  Greece could increase its ties with non EU countries across the globe.  Greece would pay a price, especially from the financial markets.  In the immediate period liquidity , external financing and capital flows would dry-up.  Internal opposition from sectors tied to EU markets and imports would intensify.

No doubt sectors of the old right will turn to the neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party, as part of a sharper political polarization.  Sectors of the police and army, with the support of NATO, will conspire to destabilize.

But with mass support in civil society and the civil bureaucracy, with a majority in the armed forces and police backing the constitutional government, a Syriza led recovery of sovereignty and a robust stimulus package could defeat a destabilization conspiracy.

The key to a successful Syriza government is unity and internal cohesion, and sound and equitable economic policies which balance economic growth and job creation with the gradual recovery of social benefits.

Above all Syriza should resist the populist-clientelistic policies which some of its followers will demand.  It must not take the easy and disastrous road of expanding the public bureaucracy.  There must be greater reliance on highly skilled professionals and entrepreneurial local innovators who produce useful goods for the market.  Public firms must be reformed.  The trade unions must understand that the first priority of the economic recovery is to create jobs for the 60% of unemployed youth.

Syriza is Greece’s last best hope . . . because waiting in the wings are the EU aligned oligarchs, fascists and disloyal NATO military officials eager to take advantage of any misstep in order to seize power and turn Greece into another Egypt, Thailand or Ukraine.

Jun 042014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Violence mars Brazil anti-World Cup rallies

Violence mars Brazil anti-World Cup rallies

Introduction

For decades social critics have bemoaned the influence of sports and entertainment spectacles in ‘distracting’ workers from struggling for their class interests.  According to these analysts, ‘class consciousness’ was replaced by ‘mass’ consciousness.  They argued that atomized individuals, manipulated by the mass media, were converted into passive consumers who identified with millionaire sports heroes, soap opera protagonists and film celebrities.

The culmination of this ‘mystification’ – mass distraction –were the ‘world championships’ watched by billions around the world and sponsored and financed by billionaire corporations:  the World Series (baseball), the World Cup (soccer/futbol), and the Super Bowl (American football).

Today, Brazil is the living refutation of this line of cultural-political analysis. Brazilians have been described as ‘football crazy’.  Its teams have won the most number of World Cups.  Its players are coveted by the owners of the most important teams in Europe.  Its fans are said to “live and die with football” . . . Or so we are told.

Yet it is in Brazil where the biggest protests in the history of the World Cup have taken place.  As early as a year before the Games, scheduled for June 2014, there have been mass demonstrations of up to a million Brazilians.  In just the last few weeks, strikes by teachers, police, construction workers and municipal employees have proliferated.  The myth of the mass media spectacles mesmerizing the masses has been refuted – at least in present-day Brazil.

To understand why the mass spectacle has been a propaganda bust it is essential to understand the political and economic context in which it was launched, as well as the costs and benefits and the tactical planning of popular movements.

The Political and Economic Context:  The World Cup and the Olympics

In 2002, the Brazilian Workers Party candidate Lula DaSilva won the presidential elections.  His two terms in office (2003 – 2010) were characterized by a warm embrace of free market capitalism together with populist poverty programs.  Aided by large scale in-flows of speculative capital, attracted by high interest rates, and high commodity prices for its agro-mineral exports, Lula launched a massive poverty program providing about $60 a month to 40 million poor Brazilians, who formed part of Lula’s mass electoral base.  The Workers Party reduced unemployment, increased wages and supported low-interest consumer loans, stimulating a ‘consumer boom’ that drove the economy forward.

To Lula and his advisers, Brazil was becoming a global power, attracting world-class investors and incorporating the poor into the domestic market.

Lula was hailed as a ‘pragmatic leftist’ by Wall Street and a ‘brilliant statesman’ by the Left!

In line with this grandiose vision (and in response to hoards of presidential flatterers North and South), Lula believed that Brazil’s rise to world prominence required it to ‘host’ the World Cup and the Olympics and he embarked on an aggressive campaign. . . Brazil was chosen.

Lula preened and pontificated:  Brazil, as host, would achieve the symbolic recognition and material rewards a global power deserved.

The Rise and Fall of Grand Illusions

The ascent of Brazil was based on foreign flows of capital conditioned by differential (favorable) interest rates. And when rates shifted, the capital flowed out.  Brazil’s dependence on high demand for its agro-mineral exports was based on sustained double-digit economic growth in Asia.  When China’s economy slowed down, demand and prices fell, and so did Brazil’s export earnings.

The Workers Party’s ‘pragmatism’ meant accepting the existing political, administrative and regulatory structures inherited from the previous neo-liberal regimes.  These institutions were permeated by corrupt officials linked to building contractors notorious for cost over-runs and long delays on state contracts.

Moreover, the Workers Party’s ‘pragmatic’ electoral machine was built on kick-backs and bribes.  Vast sums were siphoned from public services into private pockets.

Puffed up on his own rhetoric, Lula believed Brazil’s economic emergence on the world stage was a ‘done deal’.  He proclaimed that his pharaonic sports complexes – the billions of public money spent on dozens of stadiums and costly infrastructure – would “pay for themselves”.

The Deadly ‘Demonstration Effect’:  Social Reality Defeats Global Grandeur

Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff, Lula’ protégé, has allocated billions of reales to finance her predecessor’s massive building projects:  stadiums, hotels, highways and airports to accommodate an anticipated flood of overseas soccer fans.

The contrast between the immediate availability of massive amounts of public funds for the World Cup and the perennial lack of money for deteriorating essential public services (transport, schools, hospitals and clinics) has been a huge shock to Brazilians and a provocation to mass action in the streets.

For decades, the majority of Brazilians, who depended on public services for transport, education and medical care, (the upper middle classes can afford private services), were told that “there were no funds”, that “budgets had to be balanced”, that a “budget surplus was needed to meet IMF agreements and to service the debt”.

For years public funds had been siphoned away by corrupt political appointees to pay for electoral campaigns, leading to filthy, overcrowded transport, frequently breaking down, and commuter delays in sweltering buses and long lines at the stations.  For decades, schools were in shambles, teacher rushed from school to school to make-up for their miserable minimum-wage salaries leading to low quality education and neglect.  Public hospitals were dirty, dangerous and crowded; under-paid doctors frequently took on private patients on the side, and essential medications were scarce in the public hospitals and overpriced in the pharmacies.

The public was outraged by the obscene contrast between the reality of dilapidated clinics with broken windows, overcrowded schools with leaking roofs and unreliable mass transport for the average Brazilian and the huge new stadiums, luxury hotels and airports for wealthy foreign sports fans and visitors.

The public was outraged by the obvious official lies:  the claim that there were ‘no funds’ for teachers when billions of Reales were instantly available to construct luxury hotels and fancy stadium box seats for wealthy soccer fans.

The final detonator for mass street protest was the increase in bus and train fares to ‘cover losses’ – after public airports and highways had been sold cheaply to private investors who raised tolls and fees.

The protestors marching against the increased bus and train fares were joined by tens of thousands Brazilians broadly denouncing the Government’s priorities:  Billions for the World Cup and crumbs for public health, education, housing and transport!

Oblivious to the popular demands, the government pushed ahead intent on finishing its ‘prestige projects’.  Nevertheless, construction of stadiums fell behind schedule because of corruption, incompetence and mismanagement.  Building contractors, who were pressured,  lowered safety standards and pushed  workers harder, leading to an increase in workplace deaths and injury.  Construction workers walked out protesting the speed-ups and deterioration of work safety.

The Rousseff regime’s grandiose schemes have provoked a new chain of protests. The Homeless Peoples Movement occupied urban lots near a new World Cup stadium demanding ‘social housing’ for the people instead of new five-star hotels for affluent foreign sports aficionados.

Escalating costs for the sports complexes and increased government expenditures have ignited a wave of trade union strikes to demand higher wages beyond the regime’s targets.  Teachers and health workers were joined by factory workers and salaried employees  striking in strategic sectors, such as the transport and security services, capable of seriously disrupting the World Cup.

The PTs embrace of the grandiose sports spectacle, instead of highlighting Brazil’s ‘debut as a global power’, has spotlighted the vast contrast between the affluent and secure ten percent in their luxury condos in Brazil, Miami and Manhattan, with access to high quality private clinics and exclusive private and overseas schools for their offspring, with the mass of average Brazilians, stuck for hours sweating in overcrowded buses, in dingy emergency rooms waiting for mere aspirins from non-existent doctors and in wasting their children’s futures in dilapidated classrooms without adequate, full-time teachers.

Conclusion

The political elite, especially the entourage around the Lula-Rousseff Presidency have fallen victim to their own delusions of popular support. They believed that subsistence pay-offs (food baskets) to the very poor would allow them to spend billions of public money on sports spectacles to entertain and impress the global elite.  They believed that the mass of workers would be so enthralled by the prestige of holding the World Cup in Brazil, that they would overlook the great disparity between government expenditures for elite grand spectacles and the absence of support to meet the everyday needs of Brazilian workers.

Even trade unions, seemingly tied to Lula, who bragged of his past leadership of the metal workers, broke ranks when they realized that the ‘money was out there’ – and that the regime, pressured by construction deadlines, could be pressured to raise wages to get the job done.

Make no mistake, Brazilians are sports minded.  They avidly follow and cheer their national team. But they are also  conscious of their needs.  They are not content to passively accept the great social disparities exposed by the current mad scramble to stage the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil.  The government’s vast expenditure on the Games has made it clear that Brazil is a rich country with a multitude of social inequalities.  They have learned that vast sums are available to improve the basic services of everyday life.  They realized that, despite its rhetoric, the ‘Workers Party’ was playing a wasteful prestige game to impress an international capitalist audience.  They realized that they have strategic leverage to pressure the government and address some of the inequalities in housing and salaries through mass action.  And they have struck.  They realize they deserve to enjoy the World Cup in affordable, adequate public housing and travel to work (or to an occasional game) in decent buses and trains.  Class consciousness, in the case of Brazil, has trumped the mass spectacle.  ‘Bread and circuses’ have given way to mass protests.

