Aug 012015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Netanyahu and Erdoğan

Netanyahu and Erdoğan

Introduction

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

Erdoğan’s Multiple Wars

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

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

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

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

Netanyahu’s Proxy Wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Jul 272015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonialism by Invitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tragic Beginnings: The Greek People Elect a Trojan Horse

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

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

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

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

The Ultimate Surrender

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

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

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

Epilogue:

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

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

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

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

Jul 142015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

North Eastern University

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Analytical Categories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazil: Corporatism and Class Struggle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Argentina: High Intensity Class Struggle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolivia: From Popular Uprisings to Andean Capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecuador: The Emergence of Middle Class Radicalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 132015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecuador: President Correa and the Right-Left Crossfire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolivia: From Left-Right Confrontation to Accommodation and Continuity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Venezuela: The Right-Left Confrontation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 232015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Activists Protest in Chicago

Introduction

Throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia, rightwing governments have increasingly adopted extremist socio-economic policies, slashing social expenditures, labor and welfare legislation, while increasing corporate subsidies and reducing taxes for the elite.

The rightwing has launched increasingly reckless military interventions via-invasions, proxy wars and massive weapon build-ups on the frontiers of Russia, China and Iran, while engaging in military provocations.

In this essay we will outline the scope and depth of rightwing extremism on a global scale, analyze its consequences and then evaluate the successes or failures of the ‘hard right’. In discussing the rise of hard-right socio-economic regimes and policies, we include traditional social democratic parties, which have pursued extremist agendas.

Washington as the Center of the Hard Right Policies and Militarization

US empire building has been at the forefront promoting military confrontations, invasions, occupations and proxy wars. Washington’s direct involvement has been magnified through its alliances with regional powers and client regimes, which provide soldiers and weapons.

The US military empire-building has led to the growth and consolidation of similar policies among follower regimes throughout the world. Likewise US longstanding reactionary socio-economic policies have served as templates and ‘standards’ for its followers in Europe and Asia as they shred the social ‘safety nets’ and civil contract with their citizens.

In other words, US empire building sends ripple effects throughout the world; its military and pro big business postures have been incorporated, to a large degree, into Baltic, Scandinavian, Eastern and Western European, Middle Eastern and Asian regimes, whether run by traditional, rightwing or social democratic parties. Their policy decisions are largely a result of internal processes: Dominant classes, international bankers and multi-national corporations set the socio-economic agenda while local military elites, with long-standing ties to NATO, have assimilated US military goals.

Among US allies and clients, hard-right militarist and confrontational politics are driven by the notion that they will have their share of imperial booty and that they will benefit from a redrawn geo-political map. The hard-right policies and the assimilation of US militarist doctrines by European, Middle Eastern and Asian regimes are an ‘insurance policy’ for their own survival as well as a weapon to deflect domestic class discontent. In sum, the military build-up is a weapon of regional expansionism and a tool to secure domestic cohesion and maintain power.

Rightwing Extremism in Europe: Baltic, Scandinavia, East and West Europe

Sweden, Norway and Denmark, whether under rightwing or social democratic regimes have slavishly followed the US lead in demonizing Russia and fabricating military threats – even evoking phantom Russian submarines within sight of Stockholm without providing a shred of evidence! The Scandinavian regimes are hardline advocates of US sanctions against Russia and Iran, supporting the kleptocratic-neo-Nazi coalition regime in Kiev, as well as the US bombing of Iraq and Libya and the EU-backed jihadi-terrorists against the secular Syrian government.

The ‘liberal-militarist’ Social Democrats in Sweden, Denmark and Norway back the massive US military build-up in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The latter have engaged in full-scale air, sea and land military maneuvers within view of the Russian border.

Brushing aside their critical leftwing allies,, Swedish and the Danish Social Democrats have slashed social expenditures, increased their military budgets and lowered corporate taxes in the name of “competitiveness” – another euphemism for raising capitalist profits! In other words, the Scandinavian ‘center left’  has ‘stolen’ the domestic and foreign policy agenda of the hard line neo-liberal Right. Moreover, what currently passes for the Red-Green ‘alternative’ has ended up in post-election alliances, providing parliamentary support. The entire spectrum of Baltic and Scandinavian regimes provide military bases, store NATO ‘heavy weapons’ and engage in military exercises designed by the Pentagon and NATO command and directed at Russia. Rightwing radicalism is rampant in Latvia and Lithuania and Finland despite being stuck in a deep recession for almost a decade, resulting from their servile implementation of the IMF’s regressive “austerity programs”.

Poland, always a hothouse for US-style Cold War Russophobia, has been in the vanguard of rightwing extremism. Warsaw provides arms and training to Ukrainian neo-Nazi extremists, and urges the US to station nuclear missiles on Polish territory. Warsaw’s anti-Russian fanaticism is clearly evident in its refusal to import Russian oil and gas, relying instead on highly toxic ‘brown coal’, which has caused about 41,000 premature deaths a year, according to Polish scientists. The Polish public policy toward Russia puts a new twist on the ancient slogan, “Homeland or Death” – it now reads ‘Homeland and Death!’

Western Europe, the principle ally of Washington’s anti-Russian strategy, has witnessed a similar embrace of the hard right US military and economic agenda. Germany’s center-right regime has sacrificed hundreds of billions in trade and investments by enforcing US sanctions. Germany’s rulers have backed US sponsored terrorists invading Syria, just as they now support the US-Saudi-Israeli invasion of Yemen. The German regime has frozen its own citizens’ salaries and wages for the past decade while increasing productivity and profits. Germany, it should be remembered, is governed by a coalition of Christian and Social Democrats!

In England the hard-right Conservatives coalition with the Liberal Democrats backed every US war throughout the world! They slashed social benefits, tripled university fees, closed scores of public hospitals and schoolrooms, evicted thousands from council houses (with the collaboration of local Labor Party municipal officials), and privatized large sectors of the National Health System while beefing up their war machine. The Conservative hard-right policies are an extension of the Labor Party policies pursued by Tony ‘The Phony’ Blair and Gordon ‘Blowhard’ Brown.

In the Balkans, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania-Kosova thuggish politicians combine servility to NATO with massive corruption  and unbelievable stupidity. Bankrupt Bulgaria has sacrificed a billion-dollar-oil pipeline deal with Russia, in slavish response to US-EU pressure. Albania-Kosovo, run by drug and human trafficking gangsters with criminal networks throughout Europe, are full of US troops and military bases. Camp Bondsteel, the largest US military base outside of the US, is located in Kosovo – a country with 60% unemployment and with over half of its population ‘abroad’ having fled its brutal thugs. This is what NATO ‘liberated’ as a result of its horrendous bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

The arc of rightwing radicalization and militarization stretching from the Baltic and Scandinavia regimes in the North, through Eastern and Central Europe, and to the Balkans is a product of the US-German effort to encircle, weaken and dominate Russia and move on to isolate China.

The massive US military buildup of heavy armament on Russia’s border is anchored by the hard-right Polish regime, which in its hysterical hatred of Russia seems oblivious to the fact that its military provocations could trigger its own nuclear obliteration!

The radical right’s economic policies and militarization of Southern Europe have plunged the region into the worst economic and social depression in almost a century. Italy has been in negative growth or stagnation since 2007 with nearly half its labor force underemployed or jobless. Italy is flooded with immigrants from Africa, refugees from the NATO war against Libya, which Italy backed. The destruction of Gaddafi’s regime led to the loss of two million jobs in Libya and undermined multi-billion dollar oil deals between Rome and Tripoli. The Renzi regime’s support of sanctions against Russia is so prejudicial to top Italian firms, that many, especially in the oil and gas sector, have defied the sanctions and gone through third parties to pursue lucrative trade and investment contracts with Moscow.

Greece and Spain, ruled by the “Hard Right” up until 2015, have experienced a “lost decade” as the EU oligarchy imposed onerous debt payments and draconian social conditions. Spain, under the ultra-rightist regime of Rajoy, and with support from the ‘opposition’ PSOE in parliament, has provided the US with new military bases from which to launch more wars against North Africa and the Middle East. Despite the bitter depression in Greece, the ‘hard right’ and ‘marshmallow left’ have maintained a military budget taking the highest percentage of the GNP of any NATO member. The Spanish hard-right regime presided over more household evictions, the highest unemployment rate and the most authoritarian laws against public assemblies since the end of the Franco dictatorship. Portugal has pursued the same militarist, austerity and repressive policies as Greece and Spain.

