Apr 132016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

1-Hillary-Clinton-warmonger-3

Introduction

From left to right a raucous chorus has emerged to denounce Republican Presidential primary frontrunner Donald Trump as a ‘fascist’. They cite his campaign promises to build an Israeli-style wall along the US border; his threats to expel eleven million undocumented immigrants; and to restrict foreign Muslims from entering the US, as well as the way his pugnacious face and arm resemble those of Benito Mussolini (‘he juts out his chin, he raises his arm’). They decry his extreme nationalism as ‘resembling Hitler’s policy’, by which they mean his opposition to detrimental free trade agreements and his slogan to “Make America Great.. Again.”

In this article I will critically address the current cartoonish image of fascism with fascism’s historical reality, and then proceed to analyze the so-called “lesser evil” politics behind the re-invention of an American fascist in the guise of billionaire Donald Trump.

Fascism: Fact and Fiction

Historically, fascist politics involved organized mass movements, armed militia and paramilitary groups who assaulted political opponents and violently censored critical speech and suppressed the right to assemble. Fascists scapegoated minorities, especially gypsies and Jews, and burned trade unions and leftist headquarters, assassinating their leaders and beating their members. Programmatically, they attacked pacifists and defended overseas wars and empires in the name of ‘living space’. Evoking a past imperial glory, they were not ‘isolationists’.

Candidate Trump has not organized anything resembling a mass movement, let alone an armed militia. There are no ‘TrumpetingBrown Shirts’. At most, the police and a handful of his (often elderly) white supporters have punched a few KKK-dressed provocateurs who have physically disrupted and threatened Trump’s public meetings and his exercise of free speech. In fact, the ‘fascist’ disruption of democratic freedoms seems to be mostly organized and practiced by his political rivals.

Trump, far from scapegoating the powerful Jewish minority in this country, gave a shamelessly Israel-centric speech and received a standing ovation from nearly 18,000 mostly prominent Jews at the March 2016 meeting of the major pro-Israel lobby (AIPAC).

His rhetoric, concerning the expulsion of 11 million undocumented workers from Mexico and Central America and the building of a border wall, is a far cry from the practice of imprisoning and violently expelling over two million undocumented Latinos under the Clinton-Bush-Obama/Clinton regimes. At its worst, Trump promises to continue the existing federal policy on immigration and not create a ‘fascist’ rupture with past administrations. Is a ‘rhetorical cement wall’ worse than the real wall of armed border police, helicopters and armed carriers that have operated under the Presidencies of Clinton – Bush – Obama/Clinton with its hundreds of migrant deaths in the desert? Are declarations of a repressive immigration policy more ‘fascist’ coming from Trump’s loud mouth than the actual official practice of violently seizing undocumented workers from their homes and workplaces with long-term imprisonment and expulsion? Expelling  youth, raised and educated in this country, or violently splitting up productive, well-integrated families and imprisoning their main breadwinners for lack of documents … that’s the official policy of the current and past three administrations.

There is far less of the truly fascist embrace of pre-emptive war and invasion in Trump’s speeches than in the actual policies pursued by the Clinton-Bush-Obama/Clinton regimes. In fact, among Trump’s numerous critics, especially his Republican rivals and the Hillary Clinton camp, we hear the loudest denunciations of his non-interventionist foreign policy (isolationism), which is “out of line” with the interventionist, overseas wars of current and past Republican and Democratic administrations. Trump’s critics and media pundits are ‘horror-struck’ at his apparent willingness to co-operate with Russian President Putin against common enemies, such as ISIS. Is his pragmatic regard of Russia more or less fascist than his rivals’ support for the Ukrainian putsch, orchestrated by the Obama regime in alliance with bona fide armed anti-Semitic Ukrainian fascists? His calls to dump NATO as an expensive drain on US treasure and manpower have the elite howling in outrage!

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The propagandists, who paint Trump as a modern American fascist, cite his crude sexist remarks as ‘examples of a misogynist totalitarian’ while pointing favorably to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as potentially the ‘first feminist President’. In regard to his alleged misogyny, ‘the Donald’ pointed to Madame First Lady, Senator and Secretary Clinton’s promotion and critical role in US wars against Libya, Iraq and Syria where well over one million women have been rendered refugees, raped, injured or killed. Which is worse, one may ask: Crude locker room jokes or millions of orphaned boys and girls denied parents, homes, education and any future in the Middle East and North Africa? That is the world Midwife Hillary Clinton had helped to deliver.

Misogyny is the in the eye of the deceiver.

Are Trump’s verbal attacks on the practice of US multi-nationals relocating abroad to avoid US taxes and Wall Street financial houses hiding billions of the US elites’ obscene wealth in offshore tax shelters, more detrimental to ‘American values’ (as charged) than Hillary Clinton’s pandering to Wall Street while pocketing over $300,000 for each 45 minute sycophantic performance (marketed as her ‘policy lectures’), or her decades of actively promoting  globalization – including the US job-destroying NAFTA?

Clearly Trump currently lacks program, organization and practice that define a fascist politician. At the very worst, he parrots the general line of attack against immigrants and Muslims. So far he would just bar them from the US but not bomb them ‘to the stone-age’. This should be contrasted with the actual policies carried out by the war-criminals Clinton/Bush/Obama-Clinton. It would be hard for Donald to ‘trump’ Hillary when she threatened to ‘obliterate Iran’ and its scores of millions of citizens because of Iran’s fictitious ‘nuclear program’.

On the other hand, Trump’s own meetings and rallies have been the victim of repeated disruption by organized groups acting like fascist thugs. Role reversal in real life: Trump, the target of rabid sustained mass media attacks, is pronounced the fascist …

Bashing Trump: Backdoor Backing of Hillary the Militarist Psychopath

If the objective case for labeling Trump ‘a fascist’ is weak or non-existent, why do so many prestigious academics and journalists play this stupid game of name-calling?

The common sense explanation of their ruffled bluster is because they are setting up ‘Trump-the- Straw-Dragon’ in order to promote the poisonous Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton as the ‘lesser evil candidate’ for President of the United States.

No serious observer minimally aware of Clinton’s carnal embrace of multiple simultaneous disastrous and destructive wars in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Libya, could possibly support her – unless if they are convinced that a greater danger looms on the horizon and “we have to defeat fascist Trump at all cost”? No serious democrat or wage and salaried employee can ignore Madame Clinton’s role as Wall Street’s most shameless pimp unless they ‘believe’ that a loud-mouth New York ‘fascist is worse than Wall Street’.

The phony scaremongering about Trump’s “fascism” just serves to cover up Clinton’s most servile promotion of traitorous wars for the benefit of Israel. One should envision the thousands of desperate Syrian refugees clinging to decrepit boats in the Mediterranean when reading excerpts of Clinton’s private e-mails: According to  WikiLeaks, Hillary declared that “the best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability (sic) is to help (sic) the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. … The fall of the House of Assad could well ignite a sectarian war between the Shiites and the majority Sunnis of the region drawing in Iran, which, in the view of Israeli commanders would not be a bad thing for Israel and its Western allies”. Not a bad thing for Israel – but a cruel and criminal policy against a sovereign nation and multi-ethnic society. Madame Clinton followed through with these demented pronouncements, which can only be viewed as genocidal! Clinton promoted the most violent proxy war, uprooting over half of the civilian population of Syria and killing hundreds of thousands, while shredding a sovereign nation. She thus pandered to her Israeli mentors and Pluto-Zionist funders.

To justify backing a serial war monger, a US Secretary of State who has served Israel’s interests, and a politician who has canalized her ‘feminist principles’ with Wall Street billionaires, Hillary Clinton’s smarmy supporters have had to invent an opponent who is even worse: Creating and then denouncing “Trump the Fascist” serves as a backdoor justification for supporting a proven political psychopath!

Apr 092016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

The terror bombings in Paris and Brussels have raised a cacophony of voices, ranging from state officials, Prime Ministers and Presidents, to academics, journalists and media consultants. Tons of ink and print have focused on the psychology, networks and operations of the alleged perpetrators – radicalized young Muslim citizens of the EU.

Few have examined the long-term, large-scale policies of the EU, US and NATO, which have been associated with the development and growth of the worldwide terror networks. This essay will discuss the historical links between Islamist terrorists and the US-Saudi Arabian–Pakistan intervention in Afghanistan, as well as the consequences of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. In Iraq, the US implemented a deliberate policy of destroying all secular state structures and promoting the Balkanization of the country via ethnic-religious and tribal wars – a policy it has followed in subsequent areas of intervention.

