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

color-greece-austerity-web

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

poverty_by_go1985a

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.

Apr 162015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Harvard professor Joseph Nye, a former senior Pentagon functionary, is one of the longest serving and most influential advisers to US empire building officials. Nye has recently re-affirmed the primacy of the US as a world power in his latest book, Is the American Century Over? And his article, ‘The American Century will survive the Rise of China’ (Financial Times, 3/26/15, p. 7). These publications are in line with his earlier book, Bound to Lead, and his longstanding view that the US is not a declining world power, that it retains ‘supremacy’ even in the face of China’s rise to global power.

Nye’s views of US world supremacy have served to encourage Washington to wage multiple wars; his sanguine view of US economic power has allowed policy-makers to ignore fundamental weaknesses in the US economy and to overestimate US power, based on what he dubs, ‘soft’ and ‘military’ power.

In tackling Professor Nye’s work, we are not dealing with a ‘detached academic in the ivory tower’ – we are taking on a high level political influential, a hardline military hawk, whose views are reflected in the forging of strategic decisions and whose arguments serve to justify major government policies.

First, we will proceed through a critical analysis of his theoretical assumptions, historical arguments and conceptual framework. In the second part of this essay, we will consider the political consequences, which have flowed from his analysis and prescriptions. In the conclusion, we shall propose an alternative, more realistic, analysis of US global power, one more attuned to the real international position of the US in the world today.

Nye is Ossified in His Distorted Time Warp

Nye’s segmentation of power into three spheres – economic, military (hard), and diplomatic/cultural (soft), overlooks the inter-relation between them. What he dubs as ‘soft power’ usually relies on ‘hard power’, either before, during or after the application of ‘soft power’. Moreover, the capacity to influence by ‘soft power’ depends on economic promise or military coercion to enforce ‘persuasion’. Where economic resources or military threats are not present, soft power is ineffective.

Nye’s argument that military power is co-equal with economic power is a very dubious proposition. Over the medium run, economic power buys, expands and increases military power. In other words, economic resources are convertible into military as well as ‘soft power’. It can influence politicians, parties and regimes via trade, investments and credit in many ways which military power cannot. Over time, economic power translates into military power. Nye’s claims of persistent US military superiority in the face of its admitted economic decline is ephemeral or time bound.

Nye’s argument about the continued ascendancy of US global power ‘for the next few decades’ is a dubious, static view – ignoring a long-term, large-scale, historical trajectory. Lifelong shibboleths never die! By all empirical indicators - economic, political and even militarily, the US is a declining power. Moreover, what is important is not where the US is at any given moment but the where it is moving. Its declining shares of Latin American, African and Asian markets clearly points to a downward trajectory.

Power is a relationship. By definition it means a country’s capacity to make other countries or political entities do what they otherwise would not do. To consider the US as the dominant world power, we cannot, as Nye proposes, look at its ‘reputation’ as a world power or cite its ‘military capacity’ or willingness to project military force. We need to look at military and political outcomes in multiple key issue areas in which US policymakers have sought to establish regional or local dominance.

Nye’s discussion fails to look at the negative cumulative effects of US policy failures in multiple regions over time to determine whether the US retains its global supremacy or is a declining power.

To simply preach that ‘the American century is not over’, because some critics in the past mistakenly thought that the USSR in the 1970s or Japan in the 1980’s would displace the US as the global power, is to overlook the foundational weakness and repeated failures of US policymakers to impose or persuade other nations to accept US supremacy over the past decade and a half.

If, as Nye grudgingly concedes, China has replaced the US as the leading economic power in Asia, he does not understand the dynamic components of Chinese economic power, especially its long term, large-scale accumulation of foreign reserves and rapidly growing technical knowhow. Even worse, Nye ignores how the military dimension of world power has actively undermined US economic supremacy.

It is precisely Nye’s belief, along with other Pentagon advisers, that US military supremacy make it a ‘world power’, which has led to catastrophic, prolonged and costly wars. These wars have degraded and undermined US pretensions of ‘world leadership’ or more accurately - imperial supremacy.

While the US has spent trillions of dollars of public money on prolonged and losing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, as well as ongoing military interventions in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, China and other emerging powers have engaged in large long-term economic expansion, increasing market shares, acquiring productive enterprises and expanding their sources of capital accumulation in dynamic regions.

US repeated projections of military power have not created new sources of wealth. The US capacity and willingness to engage in multiple disastrous wars has led to a greater loss of military influence.

Consequences of High Military Capacity and Declining Economic Performance

The consequence of utilizing its great storehouse of military capacity so disastrously has degraded and weakened the US military as well as its imperial economic reach. Repeated US military defeats, its inability to secure its goals or impose its dominance in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan has severely weakened the domestic political foundations of global military power, to the point where the US public is adverse to sending large scale US ground troops into combat.

Nye’s inventory of military resources, stockpile of up-to-date bombers, nuclear weapons, fighter planes, military bases, special forces operations, and its vast spy (“intelligence”) apparatus, in other words the US’s supreme military ‘capacity’, has not resulted in the establishment of a prosperous, stable and submissive empire (the goal that Nye euphemistically dubs ‘world supremacy’). US military engagements, both high and low intensity wars, have resulted in costly defeats and retreats as adversaries advance into the vacuum. Superior material capacity has not translated into US dominance because nationalist, anti-imperialist consciousness and movements based on mass armed resistance, have demonstrated superiority in countering foreign (US) invasions, occupations and satellite building.

Nye ignores a decisive ‘military resource’, which the US does not have and its adversaries have in abundance – nationalist consciousness. Here, Nye’s notion of US supremacy in ‘soft power’ has been terribly wrong-headed. According to Nye, the US superiority in the use and control of mass media, films, news and cultural organizations and educational institutions continues and has allowed the US to retain its global supremacy.

No doubt the US global propaganda apparatus and networks are formidable but they have not been successful, not least, as a bulwark of US global supremacy. Once again Nye’s inventory of soft power assets relies exclusively on quantitative,contemporary, material structures and ignores the enormous counter-influence of historical legacies, nationalist, cultural, religious, ethnic, class, race and gender consciousness, which rejects US dominance in all of its forms. US ‘soft power’ has not conquered or gained the allegiance of the people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Yemen. Nor has it convinced the billions of Chinese, Latin American or Islamic peoples to embrace American ‘leadership’.

No doubt ‘soft power’ has worked to a limited extent, especially among sectors of the educated classes and the local political elite, converting them into imperial collaborators. No doubt elements of the educated elite have been co-opted by US funded ‘non-governmental organizations’ that engage in grass roots counter-insurgency as the counterpart to the drone attacks from above. But, once again, Nye relies on quantitative, rather than qualitative, measures of influence. Despite an army of NGOs and the budgeting of billions of dollars, US imperial conquests, coups, occupations, rigged elections, and puppet regimes are highly unpopular. As a result, US troops need to diminish their presence, and its overseas and visiting diplomats require a squadron of security officials and operate out of armed fortresses.

Professor Nye’s treatment of what he calls ‘soft power’ is reduced to an inventory of propaganda resources, developed and/or cultivated by the imperial state (the US) to induce submission to and acceptance of the global supremacy of the US. However vast the spending and however broad the scope of ‘soft power, Nye fails to recognize the ineffectiveness of the US ‘soft power apparatus’ in the face of systemic crimes against humanity, which have profoundly alienated and decisively turned world opinion and specific national publics against the US. Specifically, Washington’s practice of torture (Abu Ghraib), kidnapping (rendition), and prolonged jailing without trial (Guantanamo); its global spy network monitoring hundreds of millions of citizens in the US and among allies and its use of drones killing more non-combatant (innocent) citizens than armed adversaries, have severely weakened, if not undermined, the appeal of US ‘soft powers’. Nye is oblivious to the ways in which US projections of military power have led to the precipitous long-term decline of ‘soft power’, and the way in which that decline has resulted in the greater reliance on military power . . . in a vicious circle.

Nye ignores the changing composition of the strategic decision makers who decide where and when military power will be exercised. He blandly assumes that policy is directed by and for enhancing US ‘global supremacy’. But as Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, (The Israel Lobby) and Petras, (The Power of Israel in the United States), have demonstrated, powerful, organized lobbies, like AIPAC, and Israel First officials in the Executive branch have taken military decisions to focus on the Middle East at the behest of Israel in order to enhance its power. These decisions have had an enormous cost in terms of loss of human and financial resources and have contributed to the decline of US global supremacy. Nye fails to recognize how the ascendancy of his militarist colleagues in the Pentagon and the Zionists in the Congress and Executive have drastically changed the way in which hard power (military) is exercised

And how it has weakened the composition and use of soft power and provoked greater imbalances between economic and military power.

