Jun 182017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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

— Fidel Castro

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corruption: The Engine of Left and Right Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Democratic Option

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

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

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

The Debt Crises and the Debt Default

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bankers, landowners, real estate and media moguls prospered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Popular Uprising and the Left-Business Pact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Left Catastrophe: 2015-2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kleptocracy in Transition: From ‘Progressive’ to Rightwing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Demise of the Right: Fake and Real Alternatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Productive and commercial employment should be based on permanent jobs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appendix

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

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

Rightwing kleptocracies  bribed by Odebrecht

Panama

Mexico

Colombia

Guatemala

Peru

Dominican Republic

Brazil (1993-2002) and (2016- )

Argentina (1990-2001, 2016-)

Leftwing kleptocracies

Argentina (2002-2016)

Venezuela (1999-2017)

Ecuador (2008-2016)

Brazil (2003-2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 012017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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

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

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

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

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

What the ‘Conflict’ is Not About

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the Oligarchical Struggle is About

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oligarchs: Tactical Similarities

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

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

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

Oligarchical Electoral Representation and the Parallel Police State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue

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

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

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

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

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

Long live the Oligarchs!

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

May 222017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

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

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

Macron and ‘What People’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Macron: By the Ballot or the Bullet

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

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

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

The Corporate Elite: President Macron Adopts  Napoleonic Decrees

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 182017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

The Project for the New Middle East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 092017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

For almost 50 years, the US economy and society has taken a great leap backward — accelerating during the past three Presidencies. Not only have we experienced the reversal of past socio-economic legislation, but also our presidents and Congress have dragged us into multiple aggressive wars. Now, the threat of a nuclear attack against our ‘declared enemies’ is ‘on the table’.

Since the end of the Viet Nam war, US military ‘interventions’ have become wars of long duration. These have cost millions of lives overseas, tens of millions of refugees and scores of thousands of American soldier deaths, permanent injury and serious mental and neuropsychiatric damage. There is no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, to quote the US General William Westmoreland.

In retrospect, and after 50 years of decline, the much-maligned Presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon now stands out as a golden age of social, environmental and inter-racial advances, as well as an era of successful peace negotiations and diplomacy. President Nixon, never an ideologue, accepted the reality of a multi-polar world.

Of course, the Nixon Presidency was characterized by serious crimes against humanity, such as the CIA-sponsored coup d’état against the democratically elected Chilean President Allende, the bombing of Cambodia and the genocidal invasion of the newly independent country of East Timor.

Today, he is best known for the far-less consequential events around the ‘Watergate’ scandal and related domestic civil rights abuses and corruption. It was the mass media and Democratic Party politicos who have grossly inflated the election campaign chicanery, leading up to the bungled break-in of the Watergate Hotel headquarters of the Democratic Party, which led to Nixon’s impeachment and resignation. To today’s media spin-masters, ‘Watergate’ was the defining event of President Nixon’s Presidency.

Ironically, after Nixon resigned from office even greater disasters occurred. This paper will enumerate these and compare them with the Nixon presidency.

Far from pursuing diplomacy and peace, subsequent presidents, both ‘liberal’ Democrats and ‘conservative’ Republicans, invaded Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Panama, Grenada, and Angola and initiated a dozen other highly destructive and economically devastating wars. The two oligarchic parties took turns in shredding Nixon’s comparatively peaceful legacy.

President Nixon, under the advice of National Security adviser, Henry Kissinger, supported Israel’s invasion of the Arab countries in 1973 as well as the bloody Chilean military coup in 1973.

President Nixon cynically designed the ‘Southern Strategy’, which transformed the Democratic Party-controlled racist fiefdoms of the US South into racist Republican-controlled states.

Progressives, liberals and self-styled democratic-socialists have played a leading role in ignoring Nixon’s ‘golden years’ in terms of domestic and international policy achievements. Instead they focused on inane and infantile name-calling, like “Tricky Dick”, to describe the man. By doing so, they have failed miserably to discuss national and international issues of historic importance. They have deliberately fabricated a distorted picture of the Nixon era to cover-up for the gross failures of subsequent Democratic Party controlled Congresses and Democratic Presidents.

In this essay, we will briefly outline Richard Nixon’s policies and executive initiatives, which justify our designation of the Nixon’s ‘golden years’, especially in comparison to what has followed his era.

President Nixon: The Great Leap Forward

In the sphere of political, economic and social life, President Nixon pursued policies, which ultimately advanced peace in the world and social welfare in the United States.

In foreign policy and diplomacy, Richard Nixon ended both the draft of young Americans into the armed forces, as well as the decade-long US military occupation of Indo-China, effectively ending the war — and acknowledging the hard victory of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front. The war had cost millions of Southeast Asian lives.

Nixon visited Beijing and recognized the ‘existence’ of the People’s Republic of China, effectively ending a quarter century of economic blockades and military threats against the billion-plus population of the PRC under three Democratic (Truman, Kennedy and Johnson) and one Republican  (Eisenhower) Presidential Administrations. He established full diplomatic relations with China.

Nixon initiated the Security Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreements with the USSR and developed diplomatic policies, which recognized the possibility and necessity of peaceful co-existence between different social systems.

On the domestic front, President Nixon established the Clean Water Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with a Federal Government mandate to fight polluters and hold them accountable for the ‘cleanup’ of the environment.

Nixon proposed a National Health Insurance Program — an expansion of Medicare to cover the health needs of all Americans. This radical proposal (a version of ‘single payer’) was attacked and defeated by the Democratic Party, led by Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy who was backed by ‘Big Pharma’, the AMA and the growing corporate ‘health’ industry.

Nixon imposed price and wage controls that constrained inflation and price gouging and actively punished commodity ‘hoarding’. This was a time of rapid inflation and shortages due to the ‘Oil Embargo’. With these measures, he incurred the wrath of Wall Street, big business and the financial press.

Nixon promoted consumer rights, supplemental legislation to expand Social Security, especially for the handicapped, while defending the retirement age for pension eligibility.

Under Nixon, union membership rose to 30% of the workforce — its high point before its precipitous decline to 12% under subsequent US Presidents.

Nixon increased salaries of federal employees and real wages rose. In the following half-century real wages have declined to only 10% of their Nixon era value!

Nixon indexed Social Security to the real rate of inflation.

The Nixon Presidency initiated the Affirmative Action program and used the Federal Government to push for the desegregation of schools, leading to the first large-scale integration of public education in the South. President Nixon created the Office of Minority Business Enterprises (OMBE); the Occupation Safety and Health Agency (OSHA); and the Legacy of Parks Programs.

Nixon proposed a guaranteed annual wage for American workers, which both Democrats and Republicans rejected and defeated! He promoted Keynesian industrial policies against the financial elites with their mania for speculation.

President Nixon appointed four Supreme Court Justices during his term. Three of his appointees supported the groundbreaking ‘Roe versus Wade’ decision protecting women’s reproductive rights.

Under Nixon the voting age was reduced from twenty-one to eighteen years — giving millions of young Americans a greater political voice.

When Nixon spoke in favor of gun control, both the Republican and Democratic Parties opposed his proposals.

President Nixon supported the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and the Endangered Species Act, which have remained critical to social and environmental justice.

Richard Nixon was not a ‘single issue’ President. The span and depth of his progressive agenda, included fundamental changes in favor of environmental and racial justice, working class economic security and broad-ranging health issues, peace and co-operation with China and the USSR, women’s rights through Supreme Court decisions; pensioners’ rights, and animal rights advocacy. He reduced economic inequalities between the richest 1% of capitalists and the working class. Under President Nixon inequality and the concentration of wealth in the US were far less than they became with subsequent US Presidents and especially during the Obama Administration.

No President, with the possible exception of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Great Depression Era legislation, even remotely achieved Nixon’s domestic socio-economic successes. President Roosevelt, one must not forget, operated under the immense pressure of massive working class strikes and in preparation for World War II, while President Nixon achieved his policy advances during a time of relative ‘peace’.

The Post-Nixon Bi-Partisan Regression

In the 41 years since Nixon’s resignation (1976-2017) there has been a systematic rollback of virtually all of the Nixon agenda. Congress, the liberals, the mass media and Wall Street immediately switched from denigrating Nixon, to praising Democratic President ‘Jimmy’ Carter’s reversal of Nixon’s foreign policy achievements.

Contrary to his media-polished image as a ‘Bible-thumping champion of human rights’, President Carter dismantled Nixon’s policies promoting peace with the USSR and China, especially when he appointed the rabidly anti-Russian, anti-communist Zbigniew Brzezinski for National Security Adviser. The duet created the public image of Carter mouthing human rights rhetoric while Brzezinski formulated a policy of backing dictators and funding Islamist (jihadi) terrorists to undermine Soviet allies. The two-faced ‘Evangelical Christian’ Carter sent confidential letters of US support for the brutal dictator Somoza to prevent the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua, while issuing platitudes about peace in Central America.

Carter worked closely with the military dictatorship in Pakistan and the ‘head chopping’ monarchs in Saudi Arabia to launch the bloody forty-year war in Afghanistan, a Soviet Ally. The Carter-Brzezinski-promoted mujahidin war against secularism in Afghanistan led directly to the rise of Islamist terrorism, the Taliban and al Qaeda. Carter’s ‘freedom fighters’ systematically massacred secular schoolteachers for ‘the crime’ of educating Afghan girls in the countryside.

In order to undermine the USSR and other socialist or independent secular countries with Muslim populations, the Carter-Brzezinski duet financed and trained the Saudi-indoctrinated Al-Qaeda terrorists.  They were delighted when it spread its poison across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Balkans and the Soviet Union promoting separatism and ethnic cleansing. Their cheers ceased somewhat on 9/11/2001.

Domestically, Carter’s deregulation of price controls led to double-digit inflation and set in motion the long-term decline in wages and salaries, which still plagues the American lower middle and working classes.

Carter appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, who implemented draconian anti-inflationary ‘austerity’ policies reducing domestic consumption and opening the way for the de-industrialization of the economy.

The seismic change in the US, the ‘financialization’ of the domestic economy started under Jimmy Carter and was deepened and expanded under the subsequent Presidents Ronald Regan, George H W Bush, Sr., ‘Bill’ Clinton, George W. Bush (Jr) and Barack Obama. Poverty and permanent unemployment followed.

With deindustrialization, labor union membership declined from 30% of the private labor force under Nixon to less than 7% today. Organizing workers was no longer a priority: The AFL-CIO leaders were too busy chasing after the Democrats for handouts (and get-out-of jail passes).

After Carter, the Republican President Ronald Reagan doubled military spending, brutally broke the strike of the Air Controller’s union by jailing its leaders, whipped up the revival of US interventionism by invading Grenada and sending Special Forces to join the death squads murdering tens of thousands of peasant activists in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

President Reagan’s ‘free market’ polices encouraged US multinational corporations to relocate their factories overseas to Mexico, the Caribbean and Asia, costing millions of US workers well-paying jobs and reducing the number of unionized jobs. The stock markets and profits rose while the ‘American Dream’ of lifetime stable employment in industry began to fade.

Reagan’s threats and his huge military build-up forced the USSR to overspend in arms and strangle its growing domestic consumer economy.

The Reagan-Thatcher (British PM) era marked the demise of social welfare. They imposed the doctrine of ‘globalization’ — in essence, the bellicose revival of Anglo-American imperialism and the end of domestic industrial prosperity.

George HW Bush ‘negotiated’ with Russian President Gorbachev the break-up of the USSR. Despite Bush’s promises not to place US-NATO forces in former Soviet-allied countries, the following period saw the huge US-NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Baltic states. President Bush (Sr.) invaded and savaged both Panama and Iraq, restarting the epoch of permanent US wars.

President George HW Bush promulgated the unipolar doctrine of US world domination, known as the ‘Bush Doctrine’.

The Reagan-Bush regimes emptied the content of the Nixon-era progressive agencies in terms of civil rights, consumer and environmental protection, and wage protection. Unionization declined by over a third.

After ‘war-monger’ President ‘Papa’ Bush, the Saxophone-playing President ‘Bill’ Clinton was elected. While crooning the words, ‘I feel your pain’, to American workers and racial minorities, Clinton unleashed Wall Street, ending regulation of banks and investment houses. He re-appointed Alan Greenspan to head the Federal Reserve, a proven master of grotesque financial speculation and the godfather of economic crisis (2007-2009).