The last section will focus on the US-EU-Gulf Petrol-Monarchy proxy invasions and ‘regime change’ bombings of the secular republics of Libya and Syria with the further cultivation and growth of international Islamist terrorism.

Historical Origins of International Islamist Terrorism: Afghanistan

Carpet bombing of Tutukhan hill, northwest of Kabul, during 2nd phase of the U.S air war

Carpet bombing of Tutukhan hill, northwest of Kabul, during 2nd phase of the U.S air war

In 1979, President James Carter and his National Security Chief, Zbigniew Brzezinski, launched Operation Cyclone, a major Islamist uprising against the Soviet- aligned secular Afghan regime. The US coordinated it campaign with the rabidly anti-Soviet monarchy in Saudi Arabia, which provided the funding and mercenaries for ‘international jihad’ against secular governance. This brutal campaign ‘officially’ lasted 10 years until the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. It produced millions of casualties and decades ‘blow-back’ when the CIA-Pakistani-Saudi trained Arab mercenaries (the ‘Afghan-Arabs’) returned to their home countries and elsewhere. The US intelligence agencies, Special Forces Commands and military directorates (especially Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service) trained and armed terrorists with US-Saudi funding. The American covert financial contribution mushroomed over the years rising to over $670 million dollars a year by 1987. Tens of thousands of Islamist mercenaries and adventurers were recruited from the Middle East, North Africa, the Gulf States, the Soviet Union (Chechens), Yugoslavia (Bosnians and Kosovars), China (Uigurs) and Western Europe.

With the defeat of the secular regime of President Najibullah in 1992, the Islamists and tribal factions then fought among themselves, converting Afghanistan into the world’s best-equipped training ground for International Islamist terrorists. Eventually, the Pashtun-based Taliban faction (with Pakistani arms and support) prevailed and established an extreme Islamist regime. The Taliban, despite its rhetoric, settled down to consolidating their brand of ‘Islamism in one country’, (1995-2001), a largely nationalist project. In its quest for respectability, it successfully destroyed the opium poppy fields, earning the praise of US President GW Bush in spring 2001. It also hosted a variety of Saudi princes and warlords, eventually including the jihadi-internationalist Osama bin Laden, who had been driven from North Africa.

Following the terrorist attack on the US in September 2001, US and NATO invaded Afghanistan of October 2001 and overthrew the nation-centered Islamist Taliban regime. The subsequent chaos and guerrilla war opened up a huge new inflow and outflow of thousands of international extremists who came to Afghanistan, trained, fought and then departed, fully prepared to practice their terrorist skills in their countries of origin in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

The US interventions and invasion of Afghanistan provide some of the context for the subsequent bombings in Europe and the US. The Islamist ‘returnees’ to Europe and elsewhere had received funds from Saudi Arabia and training from the CIA and Pakistani intelligence. They began their work among a very ‘available’ constituency of potential recruits in the marginalized Muslim youth of the ghettos and prisons of Europe.

The Middle Period: The US-Zionist Invasion and Destruction of Iraq

Fallujah, Iraq

Fallujah, Iraq

The turning point in the growth and internationalization of Islamist terrorism was the US invasion, occupation and systematic reign of terror in Iraq. Largely under the guidance of key US Zionist policymakers (and Israeli advisers) in the Pentagon, State Department and the White House, the US dismantled the entire secular Iraqi army and police forces. They also purged the administrative, civil, educational, medical and scientific institutions of nationalistic secular professionals, opening the field to warring Islamist tribal factions. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed and millions fled in a regime of ethnic cleansing – which Washington touted as a model for the rest of the Middle East. However, thousands of experienced, but jobless Iraqi military officers, who had survived the US-orchestrated purges, regrouped and eventually joined with tens of thousands of nationalist and internationalist Islamist extremists to form ISIS. Their motives were arguably less ethno-religious and more related to revenge for their displacement and the destruction of their own society.

The deliberate US (Zionist)-EU-Saudi strategy to divide and conquer Iraq initially involved working closely with Sunni feudal tribal leaders and other extremists to counter the rising power of pro-Iranian Shia. They promoted a policy of fragmenting the country with the Kurds dominating in the North, the Sunnis in the center and the Shia in the south (the so-called Joseph Biden-Leslie Gelb Plan of national dismemberment and ethnic cleansing). The rationale was to create a weak central authority completely under US-EU tutelage and loose group of fragmented subsistence fiefdoms in what had been the most advanced secular Arab republic.

Despite pouring billions of dollars in arms from the US to create a puppet-colonial Iraqi ‘national army’, the Saudis and Israelis pursued their own policy of financing sectors of the Kurds and violent Sunni opposition – with the latter forming the original mass base of ISIS.

As the US-client Shia regime in Baghdad focused on stealing billions while killing or exiling hundreds of thousands of educated Sunnis, Christians and other secular Iraqis from the capital, the morale of its US-puppet troops plummeted. With the entire experienced and nationalist Iraqi officer core purged (slaughtered or driven into hiding), the new puppet officers were cowardly, corrupt and incompetent – as openly acknowledged by their US ‘advisers’. ISIS, meanwhile had acquired hundreds of thousands of US weapons and was financed by the Shia-hating Saudi Royal Family and other Gulf Monarchs. Armed Sunnis soon launched major, lightning-quick offensives under the leadership of ex-Baathist army officers, supported by thousands of terrorists, suicide bombers and foreign mercenaries. US and European ‘military experts’ expressed ‘shock’ at their effectiveness.

ISIS routed the Baghdad-controlled army, their US advisers and Kurdish allies from northern Iraq, capturing major cities, including Mosul, thousands of productive oil wells and drove their forces to within a few dozen kilometers of Baghdad. Territorial conquest and military successes attracted thousands more Islamist volunteers from the Middle East, Europe, Afghanistan and even North America. ISIS provided the military training; Saudi Arabia paid their salaries; Turkey purchased their captured oil and antiquities and opened its borders to the transfer of jihadi troops and weapons. Israel, for its part, purchased captured ISIS petrol at a discount from corrupt Turkish traders. Each regional player had its snout in the bloody trough that had once been Iraq!

ISIS successes in Iraq, led it to expand its operations and ambitions across the border into Syria. This occurred just as the US and EU were bombing and destroying the secular government of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, in another ‘wildly successful’ planned campaign of ‘regime change’ (According to US Secretary of State Clinton as she gleefully watched the captive wounded Gadhafi ‘snuff film’ by unspeakable torture – ‘WE came and HE died’.).

Smoke fills the sky over Tripoli

Smoke fills the sky over Tripoli

The chaos that ensued in Libya led to an exponential growth of extremist Islamist groups with tons of weapons of ‘liberated’ Libyan weapons! Islamist terrorists in Libya gained territory, took over oil wells and attracted ‘volunteers’ from the marginalized youth of neighboring Tunisia, Egypt, Mali and as far away as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – flush with more guns, money and training. Many graduates went on to Syria and Iraq.

The Contemporary Period: EU-US-Turkey-Saudi-Israeli Sponsored War in Syria

Syrian government “barrel bombs”? No, U.S. “precision bombing” lays waste to Kobanê, 18 October 2014. Drive the imperialists out of the Middle East!  (Kai Pfaffenbac//Reuters

Syrian government “barrel bombs”? No, U.S. “precision bombing” lays waste to Kobanê, 18 October 2014. Drive the imperialists out of the Middle East! (Kai Pfaffenbac//Reuters

In 2011, as ISIS rolled across the Iraqi border into Syria and terrorist Islamist bands seized cities in Libya, the US-EU-Turkish-Saudi and Israeli regimes financed and armed Islamist (and the mythical ‘moderate’) forces in Syria to overthrow the nationalist-secular Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad.

Thousands of Islamist extremist volunteers heeded the call (and the fat paychecks) of the Saudi regime and its Salafist propagandists. These constituted the Saudi Royal Family’s own ‘Foreign Legion’. They were trained and armed and shipped into Syria by Turkish intelligence. The US armed and trained hundreds of its own so-called ‘moderate rebels’ whose fighters quickly defected to ISIS and other terrorist groups turning over tons of US arms, while the ‘moderate rebel leaders’ gave press conferences from London and Washington. ISIS seized swaths of Syrian territory, sweeping westward toward the Russian naval and air bases on the coast and upward from the south, encircling Damascus. Millions were uprooted and minority populations were enslaved or slaughtered.

