Archive | September 28th, 2015

The Global Economic Crisis, The Great Depression of the XXI Century

NOVANEWS
Global Research
The Global Economic Crisis, The Great Depression of  the XXI Century.

The following text is an excerpt of the Preface of  The Global Economic Crisis. The Great Depression of the XXI Century, Montreal, Global Research, 2010.

Click here to buy the book!

In all major regions of the world, the economic recession is deep-seated, resulting in mass unemployment, the collapse of state social programs and the impoverishment of millions of people. The economic crisis is accompanied by a worldwide process of militarization, a “war without borders” led by the United States of America and its NATO allies. The conduct of the Pentagon’s “long war” is intimately related to the restructuring of the global economy.

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We are not dealing with a narrowly defined economic crisis or recession. The global financial architecture sustains strategic and national security objectives. In turn, the U.S.-NATO military agenda serves to endorse a powerful business elite which relentlessly overshadows and undermines the functions of civilian government.

This book takes the reader through the corridors of the Federal Reserve and the Council on Foreign Relations, behind closed doors at the Bank for International Settlements, into the plush corporate boardrooms on Wall Street where far-reaching financial transactions are routinely undertaken from computer terminals linked up to major stock markets, at the touch of a mouse button.

Each of the authors in this collection digs beneath the gilded surface to reveal a complex web of deceit and media distortion which serves to conceal the workings of the global economic system and its devastating impacts on people’s lives. Our analysis focuses on the role of powerful economic and political actors in an environment wrought by corruption, financial manipulation and fraud.

Despite the diversity of viewpoints and perspectives presented within this volume, all of the contributors ultimately come to the same conclusion: humanity is at the crossroads of the most serious economic and social crisis in modern history.

The meltdown of financial markets in 2008-2009 was the result of institutionalized fraud and financial manipulation. The “bank bailouts” were implemented on the instructions of Wall Street, leading to the largest transfer of money wealth in recorded history, while simultaneously creating an insurmountable public debt.

With the worldwide deterioration of living standards and plummeting consumer spending, the entire structure of international commodity trade is potentially in jeopardy. The payments system of money transactions is in disarray. Following the collapse of employment, the payment of wages is disrupted, which in turn triggers a downfall in expenditures on necessary consumer goods and services. This dramatic plunge in purchasing power backfires on the productive system, resulting in a string of layoffs, plant closures and bankruptcies. Exacerbated by the freeze on credit, the decline in consumer demand contributes to the demobilization of human and material resources.

This process of economic decline is cumulative. All categories of the labor force are affected. Payments of wages are no longer implemented, credit is disrupted and capital investments are at a standstill. Meanwhile, in Western countries, the “social safety net” inherited from the welfare state, which protects the unemployed during an economic downturn, is also in jeopardy.

 The Myth of Economic Recovery

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The existence of a “Great Depression” on the scale of the 1930s, while often acknowledged, is overshadowed by an unbending consensus: “The economy is on the road to recovery”.

While there is talk of an economic renewal, Wall Street commentators have persistently and intentionally overlooked the fact that the financial meltdown is not simply composed of one bubble – the housing real estate bubble – which has already burst. In fact, the crisis has many bubbles, all of which dwarf the housing bubble burst of 2008.

Although there is no fundamental disagreement among mainstream analysts on the occurrence of an economic recovery, there is heated debate as to when it will occur, whether in the next quarter, or in the third quarter of next year, etc. Already in early 2010, the “recovery” of the U.S. economy had been predicted and confirmed through a carefully worded barrage of media disinformation. Meanwhile, the social plight of increased unemployment in America has been scrupulously camouflaged. Economists view bankruptcy as a microeconomic phenomenon.

The media reports on bankruptcies, while revealing local-level realities affecting one or more factories, fail to provide an overall picture of what is happening at the national and international levels. When all these simultaneous plant closures in towns and cities across the land are added together, a very different picture emerges: entire sectors of a national economy are closing down.

Public opinion continues to be misled as to the causes and consequences of the economic crisis, not to mention the policy solutions. People are led to believe that the economy has a logic of its own which depends on the free interplay of market forces, and that powerful financial actors, who pull the strings in the corporate boardrooms, could not, under any circumstances, have willfully influenced the course of economic events.

The relentless and fraudulent appropriation of wealth is upheld as an integral part of “the American dream”, as a means to spreading the benefits of economic growth. As conveyed by Michael Hudson, the myth becomes entrenched that “without wealth at the top, there would be nothing to trickle down.” Such flawed logic of the business cycle overshadows an understanding of the structural and historical origins of the global economic crisis.

 Financial Fraud

Media disinformation largely serves the interests of a handful of global banks and institutional speculators which use their command over financial and commodity markets to amass vast amounts of money wealth. The corridors of the state are controlled by the corporate establishment including the speculators. Meanwhile, the “bank bailouts”, presented to the public as a requisite for economic recovery, have facilitated and legitimized a further process of appropriation of wealth.

Vast amounts of money wealth are acquired through market manipulation. Often referred to as “deregulation”, the financial apparatus has developed sophisticated instruments of outright manipulation and deceit. With inside information and foreknowledge, major financial actors, using the instruments of speculative trade, have the ability to fiddle and rig market movements to their advantage, precipitate the collapse of a competitor and wreck havoc in the economies of developing countries. These tools of manipulation have become an integral part of the financial architecture; they are embedded in the system.

The Failure of Mainstream Economics

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The economics profession, particularly in the universities, rarely addresses the actual “real world” functioning of markets. Theoretical constructs centered on mathematical models serve to represent an abstract, fictional world in which individuals are equal. There is no theoretical distinction between workers, consumers or corporations, all of which are referred to as “individual traders”. No single individual has the power or ability to influence the market, nor can there be any conflict between workers and capitalists within this abstract world.

By failing to examine the interplay of powerful economic actors in the “real life” economy, the processes of market rigging, financial manipulation and fraud are overlooked. The concentration and centralization of economic decision-making, the role of the financial elites, the economic thinks tanks, the corporate boardrooms: none of these issues are examined in the universities’ economics programs. The theoretical construct is dysfunctional; it cannot be used to provide an understanding of the economic crisis.

Economic science is an ideological construct which serves to camouflage and justify the New World Order. A set of dogmatic postulates serves to uphold free market capitalism by denying the existence of social inequality and the profit-driven nature of the system is denied. The role of powerful economic actors and how these actors are able to influence the workings of financial and commodity markets is not a matter of concern for the discipline’s theoreticians. The powers of market manipulation which serve to appropriate vast amounts of money wealth are rarely addressed. And when they are acknowledged, they are considered to belong to the realm of sociology or political science.

This means that the policy and institutional framework behind this global economic system, which has been shaped in the course of the last thirty years, is rarely analyzed by mainstream economists. It follows that economics as a discipline, with some exceptions, has not provided the analysis required to comprehend the economic crisis. In fact, its main free market postulates deny the existence of a crisis. The focus of neoclassical economics is on equilibrium, disequilibrium and “market correction” or “adjustment” through the market mechanism, as a means to putting the economy back “onto the path of self-sustained growth”.

 Poverty and Social Inequality

The global political economy is a system that enriches the very few at the expense of the vast majority. The global economic crisis has contributed to widening social inequalities both within and between countries. Under global capitalism, mounting poverty is not the result of a scarcity or a lack of human and material resources. Quite the opposite holds true: the economic depression is marked by a process of disengagement of human resources and physical capital. People’s lives are destroyed. The economic crisis is deep-seated.

The structures of social inequality have, quite deliberately, been reinforced, leading not only to a generalized process of impoverishment but also to the demise of the middle and upper middle income groups.

Middle class consumerism, on which this unruly model of capitalist development is based, is also threatened. Bankruptcies have hit several of the most vibrant sectors of the consumer economy. The middle classes in the West have, for several decades, been subjected to the erosion of their material wealth. While the middle class exists in theory, it is a class built and sustained by household debt.

The wealthy rather than the middle class are rapidly becoming the consuming class, leading to the relentless growth of the luxury goods economy. Moreover, with the drying up of the middle class markets for manufactured goods, a central and decisive shift in the structure of economic growth has occurred. With the demise of the civilian economy, the development of America’s war economy, supported by a whopping near-trillion dollar defense budget, has reached new heights. As stock markets tumble and the recession unfolds, the advanced weapons industries, the military and national security contractors and the up-and-coming mercenary companies (among others) have experienced a thriving and booming growth of their various activities.