President Clinton, passions aroused by the animal spirits on Wall Street (and inside his White House office), launched a vicious assault on the social welfare state, and in particular, low-income working families, single parents and African-Americans. Clinton’s promotion of “Workfare” forced single mothers to accept unsustainable minimum wage jobs under the threat of ending any welfare support, while not providing any mechanism for child care! This one policy savaged hundreds of thousands of vulnerable families. Under Clinton, the prison industry exploded as a multi-billion dollar business.

During the 1990’s, Clinton backed the most retrograde pro-business, debt-ridden regimes in Latin America. Hundreds of billions of dollars of Latin American wealth was transferred to the US. Clinton’s ‘Golden Years for Wall Street’ were a decade of infamy for Latin Americans and led directly to major leftist revolts by the end of the Clinton era.

President Clinton deepened and widened the US military drive for domination in Europe and the Middle East. Clinton bombed and invaded Yugoslavia, especially Serbia — destroying large parts of its capital Belgrade. He bombed Iraq on a daily basis and increased the starvation blockade of that nation. He invaded Somalia and backed Israeli land grabbing-settlement expansion in Palestine. He supported the Israeli savaging of Lebanon. He committed treason by submitting to Israeli blackmail over his sex-capers with Monica Lewinsky and trying to release Israeli spy-US Naval analyst Jonathan Pollard. It was only after an open threat of wholesale resignations by the CIA and other security agencies that Clinton withdrew his proposal to free the traitor Pollard.

Finance capital flourished as Clinton repealed the venerable Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 against bank speculation. He promoted the hugely unpopular NAFTA, (North American Free Trade Agreement) leading to the loss of over two million industrial jobs, as US multinationals absconded to Mexico, where wages were less than one-fifth of the US. NAFTA’s savaging of the Mexican agricultural sector and massive bankruptcies of small producers led directly to the flood of desperate Mexican migrants looking for work in the US.

The Georgetown-Harvard-Oxford trained ‘Bill’ Clinton was the grand wizard of talking like a ‘black preacher’ in southern churches while smoothly pursuing the ‘big bucks’ on Wall Street.

After Clinton, regressive policies increased sharply: President George W Bush (Jr), ‘First Black President’ Barack Obama and ‘First Billionaire President’ Donald Trump all supported the most virulent imperial war policies.

The two terms of President George (Jr) Bush (2001 – 2008) saw unending multi-trillion dollar wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have destabilized two continents. Junior Bush presided over the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. His anti-Muslim ‘global wars on terror (GWOT)’ was launched under the influence of ‘Israel-First’ militarists who had inundated the Defense Department, National Security staff and Middle East policy and advisory staff in the State Department. Meanwhile, GW Bush deepened unemployment and allowed the mortgage foreclosure on millions of homeowners. The domestic economy was in severe crisis.

By the end of the George W. Bush Presidency, reinvigorated anti-war and social justice movements were gaining strength throughout the country. Arriving on the scene of growing social unrest and with perfect timing, the ‘community organizer’ presidential candidate Barack Obama won the presidency by promising a progressive agenda to undermine the mass popular radicalization against Bush’s unpopular wars, growing inequalities, endless bank swindles, foreclosures and blatant racist policies against Afro-Americans and Hispanics.

Once elected, the ‘First Black’ US President Obama immediately increased Bush’s militarism and handed the criminals on Wall Street a record two-trillion-dollar bailout, ripped out of what remained of public social programs. Elected on a pledge to overhaul the ridiculously inefficient, pro-profit, private health care system, Obama gave the electorate a program of greater complexity and rapidly increasing insurance premiums (‘Obama Care’ or the ‘Affordable Care Act’), which ended with a negative impact on the nation’s health.

Under Obama, life expectancy, as well as, the income gaps between the rich and the poor grew at an alarming rate. Inequalities increased with a historic shift of national wealth to the top 1%. The class and health apartheid sharpened in the US. The transfer of jobs abroad accelerated. Multinational corporate tax evasion rose by hundreds of billions of dollars. The gap between African-American wages and white workers increased. Obama deported more immigrants, especially workers from Mexico and Central America, than all four previous presidents combined!

Elected on a pledge to ‘bring the troops home’, President Obama broke the record for waging simultaneous wars of all previous presidents! Obama launched or backed US wars and coups (‘regime changes’) in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Honduras and Somalia. After receiving the Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize, President Obama provided advanced weapons to Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt. Obama financed and armed tens of thousands of mercenary terrorists who savaged the secular multiethnic Syrian republic. Furthermore, his administration cynically backed the separatist Kurds occupying Northern Iraq.

Hawaii born and bred, Harvard-educated President Obama had mastered the deep-voiced Southern preacher rhetoric to corrupt the leadership of the social justice and anti-war movements. He coopted the leaders of the mass popular movements to their eternal shame and the movements died. Even the short-lived anti-Wall Street ‘Occupy Movement’ received Obama’s expressions of ‘sympathy’ as he backed the unleashing of police dogs and tear gas on the activists!

Obama’s reactionary military encirclement of Russia and China influenced the foreign policy views of a majority of US liberals as well as the mass media — turning them into ‘humanitarian interventionists’ and tools for empire.

Ever duplicitous, Obama signed a ‘unilateral nuclear disarmament agreement with Iran’ and then immediately broke the agreement by imposing new sanctions on Tehran’s banking and oil transactions.

There was great media fanfare when Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba. This move facilitated the entry and funding of pro-imperialist NGO’s committed to ‘regime change’ along the same line as other ‘color revolutions’. Despite the photo-ops with the Cuban leadership, the US trade embargo against the Cuban people remained in place.

Obama’s State Department and Treasury were tasked with sabotaging and overthrowing the elected Chavez-Maduro governments in Venezuela promoting acts of violence, which have thrown the country into chaos. His Secretary of State Clinton orchestrated the violent removal of the presidents of Libya and Honduras and the installation of rabidly reactionary governments whose policies have created hundreds of thousands of refugees and the assassinations of tens of thousands of citizens, human rights and environmental activists.

Obama’s much-promoted corporate for-profit health program brought some degree of insurance coverage to just half of the uninsured poor within its first year. However, after the first year health premiums rose by 25% while deductibles increased beyond the capacity of many working families. Since then, premiums have risen astronomically and coverage is unaffordable or unavailable in many areas of the country. The debt burden of ill health or a sudden medical emergency has increased for the middle and working class under Wall Street’s ‘First Black’ President. No demographic measures of improvement, in terms of life expectancy or life quality, have been documented since the implementation of ‘Obama Care’. Indeed, these public health measures have deteriorated with an epidemic of suicides, opioid-related deaths and premature deaths of all types among the working and rural classes.

After 8 years, the core of the nation, the so-called ‘Flyover States’, where the downwardly mobile working and lower middle class white majority live, was fed up with Obama’s cant and blatantly elitist policies. In was in this context that the distasteful billionaire buffoon Donald Trump capitalized on mass popular discontent and rallied a populace in revolt against the previous ‘war and bankers’ presidents, by promising to end corporate export of jobs, Wall Street corruption, ‘Obama Care’, competition for jobs with undocumented cheap labor and endless overseas wars. Trump hit a raw nerve among scores of millions of voters when he accused the earlier Bush Administration of fabricating the pretexts for the invasion of Iraq as well as for security failures in the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

Within weeks after taking office President Trump gracefully performed an Obama-style ‘about-face’ and emerged a re-anointed warmonger of the Hillary Clinton variety: He celebrated his transformation by bombing Syria, Afghanistan and the defenseless, starving people of Yemen. He sent warships off the coast of North Korea, placed advanced missile installations in South Korea and threatened nuclear war in Asia.

Trump miserably failed to ‘reform’ the corporate health plan concocted by his smirking predecessor. He shed his promise to seek peaceful relations with Moscow and embraced the policies of the worst anti-Russian liberal warmongers groomed by Clinton and Obama. Obama’s overt war posturing had so deeply influenced African-American politicians that they loudly accused Trump of being ‘too soft on Russia’! Former civil rights leaders-turned politicians were calling for greater US military interventions — a spectacle what would have made our sacred civil rights martyrs rolling in their graves.

Trump, building on the immense power already entrenched in Washington, reinforced and expanded the role of finance capital and the Pentagon in determining US policy. Trump pledged to exceed Obama’s arrest and expulsion of immigrants — from 2.5 million workers in eight years to an additional 5 million in his first four-year term.

The US corporate mass media and the liberal left have been pushing the pro-business President Trump even further to the right — demanding the US escalate its nuclear threat against North Korea, mount a full invasion of Syria (for its ‘crimes against humanity’) and, above all, ‘tighten the military noose’ around Russia and China.

Conclusion

By any measure, the policies of President Richard Milhous Nixon were more socially progressive, less militarist and less servile to Wall Street than any and all of the subsequent US Presidents. This assessment is heresy to the current historical narratives promoted by both political parties and the corporate media-academic nexus.

But even during the Nixon Presidency there were already signs of an allied liberal-rightist attack on his progressive ‘conservative’ agenda. Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy blocked Nixon’s proposal for a universal national health system built on an expansion of the highly successful ‘Medicare Program’. Nixon’s proposal (a ‘Medicare For All’) would have been far more comprehensive, effective and affordable than the corporate boondoggles cooked up by the Clinton and Obama Administrations.

What accounts for the dramatic shift from the center left to the far right among US Presidents after the 1970’s? What explains the rise and demise of ‘Nixonian’ progressivism and the great leap backward in the subsequent four and half decades?

Personality and personal background are not irrelevant: Nixon’s class and work background and personal experience with the Great Depression framed some of his outlook despite his ‘conservative’ credentials. However, the social and political balance of forces played the decisive role. Richard Nixon came to national attention as a rightwing militarist and aggressive attack dog for Senator Joesph McCarthy during the 1950s and at the beginning of his Presidential term in the late 1960’s. However, the reality of the multi-million-person anti-war movement challenged American society and influenced the armed forces from within. Even sectors of the mass media became highly critical of the permanent war state. This movement filled the streets, divided families and influenced the institutions and communities leading to a dramatic change in Nixon’s politics toward peace and even toward social and racial justice. Nixon truly became a ‘realist’.

In those days, the industrial trade unions were powerful. Manufacturing formed the basis of the economy and determined the direction of the banking-finance sector. Wall Street played ‘second fiddle’ to production.

Fed up with the lack of social progress and opportunity in their communities, African American revolts in the streets were far more effective than the tame black Democratic Party politicos in Congress.

The decline of the social movements and militant labor unions, as well as the retreat to electoral politics among the African American and anti-war movements, ended the independent popular pressure and facilitated the rising power of the pro-war, Wall Street-controlled parties linked to money and speculation. Labor unions became the fiefdoms of corrupt millionaire union bosses who bought protection from prosecution with multi-million dollar campaign donations to both Democrats and Republican politicians. They discarded the Nixon’s social agenda, using the ‘Watergate Scandal’ as a pretext to dismantle his advanced programs.

Presidents and Congresses became beholden to the bankers. The rise, dominance and deep corruption of the Wall Street speculators realigned the economy away from domestic manufacturing to international finance — leading to the great relocation of US factories abroad and the permanent marginalization of the once-organized American working class.

Voters were marginalized as active participants in their own public affairs. They alternated their disaffection between parties and candidates, between big and small spenders, indicted and unindicted swindlers, and exposed and unpunished perverts.

The domestic changes in the economy and social structure were the direct outcome of these shifts in the social and political struggles and organizations.

There is a dialectical relationship between socio-economic changes and the rise and fall of socio-political struggles.

These domestic shifts of power and policy were influenced by the major changes in global power, namely the demise of the USSR, the decline of secular-nationalist regimes in the Middle East, the defeat of the left in Latin America and, above all, the rise of the US imperial doctrines of unipolar power and the globalization. The ‘changing times’ explains everything and nothing! While the objective world determines politics, so do the subjective responses of Presidents.

President Richard Nixon could have escalated the Vietnam War up to a nuclear attack on Hanoi: This is what the current Obama-Trump militarist advisors now recommend for the North Koreans. Nixon could have followed the rightwing ‘free market’ ideology of the Republican-Goldwater faction. However, Nixon took a pragmatic, peace and social reformist position — which have brought us some of our most cherished programs — EPA, OSHA, SALT disarmament, relations with China, even Roe versus Wade, and an end to the military draft.

Subsequent Presidents, faced with the shifts in political, social and economic power, chose to re-direct the nation toward greater militarism and the domination of finance capital. They have systematically attacked and dismantled the social welfare programs, environmental protection, pro-industry legislation, diplomacy and peace pacts initiated by Nixon.

