Archive | December 18th, 2015

Clinton Tops List of Arms Company Donations

NOVANEWS
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U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was also a favorite of the arms producing giants during her 2006 senate campaign.

Hillary Clinton has received more money from arms and military service companies than any other candidate during the 2016 presidential campaign, data from Open Secrets shows.

All but one of the world’s 10 biggest arms producers have contributed to Clinton’s previous campaigns, giving her — along with the top Republican receiver Ted Cruz — a significant margin over the other candidates.

The numbers, collected by the Federal Election Commission and compiled by Open Secrets, also reveal that Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders make the list of top 20 senators and top six presidential candidates to receive money from arms and defense companies.

Most of the funding is channeled through Political Action Committees, which have no limits to how much they donate. About 18 percent comes from individual contributions, totaling almost US$10 million between all of the companies.

The biggest donors — Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing — devote about a third of their funds to Democrat candidates. In the last presidential elections, Barack Obama won more funding than his contender John McCain, though McCain is the top-earning senator this year.

A report released Sunday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute showed that while U.S. arms sales have slowed, U.S.-based Lockheed Martin’s profits soared in 2014. Overall sales rose steadily until the financial crisis of 2008, when they mostly stabilized.

Sunday’s report also indicates that the U.S. accounts for a staggering 54 percent market share of the global arms market. The United Kingdom has the second largest market share, with 10.4 percent. Russia has a market share of 10.2 percent, while France has a market share of 5.6 percent.

The world’s top 10 arms companies are based in the U.S. and Western Europe, according to the report. Among these are Lockheed Martin, Boeing and BAE Systems, who make up the top three companies in terms of global market share.

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Eurasia’s Economic Future: The TPP Strikes Back, Rewriting The Rules

NOVANEWS

ASEAN and the New Cold War Battle for Eurasia’s Economic Future. Part II

Global Research
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(Please read Part I prior to this article)

The TPP Strikes Back

The greatest threat to the multipolar world’s economic relations with ASEAN comes directly from the TPP. The US is pushing this exclusionary trade arrangement in order to obstruct the existing trade partnerships that non-allied countries (Russia and China) plan on enhancing with each of the bloc’s members. In a sense, it can be thought of as a preemptive declaration of economic war because the US is taking proactive steps in carving out a restricted market that will fall under its primary control. Washington is keenly aware of Moscow’s envisioned Pivot to Asia and understands that it must be diversified past China in order to achieve its full economic potential, and regarding Beijing, the US recognizes how obstructive a disturbance in bilateral Chinese-ASEAN economic relations could be for the New Silk Road plans that it hopes to complete in the coming years. The US would like to use the economic hegemony that it would acquire over each of the TPP’s ASEAN members in order to bully them away from these multipolar centers and firmly entrench them in the unipolar camp, and there are concrete reasons that this strategic threat should be taken seriously.

The AEC:

ASEAN reached an historic milestone during its 27th summit at the end of November 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, agreeing to form the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in order to coordinate the bloc’s economic relations with the outside world and strengthen social, cultural, and security cooperation among its members. It’s expected that the AEC will seek to enact bloc-wide trade agreements from this point on, striving to eventually expand the TPP to include the rest of the organization with time. The reasoning for this is quite simple, and it’s that ASEAN would like to standardize the trade deals that its members have with outside countries and blocs so as not to create an internal structural imbalance between its economies. If Malaysia is in the TPP but Vietnam has a FTA with the Eurasian Union, the thinking goes, then that creates a disadvantage for the Philippines which doesn’t have institutionalized ties with either, for example, and the mishmash of various external actors interacting with ASEAN on a member-to-member basis instead of dealing with the entire group creates an unnecessarily complex intra-bloc situation that makes it all the more difficult for the AEC’s diverse members to economically integrate with one another.

Although it’s not the most accurate comparison in general, in this case it’s somewhat fitting to pair the AEC with the EU since both blocs want to control their members’ institutionalized economic relations with other states and organizations. Even though this objective hasn’t been formally proclaimed by the AEC as of yet, it’s functionally inevitable that it will move in this direction sooner or later once its members get more serious about their shared integration goal. This means that the AEC will one day have to make the decision over which non-bloc-including bilateral agreements it wants to expand to cover the entire organization and which ones its respective members must be forced to abandon. It’s significant to note at this point that most of the AEC seems to be moving in the direction of the TPP, judging at least by the statements coming out of the group’s top two economies, Indonesia and Thailand. President Joko Widodo told Obama during a White House meeting in late October that “Indonesia intends to join the TPP”, while one of Thailand’s deputy prime ministers proclaimed at the end of November that his country “is highly interested in joining TPP…chances are high that Thailand will seek to join TPP.”

Thailand And Indonesia:

Thailand might be trying to publicly defer to the US for as long as possible in order to deflect some of the hostility that many in Washington harbor towards it ever since the multipolar coup ousted the pro-American leadership and the country largely reoriented towards China. It’s probable that Bangkok doesn’t sincerely intend to join the TPP, or at least at this point, because it would endanger the strategic partnership that it’s rapidly developed with Beijing over the past year and a half (and which will be addressed more in the research later), but the situation with Indonesia is a lot more straightforward. Unbeknownst to most observers, the West has been engaging in a mini-containment of sorts against the country in order to further pressure its leadership into making pro-unipolar decisions when the appropriate time comes. Widodo is already recognized as being Western-friendly as it is, but he’s still the steward of one of the largest economies in the world and has a tricky role to play in strategically hedging against China (as the Indonesian leadership sees it) while simultaneously preventing itself from falling under the US’ full supremacy as its latest proxy state.

Rewriting The Rules

Regretfully, however, it looks as though Indonesia is about to use its economic leadership role over the AEC to misguide the rest of the organization into moving along the path of unipolar servitude. If Jakarta commits to the TPP, then it’s foreseeable that this will be the deciding factor in whether the rest of the AEC accepts the US’ disadvantageous trade offer at the expense of upgrading its ties with the Eurasian Union. In fact, the implementation of the TPP might even result in the eventual nullification of ASEAN’s FTA with China, thereby dealing a double-whammy to the multipolar world’s institutional influence in Southeast Asia.

While scarcely any details are known about the TPP (the published text is around two million words in length and nearly impossible for a single individual to read through and totally comprehend on their own), it’s already been well-established that the “preferential” legal adjustments that it mandates each party abide by are nothing more than a smokescreen for major corporations to acquire decisive political rights. One of the controversies herein is that companies could sue national governments if the respective state enacts or enforces any “environmental, health or other regulatory objectives” that inhibit the said organization’s legally enshrined trade advantages or endanger its profits (it doesn’t even have to result in any actual decline, just the possible threat thereof).

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Recalling that Vietnam is already in a FTA with the Eurasian Union and all of ASEAN has a similar arrangement with China, it’s definitely possible that the US would find a pretext within each of these existing agreements to argue that they violate the TPP and must be rewritten or outright abandoned. If they fail to rectify the problem within the given period of time, then the US’ supportive companies will take each of the ‘violating’ states to court on Washington’s behalf to squeeze a punitive settlement out of them and/or force them to make the dictated changes. US-ally Japan may also direct some of its major companies to do the same as part of a coordinated push to maximize the ‘legal’-economic pain being inflicted on the targeted state.

How It Could Be Stopped

As extreme as such a scenario may sound at the moment, if perfectly correlates to the US’ strategic objectives of pushing multipolar Great Power influences out of Southeast Asia and hoarding the region’s economic potential all to itself. Doing so also has very specific geostrategic underpinnings that will be described in the next chapter, thus adding another layer of motivation for the US to move forward in this direction. As much as Washington wants to carry out this strategy, however, it doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to be successful, and there’s still the very real possibility that its plan could be stopped in its tracks before it ever has the chance to come to full fruition.

The greatest obstacle to the US’ TPP-dominating dream for Southeast Asia is China’s ASEAN Silk Road, the high-speed rail line that’s expected to run from Kunming to Singapore and traverse through Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. The first two transit states have the most to gain from this proposal and are thus anticipated to remain the most ‘loyal’ in safeguarding China’s FTA with ASEAN in the event that the AEC ever tries to revise it (perhaps under a TPP-influenced Indonesian initiative). There’s also the China-Myanmar Pipeline Corridor that was launched in early 2015 to transfer Mideast oil and gas to Yunnan Province via a more thought-to-be geostrategically secure route than the Strait of Malacca (which is questionable and will be explained later in the work), with the envisioned potential of evolving into a full-scale trade corridor with time. This theoretically gives Naypyidaw a stake in preserving the institutional FTA status quo with China, although this could (and probably will) change with Suu Kyi’s increased role over the state. Cambodia is also a close Chinese ally nowadays, but it’s not institutionally tied to any major infrastructure projects, thereby meaning that it’s capable of being ‘bought off’ by the ‘highest bidder’ and isn’t fundamentally dependable. Therefore, the most reliable partners that China has to defend its economic interests in the AEC are Laos and Thailand.

It’s predicted that these two states have already made the conscientious choice among their top leaderships to economically tie themselves closer with China through their participation in the ASEAN Silk Road project. For this reason, they have vested interests in making sure that their TPP-adhering AEC counterparts don’t enforce their unipolar trade terms on the rest of the bloc and/or compel the others to restrict their established economic ties with China (at the behest of the US, of course). An intra-organizational split could easily occur under these conditions, with the TPP-affiliated states facing off against the non-TPP ones as the AEC struggles to streamline its institutional economic engagements in its quest for greater coordination and integration among its members. The anticipated friction that this will produce would lead to a likely deadlock in implementing any institutionally revisionist (or expansionist, as per the TPP) policies within the AEC and prevent the US from achieving its full unipolar objectives in the theater. Consequently, due to Laos, Thailand, and to an extent, Myanmar’s highly strategic economic relations with China (the first two being party to the ASEAN Silk Road and the latter being host to the China-Myanmar Pipeline Corridor) that are standing in the way of the US’ full-spectrum unipolar dominance over ASEAN, all three of these states are ‘valid’ targets for a Hybrid War sometime in the future.

The Global Perspective

The economic proxy war going on between the unipolar and multipolar camps over ASEAN is of immense significance in terms of its global impact, but in order to truly appreciate how it relates to the rest of the world, it’s essential for the reader to be reminded of certain elements of contemporary American grand strategy.

The US capitalized off of the end of the Cold War by exporting its neo-liberal economic practices all across the world, with the ultimate intent being to entrap Russia, China, and to an extent that’s ever more relevant nowadays, Iran, in an institutional net of Washington-dominated control from which there’d be no escape. It’s taken some time to advance, but right now the US is steadily moving forward with great speed in tying the four corners of Eurasia into its matrix of control, de-facto encircling these three Great Powers and making them disproportionately dependent on a shared center of economic-strategic gravity.

The TTIP, should it enter into force, would place the EU’s external economic relations under the control the US, thereby meaning that Brussels would be powerless to enter into any FTA or similarly privileged trading accord with other countries without the US’ explicit blessing. Moving along in a counterclockwise direction, the US and the GCC are working on intensifying their economic relations to the point of an eventual FTA. This isn’t too important right now because of the lopsided dependence that the Gulf economies have on energy sales, but eventually they’ll have to transition to a more ‘normal’ economy based on material trade, and at that point, their hefty financial reserves that they’ve been saving will go towards purchasing products from the US and any other country that it’s likely to be in a FTA with by that time. The next object of American focus is ASEAN, which has just been comprehensively described, and the final part of the supercontinental strategy is South Korea and Japan. The US already has a FTA with the former, and it’s planning to use TPP to enter into the same arrangement with the latter.

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Altogether, one can clearly see that most of the cardinal directions in Eurasia are covered by America’s FTA plans. To reexamine the US’ plans from this perspective, the EU represents Western Eurasia, the GCC is Southwest Eurasia, ASEAN is Southeast Eurasia, and South Korea and Japan are Northeast Eurasia. The only missing link is South Eurasia, mostly India, which is being wooed by the US anyhow as it is, although it’s still a far time away from entering into a FTA with the US. Nonetheless, if TTIP and TPP are allowed to enter into practice, then it’s only a matter of time before an irresistible offer is made to New Delhi in coaxing India into this unipolar economic web. Even without India’s formal incorporation into the US’ global neo-liberal scheme, it’s already been argued that it’ll most likely remain outside of GEFTA because of concerns for its strategic sovereignty vis-à-vis neighboring rival China. In that case, Russia, China, and Iran would then share the same economic-strategic space in Central Asia, one of the last parts of the supercontinent to remain outside of the US’ formal institutionalized control. This would make Central Asia the unquestionable center of multipolar gravity between these three Great Powers, but conversely, it would also make them disproportionately vulnerable to American-engineered Hybrid Wars there.

In order to avoid a three-for-one ultra-dependency on Central Asia, it’s urgently imperative for the multipolar world to maintain and defend its inroads in the AEC, ergo the importance that goes into China’s counter-TPP efforts via the ASEAN Silk Road and the China-Myanmar Pipeline Corridor. A retreat from these fronts and the cession of Southeast Asia to America’s unipolar clutches will create a strategically dangerous situation for China, and by extension, the rest of the multipolar Great Powers, and resultantly push up the US’ timetable for corralling their shared economic interests into Central Asia. China also has very clearly defined geostrategic interests in sustaining its influence in ASEAN (or at least in part of its mainland component) in order to halt the advancement of the US’ ‘Chinese Containment Coalition (CCC) and maintain non-American-controlled outlets to the Indian Ocean that allow it to safely access the burgeoning African markets on which its future growth depends.

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Meet the US Lobbyists and Big Money Interests Pushing to End the Oil Exports Ban

NOVANEWS
Global Research
business_government

The ongoing push to lift the ban on exports of U.S.-produced crude oil appears to be coming to a close, with Congress agreeing to a budget deal with a provision to end the decades-old embargo

Just as the turn from 2014 to 2015 saw the Obama Administration allow oil condensate exports, it appears that history may repeat itself this year for crude oil. Industry lobbyists, a review of lobbying disclosure records by DeSmog reveals, have worked overtime to pressure Washington to end the 40-year export ban — which will create a global warming pollution spree.

Oil Export Ban Ends

Image Credit: U.S. House of Representatives

Congress has introduced four oil export-promoting bills in the past year, all of which received heavy lobbying support from the industry. Language from those bills, as with a bill that opened up expedited hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) permitting on public lands in the defense appropriations bill last year, is inserted into the broader budget bill.

So without further ado, meet some of the lobbying and big money interests that propelled these bills forward.

“Changing Crude Oil Market Conditions”

The push to repeal the oil export ban gained momentum throughout 2014 and culminated with the Obama Administration partially lifting the ban oil condensate. Before that partial repeal, a wholesale ban lift attempt ensued in Congress via H.R.5814, clunkily named “To adapt to changing crude oil market conditions.”

H.R. 5814 mandated that the “United States should remove all restrictions on the export of crude oil, which will provide domestic economic benefits, enhanced energy security, and flexibility in foreign diplomacy.”

Companies such as Anadarko PetroleumMarathon Oil and HollyFrontier Corporation all put their best foot forward in lobbying for the bill. Anadarko paid Robert Hickmott and W. Timothy Locke — both of whom passed through thegovernment-industry revolving door — to do the job.

Take Two

Failing to pass in 2014, climate change denying U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) re-introduced a bill by the same namesake as H.R.5814 again in February 2015, now with a new bill number: H.R. 702.

From an oil and gas industry point of view, Barton was a fitting sponsor of the bills as someone who has taken close to $2 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry throughout his political career. Barton also has $50,000-$100,000 in investments in fracking industry giant EOG Resources.

H.R. 702 passed with a 261-159 vote count in the U.S. House of Representatives in October but has yet to move through theU.S. Senate.

Far more companies lobbied for the bill this time around the block.

Oil Exports Lobbyists
Image Credit: OpenSecrets.org

Among them is ExxonMobil, the news these days mostly for the “Exxon Knew” climate change denial scandal and the ongoing New York Attorney General’s Office investigation.

Exxon’s oil exports lobbyist armada includes former U.S. Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) and Majority Leader and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s former chief of staff Michael Solon.

The fracking lobby, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), also brought its lobbying clout to the forefront for the bill. ANGAlobbied for H.R. 702 in both quarters two and three. National Industrial Sand Association, the frac sand industry’s lobbying group, also lobbied for the bill.

Koch Industries front group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) also deployed a trio of lobbyists to advocate on behalf ofH.R. 702.

Crude Oil Export Act

Before Barton re-introduced “changing crude oil market conditions” in February, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) used his first day on the job in 2015 on January 6 to introduce another related oil export ban repeal bill, Crude Oil Export Act (H.R.156).

ExxonMobil again had a seat at the lobbying table pushing for this bill’s passage, as did Nickles and his lobbying group Nickles Group on the company’s behalf. Koch Industries also tossed its hat in the ring to lobby for the bill, as didConocoPhillips, Chesapeake Energy, Shell Oil, BP and others.

The industry-funded and lobbyist-run think tank and advocacy apparatus Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) also lobbied for the bill during quarter three via its lobbying and advocacy 501(c)(4) wing, the Bipartisan Policy Center Advocacy Network.

Bipartisan Policy Center Oil Exports

All of the lobbyists BPC deployed to push lifting the export ban, a DeSmog review has revealed, passed through the revolving door and formerly worked as congressional staffers.

Financial disclosure records show that the sponsor of H.R. 156, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) has millions of dollars invested in oil and gas companies ranging from ExxonMobil, Chevron, Marathon Oil, EOG Resources, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Shell Oil, Dominion and others. Throughout his decade-long political career, McCaul has taken nearly $400,000 in campaign money from the oil and gas industry.

American Crude Oil Export Equality Act

On the Senate side, in May U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp introduced the latest iteration of an oil export ban repeal bill called the American Crude Oil Export Equality Act (S.1372). Though the bill has not gained much traction, it has not been without a valiant effort by the oil and gas industry, with the same familiar company names rearing their heads once again.

OIl Exports Ban Lobbying 2015

Image Credit: OpenSecrets.org

The lobbying list for S.1372 includes Koch Industries, the Bipartisan Policy Center, Marathon Oil, Devon Energy, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell Oil, BP, ANGA, the American Petroleum Institute and others.