Nye’s argument is further weakened by his incapacity to ‘problematize’ the changing content of military power, its shift from a tool of economic expansion, directed by US empire-builders, to an end in itself exploiting economic resources to enhance Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. This weakness is exacerbated by his failure to recognize the changing nature of economic power – the shift from manufacturing to finance capital and the negative consequences, which result for the projection of US economic power and dominance.

Finally, Nye totally ignores the moral dimension of the US drive for world dominance. At worst, he blithely assumes that destructive US wars are, by their nature, virtuous. Nye’s political commitment to the ‘American Century’ and total belief in its benignancy blind him to the killing and displacement of millions of Iraqis, Syrians, Afghans, Somalis, Libyans and now Ukrainians – among others. Nye’s assumption of the beneficial effects of the US-NATO-EU expansion into the former Warsaw Pact countries, and especially Russia, ignores the vast impoverishment of 70% of the Ukrainian population, the outward flight of 20 million skilled professionals and workers, and the subsequent militarization of Eastern Europe and East Germany via its incorporation in NATO. According to Nye’s moral calculus, any policy that enhances US global power is virtuous, no matter how it impacts the recipient population. These are not only Nye’s views, they provide the ideological underpinning of the official ‘soft power’ propaganda accompanying past, present and near future wars of mass destruction.

Nye is not your typical garden variety Ivy League-ideologue-for-US-and-Israeli-dominance (and there are many in US academia). Nye has been an important theoretical architect and strategic planner responsible for US global wars and the accompanying crimes against humanity. His global fantasies of US ascendancy have led to the parlous state of the US domestic economy, multiple unwinnable wars overseas and the eclipse of any strategic thinking about reversing the economic decline of the US in the world economy. Applying a cost-benefit analysis to Prof. Nye’s policies, if he were employed as a CEO in the private sector, he would have long ago been fired and dispatched to a prestigious business school to teach ‘ethics’. Since he is already tenured at Harvard and employed by the Pentagon he can continue to churn out his irresponsible ‘manifestos’ of US global leadership and not be held to account for the disasters.

In Joseph Nye, we have our own American version of Colonel Blimp surveying his colonial projects: He has exchanged his pith helmet, short britches and walking stick, for a combat helmet and boots, and has limited his ‘reviews’ of the Empire to secure zones, surrounded by an entourage of combat ready Leathernecks or mercenaries, circling helicopter warships and super-vetted local military toadies.

Historical Fallacies

Even at its zenith of ‘global power’ during the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, US military performance was the least effective component of world power. Two major wars, Korea and Indo-China, speak against Nye’s formula. The US military failed to defeat the North Korean and Chinese armies; Washington had to settle for a ‘compromise’. And the US was militarily defeated and forced to withdraw from Indo-China. Success in securing influence came afterwards, via economic investments and trade, accompanied by political and cultural influences.

Today, Nye’s reliance on the superior military resources of the US to project the continuance of the ‘American Century’ rests on very shakey historical foundations.

Nye’s Military Metaphysics as Crackpot Realism

The US has declined as a world power because of its ‘military pivot’ – following Nye’s military metaphysics and ‘soft power’ psychobabble. In every practical situation, where the US attempted to secure its dominance by relying on its superior ‘military capacity’ against its competitors’ reliance on economic and political resources, Washington has lost.

China has set in motion the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – with an initial offering of $50 billion dollars. The US is staunchly opposed to the AIIB because it clearly represents an alternative to the US-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF). Despite Washington’s pressure to reject membership, its ‘allies’, led by the UK and followed by all major powers (except Japan for now), have applied for membership. Even Israel has joined!

Washington sought to convince leading ‘emerging economies’ to accept US-centered economic integration; but instead, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (the BRICS) founded the BRICS’ bank.

The US engineered the overthrow of the elected government in the Ukraine, and set up a puppet regime to incorporate it as a NATO client and military platform on Russia’s border. Instead, the Ukraine turned into an economic basket case, run by kleptocratic oligarchs, defended by openly neo-Nazi brigades and incapable of defeating federal autonomist rebels in the industrialized east.

The US and the EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia and federal autonomist rebels of the Donbass in Eastern Ukraine. This has become another example of projecting political power to enlarge the scope of military operations at the cost of devastating losses in trade and investment, between Moscow and the European Union, not to speak of the Ukraine – whose economy was dependent on trade with Russia.

The decline of US world power is, in part, a result of the dynamism and economic growth of emerging powers such as China and the relative decline of US market shares and inferior rates of growth.

Nye, in one of his more egregiously foolish efforts to puff up US economic superiority and to downgrade China’s economic rise, argues that China’s growth rate is ‘likely to slow in the future’. Dear Joe… don’t you know that a Chinese ‘slow down’ from double digit growth to 7 percent is still triple the rate of growth of the US today and for the foreseeable future?

Moreover China’s balanced economy, between production and finance, is less crisis-prone than the lopsided growth of the corrupt US financial sector. Nye’s economic calculus ignores the qualitative, as well as quantitative, dimensions of economic power.

Conclusion

The dubious intellectual value of Joseph Nye’s writings would not merit serious consideration except for the fact that they have a deep and abiding influence on US foreign policy. Nye is an ardent advocate of empire building and his arguments and prescriptions carry weight in the White House and Pentagon. His normative bias and his love of empire building blinds him to objective realties. The fact that he is a failed policy advisor, who refuses to acknowledge defeats, decline and destruction resulting from his world view, has not lessened the dangerous nature of his current views.

Nye’s attempt to justify his vision of continuing US world supremacy has led him to blame his critics. In his latest book, he rants that predictions of US decline are ‘dangerous’ because they could encourage countries such as China to pursue more aggressive policies. In other words, Nye having failed, through logic and facts, to sustain his assertions against his better-informed critics, questions their loyalty – evoking a McCarthyite specter of intellectuals critical of US global power…stabbing the country in the back.

Nye tries to deflect attention from the fragile material foundations of US power to disembodied ‘perceptions’.  According to Nye, it’s all perceptions’ (or illusions!): if the world leaders and public believe that ‘the American century is set to continue for many decades’, that faith will, in itself, help to sustain America’s superiority! Nye’s fit of irrationality, his reliance on Harry Houdini style of political analysis (‘Now you see US global power, now you don’t!) is unlikely to convince any serious analyst beyond the halls of the Pentagon and Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School.

What matters is that the US, while it is a declining world power, is still militarily powerful, dangerous and destructive, even as its empire building is weakening and its forces are in retreat. As Mahatma Gandhi once stated about the declining British Empire, ‘It’s the aging tiger that becomes the man eater’.

As an alternative, we can follow two lines of inquiry: One is to question the entire imperial enterprise and to focus on our return to republican values and domestic social and democratic reconstruction. That is a necessary, but prolonged struggle, under present circumstances. In the meantime, we can pursue policies that emphasize the importance of shifting from destructive military expansionism toward constructive economic engagements, flexible cooperation with emerging competitors, and diplomatic agreements with adversaries. Contrary to Nye’s assertions, militarism and economic expansion are not compatible. Wars destroy markets and occupations provoke resistance, which frighten investors. ‘Soft power’ and NGO’s that rely on manipulation, lies and demonization of critics gain few adherents and multiple adversaries.

The US should increase its ties and co-operation with BRICS and China’s AIIB. It should reach out to sign trade deals with Iran, Syria and Lebanon. It should cut off aid to Israel, because of it bellicose posture toward the Arab East and its brutal colonization of Palestine. Washington should end its support of violent coups and engage with Venezuela. It should lift sanctions against Russia and East Ukraine and propose joint economic ventures. By ending colonial wars, we can increase economic growth and open markets. We should pursue economic accommodation not military occupation. The former leads to prosperity, the latter to destruction.

Mar 222015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Over the past year, what appeared as hopeful signs, that Left governments were emerging as powerful alternatives to right-wing pro-US regimes, is turning into a historic rout, which will relegate them to the dustbin of history for many years to come. The rise and rapid decay of left-wing governments in France, Greece and Brazil is not the result of a military coup, nor is it due to the machinations of the CIA. The debacle of left governments is a result of deliberate political decisions, which break decisively with the progressive programs, promises and commitments that political leaders had made to the great mass of working and middle class voters who elected them.

