Jul 082016
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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Introduction

Amid raging corruption, social pathologies and outright political thuggery, a new gang of vassal regimes has taken-over Latin America. The new rulers are strictly recruited as the protégé’s of US financial and banking institutions. Hence the financial press refers to them as the “new managers” – of Wall Street.

The US financial media has once again provided a political cover for the vilest crimes committed by the ‘new managers’ as they launch their offensive against labor and in favor of the foreign and domestic financiers.

To understand the dynamics of the empire’s new vassal managers, we will proceed by identifying (1) the illicit power grab (2) the neoliberal policies they have pursued (3) the impact of their program on the class structure (4) their economic performance and future socio-political perspectives.

Vassals as Managers of Empire

Latin America’s current vassalage elite is of longer and shorter duration.

The regimes of longer duration with a historical legacy of submission, corruption and criminality include Mexico and Colombia where oligarchs, government officials and death squads cohabitate in close association with the US military, business and banking elites.

Over the past decades, 100,000 citizens were murdered in Mexico and over 4 million peasants were dispossessed in Colombia. In both regimes over ten million acres of farmland and mining terrain were transferred to US and EU multinationals.

Hundreds of billions of illicit narco earnings were laundered by the Colombian and Mexican oligarchy to their US accounts via private banks.

The current political managers, Peña in Mexico and Santos in Colombia, are rapidly de-nationalizing strategic oil and energy sectors while savaging dynamic social movements – hundreds of students and teachers in Mexico and thousands of peasants and human rights activists in Colombia have been murdered.

The new wave of imperial vassals has seized power throughout most of Latin America with the direct and indirect intervention of the US. In 2009, Honduras President Manuel Zelaya was ousted by a military coup backed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Zelda’s program of agrarian reform, regional integration (with Venezuela) and constitutional elections was abolished. Zelda was replaced by a US vassal, Roberto Micheletti, who proceeded to murder several hundred landless rural workers and indigenous activists.

Washington moved to organize a constitutional cover by promoting a highly malleable landowner, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, to the presidency.

The State Department next ousted Paraguayan President Francisco Lugo who governed between 2008-2012. Lugo promoted a moderate agrarian reform and a centrist regional integration agenda.

With the backing of Secretary of State Clinton, the Paraguayan oligarchy in Congress seized power, fabricated an impeachment decree and ousted President Lugo. He was briefly replaced by Vice President Federico Franco (2012-2013).

In 2013, Washington backed Asuncion’s notorious crime boss, for President, one Horacio Castes – convicted for currency fraud in 1989, drug running in 1990, and most recently (2010) money laundering.

The Honduras and Paraguayan coups established (in miniature) the precedent for a new wave of ‘big country’ political vassals. The State Department moved toward the acceleration of banking takeovers in Brazil, Argentina and Peru.

In rapid succession, between December 2015 and April 2016, vassal managers seized power in Argentina and Brazil. In Argentina, millionaire Mauricio Macri ruled by decree, by-passing constitutional legality. Macri fired scores of thousands of public service workers, closed social agencies and appointed judges and prosecutors without Congressional vote. He arbitrarily arrested social movement leaders – violating democratic procedures.

Macri’s Economic and Finance Ministers gained millions of dollars by ‘buying into’ multinational oil companies just prior to handing over private options on public enterprises.

The all-encompassing swindles and fraud carried out by the ‘new managers’ were covered up by the US media, who praised Macri’s professional team.

Moreover, Macri’s economic performance was a disaster. Exorbitant user fees on utilities and transport for consumers and business enterprises increased three to ten-fold, forcing bankruptcy rates to soar and households to suffer light and gas closures.

Wall Street vulture funds received seven billion dollar payment from Macri’s managers, for defaulted loans purchased for pennies over a dollar, twenty-fold greater then the original lenders.

Data based on standard economic indicators highlights the worst economic performance in a decade and a half.

Price inflation exceeds 40%; public debt increased by twenty percent in six months.  Living standards and employment sharply declined. Growth and investment data was negative. Mismanagement, official corruption and arbitrary governance, did not induce confidence among local small and medium size businesses.

The respectable media, led by the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post falsified every aspect of Macri’s regime. Failed economic policies implemented  by bankers turned cabinet ministers were dubbed long-term successes; crude ideologically driven policies promoting foreign investor profiteering were re-invented as business incentives.

Political thugs dismantled and replaced civil service agencies were labelled ‘a new management team’ by the vulgar propaganda scribes of the financial press.

In Brazil, a  phony political power grab by  Congressional opportunists ousted elected President Dilma Rousseff. She was replaced by a Washington approved serial swindler and notorious bribe taker, Michel Temer.

The new economic managers were predictably controlled by Wall Street, World Bank and IMF bankers. They rushed measures to slash wages, pensions and other social expenditures, to lower business taxes and privatize the most lucrative public enterprises in transport, infrastructure, landholdings, oil and scores of other activities.

Even as the prostitute press lauded Brazil’s new managers’, prosecutors and judges arrested three newly appointed cabinet ministers for fraud and money laundering. ‘President’ Temer is next in line for prosecution for his role in the mega Petrobras oil contracts scandal for bribes and payola.

The economic agenda by the new managers are not designed to attract new productive investments. Most inflows are short-term speculative ventures. Markets, especially, in commodities, show no upward growth, much to the chagrin of the free market technocrats. Industry and commerce are depressed as a result of the decline in consumer credit, employment and public spending induced by ‘the managers’ austerity policies.

Even as the US and Europe embrace free market austerity, it evokes a continent wide revolt. Nevertheless, Latin America’s wave of vassal regimes remain deeply embedded in decimating the welfare state and pillaging public treasuries led by a narrow elite of bankers and serial swindlers.

Conclusion

As Washington and the prostitute press hail their ‘new managers’ in Latin America, the celebration has abruptly given way to mass rage over corruption and demands for a shift to the political left.

In Brazil, “President” Temer rushes to implement big business measures, as his time in office is limited to weeks not months. His time out of jail is nearing a deadline. His cabinet of ‘technocrats’ prepare their luggage to follow.

Maurice Macri may survive a wave of strikes and protests and finish the year in office. But the plunging economy and pillage of the treasury is leading business to bankruptcy, the middle class to empty bank accounts and the dispossessed to spontaneous mass upheavals.

Washington’s new managers in Latin America cannot cope with an unruly citizenry and a failing free market economy.

Coups have been tried and work for grabbing power but do not establish effective rulership. Political shift to the right are gyrating out of Washington’s orbit and find no new counter-balance in the break-up of the European Union.

Vassal capitalist takeovers in Latin America generated publicist anesthesia and Wall Street euphoria; only to be rudely shocked to reality by economic pathologies.

Washington and Wall Street and their Latin America managers sought a false reality of unrestrained profits and pillaged wealth. The reality principle now forces them to recognize that their  failures are inducing rage today and uprisings tomorrow.

Jul 072016
 

By Michael Nevradakis99GetSmart

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Dear friends of Dialogos Radio & Media,

While our radio programming is off the air during the summer months, our presence in the written press continues uninterrupted, with a series of new articles and interviews on Greece, Brexit, and more:

Life in a Modern Day Debt Colony: The Truth about Greece (99getsmart.com)

It’s time somebody told you the truth. The truth about Greece. A detailed piece highlighting the realities of life in a debt colony.

Before The Brexit: Greek Voters Said ‘No’ To Austerity Measures, Got More Austerity Measures (Mint Press News)

Our piece on the one year which has passed since the Greek referendum, the manner in which the referendum result was unclear but was nevertheless betrayed, and the differences with Britain’s recent referendum.

Beyond Racism & Xenophobia: Brexit Supporters Reject The EU’s Neoliberal, Anti-Democracy Empire (Mint Press News)

Our piece analyzing the real reasons behind “Brexit” and the true undemocratic nature of the European Union.

Greg Palast On US Election Fraud And Neoliberalism Gone Amok In Latin America And Greece (Truthout)

Our interviewwith investigative journalist and bestselling author Greg Palast, on Greece and the realities of austerity and the euro, on events unfolding in Latin America, and on election fraud in the United States.

Στα Ελληνικά, σας προωθούμε το πρόσφατο άρθρο μας για τις διαφορές ανάμεσα στο Ελληνικό δημοψήφισμα της 5ης Ιουλίου του 2015, και το πρόσφατο Βρετανικό δημοψήφισμα:

Η Διαφορά του Βρετανικού Δημοψηφίσματος με το Ελληνικό «Όχι»

Thanks – ευχαριστούμε,

Dialogos Radio & Media

Διάλογος Radio & Media

Jul 022016
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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Introduction

Over the past fifty plus years, over 125 mass shootings/massacres have occurred within the United States but not one perpetrator has been identified as a trained member of an international Islamist terrorist organization.

A review of the massacres will shed considerable light on the political, cultural and socio-psychological features of US society. The frequent and intensely bloody nature of these mass shootings are a distinctly US phenomenon. The high proportion of fatalities over wounded survivors is a reflection of the availability of high-power weapons in the US and the poorly coordinated police response – where SWAT teams place ‘force protection’ over saving lives.

Method and Scope

Until very recently, civilian-initiated massacres were an infrequent phenomenon in US society up. In order to understand the rise of civilian-initiated massacres as an American phenomenon, we will first set out approximately 20-year time frames, then list the number of massacres in each time period, examine the number of fatalities and the political and social ethos within each time frame. It would be interesting to look at the ratio of fatalities to wounded survivors in order to gauge the effectiveness of the police/medical response.