May 302014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

The European parliamentary elections witnessed a major breakthrough for the right-wing parties throughout the region.  The rise of the Right runs from the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, the Baltic and Low countries, France, Central and Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean.

Most, if not all, of these emerging right-wing parties mark a sharp break with the ruling neo-liberal, Christian and Social Democratic parties who have presided over a decade of crisis.

The ‘new Right’ cannot be understood simply by attaching negative labels (‘fascist’, ‘racist’ and ‘anti-Semitic’).  The rise of the Right has to be placed in the context of the decay of political, social and economic institutions, the general and persistent decline of living standards and the disintegration of community bonds and class solidarity. The entire existing political edifice constructed by the neo-liberal parties bears deep responsibility for the systemic crisis and decay of everyday life.  Moreover, this is how it is understood by a growing mass of working people who vote for the Right.

The so-called ‘radical Left’, usually defined as the political parties to the left of the governing Social Democratic parties, with the exception of SYRIZA in Greece, have failed to capitalize on the decline of the neo-liberal parties.  There are several reasons that account for the lack of a right-left polarization.  Most of the ‘radical Left’, in the final account, gave ‘critical support’ to one or another of the Labor or Social Democratic parties and reduced their ‘distance’ from the political-economic disasters that have followed.  Secondly, the ‘radical Left’s’ positions on some issues were irrelevant or offensive to many workers: namely, gay marriage and identity politics.  Thirdly, the radical Left recruited prominent personalities from the discredited Labor and Social Democratic parties and thus raised suspicion that they are a ‘new version’ of past deceptions. Fourthly, the radical Left is strong on public demonstrations demanding ‘structural changes’ but lacks the ‘grass roots’ clientelistic organizations of the Right, which provide ‘services’, such as soup kitchens and clinics dealing with day-to-day problems.

While the Right pretends to be ‘outside’ the neo-liberal establishment challenging the assumption of broad powers by the Brussels elite, the Left is ambiguous: Its support for a ‘social Europe’ implies a commitment to reform a discredited and moribund structure.  The Right proposes ‘national capitalism’ outside of Brussels; the Left proposes ‘socialism within the European Union’.  The Left parties, the older Communist parties and more recent groupings, like Syriza in Greece, have had mixed results.  The former have generally stagnated or lost support despite the systemic crisis.  The latter, like Syriza, have made impressive gains but failed to break the 30% barrier.  Both lack electoral allies.  As a result, the immediate challenge to the neo-liberal status quo comes from the electoral new Right parties and on the left from the extra-parliamentary social movements and trade unions.  In the immediate period, the crisis of the European Union is being played out between the neo-liberal establishment and the ‘new Right’.

The Nature of the New Right

The ‘new Right’ has gained support largely because it has denounced the four pillars of the neo-liberal establishment:  globalization, foreign financial control, executive rule by fiat (the Brussels troika) and the unregulated influx of cheap immigrant labor.

Nationalism, as embraced by the new Right, is tied to national capitalism:  Local producers, retailers and farmers are counterpoised to free traders, mergers and acquisitions by international bankers and the giant multinationals. The ‘new Right’ has its audience among the provincial and small town business elite as well as workers devastated by plant closures and relocations.

The ‘new Right’s’ nationalism is ‘protectionist’ – seeking tariff barriers and state regulations to protect industries and workers from ‘unfair’ competition from overseas conglomerates and low-wage immigrant labor.

The problem is that protectionism limits the imports of cheap consumer goods sold in many small retail shops and affordable to workers and the lower middle class.  The Right ‘dreams’ of a corporatist model where national workers and industries bond to oppose liberal competitive capitalism and class struggle trade unions.  As the class struggle declines, the ‘tri partite’ politics of the neo-liberal right is reconfigured by the New Right to include ‘national’ capital and a ‘paternalistic state’.

In sum, the nationalism of the Right evokes a mythical past of harmony where national capital and labor unite under a common communal identity to confront big foreign capital and cheap immigrant labor.

Political Strategy: Electoral and Extra-Parliamentary Politics

Currently, the new Right is primarily oriented to electoral politics, especially as it gains mass support.  They have increased their share of the electorate by combining mass mobilization and community organizing with electoral politics, especially in depressed areas. They have attracted middle class voters from the neo-liberal right and working class voters from the old Left.  While some sectors of the Right, like the Golden Dawn in Greece, openly flaunt fascist symbols – flags and uniforms – as well as provoking street brawls, others pressure the governing neo-liberal right to adopt some of their demands especially regarding immigration and the ‘deportation of illegals’.  For the present, most of the new Right’s focus is on advancing its agenda and gaining supporters through aggressive appeals within the constitutional order and by keeping the more violent sectors under control.  Moreover, the current political climate is not conducive to open extra-parliamentary ‘street fighting’ where the new Right would be easily crushed.  Most right-wing strategists believe the current context is conducive to the accumulation of forces via peaceful methods.

Conditions Facilitating the Growth of the Right

There are several structural factors contributing to the growth of the new Right in Europe:

First and foremost, there is a clear decline of democratic power and institutions resulting from the centralization of executive – legislative power in the hands of a self-appointed elite in Brussels.  The new Right argues effectively that the European Union has become a profoundly authoritarian political institution disenfranchising voters and imposing harsh austerity programs without a popular mandate.

Secondly, national interests have been subordinated to benefit the financial elite identified as responsible for the harsh policies that have undermined living standards and devastated local industries.  The new Right counterpoises ‘the nation’ to the Brussels ‘Troika’ – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.

Thirdly, ‘liberalization’ has eroded local industries and undermined communities and protective labor legislation.  The Right denounces liberal immigration policies, which permit the large-scale inflow of cheap workers at a time of depression level unemployment.  The crisis of capitalism combined with the large force of cheap immigrant labor forms the material basis for right-wing appeals to workers, especially those in precarious jobs or unemployed.

Right:  Contradictions and the Double Discourse

The Right, while criticizing the neo-liberal state for unemployment, focuses mainly on the immigrants competing with nationals in the labor market rather than on the capitalists whose investment decisions determine levels of employment and unemployment.

The Right attacks the authoritarian nature of the European Union, but its own structures, ideology and history pre-figure a repressive state.

The Right rightly proposes to end foreign elite control of the economy, but its own vision of a ‘national state’, especially one linked to NATO, multi-national corporations and imperial wars, will provide no basis for ‘rebuilding the national economy’.

The Right speaks to the needs of the dispossessed and the need to ‘end austerity’ but it eschews the only effective mechanism for countering inequalities – class organization and class struggle.  Its vision of the ‘collaboration between productive capital and labor’ is contradicted by the aggressive capitalist offensive to cut wages, social services, pensions and working conditions.  The new Right targets immigrants as the cause of unemployment while obscuring the role of the capitalists who hire and fire, invest abroad, relocate firms and introduce technology to replace labor.

They focus the workers’ anger ‘downward’ against immigrants, instead of ‘upward’ toward the owners of the means of production, finance and distribution who ultimately manipulate the labor market.

In the meantime the radical Left’s mindless defense of unlimited immigration in the name of an abstract notion of ‘international workers solidarity’ exposes their arrogant liberal bias, as though they had never consulted real workers who have to compete with immigrants for scarce jobs under increasingly unfavorable conditions.

The radical Left, under the banner of ‘international solidarity’, has ignored the historical fact that ‘internationalism’ must be built on the strong national foundation of organized, employed workers.

The Left has allowed the new Right to exploit and manipulate powerful righteous nationalist causes.  The radical Left has counterpoised ‘nationalism’ to socialism, rather than seeing them as intertwined, especially in the present context of an imperialist-dominated European Union.

The fight for national independence, the break-up of the European Union, is essential to the struggle for democracy and the deepening of the class struggle for jobs and social welfare. The class struggle is more powerful and effective on the familiar national terrain – rather than confronting distant overseers in Brussels.

The notion among many radical Left leaders to ‘remake’ the EU into a ‘Social Europe’, the idea that the EU could be converted into a ‘European Union of Socialist States’ simply prolongs the suffering of the workers and the subordination of nations to the non-elected bankers who run the EU.  No one seriously believes that buying stocks in Deutsch Bank and joining its annual stockholders meetings would allow workers to ‘transform’ it into a ‘People’s Bank’.  Yet the ‘Bank of the Banks’, the ‘Troika’, made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, set all major policies for each member state of the European Union. Un-rectified and remaining captive of the ‘Euro-metaphysic’, the Left has abdicated its role in advancing the class struggle through the rebirth of the national struggle against the EU oligarchs.

Results and Perspectives

The Right is advancing rapidly, even if unevenly across Europe. Its support is not ephemeral but stable and cumulative at least in the medium run.  The causes are ‘structural’ and result from the new Right’s ability to exploit the socio-economic crisis of the neo-liberal right governments and to denounce authoritarian and anti-national policies of the unelected EU oligarchy.

The new Right’s strength is in ‘opposition’.  Their protests resonate while they are distant from the command centers of the capitalist economy and state.

Are they capable of moving from protest to power?  Shared power with the neo-liberals will obviously dilute and disaggregate their current social base.