 War and the Economic Crisis

War is inextricably linked to the impoverishment of people at home and around the world. Militarization and the economic crisis are intimately related. The provision of essential goods and services to meet basic human needs has been replaced by a profit-driven “killing machine” in support of America’s “Global War on Terror”. The poor are made to fight the poor. Yet war enriches the upper class, which controls industry, the military, oil and banking. In a war economy, death is good for business, poverty is good for society, and power is good for politics. Western nations, particularly the United States, spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year to murder innocent people in far-away impoverished nations, while the people at home suffer the disparities of poverty, class, gender and racial divides.

An outright “economic war” resulting in unemployment, poverty and disease is carried out through the free market. People’s lives are in a freefall and their purchasing power is destroyed. In a very real sense, the last twenty years of global “free market” economy have resulted, through poverty and social destitution, in the lives of millions of people.

Rather than addressing an impending social catastrophe, Western governments, which serve the interests of the economic elites, have installed a “Big Brother” police state, with a mandate to confront and repress all forms of opposition and social dissent.

The economic and social crisis has by no means reached its climax and entire countries, including Greece and Iceland, are at risk. One need only look at the escalation of the Middle East Central Asian war and the U.S.-NATO threats to China, Russia and Iran to witness how war and the economy are intimately related.

Michel Chossudovsky,  Montreal,  May 2010

The book can be ordered directly from Global Research

original

The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century

Contents of this Book

The contributors to this book reveal the intricacies of global banking and its insidious relationship to the military industrial complex and the oil conglomerates. The book presents an inter- disciplinary and multi-faceted approach, while also conveying an understanding of the historical and institutional dimensions. The complex relations of the economic crisis to war, empire and worldwide poverty are highlighted. This crisis has a truly global reach and repercussions that reverberate throughout all nations, across all societies.

In Part I, the overall causes of the global economic crisis as well as the failures of mainstream economics are laid out. Michel Chossudovsky focuses on the history of financial deregulation and speculation. Tanya Cariina Hsu analyzes the role of the American Empire and its relationship to the economic crisis. John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff undertake a comprehensive review of the political economy of the crisis, explaining the central role of monetary policy. James Petras and Claudia von Werlhof provide a detailed review and critique of neoliberalism, focusing on the economic, political and social repercussions of the “free market” reforms. Shamus Cooke examines the central role of debt, both public and private.

Part II, which includes chapters by Michel Chossudovsky and Peter Phillips, analyzes the rising tide of poverty and social inequality resulting from the Great Depression.

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original

With contributions by Michel Chossudovsky, Peter Dale Scott, Michael Hudson, Bill Van Auken, Tom Burghardt and Andrew Gavin Marshall, Part III examines the relationship between the economic crisis, National Security, the U.S.-NATO led war and world government. In this context, as conveyed by Peter Dale Scott, the economic crisis creates social conditions which favor the instatement of martial law.

The focus in Part IV is on the global monetary system, its evolution and its changing role. Andrew Gavin Marshall examines the history of central banking as well as various initiatives to create regional and global currency systems. Ellen Brown focuses on the creation of a global central bank and global currency through the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Richard C. Cook examines the debt-based monetary system as a system of control and provides a framework for democratizing the monetary system.

Part V focuses on the working of the Shadow Banking System, which triggered the 2008 meltdown of financial markets. The chapters by Mike Whitney and Ellen Brown describe in detail how Wall Street’s Ponzi scheme was used to manipulate the market and transfer billions of dollars into the pockets of the banksters.

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Putin: “US-Led Coalition Must Understand. Only the Syrian People Are Entitled to Decide Who Should Govern Their Country”

NOVANEWS
Global Research
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It is important what you do for your country, not the names you are being called, Russian President Vladimir Putin told CBS’s ‘60 Minutes,’ saying that the nickname ‘tsar’ does not fit him.

Charlie Rose sat down with Putin to discuss, among other issues, how the world views the Russian leader. CBS has published a preview of the interview.

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Rose pointed out that some people have been referring to Putin as a ‘tsar.’ Putin responded that people call him various names, but added he believes the description “does not fit me.” 

It’s not important how I’m called, whether these are well-wishers, friends or political opponents. It’s important what you think about you, what you must do for the interest of the country which has entrusted you with the position as the head of the Russian state.

When asked what he admires about America, Putin said that what he likes most is “the creativity.”

“Creativity when it comes to your tackling problems. Their openness – openness and open-mindedness – because it allows them to unleash the inner potential of their people. And thanks to that, America has attained such amazing results in developing their country,” Putin said.“America exerts enormous influence on the situation in the world as a whole.”

Putin also discussed Syria, stressing that President Bashar Assad’s government is essential to prevent Syria from falling into the same chaos as Libya and Iraq. 

“It’s my deep belief that any actions to the contrary in order to destroy the legitimate government [of Syria] will create a situation which you can witness now in the other countries of the region or in other regions, for instance in Libya, where all the state institutions are disintegrated. We see a similar situation in Iraq,” Putin stressed.

“There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism. But at the same time, urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform.”

The Russian leader stressed that US-led coalition partners need to understand that only the Syrian people are entitled “to decide who should govern their country and how.”

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Will Saudi Arabia Prevent the UN From Investigating Its War Atrocities in Yemen?

NOVANEWS
Saudi Arabia's Military Involvement in the Yemen Conflict

As Saudi government launches diplomatic blitz against human rights probe, Obama administration remains silent

The Saudi Arabian government is unleashing a vigorous diplomatic campaign to block a United Nations proposal for a human rights investigation into the country’s six-month-old military assault on Yemen—waged with the backing of international powers including the United States.

President Barack Obama has so far remained silent on the resolution, which was submitted by the Netherlands Thursday and calls for the UN Human Rights Council to launch a probe into abuses committed by all parties.

The Dutch proposal requires the UN High Commissioner to “dispatch a mission, with assistance from relevant experts, to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Yemen.” In addition, the resolution calls for players to grant access to humanitarian aid, in a clear reference to the Saudi-led and U.S.-backed naval blockade that is choking off food and medical aid.

"The international community must seize this moment to establish a credible, international inquiry that offers hope for accountability and justice for victims of serious violations and abuses in Yemen," said James Lynch of Amnesty International. (Photo: Getty Images)“The international community must seize this moment to establish a credible, international inquiry that offers hope for accountability and justice for victims of serious violations and abuses in Yemen,” said James Lynch of Amnesty International. (Photo: Getty Images)

The proposal follows the call, earlier this month, by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein for an “international, independent, and impartial” investigation into human rights violations. Groups including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, the Gulf Center for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch have also urged the international community to end the “impunity that fuels humanitarian crisis” in Yemen.

“With no end to this deadly conflict in sight and a spiraling humanitarian crisis, civilian suffering is at an all-time high,” James Lynch, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International, warned in a statement released Friday. “The international community must seize this moment to establish a credible, international inquiry that offers hope for accountability and justice for victims of serious violations and abuses in Yemen.”

However, the Saudi government and some of its key allies appear determined to prevent such a probe.

“Saudi diplomats have robustly lobbied Asian, African and European states through their capitals or missions in Geneva,” Nick Cumming-Bruce reports in the New York Times.

“Gulf countries Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have argued for shelving plans for an independent inquiry into rights abuses in Yemen,” writes Foreign Policyjournalist Colum Lynch, citing notes obtained from a September 17 intergovernmental meeting. “They maintained that a commission of inquiry established by the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi backed Hadi government should be given a chance to demonstrate whether it has the capacity to do the job.”

What’s more, Saudi Arabia submitted a competing resolution on Monday excluding any reference to an independent investigation and focusing solely on abuses committed by “Houthi militias against the government.”

Despite its role in the war, the U.S. has yet to weigh in on the debate.

“The United States, which has provided extensive support to the Saudi-led coalition, has been surprisingly discreet on whether a U.N. mission should be dispatched to investigate crimes in Yemen,” said Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. and crisis advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “This stands in sharp contrast to U.S. support for international inquiries and missions in Syria, North Korea, Libya, Sri Lanka, and Eritrea.”

The Obama administration’s muteness is in keeping with its larger silence about the Saudi-led military campaign, which the U.S. is arming, politically backing, and directly participating in through logistics and intelligence support.

At least 2,100 civilians, including more than 400 children, have been killed—the vast majority by the Saudi alliance, which stands accused of war crimes. The coalition has also fired cluster bombs produced in the United States and launched deadly air strikes on humanitarian aid warehouses, internally displaced persons camps, factories, densely populated residential neighborhoods, schools, shelters, and water infrastructure.

The Saudi government’s efforts to prevent a probe come amid growing concern over the petro-monarchy’s recent appointment to head a UN human rights panel, a development that was welcomed by the U.S. State Department.

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The UN Releases Plan to Push for Worldwide Internet Censorship

NOVANEWS
Global Research
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The United Nations has disgraced itself immeasurably over the past month or so.