We can identify three time frames: the early period between 1960-1980; the middle period between 1981-1998; the most recent period between 1999-2016.

Political Dynamics of Massacres

There is a clear and consistent increase in the number of massacres and fatalities over the entire half century. From 1960 to 1980, there was one large massacre resulting in at least 14 fatalities and 32 wounded.

In the subsequent period between 1981-1998 the number of massacres jumped four-fold and the number of fatalities increased four-fold from fourteen to seventy-one.

In the most recent period (1999-2016) the number of massacres almost doubled again and the number of fatalities increased two and a half times.

The number of massacres and victims have ‘taken off’ in the last few years. There are grounds to believe that we have moved from massacres as a rarity to a transitional period, to a significant upsurge which has become the ‘new norm’ for mass killings.

Myths: State Propaganda and Social Realities

Large, civilian-initiated massacres were rare (The Texas University Tower in 1967) during the two decades (1960-1980) despite this being a time of mass popular protest against the war and racism, cultural revolts, labor unrest and community-based collective action.

During these tumultuous years, the political-cultural climate encouraged mass collective action directed at changing government policy. Individual political, social and local grievances or psycho-cultural resentments were channeled through well-structured community based organizations. State propaganda was challenged by a widespread system of robust opposition media, well-publicized critical voices and familiar places of revolt. Domestic massacres, when they occurred were more often perpetrated by the State – as in the massacres against the Black Panther leadership, or shooting of students at Jackson State and Kent State Universities.

The growth of civilian-initiated massacres as public events began to find prominence between 1980-1998, a time of growing elite dominance over everyday life and the retreat of collective expression.

This ‘middle’ or ‘transitional period’ was characterized by state and media emphasis on individual justifications and resentments, together with the growing cult of private greed– the ‘animal spirits’ of the market – and the promotion of military revivalism, through Reagan’s invasion of Grenada, and George Bush’s destruction of Panama and Iraq.

The previous political culture, which had absorbed grievances and offered outlets for individual aggression, was in retreat.

The elites, led by President Reagan, established the culture of the ‘Lone Ranger’ (or lone wolf), vindicating grievances with his ‘righteous rifle’. The conflation of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution with the worship of the lone vigilante helped to create the contemporary mass killer.

The political culture of resistance was replaced by the pathology of resentment; protests directed at political targets were replaced by violent terror directed at diffuse apolitical publics – the amorphous innocents.

The transition period established several key determinants that led to the subsequent massification of massacres.

First, the political-cultural elites deliberately and systematically discredited the social context of mass popular protest, ridiculing popular discontent and suppressing dissent while enhancing the image of the power of the individual. The cult of the ‘individual over the collective’ morphed into a deranged Ayn Randian Atlas with his semi-automatic 9 mm.

Secondly, the transitional political culture renewed and enhanced the role of state violence in resolving conflicts and extended the notion of social violence downward into the mass of society.

Under the guardianship of the political and media elites, the 1980’s and 1990’s did not encourage or permit any effective mass cultural alternative to violence.

The deregulation of the economy and the Clinton regime’s open-ended policy of conquest (or ‘regime changes’) through massive bombing of overseas adversaries led to a massive policing of both foreign (imperial clients) and domestic civil societies, which fed into the pathological tendencies of individuals who set out to vindicate their private grievances.

The first two decades of the 21st century witnessed a sharp increase in domestic civilian-initiated massacres with an even greater proportion of fatalities. The cumulative effects of mass murders of previous decades, found expression in a rising spiral of massacres.

The 21st century is the epoch of multiple serial killings at every geographical region, from global, regional, national and local levels. The bloody consequences of lawless imperial wars of aggression and pillage (with such psychotic justifications as ‘regime change’ or ‘humanitarian intervention’ especially under the First Clinton Dynastic Regime) are features of everyday life. Military budgets have skyrocketed at the international and national level and are mirrored by multi-million arms purchases by individuals at the domestic civilian level.

Military metaphysics and quasi-religious public displays of superhuman ‘avengers’ wrapped in the national flag have permeated every cranny of society – from mega-million dollar sporting extravaganzas to school assemblies, business meetings (like the Rotary Clubs) and workplace gatherings.

Millions have entered the war zones; daily police killings of citizens, especially African American and marginalized youth, have become the norm. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of immigrants are demonized, assaulted, dragged from their homes or workplaces, incarcerated and deported with barely the shirt of their backs – leaving sundered families and communities.

Most important, the US imperial state has brutalized and, directly or indirectly, massacred millions of Muslim civilians, citizens of once-sovereign nations, throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa and even in the immigrant ghettos, raising lawlessness to a new and more diffuse level.

The pathology of the American state, with its embrace of state-sponsored massacres, has created mass psycho-phobia against Muslim people and is in the process of stirring up the boiling pot of even more brutal civilian massacres. It must be emphasized that American citizens, overwhelmingly non-Muslim, have committed the vast majority of mass shooting in America. Even those mass shooting committed by self-described Islamists have involved US-born Muslims or converts who have shown an affinity and commitment to the dominant gun ethos of America. None have been ‘trained abroad’, none have proved to be ‘soldiers’ of some remote international Islamist movement. Most have learned their requisite ‘skills’ at ‘for-profit’ US shooting ranges and all have imbibed the national gun ideology over community and mass collective action.

Only two of the most recent seven large massacres have a remote link to Islam – and these assassins were not directly related to overseas, organized terrorist groups but had been ‘self-radicalized’ in the context of the individualist US gun culture. Omar Mateen, who massacred scores of unarmed young, mostly Hispanic, people at a gay club in Orlando, Florida clearly had much more in common (spiritually and operationally) with the Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Breivik (who shot and killed over seventy youth at a multi-cultural summer camp in 2011) or with Adam Lanzo (who killed 20 small pupils and 6 teachers in Connecticut in 2012), than with any fighting units in Syria or Afghanistan.

Conclusion

The personal-political grievances of mass murderers have everything to do with their cultural and psychological isolation, resentment and deep spiritual commitment to the dominant arms culture of America: these massacres have become their self-prescribed psycho-therapy. The dominant political and police institutions naturally use these for propaganda to advance the imperial agenda, rather than encourage positive collective expressions of grievances to address social issues.

Today there is no collective social expression with highly credible, committed mass activists as there had been during the 1960-70’s, when large-scale civilian initiated massacres were very rare. The notorious 1967 mass shooting in Austin Texas by a former Marine champion sharpshooter (one shot per kill) was followed by meticulous expert examination of the circumstances and context. Today, there are no political collective or community responses like that of the Texas tower sniper. During the 1980-90’s, the elites encouraged and promoted voracious aggressions against rival markets and whole nations, which the financial press pundits have celebrated as expressions of the ‘animal spirits’, the triumph of the ‘fittest’, most individualistic capitalism. From 2000 to the present, the mass media has saturated its audiences with military solutions to individual grievances. The psychopathology of the mass murderers is reflected in the state writ-large.

Jun 302016
 

By Pierre Gottiniaux for CADTM, 99GetSmart

Street art in loiza, Puerto Rico - photo by Denise Rowlands (CC)

Street art in loiza, Puerto Rico – photo by Denise Rowlands (CC)

The island of Puerto Rico, which is part of the Commonwealth of the United States, is staggering under the weight of an unsustainable debt of nearly $73 billion. Its neo-colonial legal structure prevents it from restructuring its debt and protecting itself from the rapacious creditors who have already begun to secure their positions, working in the shadows to get Washington to make the “right decisions”– meaning those that will bring the island’s population to their knees. And yet, a debt audit commission is now revealing that a large part of Puerto Rico’s public debt was issued unconstitutionally and could be considered illegal under US law.

Causes of the indebtedness

The USA has made Puerto Rico into a tax haven for its companies, who also use the island as a pool of cheap labour. Puerto Rico provides a full tax exemption for US companies that are based there, and also the possibility of returning revenue to their parent companies without paying taxes. But that tax advantage, which a large number of companies were profiting from, ended in 2006 by decision of the federal government. That led to a large number of companies and investors – and therefore employers – leaving the island.

Puerto Rico provides another advantage to investors, and it is still in force: a tax exemption on revenues from public debt securities. That exemption is in force for all American public entities, but in the case of Puerto Rico it provides a unique, threefold advantage: exemption from federal taxes, state taxes, and local taxes, even for non-residents of Puerto Rico (whereas for US states – Puerto Rico being a territory and not a state – the exemption from state and local taxes is only applicable to residents of the state and/or municipality where the investment is made). That’s what we mean by a threefold exemption. And it amounts to threefold losses for the government of Puerto Rico. US investment funds have taken full advantage of this system.

Another major cause of the growth of Puerto Rico’s debt is the difference in treatment between the social-security systems: The Puerto Rican government receives significantly less from the federal government, proportionally, than the 50 states, for a population who are much poorer on average and therefore much more in need of such support. And this is despite the fact that the island’s population pays the same taxes as “continentals.” The compensatory outlay the government has been forced to make in recent decades accounts for over a third of Puerto Rico’s current debt ($25 billion out of $73 billion) |1|. Many cuts have already been made to public and private social-security programmes (cuts in wages, increased payroll taxes, lower coverage rates, etc.), with devastating consequences, because behind those programmes there are women and men who can no longer afford to receive care (see the “People are literally dying because of Wall Street greed” video campaign) |2|.