The news of ISIS territorial gains with their plundered oil wealth from sales to Turkey and the flow of arms from Saudi Arabia, the EU and the US attracted over 30,000 ‘volunteer’ mercenaries from North America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

These new terrorists received military training, including bomb making and logistical planning in Syria. Many were citizens of the EU, Islamist extremists, numbering over five thousand. These young fighters trained and fought in Syria and then returned to France, Belgium, Germany and the rest of the EU. They had gone to Syria with the tacit support and/or tolerance of their own European governments who had used them, rather than NATO troops, in the US-EU campaign of ‘regime change’ against Damascus.

The European governments were sure they had ‘their’ Muslim recruits under control as they joined the US in a reckless policy of overthrowing independent secular governments in the Middle East and North Africa. They happily encouraged their marginalized young Muslim citizens to flock Syria and fight. They hoped they would remain in Syria (fighting on the ground or buried under the ground). Officially, EU leaders claimed to support ‘moderate rebels’ (the bland term Western media used to sanitize Islamist terrorists) fighting the Assad ‘dictatorship’. European regimes were not prepared to detain the battle hardened ‘returnees’, who had been trained in Iraq and Syria. These young European Muslims (children of immigrants or converts to Islam) had been heavily indoctrinated and incorporated into international terrorist networks. They easily melted back into their marginalized European urban ghettos – beyond the control of Europe’s bloated intelligence services.

In practice, the EU regimes saw the thousands of Europe’s Muslim youth flocking to Syria as an ‘EU Foreign Legion’, a glorified wastebasket for unemployed young thugs and ex-prisoners, who would advance NATO’s imperial goals while solving the domestic social problem of the marginalized children of North African migrants. Europe’s Muslim youth were viewed as convenient cannon fodder by NATO planners and the governments of France, Belgium and the UK. For public relations, it was better for these young men and women to die overthrowing the secular government in Syria than to send in European soldiers (white Christians) whose deaths would have domestic political repercussions.

The EU underestimated the depth of antagonism these ‘volunteers’ felt about US-EU intervention in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as their anger at Europe’s continued support for Israeli land grabs in Palestine. In its racist arrogance, EU leaders underestimated the capacity of ISIS to indoctrinate, train and organize these marginalized kids from Europe’s slums into effective international cells able to carry the war back to Europe.

The EU smugly overlooked the active roles of Turkey and Saudi Arabia who had their own independent, regional ambitions. Ankara and Riyadh trained and financed the ‘volunteers’, and facilitated their flow into Syria from camps in Turkey and Jordan. The wounded were treated in Turkey and sometimes even in Israel. Thousands, many EU citizens, would flow back into Europe or to their countries of origin in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Russia.

The EU had slavishly and blindly followed Washington’s lead in all its Middle East wars. Now it is paying a big price:  Thousands of trained terrorists have returned; bombings and attacks on European civilians and civil structures have occurred, while the European government leaders trip over each other in a mad rush to dismantle civil and constitutional citizen rights and impose wide ranging police state measures (States of Emergency).

These new Saudi-funded terrorist recruits (Riyadh’s Legionnaires) are active in all the countries where the US and EU have launched proxy wars: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan. Turkey funds ISIS terrorists in Syria, Iraq and Kurdish territories to advance its own expansionist ambitions – oblivious to the clucking disapproval of EU leaders. Now Turkey receives over 6 billion Euro’s from the EU in what amounts to blackmail: In return, Turkey will ‘contain’ the flood of regional refugees in barely disguised concentration camps out of European sight.

Conclusion

            Ever since the US-EU policymakers decided to implement a war against Arab and West Asian secular nationalism in the Middle-East, Afghanistan, Iran and North Africa through serial ‘regime change’ campaigns they have relied on Islamist Salafist mercenaries and volunteers to do most of the killing on the ground, while the West operates from the air. Washington and its NATO allies operated on the assumption that they could use and then discard their recruits, mostly from marginalized urban youth and criminal gangs, once they had served imperial military purposes. A few with requisite talent and ruthlessness could be turned into puppet ‘leaders’ to unleash on the Russians and other ‘obstacles’ in future engagements.

The EU-US totally misunderstood the volunteers’ high level of independence, their organizational autonomy and their own understanding of the tactical nature of their alliance with Western imperialism. Islamist extremist leaders, like their Western counterparts, believe there are no permanent alliances – only permanent interests.

The EU and US have pursued a policy of overthrowing independent Muslim and secular Arab nations and returning them to the status of pre-independence semi-colonies. The rollback policy against secular nationalism (with its deep roots in the Dulles era) has extended from North Africa, through the Middle East to Southwest Asia. For its part, ISIS and its allies envision a return to a pre-colonial Islamic caliphate over the same lands and people to counter Western imperialism. Millions are caught in the middle.

ISIS views the Westernized secular elites in the Muslim countries as a fifth column for the spread of empire, while it has re-socialized and trained young Islamists from the EU to serve as networks of terrorists ‘behind enemy lines’ sowing mayhem in the West.

The political repercussions of this internationalized war are profound. Millions of civilians in the war zones have been and will be killed, uprooted and converted into desperate refugees flooding the EU. Police-state emergency rule, arbitrary searches, arrests and interrogations have become the norm in the highly militarized European airports, train and metro stations, as well as markets and cultural centers. The EU has increasingly undergone an ‘Israelization’ of its society, with its population polarized and resembling Israel- Palestinian . . . its Muslim community marginalized and confined into little Gaza’s.

In this charged atmosphere, Israeli high tech security companies and advisers flourish, mergers and acquisitions of police state technology multiply. Israeli Prime Minister Benny Netanyahu embraces the French Prime Minister Hollande in the club of electoral authoritarians.

Meanwhile the refugees and their children flow to and fro, the bombs come and go. We line up to place flowers on our latest dead and then pay our taxes for more wars in the Middle East. More young ‘volunteers’ will become cheap fodder to fight in our wars; some will return and plant more bombs, so we can mourn some more at patriotic vigils – protected by armed battalions…

Mar 072016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

9/12/07 Salon Blanco: Banco del Sur.

Introduction

Over the past three years Latin American leftist leaders, who presided over heterodox ‘free trade’ and commodity based welfare economies, lost presidential, legislative and municipal elections and referendums or faced impeachment. They fell because they lost competitive elections, not because of US invasions or military coups. These same leftist leaders, who had successfully defeated coups and withstood gross US political intervention via AID, NED, the DEA and other US government agencies, lost at the ballot box.

What accounts for the changing capacity of leftist presidents to retain majoritarian electoral support over almost a decade? Why did the US-backed and funded candidates win this time, when they had been defeated in several previous elections? What accounts for the defeat of the rightist violent road to power and their subsequent victory via the electoral process?

Class Struggle and Popular Mobilization as a Prelude to Leftist Electoral Victories

The electoral victories of the Left were preceded by a deep crisis in the ‘free market’ and deregulated economies, which were accompanied by intense class struggle from below. Class struggle polarized and radicalized vast sections of the working and middle classes.

In Argentina, the total collapse of the financial and manufacturing system led to a popular uprising and the rapid overthrow of three presidents. In Bolivia, two popular uprisings overthrew two US backed ‘free market’ presidents. In Ecuador, a popular ‘citizen movement’ ousted a US-backed president.

In Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela, burgeoning peasant and urban movements, engaged in direct action and in opposition to their ‘free market’ presidents, resulted in the election of left presidents.

Four inter-connected factors came to the fore to explain the left’s rise to power: First, the dramatic collapse and ensuing socio-economic crisis, entailing poverty, stagnation and repression by rightwing regimes, precipitated a large-scale shift to the left. Secondly, the intense class struggle, responding to the crisis, politicized the workers, radicalized the downwardly mobile middle classes and eroded the influence of the ruling class and the impact of their elite-controlled mass media. Thirdly, the leftist presidents promised long-term large-scale structural changes and successfully implemented immediate social impact programs (employment, social benefits, bank deposit protection, pay raises and large scale public investments). Last, but not least, the leftist presidents came to power at the beginning of or during a mega-cycle commodity boom providing multi-billion dollar surpluses in export earnings and tax revenues with which to finance new inclusionary social programs.

Electoral Clientalized Politics, Social De-Mobilization and Extractive Partnerships

During the first years of the left governments, they kept the heat on the rightwing elites: defeating abortive coups, expelling intrusive US Ambassadors and US agencies and defeating the local US clients.

They moved on the legal front to consolidate political power by convoking constitutional assemblies to approve progressive constitutions. They attracted and built on the support from their new indigenous, popular and middle class constituents.

The constitutional changes reorganized new social alignments, especially the rights of indigenous people, but fell far short of serving as the basis for a change of property relations.

The left governments reinforced their dependence on agro-mineral exports by designing a growth strategy based on economic partnership with multi-nationals and agro-business plantation owners.