The contradictions will deepen as the new Right moves from positions of ‘opposition’ to sharing power with the neo-liberal Right.  The massive roundups and deportation of immigrant workers is not going to change capitalist employment policies or restore social services or improve living standards.  Promoting ‘national’ capital over foreign through some corporatist union of capital and labor will not reduce class conflict.  It is totally unrealistic to imagine ‘national’ capital rejecting its foreign partners in the interest of labor.

The divisions within the ‘nationalist Right’, between the overtly fascist and electoral corporatist sectors, will intensify.  The accommodation with ‘national’ capital, democratic procedures and social inequalities will likely open the door to a new wave of class conflict which will expose the sham radicalism of the ‘nationalist’ right.  A committed Left, embedded in the national terrain, proud of its national and class traditions, and capable of unifying workers across ethnic and religious ‘identities’ can regain supporters and re-emerge as the real alternative to the two faces of the Right – the neo-liberal and the ‘nationalist’ new Right.  The prolonged economic crisis, declining living standards, unemployment and personal insecurity propelling rise of the nationalist Right can also lead to the emergence of a Left deeply linked to national, class and community realities.  The neo-liberals have no solutions to offer for the disasters and problems of their own making; the nationalists of the new Right have the wrong -reactionary – answer.  Does the Left have the solution?  Only by overthrowing the despotic imperial rule of Brussels can they begin to address the national-class issues.

Post-script and final observations:

In the absence of a Left alternative, the working class voters have opted for two alternatives: Massive voter abstention and strikes.  In the recent EU election, 60% of the French electorate abstained, with abstention approaching 80% in working class neighborhoods.  This pattern was repeated or even exceeded throughout the EU – hardly a mandate for the EU or for the ‘new Right’.  In the weeks and days before the vote, workers took to the streets.  There were massive strikes of civil servants and shipyard workers, as well as workers from other sectors and mass demonstrations by the unemployed and popular classes opposing EU-imposed ‘austerity’ cuts in social services, health, education, pensions, factory closures and mass lay-offs.  Widespread voter abstention and street demonstrations point to a huge proportion of the population rejecting both the neo-Liberal Right of the ‘Troika’ as well as the ‘new Right’.

May 232014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

The sweeping electoral victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India is the latest expression of the world-wide advance of a new power bloc which promises to impose a New World Order  harnessing ethno-religious fanaticism and narrowly trained technocrats to capitalist absolutism.

The far-right is no longer at the margins of western political discourse.  It is center-stage.  It is no longer dependent on contributions by local militants; it receives financing from the biggest global corporations.  It is no longer dismissed by the mass media.  It receives feature coverage, highlighting its ‘dynamic and transformative’ leadership.

Today capitalists everywhere confront great uncertainty, as markets crash and endemic corruption at the highest levels erode competitive markets.  Throughout the world, large majorities of the labor force question, challenge and resist the massive transfers of public wealth to an ever reduced oligarchy.  Electoral politics no longer define the context for political opposition.

Capitalism, neither in theory nor practice, advances through reason and prosperity.  It relies on executive fiats, media manipulation and arbitrary police state intrusions.  It increasingly relies on death squads dubbed “Special Forces” and a ‘reserve army’ of para-military fanatics.

The new power bloc is the merger of big business, the wealthy professional classes, upwardly mobile, elite trained technocrats and cadres of ethno-religious fanatics who mobilize the masses.

Capitalism and imperialism advances by uprooting millions, destroying local communities and economies, undermining local trade and production, exploiting labor and repressing social solidarity.  Everywhere it erodes community and class solidarity.

Ethno-Religious Fanatics and Elite Technocrats

Today capitalism depends on two seemingly disparate forces.  The irrational appeal of ethno-religious supremacists and narrowly trained elite technocrats to advance the rule of capital.  Ethno-religious fanatics seek to promote bonds between the corporate-warlord elite and the masses, by appealing to their ‘common’ religious ethnic identities.

The technocrats serve the elite by developing the information systems, formulating the images and messages deceiving and manipulating the masses and designing their economic programs.

The political leaders meet with the corporate elite and warlords to set the political-economic agenda, deciding when to rely on the technocrats and when to moderate or unleash the ethno-religious fanatics.

Imperialism operates via the marriage of science and  ethno-religious fanaticism- and both are harnessed to capitalist domination and exploitation.

India:  Billionaires, Hindu Fascists and IT “Savants”

The election of Narendra Modi, leader of the BJP and long-time member of the Hindu fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) para-military organization was based on three essential components:

Multi-billion rupee funding from corporate India at home and abroad.

Thousands of upwardly mobile IT technocrats mounting a massive propaganda campaign.

Hundreds of thousands of RSS activists spreading the “Hindutva” racist doctrine among millions of villagers.

The Modi regime promises his capitalist backers that he will “open India”– namely end the land reserves of the tribes, convert farmland to industrial parks, deregulate labor and environmental controls.

To the Brahmin elite he promises to end compensatory quotas for lower castes, the untouchables, the minorities and Muslims.  For the Hindu fascists he promises more temples.  For foreign capitalists he promises entry into all formerly protected economic sectors.  For the US, Modi promises closer working relations against China, Russia and Iran … . . The BJP’s ethno-religious Hindu fanaticism resonates with Israel’s notion of a “pure”Jewish state.  Modi and Netanyahu have longstanding ties and promise close working relations based on similar ethno-racist doctrines.

Turkey:  The Transition to Islamic-Capitalist Authoritarianism 

Turkey under the rule of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party has moved decisively toward one-man rule:  linking Islam to big capital and police state repression.  Erdogan’s ‘triple alliance’ is intent on unleashing mega-capitalist projects, based on the privatization of public spaces and the dispossession of popular neighborhoods.  He opened the door to unregulated privatization of mines, communications, banks – leading to exponential growth of profits and the decline of employment security and a rising toll of worker deaths.  Erdogan has shed the mask of ‘moderate Islam’ and embraced the jihadist mercenaries invading Syria and legislation expanding religious prerogatives in secular life.  Erdogan has launched massive purges of journalists, public officials, civil servants, judges and military officers.  He has replaced them with ‘party loyalists’; Erdogan fanatics!

Erdogan has recruited a small army of technocrats who design his mega projects and provide the political infrastructure and programs for his electoral campaigns.  Technocrats provide a development agenda that accommodates the  foreign and domestic crony corporate elite.

The Anatolian Islamists, small and medium provincial business elite, form the mass base – mobilizing voters, by appealing to chauvinist and ethnocentric beliefs.  Erdogan’s repressive, Islamist, capitalist regime’s embrace of the “free market” has been sharply challenged especially in light of the worst mining massacre in Turkish history:  the killing of over 300 miners due to corporate negligence and regime complicity.  Class polarization threatens the advance of Turkish fascism.

Israel and  the “Jewish State”: Billionaires , Ethno-Religious Fanatics and Technocrats

Israel, according to its influential promoters in the US, is a ‘model democracy’.  The public pronouncements and the  actions of its leaders thoroughly refute that notion.  The driving force of Israeli politics is the idea of dispossessing and expelling all Palestinians and converting Israel into a ‘pure’ Jewish state.  For decades Israel, funded and colonized by the diaspora, have violently seized Palestinian lands, dispossessed millions and are in the process of Judaizing what remains of the remnant in the “Occupied Territories”.

The Israeli economy is dominated by billionaires.  Its “society” is permeated by a highly militarized state.  Its highly educated technocrats serve the military-industrial and ethno-religious elite.  Big business shares power with both.

High tech Israeli’s apply their knowledge to furthering the high growth, military industrial complex.  Medical specialists participate in testing the endurance of Palestinian prisoners undergoing torture (“interrogation”).  Highly trained psychologists engage in psych-warfare to gain collaborators among vulnerable Palestinian families.  Economists and political scientists, with advanced degrees from prestigious US and British universities (and ‘dual citizenship’) formulate policies furthering the land grabs of neo-fascist settlers.  Israel’s best known novelist, Amos Oz condemned the neo-fascist settlers who defecate on the embers of burnt-out mosques.

Billionaire real estate moguls bid up house prices and rents “forcing” many “progressive” Israelies, who occasionally protest, to take the easy road of moving into apartments built on land illegally and violently seized from dispossessed Palestinians.  ‘Progressives’ join neo-fascist vigilantes in common colonial settlements.  Prestigious urbanologists further the goals of crude ethno-racist political leaders by designing new housing in Occupied Lands.  Prominent social scientists trade on their US education to promote Mid-East wars designed by vulgar warlords.

Building the Euro American Empire : Riff-Raff of the World Unite!

Empire building is a dirty business.  And while the political leaders directing it, feign respectability and are adept at rolling out the moral platitudes and high purposes, the ‘combatants’ they employ are a most unsavory lot of armed thugs, journalistic verbal assassins and highly respected international jurists who prey on victims and exonerate imperial criminals.

In recent years Euro-American warlords have employed “the scum of the slaughterhouse” to destroy political adversaries in Libya, Syria and the Ukraine.

In Libya lacking any semblance of a respectable middle-class democratic proxy, the Euro-American empire builders armed and financed murderous tribal bands, notorious jihadist terrorists, contrabandist groups, arms and drug smugglers.  The Euro-Americans counted on a pocketful of educated stooges holed up in London to subdue the thugs, privatize Libya’s oil fields and convert the country into a recruiting ground and launch pad for exporting armed mercenaries for other imperial missions.

The Libyan riff-raff were not satisfied with a paycheck and facile dismissal:  they murdered their US paymaster, chased the technocrats back to Europe and set-up rival fiefdoms.  Gadhafi was murdered, but so went Libya as a modern viable state.  The arranged marriage of Euro-American empire builders, western educated technocrats and the armed riff-raff was never consummated.  In the end the entire imperial venture ended up as a petty squabble in the American Congress over who was responsible for the murder of the US Ambassador in Benghazi.