Another factor is the crisis in 2007, which made investors wary of anything that might involve risk; Puerto Rico’s situation, a year after the end of the tax advantage mentioned above, was not an encouraging one. The sudden recession in 2009, which followed the crisis of 2007, also heavily impacted Puerto Rico’s tourist industry, further shrinking an already strangling economy. Lastly, the failure of Detroit in 2013 prompted many investors to shun public debt securities, because they were suddenly no longer considered “untouchable” – that is, exempt from restructuring and payment default.

For all these reasons – and the list is not exhaustive – Puerto Rico’s budget has been in deficit for 16 consecutive years and the government has been borrowing to compensate. In exchange for the loans, it has imposed austerity measures aimed at reducing the deficit, with the sole result of plunging the population into ever-increasing poverty, forcing an ever-increasing number of people to emigrate. Puerto Ricans have US citizenship and can therefore travel and take up residence freely throughout the country. The result is that the island’s population is inexorably dwindling, year after year, aggravating the situation further; Puerto Rico’s demographic balance is now negative. And needless to say, the first ones to leave are university graduates, since there are no longer any employment opportunities for them on the island. That only accelerates the deterioration of the situation and is dragging the government – and the population who suffer the consequences – into a deepening spiral of indebtedness and austerity.

The sovereignty problem 

Puerto Rico is a semi-colony of the United States, and its sovereignty is extremely limited. Those limitations are particularly flagrant regarding management of her debt. The federal government has excluded Puerto Rico from filing under Chapter 9, the law that applies to insolvent local governments, which Detroit made use of in 2013. The island’s government tried to pass a law in 2014 called the Recovery Act which would have allowed it to restructure its debt, but the US Supreme Court struck down the law on 13 June 2016. |3|

The question of Puerto Rico’s sovereignty is debated regularly, but there are many obstacles to implementing it. In a referendum held in 2012, a majority of the population voted in favour of statehood – full incorporation into the USA – as opposed to the current status of unincorporated territory or Commonwealth. Most Puerto Ricans have family in the USA and are attached to the country, and therefore massively reject the option of becoming an independent nation. But the federal government, and the American population in general, reject the idea on the grounds that statehood for the island would cost them too much – refusing to deal with the issue of who is responsible for Puerto Rico’s economic situation. And indeed, just days before it struck down the Recovery Act, in early June 2016 the Supreme Court of the US’s rejection of a petition |4| by Puerto Rico’s government reaffirmed the island’s subordinate status.

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(results of the 2012 referendum – source Wikipedia)


The threat of default

Concretely, the government of Puerto Rico has already been in default of payment since 2015, but on bonds that are not senior debt since they are not guaranteed by the constitution. On 1 July, if nothing changes, Puerto Rico will default on a senior debt of $2 billion – a default which could set off a wave of judicial reprisals on the part of the creditors, who will inevitably go to court to force repayment of their debts. And, even if Puerto Rico manages to scrape up the money to repay that debt by 1 July, which is highly unlikely, it would automatically result in non-payment of wages and pensions and the shutdown of hospitals and public services, because the government doesn’t have the cash necessary to cover that amount, and could only do it by robbing other budget items.

Who holds Puerto Rico’s debt?

The system of threefold tax exemptions on Puerto Rico’s debt securities made them extremely attractive for US investors, beginning with the numerous investment funds that operate almost exclusively by purchasing municipal bonds and have a large impact on the local economy. There are also a large number of pension funds throughout the USA.

But since the Puerto Rico debt crisis deepened, in 2014, and the ratings assigned by the bond rating agencies began to slip, new participants have gotten into the game – the “vulture funds,” who purchase Puerto Rican debt securities on the secondary market at a fraction of their value (on average 30 cents on the dollar, or 30% of face value), demanding exorbitant interest rates (up to 34%). These funds have a very specific goal: They wait until Puerto Rico defaults on its debt, and then file suit to demand payment of the face value of the securities (the “dollar” they acquired for 30 cents). It’s what they specialise in. They’ve done it with Argentina, with Greece… with all countries who experience over-indebtedness, and it’s made them billions.

The main solution currently being proposed

Currently, the “solution” that has the most chance of actually being adopted is a bill passed by the House of the Representatives of the USA on 9 June 2016, known under the name PROMESA (for Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act), which means “promise” in Spanish. The bill has had wide bipartisan support — as much from Republicans as from Democrats —, and in particular from presumed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. And for good reason, since the bill, which still needs approval from the Senate, is aimed at restructuring only a part of the Puerto Rican bonds in circulation, and the vulture funds are obviously concentrating on another part, which will not be restructured but has the same guarantees under Puerto Rico’s constitution. That is one of the criticisms raised by its detractors, who include Bernie Sanders |5|, the Democrat Senator from Vermont and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, numerous trade unions, and small investors in Puerto Rico, who rightly feel that there is a prejudice towards big investors. But that’s not the only reason.

The PROMESA bill, if does not undergo modifications when it goes before the US Senate, will impose a “fiscal oversight board” made up of seven members, four of whom will be appointed by the Republican Party, two by the Democratic Party, and one by the President, and only one of whose members will be required to be a resident of Puerto Rico. This board will have greater powers than those of the island’s government, in the economic sphere but also in terms of general governance – which harks back to the colonial period, when the governor of the island was an officer of the United States army appointed by the President. It is also reminiscent of the international financial commissions set up in Tunisia in 1869 |6| and in Greece in 1898. |7|

The fiscal oversight board would have the task of negotiating the restructuring of a portion of Puerto Rico’s debt and taking the measures demanded by the creditors to “clean up” the island’s economy, which would mean deepening and extending the austerity measures taken in recent years and which have already caused the closing of 150 schools, the loss of 20% of the jobs on the island, the emigration of nearly 50,000 persons per year, the explosion of inequalities, etc. |8| Currently, more than one out of two children in Puerto Rico already lives below the poverty threshold. The board would fire even more schoolteachers, close more schools, and reduce the minimum wage (there is talk of reducing it to $4.25 an hour for people under age 25) or even eliminate it outright, etc.

Alternatives

There is a coalition in Puerto Rico, bringing together trade unions, community organisations, and activists, which defends the idea of an audit of the debt, on the grounds that a large part of Puerto Rico’s public debt may well be illegal. The coalition, called Vamos4PR (“Let’s Move 4 PR”), has the ear of the government of Puerto Rico, which decided in July 2015 to set up a debt audit commission with the task of analyzing the issuance of Puerto Rican bonds over the last 45 years. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funds, the commission — made up of 17 persons (elected officials, representatives of financial institutions, trade-union representatives, and researchers) — was only able to begin its work in January 2016. It has just filed an initial “pre-audit” report which will serve as the basis for future work, but already provides serious evidence of the illegality of a portion of Puerto Rico’s debt. The audit analyzes the two most recent issuances of Puerto Rican debt securities, in 2014 and 2015 (see the report below this article).

This report comprises extremely important items of information and provides strong arguments in favour of repudiation of a large part of Puerto Rico’s public debt. One can only regret that it is not receiving more discussion and media attention. In any case, the report reveals that a large portion of Puerto Rico’s debt was contracted in flagrant violation of the Commonwealth’s constitution and can therefore be considered illegal.

  • – Puerto Rico issued multimarket bonds in 2014 in order to finance its deficit, but the constitution requires that the Commonwealth maintain a balanced budget and prohibits the government’s using credit to compensate for a budget deficit. Yet Puerto Rico has borrowed more than $30 billion to finance its deficit since 1979. That debt might well be considered illegal by a court.
  • – The constitution requires that Puerto Rico spend no more than 15% of its revenues on debt service; the government devotes between 14% and 25% of its budget to debt repayment. If the final audit demonstrates that Puerto Rico devotes more than 15% of its budget to debt, then the debt could be declared illegal by a court. At that point a determination would have to be made as to what portion of the debt exceeds the limit.
  • – The constitution prohibits the issuance of securities with a maturity greater than 30 years. However the government of Puerto Rico, like most countries, “rolls over” its debt – that is, when a debt reaches maturity, instead of the repaying it, the government contracts another debt to finance the preceding one. The commission gives the example of a debt issued in 2014 to repay a debt issued in 2003, which had itself been issued to refinance a debt from 1987. So the commission will have to determine whether the practice in question is constitutional or not.

The commission will also examine possible illegitimate aspects of the debt, even though it doesn’t identify them as such in its report. Puerto Rico holds approximately 37 billion in CABs – Capital Appreciation Bonds –, which are bonds of a particular type, for which the issuer pays the interest and repays the capital only when the security reaches maturity. For example, one of the bonds Puerto Rico must repay on 1 July is a CAB issued in 1998 with a nominal value of $14 million, for which the estimated total payout is $38 million once the interest is included. The commission will examine this practice in its final report.

A final question the commission will attempt to answer has to do with productivity and the debt’s contribution to economic growth. Puerto Rico has a GDP/debt ratio of 96%. Since the recent increase in the debt has had no positive effect on the economy whatsoever, the commission will analyze the economic impact of the successive debt issues in detail.

Conclusion

It is clear that the PROMESA law will not improve the situation of Puerto Rico’s people, but will worsen it. The federal government is making no attempt to determine the reasons for the island’s over-indebtedness, instead arguing that poor management by a government that overspends requires that the situation be taken firmly in hand, without concessions. And yet there are many reasons why repudiation of the debt may well be justified, and they have been revealed by the audit commission which has in fact only begun a serious analysis of the debt. However the private interests hiding behind this “debt crisis” are powerful and know how to make themselves heard in Washington, which is why there appears to be no possibility of moving beyond the crisis in a positive way without strong popular mobilisation and real political determination.

