A previously unknown Greek far-left group has claimed responsibility for the shooting of two members of the country’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn group.
Golden Dawn members Emmanuel Kapelonis, 22, and Giorgos Foundoulis, 27 were killed in a drive-by shooting outside the local branch of the far-right party in the suburb of Neo Iraklio in a northern suburb of Athens.
The far-left group, calling themselves “Fighting Peoples’ Revolutionary Forces”, said the two were shot in retaliation for the recent murder of left-wing rapper Pavlos Fyssas.
“The attack was an act of retaliation for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas,” the group said in an 18-page statement published on a local news website.
Fyssas was fatally stabbed by suspected Golden Dawn member George Roupakias outside a café in Keratsini, western Athens in September.
The musician’s killing triggered a wave of protests across Greece and prompted strong statements by the country’s political leaders.
“We will not allow our country to become a place to settle scores,” Greece’s Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Nikos Dendias said in a statement.
Since Fyssas’s murder, the leader of Golden Dawn and two of its lawmakers have been jailed pending trial on charges of running a criminal group.
Golden Dawn rose from a fringe group to win nearly seven percent of the vote in the 2012 general elections, and has seen its support rising to around 12 percent since then due to its widespread criticism of immigration and austerity reforms in the debt-stricken country.
Counterterrorism officials are investigating the authenticity of the group’s claim, local media report.
Greek officials fear the killings could affect the country’s future by sparking a new round of retaliation and further fueling social unrest.
The Greek Coastguard has intercepted a Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship with around 20,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles on board. The intended destination of the vessel, halted near the Imia islets in the eastern Aegean, remains unknown.
The cargo ship Nour M, intercepted on Thursday night, was taken to the island of Symi the following morning under the escort of Coastguard vessels, where it was soon thereafter led to the island of Rhodes.
The vessel’s Turkish captain and seven crew members, two of whom were Turkish and five of whom were Indian, were placed under arrest, coastguard sources told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA).
The cargo was both larger than that declared on the ship’s manifest, and the ship did not have the proper UN documents to deliver cargo to a conflict zone. The Greek Coastguard issued a statement saying attempts to catalogue the firearms and munitions on board were ongoing.
“The exact destination of the arms and ammunition has yet to be verified,” the coastguard statement read. Apart from the large quantity of firearms, the ship was also allegedly carrying a “large” quantity of explosives. A probe determined the ship had previously been used for drug trafficking.
Sources told ANA-MPA that the vessel had set sail from Ukraine, although the ship’s final destination remains unclear. Although the ports of Tartus in Syria and Tripoli in Libya had both been declared as destination ports to marine traffic systems, the Turkish Mediterranean port city of Iskenderun was declared as the destination port by the ship’s captain.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said they are attempting to determine if the Nour departed from the country.
Maritime expert Mikhail Voitenko told Ukraine’s Vesti that the ship likely picked up its cargo in Istanbul.
“I think it was there for no other purpose than to get the weapons. It is also strange that it took the ship two weeks to get from Nikolaev [Ukraine] to Greece when the trip takes a maximum of five days. What it was doing and where it was doing it at the time: that is the question.”
Voitenko said the vessel was likely detained as the result of a tip-off.
“That we have this ship sailing through the Black Sea is strange, but through Greek [territorial] waters it went in a straight line, so police had no reason to detain the ship,” he said.
A report by Transparency International has revealed the extent of worldwide corruption over the last two years, with Israel and Greece showing the highest levels among developed countries. Politicians are considered the most corrupt among all sectors.
The Global Corruption Barometer 2013, conducted by the Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog, is a sampling of over 114,000 opinions of people from 107 countries. The survey asked participants about corruption and the institutions engaged in it.
The report shows that corruption numbers have increased over the last two years, along with the number of people exhibiting distrust toward their governments and law enforcement agencies.
Before the 2008 financial meltdown, 32 per cent of people believed their governments to be effective at tackling corruption. That figure has now fallen to just 23 per cent. Transparency International said in a press release that the report “shows a crisis of trust in politics and real concern about the capacity of those institutions responsible for bringing criminals to justice.”
The survey asked participants to rank the corruption levels of various institutions from 1 to 5, with 1 being “not corrupt at all” and 5 being “extremely corrupt.”
Political parties were perceived to be the most corrupt institutions worldwide, scoring 3.8 out of 5. Police forces came in second place with a score of 3.7. Public officials, civil servants, and the parliament and judiciary came in third place, scoring 3.6.
The media came in ninth place, although it was voted to be the most corrupt sector in Britain. The UK media has lost the respect of many residents in recent years – around 69 per cent of survey participants now believe the media is corrupt, compared to just 39 per cent in 2010.
“This very sharp jump is in large part due to the series of scandals around phone hacking, the Leveson Inquiry, and the concentration of media ownership,” said Robert Barrington, head of the British wing of Transparency International.
Business and private sectors, along with the healthcare sector, came in at eighth on the corruption scale, with the education system not far behind. The military and NGOs took the 10th and 11th places.
Although religion came in last place on the corruption scale, it still ranked among the most corrupt in certain countries, including Israel, Japan, Sudan and South Sudan.
Of all OECD members surveyed, the corruption levels of Greece and Israel came in first and second place respectively, with their political and cultural institutions ranking at the top of the corruption meter.