Heitkamp bears similarities to other oil export ban lifting bill sponsors in that she also has taken large amounts of campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry throughout her political career. In her nascent two-year long political career as aU.S. Senator, Heitkamp has taken over $186,000 from the industry, her third biggest campaign contributor by category.

Refining Industry Big Money Flip

To date, the refining industry has situated itself as one of the most ardent opponents of oil exports besides the environmental community. That state of play changed, though, during the drafting stages of the budget bill.

Early on, news broke that a drafted proposed budget provision introduced by U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) called for a trade-off between oil exports and subsidies going to oil refineries, otherwise known as a win-win for the oil and gas industry.

Carper, who devotes a portion of his website to the environment and climate change, is up for re-election in 2016 and one of his biggest donors so far is private equity firm giant Blackstone Group. Among many other oil and gas industry assets itfinances, Blackstone serves as the financier of PBF Energy, the company that owns a massive Delaware City-based oil refinery.

Tom Carper Refinery Tax Extender

Image Credit: OpenSecrets.org

An examination of Carper’s financial disclosure records shows he has upwards of $30,000 invested in refining giant Valero Energy — from whom PBF Energy bought a New Jersey-based refinery in 2010 — and upwards of $15,000 invested in BP(owner of the massive BP Whiting tar sands refinery in Whiting, Indiana).

“There are negotiations to make sure that the unintended consequences to dozens of refineries across the country are avoided,” Carper told The Hill on December 10. “The idea is that if the oil export ban is going to be lifted, we want to be sure there’s no collateral damage to refiners in this country.”

Environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth took umbrage with Carper’s statement.

“Big Oil is already awash in billions worth of subsidies every year and Sen. Carper wants to send them even more,” Lukas Ross of FOE told Delaware’s News Journal. “Instead of pushing for extra goodies for his refining industry pals, Sen. Carper should oppose any climate-denying deal that would lift the crude oil export ban.”

Carper did not respond to DeSmog’s request for comment, but it appears his provision did not make it into the proposed budget bill. Instead, another pro-petroleum refinery provision made it into the budget, buried at the very end on pages 2008 and 2009.

Titled “Treatment of Transportation Costs of Independent Refiners,” the section offers a tax incentives for the transportation costs of getting petrochemical products to and from independent refineries in the U.S.

McKibben: “Hypocrisy”

In an opinion piece published by The Hill, 350.org founder and author Bill McKibben decried what he called the “hypocrisy” of the possibility of the signing of this bill, pointing out the post-Paris timing of it.

“If you were wondering how seriously world leaders took the obligations they imposed on themselves in Paris over the weekend, the early returns would indicate: not very,” wrote McKibben. “Barely 48 hours after all the back-patting at the climate conference had ended, word leaked out in Washington that the administration and Congress were preparing to lift the 40-year ban on oil exports, a major gift to the oil industry.”

Utilizing the #KeepTheBan hashtag on Twitter, groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity and Food and Water Watch are pushing for citizens to call the White House and congressional members and tell them not to lift the ban.

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Barbarism Advances. “The 1930s All Over Again in Europe”

NOVANEWS
Global Research
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In October of 1930, Thomas Mann made “An Appeal to Reason” in The Berliner Tageblatt:

“This fantastic state of mind, of a humanity that has outrun its ideas, is matched by a political scene in the grotesque style, with Salvation Army methods, hallelujahs and bell-ringing and dervish-like repetition of monotonous catchwords, until everybody foams at the mouth. Fanaticism turns into a means of salvation, enthusiasm into epileptic ecstasy . . . and reason veils her face.”

The appeal failed. Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, and shortly after the Reichstag fire, he passed the “Enabling Act,” suspending personal freedoms, freedom of opinion, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. Though subject to house searches, restrictions on property and confiscations, Germans felt free so long as they behaved like “good Germans” and obeyed the law.

It seems to be the 1930s all over again in Europe, though “ideologies” were supposed to have died with the overthrow of the Soviet Union. Thankfully, Marine LePen’s radical right party, National Front, has just been defeated in France’s regional elections, but not before the media went “epileptic” over her projected victory. Still, France remains in a “state of emergency,” decreed by a socialist government after the attacks on Paris.

Today’s Europe reminds me of the city in Albert Camus’ novel, The Plague (1947). The novel’s Oran in the early 1940s, then in colonial French Algeria, was depicted as a merchant city, without trees, gardens, or pigeons, where flowers imported from elsewhere announced the coming of spring. An artificial city with an artificial life and inert consciousness. At first, the industrious colonials of Oran refused to notice the plague-carrying rats scurrying about or piling up dead in peripheral sections of the city. “They fancied themselves free, [but] no one [is] ever free so long as there are pestilences.” For a metaphor of lurking, studiously ignored evil, you can’t top The Plague.

Today, pestilence-carrying rats are back infesting Europe. Ukraine writhes in a delirium of historical topsy-turvy. On 14 October, it celebrated the first Defenders’ Day, a national holiday legally decreed by the Ukrainian Parliament. The date is significant, for on this day, seventy-three years ago, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was founded. In WW II, UPA cooperated with the Nazis, supplying a Ukrainian voluntary SS division– the SS Freiwillingen-Schutzen-Division “Galizien,” the infamous Galitian Division.

What if one of our worthy NATO allies in Europe—say, Germany—declared a national holiday, say, The Day of Defenders of the Fatherland, in honor of the Schutzstaffel (the Nazi SS), the paramilitary “protection squadron” or “defense corps” of Heinrich Himmler’s industrial death army, indicted at Nuremberg as a criminal organization along with the Nazi party and its elite? Would Israel pause in its latest killing spree to justifiably raise the wrath of the ghosts of the Shoah? Would the Holocaust-conscious United States raise the voice of indignation against this opprobrium to the sacrifice of the Greatest Generation? Would the members of the European Union, laureled with the Nobel Prize for Peace, stop the frantic building of walls against the tidal waves of refugees and cry, “not again?”

Perhaps not. Judging by the silence in the media and among officials over the grotesquerie in Ukraine, the return of fascism hardly raises an eyebrow. And after all, hasn’t “Russia invaded Ukraine”? How, then, could Neo-Nazis be roving about, when, instead, the place is alleged to be crawling with Russian troops, in pursuit of restoring “Putin’s Soviet Empire”?

The nostalgia for anti-communism adds a surreal element to the acquiescence to fascist revivals. Thus, one simply cannot get over-excited about Nazis when the imaginary Soviet threat looms again so large on the borders of NATO. Like shifting sands, these borders move ever more inexorably east, to encircle Russia, so that the map of NATO Europe today looks exactly like Nazi-occupied Europe in 1941, when Hitler launched his doomed Barbarossa invasion of the Soviet Union in June.

The parade in Kiev on Defenders’ Day consisted of only 3,500 participants, members of the Svoboda and Right Sector parties, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, and the infamous Azov battalion. The most prominent politician at the event was far-right Oleh Tyahnybok, who in April 2005, wrote to President Yushchenko, calling for a parliamentary investigation of “the criminal activities of organized Jewry in Ukraine.” Of the UPA Nazi collaborators he’s on record as saying,

They were not afraid and we should not be afraid. They took their automatic guns on their necks and went into the woods, and fought against the Muscovites, Germans, Jews and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state.

That is the truth. The UPA and their Nazi overlords did clear Ukraine of a considerable amount of “scum”: three million non-Jewish Ukrainians and other nationalities; a million Jews; 2.3 million Ukrainians deported for slave labor to Germany. Had it not been for the Red Army’s victory, the Nazis had planned for the extermination of 65% of 23.2 million Ukrainians, with the remaining 35% scheduled for Germanization or enslavement.

Elsewhere in Europe, the official boogey-man —an essential component of fascist faith–has been updated from “Jew” or “communist” to “Muslim.”

Poland’s former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, eminence griseof the Law and Justice Party, echoed Nazi propaganda when he said that Muslim refugees were bringing “cholera to the Greek islands, dysentery to Vienna, various types of parasites” to the rest of Europe. Russophobic, pugilistically nationalist, Law and Justice Party won elections and are now at the helm in Poland. In Hungary, Viktor Orban has been in power since 2010 and will remain until 2018. His only opposition is the Neo-Nazi Jobbik movement, yet his xenophobia is exemplarily fascist. He has said openly that Hungary has no place for Muslims and that he, as a Christian, defends the borders of Europe from a Muslim invasion. Orban has a huge electoral mandate—two-thirds support. In Germany, from Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA), a speaker issued a veiled appeal for reactivating the policy of concentration camps.

As in Mann’s novella, Mario and the Magician (1929), there is, once again in Europe, a concentration of hypnotic, seductively perverse “evilness” in the air. It is carried by a reactionary western wind that blows from centers on both sides of the Atlantic.

It induces opiated stupor and passive complicity with the performance of demagogic magicians, harnessing and twisting the fears, the desires, and the frustrations of masses of people. The greatest, most deceptive magician of them all—Mann’s hunchbacked mesmerizer, Cavaliere Cipolla—is the Western media.

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CNN Misreporting

NOVANEWS

CNN Misreporting: “How is Russia’s Metrojet Crash in the Sinai Like TWA Flight 800?”

Global Research
twa-flight-800. cia animation

Adding to CNN’s Sizeable Dossier of Misreporting on the TWA Flight 800 Crash With stunning regularity, CNN’s reporters and producers have, for the last twenty years, egregiously misreported on the evidence and eyewitness accounts pertaining to TWA Flight 800.

More recent crashes, this time Metrojet’s demise, are regularly seized upon to craft news packages in which the TWA Flight 800 crash is mentioned at length. These mentions consist of repeating the same “official source” false narrative that CNN and other major news outlets have been promulgating for years, even though the public is now well aware that at least half a dozen key members of the official Flight 800 crash investigation have presented evidence showing that the official probable cause of the crash is untenable and that the physical evidence indicates that explosive ordnance caused Flight 800’s demise.

“How is Metrojet Crash Like TWA Flight “ can be viewed here:

CNN correspondent Randi Kaye presents and narrates the news package. Its most striking feature is that the Metrojet crash is barely mentioned. One could easily get the impression that the story is really about reinforcing in the minds of CNN’s viewers the details of the officially approved false narrative that the network has repeatedly aired about the Flight 800 crash. Indeed, Kaye’s package follows what seems to be CNN’s standard operating procedure when producing these official line reminders embedded in reports on other crashes. The embedded reminders typically bear these hallmarks: official sources making false declarative statements about no missile evidence; narration or an official source discrediting the eyewitnesses, either via a sweeping declarative statement or with inaccurate information; at least one mention of the term “conspiracy theory” when missiles are discussed.

Kaye’s package has all the aforementioned hallmarks and is a fitting addition to CNN’s fat dossier of inaccurate reporting on the TWA Flight 800 story. “The FBI and NTSB, looked at every possibility, a missile, a bomb, terrorism….”, Kaye narrates. This sweeping statement is inaccurate. The FBI and NTSB did not look at every possibility, particularly the physical evidence indicating that one or more proximity- fused missiles downed Flight 800. Not only have CNN reporters and producers been made aware of this, the radar evidence and eyewitness accounts supporting a proximity fused missile hit have been sent to them and many other members of the press.

Kaye then brings on former NTSB Board Member John Goglia who says, “I spent hours and days looking at every piece of metal, looking for the telltale signs of a missile and there were none.” Mr. Goglia’s sweeping comment is so patently absurd that one wonders why Kaye would put it in her report. Besides the obvious impossibility that Mr. Goglia singlehandedly performed such a herculean task, the fact is that as an NTSB board member at the time, he was not even an active participant in the investigation.

In fact, Mr. Goglia was never an investigator for the Flight 800 crash or the NTSB. According to retired senior NTSB investigator Hank Hughes, who was assigned to reconstruct TWA 800’s interior using recovered wreckage, Mr. Goglia’s duties as a board member at the time were to review final reports and opinions as well as orders written by the NTSB’s administrative law judges. Mr. Goglia then voted on these matters with other board members. As an official source talking to the press about the Flight 800 crash, Mr. Goglia has consistently hewn to an official narrative that the physical evidence shows is untenable.

Ms. Kaye should have asked Mr. Goglia what role he actually played in the NTSB investigation, how it was possible for him to inspect every “piece of metal”, what expertise he had in missile types and their telltale signatures, and if he looked for telltale signatures of anything other than shoulder-fired missiles, because there is no record of it among the NTSB’s documents. She should also have asked him about the radar evidence consistent with an ordnance explosion in Flight 800’s vicinity right when the jetliner lost electrical power. Besides his comments to Kaye, Goglia has provided a great deal more inaccurate information to the press on the Flight 800 crash investigation. A good example is a film review for Forbes magazine that Goglia wrote about the documentary “TWA Flight 800”. The film features six whistleblowers who were key members of the official TWA Flight 800 crash investigation. A fact-check of Mr. Goglia’s review can be seen here.

In her piece, Ms. Kaye narrates the hallmark moment for discrediting TWA 800 crash eyewitnesses. “No matter what witnesses thought they saw,” she declares, “the government says there was simply no proof of a criminal act.” After implying that Flight 800 eyewitnesses were victims of mass misperception, Kaye reports what the government says without any qualifiers at all, including the fact that key members of the official investigation into the Flight 800 crash have publicly presented physical evidence indicating that an ordnance explosion caused the jetliner’s demise and that this evidence does raise questions about an act of some kind—criminal or accidental—bringing down the plane instead of the mechanical malfunction that the NTSB said was the probable cause of the crash. In fact, there is no hard evidence of a center fuel tank explosion triggered by a short circuit, which is what the NTSB said probably caused Flight 800’s demise.

After discrediting the eyewitnesses, Kaye finally brings in the “C” word followed by the “M” (missile) word, courtesy of Goglia: “Goglia expects the same type of conspiracy theories will result from the crash of Russia’s Metrojet 9268, which also broke apart in mid-air 23 minutes into the flight. There’s already talk of a missile and a bomb.”

“A heat flash detected at the time of the Russian jet crash suggests there was a catastrophic in-flight event. That heat flash is similar to the red flash people witnessed when TWA crashed. And that turned out to be the plane already on fire at 8400 feet in the night sky.”

Here Kaye finally makes her first effort to justify the title of the news package and draw a comparison between the Metrojet and Flight 800 crashes. Obviously both jetliners succumbed to “a catastrophic in-flight event”. But then Kaye veers back into misreporting and discredits the eyewitnesses once more when she narrates that a “heat flash detected at the time of the Russian jet crash” is “similar to the red flash” people witnessed when TWA crashed which turned out to be “the plane already on fire…”. Kaye does not say that any eyewitnesses reported seeing a “red flash”, she simply declares it without attribution and then further declares that the red flash was burning wreckage falling to the sea. Kaye’s statement ignores and therefore draws attention away from what dozens of eyewitnesses saw before any burning wreckage started falling to the sea. These eyewitnesses reported seeing a “white light shoot up in the sky,” a “flash and object then rising” a “rocket went up in the air” a “red streak,” a “firework ascending,” a “streak of light heading up towards the sky,” and numerous other similar descriptions.

Kaye’s red flash/burning wreckage statement discrediting eyewitnesses who saw objects rising to meet Flight 800 before it exploded echoes the contents of an animation video analyzing Flight 800 eyewitness accounts that the CIA’s Randy Tauss produced with a team of analysts. Tauss and his team aimed to show that none of the eyewitnesses had seen a missile. They did this via a sin-of-omission sound propagation analysis. The analysis was based on eyewitnesses who looked up when they heard something, which conveniently eliminated the key eyewitnesses who saw objects going up in the sky long before they heard any sounds or explosions. The big deception in the CIA team’s animation is that even though their sound propagation analysis eliminated the eyewitnesses who mattered the most— those who saw the very first stages—things going up to meet the plane–of Flight 800’s demise, their conclusion includes and discredits these very same eyewitnesses. The animation contains so many critical inaccuracies that one can only conclude that discrediting this sizeable group of key eyewitnesses was, in fact, its sole purpose. Thanks to Kaye and others, its purpose continues to be served. A point-by-point rebuttal of the CIA animation can be seen here.

Clearly Metrojet’s initiating event is not at all similar to TWA’s because in the case of TWA, eyewitnesses reporting seeing objects rise off the earth’s surface to meet TWA before it exploded. Kaye’s statement about a red flash actually being falling wreckage appears to be an abbreviated—and wholly false—riff on the CIA’s thoroughly discredited animation video.

By billing Kaye as an investigative reporter for Anderson 360, CNN conveys to its audience that she has the skills and experience to properly vet sources and information. In the case of “How is Metrojet Crash Like TWA 800”, Kaye has fallen far short of meeting even minimum reporting standards. This news package joins the work of others at CNN who for twenty years now have persisted in misreporting and unquestioningly using official sources who consistently provide misinformation about the TWA Flight 800 crash case.

Anderson Cooper mentioning Flight 800 being “shot down off the coast of Long Island of New York” while reporting on the crash of Malaysia flight MH17 was the one brief moment that a CNN correspondent actually told the truth about this case. But Cooper’s momentary departure from the false narrative could not stand. He corrected himself immediately and fell back in line. Two decades of reporters at CNN and other major news outlets consistently failing to do even the most basic journalistic due diligence on this story amounts to a kind of group pathology. Whether it is willful ignorance or outright corruption or both, it is profoundly disturbing, particularly since it has been going on for so long.

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Putin’s: “Military Force to Protect [ISIS] Smuggling Operations… 11,000 Oil Trucks”

NOVANEWS
Global Research
putin2

The President’s news conference was broadcast live by Rossiya-1, Rossiya-24 and Channel One, as well as Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations.

Moscow

Television channel Public Television of Russia (OTR) and its site (http://www.otr-online.ru/online/) provided live sign language interpretation of the news conference.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends and colleagues,

We regularly meet at the end of the year. Only recently I made my Address [to the Federal Assembly]. Honestly speaking, I do not know what else to add to what I said then. I believe I covered all the key points.

Nevertheless, there must be issues, which you want us to clarify. When I say ‘us’, I am referring to my colleagues in the Presidential Executive Office and the Government Cabinet and myself.

Therefore, I suggest that we skip any lengthy monologues and get right down to your questions so as not to waste time.

Mr Peskov, please.

Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov: Last year we started a good tradition by beginning the press conference with a question from one of the most experienced members of the Kremlin’s press pool, Vyacheslav Terekhov. However, we have another press pool old-timer, Alexander Gamov from the Komsomolskaya Pravda. I would like to give him the opportunity to ask the first question.

Alexander Gamov: Thank you very much Mr President, for your 11th press conference of this kind.

Here is my question. Before coming here, I reread the transcript of your last year’s press conference, and there we also discussed the difficult situation developing in the Russian economy. When Vyacheslav Terekhov and our other colleagues asked you then how long it would take to get over this complicated situation, you said in the worst case scenario this would take a year or two. These were your words. I am sure you remember them. This means this would be roughly late 2016 – early 2017.

Could you please tell us if your feelings regarding our economic recovery have changed? The country is going through very hard times, and you know this better than we do. What is your forecast for the future?

Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself: Alexander Gamov, Komsomolskaya Pravda – radio station, website and newspaper. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: To begin with, I will tell you a very old joke.

Two friends meet and one asks the other: ”How are you?“ The other says: ”My life is all stripes – black stripes followed by white ones.“ – ”So which one is it now?“ – ”Now I’m in the black one.“ Another six months pass, they meet again: ”How’s life? I know it’s all stripes, but which one is it now?“ – ”It’s black now.“ – ”But it was black last time!“ – ”Looks like it was white last time.“

We are having something very similar.

When a year ago we spoke of our plans and how we would move ahead to recover from the crisis, about our prospects, we, knowing that unfortunately our economy is very dependent on foreign economic factors, mainly the prices for our traditional exports like oil and gas, petroleum products and chemicals, which are all calculated based on oil and gas prices, proceeded from the idea that the average price of Brent, our crude oil, would be around $100 a barrel.

This was in early 2014. We used this figure in all our further calculations of macroeconomic parameters, revenue and spending, and social support and support for the economy, and late last year the Economic Development Ministry built its development plans proceeding from these figures. However, by the end of this year we had to rerun all our calculations, and even last year we had to do this as oil prices fell almost by half, not by some percentage, but by half from $100 a barrel to $50.

We calculated the budget for next year based on this very figure, a very optimistic one of $50 a barrel. However, now it is what — $38? Therefore, I believe we will have to make further adjustments.

At the same time, I would like to use your question to demonstrate where we stand.

Statistics show that the Russian economy has generally overcome the crisis, or at least the peak of the crisis, not the crisis itself.

Naturally, after the drop in energy resource prices all our other figures started ‘sliding’. What are they? The GDP has gone down by 3.7 percent. As of December 7, the inflation has reached 12.3 percent since the beginning of the year.

I find it important to say this, because there are sure to be other questions dealing with our development prospects and our current state of affairs. To understand these things we need to know these figures and proceed from them.

The real disposable household income has gone down; fixed investment has dropped by 5.7 percent over the first 10 months of the year. At the same time, as we have already said, statistics show that the Russian economy has generally overcome the crisis, or at least the peak of the crisis, not the crisis itself.

Starting with the 2nd quarter of this year, we have been observing signs of economic stabilisation. What leads us to such a conclusion? In September-October the GDP grew (it is growing already) by about 0.3–0.1 percent compared to the previous month. The volumes of industrial production stopped falling as of May. In September-October, we also had a small growth in industrial production – 0.2–0.1 percent. Incidentally, industrial production in the Far East grew by 3.1 percent.

Agriculture is demonstrating positive dynamics with an at least 3 percent growth. This means we are doing all the right and timely things to support agriculture. For the second year running our grain crops exceeded 100 million tonnes – 103.4. This is very good. I would like to use this opportunity to once again thank our agricultural workers for their effort.

The labour market is stable, with the unemployment rate hovering around 5.6 percent. We can see that if we look back at 2008, this is an overall positive result of the Government’s efforts.

Our trade balance also remains positive. The overall trade volumes have gone down, but the export surplus remains at a rather high level of about $126.3 billion. Our international reserves stand at $364.4 billion – this is a slight reduction, but a good figure nevertheless.

The Russian Federation’s external debt has gone down by 13 percent compared to 2014. Capital outflow has also significantly dropped. Moreover, in the 3rd quarter we observed a net inflow.

The reduction in our debt burden is a very important positive indicator. This is the other side dealing with the so-called sanctions. It would have been good, of course, to have access to foreign refinancing markets, so that all the money would stay in the country and help us develop, but on the other hand over-crediting is also a bad sign.

So, what did we do? Despite all limitations, we complied with all our commitments to our partners, including international credit institutions. We pay everything due on time and in full. As a result, the overall joint debt, which is not the state debt, but the total debt of our financial institutions and companies operating in the real sector of the economy – the overall joint debt has gone down, which is generally a very positive thing.

As I have already said, we are observing a net capital inflow, which is also a very positive factor, and I am sure experts are saying this as well. This means that investors, seeing the realities of our economy, are beginning to show some interest in working here. Despite the complicated situation, the fuel and energy complex continues developing. The production of oil, coal and electricity has grown. More than 4.6 gigawatt of new generating capacity will be commissioned by the end of the year.

Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference.

Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference.

We have already commissioned about 20 facilities; this is somewhat less than last year and the year before that. In the previous two years, we had an absolute record, but 4.6 gigawatt is also very good. We will retain this rate in the following years. This is also very important as it shows the growing capacity of the economy as a whole, its energy security.

The infrastructure is also developing actively. Russia’s entire seaport infrastructure has grown by 19.5 million tonnes worth of capacity. I would like to use this opportunity to draw your attention to the fact that over the January-September period the volume of cargo loaded at Russian ports went up by 3 percent. What does this mean, colleagues? Why have our budget revenues from our export goods gone down? Because of the prices. Meanwhile, as we are observing growing trade turnover at the ports, it means the physical volume has not gone down but has actually increased. This is a very positive factor.

We continue developing our airport system. In the first nine months, our airports served over 126 million passengers, which is 2.5 percent more than last year. Internal air traffic has also grown noticeably – by more than 16 percent.

Despite the complicated financial and economic situation, we continue our responsible state financial policy. In the 11 months of this year federal budget revenue reached 12.2 trillion, spending – 13.1 trillion. The budget deficit, as we can see, stands at 957 billion. The expected budget deficit by the end of the year is about 2.8 – 2.9 percent of the GDP. This is a satisfactory figure for the current economic situation, even more than satisfactory.

To achieve a balanced federal budget this year we used our reserve fund. At the same time, it is very important that the sovereign funds generally remain at a healthy level of 11.8 percent of the GDP. The reserve fund amounted to 3.931 trillion rubles, which is 5.3 percent of the GDP, while the national welfare fund was 4.777 trillion rubles, which is 6.5 percent of the GDP.

We have complied with all our social commitments this year and are witnessing a natural population growth. This is a very good figure that speaks of the people’s state of mind, shows that they have the opportunity to plan their families, which makes me very happy. Thus, 6.5 million Russian families have received maternity capital over the entire period since the programme was introduced. We have now extended this programme. I would like to remind you that in 2016 maternity capital payment will remain the same as in 2015 at 453,000 rubles.

In the majority of regions, the situation with accessibility of preschool facilities has been resolved by over 97 percent.

According to the Federal State Statistics Service, life expectancy at the end of this year is forecast to exceed 71 years.

We have complied with our commitments in terms of adjusting pensions to the actual inflation in 2014, with the PAYG component increased by 11.4 percent. As of April 1 of this year, social security pensions have gone up by 10.3 percent.

You began your question by asking about last year and our expectations for next year and the year after that. Proceeding from the current value of our exports, the Government is expecting our economy to achieve at least a 0.7 percent growth in 2016, 1.9 percent in 2017 and 2.4 percent in 2018.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that all our calculations were based on the oil price of $50 a barrel. Now the price is lower. Volatility is high. We will not rush to adjust the budget, as this would lead to a reduction in the funding of both the social and real sectors; however, the Government is of course working on different development scenarios. The Government should have this instrument available, to be ready for any developments.

Our calculations were based on the oil price of $50 a barrel. Now the price is lower. We will not rush to adjust the budget, as this would lead to a reduction in the funding of both the social and real sectors; however, the Government is working on different development scenarios.

Of course, potential GDP growth is not limited to our export-related opportunities. We must also promote import replacement, as I said in my Address to the Federal Assembly, which is not a cure-all, but we believe that it will help us retool a large park of the production sector and the agriculture industry. This programme will enable us to introduce novel technology and, hence, to increase labour productivity. We must certainly continue working to improve economic management, to de-bureaucratise our economy, and to create more attractive conditions for doing business and for helping entrepreneurs achieve the goals that are facing them and the national economy as a whole. We will be working hard, with a focus on these targets.

Thank you for your question: it allowed me to use the materials at hand.

Yelena Glushakova: Thank you. Yelena Glushakova, RIA Novosti.

Good afternoon! Mr President, you said we are past the peak of the crisis, however the economic situation continues to be very disturbing, something economists say. In particular, your team mate Alexei Kudrin calls for reforms, but he is known to be an optimist.

This week, for example, your Ombudsman, Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights, Boris Titov, expressed very disturbing thoughts. He said, in particular, that the Central Bank interest rate is extremely high. So our entrepreneurs, who for obvious reasons are unable to borrow in the West, cannot borrow in Russia either because the costs are too high. He said that if this situation continues, we will turn into Venezuela, where there is one national currency exchange rate on the black market and a very different official rate.

Do you share these concerns? Do you support the monetary policy of the Bank of Russia? Do you consider it necessary to lower interest rates?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Please give a long applause for this question.

Naturally, these are everyone’s concerns. And of course, everyone wants the Central Bank refinancing rate lowered, because everyone knows it guides commercial banks in lending to businesses. This, by the way, is not the only thing that affects the rates in the commercial sector, but a major one of course.

Boris Titov does the right thing in fighting for the interests of the business community, and it is important that we have such a man and such institutions. Why do you think I insisted on appointing a business ombudsman in the first place? Because I want to hear different points of view, and I do not want to miss important and essential elements of our economic life over all the current issues.

To begin with, I will simply answer your question. I support the policy that the Central Bank and the Government pursue to ensure macroeconomic stability. That is first.

Second, however much we want to lower the rate, it cannot be done by administrative methods. We have to work from the realities of our economy and its structure. Of course, I often hear this talk about interest rates being far lower outside Russia. Of course, there are lower rates. So they do it on purpose. But they have other problems, and a different economic structure. We are threatened by inflation, and they probably have deflation looming when manufacturers cannot sell what they make. That is their problem.

I support the policy that the Central Bank and the Government pursue to ensure macroeconomic stability.

We have a different problem. To lower the rate, we need to help the Central Bank and the Government suppress inflation and reduce devaluation risks and expectations, rather than snap at the regulator as was common in Soviet times in the planned economy. Once we can do both, once we start down this road, then the market will calm down naturally and Central Bank refinancing rate will decrease.

When there’s a possibility to support the real economy, the Central Bank is doing it anyway. That said, it should not be pushed to do even more, since this could affect its ability to keep the inflation at bay, which is one of the key issues, not the only, but still a very important one. It could prompt the question: Does the Central Bank have any objectives other than making sure that the country’s financial and banking systems are up and running? And we can argue that this is the way things are at the present time. What else is the Central Bank doing? For example, together with the Government it is working on the so-called project financing programmes: the Government oversees a wide range of projects under various programmes worth tens of billions of dollars, about 250 billion already, and up to 500 billion moving forward. Under these programmes, the Central Bank provides funding to Russian private banks so that they can finance these specific programmes. The Central Bank is also involved in new investment projects. It uses a wide range of instruments. For now, this is enough.

Veronika Romanenkova: TASS news agency, Veronika Romanenkova.

Mr Putin, could you tell us in all honesty whether you are satisfied with the Government’s work? To what extent are the initiatives that are being taken against the backdrop of crisis developments you’ve just described adequate? Can any changes in the Government line-up be expected?

Vladimir Putin: Well, as you may know or could have noticed throughout the years I’ve been in office, I a) value people highly and b) believe that staff reshuffles, usually, but not always, are to be avoided and can be detrimental. If someone is unable to work something out, I think that I bear part of the blame and responsibility. For this reason, there will be no changes, at least no major reshuffles.

We are working together with the Government on ways to improve its structure. This is true. This is about finding solutions for enhancing the Government’s efficiency with respect to the most sensible economic and social issues. There are plans to this effect, but there’s nothing dramatic about them and they don’t boil down to specific individuals. Our efforts are aimed at improving the operations of this crucial governing body.

As for the question whether I’m satisfied or not, overall I think that the Government’s work has been satisfactory. Of course, it can and should be even better. An anti-crisis plan was drafted and enacted in early 2014. I don’t remember its exact title, but essentially this was an anti-crisis plan. If you look at what has been done, you can see that unfortunately 35 percent or more than one third of the initiatives listed in this plan have yet to be implemented. This goes to show that efforts on the administrative, organisational front undertaken by various ministries and agencies did not suffice to respond to the challenges we are facing in a prompt and timely manner. However, let me reiterate that overall in terms of its strategy the Government is moving in the right direction and is efficient.

I think that the Government’s work has been satisfactory. Of course, it can and should be even better, but overall in terms of its strategy the Government is moving in the right direction and is efficient.

Let’s give the floor to Tatars. There is such a big poster. How can we possibly do without Tatars? Nothing is possible without Tatars here.

Yelena Kolebakina: Thank you very much, Mr President. I am Yelena Kolebakina with Tatarstan’s business newspaper Business Online. The people of Tatarstan will not forgive me if I do not ask you these questions.

In your address, you said – you stressed, actually – that the kind, hard-working people of Turkey and the ruling elite should not be put on the same plane and that we have a lot of reliable friends in Turkey. As you know, over the years Tatarstan has forged extensive economic and cultural ties with Turkey. What are we supposed to do now? Rupture these ties, cut our bonds with the entire Turkic world? After all, this is precisely the message of Vladimir Medinsky’s recent telegram with his recommendation that all contacts with the international organisation of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) be broken. What is to be done with the Turkish investors who have invested a quarter of all foreign direct investment in Tatarstan? This is my first question.

And allow me to ask the second question or the people of Tatarstan will be unhappy. In keeping with the federal law, from January 1, 2016, President Rustam Minnikhanov of Tatarstan will no longer be referred to as president. However, this can hurt the ethnic feelings of all Tatars in the world while you – let me remind you – have always said that in accordance with the Constitution, it is up to the republic itself to decide what to call the head of the region. So, will the federal centre insist on renaming the position of the head of Tatarstan after all?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I saw the “Turkey” poster. Please go ahead with your question and you too. We will sort this out.

Yelena Teslova: Yelena Teslova with the Anadolu news agency. I have a similar question. I would also like to start off with the fact that in your Address to the Federal Assembly, you said that we should not put the Turkish people and the part of the Turkish elite that is directly responsible for the death of our military personnel in Syria on the same plane. On a day-to-day level, however, the impression is somewhat different. Complaints are coming to the Turkish embassy in Moscow from students saying they have been expelled and from business people who say they are about to be deported. What is to be done about this?

The second question concerns Syria. The position on the fate of the Syrian president is well-known. Russia says it should be decided by the Syrian people while the United States and its allies insist that he has no political future. Did you address the issue with John Kerry during his visit to Moscow? Will this issue be raised in New York? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: And your question please.

Fuad Safarov: Mr President, Fuad Safarov with the Turkish news agency Cihan.

The rapid deterioration of relations between Russia and Turkey benefits neither side. What is more, this has only harmed both sides. Do you believe there is a third party in this scenario?

The second question, if you allow me. An Islamic anti-ISIS coalition was established recently, but we know that there is also the NATO-led coalition and the Russian-Syrian coalition. It turns out that there are three coalitions against ISIS. Is it really so difficult to deal with this evil? Maybe there are some other goals and some other plans here? Maybe it is not ISIS that is the problem? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference.

Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference.

Vladimir Putin: Okay, I will talk about Syria in the end. Now, regarding the conflict that has flared up. We believe that the actions of the Turkish authorities (in relation to our warplane, which they shot down) are not an unfriendly, but a hostile act. They shot down a warplane and our people were killed.

What outraged us so much? If it was an accident, as we heard later, apparently, the Turkish authorities did not even know it was a Russian plane… What is usually done in such cases? After all, people were killed. They immediately make a phone call and straighten things out. Instead, they immediately ran to Brussels, shouting: “Help, we have been hurt.” Who is hurting you? Did we touch anybody there? No. They started covering themselves with NATO. Does NATO need this? As it turned out, apparently it does not.

What is the most important thing for us? I want you to understand this. I want our people to hear this and I want Turkey to hear this as well. Apart from the tragedy, the fact that our people were killed, what has upset us so much, do you know? After all, we have not abandoned cooperation. When I was last in Antalya I had contact with Turkey’s entire leadership. Our Turkish colleagues raised very sensitive issues and asked for support. Even though our relations have soured now (I will not say what the issue was – this is not my style), but believe me, they raised issues with us that are very sensitive and that do not fit into the context of international law when we consider the decisions proposed by the Turkish side.

You will be surprised, but we said, “Yes, we understand, and we are willing to help.” You see, I had not heard about the Turkomans (Syrian Turks) before. I knew that Turkmen – our Turkmen – lived in Turkmenistan, and so I was confused… Nobody told us about them. But after we indicated our willingness to cooperate on the issues that are sensitive to Turkey, why did not they phone us via the cooperation channels between our militaries to say that during our discussions we overlooked a certain part of the border where Turkey has vested interests. They could have expressed their concerns or asked us not to hit certain areas. But nobody said anything.

As I said, we were willing to cooperate with Turkey on very sensitive issues. So why did they do it? Tell me, why? What have they accomplished? Did they think we would just pack up and go? They could not have thought that of course, Russia is not that kind of country. We have increased our presence and increased the number of warplanes [in Syria]. We did not have air defence systems there, but after that we dispatched S-400 systems to the area. We are also adjusting the Syrian air defence system and have serviced the highly effective Buk systems that we had sent them before. Turkish planes used to fly there all the time, violating Syrian air space. Let them try it now. Why did they do it?

