Archive | April 1st, 2014

What is Palestine’s Land Day?

NOVANEWS
by Ali Abunimah

Palestinians display a map of historic Palestine during a rally in the northern Gaza Strip to mark Land Day, on 30 March 2014. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

On this day in 1976, thousands of Palestinians marched in towns and villages across the Galilee region, in the north of present-day Israel, to protest Israel’s expropriation of vast tracts of land as part of its openly declared policy to Judaize the area at the expense of the indigenous population.

No Zionism without “evacuation” and “confiscation”

“Following the Zionist tenets, Israel has systematically and callously followed an intricate and continuous process of Arab land expropriation through the promulgation of new laws, the circumvention of existing laws, harassment and duplicity. Recognizing the naked truth, Y. Ben-Porat, a known ‘hawk’ wrote ‘One truth is that there is no Zionism, no settlement, no Jewish state without evacuation of the Arabs and confiscation and enclosure of their land,’” anthropologist Khalil Nakhleh wrote in The Journal of Palestine Studies in 1976.

Frustration and anger at Israel’s land theft from, and discrmination against, Palestinian citizens of Israel had been mounting for years.

Nakhleh adds: “To protest against the essence of this process and orders for new expropriations, the Arab population declared a general strike for 30 March 1976. In an effort to preempt the strike, army and border police, including armored units, were dispatched to the most affected Arab villages. Violent confrontations ensued, and left behind six Arabs killed, tens wounded and hundreds arrested. March 30 was commemorated as Yawm al-Ard or the Day of the Land.”

Israeli violence

“On that day, quiet demonstrations in the villages of Sakhnin, Arabeh and Dir Hanna were confronted by an aggressive police and army presence which later turned on them in violent confrontations,” historian Ilan Pappe writes in his book The Forgotten Palestinians.

Already, on 28 March, “the Minister of Police declared that his forces were ‘ready to break into the Arab villages’ – he used the Hebrew word ‘lifroz,’ which is usually employed to describe assaults on enemy lines and bases,” Pappe explains.

Pappe gives the names of those killed as Khayr Muhammad Yasin from Arabeh, Raja Hussein Abu Riya, Khader Abd Khalil and Khadija Juhayna from Sakhnin, Muhammad Yusuf Taha from Kafr Kana and Rafat Zuhairi from Nur Shams refugee camp, who was shot in Taybeh.

Turning point

The Day of the Land – or Land Day – marked a turning point as the first mass mobilization by Palestinians within Israel against internal colonialism and land theft.

Its commemoration is a reaffirmation that the Palestinians who remained in the areas on which Israel was declared in 1948 are an inseparable part of the Palestinian people and their struggle.

Land Day continues to resonate with Palestinians everywhere because it does not just mark a past historical event, but draws attention to Israel’s ongoing violent, settler-colonial process of “Judaization.”

Israel continues to steal land from Palestinians and to displace them in every part of historic Palestine from the north, to the occupied West Bank, to the Naqab (Negev) in the south.

Resources

To mark Land Day, The Journal of Palestine Studies has made available several articles from past issues, including Khalil Nakhleh’s, quoted above.

These articles recall the history of Land Day, how it was seen in the context of the Palestinian reality in its time and in the decades since.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on What is Palestine’s Land Day?

Notes on a Staggering ISO

NOVANEWS
The Slow Death of “Leninism”

by LOUIS PROYECT

It might be obvious from articles appearing on CounterPunch (A Response to Our Socialist Worker Critics, to name just one) that former members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) have decided to subject the self-described “Leninist” group to a withering critique.

In a recent development, current members constituted as the Renewal Faction have joined the chorus of critics as well, something that will obviously irk a leadership accustomed to fawning approval from the ranks. Indicating the general movement toward web-based debate and discussion and away from the print-based medium favored by small propaganda groups operating in the “Leninist” tradition, the faction launched a website titled External Bulletin, a term that very likely challenges the notion of the “Internal Bulletin”, the members-only medium that allows such groups to conduct their discussions without the prying eyes of non-members.

Unfortunately for the ISO, the internal bulletin might have become a relic of the Leninist past after a disgruntled member or members decided to forward PDF’s of 30 (at last count) documents to selected critics of the ISO, including me. Over the past few days, I have read maybe 100 pages worth of internal discussion articles and want to offer my analysis of what is happening with the largest “Leninist” organization in the United States (I exclude the CP, which operates more as a wing of the Democratic Party.) As someone who spent nearly 12 years in the American Socialist Workers Party from 1967 to 1978 (now there’s a screenplay begging to be written: “12 Years a Sectarian”), I can recognize the pressures operating on the ISO that will inevitably generate discontent.

One wonders if the ISO leaders might have anticipated the “security breach” that allowed the documents to become public. After all, in the electronic age, what’s to prevent a Marxist version of Edward Snowden from cropping up? This is especially true given the leaks that took place in the British SWP, the group that spawned the ISO. Those leaks were focused primarily on the British SWP’s refusal to punish a top leader who had allegedly raped a young female member. As is the case with bureaucratic institutions in general such as the Catholic Church and the military, there is a tendency to defend those in power, no matter what they do. If you’ve reached the point where you’ve become tired of bureaucratic abuse from the ISO leadership, why not let the rest of the left know what’s going on behind closed doors?

I want to address the question of the “right” of a Leninist organization to keep its discussions shielded from public view at the end of this article, but will start with an evaluation of the ISO’s current woes, which according to both sides in the dispute is very real.

The best place to start is with an article titled “Why have we stagnated?” written by someone who appears to be supporter of the leadership. He writes:

We Have a Problem 

Frustration and disorientation are prevalent throughout the ISO right now and have been for a few years. There are multiple symptoms – the persistent difficulties maintaining SW tablings or a host of other routines (treasury, ISR, publicity); the need to repeatedly push for regular public meetings, many of which aren’t all that “public”; the greater number and length of extended breaks or leaves taken by experienced members (particularly over summer). Much of our leadership spends much of its time propping up basic aspects of branch activity or trying to win frustrated members back to activity. These are the signs of malaise, not of vitality.

When I read this, everything fell into place. This sounds exactly like what happens in all “Leninist” groups during the “mature” phase of their life cycle. Unless a group becomes a full-blown cult, as was the case with the American SWP, there are centripetal forces that operate on the rank-and-file as they begin to reach their thirties and discover that a socialist revolution is not on the immediate agenda. “A host of other routines” begins to compete with raising kids, shopping, working overtime, and just generally doing what it takes to survive life in capitalist America. Like most groups that operate in the name of the proletariat, the plain fact is that the ISO recruited most of its members from college campuses rather than the factory. After they graduated, they probably took whatever jobs were available in a declining economy: public schoolteachers (a strategically important job for leftists), web developers, social workers, librarians, etc. As far as I can tell, the ISO never carried out a “turn” toward the proletariat that would have forced its members to work in a slaughterhouse or textile mill. That would have only accelerated the phenomenon of “extended breaks”. Trust me on that one.

As might be expected, ISO leaders took the opportunity to rally the troops but without the piss and vinegar that such occasions demand. In a key document titled “Perspectives”, the tone was one of “hang in there, comrades”. This was written in the name of The Steering Committee, a body that is all-knowing and all-powerful:

No one really believes that it’s going to be “onward and upward” from the first protest or movement planning meeting. That caricature defies even a few days’ experience as a socialist. But it’s sometimes hard to shake the sense that a period of political unrest and polarization ought to have at least a general upward trend. The reality, though, based on the experiences of the past, is more complicated. Sometimes there are sharp and sustained breakthroughs, and sometimes there are a steady stream of advances. But there are also ups and downs in a struggle or movement, and in the midst of a down phase, it’s not clear if or when the next up is coming.

If it is difficult to predict when “the next up is coming”, what do we do in the meantime? A large part of this boils down to “keeping the powder dry”, going out on training exercises, and doing all the things a “cadre” is expected to do until the next war began. I remember when I first heard the term cadre from a veteran SWP’er in 1968—he pronounced it “codder”. It came from the military and meant “officer corps” basically. When a war broke out, the officers were expected to lead enlisted men. The left adopted the term to mean those people with an advanced understanding of Marxism who would be the natural leadership of the proletarian masses. Since the Trotskyist movement is the Oxford/Harvard of the left—at least in the eyes of its adherents—you would expect it to be the main supplier of cadre. For obvious reasons, the proletariat found it quite easy to ignore such self-designated leaders in large-scale revolutionary struggles.

In an article titled “Theory, cadre, and continuity: Building revolutionary organization today”, a long-time leader speaking for The Steering Committee made the case for the Marxist version of Officers Candidate School:

But regardless of the period, the state of the class struggle, and the size of the revolutionary left, what is absolutely essential is the training of cadres capable of thinking and applying Marxism creatively and able to both learn from and provide leadership in struggle.

Unfortunately what is missing from this calculation is any understanding that “training” is inimical to the development of Marxist thinkers and activists. Whether or not these people are consciously making a parallel with the military, the fact is that “training” in small propaganda groups inevitably turns out people who imitate the party leaders, just as a West Point freshman would emulate a General Petraeus. This is in the nature of all institutions, Leninist, military, or clerical. A revolutionary movement is strongest when it can rely on the talents of people who have learned to think and act for themselves. While revolutions are a product of collective action, they only succeed when strong-minded and strong-willed people come together to change society—not sycophants. Leninist groups unfortunately are schools for sycophancy.

A large part of the article is directed against Shaun Joseph, a former member who is sensitive to the question of developing true cadre. In other words people who have the backbone to tell an Ahmed Shawki that he is full of beans when the occasion demands it. Joseph wrote an article titled Valences of the united front (III): The struggle for culture that did not mince words:

The common view in the ISO, I think, is that the comrades at the Center are the “top cadre” of the group. Actually they are not cadre at all. That’s not to say they’re unimportant: a centralist organization needs national leadership just like an army needs generals. However, a cadre that identifies itself with the national leadership, that does not see itself as an independent and irreverent layer, is not fulfilling its function as a cadre–just like an army full of sycophantic captains is doomed to fail in battle.