In case you missed the following stories, I suggest catching up now:

The UN’s “Sustainable Development Agenda” is Basically a Giant Corporatist Fraud

Not a Joke – Saudi Arabia Chosen to Head UN Human Rights Panel

Fresh off the scene from those two epic embarrassments, the UN now wants to tell governments of the world how to censor the internet. I wish I was kidding.

From the Washington Post:

On Thursday, the organization’s Broadband Commission for Digital Development released a damning “world-wide wake-up call” on what it calls “cyber VAWG,” or violence against women and girls. The report concludes that online harassment is “a problem of pandemic proportion” — which, nbd, we’ve all heard before.

But the United Nations then goes on to propose radical, proactive policy changes for both governments and social networks, effectively projecting a whole new vision for how the Internet could work.

Under U.S. law — the law that, not coincidentally, governs most of the world’s largest online platforms — intermediaries such as Twitter and Facebook generally can’t be held responsible for what people do on them. But the United Nations proposes both that social networks proactively police every profile and post, and that government agencies only “license” those who agree to do so.

People are being harassed online, and the solution is to censor everything and license speech? Remarkable.

How that would actually work, we don’t know; the report is light on concrete, actionable policy. But it repeatedly suggests both that social networks need to opt-in to stronger anti-harassment regimes and that governments need to enforce them proactively.

At one point toward the end of the paper, the U.N. panel concludes that“political and governmental bodies need to use their licensing prerogative” to better protect human and women’s rights, only granting licenses to “those Telecoms and search engines” that “supervise content and its dissemination.”

So we’re supposed to be lectured about human rights from an organization that named Saudi Arabia head of its human rights panel? Got it.

Regardless of whether you think those are worthwhile ends, the implications are huge: It’s an attempt to transform the Web from a libertarian free-for-all to some kind of enforced social commons.

This U.N. report gets us no closer, alas: all but its most modest proposals are unfeasible. We can educate people about gender violence or teach “digital citizenship” in schools, but persuading social networks to police everything their users post is next to impossible. And even if it weren’t, there are serious implications for innovation and speech: According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, CDA 230 — the law that exempts online intermediaries from this kind of policing — is basically what allowed modern social networks (and blogs, and comments, and forums, etc.) to come into being.

If we’re lucky, perhaps the Saudi religious police chief (yes, they have one) who went on a rampage against Twitter a couple of years ago, will be available to head up the project.

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Bernie Sanders Gets a Foreign Policy

NOVANEWS
Global Research
Senator Bernie Sanders

After 25,000 people asked, Senator Bernie Sanders added a few words to his presidential campaign website about the 96% of humanity he’d been ignoring.

He did not, as his spoken comments heretofore might have suggested, make this statement entirely or at all about fraud and waste in the military. He did not even mention Saudi Arabia, much less declare that it should “take the lead” or “get its hands dirty” as he had been doing in interviews, even as Saudi Arabia bombs Yemeni families with U.S. cluster bombs. While he mentioned veterans and called them brave, he also did not turn the focus of his statement toward glorification of troops, as he very well might have.

All that to the good, the statement does lack some key ingredients. Should the United States be spending a trillion dollars a year and over half of discretionary spending on militarism? Should it cut that by 50%, increase it by 30%, trim it by 3%? We really can’t tell from this statement insisting on the need for major military spending while admitting the harm it does:

And while there is no question our military must be fully prepared and have the resources it needs to fight international terrorism, it is imperative that we take a hard look at the Pentagon’s budget and the priorities it has established. The U.S. military must be equipped to fight today’s battles, not those of the last war, much less the Cold War. Our defense budget must represent our national security interests and the needs of our military, not the reelection of members of Congress or the profits of defense contractors. The warning that President Dwight David Eisenhower gave us about the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex in 1961 is truer today than it was then.

That warning, of course, might be interpreted by some as suggesting that investing in preparation for “today’s battles” is what produces today’s battles.

And which of today’s battles would Sanders like to end? Drones are not mentioned. Special forces are not mentioned. Foreign bases are not mentioned. The only hint he gives about future action in Iraq or Syria suggests that he would continue to use the military to make things worse while simultaneously trying other approaches to make things better:

We live in a dangerous world full of serious threats, perhaps none more so than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. Senator Sanders is committed to keeping America safe, and pursuing those who would do Americans harm. But we cannot combat international terrorism alone. We must work with our allies to root out terrorist funding networks, provide logistical support in the region, disrupt online radicalization, provide humanitarian relief, and support and defend religious freedom. Moreover, we must begin to address the root causes of radicalization, instead of focusing solely on military responses to those who have already become radicalized.

Would he end the U.S. war on Afghanistan?

Sen. Sanders called on both Presidents Bush and Obama to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as possible and for the people of Afghanistan to take full responsibility for their own security. After visiting Afghanistan, Sen. Sanders spoke-out against the rampant corruption he saw, particularly in regards to elections, security and the banking system.

From that, an American suffering under the delusion that the war had already been ended would be enlightened not at all, and one really can’t tell whether Sanders would choose to take any sort of action to end it in reality. Of course, he is a U.S. Senator and is not attempting to cut off the funding.

Sanders’ statement is a very mixed bag. He supports the Iran agreement while pushing false claims about “Iran developing nuclear weapons.” He criticizes “both sides” in Palestine, but says not one word about cutting off free weaponry or international legal protection for Israel — or for any other governments. The Pope’s call to end the arms trade, which the United States leads, goes unmentioned. He mentions nuclear weapons, but only the nonexistent ones belonging to Iran, not those of the United States or Israel or any other nation. Disarmament is not an agenda item here. And how could it be when he declares, in violation of the U.N. Charter, in his first paragraph that “force must always be an option”?

Sanders offers no details on a shift away from serving as weapons supplier to the world, to serious investment in aid and diplomacy. But he does say this:

However, after nearly fourteen years of ill-conceived and disastrous military engagements in the Middle East, it is time for a new approach. We must move away from policies that favor unilateral military action and preemptive war, and that make the United States the de facto policeman of the world. Senator Sanders believes that foreign policy is not just deciding how to react to conflict around the world, but also includes redefining America’s role in the increasingly global economy. Along with our allies throughout the world, we should be vigorous in attempting to prevent international conflict, not just responding to problems. For example, the international trade agreements we enter into, and our energy and climate change policies not only have enormous consequences for Americans here at home, but greatly affect our relations with countries around the world. Senator Sanders has the experience, the record and the vision not just to lead on these critically important issues, but to take our country in a very different direction.

Sanders claims, however, absurdly, that he has only supported wars that were a “last resort.” He includes among those, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, despite neither having been remotely a last resort. Sanders admits as much, saying, “I supported the use of force to stop the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.” Set aside the fact that it increased the ethnic cleansing and that diplomacy was not really attempted, what he is claiming is a philanthropic mission, not a “last resort.” Sanders also says, “And, in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001, I supported the use of force in Afghanistan to hunt down the terrorists who attacked us.” Set aside the Taliban’s offer to transfer Osama bin Laden to a third country to be tried, what Sanders is describing is hunting and murdering people in a distant land, not a “last resort” — and also not what he voted for, and Rep. Barbara Lee voted against, which was a blank check for endless war at presidential discretion.

All of this obviously leaves open the possibility of endless global war but suggests a desire not to eagerly seek it out. Also obviously it is far better than Hillary Clinton would say, less than Jill Stein would say (“Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights. End the wars and drone attacks, cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire.

Stop U.S. support and arms sales to human rights abusers, and lead on global nuclear disarmament.”), and a bit different from what Lincoln Chafee would say (the latter actually admits the U.S. wars created ISIS and are making us less safe, says he’d end drone strikes, etc.). And of course the whole lot of them are a distraction from the struggle to reduce and end militarism and prevent wars in 2015, a year with no election in it. Still, it’s encouraging that a leading “socialist” candidate for U.S. president finally has a foreign policy, even if it hardly resembles Jeremy Corbyn’s.

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Russia, Iran, Iraq & Syria Setting Up ‘Joint Information Center’ to Coordinate Anti-ISIS Operations

NOVANEWS
By RT
ISIS

Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria have agreed to establish a joint information center in Baghdad to coordinate their operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL/ISIS) militants, according to sources.

“The main goal of the center will be gathering, processing and analyzing current information about the situation in the Middle East – primarily for fighting IS,” a military-diplomatic source told Russian news agencies on Saturday.

The information center in the Iraqi capital will be headed by an officer of one of the founding countries on a rotating basis. Rotation will take place every three months. According to the source, Iraq will run the center for the next three months.

© Stringer© Stringer / Reuters

Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria may also use the information center to coordinate anti-IS combat plans, the source said, adding that the agreement is a milestone for uniting the region’s countries in the war on terrorism – primarily on Islamic State militants.