You asked if there is a third party involved. I see what you mean. We do not know, but if someone in Turkish leadership has decided to brown nose the Americans, I am not sure if they did the right thing. First, I do not know if the US needed this. I can imagine that certain agreements were reached at some level that they would down a Russian plane, while the US closes its eyes to Turkish troops entering Iraq, and occupying it. I do not know if there was such an exchange. We do not know. But whatever happened, they have put everyone in a bind. In my opinion – I have looked at the situation and everything that has happened and is happening there – it appears that ISIS is losing priority. I will share my impressions with you.

Some time ago, they invaded Iraq and destroyed that country (for good or bad is beside the point). The void set in. Then, elements tied to the oil trading emerged. This situation has been building up over the years. It is a business, a huge trafficking operation run on an industrial scale. Of course, they needed a military force to protect smuggling operations and illegal exports. It is great to be able to cite the Islamic factor and slogans to that effect in order to attract cannon fodder. Instead, the recruits are being manipulated in a game based on economic interests. They started urging people to join this movement. I think that is how ISIS came about. Next, they needed to protect delivery routes. We began attacking their convoys. Now, we can see that they are splitting up with five, six, ten, fifteen trucks hitting the roads after dark. However, another flow, the bulk of the truck fleet, is headed for Iraq, and across Iraq through Iraqi Kurdistan. In one place there – I will ask the Defence Ministry to show this picture – we spotted 11,000 oil trucks. Just think of it – 11,000 oil trucks in one place. Unbelievable.

Whether there is a third party involved is anyone’s guess, but a scenario whereby these moves were never agreed with anyone is quite likely. However, today, the Turkish authorities are taking quite a lot of heat – not directly, though – for islamising their country. I am not saying if it is bad or good, but I admit that the current Turkish leaders have decided to let the Americans and Europeans know – yes, we are islamising our country, but we are modern and civilised Islamists. Remember, what President Reagan said about Somoza in his time: “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch.” Just keep it in mind, we are Islamists, but we are on your side, we are your Islamists.

There may be such an overtone, but nothing good came out of what happened. The goals, even if Turkey had any, not only were not achieved, but, on the contrary, only exacerbated the situation.

Now, regarding Turkic peoples residing in Russia. Of course we should maintain contacts with those who are close to us ethnically. I am saying “us,” because Turkic-speaking peoples of Russia are part of Russia, and in this sense the Turkish people, whom I mentioned in my Address as a friendly people, and other Turkic-speaking peoples remain our partners and friends. Of course, we will and must maintain contacts with them.

We have learned from experience that it is hard or almost impossible to reach common ground with the current Turkish leadership. Even when we tell them “yes, we agree,” they are trying to outflank or stab us in the back for absolutely no good reason.

Consequently, I do not see any prospects for improving relations with the Turkish leaders in terms of state-to-state relations, while remaining completely open to humanitarian cooperation. However, even this area is not without issues. I think that Turkish leaders have actually gone beyond their own expectations. Russia is forced to impose restrictive economic and other measures, for example, in tourism.

You know, the creeping islamisation that would have made Ataturk turn over in his own grave, affects Russia. We know that there are fighters from the North Caucasus on Turkish soil. We have told our partners time and again: “We do not do such things with respect to Turkey.” But these fighters are still there, they receive treatment and protection. They benefit from visa-free travel arrangements and are able to enter Russian territory using Turkish passports and disappear, while we have to go after them in the Caucasus or in our million plus cities. For this reason, we will certainly have to do it along with a number of other initiatives to ensure our national security.

As for the President of Tatarstan, there is a saying in Russia: “Call me a pot but heat me not.” This is Tatarstan’s business. I do not think that this is such a sensitive issue or that it could hurt national feelings. You know the people in the Caucasus always react vehemently to all issues related to their national identity. However, even Chechnya said: no, the country should have only one President, and we will not call the head of the Republic this way. This was the choice of the Chechen people. We will respect the choice of the people of Tatarstan. It is up to you to decide, all right?

Anton Vernitsky: Anton Vernitsky, Channel One.

Vladimir Putin: I am sorry, I forgot, but I wrote down your question. Again, I am sorry, Anton.

The fate of the Syrian president. I have said it many times, and I would like to repeat it: We will never agree with the idea of a third party, whoever it is, imposing its opinion about who governs who. This is beyond any common sense and international law. Of course, we discussed it with US Secretary of State Kerry. Our opinion remains the same, and this is our principled approach. We believe that only Syrians can choose their leaders, establish their government standards and rules.

Therefore, I will say something very important now. We support the initiative of the United States, including with respect to the UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria. The Secretary of State’s visit mainly focused on this resolution. We generally agree with it. I think Syrian officials will agree with the draft, too. There may be something that somebody does not like. But in an attempt to resolve this bloody conflict of many years, there is always room for compromise on either side. We believe it is a generally acceptable proposal, although there could be improvements.

As I have said before, this is an initiative of the United States and President Obama. This means that both the US and Europe are highly concerned with the current situation in the Middle East, Yemen, Syria and Iraq. We will do what we can to help settle the crisis and will aim to satisfy all parties with our solutions, however complicated the situation.

But first, it is necessary to work together on a constitution and a procedure to oversee possible future elections. It must be a transparent procedure that everyone trusts. Based on these democratic procedures, Syria will decide which form of government is the most suitable and who will lead the country.

Anton Vernitsky: Back to the Syria issue. Mr Putin, do we have a clear-cut plan on Syria or we are acting impulsively? I mean, Turkey shot down our plane and we immediately increased our military presence in Syria. When will our military operation end? What will you regard as the end point of our military operation in Syrian airspace?

Do you believe that the intra-Syrian conflict can, after all, be switched to a political track? Though you already talked about it, is it possible?

VladimirPutin: I was trying to answer this just now. We think that, A, it is possible; and, B, we believe that there is no other way to resolve the situation. This will have to be done in any case sooner or later, and better sooner than later because there will be fewer casualties and losses, and there will be fewer threats, including to Europe and to the United States as well. Look, 14 people were killed in the United States − ISIS has made its way into the US. US law enforcement has acknowledged that it was a terrorist attack committed by ISIS, so it is a threat to everyone. And the sooner we do it, resolve this, the better.

Let me repeat, there is no solution to this problem except a political one. Do we have a plan? Yes, we do, and I just spelled it out. In its key aspects, strange as it may sound, it coincides with the American vision, proposed by the United States: cooperative work on the constitution, creating mechanisms to control future early elections, holding the elections and recognising the results based on this political process.

Of course, it is a complicated objective and of course there are various mutual grievances: some do nt like this group and others do not like that group, some want to work with the Syrian Government and others refuse do so categorically. But what is necessary is that all conflicting parties make an effort to meet each other halfway.

Anton Vernitsky: And the military operation?

Vladimir Putin: What about the military operation? We said a long time ago that we will carry out air strikes to provide support for offensive operations by the Syrian army. And that is what we have been doing while the Syrian army conducts their operations.

By the way, I have recently said publicly – the idea was proposed by Francois Hollande – that we should try to pool the forces of the Syrian army and at least part of the armed opposition in the fight against ISIS. We have succeeded in working towards this goal, even if partly.

At the least, we have found common ground with these people. This part of the Syrian opposition, these irreconcilable and armed people want to fight against ISIS and are actually doing so. We are supporting their fight against ISIS by delivering air strikes, just as we are doing to support the Syrian army. When we see that the process of rapprochement has begun and the Syrian army and Syrian authorities believe that the time has come to stop shooting and to start talking, this is when we will stop being more Syrian than Syrians themselves. We do not need to act in their place. And the sooner this happens, the better for everyone.

Dmitry Peskov: Mr Brilyov, do you have anything to add?

Sergei Brilyov: Thank you. Yes, I want to add to what my Turkish colleagues and Anton [Vernitsky] have said.

Mr President, first I would like to ask if the Turkish ship has sailed. Can President Erdogan do anything to reverse the situation? And second, we do not have to be more Syrian than Syrians themselves, but since Turkey’s actions have forced Russia to increase its contingent at Latakia, maybe we should keep that base to ensure stability in Syria and the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean?

Vladimir Putin: I do not want to answer for other people and the leaders of other countries. If they believe it possible and necessary to do something, let them do so. We do not see any change so far. So why should I speak about it now? That is my answer to the first question.

As for the second question, about the base, opinions differ, you know. Some people in Europe and the US repeatedly said that our interests would be respected, and that our [military] base can remain there if we want it to. But I do not know if we need a base there. A military base implies considerable infrastructure and investment.

After all, what we have there today is our planes and temporary modules, which serve as a cafeteria and dormitories. We can pack up in a matter of two days, get everything aboard Antei transport planes and go home. Maintaining a base is different.

Some believe, including in Russia, that we must have a base there. I am not so sure. Why? My European colleagues told me that I am probably nurturing such ideas. I asked why, and they said: so that you can control things there. Why would we want to control things there? This is a major question.

We showed that we in fact did not have any medium-range missiles. We destroyed them all, because all we had were ground-based medium-range missiles. The Americans have destroyed their Pershing ground-based medium-range missiles as well. However, they have kept their sea- and aircraft-based Tomahawks. We did not have such missiles, but now we do – a 1,500-kilometre-range Kalibr sea-based missile and aircraft-carried Kh-101 missile with a 4,500-kilometre range.

So why would we need a base there? Should we need to reach somebody, we can do so without a base.

It might make sense, I am not sure. We still need to give it some thought. Perhaps we might need some kind of temporary site, but taking root there and getting ourselves heavily involved does not make sense, I believe. We will give it some thought.

Dmitry Peskov: Colleagues, let’s be respectful of each other and ask one question at a time, OK? So that everyone can get the chance to ask a question. Terekhov, Interfax, please go ahead.

Vladimir Putin: Sorry, here’s Ukraine, our sister republic. I’m never tired of saying it over and over again. Please go ahead.

Dmitry Peskov: Microphone to the first row, please.

RomanTsimbalyuk: Thank you for the opportunity to ask a question, even though we are not Turks, but Ukrainians.

Vladimir Putin: I can see that, yes.

Roman Tsimbalyuk: Mr Putin, as a follow-up to your allegations that there are no Russian servicemen in Donbass, Captain Yerofeyev and Sergeant Alexandrov, Third Brigade, the city of Togliatti, send their regards to you.

Are you going to exchange them for Sentsov, Savchenko, Afanasyev, Kolchenko, and Klykh? And the list goes on.

One more question, if I may, just to continue my first question: The Minsk Agreements are coming to an end, and none of the parties have complied with their provisions. So, what should we expect from you come January 1? Are you going to launch an offensive again, come up with some negotiation ideas, or maybe forget about Ukraine for a while? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding exchanges. We’ve never said there are no people there who deal with certain matters, including in the military area, but this does not mean that regular Russian troops are present there. Feel the difference. This is the first point.

Second, you mentioned two or three people you propose exchanging and then offered a long list of persons to exchange them for. First of all, the exchange should be equitable. Second, we should discuss everything calmly with our colleagues, talk and propose what we have always insisted on and what the Ukrainian President has proposed. People who are being held on one side and those held on the other should be released. This applies above all to people from Donbass, southeastern Ukraine, and Ukrainian servicemen who were detained in these territories. However, the exchange should proceed on an equitable basis.

What am I talking about? It’s no secret that the Ukrainian authorities regard all those detained and held in Donbass as people who are subject to exchange while those who are held in Kiev prisons are considered criminals and therefore outside the scope of this exchange. People in Donbass don’t agree with this. This should be treated fairly and it should be said: Let’s exchange all for all, as President Poroshenko proposed, not selectively – we’ll exchange these but not those. This is the line to take here and we support it. We have a lot of disagreements with the Ukrainian authorities but here we have a common position.

Now regarding January 1. On January 1, regrettably for us, we predict a deterioration in our economic relations because we had to make the decision that from January 1, we will no longer treat Ukraine as a member of the CIS free trade zone.

EU leaders have proposed and asked me not to expel Ukraine from the free trade zone and not to strip it of preferences in trade with Russia in the hope that we will negotiate in a tripartite format – Russia-EU-Ukraine – for a year and make certain changes in various formats, so that if the EU association agreement itself is not changed, we will introduce certain amendments through additional protocols to address our concerns and guarantee our economic interests. In the period before July, we had asked a hundred times for a tripartite meeting. Contact was only established in July, you see? The result was practically zero.

Only recently, I met with the German Chancellor and President of the European Commission in Paris. We received a document. It was their chance to gain a respectable audience. I’ll explain the specifics shortly. We’ve tried to maintain good economic relations with Ukraine, since Ukraine is member of the free trade area which offers mutual preferences and zero rates. In its economic relations with Russia and the CIS, Ukraine has used standards, technical regulations and customs rules which we inherited from the past and which we are gradually changing together. Ukraine is unilaterally withdrawing from this system and joining the European standards. Those, for example, state that all the goods in the Ukrainian market must comply with EU technical standards and regulations. But see, our products don’t comply with them yet.

Does this mean Ukraine has to keep our goods from its market? Okay, they heard us. Now Ukraine is officially allowed to keep both compliant and non-compliant products in their market. It’s not an obligation but a right. Whether it uses it or not, we don’t know. They have the right to establish a subcommission to decide, but again, it is not an obligation. However, Russia is expressly required to maintain all preferences in place. No, it doesn’t work that way.

Moreover, one doesn’t have to be an expert to see that Russia is required to bring CIS customs regulations into compliance with EU standards.

In Paris, I told them: this doesn’t make any sense. The three of us (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) have argued for years about these customs duties. And you want us to change the CIS customs regulations just because Ukraine entered into this agreement with the EU. This is not a fair requirement. It will take years to accomplish.

Also, it was stated that we must comply with EU phytosanitary requirements. Ukraine is willing to do so but nobody discussed it with us. It is expressly written that Russia has agreed to comply. Since when? We may be in favour of the idea but it will take time. How can you not understand that it takes time and money? Tens, maybe hundreds of billions of dollars. We need time too.

By the way, they told me in Paris, “But our standards are better and maybe you had better switch to those standards.” Well, it is true, and we want to, but we need money – we need investments. And we still have our access to external financing blocked. You understand that it is impossible, I said, so why did you write all this? They said, “But we have not read this yet.” Look, you have not even read it, but you sent us this official paper. Should we agree with it?

Now, about what we will do. We are not going to impose any sanctions on Ukraine – I want this to be heard. We are just switching to a most-favoured-nation treatment in trade. Which means conditions for Ukraine will not be any worse than those for our other foreign partners. But of course, Russia will grant no more privileges or preferences to Ukraine from January 1, 2016.

What will this mean in practice? In practice, it means that the zero tariffs in trade between Russia and Ukraine will change to the weighted average tariff of 6 percent. Various rates will range from 3 to 8 or 10 percent. But this is not our choice. We have fought for this not to happen. But they did not want to listen to us. They did so unilaterally and in the style I just described to you. But we have to work in the conditions we have.

Now, about launching offensives. I tell you frankly that we are not interested in exacerbating the conflict. On the contrary, we are interested in resolving this conflict as soon as possible, but not by way of physical annihilation of people in southeastern Ukraine. By the way, take a look at the results of the municipal elections and see the voting pattern in the area. In nearly all the regions – nine or ten, I think – the opposition bloc came first or second.

Even in those territories of Donbass that are controlled by the Ukrainian authorities, the Lugansk Region, more than 43 percent voted for the opposition. Don’t the Kiev authorities see this? Are they so reluctant to take into account the sentiments and expectations of their own people? We very much hope that we will have an open, honest dialogue.

Now about the Minsk Agreements. We have heard it a hundred times that Russia must comply with the Minsk Agreements. And this is what we want! Let’s look at their provisions. First – to introduce amendments to the Constitution and coordinate them with Donbass on a permanent basis. Has this been done? Transitional provisions were amended, it seems. And what are those amendments? The law on the special status was incorporated into the transitional provisions. “On a permanent basis?” I ask all my colleagues. They all say, “Yes, permanent.” I say, “Do you know that this law has only been adopted for three years? A year has already passed.” They all say, “Really?” I say, “Yes.” “Is that true, Mr Poroshenko?” He answers, “Yes.” This is almost a direct quote. Everybody says, “You know, he should do it on a permanent basis.” I say, “He should, nobody is stopping him.”

Now the law on the special status. Has the Rada passed this law? Yes, it has. Under the Minsk Agreements, it should be “implemented within 30 days by having the Rada adopt a resolution to this effect.” Have they adopted the resolution? Yes. But how? They added an article, I think number 10, to the law, which stipulates that it can only be implemented after elections, which means more delays. I told them, “Listen, it says here that the law must be implemented.” “No, it does not. It says: the Rada must pass a resolution. We have done it. That is it.” But this is a manipulation.

If we really want to resolve the problem, let’s stop this, let’s work together. And we are willing to influence people in the southeast of the country and persuade them to accept a compromise. We are willing and we want it to happen, but we need our partners in Kiev to be willing as well.

Vyacheslav Terekhov: Hello, Mr President. You just talked about a significant expansion of the military presence in the conflict zone in Syria.

Vladimir Putin: There you go again about Syria. Ask me about the national economy.

Vyacheslav Terekhov: No, about Russia, not Syria.

Sanctions are in force, oil prices are falling and there are not only sanctions but also a crisis. Will Russia have enough resources for all this?

Vladimir Putin: For what?

Vyacheslav Terekhov: For military operations, the expansion of its military presence, for survival. In addition to this, there are more than enough other problems to deal with. Meanwhile, resources – this is not only money and military officers. A popular expression has just come to my mind: “It’s easy to start a war but difficult to end one.”

Vladimir Putin: We did not start a war. We are conducting limited operations with the use of our Aerospace Forces, air-defence systems and reconnaissance systems. This does not involve any serious strain, including strain on the budget. Some of the resources that we earmarked for military training and exercises – we simply retargeted them to the operations of our Aerospace Forces in Syria. Something needs to be thrown in, but this does not have any significant impact on the budget.

You see, we hold large-scale exercises. Take the Centre or Vostok-2015 drills alone. Thousands of people are involved. Thousands are redeployed from one theatre to another. There are hundreds of aircraft and so on and so forth. We simply direct a part of the resources to the operation in Syria. It is difficult to think of a better training exercise. So, in principle, we can keep training for quite a long time there without unduly denting our budget.