Although I would prefer that the term cadre go into the ashbin of history, Joseph’s notion of “an army full of sycophantic captains” pretty much sums up the secondary leadership of all Leninist organizations. How can it be otherwise? When I joined the SWP in 1967, I was told that Leon Trotsky, who was Lenin’s choice for assuming leadership of the Communist movement after he passed on, trained the leaders. I told myself , these people must really be something special. Who am I to question them? I can’t say that my experience is at all typical of those who have “graduated” from such sects, but being forced to think and act for myself was the only way I could truly develop politically.

The peer pressure in groups like the ISO is enormous. Although their constitution is filled with guarantees of the right to criticize the party line, they are beside the point. For the average member of such groups, you tend to parrot what is in the party press and look for reassurance from those around you. Shunning or even the threat of shunning is the main instrument of ideological conformity in Leninist groups, when all is said and done.

Try as they may, there is no way that the ISO can break through the glass ceiling that is keeping them at their current levels of membership and political influence. It is their very nature that condemns them to “stagnation”. It is their “Leninism” that works against them since it is a barrier reef that separates them from the tens of thousands of people anxious to resist the capitalist system but not ready to hook up with a small propaganda group that puts onerous restrictions on their ability to live a normal life. Not everybody is a footloose rebel with an Ivy League degree or in some cases a trust fund after all.

All such groups have a natural life cycle, just like a plant or animal. They usually start out with a charismatic leader—usually a man but not exclusively–in his 20s or 30s who has both the time and the energy to build up a following, generally from the middle-class. Within a year or so, depending on the proximity of their ideology to the actual political conditions, they can build up to several dozen members. And then if the stars align themselves correctly, they can become an organization of a thousand or more. When the ISO was riding high in the saddle ten years ago, I am sure it projected unlimited growth. I attended an evening session of a conference they hosted in 2004, mostly in order to hear my old friend and comrade Peter Camejo. It was like attending a pep rally with the speakers leading the audience in chants as a warm-up for Peter.

Ten years can be an eternity for members of such groups. So many pep rallies, so many newspaper sales, and so many singings of theInternationale but capitalism keeps rolling along. Was this what I signed up for, many members must ask. Thus we see the “the greater number and length of extended breaks or leaves taken by experienced members”, a prelude to the inevitable resignation for “personal reasons”.

All in all, another approach is not only possible but also desperately needed. To put it in shorthand, we need something like an American Syriza—a broad left-of-center party that can accept people on their own terms ideologically as long as they adhere to key programmatic demands such as:

–Run election campaigns opposed to corporate rule, against both Republicans and Democrats.

–Organize campaigns against environmental despoliation from fracking to mountaintop removal.

–Strengthen the trade unions through organizing drives aimed at the most exploited workers.

In reality, these sorts of demands are not that different from those of the Communist Manifesto that calls, for example, for “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax” and “Free education for all children in public schools.”

Once you dump overboard all the ideological baggage that comes with groups posturing as a latter-day Bolshevik Party and stick to basic demands that lend themselves to independent mass political action, recruitment is no longer a big problem. Nor is burnout, a function of small groups trying to substitute themselves for the muscle of a large party that can attract real-life workers, something that is simply beyond the means of small propaganda groups trafficking in the iconography of the Russian Revolution. We need our own political symbols and language; let’s consign the hammer and sickle and the red star to the museum or mausoleum where they belong.

Finally, on the question of “security”, as if putting the ISO documents on the Internet is going to jeopardize their members. Does anybody in their right mind not understand that the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and local red squads know exactly what every single ISO member is up to? Mike Ely, the leader of an Internet sect called the Kasama Project, has been raising hell over the publication of the documents but that’s what spending too much time in Bob Avakian’s Revolutionary Communist Party can do to a person.

The real issue is not security, but the right of a sect to keep its deliberations a secret. When you stop and think about it, all of these “Leninist” groups operate on a mercantile basis that is concerned with maximizing market share. Their internal bulletins are analogous to reports discussed by the board of directors leading up to a sales campaign. What business is it of Pepsi to know what Coca-Cola is up to? How can we let Socialist Alternative know what we have planned for 2014? Hush now, comrades. Mum’s the word.

While I will not be around fifty years from now, I am convinced that “Leninism” will be long dead. If we are fortunate enough to be capable of rallying the forces needed to transform American society, it will be on a basis that has little to do with the imagery associated with the Smolny Institute and the Winter Palace. We will write our own future based on the living struggle that we surely have in front of us. Every effort has to be bent toward uniting the greatest number of people on a principled class basis. In a way it is too bad that ISO cannot understand the role it can play in helping to catalyze such a movement. One hopes that they can figure out a way to emerge out of the existing stagnation and rise to the occasion.

Posted in PoliticsComments Off on Notes on a Staggering ISO

Venezuela Under Attack Again

NOVANEWS
Ecnomic Sabotage
by MARIA PAEZ VICTOR

Again, a highly organized attack is being carried out against the democratic and popular government of Venezuela. It has involved monetary manipulations, economic sabotage, international media campaign against the economy despite excellent economic indicators, defaming the state run oil company, and this last week riots on the streets that have left 3 dead and 66 injured.

The tactics are the same that the un-democratic opposition has tried for 15 years ever since the first election of President Hugo Chávez. Such tactics have been used in the so-called Rainbow Revolutions in Eastern Europe, Libya, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Ukraine. The object is to give a semblance of chaos, to provoke the forces of public order, to discredit the government through the compliant international media, to foster civil unrest, even civil war (as it successfully happened in Syria), and ultimately to promote conditions for international intervention and even occupation.

However, Venezuela is not in the Middle nor Near East and its government is a participatory democracy that enjoys a very strong majority, the backing of all key institutions under the rule of law, and the support of its regional neighbors. Furthermore, the population is linked to many organized community groupings, it is not an amorphous mass.

The stakes are high because the country has the largest known oil reserves and these are a stone’s throw from Washington.

The opposition believes that in the absence of Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, is easy pickings. They greatly underestimate the man whose popularity has soared inside and outside the country.[i]

The attack on Venezuela, aimed to create popular discontent  has had the following features:

Monetary warfare. This started with run on the currency, the manipulation of the black market dollar, obtaining dollars at preferential price from the government under false reasons. Maduro did not hesitate: he regulated prices and changed the monetary exchange rules and 70% approved of his response.[ii]

False scarcity:  A double blow of outrageous overpricing of goods plus artificial food scarcity started just as people were beginning their Christmas shopping. Wealthy merchants proceeded to hoard essential goods: corn flour, sugar, salt, cooking oil, toilet paper, etc. placing them in hidden warehouses or spirited off to Colombia through a well-planned smuggling operation. The military discovered an illegal bridge built for motorcycles that carried the smuggled goods. Thousands of bags of foodstuffs  were discovered simply left rotting on Colombian byways: this was not smuggling for economic reasons, but for political reasons. The Colombian government cooperated with the Venezuelan government to stop this smuggling.

Attack on Venezuela’s petroleum company PDVSA: the international press has been alleging that PDVSA is failing because it is using its profits for social programs instead of re-investing, and that the country is running out of petroleum. Funnily enough they never warn Canada or Saudi Arabia about oil scarcity.  They even state the preposterous notion that Venezuela is importing gasoline from the USA. The fact is that PDVS owns the large oil company CITGO in USA whose refinery often sends back to Venezuela a special liquid used for improving gasoline grade 95. PDVSA is still one of the top 5 oil companies in the world according to the influential Petroleum Intelligence Weekly.[iii]

Campaign to discredit the economy. The international media has been predicting doom and gloom for Venezuela for years! The Venezuelan economy is doing very well. Its oil exports last year amounted to  $94 billons while the imports only reached $59.3 billons – a historically low record. The national reserves are at $22 billons and the economy has a surplus (not a deficit) of 2.9% of GDP. The country has no significantly onerous national or foreign debts.[iv] These are excellent indicators that many countries in Europe would envy, even the USA and Canada.  The multinational bank Wells Fargo has recently declared that Venezuela is one of the emerging economies that is most protected against any possible financial crisis and the Bank of America Merril Lynch has recommended to its investors to buy Venezuelan government bonds.   [v]

Exaggeration of Security risks.  Venezuela has high crime rate, unfortunately, just like most countries in Latin America. The recent death of a young high profile media couple spurred the opposition to exaggerate insecurity. Maduro responded by a widespread Plan for Peace with intense community policing, involving communities and communal councils, dividing the cities in sectors with hotlines and special patrols, the creation of 25 citizens committees for Police Control in total 250 people, new services for victim of crime, involvement of media to curb violent programs. This was highly popular.

There is a section of the opposition that is democratic and law abiding, unfortunately it is the undemocratic elements of opposition that seems to lead. These last few days, these prominent leaders of the undemocratic opposition, parliamentarians Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado, were urging violence.  Orchestrated riots, with professional sabateurs, and the manipulation of young men, assassinated 3 people and injured 66.[vi] López –whose link to the CIA goes back to his stay at Kenyon College, Ohio[vii] –  stated publicly that the violence would go on until they “got rid of Maduro”. One of the protestors told the media “We need a dead guy”. Twitter messages abound urging that someone kill Maduro. One Twitter message gave out details of the school of the child of President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, urging that the child be kidnapped.

The Attorney General, who is a woman, was physically attacked her offices ransacked. Police cars burnt, cultural establishment vandalized, the Governor of Tachira’s house was nearly burnt with his family in it.

The opposition’s violence has a been a constant. Last October, Henrique Capriles, the presidential candidate four times a loser, upon losing to Maduro openly called for violent protest saying: “go out into the streets and show your rage.” The result was that 10 people died (one who was a 5 year old indigenous little girl) and 178 injured, 19 popular clinics attacked and set fire to, Cuban doctors having to flee Cuban doctors fleeing for their safety.

The international press does NOT REPORT THE VIOLENCE UNLEASHED BY THE VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION. When it reports these violent events it insinuates that it is the fault of the government.