The Iraqi army’s joint operations command confirmed the agreement on Saturday, saying that it came with “increased Russian concern about the presence of thousands of terrorists from Russia undertaking criminal acts with Daesh [Islamic State],” Reuters reported.

READ MORE: Upper House: No request from Putin to dispatch troops in Syria

Meanwhile, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari announced in New York on Friday that Iraq has not received any Russian military advisers to assist Baghdad’s operations.

On Friday, the US TV-Channel Fox News reported the four countries were establishing a “coordination cell” in Baghdad, but Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Vladimir Putin, denied this. “We have already said there are many reports which are not true,”he told news agencies.

Recent media reports indicate Russia is boosting its cooperation with Syria and other Middle East countries in the fight against terrorism.

Western media say Russia is sending warplanes and tanks to Syria and building a military base in Latakia, but Russian officials deny this, saying Moscow is continuing to supply Syria with weapons in accordance with bilateral contracts.

“Russia has never made a secret of military-technical cooperation with Syria. Our country has long been supplying weapons and military equipment to Syria under the existing bilateral contracts,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on September 9.

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Syria hopes that Russia’s counter-terror policy will be more effective than the US-led anti-IS coalition.

“Moscow is acting within the framework of international law, respecting the sovereignty of our country and in coordination with Syria,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told RT. “We do not hide anything under the table. We regard Russia as our friend and strategic ally which is honest in its actions.”

Russia has long insisted on the creation of an international anti-terrorist coalition, to coordinate the efforts with the Syrian Army in combating the jihadists on the ground.

READ MORE: No talks with Russia over anti-ISIS military action in Syria – Fallon

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Jeremy Corbyn’s Economic Vision

NOVANEWS
Global Research
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America, Israel and Britain are the developed world’s most unequal countries. Wealth disparity in all three are extreme and widening – government-sponsored hellishness for their ordinary citizens, finding it increasingly harder to get by on stagnating low incomes, reduced benefits and rising cost of food, shelter, healthcare and other essentials.

Western governments overall are dismissive of their needs – serving monied interests exclusively.

Corbyn’s economic vision is polar opposite, promoting equity, fairness and justice entirely absent in today’s Britain. Labour leadership will “build a strong, growing economy that works for all, not by increasing poverty,” he said.

Austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity. There is money available. After all, the government has just given tax breaks to the richest 4% of households.

Where there are tough choices, we will always protect public services and support for the most vulnerable.

But in an economy that works for all, we will be able to ask those with income and wealth to spare to contribute a little more.

You just cannot cut your way to prosperity so Britain needs a publicly-led expansion and reconstruction of the economy, with a big rise in investment levels.

We must ensure that those with the most, pay the most, not just in monetary terms but proportionally too.

Britain needs a serious debate on how wealth is created, Corbyn stresses. Discount the myth about tax cuts and other incentives for wealthy investors and corporate interests benefitting everyone.

Ending the austerity “straightjacket” is vital. Britain must focus on building a “rebalanced economy based on growth and high quality jobs” – assuring workers share equitably in wealth creation, Corbyn stresses.

It’s time to end a system harming working households, unemployed or underemployed people, the disabled, Britain’s youths with no future prospects, public sector workers and services, he explained.

Closing the deficit and austerity policies are tired old excuses for one-sided business as usual, favoring privileged elites exclusively.

“This is why I stood in this race,” said Corbyn – “(b)ecause Labour shouldn’t be swallowing the story that austerity is anything other than a new facade for the same Tory plans,” endorsed by Labour leadership under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, hardline hawkish conservatives masquerading as pro-labor.

Deficits aren’t reduced by cutting vital services. Bringing them down to manageable levels requires fostering balanced, equitable, sustainable economic growth – featuring high-pay, good benefits jobs creation, benefitting everyone in society equitably and fairly.

Since Tony Blair’s destructive agenda, Britain saw the longest period of inflation adjusted falling wages since the 19th century, disastrous investment policies, a higher balance of payments deficit, offshoring high-pay, good benefit jobs, replaced by fewer numbers of rotten ones.

Main Street Depression conditions affect ordinary Brits – like their American counterparts, victims of out-of-control greed, benefitting wealth and power interests exclusively.

“If there are tough choices, we will always protect public services and support for the most vulnerable,” Corbyn stressed. “(W)e will ask” well-off Brits to contribute more – working for a more equitable society, including “an economy that works for all.”

It’s fundamentally unbalanced, inequitable, unfair, unjust and unsustainable longterm. “You cannot cut your way to prosperity,” Corbyn explained.

He urges quantitative easing for people instead of banks and large investors. End policies favoring corporate subsidies and tax breaks. Use the tens of billions of pounds saved for public investment – in infrastructure, transportation, education, healthcare and other vital services.

Establish a National Investment Bank for this purpose, a public bank for a better future for all Brits. Taxation should be progressive. Corporate and wealthy interests should pay their fair share.

“At a time when schools and hospitals are struggling for funds, it is grotesque that some of the richest individuals and most profitable businesses are dodging their responsibilities,” said Corbyn. “Paying tax is not a burden. It is the subscription we pay to live in a civilised society.”

“Our tax system has shifted over the last generation from taxing income and wealth to taxing consumption; and from taxing corporations to taxing individuals.”

A race to the bottom followed. “Labour must make the tax system more progressive,” said Corbyn. Businesses and individuals earning the most should pay the most proportionately to their incomes.

Unenforced tax avoidance must change. It’s costing Britain around 120 billion pounds annually – enough to double the National Health Service budget or give every Brit two thousand pounds. Corbyn’s tax policy includes:

  • “The introduction of a proper anti-avoidance rule into UK tax law.
  • The aim of country-by-country reporting for multinational corporations.
  • Reform of small business taxation to discourage avoidance and tackle tax evasion.
  • Enforce proper regulation of companies in the UK to ensure that they file their accounts and tax returns and pay the taxes that they owe.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, a reversal of the cuts to staff in HMRC (revenue & customs) and at Companies House, taking on more staff at both, to ensure that HMRC can collect the taxes the country so badly needs.”

Corbyn concludes, saying Britain’s society and economy are hugely imbalanced. A strategy “for a more highly skilled, productive economy” working for everyone is essential. Government leadership is required to assure it.

Otherwise, “we have the casino economy and the chaos of underinvestment, debt bubbles, and grotesque inequality between rich and poor, and a widening regional inequality.”

Our vision is of an economy that works for all, provides opportunity for all, and invests in all – rich and poor, north, south, east and west.

It means we judge our economy not by the presence of billionaires but by the absence of poverty; not only by whether GDP is rising, but by whether inequality is falling.

Labour must become the party of economic credibility AND economic justice” – a “more equal and more prosperous society that only a Labour government in 2020 can deliver.

Corbyn’s voting record since entering Parliament in June 1983 reflects his rhetoric. Bernie Sanders is polar opposite – talking like Corbyn, voting with Democrats 98% of the time, supporting their pro-war, pro-business, anti-populist agenda.

Corbyn as British prime minister in 2020 would offer real change, benefitting all Brits equitably and fairly.

 

Posted in UKComments Off on Jeremy Corbyn’s Economic Vision

Know World War II, Avoid World War III. US Provocation and Propaganda directed against China

NOVANEWS
Absurdities and Atrocities: The Threat of World War III

 An Asian state aggressively expanding its military, bullying its neighbors, illegally fortifying islands, and bent on regional, then global domination – sound familiar? Are you thinking it’s China 2015? No, it is Japan 1937-1944.

So shockingly similar is American propaganda regarding Japan during World War II to the propaganda being leveled against Beijing today that it seems almost intentional. Or perhaps those on Wall Street and Washington think so little of the general public’s ability to discern fact from fiction, they see no reason to revise the script and are going ahead with a remake faithful to the original with only a few minor casting twists.

This US government production is titled “Why We Fight: A Series of Seven Information Films” with this particular part titled, “The Battle of China released in 1944.

It describes Japan almost verbatim as how the US today describes China.

China is depicted as a righteous victim – but as the film elaborates – it is clear that any affinity shown toward the Chinese people is only due to the fact that the US held significant economic and geopolitical interests there. Admittedly, the US military was already occupying China after extorting through “gunboat diplomacy” concessions from China’s subjugated, servile government – not unlike US troops occupying Japan today, hosted by a capitulating government in Tokyo.

Japan in the film is depicted as a “blood crazed” race of barbarians, while the Chinese are depicted as noble resistors. Of course, this narrative shifted immediately as soon as US interests were ousted from China and US troops began occupying and shaping the destiny of conquered Japan after the war.