Translated by Snake Arbusto

Footnotes

|1http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/03/u…

|2https://www.thenation.com/article/e…

|3| See AFP wire of 13 June, 2016, “USA: Porto Rico débouté en justice sur sa dette”, available (in French) at: http://www.romandie.com/news/USA-Po…

|4http://www.theatlantic.com/politics…

|5| See in particular http://cadtm.org/Un-candidat-aux-presidentielles-US (in French) and also http://cadtm.org/Sen-Bernie-Sanders-From-Greece-to
Concerning the situation in Puerto Rico, Bernie Sanders argues for an audit of the debt that would determine which debts were contracted in violation of the constitution and for extending Chapter 9 to Puerto Rico to enable the island to restructure its debt while being protected from legal action by its creditors.

|6| See http://cadtm.org/Debt-how-France-appropriated

|7| See http://cadtm.org/Greece-Continued-debt-slavery-from

|8| See in particular http://cadtm.org/Puerto-Rico-en-lutte-contre-la (in French) and also http://cadtm.org/Puerto-Rico-must-escape-the-debt

Author

Pierre Gottiniaux CADTM Belgium

 

Jun 152016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

Rational Voters and Irrational Experts

Large swaths of the US electorate are voting for rational choices against a system controlled by an economic and political oligarchy.

Rational choice is based on their experience with political leaders who have pursued policies leading to a trillion dollar financial crisis and bank bailouts while impoverishing millions of mortgage holders and working families – the US tax payers.

Their rejection of the established leadership of both major parties is rational. It reflects  an understanding that campaign promises are worthless.

They want rational commitments to address growing inequality and end the series of overseas wars which have weakened America. They identify with the slogan to ‘make America strong again’, emphasizing a dramatic transformation of the domestic economy and security system.

An army of political pundits have ignored the rational socio-economic and political choices exercised by the American electorate and repeatedly turn to psycho-babble, pontificating that contemporary voters are really reacting out of ‘anger’ and ‘irrational emotionalism’ or even ‘racism’ in their preference for non-establishment political figures like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The experts deny the objective bases for popular voter choice.

Sanders and Trump: Appeals to the New Rationality?

The woeful and wilful blindness of political experts is a product of their own arrogance and hostility to the emergence of two Presidential candidates: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who challenge the established party and economic leadership.

The Sanders campaign has proceeded along the lines of a political polarization between big business and the working class; demanding higher taxes for the wealthy and greater social spending for public health and education for the working class.

Sanders has sought to unify racial and ethnic minorities and majoritarian workers with progressive gender, religious and environmental movements.

The Trump campaign, on the other hand, has sought to mobilize the white American majority among workers, small businesspeople and professionals, who have seen their living standards decline over the decades and have been marginalized by globalization and the ‘politics of identity’.

Sanders emphasizes a refurbished class identity. Trump promotes new nationalist symbols. Yet in many ways the establishment opposition, the parties, mass media and the economic elite, are far more hostile to Trump’s ‘nationalist politics’ than Sanders’ democratic socialist program and class appeal, which they view as weak and easily manipulated – like the huge anti-war movement was manipulated during the Bush and Obama Administrations.

Sanders apparent willingness to come to terms with the Democratic Party elite and back Clinton’s candidacy when he loses the nomination is far more acceptable to the establishment than Trump. As in all previous presidential campaigns, the Democratic Party will allow progressive candidates to propose advanced socio-economic campaign platforms in order to secure working class and middle class votes, and drop the progressive façade in favor of  corporate-warmonger policies once in office.

Trump’s initial nationalist-anti-globalist rhetoric has aroused greater animosity from business, liberal and militarist elites than Sanders occasional critical comments.

Trump’s nationalism was rooted in popular and reactionary sentiments. On the one hand he would speak of relocating multi-national corporations back to the US. On the other hand, he would demand the expulsion of over ten million Mexican immigrants from the US labor market.

His anti-globalization-business relocation strategy is vague and lacks several essential ingredients: He did not specify which multi-nationals would be affected and he did not describe what policies he would implement to force the trillion-dollar corporate return.

In contrast, Trump was brutally clear about which immigrants would be expelled and his methods of expulsion and exclusion leave no ambiguities. ‘Build the Wall!’, has become his rallying cry to keep out migrant workers from the southern border.

Trump’s Electoral Victory and Neoliberal Right Turn 

Trump’s unorthodox, controversial and successful campaign to secure the nomination for the Republican Party’s candidate for president has led him to appeal to the big donors for campaign funding and endorsements from Republican neoliberal establishment leaders like Congressional Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. This quest for ‘respectability’ has caused Trump to shed his anti- globalization rhetoric and economic nationalist politics, and focus on his more chauvinist ethno-racist appeals.

Trump’s current electoral strategy seeks to unify the hard neo-liberal political elite with the ‘patriotic’ white working class.

Trump’s ideological road to the Presidency is no longer paved with economic-nationalist attacks on globalization. Instead he relies on arousing public support by stigmatizing minorities as ‘anti-American’ and targeting Clinton’s personal ‘corruption’ and lies, rather than her domestic and foreign policies.

Trumps’ “Make America Strong” rhetoric ties in neatly with President Obama’s tariff wars against China’s steel exports to US markets.

Trump’s “Make America Strong” proposals mirror Obama’s systematic assault on the World Trade Organization’s role in negotiating trade agreement and the recent imposition of Washington’s dictates of the WTO’s settlement process.

Obama blocked the reappointment of an objectionable (read independent) South Korean lawyer who opposed Washington’s blatant violation of WTO rules. Trump would endorse Obama’s promotion of US business lobbies against the WTO.

Trump also echoes Obama’s policy of favoring globalization only insofar as Washington maintains control of the key international institutions controlling the global economy. Trump would continue Washington’s policy of packing global institutions with its vassals.

Trump in the Footstep of Sanders

Trump’s embrace of the neoliberal business elite mirrors Sanders submission to the Democratic Party bosses. Trump seems to believe that his mass base of supporters will be fooled by his increasing provocations against immigrants accusing them of stealing jobs while spreading crimes and drugs … and not notice his new embrace of the establishment economic elites.

Trump’s mass meetings are composed almost exclusively of white working and middle class voters – especially in parts of California and the Southwest with huge Hispanic and immigrant populations. These are clearly designed to provoke violent protests.

Trump gains nationalist support by circulating videos of NBC, CNN and ABC reports depicting his peaceful white supporters being ‘terrorized and beaten up by mobs of (Mexican-American) protestors waving Mexican flags and sporting gang insignia.’

Trump calls on his American supporters to ‘stand strong’ against demonstrators who grab and burn the Stars and Stripes and stomp on his “Make America Great” campaign hats.

Conclusion

Trump’s turn to the neoliberal Republican elite means he will intensify his repressive and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Trump’s appeal will be aided by mindless violent protestors and provocateurs as they conveniently “overwhelm the police” at anti-Trump rallies. He effectively promotes in the “propaganda of the deed”: linking disloyal immigrants who wave the Mexican and not the US flag.

The recent realignment of the Republican Party will bring Trump into the arms of the hardline neoliberal Congressional-Wall Street elite. This shift means Trump’s ideological and mass base will focus on ‘domestic enemies’ – Mexicans, Muslims, women and ecologists rather than the economic elite and the devastating foreign policies of previous administrations.

Trump expects a wholesale incorporation of the Sanders support machine into the Clinton campaign. In this scenario, marginalized white workers and downwardly mobile middle class voters will confront the real face of Wall Street’s darling warmonger Mme. Clinton and be less likely to reject Trump’s opportunism with the rightwing Congressional business alliance.

Any working class opposition to his embrace of the neoliberal Congressional Republicans will be deflected by revelations of Clinton’s big business dealings and covert operations with foreign leaders. If pursued by the FBI, Clinton’s blatant violation of federal security regulations, her ‘private’ and illegal system of communication and liaison with foreign officials while Secretary of State could blow up her campaign and hand the presidency to Donald Trump.

Trump has gained working class voter support in West Virginia, Ohio and many other rust-belt states because of Clinton’s free trade and anti-working class history, which has shattered any residual illusions about the Democratic Party.

Trump’s electoral victory will hinge on his capacity to mask his turn to the neoliberal elite and to focus voter attention on Clinton’s militarist, pro-Wall Street politics, her corrupt conspiratorial behavior and her anti-working class policies.

Jun 072016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

During her 4 years as Secretary of State of the United States (2009-2014), Hillary Clinton controlled US foreign policy. She had access to the most confidential information and state documents, numbering in the tens of thousands, from all of the major government departments and agencies, Intelligence, FBI, the Pentagon, Treasury and the office of the President. She had unfettered access to vital and secret information affecting US policy in all the key regions of the empire.

Today, Mme. Clinton’s critics have focused on the technical aspects of her violations of State Department procedures and guidelines regarding handling of official correspondences and her outright lies on the use of her own private e-mail server for official state business, including the handling of highly classified material in violation of Federal Records laws, as well as her hiding official documents from the Freedom of Information Act and concocting her own system exempt from the official oversight which all other government officials accept.