The rising prices of commodities on the world market led to increases in government revenues, public investment in infrastructure and expanded employment in the public sector. The left governments constructed large-scale patronage systems and clientelistic electoral machines, which ‘mobilized’ the masses on electoral and ceremonial occasions and for international forums.

International left academics and journalists were impressed by the left administrations’ fiery rhetoric supporting anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal policies. Local and overseas pundits parroted the rhetoric about new forms of ‘socialism’, 21st century socialism in Ecuador and Venezuela and Andean socialism in Bolivia.

In actual practice long-term, large-scale contracts were signed with international giants like, Repsol, Monsanto, Jindel and scores of other imperial backed multi-nationals.

Big agro-exporters received credits, loans and technical aid while peasants and local producers received only the paper ‘land titles’ for their small holdings. No large-scale land distributions were undertaken. Landless peasants, who were engaged in land occupations, were forcibly evicted. Increased government spending on credit and technical assistance was channeled almost exclusively to large-scale soya, cattle, cotton and other agro-exporters, which increased rural class inequalities and exacerbated the decline of food security.

During the decade, militants became functionaries, who developed ties with business groups and began their own process of ‘social mobility’.

The agro-mineral export model raised incomes and reduced poverty but also accentuated inequalities between government functionaries and peasants and urban workers. The newly affluent, upwardly mobile middle class no longer flocked to hear ‘egalitarian rhetoric’. They sought security, pursued credit-financed consumerism and looked upward toward the wealthy elite for their role models and life style changes – rather than expressing solidarity with those left behind.

From Retreat to Defeat: Pragmatic Accommodation as a Formula for Neo-Liberal Restoration

The leaders’ anti-imperialist rhetoric was increasingly discounted by most people as it was contrasted with the large-scale inflow of capital and the contracts with multi-nationals.

The symbolic ‘gestures’ and local projects celebrated before large crowds were accepted but increasingly failed to compensate for the daily routines of centralized power and local corruption.

Over the decade the political cadres of the left governments rounded-up votes via electoral patronage favors, financed by bribes from contractors and illicit transfers of public funds.

Re-election bred complacency, arrogance and a sense of impunity. The perquisites of office were taken for granted by party leader but were perceived as unwarranted privileges by many working class and peasant voters.

The de-radicalization process at the top and middle levels of the left regimes led the lower classes to rely on individualistic, family and local solutions to their everyday problems.

With the demise of the commodity cycle, the broad coalition of workers, peasants, middle class and professional groups splintered. Many rejected the malfeasance of the left regimes as a betrayal of the promise of change.

Thus the popular sectors embraced the moralizing critique mounted by the right.

The retrograde radical right exploited discontent with the incumbents and played down or disguised their plans to reverse and undermine the employment and salary gains, pensions and family allowance gained over the decade.

Conclusion

The left governments stimulated the growth of extractive capitalism and converted their mass base into a passive recipient of regime reforms.

The unequal power between leaders and followers was tolerated as long as the incremental rewards continued to flow.

As classes rose in the social hierarchy they shed their leftist ideology born of crisis and looked to elite politicians as the new ‘modernizers’.

The left regimes encouraged a ‘dependency culture’ in which they competed for votes on the bases of growth, markets and patronage.

The left functionaries, unable to rise via the ‘closed’ agro-mineral sectors – under the control of the multi-nationals, turned to state corruption, extracting ‘commissions’ as intermediaries for the MNC, or simply absconding with public funds allocated for municipal health, education and infrastructure projects.

As a result, electoral promises were not kept. The corrupt practices were ignored by their elected leaders, deeply offending the popular electorate, who were disgusted by the spectacle of corrupt left politicians applauding radical rhetoric while raiding federal funds with impunity.

Party loyalty undermined any national political oversight of local politicians and functionaries. Disenchantment with the local functionaries spread up to the top.  Popular leaders, who were repeatedly elected soon, were implicated or at least complicit in bribe-taking.

The end of the decade and the end of the commodity bookmarked the twilight of idols. The left lost elections throughout the region.

Epilogue

The Kirchner-Fernandez regime was defeated in Argentina (2015).

The Lula-Rousseff regime faces indictment and impeachment in Brazil (2014-2016).

The Chavez-Maduro regime lost the legislative election in Venezuela (2015).

The Evo Morales regime lost the constitutional amendment allowing the president’s third term re-election in Bolivia (2016).

Dec 102015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

venezuela-election15-47

Introduction

Pundits and commentators on the Left and Right are pronouncing ‘the end of the progressive cycle in Latin America’. They cite the recent presidential elections:

1. Argentina, where hard-right Mauricio Macri was elected;

2. Brazil, where President Dilma Rousseff has appointed a neo-liberal ‘Chicago Boy’ economist, Joaquin Levy, as Finance Minister and launched an IMF-style regressive structural adjustment policy designed to reduce social expenditures and attract financial speculators; and

3. Venezuela, where Washington channeled millions of dollars to far-right parties, as well as violent extra-parliamentary and paramilitary groups, to destabilize the center-left Maduro government; right-wing Democratic Unity Coalition  (MUD) won the legislative elections in December 2015 with more than 2:1 margin over the Chavista Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV).

No doubt progressive social legislation has come to a virtual halt, even before the recent political advances of the US-backed right-wing parties with their neo-liberal economic agenda.

But paralysis, and even retreat and electoral defeats of the center-left regimes, do not mean the return to the neo-liberal 1990’s, a period of privatizations, pillage and plunder, which had plunged millions into poverty, unemployment and marginality.

Whatever the current voting results, the collective memory of mass hardship, resulting from ‘free market’ policies, is seared in the memory of the vast majority of the working population.

Any attempt by the newly elected officials to ‘unmake and reverse’ the social advances of the past decade will be met with (1) militant resistance, if not open class warfare; (2) institutional and political constraints; (3) and low commodity prices drastically limiting export revenues.

A careful analysis of the policies proposed by the neoliberal right, their implementation and impact will demonstrate their likely failure and the rapid demise of any new right-wing offensive. This will abort the neoliberal cycle.

Argentina: President Macri and Wall Street – Premature Ejaculation

In the upper income neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, there was singing and dancing in the streets as the Presidential election results rolled in and Mauricio Macri was pronounced the victor. Wall Street, the City of London and their financial mouthpieces, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, announced the coming of a new era and the end of ‘anti-investor, populism and nationalism, wasteful social spending’ referring to increases in pensions, family allowances and wages, approved by the previous center-left government.

Mauricio Macri does not merely represent the plutocracy; he is one of the richest plutocrats in Argentina. He not only boasts of a ‘carnal relationship’ with Washington in his acceptance speech, he pleasured US President Obama by announcing he would work to expel Venezuela from MERCOSUR, Latin America’s foremost regional economic integration organization.

Macri announced a cabinet made up of hard-core neoliberal economists, former supporters of the military dictatorship and even a rabid rightwing rabbi. He then spelled out his policy agenda, which had been cleverly hidden during his electoral campaign when his raucous rhetoric for ‘change’, spoke to everybody and nobody.

Macri promises to (1) end capital controls, export taxes and retentions on agro-business exports, (2) devaluate the peso, (3) pay over $1.2 billion dollars of Argentine public money to the Wall Street vulture-speculator, Paul Singer, who had bought $49 million dollars of old Argentine debt (a profit of astronomical proportions for buying paper), (4) privatize and de-nationalize the state-owned airline, oil company and pension funds (5)sign-off on  EU and US-centered free trade agreements, thus undermining Latin America integration projects like MERCOSUR; (6) tear up the joint memo of understanding with Iran regarding an investigation into a terror bombing as requested by Israel; and (7) expel Venezuela from MERCOSUR.

In a word, the multi-millionaire playboy President plans harsh austerity for the Argentine working class and bountiful handouts for the economic elite.

The day after the elections, local and overseas speculators boosted Argentine stocks 40% anticipating the free market bonanza. George Soros and hedge fund mogul, Daniel Loeb, ‘piled into Argentine assets’. Investment fund managers urged Macri to act swiftly in imposing his ‘sweeping reforms’  before Argentina’s famous capacity for mass popular resistance could be organized to resist his policies.

Macri’s Wall Street and Washington patrons are well aware that their clients’ boisterous big business bombast faces serious political obstacles because his policies will provoke severe economic hardships.

President Macri does not even have a majority in Congress to approve his radical proposals. The congress is controlled by a coalition of rightwing and center-left Peronist parties, which will need to be coaxed, bought or coerced.

The Argentine Congress will balk at supporting his entire neoliberal agenda. When he resorts to ‘executive decrees’ to bypass Congress, he will be contested in the courts, streets and legislature. It is doubtful he will be able to neutralize all his critics and implement his radical neoliberal agenda.