Increasingly, the electorate views the leftist rulers as traitors, who betrayed their supporters at the beck and call of their most egregious class enemies: the bankers, the capitalists and the neo-liberal ideologues.

Left Governments Commit Suicide

The self-destruction of the Left is an unanticipated victory for the most retrograde neo-liberal political forces. These forces have sought to destroy the welfare system, impose their rule via non-elected officials, widen and deepen inequalities, undermine labor rights and privatize and denationalize the most lucrative sectors of the economy.

Three cases of Left regime betrayal serve to highlight this process: The French Socialist regime of President Francois Hollande governing in the second leading power in Europe (2012-2015); Syriza, the left regime in Greece elected on January 25, 2015, portrayed as a sterling proponent of an alternative policy to ‘fiscal austerity’; and The Workers Party of Brazil, governing in the biggest Latin American country (2003-2015) and a leading member of the BRICS.

French ‘Socialism’: The Great Leap Backward

In his Presidential campaign, Francois Hollande promised to raise taxes on the rich up to 75%; lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 years; launch a massive public investment program to reduce unemployment; vastly increase public spending on education (hiring 60,000 new teachers), health and social housing; and withdraw French troops from Afghanistan as a first step toward reducing Paris’ role as an imperialist collaborator.

From 2012, when he was elected, to the present (March 2015), Francois Hollande has betrayed each and every political commitment: Public investments did not materialize and unemployment increased to over 3 million. His newly appointed Economic Minister Emmanuel Macron, a former partner of Rothschild Bank, sharply reduced business taxes by 50 billion euros. His newly appointed Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a neo-liberal zealot, implemented major cuts in social programs, weakened government regulation of business and banking and eroded job security. Hollande appointed Laurence Boone from Bank of America as his top economic adviser.

The French ‘Socialist President’ sent troops to Mali, bombers to Libya, military advisers to the Ukraine junta and aided the so-called Syrian ‘rebels’ (mostly Jihadist mercenaries). He signed off on billion-euro military sales to the Saudi Arabian monarcho-dictatorship and reneged on a contracted sale of warships to Russia.

Hollande joined with Germany in demanding that the Greek government comply with full and prompt debt payments to private bankers and maintain its brutal ‘austerity program’.

As a result of defrauding French voters, betraying labor and embracing bankers, big business and militarists, less than 19% of the electorate has a positive view of the ‘socialist’ government, placing it in third place among the major parties. Hollande’s pro-Israel policies and his hardline on US- Iranian peace negotiations, Minister Vall’s Islamophobic raids in French Muslim suburbs and the support of military interventions against Islamic movements, have increasingly polarized French society and heightened ethno-religious violence in the country.

Greece:  Syriza’s Instant Transformation

From the moment in which Syriza won the Greek elections on January 25, 2015, to the middle of March, Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister and Yanis Varoufakis, his appointed Finance Minister, reneged in rapid order on every major and minor electoral program. They embraced the most retrograde measures, procedures and relations with the ‘Troika’, (the IMF, and European Commission at the European Central Bank), which Syriza had denounced in its Thessaloniki program a short time earlier.

Tsipras and Varoufakis repudiated the promise to reject the dictates of the ‘Troika’. In other words, they have accepted colonial rule and continued vassalage.

Typical of their demagogy and deceit, they sought to cover up their submission to the universally hated ‘Troika’ by dubbing it ‘the Institution’ – fooling nobody but themselves– and becoming the butt of cynical cackles from their EU overseers.

During the campaign, Syriza had promised to write off all or most of the Greek debt. In government, Tsipras and Varoufakis immediately assured the Troika that they recognized and promised to meet all of their debt obligations.

Syriza had promised to prioritize humanitarian spending over austerity – raising the minimum wage, rehiring public employees in health and education and raising pension payments. After two weeks of servile groveling, the ‘re-formed’ Tsipras and Varoufakis prioritized austerity – making debt payments and ‘postponing’ even the most meagre anti-poverty spending. When the Troika lent the Syriza regime $2 billion to feed hungry Greeks, Tsipras lauded his overseers and promised to submit a multi-billion euro list of regressive ‘reforms’.

Syriza had promised to re-examine the previous rightwing regime’s dubious privatization of lucrative public enterprises and to stop on-going and future privatizations. In government, Tsipras and Varoufakis quickly disavowed that promise. They approved past, present and future privatizations. In fact, they made overtures to procure new privatization ‘partners’, offering lucrative tax concessions in selling-out more public firms.

Syriza promised to tackle the depression level unemployment (26% national, 55% youth) via public spending and reduced debt payments. Tsipras and Varoufakis dutifully met debt payments and did not allocate any funds to create jobs!

Not only did Syriza continue the policies of its rightwing predecessors, but also it did so in a ludicrous style and substance: adopting ridiculous public postures and demagogic inconsequential gestures:

One day Tsipras would lay a wreath at the gravesite of 200 Greek partisans murdered by the Nazis during WW II. The next day he would grovel before the German bankers and concede to their demands for budget austerity, withholding public funds from 2 million unemployed Greeks.

One afternoon, Finance Minister Varoufakis would pose for a photo spread for Paris Match depicting him, cocktail in hand, on his penthouse terrace overlooking the Acropolis; and several hours later he would claim to speak for the impoverished masses!

Betrayal, deceit and demagogy all during the first two months in office, Syriza has established a record in its conversion from a leftist anti-austerity party to a conformist, servile vassal of the European Union.

Tsipras’ call for Germany to pay reparations for damages to Greece during WW II –a long overdue and righteous demand– is another phony demagogic ploy designed to distract the impoverished Greeks from Tsipras and Varoufakis sellout to German contemporary austerity demands. A cynical European Union official tells the Financial Times (12/3/15, p. 6), “He’s (Tsipras) giving them (Syriza militants) a bone to lick on”.

No one expects German leaders to alter their hardline because of past injustices, least of all because they come from interlocutors on bended knees. No one in the EU takes Tsipras demand at face value. They see it as more empty ‘radical’ rhetoric for domestic consumption.

Talking up 70-year German reparations avoids taking practical action today repudiating or reducing payments on illegitimate debt to German banks and repudiating Merckel’s dictates. The transparent betrayal of their most basic commitments to the impoverished Greek people has already divided Syriza. Over 40% of the central committee, including the President of the Parliament, repudiated the Tsipras –Varoufakis agreements with the Troika.

The vast majority of Greeks, who voted for Syriza, expected some immediate relief and reforms. They are increasingly disenchanted. They did not expect Tsipras to appoint Yanis Varoufakis, a former economic adviser to the corrupt neo-liberal PASOK leader George Papandreou, as Finance Minister. Nor did many voters abandon PASOK, en masse, over the past five years, only to find the same kleptocrats and unscrupulous opportunists occupying top positions in Syriza, thanks to Alexis Tsipras index finger.

Nor could the electorate expect any fight, resistance and willingness to break with the Troika from Tsipras’ appointments of ex-pat Anglo-Greek professors. These armchair leftists (‘Marxist seminarians’) neither engaged in mass struggles nor suffered the consequences of the prolonged depression.

Syriza is a party led by affluent upwardly mobile professionals, academics and intellectuals. They rule over (but in the name of) the impoverished working and salaried lower middle class, but in the interests of the Greek, and especially, German bankers.

They prioritize membership in the EU over an independent national economic policy. They abide by NATO, by backing the Kiev junta in the Ukraine, EU sanctions on Russia, NATO intervention in Syria/Iraq and maintain a loud silence on US military threats to Venezuela!

Brazil: Budget Cuts, Corruption and the Revolt of the Masses

Brazil’s self-styled Workers Party government in power an unlucky 13 years, has been one of the most corruption-ridden regimes in Latin America. Backed by one of the major labor confederations, and several landless rural workers’ organizations, and sharing power with center-left and center-right parties, it was able to attract tens of billions of dollars of foreign extractive, finance and agro-business capital. Thanks to a decade-long commodity boom in agro-mineral commodities, easy credit and low interest rates, it raised income, consumption and the minimum wage while multiplying profits for the economic elite.

Subsequent to the financial crises of 2009, and the decline of commodity prices, the economy stagnated, just as the new President Dilma Rousseff was elected. The Rousseff government, like her predecessor, Lula Da Silva, favored agro-business over the rural landless workers’ demands for land reform. Her regime promoted the timber barons and soya growers encroaching on the Indian communities and the Amazon rain forest.

Elected to a second term, Rousseff faced a major political and economic crises: a deepening economic recession, a fiscal deficit, and the arrest and prosecution of scores of corrupt Workers’ Party and allied congressional deputies and Petrobras oil executives.