For many analysts, therefore, the issue is procedural, moral and ethical. Mme. Clinton had placed herself above and beyond the norms of State Department discipline. This evidence of her arrogance, dishonesty and blatant disregard for rules should disqualify her from becoming the President of the United States. While revelations of Clinton’s misuse of official documents, her private system of communication and correspondence and the shredding of tens of thousands of her official interchanges, including top secret documents, are important issues to investigate, these do not address the paramount political question: On whose behalf was Secretary Clinton carrying out the business of US foreign policy, out of the review of government oversight?

The Political Meaning and Motivation of Clinton’s High Crimes Against the State

Secretary Clinton’s private, illegal handling of official US documents has aroused a major FBI investigation into the nature of her activities. This is separate from the investigation by the Office of the Inspector General and implies national security violations.

There are several lines of inquiry against Mme. Clinton:

(1)  Did she work with, as yet unnamed, foreign governments and intelligence services to strengthen their positions and against the interest of the United States?

(2)  Did she provide information on the operations and policy positions of various key US policymakers to competitors, adversaries or allies undermining the activities of military, intelligence and State Department officials?

(3)  Did she seek to enhance her personal power within the US administration to push her aggressive policy of serial pre-emptive wars over and against veteran State Department and Pentagon officials who favored traditional diplomacy and less violent confrontation?

(4)  Did she prepare a ‘covert team’, using foreign or dual national operative, to lay the groundwork for her bid for the presidency and her ultimate goal of supreme military and political power?

Contextualizing Clinton’s Clandestine Operations

There is no doubt that Mme. Clinton exchanged minor as well as major official documents and letters via her private e-mail system. Personal, family and even intimate communications may have been carried on the same server. But the key issue is that a large volume of highly confidential government information flowed to Clinton via an unsecured private ‘back channel’ allowing her to conduct state business secretly with her correspondents.

Just who were Secretary Clinton’s most enduring, persistent and influential correspondents? What types of exchanges were going on, which required avoiding normal oversight and a wanton disregard for security?

Clinton’s covert war policies, which included the violent overthrow of the elected Ukraine government, were carried out by her ‘Lieutenant’ Under-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, a virulent neoconservative holdover from the previous Bush Administration and someone committed to provoking Russia and to enhancing Israel’s power in the Middle East. Clinton’s highly dangerous and economically destabilizing ‘brainchild’ of militarily encircling China, the so-called ‘pivot to Asia’, would have required clandestine exchanges with elements in the Pentagon – out of the State Department and possibly Executive oversight.

In other words, within the Washington political circuit, Secretary Clinton’s escalation of nuclear war policies toward Russia and China required secretive correspondences which would not necessarily abide with the policies and intelligence estimates of other US government agencies and with private business interests.

Clinton was deeply engaged in private exchanges with several unsavory overseas political regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Israel, Honduras and Turkey involving covert violent and illegal activities. She worked with the grotesquely corrupt opposition parties in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil

Clinton’s correspondence with the Honduran armed forces and brutal oligarchs led to the military coup against the elected President Zelaya, its violent aftermath and the phony election of a pliable puppet. Given the government-death squad campaign against Honduran civil society activists, Clinton would certainly want to cover up her direct role in organizing the coup. Likewise, Mme. Clinton would have destroyed her communications with Turkish President Erdogan’s intelligence operations in support of Islamist terrorist-mercenaries in Syria and Iraq.

Secretary Clinton’s e-mail would have shown her commitment to the Saudis when they brutally invaded Bahrain and Yemen to suppress independent civil society organizations and regional political rivals.

But it is Clinton’s long-term, large-scale commitment to Israel that goes far beyond her public speeches of loyalty and fealty to the Jewish state. Hillary Clinton’s entire political career has been intimately dependent on Zionist money, Zionist mass media propaganda and Zionist Democratic Party operations.

In exchange for Clinton’s dependence on political support from the Zionist power configuration in the US, she would have become the major conduit of confidential information from the US to Israel and the transmission belt promoting Israel-centric policies within the US government.

The entire complex of Clinton-Israel linkages and correspondences has compromised the US intelligence services, the State Department and Pentagon.

Secretary Clinton went to extraordinary lengths to serve Israel, even undermining the interests of the United States. It is bizarre that she would resort to such a crude measure, setting up a private e-mail server to conduct state business. She blithely ignored official State Department policy and oversight and forwarded over 1,300 confidential documents and 22 highly sensitive top-secret documents related to the ‘Special Access Program’. She detailed US military and intelligence documents on US strategic policies on Syria, Iraq, Palestine and other vital regimes. The Inspector General’s report indicates that ‘she was warned’ about her practice. It is only because of the unusual stranglehold Tel Aviv and Israel’s US Fifth Column have over the US government and judiciary that her actions have not been prosecuted as high treason. It is the height of hypocrisy that government whistleblowers have been persecuted and jailed by the Obama Administration for raising concerns within the Inspector General system of oversight, while Secretary Clinton is on her way to the Presidency of the United States!

Conclusion

Many of Clinton’s leading critics, among them two dozen former CIA agents, have presented a myth that Hillary’s main offence is her ‘carelessness’ in handling official documents and her deliberate deceptions and lies to the government.

These critics have trivializedpersonalized and moralized what is really deliberate, highly politicized state behavior. Mme. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not ‘careless in managing an insecure mail server’.  If Clinton was engaged in political liaison with foreign officials she deliberately used a private email server to avoid political detection by security elements within the US government. She lied to the US government on the use and destruction of official state documents because the documents were political exchanges between a traitor and its host.

The 22 top secret reports on ‘Special Access Programs’ which Clinton handled via her private computer provided foreign governments with the names and dates of US operatives and proxies; allowed for counter-responses inflicting losses of billions of dollars in program damages and possibly lost lives.

The Inspector General Report (IGP) deals only with the surface misdeeds. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has gone a step further in identifying the political linkages, but faces enormous obstacles from Hillary’s domestic allies in pursuing a criminal investigation. The FBI, whose director is a political appointee, has suffered a series of defeats in its attempts to investigate and prosecute spying to Israel, including the AIPAC espionage case of Rosen and Weismann and in their long held opposition to the release of the notorious US-Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard. The power of the Zionists within the government halted their investigation of a dozen Israeli spies captured in the US right after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Clinton’s choice of conducting secret private communications, despite  several years of State Department warnings to abide by their strict security regulations, is an indication of her Zionist power base, and not a mere reflection of her personal hubris or individual arrogance.

Clinton has circulated more vital top-secret documents and classified material than Jonathan Pollard.

President Obama and other top Cabinet officials share her political alliances, but they operate through ‘legitimate’ channels and without compromising personnel, missions, funding or programs.

The executive leadership now faces the problem of how to deal with a traitor, who may be the Democratic Party nominee for US President, without undermining the US quest for global power. How do the executive leadership and intelligence agencies back a foreign spy for president, who has been deeply compromised and can be blackmailed? This may explain why the FBI, NSA, and CIA hesitate to press charges; hesitate to even seriously investigate, despite the obvious nature of her offenses. Most of all it explains why there is no indication of the identity of Secretary Clinton’s correspondents in the various reports so far available.

As Sherlock Holmes would say, “We are entering in deep waters, Watson”.

Jun 022016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends,

This week, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an exclusive interview with bestselling author, filmmaker, investigative journalist, and economist Greg Palast, who will speak about his latest film project on election fraud in the United States, economic and political developments in Latin America, and on the latest set of austerity measures in Greece and the need for Greece to leave the Eurozone.

In addition, we will air our commentary of the week segment, plus some great Greek music. 

This is the season finale of Dialogos Radio. For more details and our full broadcast schedule, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6317 – where you can also find our podcasts, articles and written work, program archives, and online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7.

Best,

Dialogos Radio & Media

 
************************
 
Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
 
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», αποκλειστική συνέντευξη με τον συγγραφέα, ερευνητικό δημοσιογράφο, και οικονομολόγο Greg Palast, ο οποίος θα μας μιλήσει για την νοθεία των εκλογών στις ΗΠΑ, τις πολιτικές και οικονομικές εξελίξεις στην Λατινική Αμερική, για τα νέα μέτρα λιτότητας που έχουν εφαρμοστεί στην Ελλάδα, και για τους λόγους γιατί πιστεύει ότι η Ελλάδα πρέπει να αποχωρήσει άμεσα από την Ευρωζώνη.
 
Επίσης, ο Palast θα μιλήσει για το καινούριο του βιβλίο, “Πικνίκ για Γύπες,” που έχει κυκλοφορήσει στην Ελλάδα με Ελληνική μετάφραση, και όπου γράφει, μεταξύ άλλων, για τον ρόλο των μεγάλων τραπεζών και των αρπακτικών fund στην δημιουργία της οικονομικής κρίσης στην Ελλάδα
 
Θα μεταδώσουμε επίσης τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό της επικαιρότητας. Αυτή θα είναι η τελευταία εκπομπή της ραδιοφωνικής σεζόν 2015-2016.
 
Συντονιστείτε ΣΗΜΕΡΑ και όλη την εβδομάδα στο παγκόσμιο δίκτυο μας. Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6319. Στην ιστοσελίδα μας μπορείτε επίσης να βρείτε το αρχείο εκπομπών και συνεντεύξεων μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Jun 012016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

What does it mean when the US and British financial systems launder hundreds of billions of dollars of illicit funds stolen by world leaders while their governments turn a ‘blind eye’, and yet the very same Anglo-American officials investigate, prosecute, fine and arrest officials from rival governments, rival banks and political leaders for corruption?