The aphorism, ‘man makes history but not of his own doing’, is central to our discussion of the Nixon legacy. The process of regression is a cumulative process, of leaps and steps. In recent years, regression has accelerated with devastating results for the domestic and world populations. Social power, concentrated at the top, weakens but also alienates power at the bottom and middle. The current configuration of power and policies cannot be permanent, even if the trajectory so far has favored the elite. Social classes and groups are not fixed in their orientations.

Twice in recent years, significant majorities voted for jobs, justice and peace (Obama and Trump) and instead got charlatans bringing greater inequality, injustice and endless wars.

Deception and deep commitments to reactionary politics have penetrated widely among the ‘discontented classes’. African-American political leaders and pundits now demand war against Russia following the pronouncements of their ‘Black President’, Barack Obama. Poor marginalized white workers still support their billionaire leader Donald Trump as he waltzes down Wall Street and into possible nuclear war.

The dialectic of discontent and resentment can lead to progressive or reactionary political and social alignments, even, or especially, in the face of history’s great leap backwards!

May 012017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

tsipras-Greek-crisis

Introduction

While the Right faithfully supports the policies and interests of its ruling class supporters, the Left has systematically betrayed their political platform promises and deceived its working class, salaried employees, small business and regional supporters.

Historic reversals have happened in rapid succession by Leftist leaders, including greater oligarch control over the economy, more dictatorial political domination by imperial powers (US,EU), increasing inequalities and poverty, and ‘Leftist’ support for imperial wars.

In some cases leftist leaders have gone beyond their rightist opponents by passing even more extreme reactionary policies upon assuming power.

In this essay, we will identify some of the turncoat leftists: The ‘Champions of Betrayal’.

Secondly we will review their policy reversals and the consequences for their working class and rural supporters.

Thirdly, we will present a case study of the world’s worst ‘Left’ traitor today: Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece.

In the final section, we will discuss some of the possible explanations for the trend of political reversals by left leaders.

Turncoat ‘Leftists’ of the Early 21st Century

There are numerous examples of former guerrilla movements, leftist regimes and political leaders who gained mass popular support on the promise of radical structural transformations and who turn around to embrace the interests of their oligarchical and imperial adversaries.

An entire generation of radicals from the 1960’s and ‘70’s started on the left and, by the ‘80’s and 90’s ended up in ‘centrist’ and rightwing regimes – even becoming collaborators with the extreme right and the CIA.

Former guerrilla fighters, who turned centrist and rightwing, became Cabinet Ministers or Presidents in Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Chile.

El Salvadoran guerrilla commander, Joaquin Villalobos, later collaborated with the CIA and provided ‘advice’ to the ‘death squad’ President of Colombia.

The list of late 20th century traitors is long and dismal. Their policy betrayals have caused great hardship for their mass supporters who suffered socio-economic losses, political repression, arrests, torture, death and a profound distrust toward ‘left’ intellectuals, political leaders and their ‘promises’.

The 21st Century: Starting on the Left and Ending on the Right

The first decade of the 21st century witnessed a revival of left regimes and political parties in Europe and Latin America.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), led by the great peasant leader Manual Marulanda, had 20,000 fighters and millions of supporters. In 1999, it had advanced to the outskirts of the Capital, Bogota. The reality today is a dramatic reversal.

In France, the Socialist Party adopted a left program and elected Francois Hollande as President in 2012. He promised to raise taxes on the rich to 75% in order to finance a massive jobs program. He promised to extend progressive labor legislation and to defend national industries. Today his credibility is near zero.

Throughout Latin America, Leftists were elected to head governments, including Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and El Salvador. With the possible exception of Bolivia and Ecuador, they have been ousted by their rightwing partners or opponents.

In Spain, Portugal and Greece, new radical leftist parties emerged with promises to end the brutal European Union-imposed austerity programs, and launch profound, class-based, structural transformations. Here history is repeating itself with another series of betrayals.

The Revolutionary Armed of Forces of Colombia (FARC): From Revolution to Surrender

By June 2017, the FARC leadership had disarmed its fighters, abandoning millions of peasant supporters in regions formerly under their control. The FARC’s signing of the Peace Pact with the Santos regime led to neither peace nor a real pact. Dozens of activists are already being murdered and hundreds of leftists and peasants are fleeing for their lives from death squads connected to the Santos regime. Assassinations occurred throughout the negotiation process and afterwards. Guerrilla fighters, who turned in their arms, now face kangaroo trials, while peasants who apply for agrarian reform are driven from their farms. Rank and file FARC fighters and militants are abandoned with their families in the jungle without homes, jobs and security from the death squads. US military bases and advisers remain. The entire socio-economic system is unchanged. Only the Cuba-based guerrilla ‘leaders’ are guaranteed security, two comfortable seats in Parliament — which has been denied — and the praise of the US government!

FARC leaders and chief negotiators, Ivan Marquez and Timoleon Jimenez, are clear contenders for the ‘Traitor of the Year Award’.

France’s President Hollande: An Imperial Collaborator Flushed down the Toilet

President Francois Hollande’s tenure was not far behind the FARC’s betrayal. Elected President of France in 2012 under the Socialist Party, he promised to ‘tax the rich’ by 75%, extend and deepen workers’ rights, reduce unemployment, revive bankrupt industries, prevent capitalist flight and end France’s military intervention in Third World countries.

After a brief flirtation with his campaign rhetoric, President Hollande went on a pro-business and militarist rampage against his voters:

First, he deregulated business relations with labor, making it easier and quicker to fire workers.

Second, he reduced business taxes by $40 billion Euros.

Third, he imposed and then extended a draconian state of emergency following a terrorist incident. This included the banning of strikes by workers protesting his anti-labor legislation and the double-digit unemployment rate.

Fourth, Hollande launched or promoted a series of imperial wars in the Middle East and North and Central Africa.

France under Francois Hollande initiated the NATO bombing of Libya, the murder of President Gadhafi, the total destruction of that nation and the uprooting of millions of Libyans and sub-Saharan African workers. This led to a massive flood of terrified refugees across the Mediterranean and into Europe with tens of thousands drowning in the process.

President Holland’s neo-colonial project oversaw the expansion of French troops into Mali (destabilized by the destruction of Libya) and the Central African Republic.

A clear promoter of genocide, Hollande sold arms and sent ‘advisers’ to support Saudi Arabia’s grotesque war against impoverished Yemen.

President Hollande joined the US mercenary invasion of Syria, allowing some of France’s finest nascent jihadis to join in the slaughter. His colonial ambitions have resulted in the flight of millions of refugees into Europe and other regions.

By the end of his term of office in 2017, Holland’s popularity had declined to 4%, the lowest level of electoral approval of any President in French history! The only rational move he undertook in his entire regime was to not seek re-election.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: ‘Traitor of the Year’

Despite the stiff competition from other infamous leftist traitors around the world, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wins the ‘Global Traitor of the Year’ award.

Tsipras deserves the label of ‘Global Traitor’ because:

1)       He made the quickest and most brutal turn from left to right than any of his venal competitors.

2)      He supported Greece’s subjugation to the dictates of the Brussels oligarchs privatization demands, agreeing to sell its entire national patrimony, including its infrastructure, islands, mines, beaches, museums, ports and transports etc.

3)      He decreed the sharpest reduction of pensions, salaries and minimum wages in European history, while drastically increasing the cost of health care, hospitalization and drugs. He increased VAT, (consumer taxes) and tax on island imports and farm income while ‘looking the other way’ with rich tax evaders.

4)      Tsipras is the only elected leader to convoke a referendum on harsh EU conditions, receive a massive mandate to reject the EU plan and then turn around and betray the Greek voters in less than a week. He even accepted more severe conditions than the original EU demands!

5)      Tsipras reversed his promises to oppose EU sanctions against Russia and withdrew Greece’s historic support for the Palestinians. He signed a billion-dollar oil and gas  deal with Israel which grabbed oil fields off the Gaza and Lebanon coast. Tsipras refused to oppose the US – EU bombing of Syria, and Libya — both former allies of Greece.

Tsipras, as the leader of the supposedly ‘radical left’ SYRIZA Party, leaped from left to right in the wink of an eye.

The first and most revealing indication of his turn to the right was Tsipras’ support for Greece’s continued membership in the European Union (EU) and NATO during the formation of SYRIZA (2004).

SYRIZA’s ‘left’ mouthed the usual platitudes accompanying EU membership, raising vacuous ‘questions’ and ‘challenges’ while talking of ‘struggles’. None of these ‘half pregnant’ phrases made sense to any observer who understood the power of the German-led oligarchs in Brussels and their strict adherence to ruling-class imposed austerity.

Secondly, SYRIZA had played a minor role, a best, in the numerous trade union general strikes and worker and student led direct action in the run-up to its electoral victory in 2015.

SYRIZA is an electoral party of the lower middle and middle class, led by upwardly mobile politicos who had few if any ties to shop-floor factory and agrarian struggles. Their biggest struggles seemed to revolve around internal factional wars over seats in Parliament!

SYRIZA was a loose collection of squabbling groups and factions, including, ‘ecology movements’, Marxist sects and traditional politicos who had floated over from the moribund, and corrupt PanHellenic Socialist Party (PASOK). SYRIZA expanded as a party at the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis when the Greek economy collapsed. From 2004 to 2007 SYRIZA increased its presence in Parliament from 3.5% to only 5%. Its lack of participation in the mass struggles and its internal squabbles led to a decline in the 2009 legislative elections to 4.6% of seats.

Tsipras ensured that SYRIZA would remain in the EU, even as its self-styled ‘left wing’, the Left Platform, led by ‘Marxist academic’ Panagiotis Lafazanis, promised to “keep an open door to leaving the EU”. Alexis Tsipras was first elected to the Athens city council, where he publicly attacked corrupt and demagogic rightwing colleagues while taking private lessons in power from the oligarchy.

In 2010, the rightwing PASOK and far right New Democracy agreed to an EU dictated debt bail-out leading to massive job losses and the slashing of wages and pensions. SYRIZA, while outside of power, denounced the austerity program and gave lip-service to the massive protests. This posturing allowed SYRIZA to quadruple its representation in parliament to 16% in the 2012 election.

Tsipras welcomed corrupt ex-PASOK members and financial advisers into SYRIZA, including Yanis Varoufakis, who spent more time motorcycling to upscale bars then supporting the unemployed workers in the streets.

EU ‘memorandums’ dictated the privatization of the economy, as well as deeper cuts in education and health. These measures were implemented in shock waves from 2010 through 2013. As an opposition party, SYRIZA increased its seats 27% in 2013 … a scant 3% behind the ruling rightwing New Democracy. In September 2014, SYRIZA approved the Thessalonika Program promising to reverse austerity, rebuild and extend the welfare state, restart the economy, defend public enterprises, promote tax justice, uphold democracy (direct democracy no less!) and implement a ‘national plan’ to increase employment.

The entire debate and all the resolutions turned out to be a theatrical farce! Once in power, Tsipras never implemented a single reform promised in the Program. To consolidate his power as head of SYRIZA, Tsipras dissolved all factions and tendencies in the name of a ‘unified party’ —  hardly a step toward greater democracy!

Under ‘Dear Uncle Alexis’ control, SYRIZA became an authoritarian electoral machine despite its left posturing. Tsipras insisted that Greece would remain within the EU and approved a ‘balanced budget’ contradicting all his phony campaign promises of public investments to ‘extend the welfare state’!

A new EU bailout was followed by a jump in unemployment to over 50% among youth and 30% of the entire labor force. SYRIZA won the January 25, 2015 parliamentary elections with 36.3% of the electorate. Lacking a single vote to secure a majority in parliament, SYRIZA formed an alliance with the far-right ANEL party, to which Tsipras gave the Defense Ministry.

Immediately upon taking office, Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras announced his plans to renegotiate Greece’s bailout and ‘austerity program’ with the EU oligarchy and the IMF. This phony posturing could not hide his impotence: Since SYRIZA was committed to staying in the EU, austerity would continue and another onerous ‘bailout’ would follow. During ‘internal meetings’, members of SYRIZA’s ‘Left Platform’ in the Cabinet called for leaving the EU, reneging the debt and forging closer ties with Russia. Despite being totally ignored and isolated, they stayed on as impotent ‘token leftist’ Cabinet Ministers.