Workers’ Party leaders and the Party’s campaign treasury received millions of dollars in kickbacks from construction companies securing contracts with the giant semi-public petroleum company. President Rousseff promised “to continue to support popular social programs”, and “to root out corruption”, during her election campaign. However, immediately after her election she embraced orthodox neo-liberal policies and appointed a cabinet of hard-right neo-liberals including Bradesco banker Joaquin Levy as Finance Minister. Levy proposed to reduce unemployment payments, pensions and public salaries. He argued for greater de-regulation of banks. He proposed to weaken job protection laws to attract capital. He sought to achieve a budget surplus and attract foreign investment at the expense of labor.

Rousseff, consistent with her embrace of neo-liberal orthodoxy, appointed Katia Abreu, a rightwing senator, a life-long leader of agro-business interests and sworn enemy of land reform, as the new Agricultural Minister. Crowned “Miss Deforestation” by Greenpeace, Senator Abreu was vehemently opposed by the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) and the labor confederation to no avail. With Rousseff’s total backing Abreu set out on a course of ending even the minimal land redistribution carried out in Rousseff’s first term in office (establishing land settlements benefiting less than 10% of the landless squatters). Abreu endorsed regulations facilitating the expansion of genetically modified crops, and promises to forcefully evict Amazonian Indians occupying productive land in favor of large-scale agro-business corporations. Moreover, she promises to vigorously defend landlords from land occupations by landless rural workers.

Rousseff’s incapacity and/or unwillingness to fire and prosecute the Workers Party Treasurer, involved in a decade long billion-dollar kickback and bribery scandal, deepened and widened mass opposition.

On March 15, 2015 over a million Brazilians filled the streets across the country, led by rightist parties, but drawing support from the popular classes demanding immediate anti-corruption trials and stern sentences, and the revocation of Levy’s cuts in social expenditures.

The counter demonstration in support of Rousseff by the CUT labor confederation and the MST drew one-tenth that number – about 100,000 participants.

Rousseff responded by calling for ‘dialogue’ and claimed to be ‘open to proposals’ on the issue of corruption but explicitly rejected any changes in her regressive fiscal policies, neo-liberal cabinet appointmentsand her embrace of their agro-mineral agenda.

In less than two months, the Workers Party and its President has indelibly stained its leaders, policies and backers with the brush of corruption and socially regressive policies.

Popular support has plummeted. The right wing is growing. Even the authoritarian, pro-military coup activists were present in the mass demonstrations, carrying signs calling for ‘impeachment’ and a return of military rule.

As in most of Latin America, the authoritarian right in Brazil is a growing force, positioning itself to take power as the center-left adopts a neo-liberal agenda throughout the region. Parties dubbed ‘center-left’, like the Broad Front in Uruguay, the pro-government Party for Victory in Argentina, are deepening their ties with agro-mineral corporate capitalism.

Uninformed claims by leftist US writers like Noam Chomsky that, “Latin America is the vanguard against neo-liberalism” is at best a decade late, and certainly misleading. They are deceived by populist policy pronouncements and refuse to acknowledge the decay of the center –left regimes and thus fail to recognize how their neoliberal political actions are fostering mass popular discontent. Regimes, which adopt regressive socio-economic policies, do not constitute a vanguard for social emancipation.

Conclusion

What accounts for these abrupt reversals and swiftly broken promises by recently elected supposedly ‘left parties’ in Europe and Latin America?

One has come to expect this kind of behavior in North America from the Obama Democrats or the New Democratic Party in Canada . . . But we were led to believe that in France, with its red republican traditions, a Socialist regime backed (‘critically’) by anti-capitalists leftists; would at least implement progressive social reforms. We were told by an army of progressive bloggers that Syriza, with its charismatic leader, and radical rhetoric, would at least fulfill its most elementary promises by lifting the yoke of Troika domination and begin to end destitution and provide electricity to 300,000 candle-lit households. ‘Progressives’ had repeatedly told us that the Workers Party lifted 30 million out of poverty. They claimed that a former ‘honest auto worker’ (Lula Da Silva) would never allow the Workers Party to revert back to neo-liberal budget cuts and embrace its supposed ‘class enemies’. US leftist professors refused to give credence to the crass billion-dollar robbery of the Brazilian National Treasury under two Workers’ Party Presidents.

Several explanations for these political betrayals come to mind. First, despite their popular or ‘workerist’ claims, these parties were run by middle class lawyers, professionals and trade union bureaucrats, who were organically disconnected from their mass base. During election campaigns, seeking votes, they briefly embraced workers and the poor, and then spent the rest of their time in pricey restaurants working out “deals” with bankers, business bribe granters and overseas investors to finance their next election, their children’s private school and their mistresses luxury apartments.

For a time, when the economy was booming, big corporate profits, payoffs and bribes went hand in hand with wage increases and poverty programs. But when the crisis broke, the ‘popular’ leaders doffed their Party hats and pronounced ‘fiscal austerity was inevitable while going with their begging cups before their international financial overlords.

In all these countries faced with difficult times, the middle class leaders of the Left feared the problem (capitalist crisis) and feared the real solution (radical transformation). Instead they turned to the ‘only solution’: they approached capitalist leaders and sought to convince business associations and, above all their financial overlords, that they were ‘serious and responsible politicians’, willing to forsake social agendas and embrace fiscal discipline. For domestic consumption, they cursed and threatened the elites, providing a little theater to entertain their plebeian followers, before they capitulated!

None of the academics-turned-left-leaders have any deep and abiding links to the mass struggles. Their ‘activism’ involves reading papers at ‘social forums’, and giving papers at conferences on ‘emancipation and equality’. Political sellouts and fiscal austerity will not jeopardize their economic positions. If their Left parties are ousted by angry constituents and radical social movements, the left leaders pack their bags and return to comfortable tenured jobs or rejoin their law office. They do not have to worry about mass firings or reduced subsistence pensions. At their leisure they will find time to sit back and write another paper on the how the  ‘crisis of capitalism’ undermined their well-intentioned social agenda or how they experienced the ‘crisis of the Left’.

Because of their disconnect from the suffering of the impoverished, unemployed voters, the middle class leftists in office are blind to the need to make a break with the system. In reality, they share the worldview of their supposedly conservative adversaries: they too believe that ‘it’s capitalism or chaos’. This borrowed cliché is passed off as a deep insight into the dilemmas of democratic socialists. The middle class leftist officials and advisers always use the alibi of ‘institutional constraints’. They ‘theorize’ their political impotence – they never recognize the power of organized class movements.

Their political cowardice is structural and leads to easy moral betrayals: they plead, ‘Crisis is not a time to tinker with the system’.

For the middle class, ‘time’ becomes a political excuse. Middle class leaders of popular movements, without audacity or programs of struggle, always talk of change . . .  in the future.

Instead of mass struggle, they run to and fro, between the centers of financial power and their Central Committees, confusing ‘dialogues’ that end in submission, with consequential resistance.

In the end the people will re-pay them turning their backs and rejecting their pleas to re-elect them ‘for another chance’.

There will not be another chance. This ‘Left’ will be discredited in the eyes of those whose trust they betrayed.

The tragedy is that the entire left will be tarnished. Who can believe the fine words of ‘liberation’, ‘the will to hope’ and the ‘return of sovereignty’ after experiencing years of the opposite?

Left politics will be lost for an entire generation, at least in Brazil, France and Greece.

The Right will ridicule the open zipper of Hollande; the false humility of Rousseff; the hollow gestures of Tsipras and the clowning of Varoufakis.

The people will curse their memory and their betrayal of a noble cause.

Mar 152015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Why did Obama declare a ‘national emergency’, claim that Venezuela represents a threat to US national security and foreign policy, assume executive prerogatives and decree sanctions against top Venezuelan officials in charge of national security, at this time?

Venezuela’s Support of Latin America Integration is Obama’s Great Fear

To answer this question it is essential to begin by addressing Obama’s specious and unsubstantiated charges of a Venezuelan ‘threat to national security and foreign policy’.

First, the White House presents no evidence … because there is nothing to present! There are no Venezuelan missiles, fighter planes, warships, Special Forces, secret agents or military bases poised to attack US domestic facilities or its overseas installations.

In contrast, the US has warships in the Caribbean, seven military bases just across the border in Colombia manned by over two thousand US Special Forces, and Air Force bases in Central America. Washington has financed proxy political and military operations intervening in Venezuela with intent of overthrowing the legally constituted and elected government.