The head of the Central Bank, Alejandro Vanoli, who was appointed by the previous center-left Fernandez government, is not likely to go along with Macri’s tight money policy, radical devaluation and fiscal austerity. Marco will likely look for a pretext to purge the incumbent and nominate a free market crony. However, the institutional damage will increase the general sense of a lawless regime willing to trample the constitutional order to impose his free market dogma.

Macri’s promise to end the ‘tax’ retention on agro-exports will decrease government revenues, exacerbating the fiscal deficit and necessitating deeper reductions in social expenditures. The contrast between higher earnings for the agro-business elite and lower living standards for labor is an invitation to greater class hostility and strife. Even more decisive Macri’s “export strategy” will be undermined by the low world demand and prices of Argentine commodity exports.

Macri’s promise to end capital and price controls on his first day in office will provoke a major devaluation of the peso which may exceed 60%. This will automatically result in severe increases in the price of consumer goods and increased profits for the export elites, provoking mass unrest across the occupational spectrum.

Macri promises to meet with the 7% of speculator hold-outs of old Argentine debt (from the pillage years of the 1990’s) demanding full payment with interest, especially the ‘vulture funds’ led by Wall Street’s Paul Singer of Elliott Capital Management. Pay-offs of over $1.3 billion on an original $49 million purchase of Argentine debt to Wall Street speculators will provoke fury among Argentine workers and nationalists who will shoulder the added burden on top of austerity and cuts in social welfare. Moreover, the 93% of debt holders, who had agreed to the ‘financial haircut’ and discounted the debt at 70% will now demand full payment multiplying tenfold the demands on the Treasury with disastrous consequences.

The devaluation and decline of purchasing power will not attract the ‘tidal wave of foreign investment’ to lift the economy and provide jobs and general prosperity as Macri had promised during his campaign. Foreign capital will not create new enterprises; they will concentrate on buying  existing privatized public enterprises at fire-sale prices. Incoming capital will not increase the productive forces; it will only shift the direction of the flow of profits from public coffers to private pockets, from the domestic economy to overseas investors.

Neoliberalism: Then and Now

The general foreign and domestic political climate is vastly different today from the 1990’s when the previous neoliberal experiment was launched with such disastrous consequences. In the late 1980’s, Argentina was suffering from acute inflation, stagnation and declining income. The working class organizations were still recovering from the murderous decade of military rule. Moreover, in the 1990’s the US was at the pinnacle of imperial power in Latin America. China was only beginning its dynamic growth cycle. The USSR had disintegrated and Russia was a struggling vassal state. Latin America was ruled by a motley collection of neo-liberal clones under the thumb of the IMF.

Today Macri faces an organized working class. The trade unions and militant popular movements are intact and have experienced a decade of substantial gains under a center-left government. The IMF experience remains a poisonous memory for hundreds of thousands of Argentines. Hundreds of military officials responsible for crimes against humanity have been arrested, tried and prosecuted under the out-going regime. The threat of a military coup, ever-present in the 1980’s and 90’s, is non-existent. China has become the key market for Argentine agro exports (soya). Macri, despite his declared passion to serve Washington, is obligated to accommodate to the Chinese market.

Any moves out of MERCOSUR and into the arms of the Transpacific Trade Agreement will prejudice Argentina’s strategic trade links with Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay. Today Macri will find a hostile climate in Latin America for his proposed embrace of the US. His promise to ‘expel Venezuela from MERCOSUR’ has already been rejected by its members.

In summary, Macri will find it impossible to replicate the neoliberal policies of the 1990’s for all the above reasons. There is one additional factor to consider: The earlier version of the ‘free-market experiment’ led to the most severe economic depression in Argentine history with double-digit negative growth, unemployment exceeding 50% in working class districts (and 25% nationally) and poverty and extreme misery in some Argentine provinces exceeding Sub-Sahara Africa.

If Macri believes he can rush through the “harsh medicine” – and avoid the inevitable mass protest – while attracting a massive inflow of capital with which to rapidly grow the economy, he is gravely mistaken. After the initial giveaways and uptake of the stock market, the Soros and Loeb speculators will grab their profits and run. Weakened domestic consumption and the depressed global commodity market do not attract long term, large-scale capital.

The real question is not (as the financial pundits claim) whether Macri will ‘seize the opportunity’ but how soon after he tries to impose his free market model his regime will crash amid the ruins of a depressed economy, raging inflation and general strikes.

Brazil: Right Turn or a Left Opportunity

Commentators left and right cite the vertical decline of support for President
Dilma Rousseff from over 50% to less than 10% as a sign of the ‘decline of the left’. Judicial investigations have led to the arrest and prosecution of dozens of Congressional leaders of the so-called ‘Workers Party”’(PT) for wholesale bribery, money laundering and illicit transfers of millions of dollars!

Prosecutors have jailed scores of PT officials, legislators and senior executives of the giant public petroleum company, Petrobras, the directors of the biggest construction companies and investment banks who were partners in crime with former PT President Lula Da Silva. The one-time trade union leader, President Lula, turned into a poster boy for Wall Street and more recently a notorious influence peddler for Brazilian big businesses.

Prosecutors have arrested 117 officials from Petrobras, the giant state oil corporation, and Brazil’s biggest company. They have arrested two of Brazil’s most powerful capitalists: Marcelo Odebrecht, president of Constructora Norberto Odebrecht, and Octavio Marquez de Acevedo of the Andrade Gutierrez Corporation. Both contributed to the Workers Party electoral campaign of ex-President Lula Da Silva and current President Dilma Rousseff.

Big business contributors, currently under investigation or jailed, had received forty-times the value of their political donations in terms of lucrative PT government contracts (a 4000% return on investment!).

Criminal cases and arrests for ‘bribes for contracts’ schemes have affected the financial sector, including the billionaire financier Andre Esteves, founder-President of BTG Pactual , a close friend and associate of Lula Da Silva.

The entire elite of Brazil’s capitalist and financial class has been indicted, jailed or is under investigation. The Treasurer of the PT, Senate and Congressional leaders and Presidential advisers of the ‘Workers’ Party have been arrested and jailed for bribes, money laundering and fraud, in connection with the Petrobras and other corporate corruption scandals.

The judicial investigation demonstrates that the PT had become a party of the corporate elite. PT leaders and officials work closely with business elites in channeling billions to corporate treasuries. In contrast, the PT’s so-called “poverty program” donated $60 a month to poor families, just above subsistence level. This poverty program was part of a vast patronage machine designed to secure votes to elect corrupt officials embedded with big capital and financiers!

While the prosecutors are not explicitly anti-capitalist, the investigations have exposed the corrupt basis of capitalist rule. In the course of one year Brazilian prosecutors have conducted deeper and more thorough research on the power elite and determined how it rules, exploits and pillages the wealth of the country than any analysis by the vast majority of ‘leftist’ academics and journalists over the fifteen years of PT mis-governance.

The prosecutors have acted against the entire class of capitalist executives and their political partners in the PT with greater force and integrity than the major ‘left’ trade union (the CUT) and social movement (Landless Rural Workers (MST) leaders. The CUT and MST leaders secured minor regime concessions, in exchange for ignoring the large-scale, long-term criminal links between bankers, agro-businesspeople, industrialists and the PT.

While leaders of the MST, the CUT and the National Union of Students gave ‘critical’ support to Presidents Lula and Dilma and their entourage of corrupt Congresspeople, the prosecutors exposed years of endemic fraud, swindles and bribes which had enabled the PT leaders to buy luxury BMWs, Rolex watches and million-dollar villas and luxury condos in exclusive neighborhoods.

Deltan Dallagnol, one of the prosecutors leading the investigation, has demonstrated that the PT works for the rich and powerful, foreign and domestic capitalists and deceives the poor. His investigations demonstrate that the PT is not a ‘center-left’ party – it is a party of kleptocrats working for capitalists.

One thing is sure:  the PT is not a party embracing diverse popular classes; it is not an arena for popular struggle. It is a party that serves diverse capitalist sectors, including finance, construction, petroleum and agro business.

Because of corruption, the cost of government projects doubled and tripled. As a result vital social services were starved of funds and deteriorated and public transport construction was delayed for years.

In summary, the decline and discredit of the PT is not a defeat for the Left  because the PT regime never was on the left. On the contrary, the discredit of the PT is a positive victory for anti-capitalist forces struggling against the ruling class and political elite.