The result of 15 years of the Bolivarian Revolution is evident in the increasing wellbeing of its population.[viii]  The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has declared Venezuela to be now the least unequal country of the region (GINI Coefficient) having reduced inequality by 54%.[ix]

Poverty levels are at 21% and extreme poverty dropped from 40% to 7.3%. Infant mortality has been reduced from 25/1000 (1990) to 10/1000.  [x] The Chávez government eliminated illiteracy and provided free public education, housing and health services. In just one decade, Venezuela advanced 7 places in the UN Human Development Index.[xi]

Polls show Venezuela has one of the happiest populations in the world.[xii]In all this it has been greatly helped by the solidarity and expert teachers and doctors from Cuba.  Cuba and Venezuela have shown the world what is real solidarity between nations.

The financial crisis that has hit the North these past six years,  has been met with state antagonism against workers and  the general population.  With the excuse of  a supposed need for austerity, public programs are cut and unions undermined. The crisis also affected Venezuela as oil prices dropped. However, the government solidly continued to reduce poverty, increase salaries, trained thousands of workers,  and the country’s Human Development Index continued to rise despite the contraction of the economy. By protecting employment as a basic strategy to counter the crisis, the economy continued to grow at an average that has ranged from 2.5 to 5% GDP.   [xiii]

The real opposition in Venezuela is the USA, its allies and its agents who feed the illegal pipeline of dollars that pour into bogus NGOs and the opposition parties.

Venezuela represents the rejection of neo-liberal economics and corporate capitalism. The corrupt elite- governed Venezuela, darling of corporate capitalism, that had impoverished its own population during 40 years, is no more.

These violent tactics have no hope of succeeding because, unlike 1999, the Venezuelan people are now organized into many groups: the communal councils, the communes, the thousands of health, security, militia, sports, educational, cultural committees. The Bolivarian Revolution has fostered, not a mass of people, but an organized organic population that makes decisions about its living conditions along with its government because Venezuela is now a fully functioning participatory democracy.

The opposition has no popular base – as can be seen by its string of electoral defeats.

It has no support of the military – even governors who form part of the democratic opposition have appeared on TV denouncing these tactics with military staff standing beside them.

They do not have the backing of any South American neighbour, as countries have been quick to avow solidarity with President Maduro and denounce their violence.

Their only card is to hope Venezuela is invaded by US Marines. That would be the beginning of regional warfare.

María Páez Victor is a sociologist, born in Venezuela.

Notes.
———–

[i] Rafael Rico Ríos, Un pueblo maduro, Rebelión, 09/12/13; Survey by international news outlet NTN24 indicates Nicolás Maduro is the most popular president in Latin America, as well the poll by ICS. YVK Mundial – www.aporrea.org

01/10/13 – www.aporrea.org/venezuelaexterior/n237249.html

[ii] AVN, 15 Dec. 2013, Hinterlaces: 70% de los venezolanos apoya la ofensiva económica emprendida por Maduro;

[iii] Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, 09/05/2013

[iv] Mark Weisbrot, How Europe can learn from Latin Amrica’s independence, The Guardian, 21 August 2013; El tan esperado apocalisis en Venezuela es poco probable,  

http://www.ultimasnoticias.com.ve/opinion/firmas/mark-weisbrot—desconsenso-en-washington/el-tan-esperado-apocalipsis–en-venezuela-es-poco.aspx#ixzz2jc5ULbi7

Is Venezuela in Crisis? Ewa Sapiezynska & Hassan Akram, AL JAZEERA, 2 December 2013; Venezuelanalysis.com

[v] La Guerra económica y las elecciones municipales, Juan Manuel Karg, Rebelión, 2 diciembre 2013

[vi] Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, Venezuelan Opposition Leaders Demand More Demonstrations Following Deadly Clashes, VENEZUELANALYSIS, Feb 13th 2014

[vii] Jean-Guy Allard, Para destruir la obra de Chávez, la CIA apuesta por López, el fascista que crió, TWITTER:  @AllardJeanGuy

[viii] Carles Muntaner, Joan Benach, Maria Paez Victor, The Achievements of Hugo Chavez, COUNTERPUNCH, 20 December 2013.

[x] National Institute of Statistics, Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, 27 March 2012; Yolanda Valey, BBC, 4 March 2012

[xii] Gallup Poll 2012; Happy Planet Sustainable Wellbeing Index, Global Footprint Network, 14 June 2012; New Economic foundation, 24 Oct. 2012; World Happiness Report, University of Columbia, 2012.

[xiii] Jesse Chacón, “La economía nacional en el context de la crisis global del capitalismo” 27 abril 2012, Agencia Venezolana de Noticias”

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Venezuela Under Attack Again

An Interview With Michael Hudson on Economic Violence

NOVANEWS
The Ruination of Ireland

by GREG McINERNEY

Greg McInerney: This is Greg here from the MeltingPress.com. This the first installment of our “Alternative Voices” series where we talk to people who give us different perspectives on everything from economics, to politics, to culture. Today we’re joined by Professor Michael Hudson. He’s a research professor of economics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He’s also the author of “The Bubble and Beyond” which is his latest book, and “Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire” which I’ve read myself and is a  brilliant read, you should go out and check that out.

Professor Hudson, thanks so much for joining us today.

Professor Hudson: Good to be here.

G: Professor, we’re based here in Ireland which is a country, as we both know, currently in economic ruin at the moment. Unemployment is at 14%, graduate unemployment is probably double that. Where did it all go wrong for Ireland?

Prof. H: Your unemployment is intentional policy by the Irish leadership, of both parties. None of this unemployment is necessary. It doesn’t have to be this way. The government was suckered in to paying the debts for its corrupt bankers.

The problem is that even when you Irish did – as you should have done – and voted out the party in power, the incoming party has the same policy as the former one. It’s much like the United States, where we voted out Republican George Bush, and then got an even more Republican Democrat – Barack Obama. They all promise change, and then follow the financial sector’s directions.

So the underlying problem is that there is no body of theory or policy in Ireland to show that there is an alternative to this unemployment. There’s a belief, a Thatcherite belief that There Is No Alternative, and of course there is an alternative! You shouldn’t have paid uninsured bank depositors and bondholders, and you should not have to pay the European Central Bank, the I.M.F. or the other parties that misinformed you by telling your leaders that the cost of government bailouts would be easily managed, not a lost decade and economic disaster.

You should establish as a basic legal principle of international law that no country should be obliged to pay foreign debts at the price of driving out 10 – 20% of its population, at the price of austerity, and at the price of committing economic suicide.

Nation states are not supposed to commit suicide. But that is what Ireland is doing.

G: Right, and Ireland really has been the poster-child of neo-liberal economic theory in Europe, for probably a few decades now. Could you speak a bit to that? About the policy of low corporation tax attracting multinationals.

Prof. H: Poster-child? I always thought Latvia was the poster-child.

G: Haha! There’s a few.

Prof. H: Look, criminal behavior’s the real common denominator. That’s pretty universal. The low corporate tax was simply an attempt to make Ireland into another Hong Kong, an international banking center by having corporations park their cash there.

This might have worked better if you did what Hong Kong did. It used this money to finance a huge capital investment in real estate, and made money on it. Ireland attracted foreign capital by giving a tax break, and by offering very high rates of return for “hot money” to money managers (mainly from London) to put their money in a few ambitious banks.

But what did Ireland do with this inflow of money? It turned it over to crooks! And let them steal it. Then, what really caused the problem, was that instead of letting the speculators, uninsured depositors and bondholders take the loss – that risk was why they were paid such high rates of return with such low taxes – Ireland’s politicians let the I.M.F. and European central bank come in and say “Well, they took a risk, but don’t make them pay for it. Make the taxpayers absorb the loss!”

The Irish people agreed to do this. “We would rather be poor than make the rich lose the money, because the rich are our job producers.” Unfortunately they’re your job producers in America, in Germany, and the other countries

that you’re emigrating to.

G: Right, and just tracking back a bit to a point you made, we also had another problem specific to Ireland: the housing bubble that took place over the last twenty years or so. Is that something that is necessary or is it a result of the low corporation, neoliberal policies that you have to inflate asset prices like this to, compensate for income?

Prof. H: The housing bubble has nothing to do with the corporation tax. It has to do with the absence of a land tax on real estate. If the land value were taxed, you would not have had all of this free rental income and the prospect for capital gain. This is what Henry George wrote about in The Irish Land Question back in 1881. Great book, just read Henry George and The Land Question and you’ll get everything you need to know about why Ireland should have had the tax base on the land instead of turning over the rental income to banks – which then lent it to crooks, who stole it.

G: As you said the land value tax, which is a very interesting policy, was proposed to the new government, Fine Gael that came in afterwards. But instead of implementing a land value tax, they just implemented a flat property tax, which is regressive, and has in no way made any difference. As a result we see another property bubble may be developing at the moment, just like we see occurring in the UK.

Prof. H: In the UK it’s mainly in London. The real estate bubble in London is different. That’s flight capital going into London property. I’m told that 80% of central London property is owned without a mortgage, so the London property price gain is not being fueled on credit. It’s not debt leveraged at all. Most of the buyers, the Russian kleptocrats and the Hong Kong or Chinese entrepreneurs are paying all cash for their apartments. So you can’t compare Ireland’s rising land prices to Britain’s rising land prices.

Outside of London the economy is being pushed in to a depression by deciding that Britain doesn’t need manufacturing. All it seems to need is bankers. As long as they can steal money from Irishmen, who needs to manufacture anything?

G: We all know that you’re an independent economist, you offer a different point of view, but one thing that was really striking during the Celtic Tiger here was that the entire profession of economists completely bought into the ridiculously flawed neoclassical models. Can you talk about how the profession of economists played their role in building all this up?

Prof. H: They’re indoctrinated. There are two ways the Chicago School of economics pushed neoliberal theories. In Chile, they went down under the Pinochet regime and closed every economics department in the country that didn’t teach their Chicago School theories. They assassinated labor leaders, they assassinated economists and professors, and had a continent wide terrorism campaign, Operation Condor, which killed tens of thousands of intellectuals. They didn’t have to do that in Ireland or America.