As for other components, yes, that is an issue – I mean the economic problems we are faced with. We know what needs to be done and we know how to do it, and we talk about this publicly.

What can be said in this regard? If we go back to the economy, of course, here we need to implement import replacement programmes (I believe I mentioned this earlier). Not just import replacement as such, but we need to modernise our economy, enhance labour productivity, improve the business climate and ensure effective public demand. This is an element of our economic drive.

We need to carry out an array of measures that the Government has publicly announced. And this is what we will do.

Anastasia Zhukova: Hello, I am Anastasia Zhukova from Tulskiye Novosti. Here’s my question. A tragedy occurred in Tula last year when two babies were burned in a local maternity home. One of them was seriously injured and suffered burns to almost 80 percent of his body. The issue of his adoption is being reviewed now. People from all over the country are worried about Matvei’s fate. They worry that he will be institutionalised. They think the boy will end up in a nursing home. Most Russians and foreigners want him to be adopted by a loving family.

Mr Putin, can you please see to his fate and personally control his adoption and treatment? And what do you think can be done to prevent such accidents from happening again? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: This is a horrendous, terrible story. It is impossible to think about it or talk about it without tears. What a horrible tragedy. I simply do not want to say any more about it now – it is just awful.

The problem is not rooted in healthcare. No matter how much money is allotted to it, there will always be people who will be criminally negligent in fulfilling their duties. This needs to be monitored. The attitude of personnel to their duties should rest on a completely different approach.

As for a nursing home or adoption, I know that the entire country is watching the developments. I know this anyway, and we are keeping an eye on it. Moreover, several people (not one, two or three), several families not only want to adopt Matvei but are fighting for him. I wish them success and want to thank them for this. I hope this issue will be resolved very soon.

Young lady, I promised you – go ahead please.

Yekaterina Vinokurova: Thank you for keeping your promises, Mr Putin. Yekaterina Vinokurova, Znak.com.

It is December 2015. You have been at the helm for 15 years, and so we can say that a certain system of authority has evolved. I have a question about a very dangerous aspect of this system because we can see especially clearly now that a very dangerous second generation of the elite has grown up over this period. One of them is Rotenberg Jr, who has received the country’s long-haul truckers as a present. Another is Turchak Jr, who cannot be summoned for questioning over the assault of Oleg Kashin, even though journalists continue to be beaten up in his region. These are also the children of Chaika, who have a very murky business, which should be investigated. Sorry, but I do not give a damn whether this is a paid-for reporting or not, because even rumours must be investigated. There are many more such children who are unable to revive or even preserve Russia, because they are not the elite but only a poor semblance of it.

At the same time, when journalists investigate something or public accusations are made as in the case of Prosecutor General Chaika and his team, the authorities, instead of launching an investigation, shout that the rumour is being spread by the hateful State Department or Obama, or order an inspection – for instance, how the prosecutor’s office dealt with the Dozhd TV Channel, which helped investigate the problem. When the long-haul trackers hold protests, they are accused of acting on somebody’s orders, whereas instead you simply need to talk to them.

Mr Putin, I have a simple question. Did you expect to see these results when you assumed power in 2000? Maybe the situation needs improving before it is too late? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Let’s start with results. If we want to be objective, we will have to admit that these are not the only results. Our best achievements are higher incomes for the people and a stronger economy, which has grown by nearly 100 percent. Our GDP has almost doubled. These are our results. Stronger defences and improved capabilities of our Armed Forces – these are the results. The fight against terrorism, which we have not defeated yet but we have definitely broken its back – these are the results.

As for the problems of secondary importance you mentioned, they can happen anywhere. Now for the reaction of the media and the public to the activities of our high-level officials’ children. Take young Rotenberg, whom you mentioned: his father does not hold any government posts, as far as I know. Maybe he has found his way into a government agency since I last looked, but I do not think so.

As for Mr Chaika, and who else? Turchak and the rest. I am aware of the reports by the media and online that, say Turchak was involved in beating up journalists. Is he the one responsible or is his father involved? There is a famous Soviet-era joke, when an HR manager says: We are not going to promote this guy. Why? He had an incident with a fur coat. It turned out that five years ago his wife’s fur coat was stolen in a theatre. Something had happened, so the guy will not be promoted, just in case. This should not be our attitude. You are right to raise this issue. No, I really mean it. This provides us with an opportunity to respond… I mean, it is our obligation to respond.

Regarding all the issues you have mentioned, especially those related to the children of high-ranking officials… Let’s take for example the Prosecutor General – he heads a very important institution. We have to understand did the Prosecutor General’s children commit an offence or not? Does anything point to a conflict of interest in the Prosecutor General’s work? Did he assist or help his children in any manner? For that, we have the Presidential Control Directorate. I did not want to mention this issue, but it does not mean that we are not working on it. All the information should be carefully reviewed. The same goes for examining all the reports online.

Let’s now move to the truck drivers. Are there any questions on this particular issue? Are there any questions about the truck drivers? Go ahead. Maybe someone can articulate this question better.

Question: My question is not just about the truckers. Everyone is aware of professional drivers’ problems, why they have been protesting for weeks against the problems with the new toll system. But I have questions on behalf of the entire driving community.

Random motorists are also forced to pay. For example, there’s this new road being built from Moscow to St Petersburg, recognized by all as the most expensive in Europe. For example, a drive to the nearest Moscow suburb and back costs 1,000 rubles, more than a small amount for most people.

In Moscow, the metered parking policy has reached residential areas where there actually wasn’t any serious need for it, as many have said. But drivers have been told that this is the way things are in Europe. But we have a standard of living far lower than them, and even you pointed out at the beginning of this news conference that real income has declined. So my question is: is it fair to dump these high charges on all categories of motorists?

Vladimir Putin: Paid parking is kind of beyond the point, it’s another matter. As to these car parks in Moscow, all major metropolitan areas at some point have to introduce paid parking because the problem can’t be solved in any other way. Of course common sense should prevail here too and you need to watch not only what to do but how to do it, and prices should be based on reality. However, the Moscow city authorities have made this decision. You need to know this.

The Moscow authorities decided that parking prices should not be directly set by the mayor’s office, but only after consultations with the municipalities and with the districts. Moreover, the local elected authorities, district authorities have the right to decide on this issue – they have been given that authority. And parking is free for people who live in the buildings next to these car parks. I can assure you that the citizens concerned, the Muscovites who live near these car parks, are more in favour of the policy than against it.

The charges apply to those who arrive from other districts or other regions: from the Moscow suburbs and so on. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should not think about them at all. And of course, the fees should have some relation to average incomes. But I repeat, these decisions are largely up to the local municipalities. But keep in mind, the revenue from parking goes entirely, completely, one hundred percent, into the local district budgets.

I’d like to reiterate that this does not mean the upper levels and limits should be ignored. After all, this is the prerogative of district and city authorities, above all, the districts.

Now, regarding other components of the auto business.

Most importantly, Rotenberg junior was mentioned here. What should I say, and what is important? It is important to get to the bottom of the problem, not try to use a difficult situation for some quasi-political purposes, but look inside. And what lies inside? All revenues coming from the Platon system – all 100 percent – do not go into somebody’s pocket but into the Road Fund of the Russian Federation, down to the last cent, and from there all this money, down to the last cent, is spent on road construction in Russian regions. I’d like you to hear this. This is the first point.

Second, where does this joint venture set up by Rostechnologii and the company represented by private investors get funding from? Directly from the budget – I believe about 10 billion [rubles]. For what purpose? For the repair and maintenance of this system, keeping it operational, for development. However, what does it mean that they receive funding from the budget? This means that everything can be checked, including by the public and the Accounts Chamber, which is very important. If some people think that these maintenance and development costs are inflated, let them do calculations and submit them. This will be the right thing to do – calculate and submit. This can be done – [count] the money and revenues from Platon, the company with private investment and Rostechnologii – these revenues don’t go there. I want this to be heard.

Where did the idea come from? It came from the Government. Why? For two reasons.

First, because economic agents across all transport sectors, including aviation, river, sea and rail transport, pay taxes and infrastructure fees, including on the railway. Motor vehicle owners pay only a portion of the infrastructure tax through the excise tax on petrol. But that’s only a portion of it. In other industries, economic agents pay infrastructure fees in full. This had a portion of cargo travel from rivers, seas and railways to motor roads. Huge numbers of trucks flooded motor roads, causing damage to infrastructure. A motor vehicle tax is the same for passenger cars and trucks weighing 12 tonnes or more.

I know that those guys are saying there’s no difference between a passenger car and a heavy-duty truck. But this is not true. Experts say that during acceleration and braking, 12-tonne trucks do more damage to the road bed than cars. However, they pay the same amount. This proposal seeks to create a level playing field for all types of transport.

Second, the licensing of this activity was stopped in 2008 or 2007 as part of the war on red tape. It seemed like a good idea, but what do we have as a result? Large numbers of people go ahead and buy heavy-duty trucks and get away with it. But this is an absolutely grey economy. They aren’t even licensed as sole proprietors.

I come from a working-class family, and I know that these guys work hard driving these trucks, but we need to leave grey schemes behind. I’d like to support them, believe me. Ms Pamfilova came to see me and said that she met with them, and they are hard workers and nice people overall. However, we must shed these grey schemes, and help truck drivers out as well.

Someone asked me if I’m pleased with the Government or not. Certain things must still be fine-tuned. How do we go about it? How do we get them out of the scheme and make sure that we don’t charge them too many fees and taxes? There’s a simple way to do this. They should be given an opportunity to purchase inexpensive patents. However, there’s a problem. Patents are issued for a year, while there may be seasonal transport. Let the Government think about it in advance and do it.

Some time ago, the Government reviewed the possibility of introducing a similar fee. They charge for mileage covered by heavy-duty trucks in many countries around the world. In Belarus, truck drivers are paying seven times more than is suggested in Russia. They are paying seven times more for their mileage, just think about it. We said that the motor vehicle tax can be cancelled after transiting to this system. The tax wasn’t cancelled upon the request of the regional authorities, as the motor vehicle tax goes straight to the regional budget. It must be cancelled at least for heavy-duty trucks whose owners must pay for mileage. I hope the Government will do so in early 2016.

I know that there is concern over having to buy various devices. They also cost money. Here also it is necessary to take a thorough look into who must pay and for what.

For instance, a tachograph, a device showing how much time a driver has been at the wheel. Listen, after all, this must be paid for. And people all over the world pay for this. It must be done to ensure the safety of both heavy-truck drivers and other motorists. Because when a person works overtime, sitting at the wheel for 20 hours on end, he poses a threat to himself and to other road users. Yes, this must be paid for. I can’t recall how much, but this must be paid for.

And there are two more devices. One is the Platon tracking device , which must be provided to all free of charge, and the other is the ERA-GLONASS system (or the SOS system, so to speak), which sends out an emergency signal. The latter device must be tucked away in a safe spot to prevent it from getting damaged during an accident. And so, the first and second systems [tachograph and Platon] can be put together in one box, while the third system must for the time being be hidden deep inside a vehicle. And by the way, it must also be provided free of charge.

Some people say that while it must be installed on new trucks free of charge, money is charged for installing it on used trucks. No, they mustn’t charge anything. Around two million have already been produced, as far as I know.

As a matter of fact, this is the initiative of Rostechnologii, and not of any private persons. Why? Because, first, Rostechnologii proposed a technical solution, assigned the work to their enterprises and created jobs, so this is their intellectual product. Why do we need private persons there? We need them as investors. They have invested 29 billion rubles (by the way, as regards the elites, they can do something, or their children, or cannot), invested these 29 billion rubles in Russia, and not in the United States, or Cyprus or anywhere else. The point is that the system needs to be adjusted, that’s true.

I hope the Government will make all these decisions, including taxes on transport vehicles in the near future – no later than the first quarter.

Tamara Gotsiridze: Tamara Gotsiridze, Maestro TV. Mr Putin, I have a general question about the future of Russian-Georgian relations. Three years have passed since the change of government in Georgia. There were expectations of a summit. It’s still unclear why this hasn’t been held yet. People hoped that Russia would ease visa restrictions for Georgians or make travel visa-free altogether but there is no progress on this either.

I have this question: what does each side need to do? What does Moscow expect from Tbilisi? What can be expected of Moscow to bring Russian-Georgian relations to a new level? What do you think about our prospects?

Vladimir Putin: As for the events in 2008 and the subsequent decline in our relations, we’ve talked about this many times, but I consider myself obliged to repeat it. We are not to blame for the deterioration in relations. The former Georgian leaders and the then President Saakashvili should not have made the adventurist decisions that triggered Georgia’s territorial disintegration. This is their fault, their historical fault. They are fully to blame for this.

Now the export of politicians has begun. They are actively operating in another former Soviet republic – independent Ukraine. As you can see, they haven’t changed their approach.

I’ve already mentioned this but I’d like to repeat it. I think this is simply a slap in the face of the Ukrainian people. Not only have they been put under an external administration but they’ve also had to accept so-called politicians that were delegated there. By the way, I think Saakashvili was never granted a work visa to the United States but they sent him to run the show in Ukraine and he is functioning there. What was Ukraine told? We won’t just organise you – we’ll send people who will administer over you, people from more civilised countries – either your neighbours or from overseas.

We’ll put all of them into key positions: finance, the economy, and so on and so forth because you don’t know how to do it well. Others know but you don’t.

Is it impossible to find five or ten honest, decent and efficient managers out of 45 million people? This is simply a slap in the face of the Ukrainian people.

Now let’s turn to relations with Georgia. We didn’t initiate the collapse of these relations bit we’re willing to restore them. As for Georgia’s territorial integrity, this is primarily up to the people of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It would be necessary to work with them. We’ll accept any decision.

Today, despite the difficulties you mentioned we notice signals from the current Georgian leaders and we are receiving them. Imagine, today Russia accounts for two thirds of Georgia’s wine and wine stock exports. They are coming to the Russian market not to some other market abroad. We are importing these products as well as others and our trade has increased. It declined a little this year due to general economic difficulties, but on the whole it is demonstrating fairly high growth rates.

As for visas, we’re ready to cancel them with Georgia.

Posted in RussiaComments Off on Putin’s: “Military Force to Protect [ISIS] Smuggling Operations… 11,000 Oil Trucks”

Imperialism and Capitalism: Rethinking an Intimate Relationship

NOVANEWS
Global Research
Amerique_latine-Empire-US

The literature on imperialism suffers from a fundamental confusion about the relationship between capitalism and imperialism. The aim of this paper is to remove this confusion. The paper is organised in three parts.

In Part I we state our own position of the capitalism-imperialism relation. In part II we discuss some major points at issue in the Marxist debate on imperialism. And in Part III we review the changing forms that imperialism has taken in Latin America in the course of the capitalist development process.

The main focus of the paper is on the form taken by imperialism in the current conjuncture of capitalist development, namely extractive capitalism. This conjuncture is characterised by the demise of neoliberalism as an economic model and a growing demand on the world market for energy, minerals and other “natural” resources—the political economy of natural resource development (large-scale investment in the acquisition of land and entailed resources, primary commodity exports). The fundamental dynamics of what we term “extractivist imperialism” are examined in the context of South America, which represents the most advanced but yet regressive form taken to date by capitalism in the new millennium. Our analysis of these dynamics is summarized in the form of twelve theses.

In this essay we are concerned with unravelling the intimate relation of imperialism to capitalism and clearing some confusion surrounding it. There are two major problems in the way these two concepts are often understood and used in the literature. In the liberal tradition of political science the projection of imperial power and associated dynamics are generally disconnected from capitalism and its economic dynamics, reducing imperialism to a quest for world domination based on a lust for power or purely geopolitical considerations by the guardians of the national interest in the most powerful countries. On the other hand, in the Marxist tradition of political economy, among world system theorists of the new imperialism there can be found the opposite tendency in which the institutional specificity of the state as an instrument of class power is ignored, and imperialism is reduced to a purely economic dynamic, essentially confusing imperialism with capitalism.

In this paper we argue that capitalism and imperialism are intimately connected but engage distinct dynamics in the geoeconomics and the geopolitics of capital that need to be clearly distinguished. We advance this argument in the Latin American context, with reference to the capitalist development process and associated dynamics in their temporal and spatial dimensions. But first we engage several points of dispute among Marxists in regard to imperialism. We then trace out the salient features of imperialism at various stages in the capitalist development process in Latin America.

The Marxist Debate on Imperialism: Points of Dispute

Almost all theories of contemporary imperialism, both in its (neo)Marxist and (neo)liberal variants, lack any but the crudest sociological analyses of the class and political character of the governing groups that direct the imperial state and its policies (Harvey 2003; Magdoff 2003; Amin 2001; Panitch and Leys 2004; Foster 2006; Hardt and Negri 2000). The same is true for contemporary theorizing about the imperial state, which is largely devoid of both institutional and class analysis.[1] Most theorists of imperialism resort to a form of economic reductionism in which the political and ideological dimensions of imperial power are downplayed or ignored, and categories such as “investments,” “trade” and “markets” are decontextualized and presented as historically disembodied entities that are comparable across space and time. Changes in the configuration of class relations and associated dynamics are then accounted for in terms of general economic categories such as “finance,” “manufacturing,” “banking” and “services” without any analysis of the political economy of capitalist development and class formation, or the nature and sources of financial wealth—illegal drug trade, money laundering, real estate speculation, etc. (Panitch and Leys 2004). As for the shifts in the political and economic orientation of governing capitalist politicians representing the imperial interests of the dominant class, resulting in the formation of links with other capitalists and imperialist centres with major consequences in the configuration of world power, they are glossed over in favour of abstract accounts of statistical shifts in economic measures of capital flows.

Contemporary theorizing about imperialism generally ignores the sociopolitical and ideological power configurations of imperial policy, as well as the role of international financial institutions such as the World Bank in shaping the institutional and policy framework of the new world order, which not only provides a system of global governance but the rules of engagement for the class war launched by the global capitalist class against labour in its different redoubts of organised resistance. The focus of most contemporary and recent studies of the dynamics of imperial power is on the projection of military power in the project of protecting and advancing the geopolitical interests of the United States and the geo-economic interests of monopoly capital in the middle east and other zones of capital accumulation, or on the economic operations of the large multinational corporations that dominate the global economy. In regard to the Middle East the main issue in these studies is the threat presented by radical Islam (and its forces of international terrorism) to accessing one of the world’s greatest reservoirs of fossil fuel as well as the imperialist project of world domination.