With Tsipras now free to impose neo-liberal market policies, billions of Euros flowed out of Greece and its own banks and businesses remained in crisis. Both Tsipras and the ‘Left Platform’ refused to mobilize SYRIZA’s mass base, which had voted for action and demanded an end to austerity. The media’s gadfly, Finance Minister Varoufakis, put on a sideshow with grand theatrical gestures of disapproval. These were openly dismissed by the EU-IMF oligarchy as the antics of an impotent Mediterranean clown.

Superficial as ever, the Canadian, US, European left-wing academics were largely unaware of SYRIZA’s political history, its opportunist composition, electoral demagogy and total absence from real class struggle. They continued to blather about SYRIZA as Greece’s ‘radical left’ government and attended its PR functions. When SYRIZA flagrantly embraced the EU’s most savage cutbacks against Greek workers and their living standards affecting everyday life, the highly paid, distinguished professors finally spoke of SYRIZA’s ‘mistakes’ and ladled the ‘radical left’ from this stew of opportunists! Their grand speaking tours to Greece were over and they flitted off to support other ‘struggles’.

As the summer of 2015 approached, Prime Minister Tsipras moved ever closer to the entire EU austerity agenda. ‘Dear Alexis’ dumped Finance Minister Varoufakis, whose histrionics had irked Germany’s Finance Minister. Euclid Tsakalotos , another ‘radical’ leftist, took over as Finance Minister, but turned out to be a malleable lieutenant for Tsipras, willing to implement any and all EU-imposed austerity measures without the antics.

By July 2015, Tsipras and SYRIZA accepted a harsh austerity program dictated by the EU. This rejected SYRIZA’s entire Thessalonika Program proclaimed a year earlier. The entire population, and SYRIZA’s rank and file members grew angrier, demanding an end to austerity. While approving a ‘belt tightening’ austerity program for his electoral mass base throughout the summer of 2015, Tsipras and his family lived in luxury in a villa generously loaned by a Greek plutocrat, far from the soup lines and hovels of the unemployed and destitute.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras implemented policies earning him the ‘Traitor of the Year Award’. His was a duplicitous strategy: On July 5, 2015, he convoked a referendum on whether to accept the EU’s bailout conditions. Thinking his ‘pro-EU’ supporters would vote ‘Yes’, he intended to use the referendum as a mandate to impose new austerity measures. Tsipras misjudged the people: Their vote was an overwhelming repudiation of the harsh austerity program dictated by the oligarchs in Brussels.

Over 61% of the Greek people voted ‘no’ while merely 38% voted in favor of the bailout conditions. This was not limited to Athens: A majority in every region of the country rejected the EU dictates — an unprecedented outcome! Over 3.56 million Greeks demanded an end to austerity. Tsipras was ‘admittedly surprised’ . . . and disappointed! He secretly and stupidly thought the referendum would give him a free hand to impose austerity. He put on his usual grin as the voting results were announced.

Less than a week later, on July 13, Tsipras renounced the results of his own referendum and announced his government’s support for the EU bailout. Perhaps to punish the Greek voters, Tsipras backed an even harsher austerity scheme than the one rejected in his referendum! He drastically slashed public pensions, imposed massive regressive tax hikes and cut public services by $12 billion euros. Tsipras agreed to the infamous ‘Judas memorandum’ of July 2015, which increased the regressive general consumer tax (VAT) to 23%, a 13% food tax, a sharp increase in medical and pharmaceutical costs and tuition fees, and postponed the retirement age by five years to 67.

Tsipras continued on his ‘historic’ rampage over the suffering Greek people throughout 2016 and 2017. His regime privatized over 71,500 public properties, including the historic patrimony. Only the Acropolis was spared the auction block … for now! The resulting unemployment drove over 300,000 skilled and educated Greeks to migrate. Pensions slashed to 400 Euros led to malnutrition and a three-fold rise in suicides.

Despite these grotesque social consequences the German bankers and the regime of Angela Merkel refused to reduce the debt payments. Prime Minister Tsipras’ groveling had no effect.

Sharp tax hikes on farm fuels and transport to tourist islands led to constant marches and strikes in cities, factories, fields and highways.

By January 2017 Tsipras had lost half of his electorate. He responded with repression: gassing and beating elderly Greeks protesting their poverty pensions. Three-dozen trade unionists, already acquitted by the courts, were re-tried by Tsipras’ prosecutors in a vicious ‘show trial’. Tsipras supported the US-NATO attacks on Syria, the sanctions against Russia and the billion-dollar energy and military agreements with Israel.

Short of the Nazi occupation (1941-44) and Anglo-Greek civil war of (1945-49), the Greek people had not experienced such a precipitous decline of their living standards since the Ottomans. This catastrophe occurred under the Tsipras regime, vassal to the Brussels oligarchy.

European, Canadian and US leftist academic tourists had ‘advised’ SYRIZA to remain in the EU. When the disastrous consequences of their ‘policy advice’ became clear … they merely turned to advising other ‘struggles’ with their phony ‘socialist forums’.

Conclusions

The betrayals by ‘Leftist’ and ‘radical leftist’ leaders are partly due to their common practices as politicians making pragmatic deals in parliament. In other cases, former extra-parliamentary and guerrilla leaders were faced with isolation and pressure from neighboring ‘left’ regimes to submit to imperial ‘peace accords’, as in the case of the FARC. Confronting the massive build-up of the US supplied and advised armies of the oligarchs, they folded and betrayed their mass supporters.

The electoral framework within the EU encouraged leftist collaboration with class enemies – especially German bankers, NATO powers, the US military and the IMF.

From its origins SYRIZA refused to break with the EU and its authoritarian structure. From its first day of government, it accepted even the most demonstrably illegal private and public debts accumulated by the corrupt right-wing PASOK and New Democracy regimes. As a result SYRIZA was reduced to begging.

Early on SYRIZA could have declared its independence, saved its public resources, rejected its predecessors’ illegal debts, invested its savings in new jobs programs, redefined its trade relations, established a national currency and devalued the drachma to make Greece more flexible and competitive. In order to break the chains of vassalage and foreign oligarch imposed austerity, Greece would need to exit the EU, renounce its debt and launch a productive socialist economy based on self-managed co-operatives.

Despite his electoral mandate, the Greek Prime Minister Tsipras followed the destructive path of Soviet leader Michel Gorbachev, betraying his people in order to continue down the blind ally of submission and decay.

While several leaders offer stiff competition for the ‘Traitor of the Year Award’, Alexis Tsipras’ betrayal has been longer, more profound and continues to this day. He broke more promises and reversed more popular mandates (elections and referendums) more quickly than any other traitor. Moreover nothing short of a generation will allow the Greeks to recover left politics. The left has been devastated by the monstrous lies and complicity of Tsipras’ former ‘left critics’.

Greece’s accumulated debt obligations will require at least a century to play out — if the country can even survive. Without question, Alexis Tsipras is the ‘Traitor of the Year’ by unanimous vote!!!

Apr 112017
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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Introduction

Every day and throughout the world we read and hear of turmoil, of threats, violence, divisions, wars for peace and peace for wars, freedom as oppression and oppression as freedom.

In a world where words have lost their meanings and meanings have no words, how do we go about understanding turmoil?

Surely, economies rise and decline, new empires become dominant and old powers attempt to regain their power.

Does global turmoil ‘up end’ the established order?  Or does it add up to hot air, flatulence, loud, smelly, empty and of short duration?

Is turmoil more than gaseous air, an after-dinner deep throated salute to the cook? Or is it a result of transformations of substance, albeit piles of broken societies stacked as precisely located horse buns?

In plain English: we experience turmoil … but we struggle to understand its significance. We ask: who benefits? And the quacks answer: Everybody, nobody and somebody.

We will argue that most turmoil receives grave attention but is of little consequence.

Turmoil has many facets and is expressed by many voices, but it seldom leads to substantive outcomes.

A caveat: I am not a Burkean conservative fearful of turmoil, nor a modern version of Candide finding a silver earring in every cauliflower ear.

Turmoil does, on rare occasion, result in greater freedom and justice, but certainly not as a product of a unipolar world.

Turmoil ‘Turmoil’ Everywhere You Turn

The United States faces ‘unprecedented turmoil’. The chattering classes debate with fervor and solemnity questions of momentous importance.

The two major parties arouse passions over whether one hundred million votes were tampered by a feisty bear, hacking a national committee of garrulous roosters, changing the voting result.

A world historic event! Crowing arouses world attention.

The snoopy bear, or so we are told, was investigated by the former President’s staff, men and women.  One million security officials studied, in great depth, untold number of rumors. They scrutinized the dinner tables with high-powered secret cameras to find if the bear chose to sit next to US officials eager for cash and access to honey pots.

Turmoil spread to the stock market and the Federal Budget, facing a shut-down, which will close government offices, stops pensions and salaries. Rumors have it that the Interior Department will lose control of federal lands and the crafty bear will exploit it.

As the clock ticks to doomsday – utter turmoil lurks in the hearts and minds of Congress. The White House gloats, the media points to the Bear in the White House.

Wall Street worries not, since it buys and owns both Parties: It will tell them when to end the Kabuki strife. The turmoil will conclude with an amicable agreement. The budget turmoil was only a scare: flatulence without ‘substance’.

Global Turmoil

Turmoil reigns across the globe because adversaries near and far resist the overtures of an endearing missile up their orifices.

We mean war! This is no idle congressional chatter and boisterous bursts of military clap trap. The US sends bombs and missiles to defeat our adversaries by killing civilians. We empty the cities to capture the terrorists.

Wars become ‘Historical ’ because they are of long duration leading to relentless defeats!

Turbulence goes on because of oil, Israel and terrorists (proximity is an unintended coincidence!).

When turmoil ends, we may inherit a land without people and a people with depleted uranium – to paraphrase the modern philosopher queen, Golda Meir.

Turmoil Strikes the Heartland of Our Unipolar World

Let us be absolutely clear: We are not always pointing our middle finger at the US as the root of turmoil. If we go beyond roots and examine branches and falling, dying leaves, millions are involved in the turmoil. It is the joint responsibility of our living and their dead.

Syria is a case in point. We have only killed less than a million, and then ten million abandoned their land and chose our liberty over our terrorists. By the way, how can our terrorists be call terrorists if, with our guns in hand, they stave off the greedy bear — the very same bear who stole our election.

Syria is in turmoil because as Henry Kissinger wisely noted: “If a people is foolish enough to vote for a government that has failed to understand our unipolar world, they deserve their fate”.

Turmoil: Turkey

Turkey is rife with turmoil because it refused to surrender to a false coup by a false leader named Gulan. He happens to live and plot in the US. He was hoping to repay our hospitality with expanded Turkish air bases and open highways for our mercenaries, arms and funds to liberate civilians and recover headless cadavers in Syria.

When the Turkish Sultan dared to imitate our leaders by extending imprisonment to all who opposed him, we denounced him for not consulting us on whom to jail or not jail.

Ankara now threatens our Kurds, who use our arms and Special Forces to liberate the Syrian borders along southeastern Turkey (Kurdistan).

The Turks claim to see a conspiracy to unify the secessionist Turkish Kurds with our freedom-loving annexationist Syrian Kurds. United Kurdistan may be a true ally for now, but who’s to say that in our game of unipolar chess we could turn the Kurds back into pawns if they become unruly under independence and fall prey to the appeals of the roaming Bear.

Turmoil in Korea

In Korea, turmoil is rife! But is it a tempest in a teapot, or a nuclear pressure cooker ready to explode?

We are there. We allowed the North to exist.  We only bombed four million of their citizens and limited our defenses to stationing our navy, air force, army and missiles along the North Korean border.

They had the effrontery to seek negotiations for a peace treaty, disarmament and a neutralized Korea. Some quasi-traitors from our side, who deviated from our unipolar mission, had almost reached an agreement.  Our President Obama slapped them back and pursued missiles, sanctions and visions of mushroom clouds to bring them under our heel.

President Kim Jong-Un played deaf and blind to our requests for surrender. So when we engaged in a full dress rehearsal for war off their coast – avoiding any incident – the roly-poly Kim Jong-Un shot four fearful missiles into the Sea of Japan, a mere five thousand miles from Silicon Valley and Hollywood , an existential threat.

Our experts detected turmoil: a wider and deeper threat to our respected and long-standing supremacy in Asia.

Turmoil in China

China is fomenting turmoil by supplying our importers with consumer goods; buying our debts, spending only $3 trillion of our T notes; grabbing our markets with their exports while we pursue peaceful wars.