Obama’s claims resemble a ploy that totalitarian and imperialist rulers frequently use: Accusing their imminent victims of the crimes they are preparing to perpetrate against them. No country or leader, friend or foe, has supported Obama’s accusations against Venezuela.

Obama’s charge that Venezuela represents a ‘threat’ to US foreign policy requires clarification: First, which elements of US foreign policy are threatened? Venezuela has successfully proposed and supported several regional integration organizations, which are voluntarily supported by their fellow Latin American and Caribbean members. These regional organizations, in large part, replace US-dominated structures, which served Washington’s imperial interests. In other words, Venezuela supports alternative diplomatic and economic organizations, which its members believe will better serve their economic and political interests, than those promoted by the Obama regime. Petrocaribe, a Central American and Caribbean association of countries supported by Venezuela, addresses the development needs of their members better than US-dominated organizations like the Organization of American States or the so-called ‘Caribbean Initiative’. The same is true of Venezuela’s support of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). These are Latin American organizations which exclude the dominating presence of the US and Canada and are designed to promote greater regional independence.

Obama’s charge that Venezuela represents a threat to US foreign policy is an accusation directed at all governments who have freely chosen to abandon US-centered organizations and who reject US hegemony.

In other words, what arouses Obama’s ire and motivates his aggressive threats toward Venezuela is Caracas’s political leadership in challenging US imperialist foreign policy.

Venezuela does not have military bases in the rest of Latin America nor has it invaded, occupied or sponsored military coups in other Latin American countries – as Obama and his predecessors have done.

Venezuela condemned the US invasion of Haiti, the US-supported military coups in Honduras (2009), Venezuela (2002, 2014, 2015), Bolivia (2008) and Ecuador (2010).

Clearly, Obama’s ‘emergency’ decree and sanctions against Venezuela are directed at maintaining unchallenged US imperial supremacy in Latin America and degrading Venezuela’s independent, democratic foreign policy.

To properly understand Obama’s policy toward Venezuela, we have to analyze why he has chosen overt, unilateral bellicose threats atthis time?

Obama’s War Threat Results from Political Failure

The principal reasons why Obama has directly intervened in Venezuelan politics is that his other policy options designed to oust the Maduro government have failed.

In 2013, Obama’s relied on US financing of an opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, to oust the incumbent Chavista government. President Maduro defeated Obama’s choice and derailed Washington’s ‘via electoral’ to regime change.

Subsequently, Obama attempted to boycott and discredit the Venezuelan voting process via an international smear campaign. The White House boycott lasted 6 months and received no support in Latin America, or from the European Union, since scores of international election observers, ranging from former President James Carter to representatives of the Organization of American States certified the outcome.

In 2014, the Obama regime backed violent large-scale riots, which left 43 persons dead and scores wounded, (most victims were pro-government civilians and law enforcement officers) and millions of dollars in damages to public and private property, including power plants and clinics. Scores of vandals and rightwing terrorists were arrested, including Harvard-educated terrorist Leopoldo Lopez. However, the Maduro government released most of the saboteurs in a gesture of reconciliation.

Obama, on his part, escalated the terror campaign of internal violence. He recycled his operatives and, in February 2015, backed a new coup. Several US embassy personnel (the US had at least 100 stationed in their embassy), turned out to be intelligence operatives using diplomatic cover to infiltrate and recruit a dozen Venezuelan military officials to plot the overthrow of the elected government and assassinate President Maduro by bombing the presidential palace.

President Maduro and his national security team discovered the coup plot and arrested both the military and political leaders, including the Mayor of Caracas.

Obama, now furious for having lost major internal assets and proxies, turned to his last resort: the threat of a direct US military intervention.

The Multiple Purposes of Obama’s ‘National Emergency’

Obama’s declaration of a national security emergency has psychological, political and military objectives. His bellicose posture was designed to bolster the spirit of his jailed and demoralized operatives and let them know that they still have US support. To that end, Obama demanded that President Maduro free the terrorist leaders. Washington’s sanctions were primarily directed against the Venezuelan security officials who upheld the constitution and arrested Obama’s hired thugs. The terrorists in their prison cells can console themselves with the thought that, while they serve ‘hard time’ for being US shock troops and puppets, their prosecutors will be denied visas by President Obama and can no longer visit Disney Land or shop in Miami …  Such are the consequences of the current US ‘sanctions’ in the eyes of a highly critical Latin America.

The second goal of Obama’s threat is to test the response of the Venezuelan and Latin American governments. The Pentagon and CIA seek to gauge how Venezuela’s military, intelligence and civilian leaders will deal with this new challenge in order to identify the weak links in the chain of command, i.e. those officials who will run for cover, cower or seek to conciliate, by giving in to Obama’s demands.

It should be remembered that during the US-backed April 2002 coup, many self-styled ‘Chavista revolutionaries’ went into hiding, some holing up in embassies. In addition, several military officials defected and a dozen politicians curried favor with the coup leaders, until the tide turned and over a million ordinary Venezuelans, including slum dwellers, marched to surround the Presidential Palace and, with the backing of loyalist paratroopers, ousted the golpistas (coup-makers) and freed their President Chavez. Only then did the fair-weather Chavistas come out from under their beds to celebrate the restoration of Hugo Chavez and the return of democracy.

In other words, Obama’s bellicose posture is part of a ‘war of nerves’, to test the resistance, determination and loyalty of the government officials, when their positions are threatened, US bank accounts are frozen, their visas denied and access to ‘Disney Land’ cut.

Obama is putting the Venezuelan government on notice: a warning this time, an invasion next time.

The White House’s openly thuggish rhetoric is also intended to test the degree of opposition in Latin America – and the kind of support Washington can expect in Latin America and elsewhere.

And Cuba responded forcefully with unconditional support for Venezuela. Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Argentina repudiated Obama’s imperial threats. The European Union did not adopt the US sanctions although the European Parliament did echo Obama’s demand to free the jailed terrorists. Initially Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Mexico neither backed the US nor the Venezuelan government. The Uruguayan Vice President Raul Sendic was the only official in Latin America to deny US intervention. However, on March 16 at an emergency meeting of UNASUR in Quito Ecuador, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela unanimously denounced US sanctions and military intervention

President Maduro Stands Firm:  They Shall Not Pass

Most important, President Maduro stood firm.  He declared a national emergency and asked for special powers. He called for 2 weeks of nationwide military exercises involving 100,000 soldiers beginning March 14. He made it clear to the Pentagon and the White House that a US invasion would meet resistance. That confronting  millions of Venezuelan freedom fighters would not be a ‘cake walk’ – that there would be US casualties, body bags and new US widows and orphans to mourn Obama’s imperial schemes.

Conclusion

Obama is neither preparing an immediate invasion nor giving upon ‘regime change’ because his coup operatives failed in two consecutive years. His militarist posture is designed to polarize Latin America: to divide and weaken the regional organizations; to separate the so-called ‘moderates’ in Mercosur (Brazil/Uruguay/Paraguay) from Venezuela and Argentina. Despite his failures thus far, Obama will press ahead to activate opposition to Venezuelan security policies among the Chilean, Peruvian, Mexican, and Colombian neo-liberal regimes.

Washington is building pressure externally and preparing for a new round of violent unrest internally to provoke a robust government response.

In other words – Obama’s military invasion will follow the well-rehearsed scenario of ‘humanitarian intervention’ orchestrated in Yugoslavia, Libya and Syria – with such disastrous consequences on the people of those countries. Obama, at this time, lacks international political support from Europe and Latin America that would provide the fig leaf of a multilateral coalition and has lost his key internal operatives. He cannot risk a bloody unilateral US invasion and prolonged war in the immediate future.

However, he is inexorably moving in that direction. Obama has seized executive prerogatives to attack Venezuela. He has alerted and mobilized US combat forces in the region. He understands that his current teams of operatives in Venezuela have demonstrated that they are incapable of winning elections or seizing power without major US military backing. Obama is now engaged in a psychological as well as physical war of nerves: to run down the Venezuelan economy, to intimidate the faint-hearted, and exhaust and weaken the militants through constant threats and widening sanctions over time.

The Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro has accepted the challenge. He is mobilizing the people and the armed forces: his democratically elected regime will not surrender. The national resistance will be fighting in their own country for their own future. They will be fighting an invading imperial power. They represent millions, and they have a ‘world to lose’ if the ‘squalidos’ (the domestic fifth column) should ever take power: if not their lives, their livelihoods, their dignity and their legacy as a free and independent people.