As for the multinational corporations that dominate the global economy they are viewed by theorists of the “new imperialism” as the major operational agency of imperial power in the world capitalist system, having displaced the nation-state in its power to advance the project of capital accumulation and the quest for world domination. While theorists and analysts in the liberal tradition continue their concern with the dynamics US foreign policy in the projection of imperial power, and Marxists in the tradition of international political economy and critical development studies continue to concentrate their analysis on the dynamics of state power, the theorists of the “new imperialism” concentrate almost entirely on the globalizing dynamics of monopoly capital.

Nevertheless, the dynamics of imperial power relations are political as well as economic, and do engage the political apparatus of the state. As for the economic dynamics, as theorized by Lenin in a very different context, they derive from the search by capital for profit and productive investments as well as cheaper sources of raw materials and labour and markets. In terms of these dynamics, particularly those that relate to the fusion of industrial and financial capital, the export of capital and the emergence of monopoly capital, Lenin theorized imperialism as the highest form of capitalism, a manifestation of its fundamental laws of development. However, while liberal theorists of imperialism tend to emphasize the political, and to isolate the political dimension of imperialism from its economic dynamics, viewing imperialism purely in terms of the quest for world domination or the pursuit of geopolitical strategic concerns and the national interest, Marxist theorists following Lenin recognize that the imperial state is a critical agency of capitalist development and a fundamental source of political and military power pursued in the service of capital, to ensure its dominion.[2]

From this Marxist perspective imperialism is understood in terms of its connection to capitalism, and the agency of the imperial state system—the projection of state power—in securing the conditions needed for capital accumulation. Not that there is a consensus on this point—on imperialism as the bearer of capital, an agency of capitalist development. William Robinson, for example, expands on the argument advanced by Hardt and Negri (2000) and other world system theorists that the “class relations of global capitalism are now so deeply internalized within every nation-state that the classical image of imperialism as a relation of external domination is outdated” (Robinson 2007, 7).[3] Although what these class relations might possibly be is unclear, as is the question as to what form imperialism takes under these circumstances (the dominion of capital over labour?), Robinson argues that in effect “national capitalist monopolies” no longer need to

“turn to the state for assistance . . . .” The corollary is that the state no longer needs to assume the responsibility for empire-building and the projection of imperial power is no longer concerned with the dynamics of capital accumulation.[4] In Robinson’s formulation “the system of nation-states . . . is no longer the organizing principle of capitalist development, or the primary institutional framework that shapes social and class forces and political dynamics” (Robinson 2007, 8).

Another assumption made by Robinson and shared by other world system theorists of transnational capital and “globally integrated enterprise” is that “if we are to get at the root of 21st century global social and political dynamics” the Marxist tradition of imperialism theory based on the classical statements of Lenin and Hilferding should be discarded. Based on the assumption of a world of rival national capitals and economies, conflict among core capitalist powers, the exploitation by these powers of peripheral regions, and “a nation-state centred framework for analysing global dynamics,” this theoretical tradition is entirely useless, incapable—according to Robinson—of grasping the fundamental contemporary dynamics of capitalist development (Robinson 2007, 6–7).[5]

If, as Robinson contends, capital no longer needs the imperial state does it mean that imperialism will wither away, or does it mean, as argued by Klare (2003, 51–52), that it will take the form of

“geopolitical competition . . . the contention between great powers and aspiring great powers for control over territory, resources, and important geographical positions such as ports and harbours . . . and other sources of wealth and influence.”

Or does it mean what Robinson and some—including Amin (2001), Arrighi (2005), Foster (2003) and others in the torrent of “new imperialism” literature that has appeared since 2001—have suggested or contend, namely that imperialism is advanced primarily, if not exclusively, in economic form via the agency of transnational(ized) corporations that represent an empire without imperialism, as Hardt and Negri would have it, or capitalism beyond imperialism, as Robinson sees it.

In opposition to this rather reductionist view of imperialism, we hold that imperial power is shaped predominantly by the imperial state and its policies that take as a given that what is perceived as in the “national interest” coincides with the concerns and interests, both economic and political, of the capitalist class—or the “private sector,” in the official discourse. Notwithstanding arguments to the contrary, and taking into consideration both its economic and political dynamics and its actual operations (investments, production, sales), imperialism now as before is clearly designed and works to advance the project of capital accumulation in whatever and in as many ways as possible—to penetrate existing and open up new markets, exploit labour as humanely as possible but as inhumanely as needed, extract surplus value from the direct producers where possible, and access as needed or process raw materials and minerals.

Insofar as the capitalist class is concerned the aim and the agenda of its individual and institutional members is to accumulate capital. As for the imperial state and its agents and agencies, including the World Bank and the agencies of international cooperation for security and development, the agenda is merely to pave the way for capital, to create the conditions needed for economic and social development. In neither case is uneven development of the forces of production and its social conditions (social inequality, unemployment, poverty, social and environmental degradation, etc.) on the agenda. Rather, these conditions are the unintended or “structural” consequences of capitalist development, and as such inevitable and acceptable costs of progress that need to be managed and, if and where possible, mitigated in the interest of both security and development.

Under these strategic and structural conditions it is illuminating but not particularly useful to measure the impact of imperialism merely in economic terms of the volume of capital inflows (FDI, bank loans, portfolio investments, etc.) and outflows (profit, interest payments, etc.).[6] This is because imperialism is a matter of class and state power, and as such an issue of politics and political economy—issues that are not brought into focus in an analysis of national accounts. At issue here are not only the structural dynamics of uneven capitalist development (the “development of underdevelopment,” in André Gunder Frank’s formulation) but social and international relations of power and competition between imperial and domestic classes, between officials and representatives of the imperial state and the state in “emerging economies” and “developing societies.”

Under current conditions of rapid economic growth and capitalist development on the southern periphery of the world system, these relations are very dynamic and changing. By no means can they be described today as relations of domination and subordination. In addition, members of the global ruling class (investors, financiers, big bankers, industrialists, etc.) must compete with each other not only in the same sector but in different countries within the world capitalist and imperialist system. This is not only a question of inter-capitalist and intra-imperialist rivalry. It is also a development and political issue embedded in the social structure of the capital-labour relation and the economic structure of international relations within the world system. For example, within the dynamic and changing structure of this complex system of class and international relations officials of the states with a subordinate position in the imperial state system will insist on the transfer of technological, management and marketing knowhow to strengthen the ability of their capitalists to compete and for them to make profit, extract rents and serve their “national interest.”

As for relations of “domination” and “dependence” among nations on the lines of a north-south divide the structure of global production, and international relations of domination and subordination, are dynamic and change over time, in part because the geopolitical and economic concerns of the nation-state subject to imperial power leads to a quest for relative autonomy by state officials and politicians in these countries as well as protection of the national interest. “Developments” along these lines have resulted in qualitative changes in the relations between established imperial and emerging capitalist states.[7] Therefore, theorizing that is focused only on an analysis of inflows and outflows of capital—as if the “host” country was a “blank factor”—or a focus on the structure of global production based on a fixed international division of labour, cannot account for the dynamics of capitalist development in countries and regions on the periphery of the system with those at the centre.[8] Nor can this type of economistic theorizing explain dynamic features of the world capitalist system, for example the shift in economic power from North America and Western Europe towards Asia—China and India, to be precise.

Capitalist Development, Class Struggle and Imperialism

In outlining his conception of Historical Materialism, the foundation of Marxism as a social science, Marx had argued that at each stage in the capitalist development process[9]—the development of the forces of production—can be found a corresponding system of class relations and struggle. For Marx this was a matter of fundamental principle arising out of a fundamental conflict between the forces and relations of production. But he could have added that at each stage of capitalist development can also be found both a corresponding and distinct form of class struggle based on the forces of resistance to this advance, as well as imperialism in one form or the other and distinctly understood as the projection of state power in the service of capital—to facilitate its advance in the sphere of international relations and secure its evolution into and as a world system. That is, the projection of state power in the quest for world domination—to establish hegemony over the world system—is a necessary condition of capitalist development. Capitalism requires the state not only to establish the necessary conditions of a capital accumulation process, but to ensure its inevitable expansion—the extension of the capital-labour relation, and its mechanism of economic exploitation (the extraction of surplus value from the labour of the direct producers)—into a world system.

Lenin had theorised this projection of state power in the service of capital as the most advanced stage in the capitalist development process, which includes a phase of “primitive accumulation” (in which the direct producers are separated from the land and their means of production) and a process by which the small-landholding agricultural producers or peasant farmers are proletarianized, converted and made over into a working class. As Lenin saw it imperialism so conceived (as the “highest stage of capitalism”) featured

(i) the fusion of industrial and financial capital;

(ii) the export of capital in the search for profitable outlets overseas;

(iii) the territorial division (and colonization) of the world by European capitalist powers within the institutional and policy framework of Pox Britannica (the hegemony and dominion of the United States); and

(iv) an international division of labour based on an international exchange of primary commodities for goods manufactured in the centre of the system. These features encompassed an economic dynamic of capital accumulation, but this dynamic and the economic structure of this system evidently required and was secured politically with the projection of state power, including military force.

Lenin astutely identified the fundamental structural features of the world capitalist system at this stage of development. However, it was misleading to characterise it as “imperialism” in that the projection of imperial class-based state power was a distinct feature of capitalism in an earlier phase in the evolution of capitalism as a world system, namely mercantilism, a system in which merchant’s capital was accumulated through the expropriation of natural resources as much as exploitation of labour as well as state-sanctioned and regulated international trade. And imperialism was also a distinct feature and an adjunct to the capital accumulation process in later periods of capitalist development, as discussed below.

Imperialism in an Era of State-led Capitalist Development (195080)

In the wake of the Second World War the United States emerged as an economic super-power, in command of at least one half of world industrial capacity and up to 80 percent of financial resources or capital for productive investment. Having replaced Great Britain as the leader of what were then described as the “forces of (economic and political) freedom,” and to counter a perceived potential threat from its Russian war-time ally, now the USSR, which had also emerged from the war as an industrial power but representing an alternative socialist system for expanding the forces of national production, the US led the construction of a capitalist world order in the form of the Bretton Woods system (Bienefeld 2013; Frieden 2006; Peet 2003).

This system included two “international financial institutions”—the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and what would become the World Bank—as well as a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an institutional mechanism for negotiating agreements in the direction of free trade that would eventually emerge as the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This system provided a set of rules used to govern relations of international trade—rules that favoured the operations and expansion of what had emerged as a complex of predominantly US-based multinational corporations and thus the hegemony of US capital. However, it also provided the institutional framework of a project of international cooperation with the nation-building and development efforts of a large number of countries that were engaged in a war of national liberation and independence from the colonial powers that had subjugated them for so long.

In this context capitalism engaged a process of productive and social transformation—the transformation of an economic system based on agriculture and an agrarian society and social system based on pre-capitalist relations of production into a modern industrial capitalist system based on capitalist relations of production, or wage labour.[10] The basic mechanism of this transformation was exploitation of the “unlimited supply of surplus rural labour” released in the capitalist development of the forces of production in the agricultural sector (Lewis 1954).

This process of capitalist development, and the associated process of productive and social transformation, can be traced out in different countries and regions at different points of time. But the process unfolded in different ways, engaging different forces of change and resistance in the class struggle, in the countries at the centre of the system and those on the periphery. First, in peripheral regions (Latin America and the Caribbean, parts of Asia and Africa) were found countries that were struggling to escape colonial subjugation and imperialist exploitation as well as class rule. Governments in these countries were in a position to choose between a capitalist and a socialist path towards nation-building and economic development, a situation that called for a strategic and political response from the guardians of the capitalist world order.

The response: to assist the development process in these countries—for the states in the developed countries and the international organizations and financial institutions to provide technical and financial assistance (foreign aid, in the lexicon of international development) to the undeveloped and less developed countries on the periphery of the system. In this context it is possible to view the idea and the entire enterprise of international development through the lens of imperialist theory—as a distinct form of imperialism (Petras and Veltmeyer 2005a; Veltmeyer  2005).

There is considerable evidence to suggest that the most powerful states within the institutional framework and system what can now be described as Pax Americana (the hegemony and dominion of the United States) in the post-war era of capitalism began to deploy the idea of development as a means of facilitating the entry into and the operations of capital in peripheral countries…in the development of their forces of production and the accumulation of capital in the process. In this context diplomatic pressure and military force were deployed as required or dictated by circumstance, but only secondarily, i.e., as a strategy and tactic of last resort. Thus the projection of military force to achieve the geopolitical objectives of the imperial state used predominantly by the US state in the 1950s and early 60s to maintain imperial order in its backyard—Guatemala (1954), Cuba (1961), the Dominican Republic (1963, 1965), Brazil (1964), Guyana (1953) and Chile (1973).[11]

After the military coup engineered in Chile this strategy of direct military invention and sponsored military coups gave way to a war by proxy, which entailed the financing of both the policy-making apparatus re social and development programs and the repressive apparatus (the armed forces) deployed by its Latin American allies.

In the same way as the imperialist project of International Cooperation for Development was used in the 1950s and subsequently to discourage those countries seeking to liberate themselves from the yoke of colonialism from turning towards a socialist path towards national development, the US government as an imperialist state resorted to the idea of “development” as a means of preventing another “Cuba” and turning the “rural poor” away from the option of revolutionary change provided by the revolutionary movements that had emerged in Latin America (Petras and Veltmeyer 2007a).

The class struggle at the time (the 1950–60s) assumed two main forms. The first was as a land struggle waged by the peasantry, most of which had been either proletarianized (rendered landless) or semi-proletarianized (forced to take the labour path out of rural poverty).[12] Many of the proletarianized and impoverished peasants, separated from their means of production and livelihoods, chose to migrate and take the development path of labour staked out by the World Bank (2008) and the modernization theorists of “development.”

However, many others chose to resist rather than adjust to the forces of capitalist development operating on them, to join the revolutionary social movements in the form of “armies of national liberation”. But by means of a three-pronged strategy and policy of (i) land reform (expropriation and redistributing land to the tiller), (ii) integrated rural development (technical and financial assistance to the small landholding peasant or family farmer), and (iii) repression (use of the iron fist of armed force hidden within the velvet glove of integrated development) the imperial state, via its allies in the local states, managed to defeat or “bring to ground” the social movements engaged in the land struggle. The one exception was the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which continues to be a powerful force of resistance against the incursions of capital in Colombia to this today.

The second major form of the class struggle at the time had to do with the capital-labour relation, and engaged the working class in an organised labour movement against capital and the state for higher wages and improved working conditions. This struggle was part of a global class war launched by capital in the 1970s in the context of a systemic crisis of overproduction (Crouch and Pizzorno 1978). One of a number of weapons deployed in this war was the power of the state, via its policymaking role, to fatally weaken the labour movement in its organizational capacity to negotiate collective contracts for higher wages and reduce the share of labour in national incomes.

This approach was particularly effective in Latin America, where the imperial state, via the international organisations and financial institutions at its command, was in a position to impose market-friendly “structural” reforms on the labour movement. As a result of these reforms in the capital-labour relation the share of labour (wages) in the distribution of national income in many Latin American countries was reduced by as much as 50 percent.[13] The purchasing power of the average wage in Argentina, for example, was less in 2010—after six years of economic recovery and export-led rapid economic growth—than it was in 1970. The loss in the purchasing power or value of wages was particularly sharp at the level of the government-regulated minimum wage, which the World Bank throughout the 1980s and 1990s tirelessly argued was the major cause of low income, poverty and informalisation in the region. For example, in Mexico, the country that followed the strictures of Washington and the World Bank in regard to deregulating the labour market, from 1980 to 2010, over three decade of neoliberalism, the minimum wage lost up to 77 percent of its value (Romero 2014).

While the imperial state was indirectly engaged in the land struggle via a program of international cooperation that was implemented by the Latin American state but financed by officials of the imperial state, imperialism vis-à-vis the labour movement took the form of an armed struggle against “subversives” (a broad urban coalition of forces of resistance mobilised by the “political left”).

The struggle was led by the armed forces of the Latin American state, particularly in Brazil and the southern cone of south America (Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay), although financed by and (indirectly) under the strategic command of the US, and operating within the framework of an ideology and doctrine (the National Security Doctrine) fabricated within the ideological apparatus of the imperial state. By the end of the 1970s this movement had also suffered defeat, its forces in disarray and disarticulated under the combined weight of state repression and forces generated in the capitalist development process. With the defeat of both major fronts of the class struggle and popular movement, with the resurgence of the Right in the form of a counterrevolutionary political movement and an ideology of free market capitalism, the stage was set for a major turnaround in the correlation of opposing forces in the class struggle. Imperialism would have an important role to play in this process.

Imperialism and Capitalism in an Era of Neoliberal Globalization (19802000)

Neoliberalism as an ideology of free market capitalism and a doctrine of policy reform in the direction of free market capitalism—“the new economic model,” as it was termed in Latin America (Bulmer-Thomas, 2006)—was some four decades in the making, manufactured by a neoliberal thought collective put together by Van der Hayek (Mirowski and Plehwe 2009). It was not until the early 1980s that the necessary conditions for bringing these ideologues to state power, i.e., in a position to influence and dictate policy, were available or otherwise created. These conditions included an unresolved systemic crisis of overproduction, a fiscal crisis in the North and an impending debt crisis in the South, and the defeat of the popular movement in the class struggle over land and labour.

Under these conditions the imperial state, via its international organizations and financial institutions, mobilized its diverse powers and forces so as to mobilize the forces needed to reactivate the capital accumulation process. The main problem here—from a capitalist and imperialist perspective—was how to liberate the “forces of freedom” (to quote from George W. Bush’s 2012 National Security Report) from the regulatory constraints of the welfare-development state. The solution: a program of “structural reform” in macroeconomic policy (the vaunted structural adjustment program” constructed by economists at the World Bank and the IMF) within the framework of a Washington Consensus (Williamson 1990).