China has stirred our pot, over there and even here. They teamed up with Vlad the Snooping Bear, the same one who fooled 50 million voters to elect Trump, the protectionist. Sly Chinese now entice our Asian trading partners. They close huge trade deals while we openly proclaim that the Pacific Ocean is an American lake –though it’s not on any map. Chinese rock piles in the South China Sea are global threats, pirate lairs, missile and mussel hangouts.

We reject the One-Party State in China. In America, we have two parties. Bi-Partisan leaders propose that China end the turmoil by closing their labs, research centers, factories and universities and open wide their door with a sign on the entrance of the Forbidden Kingdom: “OxyContin for Sale: Discounted Prices from our Billionaire Pain-killer Partners.”

Yemen in Turmoil

Turmoil in Yemen exists only because the people want to be free of our ‘dear friends, the hand-chopping and head-chopping Saudi Monarchs.

We are for diversity! We fraternize with Saudi-funded mercenary terrorists, Jewish land-grabbers, Egyptian tyrants and Libyan tribal allies, who blend with all of the above!

As our President tells it: “If the Yemenis don’t recognize that they are the poorest country in the Middle East and choose instead to resist the richest tyrants in the region, who are allied with the US, British and French arms merchants. Then the Yemenis, facing our precision bombs, which never miss a school, hospital or food warehouse, must be embracing a ‘death wish’.”

These stubborn Yemenis fighters should stop and study the US Marine Corp porno-website, whose once famous motto has morphed from Semper Fideles to ‘Just lay back and enjoy the violation!’

Truth from the Trump Tower

Turmoil is not necessary if the other side does not provoke our unipolar visionaries and our unsavory allies.

Turmoil in Iran

Iran must be our biggest threat – after Russia, China and others among our ‘biggest enemies of the moment’ – because the Iranians haven’t started a war in the last 200 years. But according to Israeli intelligence who pass their secret information while staying at the Trump Towers, the Persians are preparing secret nuclear weapons, sending secret agents, operating out of secret mosques, run by secret mullahs to launch invasions … while hiding behind their history of non-aggression.

The devious Iranians are sending food and medicine to starving Yemen: This is a Shia plot to infiltrate the Sunni Saudi oil fields to measure if the size of oil wells matter.

We signed fake nuclear pacts with Iran to increase sanctions in order to clear the Straits of Hormuz to allow our Hebrew brethren to breathe freely when Tehran is bombed!

Turmoil in Latin America

Turmoil is a Latin American phase borrowed from overhearing conversations between the Pentagon and Bankers regarding how to topple unfriendly democratic demagogues.

Friendly turmoil allowed us to pre-empt a coup against an incompetent elected regime in Brazil, which committed a stupid bookkeeping error. We put in its place a mega corrupt President who was our man to hand over the jewels of their economy to the people who will make America strong again.

We don’t select individuals — we shepherd flocks, led astray by center-left turmoil, by promoting  peace-loving and dynamic wolves. From Mexico to Patagonia, oil giveaways are common currency that surely activate the economy – our economy.

Argentina led the way. The ‘vulture’ speculator, Paul Singer, didn’t have to raise a peep or pick a pocket: Five billion in cash just jumped from their pocket into his.

Turmoil returned as Argentina’s workers failed to find jobs in closed factories, and they couldn’t afford to buy newspapers to look for the want ads; besides these ‘deplorables’ can’t read them because the lights are turned off for not paying the one hundred percent increase in the electrical bill.

The general strike of millions of Argentine workers is just a Latin expression of ‘blowing off steam’ whispered a clever New York professor into the ear of a Wall Street broker.

She received tenure because she always looked through the wrong end of the telescope, to study their turmoil.

We mainly fleece the big Latin sheep first, but we do not neglect the lesser Andean herd. Peru and Chile elected presidents who will shear their people, not of  bags of wool, but of tons of copper from their mines.

Turmoil in Dissenting Countries

We may occasionally welcome, and even promote, turmoil if it turns out the oil fields have passed to greedy elected Presidents who claim that petroleum is part of their national patrimony. We generously passed a hundred million dollars to a diverse group of generals, bankers, upscale street thugs and NGOers who seized the Presidential palace and in a fit of wrong-headed compassion merely kidnapped (but did not kill) the greedy elected President. One million slum dwellers, fooled by fake solidarity, protested the regime change. The elected demagogue was reinstated.

The oil-greedy president was re-elected a dozen times.

We were not discouraged because the president foolishly freed our leaders, in a fit of compassion, so they could pursue a coup replay.

We promoted turmoil in phases, with material incentives. We dubbed our coup-masters, “democrats”, and helped them launder billions from the Treasury, hoard food in private warehouses and smuggle contraband to free markets in Colombia in exchange for sending cocaine to our markets via Venezuelan airports.

We don’t rely on coups, until we are forced to, since we finally won two elections; One in Venezuela and the other in the Organization of American Colonies. Any act in defense of the elected president is a gross violation of the Democratic Chatter-Charter, which we wrote in English and procured a translation by our Secretary General Luis Almagro. We mispronounced his name as “El Amargo” – the ‘bitter one’ – which is dead wrong, as he fawns over us while attacking Latinos who resist us.

The United Kingdom: Turmoil of ‘Great Historic Consequences’

We are told that Brexit (the UK departure from the European Union) has created turmoil around the world. In the City of London and the European Union, among bankers, investors and overseas professionals in Great Britain and pensioners in Southern France and Spain, there are cries of despair and regret: What idiot allowed a free and popular vote over the EU?

Turmoil, Prime Minister Theresa May tell us, is ‘all for the best in the best of all worlds’. We are closing our doors to foreign interlopers without shedding our moneylenders and money launderers. We will no longer act as vassals to serve the oligarchs of Brussels; we got better oligarchs at home with a long tradition of training our vassals to serve our empire.

We need not share our export profits with the greedy Germans, nor the tourist markets with pompous French; nor slight our ale-swillers at the Brighton shore for the warm beer at crowded Benidorm.

Once free of the turmoil, our monarchy will sign off lucrative arms agreements with its counterpart in Saudi Arabia. The EU will have to absorb all the Yemeni refugees fleeing the Anglo-Saudi bombardments. We will keep our banks in the City and every ruler with his secret swindle will still come to us.

The United Kingdom will experience a rebirth of an English-speaking free market empire! The Commonwealth will continue to look to us for football scores even if we recruit half our teams from the former colonies.

Of course, English society will change a bit if we leave the EU. We will slow the flow of immigrants but we will not raise wages. Immigration is about ‘values’ not jobs and wages! We will let our workers know who is boss, lest some turmoil results in a united front between departing speculators and our knighted trade union officials.

There is no turmoil in the City over Brexit. Some critics claim that investors and money managers will move to the Continent because they now will have to carry their passports to travel to and fro between each transaction. It’s hard to believe that a mere flash of a passport could be such a nuisance!

The EU real estate accountants claim that England must pay back $80 billion euros for joint holdings in property and cash. An entirely outrageous divorce settlement given the intangible gains the Brussels crowd received from using the British name in  overseas transactions or imperial endeavors.

UK will experience some initial turmoil when the foreign and our unpatriotic speculators depart. But we can easily replace them with our highly competent English lads and lasses.

We may experience some initial discomfort if Scotland votes to skip off to the EU and the Northern Irish decide to fall in line with the Popish bunch in the South and sign off with the EU.

There are some rumors that Wales, provoked by the extremist Language Society, might jump ship to the EU, angry over the English buying farming cottages for summer homes – “They denounce them as illegal immigrants”!

We have already announced that we may lose half our kingdom to the EU shortly, but we have given notice that we are ready to defend our rock of Gibraltar and the seaweed stalwarts at our Malvinas Island. Let some Wall Street idlers josh about our empire amounting to a rock-island, they should think twice about its significant. China has colonized unpopulated rocks, which are a fraction the size of our rock! And no one dares to joke about China’s rock island empire building!

The EU is stirring turmoil by insisting that the political divorce precedeour trade agreements: This is an unprecedented step according to our respected High Courts of Justice.

Brussels wants to monopolize trade and investment transactions among their vassal member states. We say we will keep to free trade and let their banks go in order to free our financial institutions. We will tell them to keep their refugees and immigrants!

England will be smaller but better! We will deepen our ties with Anglo-speaking nations!

There might be some turmoil in convincing the other Anglophones to join a sterling zone and to revise their trade ties with China, the US and other regions.

Scoffers may say the ‘Brexiters’ are hallucinating sentimentalists who believe that  Merry Old England can refashion  a great ‘global union of states’, a ‘union’ of London – New York – Toronto – Canberra – Johannesburg – Buenos Aires .

But there might be some misunderstandings … New York’s Wall Street competes with the City; it poaches high-powered bankers and is advising its subsidiaries to hold out on the high-end rentals at Canary Wharf. Can the City of London build a trans-Atlantic oil pipeline from Canada in order to compete with Keystone pipeline between Alberta and New Orleans?

The sad fact is that the US has already replaced the British Empire and is highly unlikely to share any markets with an isolated and fragmented UK converted into “Merry Old England” – an England which faces turmoil between the workers of the Midlands, the City bankers and the rentiers in the South.

The best bet is for the City of London  to secede and become an independent City State and long for the success of Venice several centuries past.

Conclusion: Their Turmoil and Ours

Turmoil is everywhere but some turbulence is better than others. When the US-EU provokes turmoil – wars against adversaries in the Middle East, North and Central Africa, Asia and Latin America– it is a bitter pill necessary to cure the disease of disobedient regimes, which had sought to go their own wrong way.

The turmoil, which destabilizes us and our allies and vassal regions, is putting a spanner in the wheels of progress and development.

Turmoil is part of our changing reality.  We are neither rigid nor dogmatic; we are pragmatic. We promote progressive turmoil, so when democratic Turkey overthrows the Syrian regime we can incite a turbulent coup to replace the dictator of Ankara.

To be scientifically correct we must start from the assumption that turmoil, big or small, national or international, a rock pile or a continent, is a class question!  Which classes are behind or in front of the turmoil and which classes benefit!

Apr 082017
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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Introduction

Over the past two decades hundreds of thousands of Americans have died prematurely because of irresponsibly prescribed narcotic ‘pain killers’ and other central nervous system depressants, like tranquillizers and their deadly interactions. The undeniable fact is that they have been mostly from the white working and lower middle class from rural and deindustrialized regions. The governing elite and oligarch macro-decision makers have quietly dismissed this sector of the country as ‘surplus’. The victims or their surviving family members have no chance of redress for the widespread malpractice and greed that led to their addiction or death. The government as a whole and the oligarch-controlled mass media have deliberately failed to document and investigate the deep causes for the epidemic, except to spout the usual superficial ‘clichéd explanations’.

We will proceed to discuss the scope and depth of the epidemic and to identify the primary causes. We will then proceed to offer alternatives.

Comparative Data

The US can claim the dubious distinction of having highest rate of growth of premature deaths among its young and middle age working and lower middle class citizens among the the advanced countries of Europe and Asia. Even most not-so-advanced countries have been spared such an increase in pre-mature mortality, outside of war. This uniquely American devastation is concentrated among the poorer, less educated whites living in small cities, towns and rural areas.

The trends are no longer deniable: Over the last sixteen years (2000-2016), the death rate among US workers between ages 50 – 54 doubled from 40 to 80 per 100,000[1]. In contrast, the mortality rate in Germany among a similar demographic declined from 60 to 42/100,000 and in France from 55 to 40 per 100,000[2]. Moreover within the US, the mortality rate for marginalized white workers has increased compared to that of African Americans and Hispanics. This upward shift in pre-mature death indicates significant deterioration in living standards for a huge slice of the US population. The main causes of death include a dramatic increase in suicide, complications of obesity and diabetes, and especially ‘poisoning’ – a broad term to include alcohol, illegal drugs, and, especially, prescribed opioid pain medications and an array of mixed drug interactions.

Some self-described ‘experts’ in addiction claim that the increasing mortality rates among US workers are due to ‘globalization and automation’[3]. This is an example of what we mean by ‘superficial’ or ‘fake explanations. This is because this phenomenon has not occurred elsewhere in other industrialized countries. Even though countries, like Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom, have seen their economies shift with ‘globalization’ and advanced automation, none have experienced declining mortality among their core population.

Mortality in the UK, Canada and Australia among workers remains at about 40 deaths per 100,000 – half the rate of the US, despite similar demographics and participation in the global market. The key to understanding this phenomenon lies in how American capital and the ruling structure have responded to the needs of its labor force, made redundant by shifts in the economy.