In American they gained control of the main refereed economic journals. And that means that in the United States – and probably Ireland and Europe too – when you graduate with your PhD and want to go into teaching, you have to get promoted by being published in arefereed journal. But the referees are Chicago boys or Harvard neoliberals. They are ideological totalitarians. The free market boys realize that you cannot have a free market without having utter totalitarian control. That’s what they’ve achieved.

The aim of totalitarian control is to make sure that there is no alternative. So by the time I graduated from NYU, I was told – by a professor who worked for the CIA – that it was not worth while studying the history of economic thought, because if economic theories were good, they would have succeeded by Survival of the Fittest. If they weren’t taught, it’s because they were outdated and obsolete. So, in the United States they’ve dropped the history of economic thought from the academic curriculum. They’ve even dropped economic history. So you’re not going to learn what was taught when I was in school 50 years ago: the history of rent theory, price and value theory.

The whole edifice of analysing the distinction between earned and unearned income, economic rent and profit – all this has been stripped away from the curriculum and does not appear in the economic journals. So, what you really have in academic economics is junk economics. I think you’ve had Steve Keen on your show and he’s written a book,Debunking Economics, explaining much about that. I’ve written on similar lines on international trade theory.

G: Yeah, it’s interesting that you mention Latin America, Michael. In the last twenty years or so we’ve seen a huge backlash to the, as you said, extremely violent neoliberal projects implemented there. Do you this it’s possible that through similar grass-roots movements here in Europe that something similar could take place.

Prof. H: If you’ve read the newspapers recently the US has just gone in to the Ukraine and has assassination squads murdering Ukrainian judges and leaders that do not want to push Ukraine along the neoliberal pro-European, as opposed to Russian practices. So, yeah, they only kill when they actually have to, and when people actually listen to them.

I don’t think anybody is listening to them in Ireland and I don’t hear any discussion there, so I don’t think there’s any need for violence there, because there’s a herd instinct there as you say, with Stockholm syndrome. You’ve adopted the view of your oppressors, as if somehow they’ll be nice to you, if you’ll only give more money to them. You may need another 60% of your population to emigrate before you realize there may be an alternative.

G: Indeed. What’s really interesting I think about Europe at the moment is what you’ve talked about: flaws in the free market. The eurozone, the way they’ve set up the central bank system and tax harmonization – surely it was destined to fail from the minute they thought of it?

Prof. H: Haha! Of course it was! So it was not a failure at all. It succeeded! The success is impoverishing the working class. The eurozone is an anti-labour, essentially, class war zone, and the banks are winning the class war. Why do you call it a failure? It’s reduced wages by 30% It’s caused mass unemployment, it’s stripped away pensions, it’s reduced laborers to poverty.

That’s not failure. It’s a victory if you’re a banker and a financier and the “1%”. This is the victory of the “1%” against the “99%”. That’s like saying that WW2 was a failure because the Germans didn’t win! But if you’re the Allies, you won. And this is how America rebuilt Europe.

G: You’re absolutely correct. Can you explain to the listeners Michael, we all know how visible the financial lobby is in the United States. I mean it’s completely transparent that the politicians there are bought, but in Europe it’s seen slightly more obfuscated. How does the lobbying work in Europe?

Prof. H: Largely through the educational system. I’ve met people in Latvia, Iceland and other countries who honestly believe the neoliberal line, because that’s the only economics they’ve been exposed to. The neoliberals realize that the way to make sure that There Is No Alternative is to make sure that people don’t know that there is one. What you have is Junk history, teaching Junk economics so that people think that the world has always been this way, and that there isn’t any other way of doing things. Of course, that’s crazy – but that’s what’s happening!

G: Can you tell us how specifically, the euro, the single currency, has restricted country’s ability to dig their way out of crisis.

Prof. H: Let’s compare how the US handled its bank bailout after 2008, and how Europe did.

In the US they didn’t raise taxes, and they didn’t borrow from foreigners. The Federal Reserve simply created four trillion dollars of credit electronically. That’s what a central bank is supposed to do. It’s supposed to create the money to monetize and finance government spending deficits.

The eurozone forbids this in two ways, and this is what the German court ruled in Karlsruhe last week. The European constitution prevents the European Central Bank from lending to governments. It won’t’ monetize debt that results from deficit spending – although it will create money to pay bondholders and speculators. It’s there to enrich the 1%, not the 99% – and even worse, it thinks that the main way to enrich the 1% is by impoverishing the 99%. That is why it is so dysfunctional and downright evil.

So, instead of creating the money that Europe’s central bank gives to the crooks – in the Anglo-American way – it actually make the taxpayers pay the crooks. This is completely unnecessary. You could just create money and give the crooks everything they want, without having to make things worse by taxing labor and industry to wreck the economy. But the eurozone aims deliberately to wreck the economy, in order to scale back wages. It thinks that whatever is taken from labor can be grabbed by the financial sector. There’s no concept of symbiosis, and that without a domestic market the debts ultimately will have to go bad.

The eurozone refuses to let a central bank finance government spending. Only commercial banks and bondholders can do this – and they charge interest. Crippling the central bank thus creates a huge transfer of interest to the commercial banks. Then, when the governments can’t pay, they go to Stage Two. That is where the governments have to pay by selling off the public domain: the land and natural resources, the forests, ports, electrical systems, natural monopolies basic infrastructure, roads and bridges. The economy is turned into a tollbooth economy. So you’re going back to feudalism. Ireland is back to the 14th century, quickly.

G: What I think is really interesting as well is that we’ve seen a separation in capitalism. There is the traditional capitalism of the worker and the factory owner, but now what we’ve seen is the rise of a financial class, which is even harmful to the traditional capitalists themselves.

Prof. H: That’s right. Instead of industrial capitalism, if you look at writers from the 19th century, everybody from Marx to business school professors expected the destiny of industrial capitalism to be to bring finance out of the medieval period into the modern period. The idea was to make banks serve the industrial system. That’s what the Saint Simonians advocated in France. They were the idealists of the 19th century. They developed the idea of investment banking that the Reichsbank and the large German banks did most effectively. It’s what Japan did after WW2, simply because they didn’t have any other source of money except by their ability to create their own credit through industrial banking.

Nobody expected that finance capitalism would dominate and ultimately stifle industrial capitalism. But that’s what’s happening.

All the futurists, even socialists, were optimists about capitalism. They thought it was going to evolve naturally into socialism, with an increasing government role in the economy to provide infrastructure, including banking. Instead, you have governments being carved up. That’s what neoliberalism is. It’s really neofeudalism. It’s a dismantling of democracy in favor of a financial oligarchy, to rule by appointing proconsuls and technocrats such as you have in Italy under Monti or in Greece under Papademos. You have a rolling back of history, and of the Enlightenment. If your college curriculum, your religion and the popular press doesn’t even talk about the enlightenment and about the history of economic thought, you’re not going to realize that what’s happening is a rolling back of the last 500 years.

G: It’s really made democracy completely redundant. For the most part, people aren’t going to be able to vote themselves out of this surely, are they not?

Prof. H: Well, in America you are able to vote. You can vote yes, yes please, and yes thank you. The question is, what are they going to voteabout? In Ireland, both your parties are in agreement that you have to pay the crooks and you have to sacrifice your economy to pay these debts as a dead hand crushing your economy. As long as there is no alternative party like there is in Greece with its left-wing Syriza party, or in Latvia with the Harmony Centre, there is not going to be any alternative, except perhaps to learn Chinese and emigrate.

G: If an alternative did come along, Prof. Hudson, what would be your sketch of their plan of an economic policy? Would you leave the euro? Would you create a new currency?

Prof. H: As long as the eurozone has no central bank, it’s not really integration. The only way you can have the United States of Europe is to have a common tax policy and a common monetary policy. You remember what the American Revolution was about: ‘No taxation without representation’. Right now that’s not the case in Europe. Unless there’s real political integration, which I don’t see, then all the Eurozone is now is not the peaceful socialist/social democratic idea that it was 50 years ago. It is an anti-labour, pro-financial class war. There is no way that you can remain in that kind of Europe. There doesn’t seem to be a discussion that there is another kind of Europe, the kind of Europe that was meant in the 1940s and ‘50s.

G: The European political classes are interesting. They are working really hard to emphasize the unifying nature of Europe, but what they don’t realize is that they are creating the same conditions post WW1 that led to WW2. We all know what happens when capitalism fails, and it’s not pretty.

Prof. H: Well that’s what’s happening and the right wing parties all over Europe and you see the United States promoting the neo fascist parties in the Ukraine, the Baltics, and periphery of the former Soviet Union.

G: What is the United States’ view on Europe, we’ve seen, there was a time …

Prof. H: That Europe is a dead zone. They’re ignoring Europe. Remember when Donald Rumsfeld the Secretary of Defense, referred contemptuously to “Old Europe.” That’s how it’s viewed. Europe is shrinking, its population is leaving, so it doesn’t matter. Its leaders are American puppets that they can be ignored. It has no role to play in the world except to be like Japan, an appendage of NATO and US military encirclement of Eurasia.

G: Do you think that the US has actively contributed to the decline of Europe just as maybe it did with Japan and other rivals?

Prof. H: I was told 30 years ago that almost all of the transportation payments for members of the Socialist International – of which the Greek neoliberal prime minister Andreas Papandreou was the head of for many years – were paid for by the CIA. Now we’re finally seeing the maneuvering that has put the kind of European leaders in charge, from Germany to England. They are very pro-American. You can see from the cables that were leaked last week about how the United States is maneuvering to make pro-US puppets in the Ukraine, like they maneuvered in Russia to have Yeltsin put in.

G: Do you think the levels of inequality will surpass the US. Which we know is one of the most unequal societies in the western world.

Prof. H:  It’s a race to the bottom. Hard to tell. It’ll be a tight race.