Supposedly the Mediterranean flank of the ‘hard right’ US-EU Empire is under challenge from insurgent electoral parties. The Social Democratic parties in Greece (PASOK), Spain (PSOE), Italy (Democrats), France (Socialist Party) and Portugal (Socialist Party) have deeply discredited themselves in the eyes of the workers and employees. The Socialists have been in the forefront enforcing deep cuts in social programs and are aggressive advocates and material supporters of NATO military policies everywhere. As a result, they are in retreat and face major challenges from the left and nationalist right (in France).

The Boomerang Effect: Evaluating the Hard Right Performance

There is no question that the US strategy of encircling Russia is succeeding: new political alignments have emerged, including countries in the Nordic region which previously were outside of the US orbit but are now part of the imperial arc of aggression. However, these regimes have paid an enormous price in terms of their national security, as Russia has responded by increasing its missile defense, aimed precisely at strategic targets in the bordering countries. Moreover, the military costs preclude any prospects of recovery from economic stagnation.

US sanctions policy toward Russia, which was initially backed by most European regimes, has been a major failure with major leaks springing up from all sides. According to the Financial Times (6/15/15, p. 3) “European oil groups extend deals in Russia despite EU sanctions.” BP (UK), Shell (Holland), ENI (Italy), and Statoil (Norway) are signing multi-billion dollar contracts with their Russian counterparts. The biggest loser is the US oil giant, EXXON Mobil, which is blocked from multi-billion dollar joint ventures.

Most US and EU businesses have exploited “loopholes in sanctions to insure business as usual” (FT 6/15/15, p. 3).  US military and economic aggression to Russia has led to divisions between the imperial corporate and military elite. In the meantime, Russia’s domestic industrial and agricultural sectors have prospered due to the decline of Western imports. Western threats have also boosted Putin’s public support from the mid-sixties to the high eighties, while the US backed-opposition in Russia has been reduced to a marginal force, or as one western funded Russian NGO operative complained, “Our conferences can barely fill a telephone booth”.

The austerity policies, imposed by the EU, have aroused mass opposition in Greece and Spain, leading to the defeat of incumbent hard-right Conservatives and Social Democrats, although the new regimes have yet to develop alternatives.

The US and EU wars in against Syria, Iraq, Libya, Chad and Yemen have created millions of desperate refugees who are flooding Europe and overwhelming public facilities. Washington’s wars (both direct and proxy) have aroused large-scale, long-term national-Islamic resistance movements. Militarism and its ‘war on terror’ ideology have served to temporarily distract the masses from their socio-economic class interests. In France, Southern Europe and even among sectors of US public opinion, militarism and austerity are wearing thin. As the US and EU escalate their involvement, the resistance grows, while the cuts to domestic programs erode incumbent hard right regimes.

Since most of the Social Democratic and Democratic Parties are deeply implicated in highly militarized policies and austerity programs, they have nothing to offer the disenchanted electorate. The so-called ‘radical-left’ movements, insofar as they continue to tail-end the discredited Social Democrats, have failed to build an alternative. Their pyrotechnical politics, whereby they burst on the political stage full of energy and radical promises and quickly deflate into impotence before the warlords and bankers, effectively erode their mass support. Nevertheless, the underlying economic crisis continues to gnaw at the loyalty of the great mass of the population toward the existing hard-right policies.

US militarism and its exponents abroad are forced to rely on mass media propaganda campaigns, demagogic promises of future rewards and increasingly severe internal police state repression, surveillance technology, radical threats and mindless and meaningless electoral charades.

Rightwing radicalization and militarization in Europe is reaching a breaking point! To go forward is to commit nuclear suicide. Already there are elite defections, electoral retreats and huge social costs. Lost wars, perpetual stagnation and class-based austerity have created a world of great economic and personal insecurity and uncertaintyRightwing radicalism has peaked and is in decline. What will replace it is difficult to ascertain. The euphoria, arrogance and smirks, which accompanied the rise of rightwing radicalism, are dissipating into foul sulfurous odors only waiting for a fresh wind to blow them away.

Demonstration against G8 Summit in Le Havre

Jun 222015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

GREECE-DEBT-FINANCE-LABOUR-STRIKE-EUROPE

Introduction

Over the past decade fundamental changes have taken place in Southern Europe, which have broken with previous political alignments, resulting in the virtual disappearance of traditional leftist ’parties, the decline of trade unions and the emergence of ‘middle class radicalism’.

New political movements, purportedly on the left, no longer are based on class conscious workers nor are they embedded in the class struggle. Likewise on the right, greater attention is paid to escalating the repressive capacity of the state instead of state intervention in pursuit of economic markets.

Radicalization of the right, including massive cutbacks in social spending, has demolished welfare programs. The dispossession of households has uprooted cohesive neighborhood-based social organizations.

In place of the class based traditional left, ‘non-leftist left’ movements have emerged. Their leaders embrace ‘participatory democracy’ but engage in vertical political practice.

On the right, politics no longer revolve around conserving national economic privileges. Rightwing leaders willingly subordinate their economies and society to imperial led crusades, which empty national sovereignty of any meaning while pillaging the national treasury.

This essay will proceed to discuss these complex changes and their meaning.

The ‘Non-Leftist Left’ in Southern Europe

The economic crisis, in particular the imposition of severe cuts in wages, pensions and other social welfare programs by rightwing and social democratic governments have led to widespread discontent, which the traditional workplace based leftist parties have been unable to address and mobilize the people. Prolonged and deepening unemployment and the growth of temporary employment have affected over 50% of the labor force.

Union representation has declined precipitously, further weakening the presence of traditional leftist parties in factories.

Large-scale evictions, foreclosure of mortgages and accompanying job losses have led to neighborhood-based anti-eviction movements and struggles. Millions of young workers now depend on their grandparents’ pensions and remain with two older generations in their parents’ home. For the young workers, the degradation of everyday life, the loss of personal autonomy and the inability to live independently have led to revolts for ‘dignity’.

The traditional left parties and trade unions have failed (or not attempted) to organize the unemployed. They have failed to attract the young and the downwardly mobile temporary workers in anything resembling class-based, class struggle-oriented movements.

Paradoxically despite the deepening crisis among most workers, the traditional left has declined. Its workplace orientation and its language of class struggle do not resonate with those without jobs or prospects. For the radicalized middle class the traditional left is too radical in seeking to overturn capitalism and too distant from power to realize changes.

The radicalized middle class includes public employees, professionals and self-employed private contractors who aspire to, and until recently, experienced upward mobility but have now found their path blocked by the austerity programs imposed by rightwing, as well as, social democratic parties.

Frustrated by the social democrats’ betrayal and facing downward mobility, the radicalized middle class are disoriented and fragmented. Many have joined amorphous street protests; some have even embraced, temporarily in most cases, the alternative traditional rightwing parties only to encounter even more brutal job cuts, insecurity and downward mobility.

The middle classes deeply resent being denied the opportunity for  upward mobility for themselves and their children. They resent their formerly ‘moderately progressive’ Social Democratic leaders’ betrayal of their interests. Their radicalism is directed toward restoring their past access to social advancement. Their deep-seated hostility to the authorities is rooted in the loss of their previous status as a result of the crisis.

Middle class radicalism is tempered by nostalgia for the past. This radicalism is rooted in the struggle to restore the European Union’s social subsidies and growth policies. They remember a recent past of rising living standards and “social inclusion”, now denied their own children. This vision guides the rhetoric that the progressive middle class had earned and enjoyed their rising incomes as a result of their own ‘merit’.

Today the radicalized middle class looks for practical, specifically defined and government-sponsored policies that can restore their past prosperity. They do not aim to ‘level the playing field’ for everyone but to prevent their proletariazation. They reject the politics of the traditional left parties because class struggle and worker-centered ideologies do not promote their own social aspirations.

For most radicalized middle class activists the culprits are ‘austerity’, the mega-bank swindlers and the political kleptocrats. They seek parties that can reform or moralize capitalism and restore ‘individual dignity’. They want to kick out corrupt officials. They demand ‘participatory democracy’ rather than the traditional left’s goal of public ownership under worker control.

Under the specific conditions generated by the current social crisis, a non-leftist left (NLL) has emerged throughout Europe. Spontaneous, amorphous, ‘anarchic’, extra-institutional and ‘street-centered’, the NLL has adopted an irreverent style. The NLL, in its origins, rejected political parties, well-defined programs and disciplined cadres in favor of spontaneity and irreverence toward institutions.