What does it mean when the US government expands a world-wide network of nuclear missiles on bases stretching from Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, the Gulf States to Japan, surrounding Russia, Iran and China, while the very same US and NATO officials investigate and condemn rival defense officials from Russia, China and Iran, as military threats to peace and stability?

What does it mean when Anglo-American economic officials devote decades to raising the age of retirement, reducing working and middle class household income, cutting workers compensation, expanding part-time work, setting the stage for mass layoffs slashing unemployment and health benefits and reducing social spending by the hundreds of billions of dollars and then turn around and investigate and threaten rival countries, like China and Argentina with loss of markets, investment and employment for not doing the same thing ?

The meaning of Anglo-America’s long-term, large-scale structural regression is clearly evident across the world. From Europe to Latin America and from Asia to Africa, socio-economic and politico-military agendas have been reversed.

Since the end of the Second World War there had been incremental gains in labor rights, stable employment, poverty reduction and working conditions.

Recently, these have all been reversed: Longer working days and weeks with reduced salaries and benefits; unstable temporary work replaces stable employment; employer-funded pensions are eliminated and replaced by multi-billion dollar corporate tax cuts and off-shore tax evasion.

Systematic structural swindles by the leading financial institutions have forced employees to delay retirement for years in order to ‘self-finance’ their own meager ‘pensions’, some expecting to ‘die at the job’.

Capitalist regression has been implemented by arbitrary state dictates and authoritarian decrees, erasing any pretense of democratic procedures and constitutional laws.

The regressive and retrograde leader-states from the imperial centers impose their conditions on follower regimes like Mexico and Russia forcing them to reverse their legacy of social progress while blackmailing these regimes’ oligarchs with the loss of lucrative markets, access to tax and money-laundering havens and impunity for their crimes and swindles.

Anglo-America: Historic Reversion

For the past three decades, the US and Great Britain have led the global drive to undermine labor’s advances. First, the economic structure sustaining labor organizations were dismantled and fragmented. Then organized labor was decimated, co-opted and corporatized.

Capital proceeded to reverse labor and social welfare legislation and lower wages, in order to impose longer workdays and destabilize employment.

The mass media re-packaged the regression cycle as ‘economic reform’, a euphemism, which disguised the re-concentration of power, wealth and income over the last three decades.

The growth of inequality and the concentration of wealth and assets to the 1% became ‘the standard’ for the Anglo-American era. However, class organization and the vicissitudes of class struggles continued to constrain efforts to impose unchallenged Anglo-American capitalist rulership throughout the world.

The first decisive blow against social reform resulted from the systematic Anglo-American breakdown of the former USSR and allied nations of the Warsaw Pact in East Europe. This was followed by the endogenous dissolution of Communist Party rule in China, Russia, Eastern Europe, the Baltic and Balkan states and their conversion into capitalist satellites. Social welfare, full employment, public pensions and health systems were shredded; labor lost all its rights except one – the right to emigrate to the West as cheap labor.

From Russia to Latvia and Poland to Bulgaria and Romania, there were massive layoffs, plant closures and the total dissolution of social security networks driven by the Anglo-America neo-liberal onslaught. The Atlantic Alliance brought their new Eastern satellites to social submission.

Until the second decade of the 21st century, Western Europe’s centers for the defense of the progressive social agenda were in France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal. The social agenda in Latin America and China faced the Anglo-America offensive even earlier.

France: The Strategic Key to Anglo-American Social Regression

France has been the center where the Anglo-American regressive attack on socio-economic policy and Southern Europe’s resistance has been playing out.

By 2015 the regressive alliance had overturned all progressive social policy in the former communist bloc countries. Their alliance with Germany’s finance sector give them tight control of the EU and they successfully decimated the progressive social programs and labor legislation in Greece, Spain and Portugal.

France became the centerpiece for Western capitalism’s drive to incorporate Italy into the regressive orbit. The conquest of France and Italy would completely reverse 70 years of incremental labor gains after the defeat of fascist capitalism.

The assault on  France’s progressive social agenda is spearheaded by the retro-Socialist President Francois Holland and his troika of authoritarian hyper-capitalist ministers: Financial Minister Michel Sapin, Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron.

The strategy of relying on a ‘nominal socialist’ to destroy the social welfare state is a classic ‘Trojan Horse’ operation. Hollande’s virulent anti-labor policy is implemented by decree under a joint plan developed in association with France’s leading industrialists.

The imposition of the regressive policy in France began in stages. It first established the retrograde political leadership with Valls, a notorious authoritarian police-state official willing to over-ride any democratic niceties. The Economy Minister, Emanuel Macron, a millionaire investment banker, is a direct associate of the financial elite, with no qualms in slashing labor programs. The Finance Minister Michel Sapin, a long-time accomplice of the French bureaucratic-capitalist elite, is prepared to slash pensions and public services while reducing job security in order to lower the cost of labor to capital.

Once the Hollande and his troika took control of the centers of political power, (and after militarizing French society in response to the terrorist attacks), the regime launched its anti-labor offensive to shred the progressive social agenda. Its first target was its most formidable – the mass of the French working class.

Declaring ‘anti-ISIS’ martial law powers, Hollande adopted an outright authoritarian strategy, bypassing the elected French Parliament in the legislatureand imposed ‘rule by decree’ with the announcement of a highly regressive labor law against the French people.

The dictatorial labor decree was a first step to weaken organized labor’s capacity to protect wages and job security in order to give a powerful impetus to employer control over the French labor force.

Once Hollande’s labor decree established capitalist supremacy, his Troika would be in a decisive position to reverse seventy of incremental social advances.

The joint Hollande-Troika-capitalist bloc emasculated the legislature, leaving a weak, bleating chorus of so-called ‘left Socialists’ to bemoan their political impotence. Then an entirely new business anti-labor code was rolled out, which  included the right of bosses to hire and fire workers at will, extend the workday, lengthen the work week, undermine labor’s bargaining power and restrain strikes and job actions. This would open the way for a wave of irregular and contingent jobs for new workers . . . Using the pretext of terrorist attacks, the French capitalist class had begun to rule by decree to further expand and deepen their long planned assault on labor.

Hollande’s troika and France’s capitalists are lowering corporate taxes and employer contribution to social payments. Regulations that restrained the concentration of elite power were eliminated.

With curfews and ‘anti-terrorist’ militarized police in the streets, French business elite could now freely begin to to imitate the Anglo-American capitalist elite and impose an iron-fisted New Order.

Without labor constraints on French capital, the bosses are free to relocate factories and investments any and everywhere, under the most favorable wage, tax, employment and environmental conditions.

No longer required to invest in French industry, the business elite can transfer capital from industry to financial sectors, allowing hundreds of billions of euros to be laundered in off shore tax havens.

The Hollande troika will now also establish its own version of ‘Security and Exchange investigators’ to prosecute and fine its rival Anglo-American financial swindlers, just as the Anglo-Americans pursue their French competitors today.

The Hollande regime’s regressive social agenda has opened the door for an even more extreme Presidential prototype to follow and Alain Juppe is waiting.

The rabid Republican Party presidential candidate, Alain Juppe, promises to go ‘whole hog’ in utterly destroying the French welfare state, as it has existed since the fall of fascism. If elected president, Juppe promised to slash 100 billion euros from the budget – double the amount that the Hollande regime currently seeks to cut. Juppe has pledged to eliminate 250,000 civil service jobs in all vital social sectors; to delay the retirement age from 62 to 65; eliminate the 35-hour workweek; facilitate worker layoffs and decimate unemployment benefits. Finally, Juppe has promised French capital that he would implement their entire business agenda, cut taxes for business and bankers and eliminate the tax on inheritance implemented nearly four decades ago.

In other words, the Hollande regime’s assault on labor and embrace of business has opened the door for the rise of the extreme right. Moreover, Hollande has manipulated the incidents of Islamist terrorism to assume arbitrary decree powers wiping out any pretense of a democratic government. The terrorist incidents are arguably related to Hollande’s colonialist embrace of the ‘regime change’ assaults against the secular nationalist governments of Libya and Syria and his policy of sending (or tolerating the recruitment of) marginalized French youth of North African ancestry to fight in the ensuing civil wars. This has further strengthened the rise of the extreme right in France.

As the Socialist and Republicans compete for dictatorial powers to serve business’ regressive agenda, the nationalist, protectionist and social reformist policies of the National Front are emerging as the populist alternative in the coming presidential race. Anti-fascist rhetoric has worn thin and important sectors of the working class will turn to the National Front in defense of their jobs and social legislation. The anti-immigration rhetoric of the National Front is now part of the political vocabulary of the Republicans as well as Prime Minister Valls.

The only alternative to a power grab by the French hard right is a mass general strike and sustained street battles in order to resist the reaction by decree.

As throughout history, popular struggles in France begin in the streets – among the trade unions and young workers angrily facing low wages, austerity and the grim prospect of ‘permanently’ temporary jobs.

The outcome of the intensifying French labor-capital conflict will have a decisive impact on the future of labor throughout Europe, especially among all Left unionists.

Latin America: The Labor-Capital Showdown

Beyond Europe, the Anglo-American onslaught against labor and the working class resonates most directly in Latin America and to a lesser extent in Asia and Africa.