Epilogue

President Maduro has sought and secured Russian military support and solidarity in the form of arms, advisors and an agreement to engage in joint military maneuvers to meet the challenges of Obama’s war of attrition … President Putin has addressed a public letter of support to the Venezuelan  government in response to Obama’s threats.

Obama is engaged in a two-pronged economic and military strategy, which will converge with a US military invasion.

The overt military threats issued in early March 2015 are designed to force the Maduro government to divert large-scale financial resources away from meeting the economic crisis to building emergency military defense. Through escalating military and economic threats, the White House hopes to diminish government subsidies for the import of basic foodstuffs and other essential commodities during an internal campaign of hoarding and artificial shortages committed by economic saboteurs. Obama is counting on his Venezuelan proxies and the local and international mass media to blame the government for the economic deterioration and to mobilize the big protests of irate consumers. White House strategists hope a massive crowd will serve as a cover for terrorists and snipers to engage in violent acts against public authorities, provoking the police and armed forces to respond in a re-play of the ‘coup’ in Kiev. At that point, Washington will seek to secure some form of support from Europe or Latin America (via the OAS) to intervene with troops in what the State Department will dub as ‘peace mediators in a humanitarian crisis’.

The success of sending in the US Marines into Venezuela on a peace mission will depend on how effective Special Forces and Pentagon operatives in the US Embassy have been in securing reliable collaborators among the Venezuelan military and political forces ready to betray their country. Once the collaborators seize a piece of territory, Obama can mount the charade that US Marines are there by invitation … of the democratic forces …

Under conditions of explicit military threat, Maduro must change ‘the rules of the game’. Under emergency conditions hoarding is no longer just a misdemeanor: it becomes a capital crime. Politicians meeting and consulting with representatives of the invading country should lose their immunity and be summarily jailed. Above all, the government must take total control over the distribution of basic goods; establishing rationing to ensure popular access; nursing scarce financial resources by limiting or imposing a moratorium on debt payments; diminishing or selling assets in the US (CITCO) to avoid confiscation or their being made illiquid (“frozen”) by some new Obama decree. On the external front, Venezuela must deepen military and economic ties with its neighbors and independent nations to withstand the US military and economic offensive. If Obama escalates the military measures against Venezuela, the parliamentary elections scheduled for September should be temporarily suspended until normality is re-established.

Mar 082015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

US policy toward Venezuela is a microcosm of its larger strategy toward Latin America.  The intent is to reverse the region’s independent foreign policy and to restore US dominance; to curtail the diversification of trading and investment partners and re-center economic relations to the US; to replace regional integration pacts with US centered economic integration schemes; and to privatize firms partly or wholly nationalized.

The resort to military coups in Venezuela is a strategy designed to impose a client regime.  This is a replay of US strategy during the 1964-1983 period.  In those two decades US strategists successfully collaborated with business-military elites to overthrow nationalist and socialist governments, privatize public enterprises and reverse, social, labor and welfare policies.  The client regimes implemented neo-liberal policies and supported US centered “integration”.  The entire spectrum of representative institutions, political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations were banned and replaced by imperial funded NGO’s, state controlled parties and trade unions.  With this perspective in mind the US has returned to all out “regime change” in Venezuela as the first step to acontinent-wide transformation to reassert political, economic and socialdominance.

Washington’s resort to political violence, all out media warfare, economic sabotage and military coups in Venezuela  is an attempt to discover the effectiveness of these tactics under favorable conditions,including a deepening  economic recession, double digit inflation, declining living standards and weakening political support, as a dress rehearsal for other countries in the region

Washington’s earlier resort to a “regime change” strategy in Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador failed because objective circumstances were unfavorable.  Between 2003 to 2012 the national-populist or center-left regimes were increasing political support, their economies were growing, incomes and consumption were improving and pro-US regimes and clients had earlier collapsed under the weight of a systemic crises.  Moreover, the negative consequences of military coups were fresh in peoples’ minds.  Today Washington’s strategists believe that Venezuela is the easiest and most important target because of its structural vulnerabilities and because Caracas is the linchpin to Latin American integration and welfare populism.

According to Washington’s domino theory, Cuba will be more susceptible to pressure if it is cut-off from Venezuela’s subsidized oil-for-medical services agreement.  Ecuador and Bolivia will be vulnerable.  Regional integration will be diluted or replaced by US directed trade agreements.  Argentina’s drift to the right will be accelerated.  The US military presence will be enlarged beyond Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Central America.  Radical anti-imperialist ideology will be replaced by a revised form of “pan-Americanism”, a euphemism for imperial primacy.

The concentrated and prolonged US war against Venezuela and the resort to extremist tactics and groups can only be accounted for by what US strategists perceive as the large scale (continent-wide) long-term interests at stake.

We will proceed by discussing and analyzing the US fifteen year war (2000-2015) against Venezuela, now reaching a climax.  We will then turn to examining the past and current strengths and weakness of Venezuela’s democratic, anti-imperialist government.

Prolonged Political Warfare:  Multiple Forms of Attack in Changing Political Conjunctures

The US war against Venezuela started shortly after President Chavez’s election in 1999.  His convoking of a constitutional assembly and referendum and the subsequent inclusion of a strong component of popular participatory and nationalist clauses “rang bells” in Washington.  The presence of a large contingent of former guerrillas, Marxists and Leftists in the Chavez electoral campaign and regime, was the signal for Washington to develop a strategy of regrouping traditional business and political clients to pressure and limit changes.

Subsequent to 9/11/01, Washington launched its global military offensive, projecting power via the so-called “war on terror”.  Washington’s quest to reassert dominance in the Americas included demands that Venezuela fall into line and back Washington’s global military offensive.  President Chavez refused and set an example of independent politics for the nationalist-populist movements and emerging center-left regimes in Latin America.  President Chavez told President Bush “you don’t fight terror with terror”.

In response, by November 2001 Washington strategists shifted from a policy of pressure to contain change to a strategy of all-out warfare to overthrow the Chavez regime via a business-military coup in (April 2002).

The US backed coup was defeated in less than 72 hours.  Chavez was restored to power by an alliance of loyalist military forces backed by a spontaneous million person march.  Washington lost important assets among the military and business elite, who fled into exile or were jailed.

From December 2002 to February 2003, The White House backed an executive lockout in the strategic oil industry, supported by corrupt trade union officials aligned with Washington and the AFL-CIO.  After three months the lockout was defeated through an alliance of loyalist trade unionists, mass organizations and overseas petrol producing countries.  The US lost strategic assets in the oil industry as over 15,000 executives, managers and workers were fired and replaced by nationalist loyalists.  The oil industry was renationalized – its earnings were put at the service of social welfare.

Having lost assets essential to violent warfare, Washington promoted a strategy of electoral politics – organizing a referendum in 2004 which was won by Chavez and a boycott of the 2005 congressional elections, which failed and led to an overwhelming majority for the pro Chavez forces.

Having failed to secure regime change via internal violent and electoral warfare, Washington, having suffered a serious loss of internal assets, turned outside by organizing para-military death squads and the Colombian military to engage in cross border conflicts in alliance with the far right regime of Alvaro Uribe.  Colombia’s military incursions led Venezuela to break economic ties, costing influential Colombian agro-business exporters ad manufacturers’ losses exceeding $8 billion dollars . . .  Uribe backed off and signed a non-aggression accord with Chavez, undermining the US “proxy war” strategy.

Washington revised its tactics, returning to electoral and street fighting tactics.  Between 2008-2011/12 Washington channeled millions of dollars to finance electoral party politicians, NGO’s, mass media outlets (newspapers, television and radio) and direct action saboteurs of public energy, electricity and power stations.

The US “internal” political offensive had limited success – a coalition of warring rightwing political groups elected a minority of officials thus regaining an institutional presence.  A Chavez backed overtly socialist referendum was defeated (by less than 1%).  NGO’s gained influence in the universities and in some popular neighborhoods exploiting the corruption and ineptness of local Chavez elected officials.

But the US strategy failed to dislodge or weaken the Chavez led regime for several reasons.  Venezuela’s economy was riding the prolonged commodity boom. Oil prices were soaring above $100 a barrel, financing free health, education, housing, fuel and food subsidy programs, undercutting the so-called “grass-roots” agitation of US funded NGO’s

Government subsidies of imports and lax regulation of dollar reserves secured support even among the capitalists and loosened their support for the violent opposition.  Sectors of the middle class voted for Chavez as a ticket to the consumer society.