The Euro-American-Saudi proxy war against Syria follows the Libyan script.  Thousands of Islamic fundamentalists are financed, armed, trained and transported from bases in Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya to violently overthrow the Bashar Assad government in Syria.  The world’s most retrograde fundamentalists  travel to the Euro-American training bases in Jordan and Turkey and then proceed to invade Syria, seizing towns, executing thousands of alleged ‘regime loyalists’ and planting car bombs in densely populated city centers.

The fundamentalist influx soon overwhelmed the London based liberals and their armed groups.

The jihadist terrorists fragmented into warring groups fighting over the Syrian oil fields.  Hundreds were killed and thousands fled to Government controlled regions.  Euro-US strategists, having lost their original liberal mercenaries, turned toward one or another fundamentalist groups.  No longer in control of the ‘politics’ of the terrorists, Euro-US strategists sought to inflect the maximum destruction on Syrian society.  Rejecting a negotiated settlement, the Euro-US strategists turned their backs on the internal political opposition challenging Assad via presidential elections.

In the Ukraine, the Euro-Americans backed a junta of servile neo-liberal technocrats, oligarchical kleptocrats and neo-Nazis, dubbed Svoboda and the Right Sector.  The latter were the “shock troops” to overthrow the elected government, massacre the federalist democrats in Odessa and the eastern Ukraine, and back the junta appointed oligarchs serving as “governors”.

The entire western mass media white-washed the savage assaults carried out by the neo-Nazis in propping up the Kiev junta.  The powerful presence of the neo-fascists in key ministries, their strategic role as front line fighters attacking eastern cities controlled by  pro-democracy militants, establishes them as central actors in converting the Ukraine into a military outpost of NATO.

Euro-America Empire Building and the Role of Riff-Raff

Everywhere the Euro-American imperialists choose to expand – they rely on the ‘scum of the earth’:  tribal gangs in Libya, fundamentalist terrorists in Syria, neo-Nazis in the Ukraine.

Is it by choice or necessity? Clearly few consequential democrats would lend themselves to the predatory and destructive assaults on existing regimes which Euro-US strategists design.  In the course of imperial wars, the local producers, workers, ordinary citizens would “self-destroy”, whatever the outcome.  Hence the empire builders look toward ‘marginal groups’, those with no stake in society or economy.  Those alienated from any primary or secondary groups.  Footloose fundamentalists fit that bill – provided they are paid, armed and allowed to carry their own ideological baggage.  Neo-Nazis hostile to democracy  have no qualms about serving empire builders who share their ideological hostility to democrats, socialists, federalists and culturally ‘diverse’ societies and states.  So they are targeted for recruitment by the empire builders.

The riff-raff consider themselves ‘strategic allies’ of the Euro-American empire builders.  The latter, however, have no strategic allies – only strategic interests.  Their tactical alliances with the riff-raff endure until they secure control over the state and eliminate their adversaries.  Then the imperialist seek to demote, co-opt, marginalize or eliminate their ‘inconvenient’ riff-raff allies.  The falling out comes about when the fundamentalists and neo-Nazis seek to restrict capital, especially foreign capital and impose restrictions on imperial control over resources and territory. At first the empire builders seek ‘opportunists’ among the riff-raff, those willing to sacrifice their ‘ideals’ for money and office.  Those who refuse are relegated to secondary positions distant from strategic decision-making or to remote outposts.  Those who resist are assassinated or jailed.  The disposal of the riff-raff serves the empire on two counts.  It provides the client regime with a fig leaf of respectability and disarms western critics targeting the extremist component of the junta.

The riff-raff, however, with arms, fighting experience and financing, in the course of struggle, gains confidence in its own power.  They do not easily submit to Euro-US strategies.  They also have ‘strategic plans’ of their own, in which they seek political power to further their ideological agenda and enrich their followers.

The riff-raff, want to ‘transition’ from shock troops of empire into rulers in their own right.  Hence the assaults on the US embassy in Libya, the assassination of Euro-American proxies in Syria, Right Sector riots against the Kiev junta.

Conclusion

A new power bloc is emerging on a global scale.  It is already flexing its muscles.  It has come to power in India, Turkey, Ukraine and Israel.  It brings together big business, technocrats and ethno-religious fascists.  They promote unrestrained capitalist expansion in association with Euro-American imperialism.

Scientists, economists, and IT specialists design the programs and plans to realize the profits of local and foreign capitalists.  The ethno-fascists mobilize the ‘masses’ to attack minorities and class organizations threatening high rates of returns.

The Euro-Americans contribute to this ‘new power bloc’ by promoting their own ‘troika’ made up of ‘neo-liberal clients’, fundamentalists and neo-Nazis to overthrow nationalist adversaries.  The advance of imperialism and capitalism in the 21st century is based on the harnessing of the most advanced technology and up-to-date media outlets with the most retrograde political and social leaders and ideologies.

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May 132014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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I stopped. A funeral was going by. A pauper’s burial. Only a woman and a child followed. I asked an old man looking on who it was.

“A neighbor who sold fruit and vegetables and couldn’t pay the rent”.

He looked up puzzled. “How could they afford a coffin, a burial site and a stone if he couldn’t put food on the table when he was alive?”

            My grandfathers, stone cutters would find plenty of work: people of all ages are dying every day. The authorities call them “unnatural deaths”. But how many grave sites have tomb stones?

            I gaze up at the Acropolis and the marble columns of the Parthenon shimmer under a brilliant blue sky . . . and I trip over a ragged body stretched across the sidewalk, a blackened hand grasping a crust of bread.

            I walk past the dead. I walk over the dying. And I hurry away from a wild-eyed, white bearded raving madman screaming in a high-pitched hoarse voice. “The crises is over! The banks are rich! We are saved!”

       I enter the Byzantine museum, a refuge from the turmoil, an inexpensive escape into the past . . . or is it? The ticket sellers, guards and guides are nowhere to be seen … Are they on strike? Or have they been fired? Or both? I walk alone, unmolested, through a thousand years: the rise and fall of Constantinople.

            Is there a museum of modern Greece? Two hundred years of revolutions and imported monarchs. Of Great Ideas that bred Catastrophes. Of unsavory dictators and collaborators. Of heroic resistance fighters and concentration camps. Of juntas and student martyrs. Of alternating Conservative and Socialist kleptocrats.

            A museum depicting the collapse of illusions of wealth and streets paved with euros. A European city converted into the home for one hundred thousand beggars and two million unemployed.

            The bagmen are coming – its election time. The scrawny hands of impoverished pensioners reach out . . . A grizzly bald Socratic look-alike lines up at a soup kitchen. He questions the Athenians: “Do you believe the democratic authorities will add meat to the watery soup?”.

            Kimon, a recent graduate of Athens University, a classical scholar, sells counterfeit ancient coins on a street corner. He tells me an authentic fifth century Arethusa dekadrachm signed by Kimon or Euainetos or Eumenos would feed a thousand unemployed Greeks for a year, maybe two, if they are vegetarians.

            I stood behind a small crowd in front of a kiosk reading the headlines of the newspapers (who buys them these days?). An excited woman pushed her way out of the semi-circle and screeched to the silent on-lookers. “The Nazis called the Jews, Communists … the gas chambers,  showers. The Americans call the fascists who burned alive three dozen workers in Odessa, Ukrainian Nationalists”. She turned abruptly and walked quickly down the street. The others mumbled incoherently and drifted away. A nattily dressed businessman smiled at me and nodded his head as if to say “Only a crazy woman screams in the street like her”.

 

Reflections on Odessa

James Petras

            Some things do not change, despite world-historic catastrophes.  Back in the late 19thcentury, Isaac Babel witnessed and described mobs, self-described as “Black Hundreds”, rampaging the streets of Odessa, dragging red-bearded Jews through the streets, sacking and burning their stores. Dozens of Jews were murdered and hundreds fled to sanctuaries. Terrible times, indeed!

But how much worse today when the progeny of the Black Hundreds and the proud descendants of Nazi collaborators, who now call themselves the ‘Right Forum’, roam the streets of Odessa with impunity and license, beating whomever they encounter.

Women, adolescents and pensioners fled, seeking refuge in a Trade Union Center. The contemporary Nazi’s firebombed the Center, incinerating forty and forcing others to jump from windows to their death. And those injured from their fall … beaten to a bloody pulp.

The Right Forum flaunts the worst of the Black Hundreds and Nazi legacy of mayhem and massacres.

The pogroms of the Black Hundreds of the pre-revolution were nothing compared to the genocide of the Ukrainian Waffen Galician Nichtengall and Roland Division. Eighty thousand Ukrainian fascists led by Stepan Bandera  served as Hitler’s willing executioners. They murdered millions of Poles and Jews and Ukrainians. Even their Nazi overseers were appalled by the buzz-saw assassinations.

The children of the Bandera genocidists, in recognition of their Nazi roots, first called themselves the “Social-National Party of the Ukraine”. They changed to “Right Sector” and “Svoboda”, so as not to offend the sensibilities of their new Western paymasters. Still, in remembrance of times past, the Right Sector, in the tradition of Bandera, knows best how to burn alive those “fake Ukrainians” who speak Russian or support socialists or protest the American designated junta that they, the Right Sector, brought to power.

Ukrainian fascists have been  given license to kill: in the past at the service of the Tsar, later with Hitler, today for the United States. The Ukraine is the center of the resurgence of European fascism taking state power: armed and willing to exterminate any enemy of the puppet junta.

Yes, Odessa has ‘changed’ since the time of Babel. It was liberated by Revolution, ravaged by civil war, starved by Stalin, genocided by Germans and Ukrainian Nazis . . .  who juxtaposed the swastika to a background of national colors.