As the appeal of the NLL grew, the unemployed, the temporary workers, the insecure and unprotected non-unionized workers and the radicalized middle class joined demonstrations and found safety in the crowds. They were attracted by the appeals from ‘the street’ to oust the incumbent kleptocrats.

Emerging from this movement aimed at the downwardly mobile middle class’ anger, Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece and Five Stars in Italy have appealed to all the people disconnected from power, by promising a restoration of ‘dignity and respect.’  They made amorphous appeals to ‘end austerity’ with only a vague promise that they would create jobs.

The NLL leadership, however, is most clearly influenced by the non-radical resentments of the downwardly mobile middle class.

They never engaged in class struggles and have rejected class ideology. For the NLL leaders, social polarization is mostly a vehicle for building an electoral base. Their participation in small-scale local struggles was presented as ‘proof’ that the NLL leaders spoke to authentic popular aspirations.

The Non-Leftist Left’s Transition: From Street to Public Office

From the street, the NLL moved swiftly to elections and from elections they proceeded to form coalitions with traditional parties. Strategic decisions were taken by a small coterie of personalistic leaders: They redefined ‘participatory democracy’ to refer only to local neighborhood activism and issues – not national issues, which were the realm of ‘experts’.

Syriza, the first NLL to reach power, reflected the immense gap between the radical posturing of its leaders in opposition and their cringing conformity before Established Power (the Troika:  IMF, European Commission, Central Bank) once elected to government.

Syriza embodied middle class resentment toward the Euro-technocratic elite in Brussels whom they blamed for their loss of past prosperity and job security and for the ongoing degradation of everyday life. Syriza denounced the Troika while it remained under its tutelage. It excoriated the EU elite in the highest moral tones for doing what its elite class interests dictated, that is, defend the EU bankers, extract debt payments and threaten their underlings. In practice, Syriza never applied any class analysis to the Troika’s policy as it continued to refer to their ‘EU partners’ … even as they imposed brutal demands.

Once in power the Syriza leaders never mobilized a single mass protest and never even threatened a general strike in the face of EU colonial dictates.

Syriza’s personalist leader, Alexis Tsipras’s appointed right wingers from former regimes to key posts. He negotiated with the Troika and caved on all strategic issues dealing with debt payments, austerity and privatizations. Syriza never considered ‘going to the people’.  Syriza’s ‘moral crusade’ against capitalism ended by their embracing capitalism and the colonial Eurozone system.

Syriza’s lack of class analysis, class struggle and class mobilization and its total commitment to working within a moralized capitalism and the Eurozone to restore middle class status and security has resulted in the most abject conformity and surrender – punctuated by shameless buffoonery on the part of some leaders.

In the end, Syriza surrendered to the dictates of higher powers of the Troika and their Eurozone acolytes, but not until it had emptied the Greek Treasury. The leaders have combined the worst of all worlds: a bankrupt national economy, a ‘protesting’ but fundamentally colonial regime and a disenchanted electorate.

Where Syriza wildly succeeded was in marginalizing the traditional left (the Greek Communist Party). It reaffirmed the historic pattern: free floating movements of the moment end up being run by personalistic leaders who presume to speak for “the people” while bending over to their overseas overlords.

NLL in Spain and Italy: Podemos and Five Stars

Podemos in Spain and Five Stars in Italy are ready to follow Syriza’s path of colonial subservience. They rejected and successfully marginalized the traditional left. They have gained mass support, organized mass protests and loudly rejected austerity and the dictates of the Troika.

While Podemos leaders talk of ‘participatory democracy’, a handful of leaders make all policy pronouncements, decide which candidates to support in the elections and determine what kind of post-election coalition governments they will join.

What gives Podemos and Five Stars their radical appearance is their opposition to the governing parties, their rejection of ‘austerity’, their criticism of neoliberalism – and their support for ‘micro-politics’ of local grassroots direct-action.

At no time or place have they counterpoised an alternative to capitalism. Nor have they repudiated illicit debts or supported the expropriation of the banks responsible for the pillage their economies.

Podemos and Five Stars deliberately obscure their politics: They are whatever any of their affiliates’ claim to be …

The leaders raise populist demands and speak about ‘dignity’, employment and punishment of corrupt officials. They call for an end to authoritarian measures, but avoid any real commitments to institutional change, especially of the repressive courts, police or armed forces.

Podemos and Five Stars criticize the EU’s austerity programs while staying in the EU as subordinate members of an organization dominated by German bankers. They promote popular mobilizations which they have turned into vote-gathering machines for electing their members to office.

The NLLs contradictory politics of populist gestures and institutional commitments reflect the politics of a frustrated and blocked middle class demanding a restoration of its past status and security. Podemos and Five Stars leaders put on the grand show of thumbing their noses at the establishment to promote limited middle class demands. On a much broader front, the leaders of the NLL have not organized any mass protests – let alone formed a mass movement which would seriously challenge the imperialist powers, NATO, the Middle East wars and US-EU sanctions against Russia.

Since most of their supporters are anti NATO, in favor of Palestinian independence and critical of the Kiev regime the popular base of the NLL will act on their own but will have no real impact on the current national leadership.

The reason for the disparity between leaders and followers is clear: The NLL leaders intend to form post-electoral coalitions with the corrupt and reactionary ‘center left’ parties so despised and rejected by their own electorate.

Following the nationwide Spanish municipal and regional elections, Podemos allied with corrupt Socialist Party (PSOE). In the municipality of Madrid, Podemos supported the left-center coalition Ahora Madrid (Madrid Now), which in turn has allied with the center-right Socialists to elect the ‘progressive’ mayoral candidate, Manuela Carmena.

While the entire ‘progressive camp’ celebrates the defeat of the hard-right Popular Party candidate –little has been said about consequential changes in the municipal and regional budgets, structures of economic power and class relations.

Five Stars’,( Movimento Cinque Stelle or M5S), Italy’s non-leftist left is dominated by a single ‘anti-leader’, Beppe Grillo, he defines the party’s programs and affiliations. He is known for making clownish, provocative gestures against the authorities, calling for a “Fuck the Parliament Day”.

It is Beppe who selects the candidates to run for Parliament. While in opposition, M5S loudly opposed all NATO wars in the Middle East, US military interventions in Latin America and free trade agreements. But now ensconced in the European Parliament, Beppe has aligned with the Libertarian Right.

Five Stars (M5S) central demands revolve around ‘direct democracy’ and ‘sustainable development’. It has captured the electoral support of the majority of the lower middle class gaining 26% of the vote (9 million voters) in the 2013 general elections.

While Beppe and his colleagues engage in fist fights within the Parliament, make radical gestures and spout belligerent rhetoric, ‘M5S’  has not supported a workers general strike. It participates in each and every election, but has stayed away from factory struggles.

Radicalism, as grand ‘gesture politics’, is an entertaining, non-threatening response to capitalism since there is no concerted effort to form class alliances with workers engaged in workplace struggles.

M5S’, like Podemos and Syriza, expresses the disorganized radicalism of the young, frustrated lower middle class raging against their downward mobility, while refusing to break with the EU. They rail against the concentration of power in the hands of the banks, but refuse to pursue their nationalization. M5S mobilized 800,000 people in Rome recently but led them nowhere. ‘Five Stars’ convokes crowds to meet and cheer its leaders and to ridicule the power brokers. Afterwards they all go home.

Conclusion

While the ‘NLL’ movements capture the support of the ‘indignant’, the mass of unemployed workers and the evicted householders, their leaders do not articulate a serious plan of action capable of challenging the economic power structures: they raise popular expectations via demands for ‘change’. However, these vague and deceptive slogans allow the NLL leaders to join in a medley of opportunist electoral coalitions and governmental alliances, with decidedly establishment personalities and parties.

In Greece, Italy and Spain the traditional left has either disappeared, or shrunk to a marginal force. With little or no base outside of the workplace and trade unions, they barely secure five percent of the votes.

The NLL has deepened the isolation of the traditional left and has even attracted a part of its social base. NLL’s rejection of the traditional left’s tight organization and top down leadership and its pluralistic rhetoric appeals to the young. Moreover, as the left trade unions have sought compromises with the bosses to save the jobs of employed workers and ignored the unemployed, the latter has looked to the ‘open and spontaneous’ NLL to express their opposition. In Spain’s municipal elections, the United Left, a Communist-led electoral formation, joined with Podemos to elect Manuela Carmena, the ‘insurgent mayor’ of Madrid.