Conclusion

The victory of hard right neoliberal Mauricio Macri in Argentina and the disintegration of the PT do not augur a new rightwing cycle in Latin America. Marco’s economic team will quickly confront mass opposition and, outside the upper class neighborhoods, they lack any political mass support. Their policies will polarize the country and undermine the stability, which investors require. Brutal devaluations and the end of capital controls are formulas, not for economic development, but for inciting general strikes. Conflict, stagnation and hyperinflation will put an end to the enthusiasm of local and foreign investors.

Moreover, Macri cannot embrace Washington’s entire agenda because Argentina’s natural trading partner is China.

Macri’s regime is the beginning and the end of a reversion to the neo-liberal disaster, similar to what took place at the end of the 1990’s.

The fall of the PT, more a product of conscientious prosecutors than the action of trade unions and social movements, opens political space for new working class struggles, free from the constraints of corrupt leaders and bureaucrats.

Even if the Right returns to power in Brazil – it is tainted with the same stench of corruption; its capitalist partners are in jail or facing prosecution. In other words, the fall of the PT is only part of the decline and decay of all the capitalist parties.

Over time, soon after the collapse of the ‘New Right’, a new authentic left may emerge, free of corruption and links to big business. Hopefully, an authentic working class party will form, which can pursue socio-economic policies to end exploitation of labor, the pillage of the public treasury and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. This should be a left, which sustains the environment, respects nature and upholds the rights of Afro-Brazilians, indigenous people and women.

Oct 142015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

The major influential western print media are engaged in a prolonged, large-scale effort to demonize Russian President Putin, his politics and persona. There is an article (or several articles) every day in which he is personally stigmatized as a dictator, authoritarian, czar, ‘former KGB operative’ and Soviet-style ruler; anything but the repeatedly elected President of Russia.

He is accused of hijacking Russia from the ‘road to democracy’, as pursued by his grotesquely corrupt predecessor Boris Yeltsin; of directing the bloody repression of the ‘freedom loving Chechens’; of jailing innocent, independent and critical oligarchs and robber barons; of fomenting an uprising in the ‘democratic, newly pro-Western’ Ukraine and seizing control of Crimea; of backing a ‘bloody tyrant’ in Syria (elected President Bashar Assad) in a civil war against ISIS terrorists; of running the Russian economy into the ground; and of militarily threatening the Baltic and Eastern European  NATO member countries.

In a word, the media have propagated an image of an ‘out-of-control autocrat’, who makes a mockery of ‘democratic’ norms and ‘Western values’, and who seeks to revive the ‘Soviet (aka Evil) Empire’.

The corollary is that ‘Western powers’, despite their peace-loving propensities and fraternal attempts to bring Russia into the democratic ‘fold’, have been ‘forced’ to now surround Russia with NATO military bases and missiles; to finance a violent coup in the Ukraine (on Russia’s frontier) and arm the Ukrainian putsch government and neo-fascist militias to ‘restore democracy’ and violently suppress ethnic Russian ‘separatists’ in Eastern Ukraine. We are told that US and EU sanctions against Russia were carefully crafted ‘diplomatic’ measures designed to punish the Moscow ‘aggressor’.

In reality, the Western media has relentlessly demonized Vladimir Putin in a campaign to further NATO military expansion and undermine the Russian economy and its national security. The goal is ultimately to force a ‘regime change’, restoring the neo-liberal elites who had pillaged Russia’s economy during the 1990’s and whose brutal economic policies led to the premature death of over 6 million Russians due to deprivation and the collapse of the healthcare system.

Putin: Demon or Realist, Autocrat or Democrat, Vassal or Independent Leader?

The Western media has backed every oligarch, gangster and fraudster who has gone on trial and been convicted during Putin’s term in office. The propagandists tell us the reason for this affinity between the Western media and the gangster-oligarchs is that these convicted felons, who claim to be ‘political dissidents’ and critics of Putin’s rule, have been dispossessed, and jailed for upholding ‘Western values’.

The Western media conveniently ignore the well-documented studies on the source of the gangster-oligarchs’ wealth: The violent and illegal seizure of multi-billion dollars-worth of natural resources (aluminum, oil and gas), banks, factories, pension funds and real estate. During the Yeltsin period the oligarchs controlled thousands of armed gangsters and engaged in internal warfare during which thousands were killed, including top government regulators, police officials and journalists who dared to oppose or expose their pillage and property grabs.

Putin’s prosecution of a mere fraction of the most notorious oligarch-gangsters has won the support of the vast majority of Russian citizens because it represents a return to law and order and the return of stolen public wealth.

Only the Western media has dared to refer to these convicted felons as ‘political victims and reformers’. They did so because the oligarchs had become the most loyal and submissive assets in the US and EU governments’ efforts to convert Russia into an irreversibly weak vassal state.

The Western media constantly refer to President Putin as the ‘authoritarian ruler’, despite the fact that he has been repeatedly elected by large majorities in competitive elections against Western backed and funded candidates. His popularity is attested to by opinion polls conducted by Western agencies.

In 2015, President Putin’s support soared to over 85%. The pro-Western Russian neo-liberal politicians scored in the low single digits according to the same independent polls.

Clearly the Russian public does not want to return to the poverty and chaos of the Western-backed gangster politics of the 1990’s.

Whatever reservations working and middle class Russians have over President Putin’s style of decision-making, they clearly value his crackdown on gangster-controlled elections, Chechen terrorism, and his restoration of Russian military defense of its frontiers, including the annexation of Crimea, following the US-engineered coup in Ukraine.

Every day, the Western media recycle reports of the ‘decline and demise’ of the Russian economy, blaming ‘statist’ mismanagement of the economy by Putin. They claim ‘declining living standards’, the ‘negative growth’ of the economy and the ‘growing isolation’ of an ‘expansionist’ Russia in the face of Western sanctions.

These media claims are laughable. Readily available data demonstrate that living standards of the vast majority of Russian citizens have significantly increased under President Putin’s administration, especially after the utter collapse under the free marketers of the1990’s. Russian workers receive their pay, pensioners their pensions, enterprises their loans – on time. During the ‘free market’ days of Boris Yeltsin, workers went up to a year without pay, pensioners were selling their heirlooms in the street to survive and enterprises paid extortionate interest rates to oligarch-gangster controlled banks! Comparative data, easily obtained, are deliberately ignored by the mass media because it doesn’t fit the demonological narrative.

The mass media present the neo-liberal ‘opposition’ and ‘liberal critics’ as Russian democrats defending ‘Western values’. They forget to mention that these ‘liberal critics’ have been directly funded by Western foundations (National Endowment for Democracy, Soros Foundation, etc.) and Russian non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) with longstanding ties to US and EU governments, intelligence agencies and exiled Russian billionaires. The so-called ‘Russian’ democratic opposition revealed their abject servility to Western interests when they openly supported the Ukrainian coup and Kiev’s bloody assault on ethnic Russian-Ukrainians in the eastern ‘Donbas’ regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Odessa. Whatever shreds of respectability and credibility the ‘democratic opposition’ retained with the Russian public, up to that point, was lost. They were seen for what they are: propaganda arms of Western imperialism and mouth-pieces for neo-fascists.

The Western mass media charge Putin’s government with the same crimes that their own governments commit. After the US State Department’s Victoria Nuland admitted to channeling $5 billion to fund the 2014 coup in Ukraine and after the Polish regime boasted of training far right street fighters, whose mob violence served as a pretext for the coup, and after neo-fascist coalition partners in Odessa of burned alive four dozen ethnic Russian-Ukrainian citizens opposed to the coup, the Western mass media accused Putin of ‘intervening’ in Ukraine. This was because Russia had convoked a referendum in Crimea, in which over 80% of the electorate voted to secede from the illegitimate Ukrainian coup regime and rejoin Russia.

In truth, the Putin government is a victim of the Western power grab in the Ukraine, with Russia having to absorbed hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russian refugees driven out of the Donbas, yet the Western media portray Putin as the executioner. Meanwhile the Western coup-makers and their far-right allies are depicted as victims … forced to bomb and decimate the Donbas region.

The charade continued. The Western media portray the subsequent punitive, economic sanctions imposed by the expansionist US and EU on Russia as a result of Putin’s ‘aggression’, referring to Russia’s defense of Crimea’s self-determination and the rights of the millions of bilingual ethnic Russian citizens of Ukraine.

The absurdity and convoluted nature of Western demonological propaganda has reached new even more bizarre heights with their hysteria against Russia’s military support of the secular Syrian government against ISIS and other jihadi terrorists.