The first country to fall victim to capital’s attack was Mexico with the implementation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). By the early 1990’s NAFTA had demolished the independent Mexican trade unions, crippled social legislation, eliminated subsidies to small corn farmers, forced peasants into debt, reduced minimum wage, doubled poverty levels and turned the majority of the labor force into landless, indebted, casual workers. On the other hand, NAFTA has been a bottomless source of wealth as capitalists accumulate double and triple digit profits and absolute power to hire and fire employees. Mexico’s government, under Anglo-American capital, has allowed the illicit transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars of Mexican assets to US, English and other overseas banks, which have become immense money-laundering operations. The proximity of Mexican drug cartels to the US banks has facilitated the extension of their networks into the US market. The horrific expansion of drug cartel death squads, linked to Mexico’s political leaders, dates from the 1990’s and the signing of NAFTA. This bloody nexus has consolidated neoliberal political power in Mexico and weakened the possibility of a viable mass electoral alternative.

Anglo-American dominance in Latin America in the 1990’s led to an entire panoply of regressive policies: privatizing and denationalizing the most lucrative natural and state resources, banks and industries; reducing wages and social spending for labor while increasing the concentration of capital. By 2001 however the Anglo-American edifice collapsed throughout South America with the demise of its neo-liberal political leadership.

From Venezuela in 1999, to Argentina in 2002, Brazil 2003, Bolivia 2006 and Ecuador 2007, left and center-left parties capitalized on their mass support and were elected into power. They took advantage of global economic conditions with the rising commodity prices, booming Chinese markets and new regional alliances to fund a variety of progressive social agendas, including increased social expenditures, guaranteed pensions, family allowances, minimum wages, wage increases for public sector and expanded labor rights.

The Anglo-American power elite was in retreat and isolated, but it was far from defeated. They retrenched and prepared to re-mobilize their strategic business, banking and political allies when the opportunity arose. They counter-attacked when global and regional conditions turned unfavorable to the social regimes.

The assault on Latin America was preceded by the Anglo-American neoliberal take-over of Northern Europe from the 1990’s to the first decade of the 21st century. This was followed by the sweep and grab of the Balkans and Southern Europe. The combined Anglo-American-EU-NATO offensive now seeks to reverse the last social-welfare regimes in Europe: France and Italy with the help of President Hollande and Prime Minister Renzi.

Simultaneously the Anglo-American offensive has been launched throughout Latin America. Their goal is to recover the imperial prerogatives, political power and economic privileges lost during the previous decade. The primary Euro-American target is the ‘golden triangle’, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. These countries constitute a global center of immense oil and agro-mineral wealth.

The Argentine neoliberal restoration took off in December 2015 with the election of  far-right President Mauricio Macri. His junta wasted no time in stripping the state of its social legislation, dismantling job security through large-scale layoffs and assuming authoritarian rule by decree to devalue Argentina’s currency by 40% and to eliminate state subsidies and raising the price for gas, electricity, transport, and water between 300 and 800 %.

The regressive offensive was in full force. Next, Brazil’s twice elected President Dilma Rousseff was ‘impeached’ and essentially overthrown by a bizarre legislative right-wing coup-d’état, designed to reverse a generation of progressive regulatory, labor and employment legislation. It was also secretly designed to halt corruption investigations against many right-wing politicians.

Venezuela is next. It will be the scene of a full-scale-elite coup-d’état with imperial backing, to overthrow the government of President Maduro and end decades of progressive social advances under the Chavista governments.

While in France and Italy, the great social reversal is being implemented by internal enemies from the ‘progressive’ political parties (“Trojan Horses”), in Latin America the reversal is led by openly hostile class enemies who depend on the arbitrary exercise of executive power. The drive to put a definitive end to the ‘welfare state’ in Europe and Latin America is marked by the use of dictatorial decrees, (in the style of Mussolini in the 1920’s) as exercised by Argentina’s elected President Marci in January 2016 and Brazil’s ‘Interim (Coup) President’ Temer in April 2016. Meanwhile capitalist lockouts, hoarding and sabotage are being used to crush Venezuela’s elected government.

This epochal confrontation has spread across Africa and Asia. China’s capitalist offensive has seen a four-fold increase in the number of new billionaires in less than a decade, at the expense of hundreds of millions of workers stripped of their rights and social programs.

South Africa, under the ANC government, turned its back on social gains promised by the liberation struggle and has imposed regressive social legislation and repressive anti-labor decrees. A corrupt class of black and white billionaires now rule by guns and clubs over the black working class.

In Africa and the Middle East, the social welfare states of the nationalist regimes in Iraq and Libya have been completely shredded through imperialist military intervention and civil war. Their once advanced societies have been thrown back into ethno-tribal warfare with no remaining modern social institutions in those two blighted, resource-rich nations.

Wither the Class Struggle: Historical Reversal and Class Revolt?

The Anglo-American offensive to reverse decades of social advance has captured most of Europe. They have incorporated or coopted the Social Democratic parties and are moving swiftly toward dismantling the decade-long center-left welfare states in Latin America.

In Africa, the centerpiece of Anglo-Americanization is South Africa, the continent’s most advanced bastion of international capitalism.

In Asia, China, the second most important capitalist economy in the world, has been leading the struggle to overturn the social agenda of the revolutionary past.

Large-scale, prolonged class resistance in several decisive centers is emerging to confront this Anglo-American process of reversion. The class confrontation however takes specific characteristics in each country.

In France, the major protagonists of street fighting and marches are young unemployed or casual workers, members of the strategic transport and oil unions and student-workers facing a bleak future of marginal employment and a shredded social safety net.

Trade unions and farmers’ association have joined the street struggles on numerous occasions, possibly in preparation for a general strike.

In Latin America, the center of the class struggle is Argentina. Power-mad President Macri immediately imposed regressive policies against all sectors of the working class. His actions managed to unite the four major trade union confederations, multiple retirees associations and small businesspeople bankrupted by exorbitant charges on gas and electrical use and regional neighborhood federations. The widespread growth of job actions among public sector employees points to a general strike.

The regressive assault on long-term social legislation in Brazil immediately followed the thinly disguised capitalist coup. The ousting of President Rousseff has provoked street demonstrations, led by the huge rural landless workers movement (MST), the confederation of industrial and service workers (CUT), social movements of the homeless workers and the recipients of Lula’s poverty programs. New revelations, based on taped conversations among the coup plotters reveal their plans to oust the incumbent President Rousseff in order to derail official investigations into their own corruption scandals. This has enraged the general public.

With the initial take-over, the Brazilian political-financial elite has prepared to launch its full-scale reversal of pensions and employment laws and wage guarantees. The pro-business leadership plans to slash corporate and wealth taxes and to appoint business executives to all leading ministries. The deep corruption scandal and the mass demonstrations suggest the rightwing power grab may not survive.

The regressive offensive in Venezuela has severely crippled the national economy and deeply eroded living standards of the vast majority of the working class. The rightist Congress, backed by the US and allied with international mass media, industry and multinational banks, are trying to force the resignation of Socialist President Maduro.

Maduro has declared a state of emergency and mobilized the armed forces. He  called on the military and popular militia to defend the constitutional order and has threatened to mobilize the workers to “take control of the means of production”. Still, the leftist government vacillates over arming the militias and workers. A wide gap remains before the word and the deed.

In the meantime Venezuela’s right wing and left-wing mass mobilizations face each other in the streets seething with class hatred and waiting to engage in a decisive confrontation. The military thus far remains constitutionalist and on the side of the elected president.

In South Africa, the corrupt pro-business ANC led by President Zuma murdered dozens of striking mine workers. It has impoverished millions of shantytown residents, while increasing the wealth and power of the black-white elite. On April 30, 2016, 1.1.million South African activists, including civil society and community organizations and trade unions covering the mining, manufacturing and service sectors have organized to form a new confederation linked with informal, unemployed and poor workers. The South African Workers Summit replaces the moribund and corrupt labor confederation, COSATU, the ‘labor desk’ for the neoliberal ANC regime. The new confederation will co-ordinate mass struggles and reclaim social programs as a central part of the anti-capitalist revolution.

In China, the growth and consolidation of the world’s second largest concentration of billionaires has led to the proliferation of large-scale industrial workers’ strikes, walkouts and confrontations with factory bosses, company unions and government officials. China is becoming the epicenter of Asia’s working class struggles. Chinese workers have forced the government to investigate and jail over 200,000 corrupt officials, high and low, and to concede substantial wage increases and social compensation to factory workers. Fearing more social upheaval, China’s billionaires and multi-millionaires have transferred hundreds of billions of dollars of stolen assets abroad in a buying spree of high-end property in the ‘safe’ Anglo-American “heartland” of world reaction.

The continued advance of working class struggles against the public and private oligarchs has forced the Chinese Prime Minister to reform elite privileges and prosecute large-scale banking swindles and illegal seizure of farmland. Especially important, millions of workers have successfully secured double-digit wage increases and the right to legally live in urban/industrial and construction centers.

As it gains momentum, class struggle in China can become the centerpiece for a wider Asian social transformation and a great leap forward to socialist values.

Conclusion

The Anglo-American drive to establish a global regressive social order has pushed billions of workers on five continents into destitution, insecurity and lifelong exploitation. The capitalist world rules by fiat and violence, declaring that social regression and worker repression are the ‘wave of the future’. For the elite, the proper order of the universe is being ‘restored’!

In response, new working class organizations have emerged and engage directly to defend their historic social advances and economic rights.

In the course of defending their past progressive social legacy, the new working class militants can clearly see the imperative to challenge and overthrow the entire political and economic order. From France to Latin America, from China to South Africa, class struggle is defining the present and future of class relations.