While the Euro-US academic left has rightly celebrated the emergence of mass opposition to the rightist regimes in Southern Europe, they have failed to understand the internal dynamics within the NLL movements: the limitations of middle class radicalism and their conformists’ goals.

The example of Syriza in Greece is a warning of the fatal consequences of middle class leaders trying to realize radical changes, within the neo-liberal framework imposed by the EU.

Epilogue

Currently, the best example of the opportunism and bankruptcy of the NLL is found in the successful Mayor-elect of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, whose victory was hailed by Podemos as the ‘great victory for the people’ at recent celebration.

For her part, Mayor-elect Carmena has wasted no time repudiating all ‘five basic emergency reforms’ promised during the elections. In a press conference, the so-called ‘progressive Mayor of Madrid’ announced (with a cynical grin) that ‘promise number one’ - a public bank – was no longer needed because she was satisfied to work with the private banking oligarchy. She refused to pursue ‘promise number two’ -  to provide subsidies for electricity, water and gas for poor families cut off from those services, claiming such support was too early and could wait until winter

Regarding Podemos ‘promise number three’ - a debt moratorium, Carmena insisted that “we will keep paying, for now”. On ‘promise number four’ favoring public over private contractors for municipal contracts, Carmena reversed the position: “We can’t change right away”.

Carmena even repudiated ‘promise number five’ - to immediately implement a summer meals program for poor children, insisting that she would rely on the inadequate programs of far right predecessor.

Moreover, Mayor-elect Carmena went even further, staffing her administration with far-right holdovers from the previous government to strategic policy-making positions. For example, she appointed Carmen Roman, a former Director General of the far right Prime Minister Aznar, as Senior Executive of Madrid. She defended these reactionary decisions claiming that she was looking for “technocrats who are the best professional administrations”. Indeed, Carmen Roman had implemented mass firing of public workers and the dismantling of social programs in the ‘best professional’ manner possible!

Carmena further betrayed her Podemos electorate by insisting she looked forward to working with the hard right Prime Minister Rajoy and flatly rejected the idea of promoting a progressive alternative!

In less than one week, the euphoria over the victory of Podemos backed candidates has been dissipated by these acts of cynical opportunism: the non-leftist left has betrayed its electorate, from the very start!

Jun 152015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Greece has been in the headlines of the world’s financial press for the past five months, as a newly elected leftist party, ‘Syriza’, which ostensibly opposes so-called ‘austerity measures’, faces off against the “Troika” (International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and European Central Bank).

Early on, the Syriza leadership, headed by Alexis Tsipras, adopted several strategic positions with fatal consequences - in terms of implementing their electoral promises to raise living standards, end vassalage to the ‘Troika’ and pursue an independent foreign policy.

We will proceed by outlining the initial systemic failures of Syriza and the subsequent concessions further eroding Greek living standards and deepening Greece’s role as an active collaborator of US and Israeli imperialism.

Winning Elections and Surrendering Power

The North American and European Left celebrated Syriza’s election victory as a break with neo-liberal austerity programs and the launch of a radical alternative, which would implement popular initiatives for basic social changes, including measures generating employment, restoring pensions, reversing privatizations, reordering government priorities and favoring payments to employees over foreign banks. The “evidence” for the radical reform agenda was contained in the ‘Thessaloniki Manifesto’ which Syriza promised to be the program guiding their newly elected officials.

However, prior to, and immediately after being elected, Syriza leaders adopted three basic decisions precluding any basic changes: Indeed, these decisions set it on reactionary course.

First and foremost, Syriza accepted as legitimate the foreign debt of over $350 billion dollars, although most had been signed by previous government Kleptocrats, corrupt banks, business, real estate and financial interests. Virtually none of this debt was used to finance productive activity or vital services which would strengthen the economy and Greece’s future ability to payback the loans.

Hundreds of billions of Euros were stashed away in foreign bank accounts and foreign real estate or invested in overseas stocks and bonds. After affirming the ‘legitimacy’ of the illicit debt, Syriza followed up by declaring its ‘willingness’ to pay the debt. The ‘Troika’ immediately understood that the new Syriza government would be a willing hostage to further coercion, blackmail and debt payments.

Secondly, and related to the above, Syriza declared its determination to remain in the European Union and Eurozone and thus accepted the surrender of its sovereignty and ability to fashion an independent policy. It declared its willingness to submit to the dictates of the Troika. Once under the thumb of the Troika, Syriza’s only policy would be to ‘negotiate’, ‘renegotiate’ and make further concessions to the EU overseas banks in a totally one-sided process. Syriza’s rapid submission to the Troika was their second strategic, but not their last, betrayal of its electoral program.

Once Syriza demonstrated to the Troika, its willingness to betray its popular program, the Troika escalated its demands and hardened its intransigence. Brussels discounted Syriza’s leftist rhetoric and radical theatrical gestures as blowing smoke in the eyes of the Greek electorate. The EU bankers knew that when it came time to negotiate new loan agreements, the Syriza leadership would capitulate. Meanwhile, the Euro-American Left swallowed Syriza’s entire radical rhetoric without looking at its actual practice.

Thirdly, on taking office, Syriza negotiated a coalition with the far-right, pro-NATO, xenophobic, anti-immigrant Independent Greeks Party, guaranteeing that Greece would continue to support NATO’s military policies in the Middle East, the Ukraine and Israel’s brutal campaign against Palestine.

Fourthly, the bulk of Prime Minister Tsipras cabinet appointees had no experience of class struggle. Worse still, most were academics and former PASOK advisers without any capacity or willingness to break with the dictates of the Troika. Their academic ‘practice’ consisted largely of theoretical ‘combat’, ill-suited for real-world confrontation with aggressive imperial powers.

From a Scratch to Gangrene

By capitulating to the EU from the outset, including accepting to pay the illegitimate debt, hooking up with the Far Right and submitting to the dictates of the Troika, the stage was set for SYRIZA to betray all its promises and to worsen the economic burden for its supporters. The worst betrayals include: (1) not restoring pension payments; (2) not restoring the minimum wage; (3) not reversing privatizations; (4) not ending austerity programs; and (5) not increasing funds for education, health, housing and local development.

The Troika and its publicists in the financial press are demanding that Syriza cut the Greek pension system even further, impoverishing over 1.5 million retired workers. Contrary to the media’s planted ‘examples’ of fat pensions enjoyed by less then 5% of pensioners, the Greeks have suffered the deepest pension reductions in Europe over the past century. In just the last past 4 years the Troika cut Greek pensions eight times. The vast majority of pensions have been slashed by nearly 50% since 2010. The average pension is 700 Euros a month but 45%of Greek pensioners receive less than 665 Euros a month – below the poverty line. Yet the Troika demands even greater reductions. These include an end of budget subsidies for pensioners living in extreme poverty, an increase in the retirement age to 67, an abolition of pension provisions tied to hazardous occupations and for working mothers. The earlier regressive measures, imposed by the Troika and implemented by the previous right-wing coalition regime, severely depleted the Greek pension fund. In 2012, the Troika’s ‘debt restructuring’ program led to the loss of 25 billion Euros of reserves held by the Greek government in government bonds. Troika austerity policies ensured that the pension reserves would not be replenished. Contributions plummeted as unemployment soared to nearly 30% (Financial Times 6/5/15 p4). Despite the Troika’s frontal assault on the Greek pension system, Syriza’s “economic team” expressed its willingness to raise the retirement age, cut pensions by 5% and negotiate further betrayals of pensioners facing destitution. Syriza has not only failed to fulfill its campaign promise to reverse the previous regressive policies, but is engaged in its own ‘pragmatic’ sellouts with the Troika.

Worse still, Syriza has deepened and extended the policies of its reactionary predecessors. (1) Syriza promised to freeze privatizations: Now it vows to extend them by 3.2 billion Euros and privatize new public sectors. (2) Syriza has agreed to shift scarce public resources to the military, including an investment of $500 million Euros to upgrade the Greek Air Force. (3) Syriza plundered the national pension fund and municipal treasuries of over a billion Euros to meet debt payments to the Troika. (4) Syriza is cutting public investments in job creating infrastructure projects to meet Troika deadlines. ( 5) Syriza has agreed to a budget surplus of 0.6% at a time when Greece is running a 0.7% deficit this year – meaning more cuts later this year. (6) Syriza  promised to reduce the VAT on essentials like food; now it accepts a 23% rate.