Yes, the Nazis were defeated . . . but not forever!

Yes, the pogroms of the Jews ended . . . because there were so few.

Yes, half the population speaks Russian . . . but for how long?

Yes, there are new industries . . .  but they are closing.

Yes, the “black earth” was the granary of Russia . . . but now it is owned by foreign billionaires.

Yes, the Ukraine was independent . . . but elections, uprisings and coups were bought and sold in, by and for… the free market.

The Ukraine is ruled by a US appointed junta that seized power through a US financed coup. A junta which rules through pogroms and military massacres. They terrorize the towns and countryside; they roam the city streets and occupy the squares. They hate to death the workers self-governing councils and popular militias which have sprang up spontaneously, free of Russian tutelage and junta appointed oppressors.

In Babel’s time, Jewish workers, under fascist siege, joined the Red Army and wealthy merchants offered their daughters in marriage to Bolshevik commanders.

Today the architect of the  pogroms, the ethnic cleansing of Russian speakers, is a leading American policymaker, a Jew, who calls herself Victoria Nuland (nee Nudelman).

In Odessa and throughout the Ukraine , under the heel of  the Kiev junta, the legacy of the Black Hundreds and the Nazi collaborators lives on, despite a century of world shattering events.  Only the sponsors, organizers and paymasters have changed.

But let’s not forget the other legacy of the Ukraine: the four million heroic Ukrainians who fought in the victorious Red Army that defeated Nazi Germany and decimated its Ukrainian collaborators. That legacy lives on, in today’s self-governing workers councils and popular militias.

 

Conversations:  Scholars and Farm Workers

James Petras

            Conversations with farm workers, migrants and other subjects of academic publications.

The basic question, never asked by established and up and coming academics is: What do the subjects who answers my questions get out of it? The academic will write an article in a professional journal or a book for a scholarly press. Publication leads to an appointment, a promotion, and life time employment, a substantial salary with health insurance, a pension, travel funds and time paid to conduct studies.

A Mexican farm worker who was asked for an interview, walked away. The scholar followed him explaining the importance of the study and its relevance “to improving the life of the community through greater understanding”.

The worker stopped and looked his pursuer in the eyes “How much will you pay me for my time?”

The scholar was taken aback hesitated and asked; “Why do you expect to be paid?”

And the peasant answered; “Why not?  You are paid to write books . . . my interview will help you write your books. You pay me for my time and answers.”

The scholar argued in vain: “My publications take the side of the farm workers, peasants, the immigrants, my writing exposes the exploitation by landlords and supports peasant resistance.”

The peasant answered; “But those exploiters, at least pay me. I am resisting your attempt to secure my labor without remuneration”.

The scholar moved on to interview another peasant and explained that “the study would improve the life of the community by making the world aware of the plight of the immigrant Indians”.

The Indian asked “What ‘world’ reads about Indians in the fields. Only others like you. They read your writings in order to interview other Indians in order to publish books. And, all of you live in a different world. Will your books or articles raise my wages, secure me credit, build a road to market”?

Some demanded equality of wages: one hour interviews at the pay rates of the scholars.

Others, the wisest, demanded pre-payment of village improvements. Because they quickly learned that the wily, scholars did not fulfill their promises; the interviews were completed, with handshakes and promises. But the streets were never paved.

According to peasants, it turned out that the worst exploiters were not the landowners who paid a miserable wage, but the scholars who insisted on work without pay. And worst, deprived the peasants of family time, of free time among friends and companions.

The peasants have yet to write their book about scholars who profit from unpaid labor and academics who refuse to answer the peasants’ basic question “What do we get out of it?”

May 092014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Not since the US and EU took over Eastern Europe, including the Baltic countries, East Germany, Poland and the Balkans and converted them into military outposts of NATO and economic vassals, have the Western powers moved so aggressively to seize a strategic country, such as the Ukraine, posing an existential threat to Russia.

Up until 2013 the Ukraine was a ‘buffer state’, basically a non-aligned country, with economic ties to both the EU and Russia.  Ruled by a regime closely tied to local, European, Israeli and Russian based oligarchs, the political elite was a product of a political upheaval in 2004, (the so-called “Orange Revolution”) funded by the US.  Subsequently, for the better part of a decade the Ukraine underwent a failed experiment in Western backed ‘neo-liberal’ economic policies.  After nearly two decades of political penetration, the US and EU were deeply entrenched in the political system via long-standing funding of so-called non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), political parties and paramilitary groups.

The strategy of the US and EU was to install a pliant regime which would bring Ukraine into the European Common Market and NATO as a subordinate client state.  Negotiations between the EU and the Ukraine government proceeded slowly.  They eventually faltered because of the onerous conditions demanded by the EU and the more favorable economic concessions and subsidies offered by Russia. Having failed to negotiate the annexation of the Ukraine to the EU, and not willing to await scheduled constitutional elections, the NATO powers activated their well-financed and organized NGOs, client political leaders and armed paramilitary groups to violently overthrow the elected government.  The violent putsch succeeded and a US-appointed civilian-military junta took power.

The junta was composed of pliant neo-liberal and chauvinist neo-fascist ‘ministers’.  The former were hand-picked by the US, to administer and enforce a new political and economic order, including privatization of public firms and resources, breaking trade and investment ties with Russia, eliminating a treaty allowing the Russian naval base in Crimea and ending  military-industrial exports to Russia.  The neo-fascists and sectors of the military and police were appointed to ministerial positions in order to violently repress any pro-democracy opposition in the West and East.  They oversaw the repression of bilingual speakers (Russian-Ukrainian), institutions and practices – turning the opposition to the US-NATO imposed coup regime into an ethnic opposition.  They purged all elected opposition office holders in the West and East and appointed local governors by fiat – essentially creating a martial law regime.

The Strategic Targets of the NATO-Junta

NATOs violent, high-risk seizure of the Ukraine was driven by several strategic military objectives.  These included:

1.)    The ousting of Russia from its military bases in Crimea – turning them into NATO bases facing Russia.

2.)    The conversion of the Ukraine into a springboard for penetrating Southern Russia and the Caucasus; a forward position to politically manage and support liberal pro-NATO parties and NGOs within Russia.

3.)    The disruption of key sectors of the Russian military defense industry, linked to the Ukrainian factories, by ending the export of critical engines and parts to Russia.

The Ukraine had long been an important part of the Soviet Union’s military industrial complex.  NATO planners behind the putsch were keenly aware that one-third of the Soviet defense industry had remained in the Ukraine after the break-up of the USSR and that forty percent of the Ukraine’s exports to Russia, until recently, consisted of armaments and related machinery.  More specifically, the Motor-Sikh plant in Eastern Ukraine manufactured most of the engines for Russian military helicopters including a current contract to supply engines for one thousand attack helicopters.  NATO strategists immediately directed their political stooges in Kiev to suspend all military deliveries to Russia, including medium-range air-to air-missiles, inter-continental ballistic missiles, transport planes and space rockets (Financial Times, 4/21/14, p3).   US and EU military strategists viewed the Kiev putsch as a way to undermine Russian air, sea and border defenses.  President Putin has acknowledged the blow but insists that Russia will be able to substitute domestic production for the critical parts within two years.  This means the loss of thousands of skilled factory jobs in Eastern Ukraine.

4.   The military encirclement of Russia with forward NATO bases in the Ukraine matching those from the Baltic to the Balkans, from Turkey to the Caucasus and then onward from Georgia into the autonomous Russian Federation.

The US-EU encirclement of Russia is designed to end Russian access to the North Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.  By encircling and confining Russia to an isolated landmass without ‘outlets to the sea’, US-EU empire builders seek to limit Russia’s role as a rival power center and possible counter-weight to its imperial ambitions in the Middle East, North Africa, Southwest Asia and the North Atlantic.

Ukraine Putsch:  Integral to Imperial Expansion

The US and EU are intent on destroying independent, nationalist and non-aligned governments throughout the world and converting them into imperial satellites by whatever means are effective.  For example, the current NATO-armed mercenary invasion of Syria is directed at overthrowing the nationalist, secular Assad government and establishing a pro-NATO vassal state, regardless of the bloody consequences to the diverse Syrian people.  The attack on Syria serves multiple purposes: Eliminating a Russian ally and its Mediterranean naval base; undermining a supporter of Palestine and adversary of Israel; encircling the Islamic Republic of Iran and the powerful militant Hezbollah Party in Lebanon and establishing new military bases on Syrian soil.

The NATO seizure of the Ukraine has a multiplier effect that reaches ‘upward’ toward Russia and ‘downward’ toward the Middle East and consolidates control over its vast oil wealth.

The recent NATO wars against Russian allies or trading partners confirm this prognosis.  In Libya, the independent, non-aligned policies of the Gadhafi regime stood out in stark contrast to the servile Western satellites like Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia.  Gadhafi was overthrown and Libya destroyed via a massive NATO air assault.  Egypt’s mass popular anti-Mubarak rebellion and emerging democracy were subverted by a military coup and eventually returned the country to the US-Israeli-NATO orbit – under a brutal dictator. Armed incursions by NATO proxy, Israel, against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as the US-EU sanctions against Iran are all directed against potential allies or trading partners of Russia.

The US has moved forcefully from encircling Russia via ‘elections and free markets’ in Eastern Europe to relying on military force, death squads, terror and economic sanctions in the Ukraine, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Asia.

Regime Change in Russia:  from Global Power to Vassal State

Washington’s strategic objective is to isolate Russia from without, undermine its military capability and erode its economy, in order to strengthen NATO’s political and economic collaborators inside Russia – leading to its further fragmentation and return to the semi-vassal status.