The Warning Then are Warnings Now

US Marine Corps General Smedley Butler in his book “War is a Racket” would specifically warn about a military build up aimed at Japan for the jealous preservation of American conquests in Asia Pacific. Speaking specifically about these conquests, General Butler would say:

What does the “open door” policy to China mean to us? Our trade with China is about $90,000,000 a year. Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent about $600,000,000 in the Philippines in thirty-five years and we (our bankers and industrialists and speculators) have private investments there of less than $200,000,000.

Then, to save that China trade of about $90,000,000, or to protect these private investments of less than $200,000,000 in the Philippines, we would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to war — a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit — fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers. Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.

Yes, they are getting ready for another war. Why shouldn’t they? It pays high dividends.

Of provoking Japan, he would state specifically that:

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don’t shout that “We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation.” Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the United States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.

Incidentally, General Butler’s warning of provoking war to fulfill the ambitions of lobbyists in Washington and to protect America’s ill-gotten holding in Asia Pacific, would come to full and devastating fruition.

Today, a similar scenario plays out verbatim. The US seeks to expand its military in Asia Pacific to preserve what US policy makers call “US primacy over Asia,” and has been intentionally provoking China, by flying, sailing, and otherwise maneuvering just at the edge of Chinese territory.

In addition they have attempted to encircle China with military bases from South Korea and Japan to as far south as Darwin, Australia, and as far west as Afghanistan, all while attempting to carve off Chinese territory in the Xinjiang and Tibet regions, destabilize Hong Kong, and stitching together Southeast Asia into an supranational bloc with which to isolate and threaten China with economically and militarily. Political subversion underwritten by the US State Department is ongoing in Xinjiang through the use of Uyghur terrorists, Tibet via the Dali Lama, Myanmar via Aung San Suu Kyi and her “Saffron monks,”Thailand through the Shinawatra family and their ultra-violent “red shirt” mobs, Malaysia via Anwar Ibrahim and his Bersih street movement, and Hong Kong via the so-called “Umbrella revolution.”

Despite this effort, American designs are failing, and China has likely learned many lessons before, during, and after World War II. Asian nations who seek regional peace and stability as well as cooperation with Beijing, have also learned much about the inner-working of US hegemony and how to confound it.

Beijing is unlikely to exhibit the hubris and impatience of the Japanese in World War II, or allow themselves to be provoked into an unwinnable war. Beijing is also well aware that as impressive as America’s grand strategy of geopolitically and militarily encircling China may be, it is failing on all fronts.

China has learned these lessons of history, and by examining history ourselves, we can see how the US provoked, then framed the war with Japan during World War II, and how it is using precisely the same tricks today against China.

Posted in USAComments Off on Know World War II, Avoid World War III. US Provocation and Propaganda directed against China

SYRIZA’s Pyrrhic Victory, and the Future of the Left in Greece

NOVANEWS
Global Research
SyrizaFlags

In the wake of the September 20 Greek election SYRIZA has once again formed a coalition government with a small right-wing party, ANEL. Both parties lost votes and seats but their standing, like those of most other parties, was not very dissimilar to the results in January, when SYRIZA was first elected.

SYRIZA’s 35.46% and ANEL’s 3.69%, combined, were sufficient to give them a majority of 155 seats in the 300-seat parliament under Greece’s electoral law, which gives 50 additional seats to the party with a plurality, in this case (as before) SYRIZA. However, voter turnout was at an all-time low, 44% of the electorate abstaining although voting is mandatory in Greece. This means that SYRIZA was supported by only 20% of eligible voters.

And this is a very different party, and government, than the one elected in January.

SYRIZA received the highest vote of any party in January on the basis of its promise to end the brutal austerity Greece has suffered in recent years at the hands of its creditors – the other countries that use the euro, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), referred to collectively as the “Troika.” But this time neither SYRIZA nor ANEL could credibly promise opposition to austerity. They are committed to enforcing the harsh austerity terms imposed on Greece in July when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras capitulated to the Troika only days following a national referendum in which 61% of the voters had strongly affirmed their opposition to austerity.

Moreover, SYRIZA will now govern without its left wing, which opposed submission to the new memorandum. The SYRIZA dissidents, previously grouped as the party’s Left Platform, joined recently with a number of small anti-austerity parties to found Popular Unity, a self-described “social and political front to overturn the memoranda, predatory austerity, the negation of democracy, and the transformation of Greece into a European colony by means of indebtedness.” However, Popular Unity, with only 2.86% of the popular vote, fell short of the 3% required for representation in parliament.

Troika the Big Winner

Yanis Varoufakis, the finance minister in the previous SYRIZA government,accurately described the election result:

“The greatest winner is the troika itself. During the past five years, troika-authored bills made it through parliament on ultra-slim majorities, giving their authors sleepless nights. Now, the bills necessary to prop up the third bailout will pass with comfortable majorities, as SYRIZA is committed to them. Almost every opposition MP (with the exception of the communists of KKE and the Nazis of Golden Dawn) is also on board.

“Of course, to get to this point Greek democracy has had to be deeply wounded (1.6 million Greeks who voted in the July referendum did not bother to turn up at the polling stations on Sunday) – no great loss to bureaucrats in Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington DC for whom democracy appears, in any case, to be a nuisance.

“Tsipras must now implement a fiscal consolidation and reform programme that was designed to fail. Illiquid small businesses, with no access to capital markets, have to now pre-pay next year’s tax on their projected 2016 profits. Households will need to fork out outrageous property taxes on non-performing apartments and shops, which they can’t even sell. VAT rate hikes will boost VAT evasion. Week in week out, the troika will be demanding more recessionary, antisocial policies: pension cuts, lower child benefits, more foreclosures.

“The prime minister’s plan for weathering this storm is founded on three pledges. First the agreement with the troika is unfinished business, leaving room for further negotiation of important details; second, debt relief will follow soon; and third, Greece’s oligarchs will be tackled. Voters supported Tsipras because he appeared the most likely candidate to deliver on these promises. The trouble is, his capacity to do so is severely circumscribed by the agreement he has already signed.

“His power to negotiate is negligible given the agreement’s clear condition that the Greek government must ‘agree with the [troika] on all actions relevant for the achievement of the objectives of the memorandum of understanding’ (Notice the absence of any commitment by the troika to agree with the Greek government.)”

It was the third promise – to fight the oligarchs who got Greece into this mess in the first place – that was key to Tsipras’s re-election, says Yaroufakis.

“Having accepted a new extend-and-pretend loan that limits the government’s capacity to reduce austerity and look after the weak, the surviving raison d’être of a leftwing administration is to tackle noxious vested interests. However, the troika is the oligarchs’ best friend, and vice versa. During the first six months of 2015, when we were challenging the troika’s monopoly over policy-making powers in Greece, its greatest domestic supporters were the oligarch-owned media and their political agents. The same people and interests who have now embraced Tsipras. Can he turn against them? I think he wants to, but the troika has already disabled his main weapons (for example by forcing the disbandment of the economic crime fighting unit, SDOE).”

Tsipras’s Election Maneuver

The September election was a consequence of fundamentally undemocratic maneuvers by Tsipras designed (in the words of the DEA, a Popular Unity component) to “confirm the balance of political forces and reestablish the viability of the SYRIZA-led government before workers and popular classes realize through their own bitter experience the actual content of the agreement that was signed with the creditors on July 13.” A second objective was “the purging of the left wing of his party, even if the price that he had to pay for that was the organizational disintegration of SYRIZA.”

Tsipras was supported fully in this by the vast majority of the mass media in Greece, “which played a decisive role in organizing and promoting a pre-electoral public discussion where there was almost complete silence on the issue of the new Memorandum – which is the main issue of the political struggle!” The media

“slandered the Left Platform ruthlessly, while hiding the extent of the wave of resignations and withdrawals of a huge number of activists who had built SYRIZA all those years – among them, the secretary of the party, half of the elected members of the Political Secretariat, a big part of the members of the Central Committee, and leading cadre from lots of local and working-place branches.”

“The main precondition for the success of the SYRIZA leadership’s strategy,” says the DEA in its post-election analysis, “was the spreading disappointment and weariness among the people who were active in the social movements, including SYRIZA’s base of political support.”

“That was the point and the goal of the ‘There Was No Alternative’ argument to justify the new Memorandum. This message was repeated constantly, like a mantra, by leading members of SYRIZA, along with the five-party coalition – including SYRIZA, New Democracy, PASOK, the Independent Greeks and Potami – that was built in parliament around the consensus to ratify the new shameful Memorandum….

“A large part of the population, seeing that the anti-austerity project of SYRIZA was collapsing, started to believe that the overthrow of the Memorandum is impossible. It has started to accept that trying to implement Memorandum policies ‘with a human face’ is the only realistic alternative.