G: You’ve written extensively about the US and it’s funny, the US might be the first Empire that’s really never been called as much by the people living there. How has the US managed to obfuscate the fact that it’s the biggest global superpower to most of its citizens?

Prof. H: People don’t understand the balance of payments and the nature of the monetary system. They don’t understand that the dollar standard, internationally, means essentially that America’s balance-of-payments deficit – which is almost entirely military for many decades – is the basis of foreign central bank monetary reserves. So the world’s monetary reserves consist of loans to finance the American military surrounding of the rest of the world. People don’t look at what these central bank reserves end up being used for. When they hold US Treasury bills, what is the deficit resulting from? What is the balance of payments and the budget deficit resulting from? This kind of analysis, simply is not widely publicised there.

G: What we’ve also seen is the corporatisation of the media in the United States. I spent the last two or three years studying there, and it really is amazing the levels of disinformation that are passed off as news. And of course, news is massive corporations and is completely controlled by the same people we’re talking about.

Prof. H: The internet, fortunately is an alternative. Naked Capitalism and CounterPunch are my favorite sites. You get such a biased view in the mainstream. This week’s Nation magazine has an article by Stephen Cohen on the disinformation about Russia – all the anti-Russian propaganda that you get from the NY Times and the Washington Post. The seemingly objective press that really isn’t objective at all.

G: It’s shifted so far right that people in your profession, someone like Paul Krugman, who would have been considered a fairly moderate voice maybe 30 years ago, maybe even a centre right republican voice. They won’t even implement his very cosily liberal economic policies.

Prof. H: Well there is a type of Keynesianism, but its only Keynesianism for the “1%”.

G: Is there anyone you see, there’s obviously yourself, maybe people like Richard Wolff and David Harvey. Who else in the economic profession do you think is speaking the truth?

Prof. H: The ones you mentioned certainly, I had dinner with David Harvey the other night. Steve Keen, Dirk Bezemer in Holland, Yanis Varoufakis writing about Greece, and Michael Perelman here in the US. None of us are funded by an organization that is putting together an alternative national income account, banking or financial accounts. And we can’t spend our life as key punch operators. We thought there would be a self interest among debtors to back our analysis just like Keynes’ analysis was backed in the 1920s. But there aren’t any. There seems to be such a dispirited, depressive feeling among debtors there is very little we can do besides talk to people like you and other sites and write our books.

G: Just before we let you go, Professor Hudson, what’s the future do you think for Europe next five or ten years? Will it collapse or continue on at the expense of its citizens?

Prof. H: It’ll be a slow crash. It’ll be shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. It would only crash if people saw there would be an alternative. If there was (an alternative), the banking system would threaten to shut down and cause a crisis and close ATM machines and stop credit cards. They would cause a crisis to say, “You need us.” That’s what the governments have let happen, for the banking and financial system get a stranglehold on them. There is no question that Europe has to be willing to buck this counter revolution or counter-Enlightenment. You could say that the only way this could be done is by a broad popular movement.

It’s almost like what in America used to be called a Great Awakening, great moral waves of new understandings that you had in the progressive era of the 1890s and then again in the 1930s. It doesn’t seem to have gotten to that point. The Europeans are so dispirited.

There is a basic motto among oppressors: You don’t know when people will begin to fight back until they actually do. So they are just tightening the screws and tightening the screws. Latvia was a cruel experiment to see how far you could reduce living standards. There doesn’t seem to be a limit.

G: I think maybe part of the problem is that as we discussed earlier the separation between financial capitalism and industrial capitalism. In previous revolutions and movements its been easy to identify workers injustice, not being paid and their owners taking too much profit. but the shadow banking sector is just so invisible to the everyday worker. How are we going to dismantle this thing, if people don’t even know it exists.

Prof. H: There is a feeling that people can get rich by going into debt, and that debt leveraging is how to get rich. That works if you can borrow a billion dollars to swamp the market and become a monopoly, and to buy politicians and the courts. But if you have less than a billion dollars, borrowing money and debt leveraging doesn’t help you get rich. It just leads you into debt peonage. So the Irish should look at the whole of Irish history and that of other regions such as the Ottoman empire in the late 19th century and see the ruin of Egypt, the ruin of Persia. These were talked about regularly in the 19th century. All this has happened before. It’s not new. All they have to do is look at history and ask whether they want to go that route, or is there an alternative?

G: Brilliant That was Michael Hudson. Please check out his work on his website on michael-hudson.com. He has two brilliant books out, and I suggest you read them. Prof. Hudson thanks so much for taking the time out today.

PH: Good to be with you.

Posted in Europe, UKComments Off on An Interview With Michael Hudson on Economic Violence

Why is the World Turning a Blind Eye to US Drone Strikes?

NOVANEWS
Pity About the Civilians….

by ROBERT FISK

Karim Khan is a lucky man. When you’re picked up by 20 armed thugs, some in police uniform – aka the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – you can be “disappeared” forever. A mass grave in Balochistan, in the south-west of the country, has just been found, filled with the “missing” from previous arrests. But eight days after he was lifted and – by his own testimony, that of his lawyer Shasad Akbar and the marks still visible on his body – tortured, Mr Khan is back at his Pakistani home. His crime: complaining about US drone attacks – American missiles fired by pilotless aircraft – on civilians inside Pakistan in President Obama’s Strangelove-style operation against al-Qa’ida.

There are, as the cops would say, several facts “pertaining” to Mr Khan’s kidnapping. Firstly, his son Hafiz Zaenullah, his brother Asif Iqbal and another man – a stonemason called Khaliq Dad – were killed by a drone attack on Mr Khan’s home in December 2009. Secondly, he had filed a legal case in Pakistan against the American drone strikes, arguing that they constituted murder under domestic law. And thirdly – perhaps Mr Khan’s most serious crime – he was about to leave for Brussels to address European Union parliamentarians on the dangers of American drone strikes in Pakistan.

In Madiha Tahir’s recent documentary film Wounds of Waziristan, Mr Khan had talked about his family loss. His son Hafiz was a security guard at a local girls’ school, and also studying for Grade 10. Asif, who had a Master’s in English, was a government employee. Karim Khan saw what was left of their bodies, “covered in wounds”. He found some of their fingers in the rubble of his home.

Thanks to constant reports of his kidnapping in the courageous Pakistani media and to the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court who ordered the Pakistani government to produce Karim Khan by next Thursday, the anti-drone campaigner is safe. For the moment.

But this is going to set the world on fire. The “drone war”, as American journalists inevitably call it – after all, it’s not as if al-Qa’ida or the innocent victims are firing back with drones of their own – started under George W Bush, but most of the attacks, 384 of them since 2008, have been authorised by Mr Obama. The statistics of civilian deaths fluctuate wildly since most of the missiles are fired into the Pakistani frontier districts in which the government has little power. The minimum figure for civilian victims is almost 300 dead – some say almost 900 – out of a total of 2,500 killed. At least 50 people are believed to have been killed in follow-up strikes which slaughtered those going to the rescue of the wounded.

Of course, the drone syndrome has spread across the Middle East. The missiles rain down on al-Qa’ida and civilians alike in Yemen. The Israelis fired them into Lebanon in 2006; when a youth on a motorcycle fired at a night-time drone over Beirut, it fired back a missile that destroyed a downtown civilian apartment block. In Gaza, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported 825 deaths from Israeli drones during the 2008-09 war, a large percentage of them civilians.

Pakistani witnesses have told me that the missiles don’t just appear suddenly in the sky. The drones arrive in clusters – 10 or 12 at a time, circling villages for an hour or two – a looking for targets on behalf of their “pilots” in the United States. Until at least 2009, the Americans flew drones – the most impressive was called the Reaper – from air bases inside Pakistan. Hence the sensitivities of the boys from the ISI and their irritation with Karim Khan.

The ethical disgrace of the drone syndrome is not that Mr Obama – or some US officer near Las Vegas – decides on the basis of satellite pictures, mobile phone calls, numbers dialled and the speed of vehicles, who should live or die. The really shameful aspect is that the drone war has become normal. It has gone on so long – and been the subject of so much protest, so regularly – that it has become banal, boring, matter-of-fact.

It was just the same in the 1990s when the US and Brits went hunting for Iraqi targets over the so-called “no-fly zones” in Iraq. For years they bombed and missiled “military targets” that supposedly threatened them. In the eight months up to August 1999, US and British pilots had fired more than 1,100 missiles against 359 Iraqi targets, flying about two-thirds as many missions as Nato pilots conducted over Yugoslavia during the 78-day bombardment of the same year. As well as anti-aircraft batteries, oil pipelines were blown up, storage depots destroyed and dozens of civilians killed, including several in a Basra housing estate. But each air raid was merely “nibbed” in our newspapers – a nib is a single paragraph in an inside-page News in Brief column – so that an entire air campaign was effectively carried out behind the backs of the US and British public in the years before the 2003 invasion.

In southern Lebanon, the Israelis controlled for 28 years a torture prison at Khiam for insurgents and their families – women as well as men – and electricity was frequently used on inmates by Israel’s “South Lebanon Army” thugs. Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the International Red Cross complained. But I will always remember the words of a Swiss Red Cross official when I asked him, within sight of Khiam, why the world did not condemn this dreadful place. “It has become normal,” he replied.

And that’s it. Kill or torture often enough, over a long enough time – not too many massacres, just a dribble of deaths over months and years – and you’ll get away with it. If you kill the bad guys, it’s OK. Pity about the rest. Just make sure that the war is sufficiently prosaic, and don’t listen to Karim Khan.

Posted in USA1 Comment

What’s Really Happening in Venezuela?

NOVANEWS
Shadows of the Weimar Republic

by CHRIS GILBERT

Venezuela’s traditional “Youth Day”  President Nicolás Maduro’s 10-month-old government had planned a sizable celebration in the city of La Victoria (Aragua State) where exactly 200 years ago to the day the national hero José Félix Ribas led a youth militia against the royalist army. The celebration included new monuments, military marches, a special light show, and performances by the youth orchestra – all in a triumphalist spirit that was understandable given the electoral victories of last year. These victories establish what one analyst calls “an electoral plateau” during the upcoming two years: a period in which, without being distracted by campaigns, the new President and cabinet can concentrate on governing until late 2015.