Within the United States, low wage young and middle age white workers with only high school education and less, especially those engaged in manual labor, experience four times higher mortality compared to college graduates. The dramatic increase in the mortality within this demographic corresponds to the increasing proportion of American workers and their families who no longer have access to adequate employer-provided health care. Premature deaths have risen with the demise of well-paid, secure manufacturing jobs for this sector of society.

In other words, as big corporate capitalism enjoys an ever-rising rate of profit through relocation of factories abroad, through automation, or by contracting immigrant and part-time uninsured US workers and therefore eliminating comprehensive health coverage for US workers, preventable worker deaths increase. Other advanced capitalist market economies in Europe and Asia have maintained intact universal national health and social welfare systems, which effectively serve to mitigate the damage that increasing job insecurity and falling living standards have on worker health. These systems continue to save millions of lives. This is one of the starkest contrasts between the US health care system and the systems operating in the rest of the industrialized world!

‘Oxycontin’, the White Plague

The root cause for the astronomical rise of worker mortality in the US is first and foremost the decision of the capitalist class to drop comprehensive, quality health coverage for its workers while lowering wages and shipping many jobs abroad. As a result, US workers, struggling with declining incomes, cannot afford to pay the astronomical insurance premiums, co-pays and high deductible for themselves or their family members. They cannot pay for expensive ‘physical therapy and rehabilitation’ after an injury and often opt for a prescription narcotic to deal with chronic pain while they continue to work.

Secondly, medical ‘providers’ (physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants) are under intense pressure from their employers to spend as little time as possible with patients suffering from chronic pain or injuries, especially those with limited resources. Their salaries and bonuses often depend on the number of patients they can see in a day. Writing prescriptions, especially narcotics, sedatives, anxiolytics and sleep aids save doctors and corporate-run hospitals time and money. Careful history taking, skillful physical examinations, experienced insights and long-term, supportive treatment plans with effective follow-up for an injured worker or chronic pain sufferer are rare indeed (and big money losers)!

Billions of synthetic opioid narcotics have been cheaply manufactured and prescribed at extraordinary levels of profits – far exceeding those of the so-called ‘block-buster’ drugs. The billionaire owners of pharmaceutical companies specializing in narcotic pain medications have hired legions of drug salespeople to work with doctors and pain clinics in a largely unregulated field, without any intervention or oversight form the capitalist state. The lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry spent hundreds of millions of dollars on politicians and bureaucrats to protect their profits even as the number of overdose deaths among prescription opioid addicts grew. The total absence of any state intervention in this epidemic is unique in the industrialized world. This malevolent indifference proves that there is an unstated, but official, Social Darwinism operating at the highest levels, an ideology and practice once relegated to ardent fascists and eugenicists.

What Gives Big Capital Impunity for Murder?

Poisoning from prescribed narcotics, or fatal drug-alcohol-tranquilizer mixtures, comprise the single most important and preventable cause of early death among workers. Those workers, who have graduated from prescription drug addiction to street drugs, should still be included in this group of growing overdose deaths – because their addictions ultimately started in their local clinic. Although they have never met, the street dealers have their business affiliates in the corporate world and neatly scrubbed pain clinics.

While these early deaths by overdose cause incredible suffering to friends and family members of the victims, they are seen as a positive trend for ‘big capital’ – which is why the epidemic has remained largely hidden for almost two decades. Small town newspapers routinely devote long, loving paragraphs to describe a departed octogenarian, including tender references to their final illnesses, while the overdose death of a middle-aged father or mother laid off from a job is mourned in anonymity and silence.

Premature worker deaths by overdose mean higher profits on a grand scale because they lower the overall corporate cost for severance, pensions, worker safety measures and whatever health coverage the employer might provide. Unemployment benefits are cut, and local taxes for schools and services are lowered as the working class population declines. Demand for social services decline with the drop in population. It is no coincidence that the sharp increase in premature deaths among workers in the US coincides with the incredible concentration of wealth among the country’s top oligarchs.

In this climate, tight corporate control over wages, benefits and increasing job insecurity has spread deep fear among workers. Terrified of the poverty that would devastate their families with the loss of a decent job, most workers continue to work despite injuries and illness, often by taking prescription and other narcotics just to get through the day. Their insecurity, anxieties and insomnia are treated with other pharmaceuticals that compound the danger of overdose. Theirs fears and the poisonous workplace environment discourage them from taking any sick leave or demanding effective physical or rehabilitative therapy through their employer’s health plans.

The most ‘effective’ and heavily promoted painkillers, like Oxycontin, happen to be most rapidly addictive and deadly. The pharmaceutical industry deliberately glossed over the dangerously addicting nature of these ‘wonder drugs’ through their drug representative visits to hospitals and clinics. Most of the victims of these addicting drugs have been low wage or unemployed workers, while the medical prescribers are subservient to their capitalist employers and big pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical industries are protected by the State at the top. Corporate hospital and pain clinic directors and providers are protected in the ‘middle’.

The perpetrators of mass murder by overdose have profited immensely and with total impunity for the ensuing havoc – unlike the small street pushers who crowd the huge industrial-size prisons. No security, police or federal agency would ever dare prosecute the directors of these big pharmaceutical corporations. Indeed, the security and justice arm of the state act as accomplice to addiction, although police are no more immune to prescription drug addiction than are nurses and other health providers with access or on-the-job injuries. In fact, the problem of addiction overdose death among security and health care personnel (often victims of suicide by overdose after having lost their jobs to drug dependency) constitutes an undocumented and un-mourned public tragedy. This problem also extends to soldiers returning from imperial wars in the Middle East and South Asia.

The contradictions of a society granting impunity for the corporate perpetrators of this epidemic of death, the ‘opioid war’ against the surplus working class, while spending billions of public money to incarcerate petty street dealers and users, describes a federal and state government in disarray and denial and unable to effectively intervene on behalf of its citizens.

Last year’s presidential primary races and the election campaign broadcast (for the first time) many national politicians being confronted by small town citizens alarmed by the devastation of drug addiction and overdoses in their communities. Candidate Trump made several highly emotional statements about this issue. Interestingly, the Democratic Party presidential candidate Clinton totally failed to ever mention this crisis in her campaign despite touting her ‘record on health care’.

In recent months, the scale of drug overdose deaths in the rural and small town communities led to popular demands for government action. And as predictable as summer mosquitos, a small armies of academics, experts and NGOers buzzed in to plead for greater funding for ‘research, education and treatment’. The same owners of pain clinics, that produced so many addicts, now expanded their business horizons by setting themselves up as ‘Addiction Treatment Centers’ to complement the Community Addict support groups, which have popped up like mushrooms.

None of these arguably opportunist ventures are inclined to engage in political ‘education’ to mobilize the worker-victims of addiction and other citizens to demand a universal national health system like other countries where the prescription addiction problem does not exist. They don’t even address the problem of workplace injury and the workers’ lack of access to effective rehab and physical therapy facilities rather than treatment with opioids. The medical community would rather send their patients to these treatment centers – where more addictive drugs, like methadone, are used to treat addiction – than face the real devastating consequences of the broken profit-mad US private insurance-controlled health care system and organize to truly serve their patients.

By the same token, the nation’s labor departments and labor unions at the federal and state levels have studiously ignored the toll that this has taken on the labor force. A New York Times editorial (October 16, 2016) pointed out that millions of working age men are totally out of the job market due to ‘pain and disability’ and a substantial proportion are on prescription narcotics.The long-term effect is clear: These addictions have destroyed internal worker discipline, essential for productive industry. It would be unimaginable for the German or Chinese industrialists and policy makers to accept the long-term consequences of such a phenomenon. This is just one glaring example of how cavalier the American oligarch and political classes view their native work force.

Murderers and their victims have come to be defined by their social class and not by their ‘education’ or access to ‘technology’. The capitalists of the pharmaceutical industry produce deadly products and distribute them at huge mark-ups to tens of thousands of for-profit pharmacies. The working and lower middle class recipients are the addicted victims.

For their part, capitalists and oligarchs have absolutely no need for any health insurance. They have their own exclusive boutique clinics and stables of elite doctors and nurses to provide them with the highest standards of care. They would never dream of allowing their family members to be prescribed the addicting products that have devastated so many millions of lesser citizens and made them such enormous profits. Although we may never see, let alone visit, these elite clinics, the deadly consequences of the medical-health care apartheid are not hard to fathom.

With predictable optimism, the US mass media reported that the drug overdose crisis has provided the organ transplantation industry with many needed body parts. Such silver linings!

As a group, the capitalist perpetrators of this ‘opioid war against the working class’ can easily donate tens of millions of dollars to presidential candidates and other political leaders to ensure that appointees to the so-called regulatory bodies will work hard to protect their profits rather than the health of the citizens. These oligarchs enjoy near total and eternal immunity from government regulators. If any outrage over the immense human losses to addiction ever manage to filter into their rarified lives of fine art philanthropy and other elite activities, they can rely on legions of public and media ‘moralists’ to blame the victims for their life destroying habits.

One such company is Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of OxyContin. It is owned by the oligarch Sackler Family, whose founders are among the most elite high cultural philanthropists in the country. Since entering the unimaginably lucrative US ‘pain’ market in 1995, OxyContin has earned Purdue over $35 billion dollars and brought the Sacklers into the Olympian heights of the America’s ‘Uber-rich’. None of curators in the Sackler Galleries or the Sackler Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art would dream of displaying any ‘social realist’ depiction of the immense human suffering and loss caused by the drugs their bosses have peddled to millions of low-income Americans. But then tastes have changed: ‘Social realism’ is obsolete in the class-apartheid America that the Sacklers and their friends enjoy.

Quality research and investigation into major demographic changes is also obsolete. Describing the promiscuous dissemination of prescription opioids as one of the ‘biggest mistakes in the history of modern medicine’, a former FDA commissioner, did nothing to curtail the epidemic during his tenure (1990-1997) or to draw attention to the devastation after stepping down until just recently. Dr. David Kessler joined the chorus bemoaning the opioid epidemic after the highly publicized overdose death of the rock star Prince, writing an Op-Ed in the New York Times on May 6, 2016.

Academics receive grants from big national foundations to ‘study addiction’, focusing on the individual psychological disorders affecting the victims of overdose and the social pathologies of the street dealers.  This deflects attention from the corporations, which profit from, and the capitalist decision makers, who set the stage for, massive deadly addiction on a national scale. But university careers, peer recognition and fat research grants are not awarded to anyone foolish enough to identify the killer corporations, or the dangerous work conditions, the overtime, low pay, and increasing rates of injuries and despair which send the workers from one killer employer to ‘Big Daddy Pharma’, and the doctors who encourage them to rely on addictive pain killers rather than demand better pay, better health care, better work conditions and a real future for their families.

There is a crying need for effective action. The reality of hundreds of thousands of ‘deaths by prescription’ and millions of addicts should call for a special national prosecutor and body of dedicated, independent investigators who are willing to identify the profit motive among the country’s highest elite as the underlying basis for this continuing crisis. Any investigation should pursue the wide net of racketeers and enablers, ranging from lobbyists and corrupt bureaucrats and regulators to doctors and publicists, because this epidemic has touched tens of millions of working Americans, their families and friends, workmates and communities. And where are the child advocates to represent the interests of the thousands of addicted infants born to rural ‘Oxy-Moms’ and whose neonatal withdrawal crises have overwhelmed the capacity of rural and small city hospitals?

Alternatives

Ending the cycle of addiction and overdose deaths requires more than just making photo-ops at small town treatment centers. It requires focusing on the role of prescription opioids and the prosecution of corporate criminals. This includes prosecuting capitalists who exploit vulnerable workers, denying them protection, safe working conditions and access to quality health care. What is required is a fundamental change in capital-worker relations in this country.

Corporate economic strategies, which undermine wages and security, require an expanding reserve army of low paid or unemployed workers. With so many American workers disabled or dropped from the work force because of addiction, many temporary replacement workers are immigrant, who have been raised, trained and educated at the expense of their own country or society. This was once called the ‘brain drain’, but now includes the ‘brain and skilled brawn drain’. The fact that other societies have spent their resources to raise and educate these workers who then immigrate has allowed US capitalists and political decision makers to drastically cut social spending for education and health for American workers.

To counter this trend, a rational immigration policy in this country should address this issue and be calibrated to the size, scope and security of the domestic labor force. It must limit the power of capital to freely hire and fire American workers – and devastate entire communities.