The Western mass media have launched a global campaign charging that the Russian air force  bombs ‘non-ISIS military bases’, presumably the bases of Western-backed ‘friendly’ jihadi terrorists. This ridiculous ‘reportage’ and its accompanying ‘photos’ were published before the Russian air strikes even took place!!

Apparently timing doesn’t matter in Washington’s ‘alternative universe of lies’!

NATO passed its political line to the media that Russian support for the legitimate regime of President Assad must be discredited; that the Russian presence is ‘provocative’ and responsible for ‘creating tensions’ in the region – after years of Western-sponsored jihadi terrorism against Syria!

Obedient to its masters, the Western media breathlessly ‘reported’ that the Russians were ‘really’ engaged in Syria in order destroy the pro-Western ‘fighters’ leaving ISIS alone.

No credible evidence for this propaganda was ever presented. They trotted out aerial photos of wreckage, which had likely been lifted from previous US bombings.

The media’s clumsy execution of the Pentagon’s line managed to embarrass even the US Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, who backed off of such claims and called for an explanation from Russia. Even Secretary Kerry, who now seeks to secure Putin’s military support for the US against ISIS while withdrawing Russia’s political backing of President Assad, has cautioned the media to modify its line, now that the US favors ‘greater coordination’ with Russia – but under US leadership. The media has recently conformed to this line, although it has not managed to explain how Washington could now work with the demonic President Putin.

Conclusion

Western media is engaged in an intense long-term propaganda campaign to demonize President Putin. Its role is to convince world public opinion and world leaders to blindly follow the US and EU, as well as their ‘allies’ and vassal states, in a campaign to degrade and undermine Russia, and consolidate a unipolar empire under US tutelage.

The Western mass media is important; but it must be remembered that the media is an instrument of imperial state power. Its lies and fabrications, its demonization of leaders, like President Putin, are one part of a global military offensive to establish dominance and to destroy adversaries.

The more intense the imperial campaign, the riskier the power grab, the greater the need to demonize the victims.

This explains how the escalation of the rabid anti-Putin propaganda campaign coincides with the single biggest Western power grab – the Ukraine coup (‘regime change’) – since West Germany annexed East Germany, and NATO and the EU incorporated the Baltic States, Eastern Europe and the Balkans into the West’s strategic alliance. The West’s bloody break-up of the Yugoslav federation was part of this strategic program.

The problem with the Western demonization of adversaries, whether it is Russia, Iran and China today, or earlier Cuba, Libya and Yemen in the past, is that Washington and the EU face severe economic crises at home and military defeats abroad by armed Islamic and nationalist resistance movements.

The US had invested hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up a shaky puppet regime in US-occupied Iraq, yet the US-trained and supplied Iraqi Army fled as the Baathist-Islamist ‘ISIS’ quickly over-ran half the country.

US troops have occupied Afghanistan for fourteen years, losing tens of thousands of lives and limbs and yet the nationalist-Islamist Taliban can easily take over Afghanistan’s third largest city, Kunduz (population 300,000), and occupies three quarters of the rest of the countryside.

Libya and Somalia are a disaster. And still Washington allocates a half billion dollars to train pro-Western mercenaries to overthrow Syria’s President Assad – mercenaries who give up their arms or join ISIS the moment they cross the border from Jordan or Turkey. The US trained mercenaries have handed over untold millions of dollars worth of heavy and light weapons and armored carriers to ISIS and Al Qaeda. The EU and the US face the dismal reality that Libya, Somalia and Syria are over-run by anti-Western Islamic fighters.

In Asia, China is demonized in the Western media, portrayed as being on the verge of collapse, facing a hard landing, even as China grows at 7%. The Western media wring their collective hands over the crisis in China while Beijing finances two new international development banks for $100 billion, raises its contribution to the IMF and brings 50 countries, including most of the EU but minus the US and Japan, into a new infrastructure lending institution.

Two big questions face the US and EU:

Why do the Western media launch a campaign of demonization that doesn’t correspond to reality? What is the goal of such demonization, which objectively undermines the possibility of forming tactical alliances to end the US’ military losses, political defeats and diplomatic isolation? The US needs Russia to defeat ISIS.

For Moscow, the fight against ISIS is crucial to Russian national security: Thousands of Chechen terrorists (some trained by the US) are fighting with ISIS and threaten to return to the Caucuses and terrorize Russia. Unlike the US public’s opposition to Washington’s role in forcing ‘regime change’ in Syria, the Russian public supports Moscow’s military support for the Syrian government because the Chechens’ campaign of terror within Russia, especially the 2004 massacre of hundreds of school children, teachers and parents in Beslan, is seared into their memory – a fact conveniently ignored by Western media when it ‘sympathizes’ with Chechen ‘freedom fighters’.

In reality, Washington should have a common interest to ally with Russia in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. However Obama is committed to ousting Assad (Russia’s ally) to expand US dominance in the Middle East in partnership with Israel and Saudi Arabia. Clearly there are insurmountable contradictions between short-term military objectives (fighting ISIS) and strategic imperial political imperatives (consolidating US-Israeli hegemony over the Middle East and Iran).

Washington has moved to end its isolation in Latin America by re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Meanwhile, Washington retains the economic blockade of Cuba and its huge US military base in Guantanamo. Cuba is seen as a tactical political ally in ‘moderating’ the leftist government of Venezuela and pressuring the Colombian FARC to disarm, even as Washington deepens its military presence in the continent.

Obama signed off on a nuclear agreement with Iran (but the crippling sanctions and blockade remain in place) in order to secure Tehran’s support for the war against ISIS in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Temporarily, the Western mass media has ‘toned-down’ its demonological reporting on Iran and Cuba, for tactical purposes.

The Obama regime has adopted a ‘good cop/bad cop’ (or schizophrenic) posture with Russia on Syria – Secretary of State John Kerry speaks of joint co-operation with Moscow while Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter proposes to militarily confront ‘Russian aggression’. The media hasn’t made the switch because they don’t know which orders to obey or which line to ‘parrot’.

In the meantime, the domestic economic crisis deepens, ISIS advances, the Taliban approaches Kabul, the Russians are arming and defending President Assad and millions of refugees, fleeing the war zones, have over-run Europe. European border wars are raging. And Obama wrings his hands in impotence. Demonology offers no allies, no solutions and no positive path to peace and co-existence.

Sep 182015
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Greek woman casts ballot in the 2014 electoral race in Thessaloniki, Greece, May 25, 2014. (Photo: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com)

Greek woman casts ballot in the 2014 electoral race in Thessaloniki, Greece, May 25, 2014. (Photo: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com)

Following a fiery summer in Greece, during which the Syriza-led coalition government turned its back on the majority of the electorate, which delivered a resounding “no” to austerity in Greece’s referendum, the country is preparing for snap parliamentary elections on September 20, in which it is far from clear whether Syriza will be able to win and form a new coalition government.

Scholar and analyst James Petras, one of the few voices who expressed doubts initially about Syriza’s desire and ability to deliver on its promises, offers his thoughts on the upcoming election.

Petras was an adviser to the Pasok government of Andreas Papandreou in Greece in the early 1980s, another “left-wing” regime elected on promises of radical change that were swiftly broken. He has also served as an adviser to leaders such as Hugo Chávez and Salvador Allende and has written extensively about politics in Greece. In this interview, Petras discusses Syriza’s collapse, how Syriza turned its back on the result of the July 5 referendum, and his thoughts on Popular Unity, the party that broke off from Syriza and that now promises to lead the anti-austerity front in Greece.

Michael Nevradakis: Many in Greece, and outside of Greece, were surprised (some would say shocked) at Syriza’s about-face in the space of just a few months – at how it essentially turned its back on those who overwhelmingly voted “no” toward more austerity in the July 5 referendum and at the very harsh memorandum agreement it signed with the troika. You, however, were not surprised at Syriza’s capitulation. What is your reaction to what happened?

James Petras: Well, it’s very clear that Syriza’s capitulation and subordination to the European Union struck a very powerful blow against the demands of the great majority of the people who voted for them, and disillusioned an enormous sector of the population. I think it wasn’t surprising because Syriza had within it many former leaders and people from Pasok, which had a notorious trajectory of not fulfilling programs and submitting to the European Union.

I think the fundamental problem was in the fact that Syriza never spoke out about an alternative to the European Union. Syriza’s members accepted the European Union as the framework; they accepted paying the debt as a framework, and they never formulated an independent policy. They overestimated their capacity to negotiate a progressive solution within the European Union, and absolutely nothing suggested that.

Their agreement to pay the debt was another fallacy: There was no way in the world that Greece would find the resources to maintain its debt. I think these three things – the composition of Syriza, the framework in which they agreed to orient, and the fact that they continued to channel resources to their creditors – undermined any possibility of a repudiation of the program of austerity and regression.