Syriza’s foreign policy mimics its predecessors. Syriza’s far right Defense Minister, Panos Kammenos, has been a vocal supporter of the US and EU sanctions against Russia – despite the usual flurry of Syriza’s faked “dissent” to NATO policies, followed by total capitulation – to remain in good standing with NATO. The Syriza regime has allowed each and every well-known kleptocrat and tax evader to retain their illicit wealth and to add to their overseas holdings with massive transfers of their current ‘savings’ out of the country. By the end of May 2015, Prime Minister Tsipras and Finance Minister Varofakis have emptied the Treasury to meet debt payments, increasing the prospects that pensioners and public sector workers will not receive their benefits. Having emptied the Greek Treasury, Syriza will now impose the “Troika solution” on the backs of the impoverished Greek masses: either sign-off on a new “austerity” plan, lowering pensions, increasing retirement age, eliminating labor laws protecting workers’ job security and negotiating rights or face an empty treasury, no pensions, rising unemployment and deepening economic depression. Syriza has deliberately emptied the Treasury, plundered pension funds and local municipal holdings in order to blackmail the population to accept as a ‘fait accompli’ the regressive policies of hardline EU bankers – the so-called “austerity programs”.

From the very beginning, Syriza gave into the Troika’s dictates, even as they play-acted their ‘principled resistance’. First they lied to the Greek public, calling the Troika ‘international partners’. Then they lied again calling the Troika memorandum for greater austerity a ‘negotiating document’. Syriza’s deceptions were meant to hide their continuation of the highly unpopular ‘framework’ imposed by the previous discredited hard rightwing regime.

As Syriza plundered the country of resources to pay the bankers, it escalated its international groveling. Its Defense Minister offered new military bases for NATO, including an air-maritime base on the Greek island of Karpathos. Syriza escalated Greece’s political and military support for  EU and US military intervention and support of “moderate” terrorists in the Middle East, ludicrously in the name of “protecting Christians”. Syriza, currying favor with European and US Zionists, strengthened its ties with Israel, evoking a ‘strategic alliance’ with the terrorist-apartheid state. From his first days in office, the hard right Defense Minister Kammenos proposed the creation of a “common defense space” including Cyprus and Israel – thus supporting Israel’s air and sea  blockade of Gaza.

Conclusion

Syriza’s political decision to ‘embed’ in the EU and the Eurozone, at all costs, signals that Greece will continue to be vassal state, betraying its program and adopting deeply reactionary policies, even while trumpeting its phony leftist rhetoric, and feigning ‘resistance’ to the Troika. Despite the fact that Syriza plundered domestic pensions and local treasuries, many deluded Leftists in Europe and the US continue to accept and rationalize what they choose to dub its “realistic and pragmatic compromises”.

Syriza could have confiscated and used the $32 billion of real estate properties owned by the Greek Armed Forces to implement an alternative investment and development plan – leasing these properties for commercial maritime ports, airports and tourist facilities.

Syriza buried Greece even deeper into the hierarchy dominated by German finance, by surrendering its sovereign power to impose a debt moratorium, leave the Eurozone, husband its financial resources,  reinstate a national currency, impose capital controls, confiscate billions of Euros in illicit overseas accounts, mobilize local funds to finance economic recovery and reactivate the public and private sector. The fake “Left sector” within Syriza repeatedly mouthed impotent “objections”, while the Tsipras -Varofakis sell-out charade proceeded to the ultimate capitulation.

In the end, Syriza has deepened poverty and unemployment, increased foreign control over the economy, further eroded the public sector, facilitated the firing of workers and slashed severance pay- while increasing the role of the Greek military by deepening its ties to NATO and Israel.

Equally important, Syriza has totally emptied leftist phraseology of any cognitive meaning: for them – national sovereignty is translated into international vassalage and anti-austerity becomes pragmatic capitulations to new austerity. When the Tsipras – Troika agreement is finally signed and the terrible toll of austerity for the next decades finally sinks into the consciousness of the Greek public, the betrayals will hopefully evoke mass revulsion. Perhaps  Syriza will split, and the “left” will finally abandon their cushy Cabinet posts and join the disaffected millions in forming an alternative Party.

Jun 112015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

About 75% of US employees work 40 hours or longer, the second longest among all OECD countries, exceeded only by Poland and tied with South Korea. In contrast, only 10% of Danish workers, 15% of Norwegian, 30% of French, 43% of UK and 50% of German workers work 40 or more hours. With the longest work day, US workers score lower on the ‘living well’ scale than most western European workers. Moreover, despite those long workdays US employees receive the shortest paid holidays or vacation time (one to two weeks compared to the average of five weeks in Western Europe). US employees pay for the costliest health plans and their children face the highest university fees among the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In class terms, US employees face the greatest jump in income inequalities over the past decade, the longest period of wage and salary decline or stagnation (1970 to 2014) and the greatest collapse of private sector union membership, from 30% in 1950 down to 8% in 2014.

On the other hand, profits, as a percentage of national income, have increased significantly. The share of income and profits going to the financial sector, especially the banks and investment houses, has increased at a faster rate than any other sector of the US economy.

There are two polar opposite trends: Employees working longer hours, with costlier services and declining living standards  while finance capitalists enjoy rapidly rising profits and incomes.

Paradoxically, these trends are not directly based on greater ‘workplace exploitation’ in the US.

The historic employee-finance capitalist polarization is the direct result of the grand success of the trillion dollar financial swindles, the tax payer-funded trillion dollar Federal bailouts of the crooked bankers, and the illegal bank manipulation of interest rates. These uncorrected and unpunished crimes have driven up the costs of living and producing for employees and their employers.

Financial ‘rents’ (the bankers and brokers are ‘rentiers’ in this economy) drive up the costs of production for non-financial capital (manufacturing). Non-financial capitalists resort to reducing wages, cutting benefits and extending working hours for their employees, in order to maintain their own profits.

In other words, pervasive, enduring and systematic large-scale financial criminality is a major reason why US employees are working longer and receiving less – the ‘trickle down’ effect of mega-swindles committed by finance capital.

Mega-Swindles, Leading Banks and Complicit State Regulators

Mega-swindles, involving trillions of dollars, are routine practices involving the top fifty banks, trading houses, currency speculators, management fund firms and foreign exchange traders.

These ‘white collar’ crimes have hurt hundreds of millions of investors and credit-card holders, millions of mortgage debtors, thousands of pension funds and most industrial and service firms that depend on bank credit to meet payrolls, to finance capital expansion and technological upgrades and raw materials.

Big banks, which have been ‘convicted and fined’ for mega-swindles, include Citi Bank, Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, JP Morgan, Barclay, Goldman Sachs, Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsch Bank and forty other ‘leading’ financial institutions.

The mega-swindlers have repeatedly engaged in a great variety of misdeeds, including accounting fraud, insider trading, fraudulent issue of mortgage based securities and the laundering of hundreds of billions of illegal dollars for Colombian, Mexican, African and Asian drug and human traffickers.

They have rigged the London Interbank Official Rate (LIBOR), which serves as the global interest benchmark to which hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial contracts are tied. By raising LIBOR, the financial swindlers have defrauded hundreds of millions of mortgage and credit-card holders, student loan recipients and pensions.

Bloomberg News (5/20/2015) reported on an ongoing swindle involving the manipulation of the multi-trillion-dollar International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) fix, a global interest rate benchmark used by banks, corporate treasurers and money managers to determine borrowing costs and to value much of the $381 trillion of outstanding interest rate swaps.

The Financial Times (5/23/15, p. 10) reported how the top seven banks engaged in manipulating fraudulent information to their clients, practiced illegal insider trading to profit in the foreign exchange market (forex), whose daily average turnover volume for 2013 exceeded $5 trillion dollars.

These seven convicted banks ended up paying less than $10 billion in fines, which is less than 0.05% of their daily turnover. No banker or high executive ever went to jail, despite undermining the security of millions of retail investors, pensioners and thousands of companies.

The Direct Impact of Financial Swindles on Declining Living Standards

Each and every major financial swindle has had a perverse ripple effect throughout the entire economy. This is especially the case where the negative consequences have spread downward through local banks, local manufacturing and service industries to employees, students and the self-employed.

The most obvious example of the downward ripple effect was the so-called ‘sub-prime mortgage’ swindle. Big banks deliberately sold worthless, fraudulent mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and collateralized debt obligation (CDO) to smaller banks, pension funds and local investors, which eventually foreclosed on overpriced houses causing low income mortgage holders to lose their down payments (amounting to most of their savings).