The lobbyists of ‘Big Pharma’ and the state regulators, who profited from or just ignored the growing problem of drug addiction and overdose deaths should be treated like any other criminal charged with causing death or injury.

Doctors, who have decided to prescribe highly addictive narcotics in large quantities leading to addiction and fatal overdose, should be re-educated and monitored or face the loss of their license and prosecution. Early on in the epidemic, they knew about the addictive nature of these drugs. Not a few doctors and other medical personnel found themselves ‘hooked’. Recidivist operators of ‘pill mills’ should face serious penalties, including long incarceration. Health care providers could have decided to fight to secure their injured patients’ access to effective rehabilitation and physical therapy. Their easy mercenary choices have facilitated a disaster. How are they different from the notorious consultant psychologists, hired by the US government, to devise system of torture against detainees?

But others tried to raise the alarm: Pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and government regulators who resisted the pressure to prescribe or promote opioids for profit and instead tried to intervene to protect vulnerable patients or raise the alarm should be recognized and rewarded. Many faced professional retaliation for as ‘whistle-blowers’. The US, with its  ‘profit over patient’ ethos in health care, is the only industrialized nation to witness these demographic trends. This should be a cautionary tale to any country considering adopting US style health care and its lucrative but deadly approach to chronic ‘pain’. A recent investigation in the Los Angeles Times, entitled ‘OxyContin goes global – “We’re only just getting started” (December 18, 2016) details the mega-million dollar campaign of multinational opioid producers to break into other markets and documents an abrupt increase in overdose deaths.

An essential component to solving this huge crisis would be for the country to adopt a universal, publically funded, national health program. This could be funded by eliminating the cap on social security taxes and repatriating and taxing the trillions of overseas US corporate profits in tax havens; as well as by taxing big inheritance as a social redistributive remedy for immense wealth accumulation. This would open up opportunities in education, social mobility and careers. Only then will we see a decrease opioid addiction among the downwardly mobile workers and overdose deaths and reverse the trend of increasing mortality.

Taxes should be levied on corporations relocating abroad to combat capital flight. Speculative financial transactions, like stock trading, should be subject to a 1% sales tax.

A comprehensive national health system would drastically reduce the high administrative overhead. Unethical and unnecessary treatments and procedures and other scams endemic in our current ‘for profit’ health care system would be dramatically reduced. The resources, thus saved would go to effective health care and related services.

These financial, judicial and social services reforms would support a universal national health system expanded right on the existing Medicare structure, which has effectively served the older population for decades. This would help promote the growth a robust domestic labor market of secure, healthy and productive and well-paid workers.

Previous and current US Presidential Administrations and other political leaders have wasted trillions of public dollars on ‘multiple foreign wars on terror’ and ‘regimes change’ and financed the largest prison-industrial complex in human history, while ignoring the pre-mature death and destruction of their own citizens due to ‘legal’ pharmaceutical and medical practices. Alternatives have been left to future generations to ponder. Today there is a growing grass-root demand to end this crisis. The marginalized workers and rural poor who massively voted for the first time against ‘Big Pharma’s Candidate’ Hillary Clinton and elected the opportunist ‘billionaire’ Donald Trump were concentrated in the same areas devastated by the opioid (and worker suicide) epidemic. This marginalized sector, long scorned by the traditional politicians and dismissed by Candidate Clinton as ‘deplorables’, would require very little convincing to support a national health system as a first step to addressing the life and death crisis facing working Americans.

Furthermore the global trends toward implementing technological innovations, such as robots, automation and artificial intelligence, currently serve capitalist profits by making workers redundant and easier to exploit, as well as cutting out expensive health care and pensions. This change in capital-labor relations can and should be replaced with one, which uses technology to benefit the workers by improving the conditions of works and reducing the work week from 40 to 30 hours at the same pay (a once widespread worker demand during the 1950’s).

But these changes will not come from the ‘classless’ research projects of corporate-funded academics, or from the vacuous educational seminars given by NGO ‘experts’.

Meaningful battles against this ‘class war by prescription’ will depend on sustained solidarity and struggle. Workers will have to shake off this scourge. They have nothing to lose but their degrading and dangerous addictions. They have a world and a real future to win. Only they can ‘make America great again!’

[1] Shawn Donnan, “White ‘deaths of despair’ surge in US”, Financial Times, 3/24/2017

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

Mar 252017
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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Introduction

From their dismal swamps, US academic and financial journal editorialists, the mass media and contemporary ‘Asia experts’, Western progressive and conservative politicians croak in unison about China’s environmental and impending collapse.

They have variably proclaimed (1) China’s economy is in decline; (2) the debt is overwhelming; a Chinese real estate bubble is ready to burst; (3) the country is rife with corruption and poisoned with pollution; and (4) Chinese workers are staging paralyzing strikes and protests amid growing repression – the result of exploitation and sharp class inequality. The financial frogs croak about China as an imminent military threat to the security of the US and its Asian partners. Other frogs leap for that fly in the sky – arguing that the Chinese now threatens the entire universe!

The ‘China doomsters’ with ‘logs in their own eyes’ have systematically distorted reality, fabricated whimsical tales and paint vision, which, in truth, reflect their own societies.

As each false claim is refuted, the frogs alter their tunes: When predictions of imminent collapse fail to materialize, they add a year or even a decade to their crystal ball. When their warnings of negative national social, economic and structural trends instead move in a positive direction, their nimble fingers re-calibrate the scope and depth of the crisis, citing anecdotal ‘revelations’ from some village or town or taxi driver conversation.

As long-predicted failures fail to materialize, the experts re-hash the data by questioning the reliability of China’s official statistics.

Worst of all, Western ‘Asia’ experts and scholars try ‘role reversal’: While US bases and ships increasingly encircle China, the Chinese become the aggressors and the bellicose US imperialists whine about their victim-hood.

Cutting through the swamp of these fabrications, this essay aims to outline an alternative and more objective account of China’s current socio-economic and political realty.

China: Fiction and Fact

We repeatedly read about China’s ‘cheap wage’ economy and the brutal exploitation of its slaving workers by billionaire oligarchs and corrupt political officials. In fact, the average wage in China’s manufacturing sector has tripled during this decade. China’s labor force receives wages which exceed those of Latin America countries, with one dubious exception. Chinese manufacturing wages now approach those of the downwardly mobile countries in the EU. Meanwhile, the neo-liberal regimes, under EU and US pressure, have halved wages in Greece, and significantly reduced incomes in Brazil, Mexico and Portugal. In China, workers wages now surpass Argentina, Colombia and Thailand. While not high by US-EU standards, China’s 2015 wages stood at $3.60 per hour – improving the living standards of 1.4 billion workers. During the time that China tripled its workers ‘wages, the wages of Indian workers stagnate at $0.70 per hour and South African wages fell from $4.30 to $3.60 per hour.

This spectacular increase in Chinese worker’s wages is largely attributed to skyrocketing productivity, resulting from steady improvements in worker health, education and technical training, as well as sustained organized worker pressure and class struggle. President Xi Jinping’s successful campaign for the removal and arrest of hundreds of thousands of corrupt and exploitative officials and factory bosses has boosted worker power. Chinese workers are closing the gap with the US minimum wage. At the current rate of growth, the gap, which had narrowed from one tenth to one half the US wage in ten years, will disappear in the near future.

China is no longer merely a low-wage, unskilled, labor intensive, assembly plant and export-oriented economy. Today twenty thousand technical schools graduate millions of skilled workers. High tech factories are incorporating robotics on a massive scale to replace unskilled workers. The service sector is increasing to meet the domestic consumer market. Faced with growing US political and military hostility, China has diversified its export market, turning from the US to Russia, the EU, Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Despite these impressive objective advances, the chorus of ‘crooked croakers’ continue to churn out annual predictions of China’s economic decline and decay. Their analyses are not altered by China’s 6.7% GNP growth in 2016; they jump on the 2017 forecast of ‘decline’ to 6.6% as proof of its looming collapse! Not be dissuaded by reality, the chorus of ‘Wall Street croakers’ wildly celebrate when the US announces a GNP increase from 1% to 1.5%!

While China has acknowledged its serious environmental problems, it is a leader in committing billions of dollars (2% of GNP) to reduce greenhouse gases – closing factories and mines. Their efforts far exceed those of the US and EU.

China, like the rest of Asia, as well as the US, needs to vastly increase investments in rebuilding its decaying or non-existent infrastructure. The Chinese government is alone among nations in keeping up with and even exceeding its growing transportation needs – spending $800 billion a year on high speed railroads, rail lines, seaports, airports subways and bridges.

While the US has rejected multi-national trade and investment treaties with eleven Pacific countries, China has promoted and financed global trade and investment treaties with more than fifty Asia-Pacific (minus Japan and the US), as well as African and European states.

China’s leadership under President Xi Jinping has launched an effective large-scale anti-corruption campaign leading to the arrest or ouster of over 200,000 business and public officials, including billionaires, and top politburo and Central Committee members. As a result of this national campaign, purchases of luxury items have significantly declined. The practice of using public funds for elaborate 12 course dinners and the ritual of gift giving and taking are on the wane.

Meanwhile, despite the political campaigns to ‘drain the swamp’ and successful populist referenda, nothing remotely resembling China’s anti-corruption campaign have taken root in the US and the UK despite daily reports of swindles and fraud involving the hundred leading investment banks in the Anglo-American world. China’s anti-corruption campaign may have succeeded in reducing inequalities. It clearly has earned the overwhelming support of the Chinese workers and farmers.

Journalists and academics, who like to parrot the Anglo-American and NATO Generals, warn that China’s military program poses a direct threat to the security of the US, Asia and indeed the rest of world.

Historical amnesia infects these most deep diving frogs. Forgotten is how the post WW2 US invaded and destroyed Korea and Indo-China (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) killing over nine million inhabitants, both civilian and defenders. The US invaded, colonized and neo-colonized the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century, killing up to one million inhabitants. It continues to build and expand its network of military bases encircling China, It recently moved powerful, nuclear armed THADD missiles to the North Korean border, capable of attacking Chinese and even Russian cities. The US is the world’s largest arms exporter, surpassing the collective production and sale of the next five leading merchants of death.

In contrast, China has not unilaterally attacked, invaded or occupied anyone in hundreds of years. It does not place nuclear missiles on the US coast or borders. In fact, it does not have a single overseas military base. Its own military bases, in the South China Sea, are established to protect its vital maritime routes from pirates and the increasingly provocative US naval armada. China’s military budget, scheduled to increase by 7% in 2017, is still less than one-fourth of the US budget.

For its part, the US promotes aggressive military alliances, points radar and satellite guided missiles at China, Iran and Russia, and threatens to obliterate North Korea. China’s military program has been and continues to be defensive. Its increase is based on its response to US provocation. China’s foreign imperial thrust is based on a global market strategy while Washington continues to pursue a militarist imperial strategy, designed to impose global domination by force.

Conclusion

The frogs of the Western intelligentsia have crocked loud and long. They strut and pose as the world’s leading fly catchers – but producing nothing credible in terms of objective analyses.

China has serious social, economic and structural problems, but they are systematically confronting them. The Chinese are committed to improving their society, economy and political system on their own terms. They seek to solve immensely challenging problems, while refusing to sacrifice their national sovereignty and the welfare of their people.

In confronting China as a world capitalist competitor, the US official policy is to surround China with military bases and threaten to disrupt its economy. As part of this strategy, Western media and so-called ‘experts’ magnify China’s problems and minimize their own.

Unlike China, the US is wallowing at less than 2% annual growth. Wages stagnate for decades; real wages and living standards decline. The costs of education and health care skyrocket, while the quality of these vital services decline dramatically. Costs are growing, unemployment is growing and worker suicide and mortality is growing. It is absolutely vital that the West acknowledge China’s impressive advances in order to learn, borrow and foster a similar pattern of positive growth and equity. Co-operation between China and the US is essential for promoting peace and justice in Asia.

Unfortunately, the previous US President Obama and the current President Trump have chosen the path of military confrontation and aggression. The two terms of Obama’s administration present a record of failing wars, financial crises, burgeoning prisons and declining domestic living standards. But for all their noise, these frogs, croaking in unison, will not change the real world.

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

Mar 192017
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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Introduction

Over thirty year ago a savvy Colombian peasant leader told me, “Whenever I read the word ‘peace accords’ I hear the government sharpening its knives”.