The imperial strategic goal is to place neo-liberal political proxies in power in Moscow, just like the ones who oversaw the pillage and destruction of Russia during the infamous Yeltsin decade.  The US-EU power grab in the Ukraine is a big step in that direction.

Evaluating the Encirclement and Conquest Strategy

So far NATO’s seizure of the Ukraine has not moved forward as planned.  First of all, the violent seizure of power by overtly pro-NATO elites openly reneging on military treaty agreements with Russia over bases in Crimea, had forced Russia to intervene in support of the local, overwhelmingly ethnic Russian population.  Following a free and open referendum, Russia annexed the region and secured its strategic military presence.

While Russia retained its naval presence on the Black Sea … the NATO junta in Kiev unleashed a large-scale military offensive against the pro-democracy, anti-coup Russian-speaking majority in the eastern half of the Ukraine who have been demanding a federal form of government reflecting Ukraine’s cultural diversity.  The US-EU promoted a “military response” to mass popular dissent and encouraged the coup-regime to eliminate the civil rights of the Russian speaking majority through neo-Nazi terror and to force the population to accept junta-appointed regional rulers in place of their elected leaders.  In response to this repression, popular self-defense committees and local militias quickly sprang up and the Ukrainian army was initially forced back with thousands of soldiers refusing to shoot their own compatriots on behalf of the Western –installed regime in Kiev.   For a while, the NATO-backed neo-liberal-neo-fascist coalition junta had to contend with the disintegration of its ‘power base’.  At the same time, ‘aid’ from the EU, IMF and the US failed to compensate for the cut-off of Russian trade and energy subsidies. Under the advise of visiting US CIA Director, Brenner, the Kiev Junta then dispatched its elite “special forces” trained by the CIA and FBI to carry out massacres against pro-democracy civilians and popular militias. They bussed in armed thugs to the diverse city of Odessa who staged an ‘exemplary’ massacre:  Burning the city’s major trade union headquarters and slaughtering 41, mostly unarmed civilians who were trapped in the building with its exits blocked by neo-Nazis.  The dead included many women and teenagers who had sought shelter from the rampaging neo-Nazis.  The survivors were brutally beaten and imprisoned by the ‘police’ who had passively watched while the building burned.

The Coming Collapse of the Putsch-Junta

Obama’s Ukraine power grab and his efforts to isolate Russia have provoked some opposition in the EU.  Clearly US sanctions prejudice major European multi-nationals with deep ties in Russia.  The US military build-up in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Black Sea raises tensions and threatens a large-scale military conflagration, disrupting major economic contracts.  US-EU threats on Russia’s border have increased popular support for President Putin and strengthened the Russian leadership.  The strategic power grab in the Ukraine has radicalized and deepened the polarization of Ukrainian politics-between neo-fascist and pro-democracy forces.

While the imperial strategists are extending and escalating their military build-up in Estonia and Poland and pouring arms into the Ukraine, the entire power grab rests on very precarious political and economic foundations- which could collapse within the year – amidst a bloody civil war/ inter-ethnic slaughter.

The Ukraine junta has already lost political control of over a third of the country to pro-democracy, anti-coup movements and self-defense militias.  By cutting off strategic exports to Russia to serve US military interests, the Ukraine lost one of its most important markets, which cannot be replaced. Under NATO control, Ukraine will have to buy NATO-specified military hardware leading to the closure of its factories geared to the Russian market.   The loss of Russian trade is already leading to mass unemployment, especially among skilled industrial workers in the East who may be forced to immigrate to Russia.  Ballooning trade deficits and the erosion of state revenues will bring a total economic collapse.  Thirdly, as a result of the Kiev junta’s submission to NATO, the Ukraine has lost billions of dollars in subsidized energy from Russia. High energy costs make Ukrainian industries non-competitive in global markets.  Fourthly, in order to secure loans from the IMF and the EU, the junta has agreed to eliminate food and energy price subsidies, severely depressing household incomes and plunging pensioners into destitution.  Bankruptcies are on the rise, as imports from the EU and elsewhere displace formerly protected local industries.

No new investments are flowing in because of the violence, instability and conflicts between neo-fascists and neo-liberals within he junta.  Just to stabilize the day-to-day operations of government, the junta needs a no-interest $30 billion dollar handout – from its NATO patrons, an amount, which is not forthcoming now or in the immediate future.

It is clear that NATO ‘strategists’ who planned the putsch were only thinking about weakening Russia militarily and gave no thought to the political, economic and social costs of sustaining a puppet regime in Kiev when Ukraine had been so dependent on Russian markets, loans and subsidized energy.  Moreover, they appear to have overlooked the political, industrial and agricultural dynamics of the predictably hostile Eastern regions of the country.  Alternately, Washington strategists may have based their calculations on instigating a Yugoslavia-style break-up accompanied by massive ethnic cleansing amidst population transfers and slaughter.  Undeterred by the millions of civilian casualties, Washington considers its policy of dismantling Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya to have been great political-military successes.

Ukraine most certainly will enter a prolonged and deep depression, including a precipitous decline in its exports, employment and output.  Possibly, economic collapse will lead to nationwide protests and social unrest:  spreading from East to West, from South to North.  Social upheavals and mass misery may further undermine the morale of the Ukrainian armed forces. Even now, Kiev can barely afford to feed its soldiers and has to rely on neo-Fascist volunteer militias who may be hard to control.  The US-EU are not likely to intervene directly with an Libya-style bombing campaign since they would face a prolonged war on Russia’s border at a time when public opinion in the US is suffering from imperial war exhaustion, and European business interests with links to Russian resource companies are resisting consequential sanctions.

The US-EU putsch has produced a failing regime and a society riven by violent conflicts – spinning into open ethnic violence.  What, in fact, has ensued is a system of dual power with contenders cutting across regional boundaries.  The Kiev junta lacks the coherence and stability to serve as a reliable NATO military link in the encirclement of Russia.  On the contrary, US-EU sanctions, military threats and bellicose rhetoric are forcing Russians to quickly rethink their ‘openness’ to the West.  The strategic threats to its national security are leading Russia to review its ties to Western banks and corporations.  Russia may have to resort to a policy of expanded industrialization via public investments and import substitution. Russian oligarchs, having lost their overseas holdings, may become less central to Russian economic policy.

What is clear is that the power grab in Kiev will not result in a ‘knife pointed at the heartland of Russia’.  The ultimate defeat and overthrow of the Kiev junta can lead to a radicalized self-governing Ukraine, based on the burgeoning democratic movements and rising working class consciousness.  This will have to emerge from their struggle against IMF austerity programs and Western asset stripping of Ukraine’s resources and enterprises. The industrial workers of Ukraine who succeed in throwing off the yoke of the western vassals in Kiev have no intention of submitting themselves to the yoke of the Russian oligarchs.  Their struggle is for a democratic state, capable of developing an independent economic policy, free of imperial military alliances.

Epilogue:

May Day 2014:  Dual Popular Power in the East, Fascism Rising in the West

The predictable falling out between the neo-fascists and neo-liberal partners in the Kiev junta was evidenced by large-scale riots, between rival street gangs and police on May Day.  The US-EU strategy envisioned using the neo-fascists as ‘shock troops’ and street fighters in overthrowing the elected regime of Yankovich and later discarding them.  As exemplified by the notorious taped conversation between Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Kiev, the EU-US strategists promote their own handpicked neoliberal proxies to represent foreign capital, impose austerity policies and sign treaties for foreign military bases.  In contrast, the neo-fascist militias and parties would favor nationalist economic policies, retaining state enterprises and are likely to be hostile to oligarchs, especially those with ‘dual Israeli-Ukraine’ citizenship.

The Kiev junta’s inability to develop an economic strategy, its violent seizure of power and repression of pro-democracy dissidents in the East has led to a situation of ‘dual power’.  In many cases, troops sent to repress the pro-democracy movements have abandoned their weapons, abandoned the Kiev junta and joined the self-governing movements in the East.

Apart from its outside backers-the White House, Brussels and IMF – the Kiev junta has been abandoned by its rightwing allies in  Kiev for being too subservient to NATO and resisted by the pro-democracy movement in the East for being authoritarian and centralist.  The Kiev junta has fallen between two chairs:  it lacks legitimacy among most Ukrainians and has lost control of all but a small patch of land occupied by government offices in Kiev and even those are under siege by the neo-fascist rightand increasingly from its own disenchanted former supporters.

Let us be absolutely clear, the struggle in the Ukraine is not between the US and Russia, it is between a NATO-imposed junta composed of neo-liberal oligarchs and fascists on one side and the industrial workers and their local militias and democratic councils on the other.  The former defends and obeys the IMF and Washington; the latter relies on the productive capacity of local industry and rules by responding to the majority.

James Petras is a retired Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York and adjunct professor at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who has published prolifically on Latin American and Middle Eastern political issues.

May 082014
 

El análisis de James Petras, 99GetSmart

 US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland together Neo Nazi Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok (left)

US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland together Neo Nazi Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok (left)

“Debemos tener claro que hay una ofensiva militarizada con metas totalitarias, que quieren hacer una gran purga en Ucrania para desplazar todas las fuerzas que están contra el rompimiento de relaciones con Rusia y están en contra de la subordinación a la OTAN y Europa. Porque saben que el comercio con Rusia es muy favorable a Ucrania, mientras que el comercio con Europa y Estados Unidos va a destruir el 90% de las industrias ucranianas”, dijo el sociólogo norteamericano James Petras en CX36 (*) al descartar de plano que en Ucrania existe un conflicto violento. Agregó que “la prensa occidental -incluida la pseudo progresista como Página/12 de Argentina o La Jornada de México- es muy cómplice en esto” ya que “no habla del pueblo ucraniano democrático anti Junta golpista” sino que “todos hacen la misma caracterización” y hablan “de los ‘pro rusos’ que están protestando y que la violencia no se puede ubicar en ningún lado, porque son ambos bandos que están involucrados. Cuando esta noticia circula en el mejor de los casos confunde a la gente en el occidente y en el peor de los casos estimulan a la agresividad contra el pueblo ucraniano”, indicó. Transcribimos íntegramente este análisis de James Petras que Usted puede volver a escuchar en el siguiente link: http://content.jwplatform.com/players/f26JABm6-WTuD9Czf.html

Efraín Chury Iribarne: Estamos con muchísimo gusto dándole la bienvenida en nuestra emisión a James Petras allí en Estados Unidos, ¿cómo estás?