This debt was also found to be, in large part, odious and illegitimate.

Yes. That was decisively determined by a commission formed by the head of the Greek parliament, who was a leading member of Syriza, but this was completely rejected. [Former Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras acted as if the commission and the decisions on the debt meant nothing, and I think it was emblematic of his whole attitude towards any dissent. He acted like a Napoleon; he had a Napoleonic complex, in which anything which didn’t correspond to his notion of complying with the debt, complying with the EU, was out the window. It’s a very dictatorial and arbitrary organization, and the membership, the central committee and even some of his cabinet ministers didn’t mount a serious challenge to his dictatorial rule.

What do you believe was the actual message of the Greek electorate in their overwhelming vote of “no” in the referendum, and how do you believe this sentiment might be expressed in the upcoming parliamentary elections?

Well, I think the vote was clearly a rejection of more punishment, more regressive measures. It was a rejection of the dictatorship of the EU. It was an attempt to recover lost income, an attempt to recover sovereignty. It was a way of affirming Greek independence, Greek popular sovereignty, and a desire for Greek priorities to be given a greater importance over the creditors and debt payments and the privatizations and the firings. I think it was a very decisive “no” to everything that preceded it and everything that Syriza and Tsipras subsequently agreed to. So here you have this episode of the “no” in the referendum, sandwiched in-between the Syriza leadership’s compliance and subordination to the EU and continuation of regressive policies.

There are many now in Greece and outside of Greece who have their hopes set on the new political party, Popular Unity, which formed from the members of Syriza’s “Left Platform,” which broke off of Syriza a few weeks ago, with optimism that the likes of former Greek Parliament speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou, who will run in an alignment with Popular Unity, or Popular Unity party leader Panagiotis Lafazanis will stand up for those who voted “no.” Do you believe that this will actually be the case, or do you believe that Popular Unity, like Syriza, is insincere in its rhetoric?

Well, let’s look at the larger picture. Going in to these elections, Syriza is clearly going to decline. The political spectrum is going to become even more fragmented. The voters, going into the election, are highly disillusioned. Whatever they vote for and whoever they vote for, it’s basically a vote of fear rather than hope. It’s a vote that says, “Where can we find our new clients?” Not the instruments of structural change – “Who is the lesser evil?” I think that the hopes and aspirations and the radicalism that went into the January election is absent. I think Popular Unity will do poorly. It stayed in Syriza too long; it didn’t grow a mass organization outside of Syriza; it has very little insertion in any mass movement. Its struggle in the end with Syriza was essentially a parliamentary struggle. They didn’t put people in the streets, and I think people are disenchanted in general with anything associated with Syriza, and I think the level of trust for a second try is very low, especially as they saw many of the Popular Unity people sitting in the cabinet while all the damage was being done, all the capitulations were done.

I think that Popular Unity will be lucky to get representation in parliament. I think voters will hold their noses and maybe a quarter of the electorate will vote for Syriza. Popular Unity will probably get around 5 percent of the vote, and I think that the right-wing parties – New Democracy, Pasok, Potami – probably are going to put together a ramshackle kind of coalition. I don’t think they have objections to bringing Syriza in on a coalition, since they all agree on the latest memorandum. I think politically there is very little reason for them not to form a broad, right-wing regime.

What do you believe such a coalition will mean for Greece?

I think they would implement the very harmful and regressive policies that Syriza has signed off on. I think they will privatize most of the major lucrative resources in the Greek economy. I think there will be massive layoffs in the process of privatization. I think pensions will be cut, wages will be cut, salaries and public sector employment will be cut. I think this will send Greece into a continuing depression, and I don’t think any new investment in new enterprises will take place. The money that will be gained through privatization will simply be recycled to the outside bankers.

I think Greece faces a prolonged depression, prolonged regression and stagnation as a result of this, and hopefully, as people come to realize that Syriza and the right wing have nothing to offer them, I think there will be a return to street demonstrations and perhaps a radicalization of those demonstrations. There will be an increase in popular exodus, capital exodus; I think Greece will become a one-crop economy, essentially a tourist economy, largely controlled by foreign capital. I think the decline of public ownership is simply the increase of foreign ownership.

Popular Unity is said to be running in these elections on the Thessaloniki policy platform, which had originally been proposed by Syriza prior to the January elections, and which Syriza quickly abandoned. Do you believe that the Thessaloniki policy platform, with its ambivalence toward issues such as a “Grexit” and a write-down of Greece’s debt, is even enough for Greece at this time?

I don’t think that the Thessaloniki policy program represents a serious break. First of all because it is very ambiguous on Greece’s exit from the European Union and the eurozone, and that undermines any possibility of developing an alternative policy. Secondly, it doesn’t say anything about a moratorium on the foreign debt, which is necessary to channel new resources into revitalizing and developing an alternative economic strategy. So, whatever reforms the Thessaloniki program proposes are undercut by the framework and the resources which will be available. Whatever the attraction of the Thessaloniki program might have in terms of social reforms, are not viable within the framework, which it refuses to break with.

Furthermore, I think that Popular Unity did not fight on these issues when they were dealt with them. I think that they didn’t make a plausible case that they are willing to break with the renunciation Tsipras made very early on the Thessaloniki program. They mumbled and criticized, but all of it in Parliament. There was no convocation of mass movement, so one wonders whether Popular Unity leaders have that capacity, to put people in the streets, to build up that pressure, to create social consciousness, to sustain an alternative at this point. So, I think Popular Unity is largely a parliamentary tempest in the teapot.

Let’s talk for a moment about the European Union and its behavior in recent months. How would you characterize its stance toward Greece, with the new memorandum and harsh austerity it forced upon the country, and how would you gauge its stance toward the worsening refugee crisis from Syria and the Middle East, which has also greatly impacted Greece?

Well, the European Union was, is and will continue to be an oligarchical organization controlled by Germany, England, France, perhaps the Netherlands, in association with its subordinates in Eastern Europe. I don’t think it has any representation of anything progressive in Europe. I think it’s a very rigid, hierarchical, top-down organization that basically is organized around the idea that any members must accept the fiscal dictates, the economic and income policies dictated by, especially, Germany. And so, I think that the EU functioned as a debt collector for Greece. It took positions of intransigence, no recognition that they had a sovereign government that was democratically elected. They didn’t care. The main thing was to force Greece to meet its external obligations to the debt collectors, even after five years of failed policies – failed from the point of view of Greece getting out from under the depression. So, the question that they raised was, first debt payments and then we’ll talk about growth, and if you don’t meet your debt obligations, there was destabilization and every effort made to precipitate a capital flight and disinvestment in Greece.

I think you can say the European Union is an oligarchical organization that is essentially designed to favor German, English and French bankers, over and above the national interests of the majority of the citizens in Europe, especially those that are under the tutelage of the European Union. I think the European Union bears a great deal of responsibility for the refugees, because the refugees are coming from countries where the EU joined with the United States in wars, in destructive wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and sub-Saharan Africa. They destroyed economies and fostered mercenaries and terrorist groups, sectarian conflicts, and now they’re reaping the consequences: People that have been uprooted by the wars are now going to Europe because Europe destroyed their households, and they’re saying now, “You created our situation, and now you must deal with it.” I think Europe uprooted the people, and now Europeans want to avoid and evade the consequences, which is essentially resettling these uprooted people, who are products of Euro-US wars.

What do you believe would be the best policy solutions for Greece at this time? Do you believe that a “Grexit” or a departure from the European Union is in Greece’s best interest?

I think the only policy is to break with the European Union oligarchy and to assume an independent state, an independent policy. It’s necessary to get out of NATO and to deepen and develop alternative trade ties and to reverse the privatizations, to set a moratorium on the debt, impose capital controls and expropriate the banks. In other words, to mobilize and concentrate as many national resources and to develop trade with Europe, but on the basis of equality and outside of the European Union. To have their own fiscal policy, their own currency, in order to use their monetary policies if they need to devalue, in order to foster trade, if they need to develop a new development strategy, they need to control their national economy.

There are opportunities to trade and develop ties with Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela and even countries with the European Union, on a different basis. I think that the continuation of the European Union is a total and unmitigated disaster, and it’s demonstrated that it is a very arbitrary and dictatorial group that doesn’t take account of the interests and circumstances of its subordinate members.

Michael Nevradakis is a Ph.D. student in media studies at the University of Texas at Austin and a US Fulbright Scholar presently based in Athens, Greece. Michael is also the host of Dialogos Radio, a weekly radio program featuring interviews and coverage of current events in Greece.