“It was this retreat, along with the recent memory of the ferocity of the politics of New Democracy and PASOK while in control of the government, that produced the political and electoral victory of Alexis Tsipras on September 20.”

The events since mid-July mark “a change in the political mood and – at least temporarily – in mass consciousness,” says the DEA.

“Facing this prospect, our only possible response is the struggle from below: Strikes, demonstrations, occupations and more to defend workers’ rights and social rights. In order to crack the image of the SYRIZA government’s popular legitimacy created by the electoral result on September 20, these struggles must be decisively supported by activists of the left.

“Recent experience shows us that in order for such struggles to prevail, they will need a political expression. They must coalesce around a political current that aims to organize a challenge to austerity. In this, the section of the left that resisted and stood against the maneuvers of Tsipras has very special tasks.”

Popular Unity

In these difficult conditions, Popular Unity (PU) was founded in August to attempt to carry forward the best traditions of SYRIZA, the acronym for the original Coalition of the Radical Left. Popular Unity encompasses some 15 organizations ranging from left social democrats and social movement activists to far-left currents. They are described in the introduction to the Jacobintranslation of the Popular Unity election platform.

The PU platform, while adopted hastily for the snap election, illustrated the broad agreement among these forces on the “prerequisites for a radical alternative solution to the disaster of the memoranda.”

“The basic features of the alternative route have already been mapped out by numerous leftist groupings, radical movements, and progressive scholars. The alternative solution we embrace seeks to provide answers to all the key problems of the economy, society, the state, and foreign policy. Naturally it is not confined to monetary policy, as is asserted by the swindlers and slanderers who speak of a ‘drachma lobby’.”

And the platform modestly added:

“The problem with this alternative proposal is not its supposedly inadequate ‘technical’ elaboration but its inadequate political preparation: namely, the fact that it has not been discussed as much as it should have been among the people and the social organizations – among those, in other words, who will be called upon to put up a tough struggle against colossal vested interests in order to implement it. We plan to fill this gap immediately, through a great campaign of public dialogue….”

The platform goes on to propose a series of “immediate emergency measures”: abolition of the memoranda “and the accompanying loan agreements that mortgage our future”; suspension of debt repayments, “with a view to effecting an overall annulment of the debt, at least the greater part of it”; an “immediate end to austerity and implementation of a policy of redistribution of social wealth to the benefit of working people and at the expense of the oligarchs”; “support for wages and pensions, and social expenditures for free public education, popular health care, and culture”; nationalization of the banks and their operation under a regime of social control,” etc.

In addition, “radical reforms will be promoted to change the bankrupt developmental model and overturn the balance of social forces to the advantage of the people and to the detriment of the oligarchs of crony capitalism.”

These include

  • radical changes in labour legislation;
  • establishment of “a permanent, socially just, and redistributive taxation system”;
  • an end to “predatory privatizations”;
  • restoration of the national health system and public hospitals;
  • a new emphasis on industrial and agricultural production based on “democratic central and regional planning, with participation and joint decision-making from local communities and a distinct environmental dimension”;
  • strengthening of the social economy (cooperatives, self-managing enterprises that have been abandoned by their owners, solidarity networks, etc.);
  • and “a policy of solidarity and humanism for refugees and economic immigrants.”

The platform acknowledges that “cancellation of the memoranda in itself – and even more so the radical structural changes we have described – will face fierce resistance from the dominant forces in the EU.”

“They will immediately try to throttle our effort, using as their basic instrument the cutting off of liquidity to the banks by the ECB. We have already experienced this in the last six months, even with the much more moderate policies of the SYRIZA-ANEL government.

“Therefore, the question of an exit from the eurozone and of a break with the neoliberal policies and choices of the EU… will be placed on the agenda not as the product of some ideological obsession but in terms of basic political realism.”

The establishment of a national currency, the platform explains, is not an end in itself. “It is one of the necessary instruments for the implementation of the radical changes we have outlined, for which, indeed, the ultimate guarantor will be not the currency but the struggle of the popular classes.”

“Whatever the inevitable difficulties of the first months, nothing justifies the stance of those Cassandras who equate such a move with economic disaster and national ruin. In the course of the twentieth century, sixty-nine monetary unions collapsed on this planet without this signifying the end of the world. The introduction of a national currency as a prerequisite for implementation of a progressive program for reconstruction and a way forward is not only a viable option; it is an option of hope, with the potential to launch the country on a new developmental trajectory.”

Popular Unity orients toward

“a new independent multi-dimensional international relations policy, in the domains of energy, economics, and politics. International relations that will not be imprisoned in the straitjacket of the EU. We aspire to an energy policy of collaboration in the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the Middle East. A policy that will take advantage of the new opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration with the emerging economies of the BRICS nations, Latin America, and other regions of the planet.

“We are against the new ‘Cold War’ and a new division of Europe with the erection of new walls against Russia. We oppose the imperialistic options and the military adventurism of NATO. We are pledged to the exit of Greece from this coalition, a war machine that disintegrates states, tyrannizes peoples, and destabilizes the wider geopolitical arc of our region from eastern Ukraine to the Middle East. We campaign for the removal of the American-NATO bases, for non-participation of Greece in any imperialist organization.”

The platform also calls for termination of military collaboration with Israel, immediate recognition of Palestine, and opposition to the EU’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) “now being hatched.”

And it calls for radical transformation of the state, the judiciary and public administration, including disbandment of Greece’s notorious “riot police” (many of whom are Golden Dawn members or supporters).

“We will moreover launch wide-ranging social consultation for in-depth revision of the Constitution and the political system by a new constituent assembly to emerge from subsequent elections. A central objective of this new revision will be establishment of a new, much more advanced democracy, conjoining representative with direct democracy, with provision of a significant margin for popular initiative and self-activation, popular participation and direct popular decisions, on the basis of the international best practices and experience.”

Not a Finished Product

This was a strong platform, addressed to meeting the key challenges in the period ahead. But Popular Unity is not a finished project, says DEA leader Panos Petrou.

“The main objective at the moment for Popular Unity is to avoid the Italian scenario – that is to say, to avoid what happened to the Italian left after the collapse of the Romano Prodi center-left government and the subsequent collapse of the Party of Communist Refoundation that supported Prodi (PRC by its initials in Italian). PRC support for Prodi led to a fragmentation on the left, which continues to this day. Those who continue on in very small groups are trying to rebuild.

“We are trying to create, as we put it, a refuge for all left-wing activists betrayed by SYRIZA who want to keep up the fight that SYRIZA began. Our main objective is to keep the flame of resistance alive, especially for those who voted ‘no’ in the referendum and are now faced with a new Memorandum.

“We need a left voice to speak against this new Memorandum, just as we spoke up against the old ones. We need the left to continue this fight – a fight which was cut short by the SYRIZA leadership.”

In its post-election analysis, the DEA leadership drew attention to what it termed “important subjective, political mistakes” in the Popular Unity campaign.

“Faced with the pressure from our political opponents, who argued that obedience to the European leadership is obligatory, we overemphasized support for an exit from the eurozone. At some point, this necessary part of our overall argument was singled out and raised above a more general program of organizing a united class movement against austerity and an anti-capitalist program toward socialist emancipation. That was a gift to Tsipras and the mass media, who looked for every opportunity to slander us as ‘drachma left’.”

Overall, however, the analysis was positive:

“Despite all this, Popular Unity received 155,000 votes, and it has already rallied an organized layer of thousands of activists and experienced veterans of the working-class movement and the left. This gives us the strength, despite losing the first battle, to engage in the war that is coming.

“Of course, for this to happen, we need to resolve, in an effective and democratic way, all the organizational, political and programmatic questions about Popular Unity that were naturally left aside during the brief period before the elections.”

The Sectarian Left

The one left party that outpolled Popular Unity in this election was the Communist Party, known as KKE in its Greek acronym. Historically, it was the pro-Moscow CP that remained after a Eurocommunist faction broke to form Synaspismos, later a founding component of SYRIZA. (The Eurocommunist current, which developed in several southern European countries, generally held out the perspective of “democratizing the apparatus of the capitalist state, transforming it into a valid tool for constructing a socialist society without needing to destroy it radically by force.”)

The KKE vote increased marginally, from 5.47% in January to 5.55% this time. “But the fact that this happened in a situation where SYRIZA was in crisis and split, and after Tsipras had just signed a new Memorandum of harsh austerity, shows that there is no cause for celebration,” says the DEA.

“The politics of the leadership of the KKE failed to capitalize a rare opportunity. During the pre-election period, the KKE aimed its attacks almost exclusively against Popular Unity, in the hopes of claiming all votes of left-wing opposition to SYRIZA for itself. This tactic leaves all the promises on the front page of the party’s newspaper about initiatives to form some sort of popular alliance in doubt.”