In recent times, ‘peace accords’ (PAs) have become a common refrain across the world. In almost every region or country, which are in the midst of war or invasion, the prospects of negotiating ‘peace accords’ have been raised. In many cases, PA’s were signed and yet did not succeed in ending murder and mayhem at the hands of their US-backed interlocutors.

We will briefly review several past and present peace negotiations and ‘peace accords’ to understand the dynamics of the ‘peace process’ and the subsequent results.

The Peace Process

There are several ongoing negotiations today, purportedly designed to secure peace accords. These include discussions between (1) the Kiev-based US-NATO-backed junta in the west and the eastern ‘Donbas’ leadership opposed to the coup and NATO; (2) the Saudi US-NATO-armed terrorists in Syria and the Syrian government and its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies; (3) the US-backed Israeli colonial regime and the Palestinian independence forces in the West Bank and Gaza; and (4) the US-backed Colombian regime of President Santos and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).

There are also several other peace negotiations taking place, many of which have not received public attention.

Past and Present Outcomes of Peace Accords

Over the past quarter century several PAs were signed – all of which led to the virtual surrender of armed anti-imperialist protagonists and popular mass movements.

The Central-American PA’s, involving Salvador and Guatemala, led to the unilateral disarmament of the resistance movement, the consolidation of oligarchical control over the economy, the growth and proliferation of narco-gangs and unfettered government-sponsored death squads. As a consequence, internal terror escalated. Resistance leaders secured the vote, entered Congress as politicians, and, in the case of El Salvador, were elected to high office. Inequalities remained the same or worsened, and murders matched or exceeded the numbers recorded during the pre-Peace Accord period. Massive numbers of immigrants, often of internal refugees fleeing gang violence, entered the US illegally. The US consolidated its military bases and operations in Central America while the population continued to suffer.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations did not lead to any accord. Instead ‘negotiations’ became a thin cover for increasing annexation of Palestinian land to construct racists ‘Jews-Only’ enclaves, resulting in the illegal settlement of over half a million Jewish settlers. The US-backed the entire farcical peace process, financing the corrupt Palestinian vassal-leaders and providing unconditional diplomatic, military and political support to Israel.

US-Soviet Union: Peace Accord

The Reagan/Bush-Gorbachev ‘peace accords’ were supposed to end the Cold War and secure global peace. Instead the US and the EU established military bases and client regimes/allies throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic and Balkans, pillaged the national assets and took over their denationalized economies. US-based elites dominated the vassal Yeltsin regime and virtually stripped Russia of its resources and wealth. In alliance with gangster-oligarchs, they plundered the economy.

The post-Soviet Yeltsin regime ran  elections, promoted  multiple parties and presided over a desolate, isolated and increasingly surrounded  nation – at least until Vladimir Putin was elected to ‘decolonize’ the State apparatus and partially reconstruct the economy and society.

Ukraine Peace Negotiations

In 2014 a US-sponsored violent coup brought together fascists, oligarchs, generals and pro-EU supporters seizing control of Kiev and the western part of Ukraine. The pro-democracy Eastern regions of the Donbas and Crimean Peninsula organized resistance to the putsch regime. Crimea voted overwhelmingly to re-unite Russia. The industrial centers in Eastern Ukraine (Donbas) formed popular militias to resist the armed forces and neo-Nazi paramilitaries of the US backed-junta. After a few years of mayhem and stalemate, a ‘negotiation process’ unfolded despite which the Kiev regime continued to attack the east. The tentative ‘peace settlement” became the basis for the ‘Minsk agreement’, brokered by France, Russia and Germany, where the Kiev junta envisioned a disarming of the resistance movement, re-occupation of the Donbas and Crimea and eventual destruction of the cultural, political, economic and military autonomy of the ethnic Russian East Ukraine. As a result, the “Minsk Agreement” has been little more than a failed ploy to secure surrender. Meanwhile, the Kiev junta’s massive pillage of the nation’s economy has turned Ukraine into a failed state with 2.5 million fleeing to Russia and many thousands emigrating to the West to dig potatoes in Poland, or enter the brothels of London and Tel Aviv. The remaining unemployed youth are left to sell their services to Kiev’s paramilitary fascist shock troops.

Colombia: Peace Accord or Graveyard?

Any celebration of the Colombian FARC – President Santos’ ‘Peace Accord’ would be premature if we examine its past incarnations and present experience.

Over the past four decades, Colombian oligarchical regimes, backed by the military, death squads and Washington have invoked innumerable ‘peace commissions’, inaugurated negotiations with the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and proceeded to both break off negotiations and relaunch full-scale wars using ‘peace accords’ as a pretext to decimate and demoralize political activists.

In 1984, then-President Belisario Betancur signed a peace accord with the FARC, known as the ‘Uribe Agreement’. Under this agreement, thousands of FARC activists and supporters demobilized, formed the Patriotic Union (UP), a legal electoral party, and participated in elections. In the 1986 Colombian elections, the UP candidates were elected as Senators, Congress people, mayors and city council members, and their Presidential candidate gained over 20% of the national vote. Over the next 4 years, from 1986-1989, over 5,000 UP leaders, elected officials and Presidential candidates were assassinated in a campaign of nationwide terror. Scores of thousands of peasants, oil workers, miners and plantation laborers were murdered, tortured and driven into exile. Paramilitary death squads and landlord-backed private armies, allied with the Colombian Armed Forces, assassinated thousands of union leaders, workers and their families members. The Colombian military’s ‘paramilitary strategy’ against non-combatants and villagers was developed in the 1960’s by US Army General William Yarborough, Commandant, US Army Special Warfare Center and ‘Father of the Green Beret’ Special Forces.

Within five years of its formation, the Patriotic Union no longer existed: Its surviving members had fled or gone into hiding.

In 1990, newly-elected President Cesar Gaviria proclaimed new peace negotiations with the FARC. Within months of his proclamation, the president ordered the bombing of the ‘Green House’, where the FARC leaders and negotiating team were being lodged. Fortunately, they had fled before the treacherous attack.

President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2001) called for new peace negotiations with the FARC to be held ‘in a demilitarized zone’. Peace talks began in the jungle region of El Caguan in November 1998. President Pastrana had made numerous pledges, concessions and reforms with the FARC and social activists, but, at the same time he had signed a ten-year multi-billion dollar military aid agreement with US President Clinton, known as ‘Plan Colombia’. This practice of ‘double-dealing’ culminated with the Colombian Armed Forces launching a ‘scorched earth policy’ against the ‘demilitarized zones’ under the newly elected (and death-squad linked) President Alvaro Uribe Velez. Over the next eight years, President Uribe drove nearly four million Colombian peasants into internal exile. With the multi-billion dollar funding from Washington, Uribe was able to double the size of the Colombian Armed Forces to over 350,000 troops, incorporating members of the death squads into the military. He also oversaw the formation of new paramilitary armies. By 2010 the FARC had declined from eighteen thousand to under ten thousand fighters – with hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties and millions rendered homeless.

In 2010 Uribe’s former Minister of Defense, Juan Manual Santos was elected President. By 2012 Santos initiated another “peace process” with the FARC, which was signed by the end of 2016. Under the new ‘Peace Accord’, signed in Cuba, hundreds of officers implicated in torture, assassinations and forced relocation of peasants were given immunity from prosecution while FARC guerillas were to face trial. The government promised land reform and the right to return for displaced farmers and their families. However, when peasants returned to claim their land they were driven away or even killed.

FARC leaders agreed to demobilize and disarm unilaterally by June 2017. The military and their paramilitary allies would retain their arms and gain total control over previous FARC- liberated zones.

President Santos ensured that the ‘Peace Accord’ would include a series of Presidential Decrees – privatizing the country’s mineral and oil resources and converting small family farms to commercial plantations. Demobilized peasant-rebels were offered plots of infertile marginal lands, without government support or funding for roads, tools, seed and fertilizer or even schools and housing, necessary for the transition. While some FARC leaders secured seats in Congress and the freedom to run in elections unmolested, the young rank and file FARC fighters and peasants were left without many alternatives but to join paramilitary or ‘narco’ gangs.

In summary, the historical record demonstrates that a series of Colombian presidents and  regimes have systematically violated all peace agreements and accords, assassinated the rebel signees and retained elite control over the economy and labor force. Before his election, the current President Santos presided over the most deadly decade when he was Uribe’s Defense Minister.

For brokering the peace of the graveyard for scores of thousands of Colombian peasants and activists, President Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Havana, FARC leaders and negotiators were praised by Cuban President Raul Castro, President Obama, Venezuelan President Maduro and the vast majority of ‘progressives’ and rightists in North and South America and Europe.

Colombia’s bloody history, including the widespread murder of Colombian civil rights activists and peasant leaders, has continued even as the documents finalizing the Peace Accords were being signed. During the first month of 2017, five human right activists were murdered by death squads – linked to the oligarchy and military. In 2015, while the FARC was negotiating over several clauses in the agreement, over 122 peasant and human rights activists were murdered by paramilitary groups who continued to operate freely in areas controlled by Santos’ army. The mass media propaganda mills continue to repeat the lie that ‘200,000 people were killed by the guerillas (FARC) and the government’ when the vast majority of the killings were committed by the government and its allied death squads; a calumny, which guerilla leaders fail to challenge. Prominent Jesuit researcher Javier Giraldo has provided a detailed factual account documenting that over three quarters of the killings were committed by the Army and paramilitary.

We are asked to believe presidential regimes that have murdered and continue to murder over 150,000 Colombian workers, peasants, indigenous leaders and professionals are suddenly transformed into justice-loving partners in peace. During the first three months of this year, activists, sympathetic to the peace agreement with the FARC, continue to be targeted and killed by supposedly demobilized paramilitary murderers.

Social movement leaders report rising political violence by military forces and their allies. Even peace monitors and the UN Human Rights Office admit that state and paramilitary violence are destroying any structure that President Santos could hope to implement the reforms. As the FARC withdraws from regions under popular control, peasants seeking land reform are targeted by private armies. The Santos regime is more concerned with protecting the massive land grabs by big mining consortiums.

As the killing of FARC supporters and human rights activists multiply, as President Santos and Washington look to take advantage of a disarmed and demobilized guerilla army, the ‘historic peace accord’ becomes a great deceit designed to expand imperial power.

Conclusion: Epitaph for Peace Accords

Time and again throughout the world, imperial-brokered peace negotiations and accords have served only one goal: to disarm, demobilize, defeat and demoralize resistance fighters and their allies.

‘Peace Accords’, as we know them, have served to rearm and regroup US-backed forces following tactical setbacks of the guerrilla struggle. ‘PA’s are encouraged to divide the opposition (‘salami tactics’) and facilitate conquest. The rhetoric of ‘peace’ as in ‘peace negotiations’ are terms which actually mean ‘unilateral disarmament’ of the resistance fighters, the surrender of territory and the abandonment of civilian sympathizers. The so-called ‘war zones’, which contain fertile lands and valuable mineral reserves are ‘pacified’ by being absorbed by the ‘peace loving’ regime. This serves their privatization programs and promote  the  pillage of the ‘developmental state’. Negotiated peace settlements are overseen by US officials, who praise and laud the rebel leaders while they sign agreements to be implemented by US vassal regimes . . . The latter will ensure the rejection of any realignment of foreign policy and any structural socio-economic changes.

Some peace accords may allow former guerilla leaders to compete and in some cases win elections as marginal representatives, while their mass base is decimated.

In most cases, during the peace process, and especially after signing ‘peace accords’, social organizations and movements and their supporters among the peasantry and working class, as well as human rights activists, end up being targeted by the military and  para-military death-squads operating around government military bases.

Often, the international allies of resistance movements have encouraged them to negotiate PAs, in order to demonstrate to the US that ‘they are responsible’ — hoping to secure improved diplomatic and trade relations. Needless to say, ‘responsible negotiations’ will merely strengthen imperial resolve to press for further concessions, and encourage military aggression and new conquests.

Just ‘peace accords’ are based on mutual disarmament, recognition of territorial autonomy and the authority of local insurgent administration over agreed upon land reforms, retaining mineral rights and military-public security.

PA’s should be the first step in the political agendas, implemented under the control of independent rebel military and civil monitors.

The disastrous outcome of unilateral disarmament is due to the non-implementation of progressive, independent foreign policy and structural changes.

Past and present peace negotiations, based on the recognition of the sovereignty of an independent state linked to mass movements, have always ended in the US breaking the agreements. True ‘peace accords’ contradict the imperial goal of conquering via the negotiating table what could not be won through war.