While the effects of the swindle spread outward and downward, the US Treasury propped up the mega-swindlers with a trillion-dollar bailout in working people’s tax money. They anointed their mega-give-away as the bail out for ‘banks that are just too big to fail”! They transferred funds from the public treasury for social services to the swindlers.

In effect, the banks profited from their widely exposed crimes while US employees lost their jobs, homes, savings and social services. As the US Treasury pumped trillions of dollars into the coffers of the criminal banks (especially on Wall Street), the builders, major construction companies and manufacturers faced an unprecedented credit squeeze and laid off millions of workers, and reduced wages and increased the hours of un-paid work.

Service employees in consumer industries were hit hard as wages and salaries declined or remained frozen. The costs of the FOREX, LIBOR and ISDA fix swindles’ fell heavily on big  business, which passed the pain onto labor: cutting pension and health coverage, hiring millions of ‘contingent or temp’ workers at minimum wages with no benefits.

The bank bailouts forced the Treasury to shift funds from ‘job-creating’ social programs and national infrastructure investment to the FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) sector with its highly concentrated income structure.

As a result of the increasing concentration of wealth among the financial swindlers, inequalities in income grew; wages and salaries were frozen or reduced and manufacturers outsourced production, resulting in declines in production.

Employees, suffering from the loss of income brought on by the mega-swindles, found that they were working longer hours for less pay and fewer benefits. Productivity suffered. With the total breakdown of the ‘capitalist rules of the game’, investors lost confidence and trust in the system. Mega-swindles eroded ‘confidence’ between investors and traders, and made a mockery of any link between performance at work and rewards. This severed the nexus between highly motivated workers, engaged in ‘hard work, long hours’ and rising living standards, and between investment and productivity.

As a result, profits in the finance sector grew while the domestic economy floundered and living standards stagnated.

Financial Impunity: Regulatees Controlling the Regulators

Despite the proliferation of mega-swindles and their pervasive ripple effects throughout the economy and society, none of the dozens of federal or state regulatory agencies intervened to stop the swindle before it undermined the domestic economy. No CEO or banker was ever arrested for their part in the swindle of trillions. The regulators only reacted after trillions had ‘disappeared’ and swindles were ‘a done deal’. The impunity of the swindlers in planning and executing the pillage of hundreds of millions of employees, taxpayers and mortgage holders was because the federal and state regulatory agencies are populated by ‘regulatory administrators’ who came from or aspired to join the financial sector they were tasked with ‘regulating’.

Most of the high officials appointed to lead the regulatory agencies had been selected by the ‘Lords of Wall Street, Frankfurt, the City of London or Zurich.’ Appointees are chosen on the basis of their willingness to enable financial swindles. It therefore came as no surprise on May 28, 2015, when US President Obama approved the appointment of Andrew Donahue, Managing Director and Associate General Council for the repeatedly felonious, mega-swindling banking house of Goldman Sachs to be the ‘Chief of Staff’ of the Security and Exchange Commission. His career has been typical of the Washington-Wall Street ‘Revolving Door’.

Only after fraud and swindles evoked the nationwide public fury of mortgage holders, investors and finance companies did the regulators ‘investigate’  the crimes and even then not a single major banker was jailed, not a single major bank was closed down

There were a few low-level bond traders and bank employees who were fired or jailed as scapegoats. The banks paid puny (for them) fines, which they passed on to their customers. Despite pledges to ‘mend their ways’ the bankers concocted new schemes with their windfalls of billions of Federal ‘bailout’ money while the regulators looked on or polished their CV’s for the next pass through the ‘revolving door’.

Every top official in Treasury, Commerce and Trade, and every regulator in the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) who ‘retired to the private sector’ has ended up working for the same mega-criminal banks and finance houses they had investigated, regulated and ‘slapped on the wrist’.

As one banker, who insists on anonymity, told me: ‘The most successful swindlers are those who investigated financial transgressions’.

Conclusion

Mega-swindles define the nature of contemporary capitalism. The profits and power of financial capital is not the outcome of ‘market forces’. They are the result of a system of criminal behavior that pillages the Treasury, exploits the producers and consumers, evicts homeowners and robs taxpayers.

The mega swindlers represent much less than 1% of the class structure. Yet they hold over 40% of personal wealth in this country and control over 80% of capital liquidity.

They grow inexorably rich and richer, even as the rest of the economy wallows in crisis and stagnation.  Their swindles send powerful ripples across the national economy, which ultimately freeze or reduce the income of the skilled (middle class) employees and undermine the living conditions for poor working-class whites, and especially under and unemployed Afro-American and Latino American young workers.

Efforts to ‘moralize’ capital have failed repeatedly since the regulators are controlled by those they claim to ‘regulate’.

The rare arrest and prosecution of any among the current tribe of mega-swindlers would only results in their being replaced by new swindlers. The problem is systemic and requires deep structural changes.

The only answer is to build a political movement independent of the two party system, willing to nationalize the banks and to pass legislation outlawing derivatives, forex trading and other unnatural parasitic speculative activities.

Jun 062015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Colombian government negotiators in Havana

Colombian government negotiators in Havana

IN REMEMBRANCE OF JAIRO MARTINEZ AND ROMAN RUIZ

FIGHTERS AND VICTIMS OF ‘WAR THROUGH PEACE NEGOTIATIONS’

Introduction

On May 21, 2015, the Colombian Air Force (FAC) bombed the base camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) killing 26 guerrillas. Three days later the FAC bombed other FARC bases killing 14 more guerrillas. This was part of an official offensive, launched by President Juan Manuel Santos, the US’s most loyal client in Latin America. Among the victims were FARC Commanders Jairo Martinez, a participant in the ongoing peace negotiations in Havana and Roman Ruiz.

Colombia works closely with the US, through Bernard Aronson, a very intrusive neo-conservative ‘overseer’, who is Washington’s coordinator in the Colombian counter-insurgency war. The US maintains seven military bases and has stationed over one thousand US ‘advisers’ in the field and within the Colombian Defense Ministry. The military offensive was launched by the Santos regime precisely when it was officially engaged in two and a half year-long ‘peace negotiations’, during which three of five items on the ‘peace agenda’ had been agreed to and the FARC had ordered a unilateral cease fire. Two months earlier, President Santos treacherously set-up the FARC to lower their defenses by appearing to ‘reciprocate’ when he ordered “the suspension of air force bombing of FARC field camps”. In other words, the Santos government and US adviser Aronson used the ‘cover of peace negotiations’ and the FARC’s unilateral ‘cease fire’ to launch a major military offensive. The FARC ended its cease fire and resumed combat in ten regional ‘departments’, as the regime intensified its offensive by bombing villages in FARC-controlled regions. While Santos and Aronson escalated their military offensive in Colombia, the FARC negotiators in Havana continued their “peace” negotiations…

President Santos and Aronson have used the cover of “peace negotiations” as a propaganda ploy to launch a full scale military offensive. Concessions and agreements served to lower the FARC’s guard, identify its officials and secure intelligence on FARC base camps. US adviser Aronson’s role is to ensure that the Colombian government destroys the popular armed resistance, and forces the FARC to accept a ‘peace accord’ that does not change the status of US bases, lucrative contracts with international mining companies and promotes ‘free trade’. The Santos regime announced that the ‘peace negotiations’ would continue in Havana . . . even as it intensifies the war in Colombia, killing FARC members and supporters. Aronson and Santos pursue a ‘peace of the cemetery’.

The Colombia and Washington regimes are conducting a two-pronged ‘peace negotiations and brutal war policy’ against the FARC as part of a general world-wide politico-military campaign against mass popular movements that oppose neo-liberal economic policies, US-initiated wars and military bases and onerous ‘free trade’ agreements.

In each region the US has developed a very ‘special relation’ with key governments that serve as ‘strategic allies’. These include Israel in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf and southwest Asia, Japan in the Far East and Colombia in Latin America.

For the past two decades Colombia has served as the key US operational base for US naval and air surveillance in the Caribbean, Central America and the Andean countries and the launching pad for destabilization campaigns and intervention against the governments of Venezuela, Ecuador and Honduras. Washington’s use of ‘peace negotiations’ as a prelude to a military offensive in Colombia is the prototype of US strategic policy in several other contentious regions of the world.

In the essay, we will  identify the countries where the US is engaged in ‘peace negotiations’ as a prelude to military aggression and political subversion and we will describe in detail the strategy and implementation of this policy in the most ‘advanced case’ of Colombia. We will focus on how erstwhile leftist governments, eager to improve relations with the US, contribute to furthering Washington’s strategic goals of subversion and ‘regime change’.