As for the smaller anti-capitalist alliance ANTARSYA, its vote likewise increased marginally, from 0.64% in January to 0.85% this time.

“In its statement after the elections, the New Left Current (NAR), one of the main components of ANTARSYA, set as its goal ‘a broad militant front to overthrow the coming storm of anti-worker measures…the commitment to joint action from all the parts of the militant left, including the Communist Party and Popular Unity.’

“The problem is that this statement was issued a day after the election and not three weeks before it. In the electoral battle of September 2015, the ‘forces of the militant left’ failed to provide a common response, which was necessary.”

Had ANTARSYA overcome its refusal to join the Popular Unity (echoing its earlier sectarian refusal to join the old SYRIZA as a recognized platform), it is conceivable that Popular Unity could have won enough votes to be represented in parliament. Some currents within ANTARSYA did in fact join Popular Unity.

The Witch-Hunt Against Zoe Konstantopoulou

Among those “activists and experienced veterans of the working-class movement and the left” who joined Popular Unity, reports Panos Petrou, were well-known public figures, such as Zoe Konstantopoulou, a SYRIZA deputy “who served as president [speaker] of the parliament… before she resigned in protest of the new Memorandum, and Manolis Glézos, the 93-year-old Greek resistance fighter.”

Zoe Konstantopoulou was in my own opinion the authentic heroine of the first six months of the SYRIZA government. Among her progressive initiatives, she got the parliament to establish the Truth Committee on Public Debt, coordinated by Eric Toussaint, president of the Belgian-based Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt. Its preliminary audit, as I reported in my earlier article, provided documentary proof that most of Greece’s foreign debt claimed by the EU and IMF creditors should be considered illegitimate, illegal and odious, and its repayment unsustainable. It urged the adoption of a series of measures that could have been taken in response to the financial blackmail of the Troika, but were rejected by the Tsipras leadership.

When Tsipras moved to force the new Memorandum terms through parliament without even the minimal debate required, Konstantopoulou was one of the strongest voices in opposition and in defense of the institution’s own democratic procedures and the sovereignty of Greece. Since then, she has continued to fight austerity and the Troika’s violation of Greece’s sovereignty, both in Greece and abroad.

This has earned her the hatred of the mainstream media in Greece, described with appalling examples by Sonia Mitralias: See “In Greece, sexist rampage against resistance to memoranda – The case of the former President of the Greek Parliament and the new witch hunt.” Writes Mitralias:

“From the moment Zoe K. stepped up to become an important figure of the opposition to the Memoranda that have ruined Greece, she was denigrated, vilified, humiliated, slandered … in short, demonized by those that are on the Troika bandwagon. The attacks against her are so persistent, organized, coordinated and systematic that they can only be perceived as a real strategy of warfare aimed at her political elimination from the public arena.

“It would be wrong to attribute this ‘extremely sexist phenomenon’ to phallocratic or random individual behavior or anachronistic mentalities, as is claimed by the feminist politics section of the (old) SYRIZA in a statement entitled ‘The sexist attacks against Konstantopoulou are anachronistic stereotypes’. This is a modern-day witch hunt!”

And it is a foretaste of the campaign that will be waged with increasing ferocity in the media and in legislative repression against all movements fighting the implementation of the new austerity under the current Memorandum.

A Provisional Balance Sheet

Addressing a conference in Switzerland in mid-September, Popular Unity (and DEA) leader Panos Petrou summarized the experience to date in building a radical left alternative to capitalist austerity in Greece in the following words:

“Despite its bitter ending, the existence of SYRIZA itself was a victory for Europe and the Greek working class. It was this that opened the door to important advances in the Greek class struggle, of which the most important was the historic July 5 referendum – with the great victory for the ‘no’ vote of 61 per cent, despite all the blackmail and threats. That was a tremendous political moment in Greek history, and it would not have been possible without SYRIZA’s victory on January 25.

“The pain suffered during these seven months of government have also raised the political consciousness of a large part of the Greek working class in terms of how to fight for the end of austerity and against the limits of the eurozone. This rise in consciousness could not have been brought about without the years of revolutionary propaganda on the part of various groups. But then, it might not have happened with just the years of revolutionary propaganda alone – without the living experience of these seven months.

“This bitter ending was not predetermined. It was not a given. Things might have gone in another direction, and there were many other alternatives to the official line. We did not have the strength to impose a different course on the government. A different course depended on forces much broader than DEA and other left-wing currents – it required broader social forces from within the working-class movement. That is how we must evaluate the past months’ course in order to try to change the future course.”

And it required massive solidarity from the European left as a whole, a solidarity that was sadly lacking.

International Solidarity

In a recent article, Leo Panitch argues that the current crisis of world capitalism:

“has fully exposed how far the world’s states are enveloped not just in the American state’s internal contradictions but even more so in global capitalism’s deeper irrationalities. And it has also shown that the salient conflicts in the world today are class conflicts within states, including the American ones, rather than conflicts between them.”

In my opinion, the Greek events point us to a necessary caveat to the second sentence I have quoted. Panitch is correct to exclude the likelihood of national struggles by capitalist ruling classes comparable to the inter-imperialist conflicts of early 20th century imperialism; as he says, the rapid emergence of some of the largest countries of the formerly underdeveloped third world (such as China) “requires that their states [i.e. their national bourgeoisies] play a more active role in the management of global capitalism.”

But on the other side of the ledger, the radical left forces that develop within the individual capitalist countries – especially those that manage to form the government – are confronted not only with their national bourgeoisies but – as Greece’s recent experience shows so clearly – with the enormous economic, financial and political clout of the imperialist institutions that are so integral to the structures and management of global capitalism.

As a consequence, the class struggle within a country like Greece is not purely economic, and directed solely or even primarily against its ruling class (most of the working-class struggles Panitch cites are economic – strikes and labour mobilizations from China and India to the United States, struggles within these states), but also national, in defense of state sovereignty and thus profoundly international in content, dependent for their success on the active solidarity of working-class and progressive forces in other countries; in Greece’s case, starting within the European Union. This is a defining feature of anti-capitalist resistance in contemporary imperialism, as the Memorandum’s neocolonial trusteeship over Greece so egregiously illustrates.

Some Sage Advice and Solidarity from Bolivia

Speaking in Athens in June, shortly before the referendum on the Troika’s draconian terms, Bolivian vice-president Álvaro García Linera eloquently addressed this problematic.

There is an adverse correlation of continental forces, you are alone today, he told his audience. In Latin America in the 1980s, we were confronted with demands by the IMF and World Bank to pay external debts amounting in some cases to more than the annual GDP. But unlike you Greeks, we had multiple creditors and we were able to divide them, settling with some but not others. The major debtor countries were able to form a bloc strong enough to renegotiate our payments to the international agencies, often on terms as favourable as 10 cents on the dollar. Unfortunately, the countries with similar debt problems in Europe, such as Spain, Portugal, Italy or Ireland, have refused to support your effort.

But it is precisely in such difficult conditions, said García Linera, that the left can demonstrate its capacity to lead. Had they not managed to cope with an imperialist world war, famine, and similar problems, “Lenin and the Bolsheviks would have continued to be a group of semi-clandestine activists.”

“When everything is going well a left is not needed; when things go very badly, the left is needed and if we are not prepared to lead when things are going badly we are not leftists.”

Secondly, he said, all EU countries have lost their capacity to control their economy over the last 15 years. They have mortgaged Europe to a cloud called the European Union which is “basically a coalition of bankers and some firms that define the fate of the Europeans, and that is very sad.” He contrasted this with the situation of Bolivia, “where we are able to ourselves define the exchange rates, the monetary mass, to force banks to lend money to the state,” etc. But you can’t, because everything is under the control of the European Bank.

Thirdly, “the Troika want to destroy you, don’t have illusions that the Troika is acting in good faith, or that it is flexible.” They want to foreclose you as a good example for other countries. So you get “exemplary punishment.”

Acknowledging that the Greek people seemed to be showing signs of fatigue with the incessant stalemate in the negotiations with the Troika (“People have to work, look after their homes, attend to personal matters”), the Bolivian vice-president reminded his audience that the left, as Marx said, had to know how to measure the varying tempos of social mobilization, both collective action and retreat. This puts a premium on direct contact of the government and its leaders with society through the media, meetings with the unions, and with the various social movements. “A revolutionary government of the left must always ensure that its decisions are based on informed consultation and discussion with the people.”

In conclusion, he said, “I do not know how it can be done, but it is essential that the Greek government, the Greek people, have the minimal economic power to make decisions… a capacity for economic management, economic resources that allow you to gain more time, to adopt measures of a social character that benefit people, to resolve this or that problem independently of what the banks and the Troika do.”