James Petras: Estamos muy bien aquí, estamos en la primavera, por todos lados las flores están floreciendo particularmente, las tulipas.

EChI: Muy bien.

Comencemos por Ucrania, donde se ha desatado una masacre y particularmente los diarios alemanes han revelado que es muy alta la cantidad de asesores de la CIA y del FBI que están en Kiev en este momento.

JP: Hay que analizar la situación en conjunto.

El gobierno en Kiev es producto de un golpe financiado por los Estados Unidos, es un gobierno con una Junta Civil Militar pero no tiene el apoyo de muchos sectores de la sociedad, incluso en Kiev. Más allá de eso, han afectado a los sectores importantes del ejército.

No hay ninguna parte de la sociedad que sea fiel a la Junta de Kiev. Por eso, para fortalecer la Junta, los Estados Unidos han mandado tres tipos de intervenciones. Una es la fuerza especial que está contratando mercenarios para actuar en favor de Kiev; segundo la Policía Federal, el FBI norteamericano que se está organizando para la purga, la purga y las investigaciones alrededor del gobierno para evitar que surjan otras movilizaciones contra la Junta. Y tercero la CIA, que está trabajando con los fascistas y neofascistas organizando las masacres que hemos visto en Odessa.

Lo que falta al gobierno de la Junta en Kiev, los Estados Unidos –principalmente- se lo está dando, lo sustituye con su propia fuerza. Es una fuerza intervencionista para fortalecer un régimen muy frágil que ha perdido el apoyo que tuvo en algún momento. Así, sus esfuerzos de conquistar el Este sólo tienen las fuerzas especiales capaces de masacrar y matar su propio pueblo.

La prensa occidental es muy cómplice en esta cosa. No habla del pueblo ucraniano democrático anti Junta, hablan de ‘los sectores pro rusos’, como no tenían una identidad de Ucrania; que la gran mayoría son obreros industriales; y las preocupaciones no son sobre Rusia pero en la pérdida de trabajo, la pérdida de ingreso, la pérdida de estabilidad, la pérdida de la democracia -por limitada que sea-; pero en vez de eso podemos leer en el Financial Times, en La Nación de Argentina y en la prensa seudo progresista como Página/12 argentina o La Jornada mexicana, todos hacen la misma caracterización que la prensa burguesa que son los ‘pro rusos’ que están protestando y que la violencia no se puede ubicar en ningún lado, porque son ambos bandos que están involucrados. Cuando esta noticia circula en el mejor de los casos confunde a la gente en el occidente y en el peor de los casos estimulan a la agresividad contra el pueblo ucraniano.

EChI: ¿La situación violenta se mantiene entonces?

JP: No es violencia. Es una ofensiva centrada en el genocidio contra los que hablan ruso en Ucrania, que en gran parte son proletarios, obreros que trabajan en la industria siderúrgica, en las minas de carbón, en las empresas manufactureras, particularmente del sector armamentista. Son los ruso – parlantes los que están cultivando las tierras negras de Ucrania..

Debemos tener claro que hay una ofensiva militarizada con metas totalitarias, que quieren hacer una gran purga en Ucrania para desplazar todas las fuerzas que están contra el rompimiento de relaciones con Rusia y están en contra de la subordinación a la OTAN y Europa. Porque saben que el comercio con Rusia es muy favorable a Ucrania, mientras que el comercio con Europa y Estados Unidos va a destruir el 90% de las industrias ucranianas.

Esa es la situación que debemos entender. No es simplemente una situación de violencia. Los Consejos Obreros y Populares en Ucrania del Este, son un embrión de la democracia socialista. Las Milicias Populares, son el germen de un Ejército de Liberación, no son simplemente violentos, como la prensa presenta en la propaganda occidental. Son formas de actuar del pueblo autónomas. No son el producto de la intervención rusa.Al contrario Rusia ha adoptado una posición bastante distante de los acontecimientos. Rusia simplemente quería volver a un gobierno estable, un gobierno neutral frente a los grandes lineamientos, etc. Lo que Rusia apoyaba en Ucrania antes del golpe de Estado era un gobierno de centro derecha que mantenía relaciones económicas con Rusia y con Europa.

Ahora, con el gobierno dominado por la OTAN han tomado posiciones críticas pero Rusia no tienen nada que ver con la auto organización, la democracia en Consejos ni las milicias populares. Eso no existe en Rusia pero si existe en el Este ucraniano como forma de resistencia a los neo fascistas y los golpistas en Kiev.

EChI: Se habla del apoyo de Polonia y los países bálticos a los fascistas ucranianos.

JP: Bueno Polonia está dominada por gobiernos muy a la derecha. Lo que existe en Polonia es una mezcla de nacionalismo patológico con subordinación a la OTAN:

Polonia fue le país más apoyante a la política derechista de Estados Unidos, fue muy apoyante desde (Ronald) Reagan a (George) Bush, etc., todos los más agresivos en Estados Unidos. Los gobernantes tienen fobia contra Rusia, tienen fobia contra el comunismo. Y no me sorprendería que los polacos estén entrenando los sectores más derechistas, más fascistas en Ucrania. A pesar de que los fascistas masacraron a los polacos en la Segunda Guerra Mundial. No importa la historia, lo que importa es la coincidencia entre la política de los neofacistas en Ucrania actualmente con los gobernantes en Polonia hoy.

EChI: Nos venimos a Venezuela, donde asesinaron a un guardaespaldas de Maduro (1), lo que demuestra que la derecha sigue actuando.

JP: Los fascistas y los golpistas en Venezuela no han parado, sus organizaciones se mantienen intactas, han perdido a algunos cabecillas –algún alcalde, algún dirigente, etc.- pero la estructura sigue y mantiene relaciones clandestinas con los empresarios y los sectores de los gobernadores de derecha que están negociando con el gobierno.

El sector capitalista busca extraer las mayores concesiones, o mejor dicho un ‘pacto de producción’ con el gobierno de (Nicolás) Maduro. Mientras tanto tienen cuerdos sueltos los fascistas, para en cualquier momento marcar distancia e incluso pueden llegar a denunciarlos. Pero mientras tanto siguen tratando de liberar a los encarcelados fascistas.

Por tanto, mantienen  un doble discurso: buscando un pacto y condiciones favorables con el gobierno, fundamentalmente recibir dólares para las importaciones, la especulación y el robo; y por otro lado no descartan el resorte a los fascistas en cualquier momento.

Es una situación de conducta compleja. Debemos decir que a pesar que hay sectores capitalistas que están buscando negociar o están negociando con el gobierno de Maduro, incluso algunos han dado declaraciones favorables a las medidas pro capital de Maduro;  ellos no están satisfechos con Maduro estratégicamente. Lo quieren reemplazar por alguno de ellos para desbaratar completamente la parte social de la política actual.

Entonces hay un tira y afloje en la derecha, según los momentos y circunstancias. En este momento con la caída de los derechistas y el fin de las grandes movilizaciones en esta coyuntura, buscan conseguir en las negociaciones lo que no consiguieron en la calle.

EChI: El presidente uruguayo José Mujica –que dice ser muy amigo de Maduro y que lo fue de Chávez también- en siete días estará visitando la Casa Blanca y según dijo, en la conversación con Barack Obama “no se callará nada”. ¿Qué puede surgir de esa reunión?

JP: En primer lugar, hay que saber que a pesar de que la prensa y el oficialismo sigue tratando al gobierno de Mujica como de ‘izquierda’, la imagen de Mujica es muy positiva en las páginas financieras aquí y entre los círculos más influyentes del capitalismo. Están muy impresionados con la política de apertura a los grandes capitales y a la inversión extranjera, fundamentalmente en la minería y en la agricultura.

En segundo lugar, consideran que es muy favorable a la estabilidad política que los gobernantes del Frente Amplio han impuesto en Uruguay y sobre todo el ambiente para las inversiones, que entienden que es mucho más favorable en Uruguay que en Argentina. Brasil o Paraguay.

Por tanto Mujica viene aquí con una gran percepción positiva.

Ahora, si él quiere mencionar algo sobre Venezuela, Obama le va a palmear el hombro, lo va a escuchar, le dirá que puede tener divergencias entre las grandes convergencias, etc. Pero no van a tomar en serio  lo que Mujica diga sobre algún cambio en lo que refiere a la política norteamericana referente a Cuba o Venezuela.

Ocuparán el 95% del tiempo en hablar de los negocios, de la colaboración de Uruguay en los asuntos militares y económicos, de las convergencias estratégicas y la búsqueda de fortalecer esos lazos capitalistas. Esto me parece más probable de acuerdo a los indicios oficiales aquí, no se espera ninguna ruptura ni mucho menos, sabiendo que las críticas y divergencias son al margen de las conversaciones serias.

EChI: Estos últimos minutos, como siempre, los dejamos para que nos hable de los temas en los que esté trabajando y quiera destacar.

JP: Bueno, hay dos temas.