Secondly, President Chavez’s charismatic appeal, promotion and support of popular neighborhood groups counter-acted the ill-effects of corrupt and inept local “Chavista” officials who otherwise played into the hands of US backed opposition.

Thirdly, US intervention in Venezuela alienated not only the center-left but the entire political spectrum in Latin America, isolating Washington.  This was especially evident by the universal condemnation of the US backed military coup in Honduras in 2009.

Fourthly, the US could not counter Venezuela’s subsidized oil sales to Caribbean and Central American regimes.  Petrocaribe strengthened Venezuela and weakened US dominance in Washington’s historical “backyard”.

The entire electoral strategy of the US depended on fomenting aneconomic crises – and given the favorable world prices for oil on the world market (it failed).  As a result Washington depended on non-market strategies to disrupt the socio-economic links between mass consumers and the Chavez government.

Washington encouraged sabotage of the power and electrical grid.  It encouraged hoarding and price gouging by commercial capitalists (supermarket owners).  It encouraged smugglers to purchase thousands of tons of subsidized consumer goods and sell them across the border in Colombia.

In other words, the US combined its electoral strategy with violent sabotage and illegal economic disruption.

This strategy was intensified with the onset of the economic crises following the financial crash of 2009, the decline of commodity prices and the death of President Hugo Chavez.

The US and its mass media megaphones went all-out to defendthe protagonists and practioners of illegal violent actions – branding arrested saboteurs, assassins, street fighters, assailants of public institutions as “political prisoners”. Washington and its media branded the government, as “authoritarian” for protecting the constitution.  It accused the independent judiciary as biased. The police and military were labelled as “repressive” for arresting fire bombers of schools, transport and clinics.

No violent crime or criminal behavior by opposition politicos was exempt from Washington’s scrofulous screeds about defending “human rights”.

The crises and collapse of oil prices greatly enhanced the opportunities for the US and its Venezuelan collaborator’s campaign to weaken the government. Venezuela’s dependence on President Chavez, as the singular transformative figure, suffered a serious blow with his death. Personalistic leadership weakened organic mass organization.

The US relaunched a multi-pronged offensive to undermine and overthrow the newly elected Nicolas Maduro regime.  Washington, at first, promoted the ‘via electoral’ as the route to regime change, funding opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

After Capriles’ electoral defeat, Washington resorted to an intense post-electoral propaganda campaign to de-legitimize the voting outcome.  It promoted street violence and sabotage of the electrical grid.  For over a year the Obama regime refused to recognize the electoral outcome, accepted and recognized throughout Latin America and the world.  In the subsequent Congressional, gubernatorial and municipal elections the US backed candidates suffered resounding defeats. President Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela won three quarters of the governorships and retained a solid two-thirds majority in Congress.

Beginning in 2013 the US escalated its “extra-parliamentary” offensive – massive hoarding of consumer goods by wholesale distributors and retail supermarkets led to acute shortages, long lines, long waits and empty shelves.

Hoarding, black market speculation of the currency, wholesale smuggling of shipments of consumer goods across the border to Colombia (facilitated by opposition officials governing in border-states and corrupt National Guard commanders) exacerbated shortages.

US strategists sought to drive a political wedge between the consumer driven middle and lower classes and the Maduro government.  Over time they succeeded in fomenting discontent among the lower middle class and directing it against the government and not at the big business elite and US financed opposition politicians, NGO’s and parties.

In February 2014 emboldened by growing discontent the US moved rapidly toward a decisive confrontation… Washington backed the most violent extra parliamentary opposition.  Led by Leopoldo Lopez, it openly called for a coup and launched a nationwide assault on public buildings, authorities and pro-democracy activists.  As a result 43 people were killed and 870 injured – mostly government supporters and military and police officials – and hundreds of millions of dollars of damage was inflicted on schools, hospitals and state supermarkets.

After two months, the uprising was finally put down and the street barricades were dismantled— as even rightwing businesspeople suffered losses as their revenues diminished and there was no chance for victory.

Washington proclaimed the jailed terrorists leaders as “political prisoners”– a line parroted by al the mass media and the bogus Human Rights Watch.  The Obama regime sought to secure the release of itsarmed thugs to prepare for the next round of violent confrontation.

Washington accelerated the pace of planning, organizing and executing the next coup throughout 2014.  Taking advantage of the Maduro regime’s lax or non-existent enforcement of laws forbidding ‘foreign funding of political organizations, the US via NED and its “front groups” poured tens of millions, into NGOs, political parties , leaders and active and retired military officials willing and able to pursue  “regime change” via a coup.

Exactly one year following the violet uprising of 2014, on February 14, 2015, the US backed a civilian-military coup. The coup was thwarted by military intelligence and denunciations by lower level loyalist soldiers.

Two power grabs in a year is a clear indication that Washington is accelerating its move to establish a client regime.

What makes these policies especially dangerous, is not simply their proximity, but the context in which they occur and the recruits who Washington is targeting.

Unlike the coup of 2002, which occurred at a time of animproving economy, the most recent one takes place in the context of declining economic indicators.  Earlier the masses turned out to support the new constitution, declining inflation, the introduction of new social legislation and improving income.  The most recent coup takes place with incomes declining, a devaluation which reduces purchasing power, rising inflation (62%) and plummeting oil prices.

Moreover, the US has once again gained converts in the military as was the case in the 2002 coup but absent in the 2014.  Three generals, three colonels, 9 lieutenants and a captain signed on to the coup and it can be surmised that they were in contact with others.  The deteriorating loyalties in the military are not simply a product of US bribery. It is also a reflection of the socio-economic decline of sectors of the middle class to which middle level officers belong by family ties and social identification.

Subsequent to the earlier coup (of 2002) then President Chavez called for the formation of popular militias, National Reserve and a rural defense force to ‘complement’ the armed forces.  Some 300,000 militia volunteers were registered.  But like many radical ideas, little came of it.

As the US moves to activate its ‘military option’, Venezuela must consider activating and linking these militias to mass popular community based organizations, trade unions and peasant movements.

The US has developed a strategic concept for seizing power by proxy.  A war of attrition built upon exploiting the social consequences of the fall of oil revenues, shortages of basic commodities and the growing fissures in the military and state institutions.

In 2015 Washington has embraced the strategy of 2002, combining multiple forms of attack including economic destabilization, electoral politics, sabotage and military penetration..All are directed toward a military – civilian coalition seizing power.

Facing the US Offensive:  The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Maduro Government

The basic strength of the Chavista government of President Maduro is the legacy of nearly 15 years of progressive legislation, including rising incomes, grass roots community based democracy, the affirmation of racial, class and national dignity and independence.  Despite the real hardships of the past 3 years, forty percent of the electorate, mostly the urban and rural poor, remains as a solid core of support of the democratic process, the President and his efforts to reverse the decline and return the country to prosperity.

Up to now the Maduro government has successfully rebuffed and defeated the offensive by US proxies.  President Maduro won electorally, and more recently has pacified the coupsters by adopting firmer security measures and more technically efficient intelligence. Equally important he has demanded that the US reduce its embassy operatives from 100 to 17, equal to Venezuela’s staff in Washington. Many embassy personnel were engaged in meetings with Venezuelan organizers of violent activity and in efforts to subvert military officials..

Yet these security measures and administrative improvements, as important and necessary as they are, reflect short-range solutions.  The deeper and more fundamental issues relate to the structural weakness of the Venezuelan economy and state.

First and foremost, Venezuela cannot continue running on a petrol based ‘rentier economy’ especially one that still depends on the US market.

Venezuela’s ‘consumer socialism’ totally depends on oil revenues and high oil prices to finance the importation of foodstuffs and other essential commodities.

A strategy of ‘national defense’ against the imperial offensive requires a far higher level of ‘self-sufficiency’, a greater degree of local production and decentralized control.

Secondly, next to US intervention and destabilization, the greatest threat to the democratic regime is the government’s executive, managerial and elected officials who have misallocated billions in investment funds, failed to effectively carry out programs and who largely improviseaccording to day to day considerations, It is essential that Maduro advances  the strategic priorities ensuring basic popular interests.

The Chavez and the Maduro governments outlined generalguidelines that were passed off as a strategic plan.  But neither financial resources, nor state personnel were systematically ordered to implement them.  Instead the government responded or better still reacted,defensively, to the immediate threats of the opposition induced shortages and oil revenue shortfalls.  They chose the easy route of securing loans from China by mortgaging future oil exports.  They also took out commercial loans – borrowed at the highest rates in the world (18%)!