May 312016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis99GetSmart

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Greece’s supposedly “leftist” government of so-called “hope” and “change” did it again! It saved Greece once more! Greece can continue living the European nightmare…excuse me, dream, can remain part of the vaunted “European family” and the Eurozone, and the government once again successfully completed “tough” negotiations with its so-called European “Partners,” with a capital P, as Greece’s deferential journalistic class tends to refer to them.

Let’s take a look at this new “success story” of Greece’s government of “hope” and “change.” It is a success story so big that Greece’s already insane value-added tax of 23% will be bumped up to 24% on June 1st. It is a success story so great that the unified property tax which SYRIZA, at one time, called unconstitutional and illegal and which at one time was said to be “temporary,” will now be raised and made permanent. It is a success story so tremendous that Greece’s already paltry pension and social security payments will be slashed further, despite government lies and propaganda to the contrary. Home foreclosures and auctions will resume, without anything but the flimsiest of temporary protections for the poorest homeowners. These foreclosures and auctions will take place electronically instead of in a courthouse, under cover of darkness and without warning. In the meantime, new privatizations are coming, alongside the development of a new super-fund of sorts which will manage essentially all of Greece’s publicly-owned assets and prepare them to be sold off, at bargain basement prices. And unlike most of the people of Greece, the foreign investors who will be snatching up these assets know very well how valuable a land Greece is.

Of course, all of these privatizations, foreclosures, auctions, as well as the bundling and selling of both prime and subprime loans—where have we heard that before?–will be permitted without any transfer tax or any other taxes being levied. Because when we talk about tax evasion, we are supposed to only talk about the “bad,” “lazy,” “spendthrift” Greeks, but never the “good,” “civilized” foreign saviors in suits. And of course, this was agreed to following those aforementioned “tough” negotiations between the Greek government of “hope” and “change” and the lenders. This result had also been predicted, months in advance, by economist, analyst, and member of Greece’s United Popular Front Dimitris Karousos, but was of course ignored by the international media and of course by the trashy, biased English-language editions of Greece’s media outlets.

So what if people’s homes are foreclosed and thousands of households are thrown out onto the streets? So what if heating oil and gas, already insanely taxed, are taxed some more, along with basic goods and staples through direct and indirect taxation? Who cares if the self-employed and small- and mid-sized businesses will be absolutely slaughtered as a result of these new measures that were voted into law and the avalanche of taxes that they will face? Who cares if there is now zero chance of the minimum wage to be restored to the still-low pre-crisis levels, which at one time the SYRIZA government of supposed “hope” and “change” had promised? And of course, all of this does not even take into account the automatic cuts that will be implemented if Greece does not meet the strict fiscal targets imposed by its so-called saviors. Who cares about all of this? We are talking about a success story here! Of course, though, it’s a success story for the lenders—but not for Greece or for the Greek people. But, the European dream is what everyone wanted, right? So here it is, enjoy it!

And since we are talking about what is surely such a huge, unprecedented success, that must explain why the otherwise “revolutionary” and “radical” and “non gullible” and oh so clever Greek people did not take to the streets. After all, Greece remained in Europe, remained in the Euro, people still have cheese from Holland for their sandwiches (if they can afford the 24% tax, that is), so everything is A-OK, right? That must explain why Greece’s notaries called off their strike protesting the new insurance and pension bill, as soon as that very bill was passed, allowing home foreclosures and auctions to resume. That must also explain why Greece’s lawyers, with their own protracted strike, have inconvenienced ordinary Greek people whose cases have, in some cases, been postponed for years—instead of using their legal knowledge to mobilize the population and protest austerity both old and new.

Ah, but I forgot. We had the usual round of stale, old 3 and 4 and 24 hour so-called “work stoppages,” which of course left enough time for Greece’s “labor leaders”–quotations absolutely necessary—to hit up their favorite tavernas to wine and dine. Work stoppages which have been going on for decades and decades and which not once have made the slightest bit of impact other than inconveniencing people’s lives, which might very well be their real objective, instead of any actual change. For instance, we had the workers on the Athens Metro declare a work stoppage beginning at 9 pm on the night the new measures were to be voted into law. This was enough to discourage many people from coming out to protest, not knowing if they’d have a way to return home. With a low turnout of protesters assured, the work stoppage was then lifted at the last minute, just in time for the usual mass exodus from Syntagma Square once the usual dog-and-pony show between the paid agent provocateurs and the riot police which SYRIZA was at one time going to abolish, was underway.

We of course also had the journalists’ strike as well, which of course just coincidentally happened to fall in the days of final debate before the new measures were to be voted upon by Parliament. Of course, the truth here is that even if there was no strike, there would still have been no actual journalism taking place from these so-called journalists and the media outlets they work for. But just try explaining that to grandma and grandpa in the village and to Greece’s suburban neoliberal class, who still actually think they are being informed by the newscasts that they watch.

All of this is okay though, because there is hope! There is light at the end of the tunnel! We have the “savior” Yanis Varoufakis with his stylish pink t-shirts and his so-called “guerilla interviews,” that is, when he isn’t making “spontaneous” (quotations again necessary) appearances at the protests taking place in France or signing autographs in Spain. The same “heroic” Varoufakis who said that the Greek debt would be repaid in perpetuity, who pillaged the Greek public sector’s cash reserves to pay that debt to the IMF, who imposed capital controls, and who agreed to more austerity and who voted for Greece’s corrupt pro-austerity president Prokopis Pavlopoulos. This same “heroic” Varoufakis is now touting the catastrophic idea of a parallel or dual currency system for Greece as a “solution” while millions of minions lap up his every word. He is joined by the “heroic” Zoe Konstantopoulou, who also knew how to vote “yes to everything” when she was part of the SYRIZA government last year and who continued publicly supporting the government even after it sold out the referendum result of July 5th. She, too, is touting the catastrophic parallel or dual currency solution for Greece, as are fascists such as the far-right Giorgos Karatzaferis and “Sir” (quotations necessary once more) Basil Markezinis, son of a junta prime minister, both of whom have been resurrected from the political graveyard recently.

So since Greece has been saved, has remained in Europe and the vaunted Eurozone, and since there are even more “saviors” in the pipeline who will continue to save Greece well into the future, why bother protesting? The couch is nice and comfortable, is it not? And it’s easier to let the television do the thinking for you, lest you hurt your head. The same television which includes public broadcaster ERT, which is now paying private, oligarch-owned network provider DIGEA to transmit its signal digitally. A company owned by the same oligarchs that the oh so leftist SYRIZA government claims it is going to take down. The same government which will supposedly take down these oligarchs by auctioning off a limited number of television licenses to the highest bidder and the deepest pockets, while Greece’s smaller, independent local television stations are dying off, unable to afford to pay DIGEA exorbitant amounts to carry their signal. This is the same government which, unconstitutionally and in violation of European law, has shut down Greece’s National Radio-Television Committee, leaving the broadcasting landscape entirely unregulated. This is the government which claims it is restoring order to the airwaves, and there are still people who slurp up this propaganda.

Of course, television in Greece knows all about telling people horror stories from countries like Venezuela while telling people that the so-called “leftist” Alexis Tsipras wants to turn Greece just like Venezuela. What they won’t say, of course, is that Venezuela is the victim of both international economic warfare through the sharp decline in oil prices, as well as a victim of its own domestic oligarchs and cartels, who are hoarding goods to create severe market shortages in order to undermine the country’s government. What the media in Greece are also not saying is that many of these horror stories also exist in Greece today as well, in a country that is supposedly being “bailed out” and “saved” day after day by its so-called European friends and partners. What these media outlets in Greece know how to say is that Portugal, Ireland, and Cyprus are supposed “success stories” for concluding their own memorandum agreements. What is not said is that the end of the memorandum agreements has not meant the end of harsh austerity, the end of record numbers of home foreclosures and evictions, or the end of mass migration out of these countries.

And while all of this is happening, I hear many in Greece moaning and groaning about why we can’t be more like the French, who we are told are out on the streets in massive numbers to protest their own anti-labor bills. However, few people, if any, think to ask…how were these supposedly spontaneous demonstrations actually organized, with blogs and websites and hashtags and public assemblies? We saw the savior of not just Greece but apparently the whole world Yanis Varoufakis speak to the protesters in France. Who invited him? Who assured his security? Who paid for his travel and lodging? How did this speech get organized in the first place, logistically and otherwise? And how did these supposedly spontaneous demonstrations spontaneously, as we are supposed to believe, spread to 55 cities in Greece and dozens more in Europe, all on the same day and at the same time? Are we supposed to believe that after such a long period of inactivity and hibernation that everyone suddenly decided that they had enough? And in the meantime, what people in Greece are blissfully unaware of is that while they are whining about their own inactivity, the rest of the world mistakenly believes that it the Greeks who are the ones fighting back, while they are the ones staying inactive! Doesn’t anybody have even the slightest curiosity as to how these perceptions are developed and maintained, and by who?

The answer is that no, most people do not question such things. Instead, in Greece, they run off to again vote for criminals and professional liars like those in SYRIZA, while others, through their abstention from the polls, essentially legitimize the victors in this electoral process instead of giving their votes to the dozens of smaller parties and movements which are struggling to exist. Those same people might participate in yet another lame 3 or 4 hour work stoppage, or by maybe taking a walk down to the center of Athens to “protest” by standing around and drinking beer, before running home to catch Greece’s talking heads on TV again. That’s Greece and that’s the majority of the Greek populace today.