Yet on that day Maduro made a serious error of judgment. Celebrating in Aragua, he had left his rearguard exposed in Caracas, while at the same time underestimating the opposition’s desperation and willingness to resort to violence. In the capital city, the opposition had organized its own youth march, composed largely of white, middle-class students, drawn from the private universities. Near the end of the day a group of these protesters turned violent, attacking the Attorney General’s offices in the city center with stones, bricks, and Molotov cocktails. When night had fallen, three people lay dead and a great many more were wounded, among the latter a significant number of the new human-rights-trained police.

President Maduro’s response to these events could be called “multilevel,” but perhaps is more accurately described as shotgun-style. He continued with the ceremonies in La Victoria, hesitant to abandon them on short notice. Then, at around 8 pm, he addressed the nation on television – as he would do on the following days – indicating that those responsible for the violent acts were small fascist groups; that there was a coup attempt in process; adding later that the intellectual authors of the violence were the ex-mayor Leopoldo López and to a lesser degree the congresswoman María Corina Machado. Maduro also tried to associate the state’s response to this situation with a new government-organized pacification movement Por La Vida y Por La Paz, that is directed against criminal violence.

The incongruent elements in the President’s message were readily apparent. If the responsible parties are really isolated fascist groups, how can they hope to carry out a successful coup d’état? Again, since the events of Wednesday constitute political violence, why respond to it with a movement that is specifically directed against criminalviolence? In fact, it is unlikely that there could be a coup under way in Venezuela in the near future, because the violent groups are too small and do not have the support of the military (as even the Washington Post article of the following day begrudgingly admitted). This raises the question of what the opposition groups, who continued to create disturbances over the weekend, are really trying to achieve.

To answer this question one must attempt to understand both the general situation of the country at the beginning of this new year and that of the opposition in particular. Following its electoral defeat last December, the Venezuelan right-wing is more divided and weaker in numbers than it has been for some time. On the other hand, within the Bolivarian movement there is considerable discontent due to the dire economic situation (a combined result of the global crisis and a local economic sabotage orchestrated by the bourgeoisie). This means that the opposition is surely thinking about the middle and long run: How to maintain itself as a reference during the upcoming two-year plateau? Who will be its key leaders? Is it possible to attract disgruntled Chavistas into its flagging ranks?

From this emerges the strategy of Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, whom Maduro is correct in pointing to as masterminding the violence. These two are seasoned politicians, closely advised by the White House, and cannot be so foolish as to suppose that the televised image of white university students attacking the police and burning public property will become a reference for any significant part of the Chavist majority – a majority that, however unhappy it may be about waiting in lines to buy milk, is endowed with considerable political consciousness. Yet these right-wing ringleaders are not mistaken in thinking that, through violent street actions, they could salvage the opposition as some kind of political reference, nationally and internationally, and perhaps enhance their own leadership within its files.

They are playing a dirty and dangerous game. If the term fascism is abstracted from the accidental features of its historical manifestations and used more broadly to identify a movement that captures sectors of the middle and working class for a pro-imperialist project – a movement that is often racist and always willing to disregard democratic results – then President Maduro is correct in calling the key actors on Wednesday fascists. Yet for this very reason the President is himself embarking on a dangerous game. His idea of attracting right-wing but more democratically-inclined forces (such as the media magnate Gustavo Cisneros) to his side brings with it two very serious dangers.

The first of these is that – along with Maduro’s pet project of cultivating celebrity allies – this new move is likely to confuse his political bases. Second and just as important, “democratic imperialisms” and “democratic right-wingers” are extremely treacherous allies in the struggle against fascism. History has shown that the democratic bourgeoisie is as effective as a curse in the fight against the violent members of its own class; a curse can deal veritable death blows – Voltaire reminds us – when accompanied by a sufficient amount of arsenic (i.e. working class effort). It is clear that Maduro wants to be a “normal” president: a president who inaugurates monuments, attends religious services, and appears with the First Lady Cilia Flores. Similarly, he wants to imitate Chávez in his last years when after many hard-won battles the initiator of the Bolivarian process had the opposition thoroughly in check. All this is understandable. But having the opposition under control is not inherited with the Presidential sash, and Maduro’s wish to be a “normal” president indicates a grave misunderstanding of his historical moment.

All evidence points to how the unpopular opposition, though fighting from the ropes, is in fact thinking about the middle and long run. Maduro needs to do the same. He has publicly called for the detention of the chief fascist instigator López, but he needs to go further and actually detain him (the international mass media will satanize his government regardless). Since losing power in the short run is not really a possibility, the real question for this still green leader of the Bolivarian process is: After two or three years of brushing elbows with celebrities, praising democratic businessmen, and looking for right-wing allies in the struggle against criminal and political violence, what will be left of the firm political base that Chávez bequeathed him, a base that is instinctively anti-fascist and believes in socialism? Maduro has correctly named his enemy: fascism. For that very reason he must avoid at all costs the vacillating attitudes of the left during the Weimar Republic, which long ago showed their tragic ineffectiveness.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on What’s Really Happening in Venezuela?

Iraq is Run by Wolves

NOVANEWS
The Farewell Speech of Muqtada Al-Sadr

by MUQTADA AL-SADR

I am not of those who turn a blind eye and keep their mouths shut in the face of corruption and wrongdoing. It has been decreed upon us, the Sadrs, to be those who call and work for guidance.

Here we are seeing our wounded and oppressed Iraq, under a black cloud that has covered its land and its sky: blood is flowing, wars are everywhere, people killing each other, some under the name of the ‘law’ and some under the name of ‘religion’.

Cursed is this ‘law’ that sheds blood and violates sanctities and down with a religion that gives right to beheading, bombing and assassinations.

Then politics became a door for injustice, mockery, autocracy and violation. So a dictator would become in charge of wealth, and he steals it, and of lives of people and he kills them, and of cities and he attacks them, and of sects and he divides them, and of minds and he buys them, and of hearts and he breaks them, so that everybody votes for him to stay in power.

Iraq with no life, no farming, no manufacturing, no services, no security or safety, no peace. And elections that thousands of lives are scarified for, all that, so a government would rule us, disregarding our rights and opinions, and a Parliament, with its worn seats, that can’t protect itself, let alone protect others.

A Parliament that can only agree to vote in one condition; if there are special rewards for MPs; but if there are (laws for) general benefit of the nation, everyone steps back, or the matter reaches the cabinet, where they (the laws) would be turned down/vetoed. But the cabinet would never veto against the MPs special rewards or their pensions.

Iraq that is ruled by wolves, thirsty for blood, souls that are eager for wealth, leaving their nation in suffering, in fear, in water puddles, in dark nights, lightened only by moonlight or a candle, swamped by assassinations based on differences or after ridiculous disagreements. All that and the government is only watching.

Iraq that is ruled by a group which came from beyond the borders. We long awaited for them to free us from the dictator, only for them to hold firmly on to the seats themselves, in the name of Shia, and Shiaism.

Was the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (peace and blessings upon him) able to sleep whilst there was a hungry person near to him? And now, how full are the streets with (people) with no roofs, no walls, no basic food, instead they sleep on the bare ground, covered by the raining sky.

A government that is overstuffed, has forgotten those who live beyond the guarded walls, has become blinded with wealth, houses, palaces, and aeroplanes, ignoring a prison that is called ‘Iraq’.

An honourable nation, that has been engulfed by wars, with harsh conditions that left it an easy bite that has fallen between the jaws of politicians and leaders. A nation that does not want food, but it demands honour, a heard voice and freedom, that lead it to the pleasure of the Lord, and to prove itself.

But, a government has come to shut the voices, to kill the opposition, to force them into exile, to fill prisons with them, and with everyone who resisted and tried to free his country from the tanks and aeroplanes of the occupation.

A government that has dominated over everything. It does not listen to anyone, even to the voice of the ‘Marj’’ (scholar)i and his ‘fatwa’ (rulings), or even to the voices or complaints of its counterparts, supported by the East and the West, in a way that surprises every wise man. In all this, we do not want to take their post or their chair, as we, the Sadrs, are much above this. We want to guide them, and protect them from mistakes, so Iraq would be in safe and caring hands. But they only listen to their masters, leaving the Sadrs and the two Sadr martyrs behind them, and whoever has an objection against them; Shia, Sunni or Kurd, theywould accuse him of terrorism or sectarianism, using the politicised judiciary to finish him, or to the army to arrest him, or using media propaganda or other ways which you know more about.

We, the Sadrs, if we could not change this, we say: Oh God do not associate us with the oppressors, and associate us with those who love the truth.

Peace upon those who supported us, we have not betrayed them, and we will not betray them. We seek to protect them, and their reputation, and from being led astray in this life. Especially, as there are those who seek to manipulate you, our loved ones and even use our name, the Sadrs, to reach his heinous aims in this life .They have collected well, they have spilt blood, they have violated sanctities and became in charge of people’s lives using our name and no one else’s name

And all that, they do not respect a ‘fatwa’ (ruling) or ruling or a question or a decision (or even a small paper from me), not even advice and not even an order, they ignore all of these.

And so that you know, all the people of Iraq, we love you so continue on your faith, love, religion and your support. God has made you victorious by us and has made us victorious by you. You are an honour to us except those the misguided who misguide others, who chose this life over the afterlife- down with them.

If there are amongst you honourable voices, political or others, let them continue in their work but in an independent way or otherwise away from me, under general guidelines, based on righteousness, faith, patriotism, wisdom and the public good. Iraq should not be left to the people of injustice

But I shall remain for all, I am not only to the Sadrists, I have devoted myself to Iraq, to Islam and I shall remain for everyone.