By 1990 all but four major Latin American states had succumbed or joined the Washington Consensus in regard to a program that was imposed on them as a conditionality of aid and access to capital markets to renegotiate the external debt. And in the 1990s, in a third cycle and generation of neoliberal reforms,[14]the governing neoliberal regimes in three of these states—Argentina, Brazil, Peru—had followed suit, generating conditions that would facilitate a massive inflow of productive capital in the form of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as well as a substantial inflow of unproductive or fictitious capital seeking to purchase the assets of existing lucrative but privatised state enterprises (Petras and Veltmeyer 2004).

What followed was what has been described as the “Golden Age of US Imperialism” (viz. the facilitated entry and productive operations of large-scale profit- and market-seeking investment capital), as well as the formation of powerful peasant and indigenous social movements to resist the neoliberal policy offensive and protest the destructive impact of neoliberal policies on their livelihoods and communities—movements no longer directed against the big landlords or corporate capital and agribusiness but against the policies of the local and imperial state (Petras and Veltmeyer 2005a, 2009, 2013). By the end of the decade these movements had successfully challenged the hegemony of neoliberalism in the region as an economic model and policy agenda. What resulted was a “red” and “pink” tide of regime change—a turn to the left in national politics and the formation of regimes oriented towards the “socialism of the 21st century (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador) or a post-Washington consensus on the need for a more inclusive form of development—inclusionary state activism (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay . . .).[15] The states formed in the so-called “red wave” of regime change constituted a new anti-imperialist front in the struggle against US imperialist intervention—another front to the one formed by the social movements in their resistance and direct action.

Salinas de Gortiari, Bush Senior, Mulroney

At the level of national politics the main issues was US intervention in Latin America affairs, including the funding of opposition groups in Venezuela, the economic blockade against Cuba, and the attempt by the US government to orchestrate a free trade agreement, first between the US and both Canada and Mexico, and then a continent-wide agreement (FTAA, or ALCA in its Spanish acronym). The US regime was successful in the first instance, but failed miserably in the second—having encountered powerful forces of resistance in the popular sector of many states, as well as widespread opposition within the political class and elements of the ruling class and the governing regime in countries such as Brazil.

Both imperialism and the anti-imperialist struggle in this conjuncture of capitalist development assumed different forms in different countries, but Colombia was unique in that the most powerful movement in the 1960s land struggle had never been defeated. With land still at the centre of the class struggle the existence and large-scale operations of what we might term narcocapitalism allowed the US imperial state to move with armed force against the major remaining obstacle to the capitalist development of agriculture in Colombia—to make the countryside safe for US capital—under the façade of a drug war waged by the government against the manufacturers of cocaine and the narco-trafficking. The mechanism of this imperial offensive was Plan Colombia, a US military and diplomatic aid initiative aimed at combating Colombian drug cartels and left-wing insurgent groups in Colombian territory. The plan was originally conceived between 1998 and 1999 by the administrations of Colombian President Andrés Pastrana Arango and US President Bill Clinton, as an anti-cocaine strategy but with the aim of ending the Colombian armed conflict and making the countryside safe for US capital (Vilar and Cottle 2011).

A third front in the imperialist offensive against the forces of resistance in the popular sector involved International cooperation and the agencies of international development. The strategy employed by these agencies was the same as successfully used in the 1960s and 1970s to dampen the fires of revolutionary ferment in the countryside: to offer the dispossessed peasants and the rural poor a non-confrontational alternative to social mobilization and direct collective action (Veltmeyer 2005). The strategy had a different outcome in different countries.

In Ecuador, home to the most powerful indigenous movement in the region—the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE)—the strategy of ethnodevelopment orchestrated by the World Bank and the IDB resulted in dividing and weakening the movement, undermining its capacity to mobilise the forces of popular resistance (Petras and Veltmeyer 2009). For example, in just a few years Antonio Vargas, President of CONAIE and leader of the major indigenous uprising of the twentieth century, had been converted into the head of one of the most powerful NGOs in the region, with the capacity to disburse funds for local development microprojects and a resulting diminution in the power of CONAIE to mobilise the forces of resistance. By 2007, when Rafael Correa, a left-leaning economist, came to power as the country’s president, the indigenous movement led by CONAIE, was but a shadow of its former self, allowing the political left, in the form of Correa’s Citizens Movement, to push CONAIE and the indigenous movement aside in the political project of a “Citizen’s Revolution.”

The outcome was rather different in Bolivia, a paradigmatic case of anti-neoliberalism and anti-imperialism in the current conjuncture of the class struggle. Whereas the popular movement in Ecuador had been pushed aside in the capture of the instruments of state power by the Political Left, in Bolivia an extended process of class conflict and mass mobilization was the prelude and condition of the Political Left’s rise to power in the form of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). The water and gas “wars”, clashes with the military, and the dismissal of several corrupt and neoliberal governments, were all part of a cocktail that allowed for the emergence of a new political “actor” or instrument in the form of MAS, and the rise to power of Evo Morales, which was backed by the “social movements”—that encompassed both communities of indigenous “peasants,” a rural proletariat of landless workers, and diverse sectors of the organised working class (Dangl 2007; Farthing and Kohl 2006; Webber 2010).

Imperialism and AntiImperialism in an Era of Extractive Capitalism

The neoliberal “structural reform” agenda of the Washington Consensus facilitated a massive inflow of capital in the form of foreign direct investments directed towards non-traditional manufacturing, financial and high-tech information-rich services, and natural resource extraction.  The 1990s saw a six-fold increase in the inflows of FDI in the first four years of the decade and then another sharp increase from 1996 to 2001; in fewer than ten years the foreign capital accumulated by MNCs in the region had tripled (ECLAC 2012, 71) while profits soared. John Saxe-Fernandez, a well-known Mexico-based political economist, determined that over the course of the decade that the inflow of FDI had netted enormous profits, reflected in the net outflow of US$100 billion over the entire decade of (Saxe-Fernández and Núñez 2001).

Another major inflow occurred in the first decade of the new millennium in the context of a major expansion in the worldwide demand for natural resources and a consequent primary commodities boom in South America (Ocampo 2007). As shown by data presented in Table 1 this boom in the export of primary commodities in the energy sector of fossil and bio-fuels (oil and gas), as well as minerals and metals, and agrofood products primarily affected South America, which led a worldwide trend towards the (re)primarization of exports from the periphery of the system and the expansion of extractive capitalism.

The main targets and destination points for FDI in Latin America over the past two decades have been services (particularly banking and finance) and the natural resources sector: the exploration, extraction, and exploitation of fossil and biofuel sources of energy, precious metals and industrial minerals, and agrofood products. In the previous era of state-led development FDI had predominantly served as a means of financing the capitalist development of industry and a process of “productive transformation” (technological conversion and modernization), which was reflected in the geoeconomics of global capital and the dynamics of capital flows at the time. However, the new world order and two generations of neoliberal reforms dramatically improved conditions for capital, opening up in Latin America the market for goods manufactured in the North (the United States, Canada, and Europe) and providing greater opportunities for resource-seeking capital—consolidating the role of Latin America as a source and supplier of natural resources and exporter of primary commodities, a role that is reflected in the flows of productive investment in the region away towards the extractive industries (see Table 2).

At the turn into the new millennium the service sector accounted for almost half of FDI inflows, but data presented by ECLAC (2012, 50) point towards a steady and increasing flow of capital towards the natural resources sector in South America, especially mining, where Canadian capital took a predominant position, accounting for up to 70 percent of FDI in this sector (Arellano 2010). Over the course of the first decade in the new millennium the share of “resource seeking” capital in total FDI increased from 10 to 30 percent. In 2006 the inflow of “resource-seeking” investment capital grew by 49 percent to reach 59 billion US dollars, which exceeded the total FDI inflows of any year since economic liberalization began in the 1990s (UNCTAD 2007: 53).

Despite the global financial and economic crisis at the time, FDI flows towards Latin America and the Caribbean reached a record high in 2008 (128.3 billion US dollars), an extraordinary development considering that FDI flows worldwide at the time had shrunk by at least 15 percent. This countercyclical trend signalled the continuation of the primary commodities boom and the steady expansion of resource-seeking capital in the region.

The rapid expansion in the flow of FDI towards Latin America in the 1990s reflected the increased opportunities for capital accumulation provided by the neoliberal policy regimes in the region, but in the new millennium conditions for capitalist development had radically changed. In this new context, which included a major realignment of economic power and relations of trade in the world market, and the growth in both the demand for and the prices of primary commodities, the shift of FDI towards Latin America signified a major change in the geo-economics and geopolitics of global capital. Flows of FDI into Latin America from 2000 to 2007 for the first time exceeded those that went to America, only surpassed by Europe and Asia. And the global financial crisis brought about an even more radical change in the geo-economics of global capital in regard to both its regional distribution (increased flows to Latin America) and sectoral distribution (concentration in the extractive sector). In 2005, the “developing” and “emerging” economies attracted only 12 percent of global flows of productive capital but by 2010, against a background of a sharp decline in these flows, these economies were the destination point for over 50 percent of global FDI flows (CEPAL 2012. In the same year FDI flows into Latin America increased by 34.6 percent, well above the growth rate in Asia, which was only 6.7 percent (UNCTAD 2012: 52-54).

The flow of productive capital into Latin America has been fuelled by two factors: high prices for primary commodities, which attracted “natural-resource-seeking investment”, and the economic growth of the South American sub-region, which encouraged market-seeking investment. This flow of FDI was concentrated in four South American countries—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia—which accounted for 89 percent of the sub-region’s total inflows. The extractive industry in these countries, particularly mining, absorbed the greatest share of these inflows. For example, in 2009, Latin America received 26 percent of global investments in mineral exploration (Sena-Fobomade 2011). Together with the expansion of oil and gas projects, mineral extraction constitutes the single most important source of export revenues for most countries in the region.

The Geopolitics of Capital in Latin America: The Dynamics of Extractive Imperialism

As noted, a wave of resource-seeking FDI was a major feature of the political economy of global capitalist development at the turn into the first decade of the new millennium. Another was the demise of neoliberalism as an economic doctrine and model—at least in South America, where powerful social movements successfully challenged this model. Over the past decade a number of governments in this sub-region, in riding a wave of anti-neoliberal sentiment generated by these movements experienced a process of regime change—a tilt towards the left and what has been described as “progressive extractivism” (Gudynas 2010).

The political victories of these democratically elected “progressive” regimes opened a new chapter in the class struggle and the anti-imperialist movement, notwithstanding the fact that the wide embrace of resource-seeking FDI, or extractive capital, has generated deep paradoxes for those progressive regimes in the region committed to addressing the inequality predicament and conditions of environmental degradation that are fast reaching crisis proportions as a result of the operations of extractive capital.

Some political leaders and social movements in this context speak of revolution in the context of moving towards “the socialism of the 21st century—Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” revolution, Bolivia’s “democratic and cultural revolution,” and Ecuador’s “citizens’ revolution”—and, together with several governments that have embraced the new developmentalism (the search for a more inclusive form of development), these regimes have indeed taken some steps in the direction of poverty reduction and social inclusion, using the additional fiscal revenues derived from resource rents to this purpose. Yet, like their more conservative neighbours—regimes such as Mexico and Colombia, committed to both neoliberalism and an alliance with “imperialism”—the left-leaning progressive regimes in the region find themselves entangled in a maze of renewed dependence on natural resource extraction (the “new extractivism”) and primary commodity exports (“reprimarization”). Further, as argued by Gudynas (2010), this new “progressive” extractivism is much like the old “classical” extractivism in its destruction of both the environment and livelihoods, and its erosion of the territorial rights and sovereignty of indigenous communities most directly affected by the operations of extractive capital, which continues to generate relations of intense social conflict.[16]

Despite the use by “progressive” centre-left governments of resource rents as a mechanism of social inclusion and direct cash transfers to the poor, it is not clear whether they are able to pursue revolutionary measures in their efforts to bring about a more inclusive and sustainable form of development, or a deepening of political and economic democratization, allowing the people to “live well”, while at the same time continuing to toe the line of extractive capital and its global assault on nature and livelihoods. The problem here is twofold. One is a continuing reliance of these left-leaning post-neoliberal regimes (indeed, all but Venezuela) on neoliberalism (“structural reforms”) at the level of macroeconomic public policy. The other problem relates to the so-called “new extractivism” based on “inclusionary state activism” as well as the continued reliance on FDI—and thus the need to strike a deal with global capital in regard to sharing the resource rents derived from the extraction process. The problem here is that in this relation of global capital to the local state the former is dominant and has the power, which is reflected in the tendency of the governments and policy regimes formed by the new Latin American Left, even those like Ecuador and Peru that have taken a “radical populist form,” to take the side of global capital (the multinational mining companies) in their relation of conflict with the communities that are directly affected by the extractive operations of these companies (see the various country case studies in Veltmeyer and Petras 2014).

Another indicator of the relation of dependency between global extractive capital and the Latin American state is the inability of the latter to regulate the former and the extraordinary profits that are made by the companies that operate in the extractive sector. It is estimated that given very low or, as in the case of Mexico, non-existent royalty rates and the typically lax and low tax regime on the exportation of minerals and minerals—a major factor in the export regime of a number of countries in the region (particularly Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru) —over 70 percent of the value of these minerals and metals on the global market is appropriated by different groups of capitalists in the global production chain. For example, Financial Times reported on April 18, 2013 that from 2002 to 2008, during the height of the primary commodities boom, the biggest commodity traders harvested 250 billion US dollars in profits on their “investments.”[17]

At the same time, given the capital intensity of production in the extractive sector it is estimated that workers generally received less than ten percent of the value of the extracted resources. Typically, the benefits of economic growth brought about by the export of Latin America’s wealth of natural resources are externalised, while the exceedingly high social end environmental costs are internalised, borne by the communities most directly affected by the operations of extractive capital (Clark 2002; Veltmeyer and Petras 2014).

The continued reliance on the neoliberal model of structural reform within the framework of a post-Washington Consensus on the need to bring the state back into the development process, together with the turn towards and a continued reliance on extractive capital (“resource-seeking” FDI), constitute serious economic, social and political problems for Latin American states seeking to break away from the dictates of global capital and the clutches of imperial power. However, the turn of the State in Latin America towards regulation in regard to the operations of extractive capital, as well as the growing popular resistance and opposition to their destructive and negative socioenvironmental impacts of these operations, also constitute major problems for global capital. The difference is that the capitalists and companies that operate in the extractive sector are able to count on the support and massive resources and powers of the imperialist state.

In regard to the issue of regulation the states and international organisations that constitute imperialism have been able to mobilize their considerable resources and exercise their extensive powers to create a system of corporate self-regulation in the form of a doctrine of a Corporate Social Responsibility doctrine (Gordon 2010; MiningWatch Canada 2009).[18] With this doctrine the Latin American states that have turned to or resorted to a strategy of natural resource development have been under tremendous pressure to allow the companies that operate in the extractive sector to regulate themselves.

As for the issue of the resource wars and social conflicts that have surrounded the operations of extractive capital, particularly in the mining sector, over the past two decades the imperial state has come to the rescue of extractive capital time and time again. In this regard the Canadian state has been particularly aggressive in its unconditional and relentless support of the Canadian mining companies that dominate foreign investments in the industry—accounting as they for upwards of 70 percent of the capital invested in this subsector in Latin America.[19]

The support of the Canadian government for these companies, via diplomatic pressures exerted on Latin American governments in favour of corporate social responsibility, financial support and assistance in overcoming the widespread resistance to the extractive operations of Canadian mining companies in Latin America, has gone so far as to place the entire apparatus of Canada”s foreign aid program at the disposal of these companies (Engler 2012; Gordon 2010; Webber 2008).

Conclusion: Theses on the Imperialism of the 21st Century

The conclusions that we have drawn from our analysis of economic and political developments in Latin America over the past two decades can be summed up in the form of twelve theses:

1.The dynamic forces of capitalist development are both global in their reach and uneven in their outcomes. Furthermore the capital accumulation process engages both the geo-economics of capital—the advance of capital in time and place—and the agency of the imperial state in facilitating this advance: the geopolitics of capital.

2. Class analysis provides an essential tool for grasping the changing economic and political dynamics of imperial power in the various conjunctures of capitalist development. It allows us to trace out different stages in the development of the forces of production and the corresponding relations of production and dynamics of class struggle. These dynamics, which we have traced out in the Latin American context, are both internal and international, implicating both the capital-labour relation and a north-south divide in the world capitalist system.

3. Whereas in the 1980s imperialism was called upon to remove the obstacles to the advance of capital and to facilitate the flow of productive investment into the region in the new millennium it has been called upon to assist capital in its relation of conflict with the communities directly affected by the operations of extractive capital, as well as cope with the broader resistance movement.

4. The shift in world economic power in the new millennium, and the new geoeconomics of capital in the region, have significant implications for US imperialism and US-Latin American relations, reducing both the scope of US state power and the capacity of Washington to dictate policy or dominate economic and political relations. This is reflected inter alia in the formation of CELAC, a new political organisation of states that explicitly excludes the United States and Canada, the two imperial states on the continent.

5. The new millennium, in conditions of a heightened global demand for natural resources, the demise of neoliberalism as an economic model and a number of popular upheavals and mass mobilizations, released new forces of resistance and a dynamic process of regime change.

6. The centre-left regimes that came to power under these conditions called for public ownership of society’s wealth of natural resources, the stratification and renationalization of privatized firms, the regulation of extractive capital in regard to its negative impact on livelihoods and the environment (mother nature), and the inclusionary activism of the state in securing a progressive redistribution of wealth and income. As in the 1990s, the fundamental agency of this political development process were the social movements with their social base in the indigenous communities of peasant farmers and a rural proletariat of landless or near-landless workers. These movements mobilized the forces of resistance against both the neoliberal agenda of “structural reform” in macroeconomic policy, the negative socio-environmental impact of extractive capitalism, and the projection of imperial power in the region.

7. These forces of change and resistance did not lead to a break with capitalism. Instead some of “centre-left” regimes took power and, benefitting from high commodity prices, proceeded to stimulate an economic recovery and with it an improvement in the social condition of the population (extreme poverty). But the policies of these regimes led to the demobilization of the social movements and a normalization of relations with Washington, albeit with greater state autonomy. In this context Washington in this period lost allies and collaborator clients in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador—and, subsequently faced strong opposition throughout the region. However, Washington retained or regained clients in Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile. Of equal importance the centre-left regimes that emerged in the region stabilized capitalism, holding the line or blocking any move to reverse the privatization policy of earlier regimes or to move substantively towards what President Hugo Chávez termed “the socialism of the 21st century.”