Finally, we will evaluate the possible outcomes of this strategy both in terms of advancing US imperial interests and in developing effective anti-imperialist politics.

Peace Negotiations: the New Face of Empire-building

Throughout the world, Washington is engaged in some sort of direct or indirect ‘peace negotiations’ even as it expands and intensifies its military operations.

US and Iran:  Unilateral Disarmament and Military Encirclement

The mass media and official Washington spokespersons would have us believe that the US and Iran are within reach of a ‘peace accord’, contingent on Teheran surrendering its nuclear capability (repeatedly proven to be non-military in nature) and the US lifting its ‘economic sanctions’. The media’s ‘narrow focus approach’ to the Persian Gulf conveniently ignores contradictory regional developments.

First, the US has embarked on devastating wars against key Iranian regional allies: The US funds and supplies arms to terrorists who have invaded and bombed Syria and Yemen. Washington is expanding military bases surrounding Iran while increasing its naval presence in the Persian Gulf. President Obama has expanded military agreements with the Gulf monarchies. Congress is increasing the flow of offensive arms to Israel as it openly threatens to attack Iran. In reality, while engaged in ‘peace negotiations’ with Teheran, Washington is waging war with Iran’s allies and threatens its security.

Equally important, the US has vetoed numerous attempts to finally rid the Middle East of nuclear arms. This veto safeguards the far-right, militarist Israeli regime’s enormous offensive nuclear stockpile, while outlawing any possibility of an Iranian deterrent.

The so-called ‘peace negotiations’ allows the US to engage in pervasive and frequent espionage of Iranian military installations (so-called ‘inspections’ by the US controlled International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) with no reciprocal inspection of US or Israeli military bases or that of any of its Gulf client states. Furthermore, and crucial to a sudden military assault, Washington assumes in its ongoing ‘peace negotiations’, the unilateral ‘right’ to suspend the talks at a moment’s notice under any pretext and launch a military attack.

In sum, the US ‘negotiates peace’ with Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland, while it supplies Saudi Arabia with bombs and intelligence in its war against Yemen and finances armed Jihadi terrorists seizing half of Syria and large contiguous parts of Iraq.

The Iranian officials, ensconced in Switzerland while negotiating with the US, have played down the military threat to their country resulting from the massive re-entry of US armed forces in Iraq and the installation of the new puppet Haider Abidi regime.

How will the US conclude a ‘peace settlement’ with Iran while it engages in wars  against Iran’s neighbors and allies and when Iranian negotiations are framed in military terms?

Are the ‘peace negotiations’ merely a ploy designed to destroy Iran’s regional allies, isolate and weaken its military defenses and set it up for attack ‘down the road’? How does this fit into Obama’s global strategy?

US-China Diplomatic Negotiations: Military Encirclement and Encroachment

Over the past decade, President Obama and top State and Treasury Department officials have met with Chinese leaders, promising greater economic co-operation and exchanging diplomatic niceties.

Parallel to these conciliatory gestures, Washington has escalated its military encirclement of China by enlarging its military presence in Australia, Japan, and the Philippines and increasing its aggressive patrols of adjoining airspace and vital maritime routes.

The State Department has been inciting border-states, including Vietnam, Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, to contest Chinese maritime borders and its transformation of off-shore atolls into military bases.

The White House has proposed the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement, which specifically excludes China. It has signed off on nuclear weapons agreements with India, hoping to secure an Indo-American military pact on China’s southwestern flank.

Obama’s so-called ‘pivot to Asia’ is best understood as a rapid escalation of military threats and exclusionary trade pacts designed to provoke, isolate, weaken and degrade China and push back its rise to economic supremacy in Asia.

So far the US strategy has failed. Washington’s diplomatic gestures have lacked the necessary economic substance and incentives to its ‘allies’; its much-ballyhooed trade agreements have floundered in the face of far superior and inclusive Chinese initiatives, including its new $100 billion-dollar  Infrastructure Investment Bank and its more than $40 billion dollar economic agreements with the government of India.

In the face of its economic failures the Pentagon has opted for flagrant military encroachments on Chinese airspace.  Specifically, US warplanes are directed to overfly China’s ongoing construction of military installations on atolls in the South China Sea. The Chinese Foreign Office and Defense Ministry have vigorously protested these violations of its sovereignty. The Obama regime has brashly rejected China’s diplomatic protests and affirmed Washington’s ‘right’ to encroach on Chinese territorial waters.

After a quarter of a century of failing to dominate China via economic penetration by US multi-nationals and through the liberalization of its financial system, Washington has discarded its ‘softer’ diplomatic approach and adopted a ‘proto-war’ stand. This policy uses economic boycotts, military encirclement and encroachment on Chinese maritime, aerial and land sovereignty in the hope of provoking a military response and then evoking a second ‘Pearl Harbor’ as a pretext for a full scale war engulfing its Asian allies (and Australia) in a major war in the Asia-Pacific region.

China’s market successes have replaced the US as the dominant economic power in Asia, Latin America and Africa. In the face of this ‘usurpation’ the US has dropped the velvet glove of diplomacy in favor of the iron fist of military provocation and escalation. The US military budget is five times greater than China’s, whereas China’s investments and financing of economic projects throughout Asia, Latin America and the BRIC countries are ten times greater than those of the US.

China’s ‘economic pivot’ will clearly enhance Beijing’s global position over the medium and long-run, if the US’s reckless and short-term military superiority and territorial aggression does not lead to a devastating world war!

In the meantime, China is developing its military capacity to confront the ‘US pivot to war’. China’s leaders have devised a new defensive strategy, boosting its naval capacity and shifting from strictly territorial defense to both defense and offense on land, air and sea. Off shore defense is combined with open sea protection to enhance China’s capability for a strategic deterrent and counter-attack. China’s annual military spending had increased on average ten percent per annum in anticipation of the Pentagon shifting 60% of its fleet to the Pacific over the next five years.

US-Cuba Diplomatic Negotiations: The ‘Trojan Horse’ Approach

For over fifty years the US has mounted a concerted terrorist-sabotage campaign, economic embargo and diplomatic war against its Caribbean neighbor, Cuba. In the face of near total diplomatic isolation in the United Nations (185 to 3 against the US-imposed blockade), universal opposition to belligerent US policy toward Cuba at the Summit of the Americas and in the Organization of American States and surprisingly favorable public opinion toward Cuba among the domestic US citizenry, Washington decided to open negotiations to establish diplomatic and commercial relations with Havana.

On the surface, the apparent shift from military confrontation and economic sanctions to diplomatic negotiations would register as a move toward peaceful co-existence between opposing social systems. However, a closer reading of Washington’s tactical concessions and strategic goals argues for a mere ‘change of methods’ for reversing advances of the socialist revolution rather than a diplomatic accommodation.

Under the cover of a diplomatic agreement, the US will directly or indirectly channel millions of dollars into Cuba’s private sector, strengthening its weight in the economy, and forming partnerships with Cuban public and private sector counter-parts. The US Embassy’s economic policy will be directed toward expanding the business sectors open to US capital. In other words, Washington will pursue a strategy of incremental privatization to create economic and political allies.

Secondly, the US embassy will greatly expand its role as financial backer, recruiter and protector of counter-revolutionary, self-styled Cuban ‘dissidents’ in its ‘civil society.

Thirdly, the vast influx of US-controlled telecommunications, cultural programs and exchanges, and commercial sales will have the effect of de-radicalizing the Cuban public (from socialism and egalitarianism to gross consumerism) and reducing Cuba’s fraternal ties to Latin America. Anti-imperialist solidarity with popular Latin American movements and governments will diminish as the Cubans adopt the ‘Miami mentality’.

Fourthly, Cuba’s economic and political ties with Venezuela will remain but the US efforts to subvert or ‘moderate’ the Bolivian government may face less opposition from Havana.

Fifth, Washington will foster cheap mass tourism in order to promote a one-sided dependent economy, which over time will replace socialist consciousness with a ‘comprador consciousness’ – a decadent mentality, which encourages the emergence of a class of intermediaries or ‘brokers’ engaged in  economic exchanges between the ‘sender’(the US) and ‘receiver’(Cuba) country. Cuban ‘intermediaries’ between the imperial US and dependent Cuba could become strategic political actors in Havana.