Whatever decisions or orders I have made, that you could not bear, I seek forgiveness for myself and for you but I am proud of these decisions until the day of judgment because I tried in all of them to be inspired and based on the path of the two Martyrs, their ideas and their manners and I shall not deviate from this, as they are my masters and my leaders, they are my authority and their enemies are my enemies.

In addition the society appears to be far away from the remembrance of God all praise to him, and this this has put a distance between myself and the society to some extent. I urge the believers to remember God and to be obedient to him so that he may forgive us all and so the gates of mercy would open for us and may this be an opportunity for the appearance of truth. Truth shall rise and nothing shall rise above it.

O beloved ones I have a few other points to mention:

Firstly the participation in elections. Despite this decision (by myself), I see participation in the elections as an obligation and must be on a large scale so the government would not fall into the hands of the sly ones who cannot be trusted, God forbid.

As for me I shall vote and I shall give my vote, if I live, to every honourable person who wants to serve the people, and I shall stand with everyone at equal distance, so I ask the Iraqis to participate in these elections and not to fall short. To fall short in this would be a betrayal to Iraq and its people.

Secondly, there are politicians who have served the Iraqi people honestly and sincerely, “and if there were no pious ones, it would have been destroyed”, and they are many, God willing. But I particularly would like to thank and to mention the two brothers; the governor of Misan and the governor of Baghdad, may God reward them as He would reward the righteous ones. They should continue and perfect their work in serving their nation.

Thank You.

Posted in IraqComments Off on Iraq is Run by Wolves

Hot Markets Gone Cold

NOVANEWS
Plunging Sales in SF, LA, Vegas and Phoenix cast doubt on Housing Recovery

by MIKE WHITNEY

Higher rates, higher prices and weak fundamentals have sent home sales crashing in last year’s hottest markets casting doubt on the sustainability of housing recovery.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, home “sales plunged to a six-year low”…. while prices dropped 4.3 percent from a month earlier. (Los Angeles Times) Additionally, sales of new and existing homes and condos fell to their “lowest level for the month since 2008″, the peak of the financial crisis.

Similarly, Dataquick announced that “January was the worst month for home sales in nearly 3-years for Southern California.” Here’s more from Dataquick:

“Southern California logged its lowest January home sales in three years…The median price paid for a home dipped from December…The number of new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month (was) down 21.4 percent…in December, and down 9.9 percent…in January 2013.”…

“The economy is growing, but Southland home sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis for four consecutive months now and remain well below average. Why? We’re still putting a lot of the blame on the low inventory. But mortgage availability, the rise in interest rates and higher home prices matter, too,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.” (Southland Home Sales Drop in January; Price Picture Mixed), Dataquick

Low inventory is the favorite excuse of realtors who want to conceal what’s really going on in the market. The fact is, the higher rates (since the Fed announced its scaling back of QE) and higher prices have weakened demand and sent moneybags investors racing for the exits. Weak fundamentals (Stagnant wages and high unemployment) have added to housing’s troubles. Unemployment remains stubbornly high in the Golden State. It’s currently locked at 8.7 percent, a full percentage point above the national average.

Sales have also dropped sharply in Las Vegas and Phoenix, which were red-hot in 2013. In Vegas, “sales dropped in December to the lowest level for that month in six years … Total December home sales were the lowest for that month since December 2007.” (Dataquick)

In Phoenix, it’s the same deal. Check out this article in the Phoenix Business Journal which explains the situation without placing the blame on low inventory. Here’s an excerpt from the article titled “Has the Phoenix housing market finally balanced out? 2014 could provide the answer”:

“Despite the fact that there were 36 percent more homes on the market Valleywide in December than a year earlier…demand has continued to fizzle since July…In fact, single-family home sales were down 17 percent year-over-year, the report said. Even with a 12 percent increase in listings priced below $150,000…sales in that range plunged by a whopping 47 percent…

Demand has been falling for several reasons. Rising interest rates and poor consumer confidence, largely ignited by the government shutdown, are among them. On top of that, many wannabe buyers don’t have the money for a down payment or have poor credit from a previous foreclosure or short sale…

Additionally, Wall Street-backed investors have been losing their interest in the Valley as home prices rebound and foreclosures lessen. Institutional investors made up 19.3 percent of Valley home sales in December — less than half their peak market share in July 2012, Orr said… (Has the Phoenix housing market finally balanced out? 2014 could provide the answer, Phoenix Business Journal)

There it is, in just two paragraphs, everything you need to know. Sales are “fizzling” because rates are higher, prices are higher, and the economy stinks. The whole inventory-thing is a red herring, in fact, if you comb the data you’ll see that inventory had been increasing for a full year until August 2013, when the banks realized that they were in big trouble.

Why?

Because the Fed announced that it was going to reduce its asset purchases (QE) which pushed up mortgage rates by a full percentage point overnight. That’s what killed demand. (Mortgage rates had been in the 3-percent range, now they’re in the 4′s.) Two months later, the banks started reducing their inventory in order to keep prices artificially high and avoid more balance sheet hemorrhaging. It is a tale of blatant collusion that can be proved by simply browsing at a chart of housing inventory for the last couple years. (See chart here.)

Now take a look at this chart of mortgage rates and you can see how they spiked shortly after the Fed made its announcement in June. Rates have never really come down since. This is from the Mortgage Reports:

Freddie Mac 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate climbs to 4.28%, the first weekly rise mortgage rate of 2014

Mortgage rates rose last week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS).

Housing expert Mark Hanson predicted the current sales collapse back in September 2013 in a post titled “Housing…Where we sit” which we cited in an earlier article. Here’s a clip from the post:

”Starting in Q4 2011 “housing” was injected with arguably the greatest stimulus of all time; a 2% “permanent mortgage rate buy down” gift from the Fed. As a result of rates plunging over a very short period of time…purchasing power was created out of thin air…

Some think the rate “surge” (note: The recent rate increase) will have little impact…while the bears…think the rate surge was a rare and powerful “catalyst” only rivaled two times in the last seven years. The first, when the housing market lost all it’s high-leverage loan programs all at once in 2007/2008; and the second, on the sunset of the Homebuyer Tax Credit in 2010.

In both these previous instances … when the leverage/stimulus went away … housing “reset” to the current supply/demand/lending guideline/interest rate environment, which in 2008 resulted in the “great housing crash”, and in 2010 the “double-dip”. Here we sit in a eerily similar situation.” (Housing…Where we sit“, Mark Hanson)

In other words, the higher rates are going to send housing sales off a cliff. Which they have. Hanson was right and the media Pollyannas were wrong. In the absence of –what Hanson calls–”the greatest stimulus of all time”, the sales-slide should continue for some time to come.

The distortions in housing are so extreme –due to the persistent meddling of the Fed, the government, and the banks–that traditional areas of market strength have gradually eroded while speculation has reached fever-pitch. For example, in December, firsttime homebuyers–the “Mother’s milk of the housing industry–slipped to just 27 percent of all sales while all-cash buyers represented a full 42 percent of all residential sales. This illustrates the impact the Fed’s “easy money” policies are having on the market. Everything’s upside-down; organic demand is steadily declining, while speculation is at levels never seen before. It’s crazy and it won’t end well.

Just this week, the California Association of Realtors (CAR) released its Traditional Housing Affordability Index which confirmed that buying a home is increasingly out-of-reach of ordinary working people. The report found that “only 32 percent of home buyers could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California…..To purchase a median-priced home in California, homebuyers needed to earn a minimum annual income of $89,240. Compared to 2012, where homebuyers needed to earn an income of $66,860….The median home price for California was $431,510 in Q4 2013.” (Housing Affordability Drops in California“, DS News)

(Note: The median income in California is just $58,000.)

The fundamentals are not strong enough to support today’s prices, which is why sales are tanking. The market has peaked, the bull run is over. Even the banks know it, which is what makes the chart below so interesting, because it suggests that the nation’s biggest lenders are planning to dump more of their backlog “shadow” inventory onto the market before prices drop and they’re left holding the bag. Check out the sudden reversal in foreclosure filings in January.

california_foreclosure_starts

Will you look at that! It looks like the banksters are getting ready to jump before the old Housing Hindenburg slams into the powerlines and explodes into sheets of flames.

Like we said earlier: This won’t end well.

Posted in USAComments Off on Hot Markets Gone Cold

Obama Backs Down on Crimea

NOVANEWS

by MIKE WHITNEY

“I never thought I’d live to see the day when the US State Department whitewashed the neo-Nazi views and heritage of a gang of thugs who had seized power in a violent coup d’état. In Iraq, Libya, and Syria, US policymakers empowered radical Islamists of one sort or another. That was bad enough. Today, however, in Ukraine they are empowering the heirs of Adolf Hitler. How is this not a scandal?”

–Justin Raimondo, From Iraq to Ukraine: A Pattern of Disaster

The Obama administration suffered its worst foreign policy defeat in 5 years on Sunday when the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to reject Washington’s Nazi-backed junta government in Kiev and join the Russian Federation. The balloting, in which more than 93 percent of voters “approved splitting off and joining Russia” reflects the strong ethnic, cultural and historic ties its people share with Moscow as well as the understandable fear that being “liberated” by the US could lead to grinding third world poverty and widespread mayhem the likes of which are manifest in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

The Obama administration rejected the nearly-unanimous referendum opining that they would not accept the results and would push for economic sanctions on Russia as early as Monday. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the referendum “complied with international law” and that he would honor the will of the people. Putin, who was attending the Paralympic games in Sochi, has wisely stayed above the fray throughout the crisis brushing off the hysterical accusations and threats issued almost daily by President Obama or his vaudevillian sidekick John Kerry, the most incompetent buffoon to ever serve as US Secretary of State. Between Obama, Kerry and the irascible John McCain, who traipses from one media venue to the next spouting his cold war fulminations like an old man shooing kids off the front lawn, the US has made a spectacular hash of things leaving US foreign policy in a shambles. The Crimea fiasco shows that while Team Obama may be chock-full of fantasists, spin-doctors and crystal-gazing globalists it is sadly lacking in geopolitical pragmatists with a solid grasp of the way the world works. Obama has been no match for Putin who has tromped him at every turn. Here’s a clip from an article by the Associated Press:

“Moscow… called on Ukraine to become a federal state as a way of resolving the polarization between Ukraine’s western regions — which favor closer ties with the 28-nation EU — and its eastern areas, which have long ties to Russia.