El primero  es la masacre de Odessa. Los fascistas entraron a Odessa con autobuses y helicópteros que les dio el gobierno de Kiev. Es decir, el asesinato en un incendio de más de 40 personas en Odessa fue algo planificado, no fue simplemente un ‘conflicto’ espontáneo. Además, las víctimas fueron mujeres y adolescentes que buscaron refugio de la muchedumbre fascista de la calle. Y el acto de asaltar y quemar a los refugiados a sangre fría, me parece uno de los peores actos en los últimos años en toda Europa.

Es difícil imaginar un acto tan fríamente calculado como ese.

Mientras tanto la prensa todavía en occidente está tratando de disfrazar esta masacre como si fuera un conflicto, como si hubiera sido un grupo marginal o provocadores; pero está muy claro que los que están involucrados son los mismos que comparten el gobierno de la Junta en Kiev, que eso forma parte de la política de advertir a quienes simpatizan con la independencia y la autonomía de Ucrania del Este, que buscan una democracia, van a sufrir las mismas consecuencias. Es un castigo ejemplar de los fascistas, para aterrorizar e inducir a otros sectores a salir del país.

Finalmente lo que buscan es limpiar Ucrania de miles y miles de personas que simpatizan con las reivindicaciones democráticas y lingüísticas. Quieren una Ucrania gobernada por la Junta de Gobierno que actúa bajo el dominio de Europa y Estados Unidos, sin distinción, sin oposición y sin ningún vínculo con Rusia.

Esta masacre  me parece algo similar a lo que pasaba en Rusia durante la época del zar, cuando en Odessa ocurren muchos pogromos (3). Hoy son pogromos contra los rusos. El legado actual de los Black Hundreds (4), es la derecha fascista que hoy está haciendo lo mismo, pero como no hay judíos están matando a los demócratas, a los obreros y simpatizantes de la democracia.

El otro tema que quería tratar es la detención de Gerry Adams (5), dirigente del Sinn Féinn, que fue detenido tres semanas antes de las elecciones.

El Sinn Féinn es el Partido Republicano que quiere la independencia de Inglaterra y Adams está  encarcelado hace cuatro días bajo interrogatorio de más de 17 horas por día, acusado de estar involucrado en un asesinato de hace 40 años.

Esta es una provocación electoral para tratar de frenar el crecimiento de los nacionalistas republicanos frente al deterioro del apoyo de quienes buscan la unidad con Inglaterra. Y no hay ninguna protesta en el mundo anglosajón contra esta intervención, esta provocación.

Gerry Adams es un líder en el Sinn Féinn, es muy popular y está creciendo su popularidad, tiene muchas posibilidades de aumentar el número de representantes en el Parlamento Europeo.Por eso siempre las elecciones en el mundo burgués están bajo la intervención de las fuerzas de la derecha.

El caso Gerry Adams es otro ejemplo de que cuando las fuerzas progresistas están a punto de influir seriamente en el proceso, ellos buscan pretextos para deteriorar esas opciones.

EChI: Muy bien Petras, te agradecemos mucho este análisis, nos reencontramos el lunes.

JP: Muchas gracias, un abrazo a la audiencia en Uruguay y en toda América Latina que nos escucha por Internet.

(*) Escuche en vivo los lunes a las 11:30 horas (hora local) la audición de James Petras por CX36, Radio Centenario desde Montevideo (Uruguay) para todo el mundo a través de: www.radio36.com.uy

Notas de Redacción

(1)  Asesinan a escolta personal de Nicolás Maduro

05/05/14.- Asesinan a escolta personal del presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, cuando salía de una fiesta junto a su esposa. Se llama Marco Cortez y es miembro del equipo de seguridad de confianza del Presidente de Venezuela.

El guardaespaldas ha sido asesinado con varios tiros de bala por individuos que lo siguieron desde otro carro. Cortez trabajó con Maduro, pero también era parte del grupo de seguridad del ex mandatario fallecido Hugo Chávez, durante 6 años.

(2) Mujica viaja a Estados Unidos con siete ministros, dirigentes sindicales y de las Cámaras empresariales y de Comercio

El presidente José Mujica tiene previsto limitar su visita a Estados Unidos a la ciudad de Washington, a la que llegará el domingo 11 de mayo por la tarde acompañado de los ministros Luis Almagro (Relaciones Exteriores), Eduardo Bonomi (Interior), Susana Muñiz (Salud Pública), Roberto Kreimerman (Industria), Ricardo Ehrlich (Educación) y Mario Bergara (Economía). También concurrirá el subsecretario de Ganadería, Enzo Benech.

El lunes 12 de mayo Mujica se reunirá en la Casa Blanca con el presidente estadounidense, Barack Obama.

El prosecretario de la Presidencia, Diego Cánepa, dijo a El País que en principio no está previsto que Mujica concurra a las universidades que lo invitaron (Stanford, Columbia y Harvard, entre otras), ni a la Cámara de Comercio de Miami que también estaba interesada en recibirlo. La agenda definitiva de esta visita de alto perfil quedará establecida el próximo martes, aseguró.

El gobierno dará prioridad a plantear al gobierno de Estados Unidos la apertura de ese país a las ventas uruguayas de cordero con hueso y a la negociación de acuerdos en materia de tecnología y educación.

Mujica saldrá el sábado 10 de mayo por la noche de Montevideo y hará escala en Miami. Se embarcará de regreso de Washington el miércoles 15 al caer la tarde.

La Cámara de Comercio Uruguay- Estados Unidos definirá en la próxima semana la composición de su delegación pero ya se sabe que concurrirá uno de sus directivos, el presidente de Endeavor Uruguay, Andrés Cerisola.

Ayer en la tarde la Cancillería invitó formalmente a sumarse a la delegación al presidente de la Cámara Nacional de Comercio y Servicios, Carlos Perera. A la Cámara de Industrias del Uruguay hasta ayer todavía no había llegado ninguna invitación. La invitación a la Cámara de Comercio pedía una rápida respuesta y especificaba que la agenda de la visita presidencial todavía no está definida en su totalidad.

El Pit-Cnt definirá en una reunión el próximo martes 6 cómo se compondrá la delegación de la central sindical que acompañará a Mujica. La delegación del Pit-Cnt tiene previsto mantener contactos en Washington con la central sindical estadounidense, la AFL-CIO. Seguramente vaya uno de los coordinadores de la central.

(3) Los Pogromos de Odessa es un término referido a la violencia antisemita en la ciudad de Odessa (actual Ucrania) que estalló en una serie de episodios en 1821, 1859, 1871, 1881, 1886 y 1905. El puerto de Odessa, en el Mar Negro era un lugar de población multiétnica, con griegos, judíos, rusos, ucranianos y otras comunidades, producto de las oleadas migratorias en torno a la península de Crimea y el Mar Negro a lo largo de los siglos.

Aunque ya se habían producido varios incidentes violentos en 1821 el primer pogromo antisemita de Odessa tuvo lugar en 1859. El pogromo estalló en la Pascua cristiana; y la prensa local, que no guardaba muchas simpatías hacia los judíos, intentó transformarlo en una pelea accidental. Nuevos pogromos se sucedieron en 1871, 1881 y 1886.2

Los pogromos a menudo eran cometidos con la aprobación tácita de las autoridades zaristas. Existen evidencias de que durante el pogromo de 1905 la policía apoyó a los ciudadanos antisemitas.

El bolchevique Piatnitsky, que se encontraba en Odessa en aquel momento cuenta lo que ocurrió: “Allí vi la siguiente escena: una banda de hombres jóvenes, de entre 20-25 años, entre los que se encontraban policías de paisano y miembros del Okhrana, rodeaban a cualquiera que pareciera judío, hombre, mujer o niño, los desnudaban y los golpeaban sin compasión[...] Organizamos de inmediato un grupo de revolucionarios armados con revólveres [...] corrimos hacia ellos y les disparamos, poniéndolos en fuga. Pero de repente entre nosotros y los antisemitas apareció un sólido frente de soldados, armados hasta los dientes y que se enfrentaron a nosotros. Nos retiramos. Los soldados se marcharon y los antisemitas regresaron. Este incidente se produjo en unas pocas ocasiones. Para nosotros estaba claro que los antisemitas estaban actuando conjuntamente con el ejército.”

(4) Los Black Hundreds o Centurias Negras fue un ultranacionalista movimiento en Rusia a principios del siglo XX, que apoyaba el carácter autocrático del régimen zarista en oposición a los movimientos marxistas (revolución de 1905 y revolución de 1917).

(5) El presidente del Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, está detenido por la policía de Irlanda de Norte para ser interrogado en relación con un asesinato cometido por el IRA en 1972.

El pasado mes, Adams, de 65 años, se declaró dispuesto a reunirse con la Policía norirlandesa (PSNI) para tratar del asesinato de Jean McConville, perpetrado hace 40 años por el Ejército Republicano Irlandés (IRA), si bien ha negado su implicación en ese caso.

Adams se presentó este miércoles en una comisaría del condado de Antrim, en el norte de la región, donde fue detenido. En un comunicado, el líder del Sinn Féinn ha recordado su voluntad de colaborar en la investigación.

“Como líder republicano nunca he eludido mi responsabilidad para construir la paz. Esto incluye hacer frente al delicado asunto de las víctimas y sus familias. Siempre que ha sido posible he trabajado para ayudar a las víctimas y los familiares que se han puesto en contacto conmigo. Aunque no estén de acuerdo, esto incluye a la familia de Jean McConville”, ha explicado Adams.

El líder republicano ha insistido en su inocencia respecto al “secuestro, asesinato o entierro de McConville”.

El político republicano Alex Maskey, miembro del Sinn Féin, ha condenado sin embargo el momento de la detención pues considera que se ha producido tres semanas antes de las elecciones europeas.