In other words, the concessions Washington have secured via diplomatic politics will form the ‘Trojan Horse’ to facilitate a ‘subversion from within approach’ designed to subvert the social economy and to secure Cuban co-operation in de-radicalizing Latin America.

Fidel Castro has rightly expressed his distrust of the new US approach. Castro’s pointed criticisms of Washington’s highly militarized interventions in the Middle East, the Ukraine and the South China Sea is designed to influence Cuban policymakers, who are overzealous in conceding political concessions to the US.

Libya, Ukraine, Syria and Yemen:  Negotiations as Prelude to Wars

Negotiations between Libyan President Gadhafi and Washington led to a dismantling of the country’s advanced military defense programs. Once essentially defenseless from NATO attack, the US and its European and Gulf allies embarked on a full-scale bombing campaign for ‘regime change’ in support of tribal and sectarian warlords destroying the country’s infrastructure, ending the life of its leader and tens of thousands of Libyans and driving hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers from sub-Sahara Africa into exile as refugees.

Negotiations between the democratically-elected leader of the Ukraine and the US-NATO based opposition led to political concessions that were quickly exploited by US funded foreign NGOs and domestic neo-Nazis. Street mobs took over  government buildings in Kiev leading to a putsch and ‘regime change’, as well as detonating a brutal ethnic war against eastern Russian speaking Ukrainians, opposed to NATO and favoring continued traditional ties with Russia. Despite ‘negotiations’ between the NATO-backed regime and Donbass federalists leading to a European-brokered cease fire, the government in Kiev continues to bomb the self-governing regions.

The US, EU, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (the “Quartet”) back armed Islamist mercenaries and jihadist terrorists seeking to overthrow the Bashar Assad government in Damascus and rebel Houthi government coalition in Yemen. Under the guise of seeking a ‘negotiated political solution’, the ‘Quartet’ has consistently pursued a military solution.

Negotiations and diplomacy have become chosen tactical ploys in Washington’s repertory for pursing war.

Wars are preceded by or accompany diplomacy and negotiations which act to weaken the target adversary, as was the case in Libya, the Ukraine and Colombia.

Diplomatic overtures to China are accompanied by a ‘military pivot’, aggressive military encirclement, and provocative acts such as the recent arrest of visiting Chinese scholars and repeated violations of Chinese airspace.

The diplomatic overtures to Cuba are accompanied by demands for greater “access” to proselytize and subvert Cuban officials,and  its people.

US negotiators demand the unilateral demilitarization and pervasive oversight of Iran’s strategic military defenses even as the US expands its proxy wars against Teheran’s allies in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile Washington rejects the comprehensive ending of economic sanctions against the Iranians.

Negotiations, under the Obama regime, are simply tactics to intensify and expand the strategy of war. The “peace negotiations” between the US-backed Santos regime and the FARC follows the global script outlined above.

Through phony ‘partial agreements’, which are never seriously intended to be implemented, the US-backed Colombian military and their paramilitary allies continue to ravage the countryside. Displaced peasants and farmers attempting to return and reclaim farmland continue to be assassinated. Human rights lawyers and workers are still murdered.

The Santos regime escalates its military offensive against the FARC, taking full advantage of the “unilateral ceasefire” declared by FARC leaders in Havana.

The true intentions of the Santos regime toward the FARC were revealed in the aftermath of the assassination of 40 guerrilla combatants: The regime demonized the FARC, justifying the offensive by criminalizing the insurgents, linking them to drug and human traffickers.

The gap between what the regime negotiators say in Havana and what the military commanders do in the Colombian countryside has never been  greater. The disconnect between the peace talks in Havana and the military offensive in Colombia is the best indicator of what can be expected if an agreement is signed.

Santos and the US adviser Aronson envision a highly militarized state advised by thousands of US agents and mercenaries. The disarmament of the FARC will be followed by the persecution of former guerrilla combatants and the expansion of mining contracts in former guerrilla controlled territory. The military command will increase its sponsorship of cross border paramilitary attacks on Venezuela. The Santos regime will find a pretext to continue the incarceration of the majority of political prisoners. There will be no agrarian reform or repossession of illegally seized land. There will be no reversal of the US-Colombian free trade agreement. The hundreds of thousands of displaced peasants will remain without land or justice.

Very little of what is agreed in Havana will be implemented.  FARC leaders will be confined to playing the electoral game, providing that they are not assassinated by ‘sicarios on motorcycles’. Guerrilla militants without land, employment or security may join the drug traffickers – in a re-play of the so-called “Peace Accords” in El Salvador.

Under these circumstances why does the FARC’s current leadership proceed toward a suicidal agreement and its own extinction? In past conversations with leading Cuban foreign policy officials, including former Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, I was told that the Cuban government was deeply hostile to FARC and was eager to end hostilities in order to improve Cuban relations with the US. Likewise members of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry told me that they co-operated with the Colombian government in arresting and deporting FARC officials and sympathizers in order “to secure their borders from Colombian military and paramilitary incursions”.

In other words, there are valid grounds for viewing the FARC negotiators as operating under intense pressure from its supposed allies to continue ‘talks’ and reach a ‘peace agreement’, even if the results will be neither peace or justice!

Conclusion

The US strategy of “war through peace negotiations” is an ongoing process. So far the US military build-up against China has failed to intimidate China. Beijing has responded by launching its own strategic military response and by financing a huge number of Asian economic projects which, in the long-run, will isolate the US and undermine its offensive capacity.

The ‘war through negotiation’ strategy succeeded in destroying a nationalist adversary in Libya, while also devastating a profitable oil and gas producer, creating a ‘failed state’ on the Mediterranean and unleashing jihadist groups throughout North Africa. The NATO-Obama campaign for ‘regime change’ in Libya led to the mass exodus of millions of sub-Saharan workers formerly employed in Libya with untold thousands drowning in the Mediterranean in their desperate flight.

The US ‘war and negotiations policy’ toward Iran remains inconclusive: Washington has encircled Iran with proxy wars against Yemen and Syria but Iran continues to gain influence in Iraq.  The US has spent $40 billion on arms and training on an Iraqi army whose soldiers refuse to fight and die for US interests, allowing the neo-Baathist- ‘ISIS’ coalition of Sunni insurgents to seize one-third of the country. The more serious and motivated militia defending Baghdad is composed of the Shia volunteers, influenced by Teheran. The horrific break-up of what was once sovereign secular republic continues.

Washington’s dual strategy of negotiating with the Rohani regime while encircling the country is intended to degrade Teheran’s defense capability while minimizing any relief from the economic sanctions. Whether this one-sided process will lead to a ‘final agreement’ remains to be seen. In the final analysis, the US relations with Iran are subject to the power and influence of the Zionist power configuration in the US, acting on behalf of Israel, over and against the European Union’s interest to develop trade with the 80 million strong Iranian market.

The US “subversion via negotiations” approach to Cuba has moved forward slowly. The Cuban security apparatus, military, and, especially, important contingents of Fidelista officials, militants and intellectuals serve as an important counter-weight to the zealous liberal “modernizers” who envision “market solutions”. Washington does not expect a rapid transition to capitalism. It is banking on a ‘war of positions’, securing joint ventures with state officials; a massive infusion of consumerist propaganda to counter socialist values; funding private capitalists as potential strategic political allies; encouraging  Cuban foreign policy officials to cut off support for leftist movements and governments. Cuba’s leaders, at all costs, must not return to an economically dependent relation with the US – which is the strategic goal of the US. Washington is seeking through diplomacy to secure what 50 years of warfare failed to achieve: a regime change and a reversal of the gains of the Cuban Revolution.

The US strategy of war through negotiations has mixed results. Where it confronts a burgeoning world power, such as China, it has failed. With a weak, disarmed state like Libya, it succeeded beyond its wildest dreams (or nightmares). With “middle level powers” like Cuba and Iran, it has secured political concessions but has not yet eroded the security and defense capabilities of the governments. In the case of Colombia, Washington is deeply embedded in the regime and has openly embraced a naked military solution.

The FARC’s ‘inner leadership’ cannot continue with the unilateral  ‘cease fire’ unless it wishes for suicide; the ‘outside leadership’ appears committed to negotiations even as the war escalates. The results are uncertain, but what is obvious is that the Aronson – Santos regime have no tolerance for a ‘peace with social justice’. Their goal for the long struggling Colombian people is the ‘peace of the cemetery’, as the historic FARC leader Manual Marulanda declared in the aftermath of the broken peace negotiations of 1999-2002.