And lastly, you need solidarity. “Europe must wake up.” In Latin America we are watching closely, and “we place our hopes of a rebirth of Europe in you, not the banks; in the Europe of the peoples, not the Europe of the Troika….

“People have to understand that Greece cannot be left alone. Greece cannot approach these negotiations as a purely administrative matter; it is a political question, a social question. Time is running against us, it is in favour of the Troika.”

European Responses

European left responses to the Greek events have varied widely. Gregor Gizi, outgoing president of the German left party Die Linke, has supported Alexis Tsipras and attacked Popular Unity. Similarly, Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain’s Podemos, gave full support to SYRIZA, even speaking at its closing election rally.

However, these parties are divided. The Die Linke section in Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, has sharply criticized the Greek government’s decision to sign on to the Memorandum and has characterized Popular Unity as the “best expression of the NO of the Greek people.” Sarah Vagkenknecht, who is expected to become co-chair of Die Linke, has called on the new Greek government not to apply the Memorandum.

Moreover, Oskar Lafontaine, the historic founder of Die Linke, has co-signed a statement calling for “A Plan B in Europe with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, co-founder of France’s Parti de Gauche, Stefano Fassina of Italy, and Zoe Konstantopoulou and Yanis Varoufakis of Greece. The statement, issued September 11, declares in part:

“We live in extraordinary times. We are facing an emergency. Member-states need to have policy space that allows their democracies to breathe and to put forward sensible policies at the member-state’s level, free of fear of a clamp down from an authoritarian Eurogroup dominated by the interests of the strongest among them and of big business, or from an ECB that is used as a steamroller that threatens to flatten an ‘uncooperative country’, as it happened with Cyprus or Greece.”

Most European governments, it says, “representing Europe’s oligarchy, and hiding behind Berlin and Frankfurt,” had a plan A: Not to yield to the European people’s demand for democracy and to use brutality to end their resistance…. and a plan B: To eject Greece from the Eurozone in the worst conditions possible by destroying its banking system and putting to death its economy.

“Facing this blackmail, we also need a plan B of our own.”

“Our Plan A for a democratic Europe, backed with a Plan B which shows the powers-that-be that they cannot terrorise us into submission, is inclusive and aims at appealing to the majority of Europeans. This demands a high level of preparation. Debate will strengthen its technical elements. Many ideas are already on the table: the introduction of parallel payment systems, parallel currencies, digitization of euro transactions, community based exchange systems, the euro exit and transformation of the euro into a common currency.

“No European nation can work toward its liberation in isolation. Our vision is internationalist. In anticipation of what may happen in Spain, Ireland – and potentially again in Greece, depending on how the political situation evolves – and in France in 2017, we need to work together concretely toward a plan B, taking into account the different characteristics of each country.

“We therefore propose the convening of an international summit on a plan B for Europe, open to willing citizens, organisations and intellectuals. This conference could take place as early as November 2015.”

An earlier joint statement, issued September 5, calls for an “Austerexit,” an exit from austerity, referencing the threat of a Greek exit from the eurozone. It is signed by Olivier Besançenot of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste in France; Antonis Davanellos, a leader of Popular Unity in Greece, and Miguel Urbán Crespo, a Podemos member of the European Parliament.

“From this point forward, we know just how antithetical membership in the euro currency system is with a policy of emancipation in the Greek case.

“For us, what is most critical is to end the policy of austerity, be it within the framework of the euro if the situation permits it, or outside it, if the people cannot achieve their aspirations. We do not confuse the means with the ends – we are not partisans of this or that currency because the real question before us is to know who controls the monetary system. Whether the credit system is based on a national or European currency does not change much as long as either of these remain under the influence of the traditional groups of the financial speculators who make up their own banking laws.”

The signers likewise call for “the organization of a great European-wide conference of social and political resistance in the coming weeks… to debate the meaning we can give to this campaign for an ‘Austerexit’.”

It is to be hoped that the various leading activists of the European left can coordinate their efforts and reach agreement on common action in defense of Greece and for a far-reaching debate on a new approach to the European Union that points the way to “a new Europe” free of domination by capital.

Richard Fidler is an Ottawa member of the Socialist Project. This article first appeared on his blog Life on the Left.

Notes

1. SYRIZA is the acronym of the Coalition of the Radical Left, a reference to the combination of parties that founded it in 2004. ANEL stands for Independent Greeks-National Patriotic Alliance.

2. See also “Eurozone’s enforcer ready to keep Greece’s new leader in line.”

3. The International Workers Left (DEA, by its initials in Greek) was a main voice in the Left Platform within SYRIZA.

4. The earlier history is described in my article “Greece: Was, and Is There, an Alternative?

5. Spanish CP leader Santiago Carrillo in his book Eurocommunism and the State (1977). Quoted by Alan Thornett in “Greece & Europe: The capitulation of the Tsipras leadership and the role of ‘left europeanism’,” www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article4217.

6. See “The complete subordination of a democratic country to the will and demands of other governments is not an agreement,” cadtm.org/Zoe-Konstantopoulou-s-speech-in.

7. See “Zoe Konstantopoulou’s speech at the United Nations Headquarters in New York,” cadtm.org/Zoe-Konstantopoulou-s-speech-at.

8. See also “Greece: Violence against women, a strategic weapon in the hands of the rulers in a time of class war,” www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article35890.

9. “Rethinking Marxism and Imperialism for the Twenty-first Century,” 23 New Labor Forum 2, 2014, pp. 22-28.

10. See “En Grecia se está definiendo la historia y el futuro de Europa,” Cambio, 21 June 2015, Discurso presidencial, pp. 24-32.

11. See SARAH VAGKENKNECHT: “I find it hard to congratulate SYRIZA.”

Posted in GreeceComments Off on SYRIZA’s Pyrrhic Victory, and the Future of the Left in Greece

State of Crisis: Explosive Weapons in Yemen

NOVANEWS
Yemen-humanitarian

GR Editor’s Note

This report largely provides information pertaining to civilian casualties. It does not however address the underlying causes of the war, nor does it name the foreign powers which instigated the bombings.

*        *        *

Yemen is the worst country for civilian deaths and injuries from explosive weapon use in the first seven months of 2015, says a new publication produced by UK-based charity AOAV and UN OCHA.

In March 2015, a complex and long-running political crisis in Yemen rapidly escalated into all-out conflict. President Hadi fled the country after Houthi rebels took control of the capital city Sana’a, and on 26 March a coalition led by Saudi Arabia began an operation of air strikes in Yemen at the request of the Yemeni Government [in exile]. The fighting in the country since March has been characterised by the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas by all parties to the conflict, with civilians suffering from near-daily bombing and shelling in their towns and villages.

As of 10 September 2015, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) hadregistered 2,204 civilian deaths and 4,711 civilian injuries from all forms of armed violence in Yemen. Millions more have suffered from additional devastating consequences in the country, including poverty, malnutrition, insecurity, and limited access to health and sanitation.

Much of this chaos is due to the use of explosive weapons with widearea impacts in populated areas across the country.

In State of CrisisAOAV and OCHA investigate the humanitarian impacts of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Yemen during the conflict up to 31 July 2015.

Key findings

Between 1 January and 31 July 2015 AOAV recorded:

  • 124 incidents of explosive violence in Yemen resulting in 5,239 deaths and injuries;
  • 86% of those killed and injured were civilians (4,493);
  • More civilian deaths and injuries from explosive weapons were recorded in Yemen during the first seven months of 2015 than in any other country in the world;
  • When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, civilians made up 95% of reported deaths and injuries;
  • 13 separate incidents in Yemen each killed and injured more than 100 civilians. Eight of these incidents were air strikes;
  • Air strikes have killed and injured the most civilians, with 2,682 civilian deaths and injuries (60%).

The impact of explosive weapons in Yemen goes far beyond the immediate deaths and injuries recorded by AOAV. The report uses testimonies and experiences of victims and witnesses to illustrate some of the long-term impacts that can cause extensive suffering far into the future, even after the fighting ends.

Robert Perkins, author of the report, says: “Our findings show Yemen is the worst country in the world this year for civilians affected by explosive violence, more devastating even than the crisis in Syria and Iraq. An already vulnerable population is now faced with a country reduced o rubble by falling bombs and rockets. Their homes destroyed, their families torn apart, it will take a many years to recover from the last few terrible months in Yemen. 

The crisis in Yemen shows exactly why explosive weapons with wide-area effects have no place being used in populated areas. All parties to this conflict must immediately stop the bombing of civilians and civilian areas.” 

To read the full report please click here.

Posted in YemenComments Off on State of Crisis: Explosive Weapons in Yemen

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