8. The fluidity of US power relations with Latin America is a product of the continuities and changes that have unfolded in Latin America. Past hegemony continues to weigh heavily but the future augurs a continued decline. Barring major regime breakdowns in Latin America, the probability is of greater divergences in policy and a sharpening of existing contradictions between the spouting of rhetoric and political practice on the political left.

9. In the sphere of military influence and political intervention, collaborators of the US suffered major setbacks in their attempted coups in Venezuela (2002, 2003) and Bolivia (2008), and in Ecuador with the closing of the military base in Manta; but they were successful in Honduras (2009). The US secured a military base agreement with Colombia, a major potential military ally against Venezuela, in 2009. However, with a change in the presidency in Colombia, Washington suffered a partial setback with the reconciliation between President Chávez and Santos. A lucrative 8 billion US dollars trade agreements with Venezuela trumped Colombia’s military-base agreements with Washington.

10.It is unlikely that the Latin American countries that are pursuing an extractivist strategy of national development based on the extraction of natural resources and the export of primary commodities will be able to sustain the rapid growth in the context of contradictions that are endemic to capitalism but that are sharper and have assumed particularly destructive form with extractive capitalism.

11. The destructive operations of extractive capital, facilitated and supported by the imperial state has generated powerful forces of resistance. These forces are changing the contours of the class struggle, which today is focused less on the land and the labour struggle than on the negative socio-environmental impacts of extractive capital and the dynamics of imperialist plunder and natural resource-grabbing.

12. The correlation of forces in the anti-imperialist struggle is unclear and changing, but it is evident that the United States has lost both power and influence. Taken together these historical continuities argue for greater caution in assuming a permanent shift in imperial power relations with Latin America. Nevertheless, there are powerful reasons to consider the decline in US power as a long-term and irreversible trend.

 

James Petras taught Sociology at Binghamton University

Henry Veltmeyer  teaches development studies at the Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas

 

References

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Baran, P. 1957.  The Political Economy of Growth. New York, Monthly Review.

Barrett, P., D. Chavez, and C. Rodríguez. 2008. The New Latin American Left: Utopia Reborn. London: Pluto Press.

Bienefeld, M. 2013. “The New World Order: Echoes of a New Imperialism.” Pp.105-27 in Development in an Era of Neoliberal globalization, edited by H. Veltmeyer. Oxford: Routledge.

Bulmer-Thomas, V. 1996. The Economic Model in Latin America and Its Impact on Income Distribution and Poverty. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Canada’s House of Commons. 2012. Driving Inclusive Economic Growth: The Role of the Private Sectorin International Development. Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada.

Clark, T. 2002 Canadian Mining Companies in Latin America: Community rights and Corporate Responsibility. Conference Report to the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) and Mining-Watch Canada, Toronto, 9–11 May.

Crouch, C., and A. Pizzorno.1978. Resurgence of Class Conflict in Western Europe since 1968. London: Holmes and Meier.

Dangl, B. 2010. Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, Oakland, CA: AK Press.

Dangl, B. 2007. The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Oakland, CA: AK Press.

ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean). 2012. Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean. Santiago: ECLAC.

Engler, Y. 2012. The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harpers Foreign Policy. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.

Farthing, L., and B. Kohl. 2006. Impasse in Bolivia: Neoliberal Hegemony and Popular Resistance. London: Zed Books.

Foster, J. B. 2003. “The New Age of Imperialism.” Monthly Review 55 (3): 1–14.

Foster, J. B. 2006. Naked Imperialism: The US Pursuit of Domination. New York: Monthly Review Press.

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Gudynas, E. 2010. “The New Extractivism in South America: Ten Urgent Theses about Extractivism in Relation to Current South American Progressivism.” Bank Information Center. http://www.bicusa.org/en/Article.11769.aspx.

Hardt, M., and A. Negri. 2000. Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Harvey, D. 2003. The New Imperialism. New York: Oxford University.

Infante, B. R., and O. Sunkel. 2009. “Chile: hacia un desarrollo inclusivo.” Revista CEPAL 10(97): 135–54.

Klare, M. 2003. “The New Geopolitics.” Monthly Review 55 (3): 51–56.

Lewis, W. A. 1954. “Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labor.” Manchester School of Economic and Social Studies, 22: 139–91.

Magdoff, H. 2003. Imperialism without Colonies. New York: Monthly Review Press.

MiningWatch Canada. 2009. Land and Conflict: Resource Extraction, Human Rights, and Corporate Social Responsibility: Canadian Companies in Colombia. Ottawa: MiningWatch Canada.

Mirowski, P., and D. Plehwe, eds. 2009. The Road from Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Ocampo, J. A. 2007. “The Macroeconomics of the Latin American Economic Boom.” CEPAL Review93(December)., 7-28.

OCMAL (Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina). 2011. Cuando tiemblan los derechos:Extractivismo y criminalización en América Latina. Quito: OCMAL. www.rebelion.org/docs/150198.pdf.

Panitch, L., and C. Leys. 2004. The New Imperial Challenge. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Peet R. 2003. Unholy Trinity: The IMF, World Bank and TWO. London: Zed Books.

Petras, J. 2000. “Geopolitics of Plan Colombia.” Economic and Political Weekly 35(52/53): 4617-23.

Petras, J., and H. Veltmeyer. 2001. Unmasking Globalization: The New Face of Imperialism. Halifax: Fernwood Books / London: Zed Books.

Petras, J., and H. Veltmeyer. 2004. Las privatizaciónes y la desnacionalización en América Latina. Buenos Aires: Libros Prometeo.

Petras, J., and H. Veltmeyer. 2005a. “Foreign Aid, Neoliberalism and Imperialism.” In Neoliberalism: A Critical Reader, edited by A. Saad-Filho and D. Johnston, 120–27.  London: Pluto Press.

Petras, J., and H. Veltmeyer. 2005b. Empire with Imperialism. Halifax and London: Fernwood Publications and Zed Books.

Petras, J., and H. Veltmeyer. 2007a. “Neoliberalism and Imperialism in Latin America: Dynamics and Responses.” International Review of Modern Sociology 33(Special Issue), 27-59.

Petras, J., and H. Veltmeyer.  2007b. Multinationals on Trial. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.

Petras, J., and H. Veltmeyer. 2009. Whats Left in Latin America. Aldershot UK:  Ashgate.

Petras, J., et al. 1981. Class, State and Power in the Third World. Montclair: Allanheld, OSMUN.

Razack, S. 2004. Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Robinson, W. 2007+. “Beyond the Theory of Imperialism: Global Capitalism and the Transnational State.”Societies Without Borders 2: 5–26.

Romero, G. 2014. “Poder adquisitivo cayó 77% en 35 años en México.” La Jornada, 6 de agosto.

Saxe-Fernández, J., and O. Núñez. 2001. “Globalización e Imperialismo: La transferencia de Excedentes de América Latina.” In Globalización, Imperialismo y Clase Social, edited by Saxe-Fernández et al. Buenos Aires/México: Editorial Lúmen.

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Webber, J. 2008. “Imperialism and Resistance: Canadian Mining Companies in Latin America.” Third World Quarterly 29(1): 63–87.

Webber, J. 2010. Red October: Left Indigenous Struggle in Modern Bolivia. Leiden: Brill.

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Wood, Meiksins. 2003. Empire of Capital. London: Verso.

Notes

[1] Most Marxist theorizing about imperialism tends to focus on its economic dynamics, although Panitch, in making this point and arguing the need for a theory of the imperialist state apparently was unaware of an earlier and more in depth analysis of the imperial state in Petras et al. (1981, 1–36).

[2] In addition to theories that view imperialism through the lens of geopolitical interests or the rational pursuit of power for its own sake liberal theorists of imperialism often resort to cultural and even psychological “explanations” of imperialism, viewing it in terms either of an imputed psychological drive to power or, as in the case of Razack (2004), the “idea of empire,” “deeply held belief in . . . the right to dominate others . . . .” Razack(2004, 9–10) expands on this rather fanciful and totally unscientific, if not absurd, theory in the following terms:

Imperialism is not just about accumulation but about the idea of empire . . . . Empire is a structure of feeling, a deeply held belief in the need to and the right to dominate others for their own good, others who are expected to be grateful. (Emphasis in original)

[3] This “image” of imperialism as “external domination” that Robinson here disparages is associated with a view that Robinson for some reason associates with theories of “new imperialism,” namely that “world capitalism in the 21st century is made up of domestic capitals and distinct national economies that interact with one another, as well as a realist analysis of world politics as driven by the pursuit by governments of their national interest” (Robinson 2007, 11). In effect, Robinson lumps together all sorts of contemporary theorizing about imperialism, whether Marxist, structuralist or realist, purely on the basis of the shared assumption, which Robinson problematizes and ridicules, that, in the words of Meiksins Wood (2003, 23) “the national organization of capitalist economies has remained stubbornly persistent.”

[4] World system theorists of “transnational(ized) capital” such as William Robinson (2007) and “neoimperialism” theorists such as David Harvey (2003) coincide in the view that capital is “economic” and inherently “global” (no longer takes a national form) but that the state is “political” and inherently “national” (territorial-based and “geopolitical”)—and that they therefore pursue “distinct (albeit, according to Harvey, interconnected) “logics of power.”

[5] In his critique of “neoimperialism theory Robinson conflates (and confuses) the views of marxists in this tradition, lumping together “structuralists,” “realists,” and “neomarxists.”

[6] The authors in earlier studies actually have done so—measured the impact and consequences of US imperialism in Latin America—but this economic analysis (Petras and Veltmeyer 2005b, 2007b) was contextualized in terms of the projection of US state power at the level of military force, ideological hegemony (globalization), imposition of a policy agenda, and foreign policy.

[7] China, Japan, South Korea, the high growth East Asian countries are an excellent example of countries moving beyond dependency to independent high growth economies (Financial Times, 25 March, 2010; and 22 February, 2010). On China see “China Shapes the World” in Financial Times on 21 January 2011.

[8] The Monthly Review Press, beginning with Paul Baran’s book, The Political Economy of Growth (1957) was prominent in emphasizing the “one-sided” impact of foreign capital.

[9] Development can be understood in two ways: (i) as a project, i.e., as an idea acted upon via a strategic plan or goal-based strategy in order to bring about a consciously desired end; and (ii) as a process that is shaped by conditions that are objective in their effects on people, and countries, according to their location in a system, and by forces of change that arise in response to these conditions (Veltmeyer 2010).

[10] Studies of the process of social change and economic development involved in this transition to capitalism in agriculture and the resulting transformation were based on three alternative metatheories and narratives: industrialization, modernization, and proletarianization (Veltmeyer, 2010).

[11] It might be remembered that the US interventionist success in Guatemala (1954) caused the United States to repeat its policy with Cuba in 1961—a policy that led to defeat. The successful US orchestrated military coups in Brazil (1964) and Indonesia (1965) and the invasion of the Dominican Republic (1965) encouraged the United States to deepen and extend its military invasion of Indo-China which led to a historic but temporary defeat of imperial policymakers and the profound weakening of domestic political support.

[12] In theory—both the theory formulated by development economists and sociologists as “modernization theory”, and by traditional Marxists—the capitalist development of agriculture would lead to the conversion of peasants into a wage-labouring and earning working class, but in conditions of peripheral capitalism, in the 1980s, the end result was semi-proletarianization—the formation of a rural proletariat of landless workers and an urban proletariat of street workers working not for wages but “on their own account” in the informal sector.

[13] As Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean published by ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) in various years point out, the share of wages in national income from 1970 to 1989, after less than a decade of neoliberalism, was reduced from 34.4 and 40 percent in the cases of Ecuador and Peru to 15.8 and 16.8 percent.

[14] The first cycle corresponded to the economic policies of the military regimes established in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay in the 1970s—policies designed by the “Chicago boys” according to a neoliberal recipe of market-friendly structural reforms (privatization decentralization, liberalization, deregulation). On the three cycles of neoliberal policies see, inter alia, Petras and Veltmeyer (2001).

[15] On the post-Washington consensus and the two types of “post-neoliberal regimes” formed in the wake of widespread disenchantment with and rejection of the neoliberal model see Barrett, Chavez, and Rodríguez (2008); Petras and Veltmeyer (2009); and Van Waeyenberge (2006).

[16] On the dynamics of these conflicts in the extractive sector see OCMAL (2011); MiningWatch Canada (2009) and the various country case studies in Veltmeyer and Petras (2014). Since the late 1990s across Latin America here has been an increasing incidence of local protests against large private (privatized) mining and oil projects based on foreign capital and with respect to mining the Observatory of Latin American Mining Conflicts (OCMAL) has registered 155 major socio-environmental conflicts in recent years, most of them in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. See the Observatory’s website [www.olca.cl/ocmal] for details about these conflicts.

[17] In 2000, the companies and traders in the sector made 2.1 billion US dollars in profits; in 2012 this was 33.5 billion US dollars. And while some traders enjoyed returns in excess of 50 percent or 60 percent in the mid-2000s, today, in the context of a “global financial crisis” and a downturn in some commodity processes, they are still averaging 20 percent to 30 percent—still large by any business standard. Indeed, the net income of the largest trading houses since 2003 surpasses that of the mighty Wall Street banks Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley combined, or that of an industrial giant such as General Electric. The commodity traders made more money than Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford Motor Company, BMW and Renault combined.

[18] As for the regulatory regime established for extractive capital two different models have been constructed, one by economists at ECLAC, the UN agency that has led the debate with neoliberalism: “inclusionary state activism” or, as Infante and Sunkel (2009) have it, “inclusive development.” The other model has been described as “inclusive growth” and is predicated on the agency of the market and the “private sector” rather than the state. One of the most definitive forms of his model has been constructed by economists at the reactionary (=neoliberal) Canadian think tank The Fraser Institute, and formally tabled by an ad hoc Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of Canada’s House of Commons (2012).

[19] It is estimated that Canada accounts for over 60 percent of global investments in the mining sector of the extractive industry.  Nowhere is the presence of Canadian mining felt more acutely overseas than in Latin America. More than half of Canadian mining companies” global assets, at a value close to 57 billion Canadian dollars, are located there.

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Homeless Jewish Woman Describes Her Life

NOVANEWS
marla.jpeg

“I could not get back to you as I was quite ill.  I had to rent a motel room for $77 a night, just to sleep on a bed and bathe.
 
I do not have internet service where I am and was too weak to drag my computer to the library.
 
Starbucks is closer to me, but one morning as I was about to plug in my computer, a guy there told me they insist that people buy drinks in order to use the wi fi internet there. I cannot afford to buy their drinks just to use their wi fi for a while.
 
Right now it is 6 am and it is cold and I am outside of Starbucks sitting on the cold cement sidewalk just to get this message to you.
 
Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.
 
“Marla Rogers” 65, is an educated homeless woman. Despite living in an increasingly “socialist” country, there is no social safety net for people like her. 
by Marla Rogers 
It is virtually impossible to survive this nightmare of 17 years of homelessness. I have never seen a town as deranged, degraded and filled with reversal energy as El Cajon. 
 
Every person, store, business and building in this hellish town acts like they belong in a mental institution for the criminally insane. If you need to cross the street, they will block you. I went to a corner and found they suddenly put up the ridiculous sign, “No pedestrian crossing”. 
I had to cross three corners just to get to the original corner that I wanted, wasting my energy and time. 
 
I spent yesterday in the library reading magazines to distract myself from my pain. Even the library is rigged against poor people. Their computer only lets you stay on it for 2 hours and then it ends your time whether or not anyone else wants to use the computer. 
 

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It will sit idle rather than let you continue your search for jobs or housing. The malicious actions of El Cajon, a seriously demented town, shows that it is rigged to make you fail and keep you homeless. 
 
I was reading magazines when a homeless woman arrived with her enormous cart which she parked at a table where a homeless male sat. Soon I could hear his loud snoring. More homeless people meandered about the library using it as their daytime homeless shelter.
 
This town also has a prison mentality with its guards everywhere you go. The Assessor’s office has a guard who once chased me down the street by the bus stop as if he wanted to assault me. 
 
There is no place where I can go to recuperate from the unrelenting stress of this horrible life. I am forced to live with hunger and sleeplessness as my constant companions. The hardships I face of having no home, no bed, no bathroom, no kitchen, no car, will most likely bring on my death. 
 
The selfish greed of El Cajon is evident by the many vacant buildings which could very easily house the homeless for a night. Every business proudly insults the homeless with their selfish, “No public bathroom” signs in their windows.
 
I pray to God to get me to Los Angeles, San Francisco or anywhere my literary communication skills can be useful.
 
JEWS HELP THEIR OWN – NOT
 
For years, I was “living by the rules” of society, being a good Jewish daughter and wife and now that I ask the Jews to help me survive with funds from their million dollar charities, they all say no. 
 
Each Jewish charity organization I contacted said no me, while they assist so many others. 
 
There are no daily soup kitchens or food banks in this town yet millions of dollars have been spent on useless, stupid projects. 
 
El Cajon is built on lies, manipulations, conspiracies and bribes intended to provide the rich with greater incomes while depriving the indigent of basic life necessities. 
 
 While there is a WIC grocery store for mothers and children, the homeless cannot get daily free food. I see the shelves filled with nutritious foods which I yearn for.
 
When I pass by the dozen motels with their empty rooms, I crave the luxury of a hot bath and sleeping on a bed. More than a dozen churches lock their doors rather than allow the homeless to spend a night indoors. 
 
One church gives food occasionally to the poor, yet when I asked for food, they refused claiming I had no family to feed so I did not qualify.
 
Another church advertises free food for Arabs and Muslims from Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. No free food for hungry American citizens. Setting you up for failure is a favorite pastime of this town’s dysfunctional residents. 
Addendum: I am not writing these facts to complain; rather to show there are solutions to many problems of the homeless whether here or in any town or city. I am not seeking sympathy. 
 
As the adage says, “You can either be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution”. I wish to make life better, but as long as the rich corrupt politicians ignore the basic life necessities of the homeless, while commanding billion dollar budgets, the homeless will continue to languish in utter poverty and either starve or freeze to death or both.

 

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