In a statement Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine’s parliament to call a constitutional assembly that could draft a new constitution to make the country federal, handing more power to its regions. It also said country should adopt a “neutral political and military status,” a demand reflecting Moscow’s concern about the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO.” (Crimea declares independence, seizes property, AP)

So, this is how Putin intends to play the game, eh; by using basic democratic institutions to block Washington from implementing its plan to deploy NATO and US missile bases in Ukraine? It sounds like a smart move to me.

Once again, Putin has made every effort to downplay his role in deciding policy so as not to embarrass the bungling Obama claque who seem determined to make themselves look foolish and impotent at every opportunity. Here’s how analyst Michael Scheuer summed up Putin’s behavior in an article at the Ron Paul website:

“The difference in the Ukraine intervention from others the West has conducted is that the terminally adolescent political leaders who run the West have run smack dab into a decisive, realistic, and nationalistic adult, in the person of Vladimir Putin, and they do not know what to do. They are learning that the Ukraine is not Libya or Egypt in that Putin will not to let the West make of Ukraine — or at least of Crimea — the same unholy mess its earlier unwarranted interventions made of Egypt and Libya. Putin has a very clear view of Russia’s genuine national interests, and reliable access to the Crimean base of the Black Sea fleet is one of them, it has been for centuries, and it will remain so in the future…

U.S. and Western leaders should be lining up to thank Vladimir Putin for a painful but thorough lesson in how the adult leader of a nation protects his country’s genuine national interests.” (Russia Annexing Crimea is the Cost of US/EU intervention in Ukraine, Michael Scheuer, Ron Paul Institute)

Putin realizes that derailing Washington’s strategy to control the Crimea will have serious consequences. He must now prepare for the typical litany of asymmetrical attacks including covert operations, special ops, arming Tatar jihadis to incite violence in Crimea, US-backed NGOs fomenting unrest in Moscow, etc etc, as well as stepped up US military and logistical support for Kiev’s thriving fascist element which has already morphed into the imposter-government’s security apparatus, a scary remake of Hitler’s Gestapo. Here’s the rundown from the World Socialist Web Site:

“On Thursday, the Ukrainian parliament voted to establish a 60,000-strong National Guard recruited from “activists” in the anti-Russian protests and from military academies. The force will be overseen by the new security chief, Andriy Parubiy, a founder in the early 1990s of the neo-Nazi Social-National Party of Ukraine. His deputy, Dmytro Yarosh, is the leader of the paramilitary Right Sector. It is the Ukrainian equivalent of Hitler’s storm troopers.

In addition to aiding the West in its provocations against Moscow, the main responsibility of these elements will be to carry through a social onslaught against the Ukrainian working class at the behest of international capital…” (What the Western-backed regime is planning for Ukrainian workers, World Socialist Web Site)

And here’s a bit more from the same article on the radical austerity program the IMF is planning to impose on Ukraine in order to shrink the government, reduce pensions, cut social services, and leave the country in a permanent state of Depression:

“Behind incessant rhetorical invocations of a “democratic revolution,” Ukraine’s newly-installed government of former bankers, fascists and oligarchs is preparing draconian austerity measures.

The plans being drawn up are openly described as the “Greek model,” i.e., the programme of savage cuts imposed on Greece by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union (EU) that has caused Greece’s economy to collapse by nearly 25 percent in five years and produced a massive growth in unemployment and poverty…” (“What the Western-backed regime is planning for Ukrainian workers, World Socialist Web Site)

So, Putin definitely has his work cut out for himself. Fortunately, he appears to be getting sound advice from his political and military advisors who have avoided pointless grandstanding, gamesmanship or incendiary rhetoric the likes of which erupt from the White House and State Department on a daily basis.

Despite the fact that the Kremlin does not want to see Washington “lose face”, sometimes events make that impossible, as the astute political analysts at Moon of Alabama pointed out on Sunday. Here’s a blurb from a post at MoA that shows how Washington has essentially capitulated to Moscow and accepted its basic framework for resolving the crisis while trying to dupe the public into thinking the policy was their idea. Here’s the excerpt:

“There was another phone call today between Secretary of State Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. The call came after a strategy meeting on Ukraine in the White House. During the call Kerry agreed to Russian demands for a federalization of the Ukraine in which the federal states will have a strong autonomy against a central government in a Finlandized Ukraine. Putin had offered this “off-ramp” from the escalation and Obama has taken it. The Russian announcement:

(Reuters) – “Lavrov, Kerry agree to work on constitutional reform in Ukraine: Russian ministry…

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed on Sunday to seek a solution to crisis in Ukraine by pushing for constitutional reforms there, the Russian foreign ministry said.

It did not go into details on the kind of reforms needed except to say they should come “in a generally acceptable form and while taking into the account the interests of all regions of Ukraine”.

“Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov and John Kerry agreed to continue work to find a resolution on Ukraine through a speedy launch of constitutional reform with the support of international community,” the ministry said in a statement.” (Ukraine: U.S. Takes Off-Ramp, Agrees To Russian Demands, Moon of Alabama)

Can you believe it? The goofy Obama team wants the public to believe that the whole “constitutional reform”-thing was their idea so people don’t notice that the clunker administration and President Featherweight have run up the white flag and headed for the hills. This is classic Barack “lead from behind” Obama trying to make a full-blown retreat look like a victory.

Posted in USA, UkraineComments Off on Obama Backs Down on Crimea

The Forgotten Coup

NOVANEWS
How the Same Godfather Rules from Canberra to Kiev

by JOHN PILGER

Washington’s role in the fascist putsch against an elected government in Ukraine will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore the historical record.  Since 1945, dozens of governments, many of them democracies, have met a similar fate, usually with bloodshed.

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries on earth with fewer people than Wales, yet under the reformist Sandinistas in the 1980s it was regarded in Washington as a “strategic threat”. The logic was simple; if the weakest slipped the leash, setting an example, who else would try their luck?

The great game of dominance offers no immunity for even the most loyal US “ally”. This is demonstrated by perhaps the least known of Washington’s coups — in Australia. The story of this forgotten coup is a salutary lesson for those governments that believe a “Ukraine” or a “Chile” could never happen to them.

Australia’s deference to the United States makes Britain, by comparison, seem a renegade. During the American invasion of Vietnam — which Australia had pleaded to join —  an official in Canberra voiced a rare complaint to Washington that the British knew more about US objectives in that war than its antipodean comrade-in-arms. The response was swift: “We have to keep the Brits informed to keep them happy. You are with us come what may.”

This dictum was rudely set aside in 1972 with the election of the reformist Labor government of Gough Whitlam.  Although not regarded as of the left, Whitlam — now in his 98th year — was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride, propriety and extraordinary political imagination. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm” and speak as a voice independent of London and Washington.

On the day after his election, Whitlam ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, ASIO — then, as now, beholden to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the Nixon/Kissinger administration as “corrupt and barbaric”, Frank Snepp, a CIA officer stationed in Saigon at the time, said later: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

Whitlam  demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, ostensibly a joint Australian/US “facility”. Pine Gap is a giant vacuum cleaner which, as the whistleblower Edward Snowden recently revealed, allows the US to spy on everyone. In the 1970s, most Australians had no idea that this secretive foreign enclave placed their country on the front line of a potential nuclear war with the Soviet Union.  Whitlam clearly knew the personal risk he was taking — as the minutes of a meeting with the US ambassador demonstrate. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” he warned, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention”.

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House. Consequences were inevitable … a kind of Chile was set in motion.”

The CIA had just helped General Pinochet to crush the democratic government of another reformer, Salvador Allende, in Chile.

In 1974, the White House sent the Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, very senior and sinister figure in the State Department who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state”.  Known as the “coupmaster”, he had played a played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia — which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Directors — described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to  rise against the government”.

Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were de-coded in California by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the de-coders was a young Christopher Boyce, an idealist who, troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally”, became a whistleblower. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”.

In his black top hat and medal-laden mourning suit, Kerr was the embodiment of imperium. He was the Queen of England’s Australian viceroy in a country that still recognised her as head of state. His duties were ceremonial; yet Whitlam — who appointed him — was unaware of or chose to ignore Kerr’s longstanding ties to Anglo-American intelligence.

The Governor-General was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by the Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, The Crimes of Patriots, as, “an elite, invitation-only group … exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA”. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige … Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.

In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 had long been operating against his government. “The Brits were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later.  One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In interviews in the 1980s with the American investigative journalist Joseph Trento, executive officers of the CIA disclosed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield, and that “arrangements” were made. A deputy director of the CIA told Trento: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

In 1975, Whitlam learned of a secret list of  CIA personnel in Australia held by the Permanent Head of the Australian Defence Department, Sir Arthur Tange — a deeply conservative mandarin with unprecedented territorial power in Canberra. Whitlam demanded to see the list. On it was the name, Richard Stallings who, under cover, had set up Pine Gap as a provocative CIA installation. Whitlam now had the proof he was looking for.

On 10 November, 1975, he was shown a top secret telex message sent by ASIO in Washington. This was later sourced to Theodore Shackley, head of the CIA’s East Asia Division and one of the most notorious figures spawned by the Agency. Shackley had been head of the CIA’s Miami-based operation to assassinate Fidel Castro and Station Chief in Laos and Vietnam. He had recently worked on the “Allende problem”.

Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. Incredibly, it said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country.

The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA whose ties to Washington were, and reman binding. He was briefed on the “security crisis”. He had then asked for a secure line and spent 20 minutes in hushed conversation.

On 11 November — the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia — he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister.  The problem was solved.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on The Forgotten Coup

Shoah’s pages

www.shoah.org.uk

KEEP SHOAH UP AND RUNNING

April 2014
M T W T F S S
« Mar   May »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930