The post commodity boom requires a decisive break with the petrol economy . . . continuing costly debt financing staves off the day of reckoning, which is fast approaching.

US military coups and political warfare are with us and will not fade away even as Washington loses battles.  The jailing of individual plotters is not enough.  They are expendable …Washington can buy others.

The Maduro government faces a national emergency which requires a society-wide mobilization to launch a war-economy capable of producing and delivering class specific commodities to meet popular needs.

The February 12, 2015, coup dubbed, Plan Jericho, was funded by the US NGO, the National Endowment for Democracy and its subsidiaries, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House.  The coup organizers led by former Venezuelan Congresswomen Corina Machado, (a White House invitee) was designated to head up the post-coup dictatorship.

As a matter of survival the Maduro government must clamp down and prosecute all self-styled ‘NGO’ which are recipients of overseas funding and serve as conduits for US backed coups and destabilization activity.

No doubt the Obama regime will seek to protect its proxy financing and howl about ‘growing authoritarianism’.  That is predictable.  But the Venezuelan governments’ duty is to protect the constitutional order, and defend the security of its citizens.  It must move decisively to prosecute not only the recipients of US funds but the entire US political network, organizations and collaborators as terrorists.

Venezuela can take a page out of the US legal code which provides for 5 year prison sentences for “nationals” who receive overseas funds and fail to register as foreign agents.  More to the point, the Obama regime has prosecuted organized groups suspected of conspiring to commit violent acts to lifetime prison sentences.  He has justified extra judicial assassinations (via drones) of US “terrorist suspects”.

President Maduro need not go to the extremes of the Obama regime.  But he should recognize that the policy of “denunciation, arrest and release” is totally out of line with international norms regarding the fight against terrorism in Venezuela.

What the US has in mind is not merely a ‘palace coup’ in which the democratic incumbents are ousted and replaced by US clients.  Washington wants to go far beyond a change in personnel, beyond a friendly regime amenable to providing unconditional backing to the US foreign policy agenda…

A coup and post-coup regime is only the first step toward asystematic and comprehensive reversal of the socio-economic and political transformations of the past 16 years!

Heading the list will be the crushing of the mass popular community organizations which will oppose the coup.  This will be accompanied by a mass purge, of all representative institutions, the constitutionalist armed forces, police and nationalist officials in charge of the oil industry and other public enterprises.

All the major public welfare programs in education, health, housing and low cost retail food outlets, will be dismantled or suffer major budget cuts.

The oil industry and dozens of other publically owned enterprises and banks will be privatized and denationalized.  US MNC will be the main beneficiaries.  The agrarian land reform will be reversed:  recipients will be evicted and the land returned to the landed oligarchs.

Given how many of the Venezuelan working class and rural poor will be adversely affected and given the combatative spirit which permeates popular culture, the implementation of the US backed neo-liberal agenda will require prolonged ,large-scale repression.  This means, tens of thousands of killings, arrests and incarceration.

The US coup- masters and their Venezuelan proxies will unleash all their pent-up hostility against what they will deem the blood purge necessary to punish, in Henry Kissinger’s infamous phrase, “an irresponsible people” who dared to affirm their dignity and independence.

The US backing of violence in the run-up to the February 2015 coup will be escalated in the run-up to the inevitable next coup.

Contemporary US imperial wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya and past US backed bloody  military coups installing neo-liberal regimes in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay a few decades past, demonstrate that Washington places no limits on how many tens of thousands of lives are destroyed, how many millions are uprooted, if it is ‘necessary’ to secure imperial dominance.

There is no doubt that the Venezuelan economy is on shaky foundations; that officials have yet to devise and implement a coherent strategy to exit the crises.  But it is of decisive importance to remember that even in these times of intensifying imperial warfare, basic freedoms and social justice inform the framework of government and popular representation.  Now is the time, and time is running short, for the Maduro government to mobilize all the mass organizations, popular militias and loyal military officials to administer a decisive politicaldefeat to the US proxies and then to proceed forward to socializing theeconomy.  It must take the opportunity of turning the US orchestrated offensives into a historic defeat.  It must convert the drive to restore neo-liberal privilege into the graveyard of rentier capitalism.

Epilogue

Unlike past political confrontations between US imperial regimes and leftwing Latin American governments, in the case of Venezuela the US has suffered numerous major defeats with  regard to domestic and foreign policy, over the past 15 years.

US-Venezuelan Conflicts:  Internal Policies and their Results

In 2001 the US demanded Venezuela support its “war on terrorism, its global quest for domination via war.  President Chavez refused to back it, arguing successfully that “you cannot fight terror with terror”, and winning support worldwide

In April 12, 2002, the US organized and backed a military-business coup which was defeated by a mass uprising backed by constitutionalist armed forces.  US lost key assets in the military, trade union bureaucracy and business sector.

In December 2002 – February 2003, the US backed a CEO directed lockout designed to shut-down the oil industry and overthrow the Chavez government that was defeated, as workers and engineers took charge and overseas oil partners supplied petroleum.  The US lost assets in the oil industry.

In 2004, a referendum to oust Chavez, funded by the US and organized by NED funded NGOs was defeated.  US electoral assets were demoralized.

In 2006 a US backed boycott of Congressional elections was defeated.  The electorate turned out in force.  US congressional assets lost their institutional power base and influence.

In 2006 Chavez is re-elected for a second time.  The US-backed candidate is badly beaten.

In 2007 a US backed coalition squeak out a 1% margin of victory, defeating constitutional amendments, socializing the economy.

In 2009 President Chavez wins a referendum on constitutional amendments including the abolition of term limits.

In 2012 Chavez wins re-election for the fourth time defeating a US financed opposition candidate.

In 2013 Chavez’s selected candidate Maduro wins the Presidency defeating Obama’s anointed candidate.

Pro-Chavez parties win resounding Congressional majorities in all elections between 1999 – 2010.

Repeated electoral defeats convinced Washington’s political strategists to rely on violent, unconstitutional roads to power.

The anti-capitalist domestic social reforms and ideology were one of two key motivating factors in Washington’s prolonged political war against Venezuela.  Equally important was Chavez and Maduro’s foreign policy which included Venezuela’s leading role in opposing US centered regional integration organizations like ALCA, regional political organizations like the OAS and its military missions.

Venezuela promoted Latin American centered integration organizations which excluded the US.  They included Petro-Caribe, a Venezuelan sponsored trade and investment organization that benefited Caribbean and Central America countries.

UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) a regional political organization which displaced the US dominated OAS and included 33 Latin American and Caribbean states.

Venezuela joined MERCOSUR, a “free trade” organization, which included Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Venezuela’s leading role in promoting five organizations promoting Latin American and Caribbean integration – excluding the US and Canada – was seen as a mortal threat to Washington’s political dominance of Latin American politics and markets.

Venezuela’s large scale, long-term political and economic ties with Cub undermined the US economic blockade and reinforced Cuba’s links with and support by the rest of Latin America.

Venezuela opposed the US backed coup against Haiti’s reformist President Bertram Aristide.

Its opposition to the US invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and (later) Libya and its increased investment and trade ties with Iran in opposition to US sanctions, set US plans of a global empire on a collision course with Venezuela’s embrace of a global anti-imperialist  policy.

US failure to secure passage of a US centered Latin American Free Trade Treaty and incapacity to secure across the board support in Latin America for its Middle East wars and Iran sanctions was largely the result of Venezuelan foreign policy.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Venezuela’s foreign policy successes in countering US imperialist policies, especially with regard to Latin American integration, is the main reason that Washington has persisted in its long-term, large scale effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

The US escalation of its global military interventions under Obama and its increasing belligerency toward the multiplication of independent Latin American regional organizations, coincides with the intensification of its violent destabilization campaign in Venezuela.

Faced with the growth of Latin American trade and investment ties with China – with $250 billion in the pipeline over the next ten years – pioneered by Venezuela, Washington fears the loss of the 600 million Latin American consumer market.

The current US political offensive against Venezuela is a reaction to over 15 years of political defeats including failed coups, resounding electoral defeats, the loss of strategic political assets and above all decisive set-backs in its attempts to impose US centered integration schemes.

More than ever, US imperial strategists today are going all-out to subvert Venezuela’s anti-imperialist government, because they sense with the decline of oil revenue and export earnings, double digit inflation and consumer shortages, they can divide and subvert sectors of the armed forces, mobilize violent street mobs via their mercenary street fighters, secure the backing of elected opposition officials and seize power.  What is at stake in the US –Venezuelan conflict is the future of Latin American independence and the US Empire.