Over 80 per cent of Israelis believe that one must have contacts very high up in the public sector in order to get anything done. Transparency International says it sees “deep-rooted failures of governance” in Israel. A similar figure was seen in Lebanon, Russia, and Ukraine.
Arab countries have seen a rise in corruption since their 2011 uprisings, although public anger against corrupt officials was what sparked the Arab Spring in the first place. The expectation of having cleaner, more transparent regimes did not match the countries’ political and business realities.
Of the four countries that experienced regime change in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen feel that corruption has only increased since 2011. While 64 per cent of Egyptians think corruption is on the rise, a staggering 80 per cent of Tunisians believe that to be the case within their country. Eighty-four per cent of Lebanese citizens believe corruption to be on the rise in within their nation, while only around half of Libyans believe that corruption is worsening.
Egypt leads the pack in anti-police sentiments, largely because police violence has injured so many people over the past year. The 80 per cent disapproval rating dropped to only 45 per cent when Egyptians were asked about the military, which just several days ago ousted former Islamist-backed president Mohamed Morsi.
To glean more analysis on the increasing slide into corruption and public distrust of political institutions, RT talked to Finn Heinrich, who is director of research at Transparency International in Berlin. He sees the world as split into two major trends. The first is petty corruption and bribery in the southern hemisphere – mostly Africa, where citizens feel there is no other way to take care of one’s day-to-day needs. The second is corruption on a more official level, which is witnessed in the northern and western parts of the world – mainly in business and politics governed by financial greed.
As a way out of the situation, Heinrich believes “you really need to be in it in a long-term. You can’t expect quick gains from the fight against corruption. So, I think what we see in many of those countries are the upheavals which you find in many countries, including many post-communist countries, after revolution where old systems are no longer intact and new systems are yet to be built. So, corruption is on the rise. We hope that the new leaders, compared to their predecessors, are really taking the challenge of setting up systems of transparency and accountability much more serious.”
Heinrich thinks that only an integral and comprehensive effort can last, and that effort must include both the government and its citizens.
Transparency International is the world’s foremost organization on fighting corruption. It has 90 chapters worldwide, which aim to raise awareness and establish methods of tackling corruption and measuring its harmful effects.
More than two dozen workers have been injured in a dispute over unpaid salaries in southern Greece when their supervisor shot them, police reports.
The incident took place on Wednesday near the village of Manolada, about 260 kilometers (160 miles) west of the capital, Athens.
Police Captain Haralambos Sfetsos said the shooting occurred after at least one of three foremen opened fired on a crowd of about 200 migrant strawberry pickers, who demanded six months’ back pay.
Thirty workers most of them from Bangladesh were wounded in the shooting. Eight of those hurt are in serious condition in hospital.
The owner of the farm, who was not present at the time of the incident, has been taken into custody for questioning while arrest warrants have been issued for the three foremen, who are all Greek.
On March 16, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights rapped Greece for not having tough measures to combat a surge in racist violence in the country.
The Manolada area has reportedly been at the center of several cases involving violence against migrant workers in recent years.
In 2012, two Greek men were arrested for beating an Egyptian worker, ramming his head in a car window and dragging him for about one kilometer.
Migrants on farms in the area went on a four-day strike in 2008 to protest salaries as low as five euros a day and unsanitary living conditions.
Video clip (apparently filmed in 2002) demonstrates clearly how agent provocateur-police officers frame peaceful demonstrators to get them arrested.
On this video, an undercover cop pushes a non-violent bystander (a journalist according to the video) against uniformed police officers to get him arrested, and then the masked provocateur leaves the scene without the cops bothering him/her.
Police (at least) in the UK, Canada, US, Italy, Greece have been caught using provocateurs at demonstrations. This is done to get an excuse to put an end to the demonstration, and to restrict people’s right to protest in the future.
You can find videos of some of these events by searching the internet, use the words “police agent provocateurs + name of the country”.
Not every police officer is in on this. This is mainly being orchestrated by a relatively small group of corrupt insiders who in reality work for high-level organized crime, usually called the “shadow government” or “deep state”.
“Police agent provocateurs” are also the reason why violent-activism is counter productive: If there isn’t enough radical behavior at demonstrations, the police might actually stage some. So if there is a far-right/left group willing to stage riots against the establishment, the “deep state” controlling the establishment is getting just what THEY WANT out of the these extreme-groups.
- Undercover ‘agent provocateurs’ assault man at Montreal protest (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Greek metro workers have defied a court order to return to work and have staged the sixth day of strikes over the government’s spending cuts.
Athens was without a metro service on Tuesday for four to five hours, which comes in continuation to the protest started on Thursday over the planned cuts to metro workers’ salaries.
A Greek court ruled against Athens Metro Workers’ Union’s planned strikes and permitted the government to use force to make personnel return to work.
Union officials call on the government to abolish the planned changes to the public sector’s pay scales, which comes as Athens implements measures to satisfy its eurozone creditors.
Reductions in public sector workers’ incomes have made it harder for Greeks to make ends meet.
“With these latest cuts, someone like me who earned 1,300 euros per month will end up clearing something like 700 euros,” Metro Workers’ Union Head Antonis Stamatopoulos said.
“We cannot live on what we earn,” he added.
Stamatopoulos said that apart from stopping the changes to the pay cuts, the only way the government could make them return to work would be through force.
“Civil mobilization? They can enforce it if they want. Maybe they should come here with tanks to force us back to work,” Stamatopoulos said.
Parliament introduced new austerity measures in December 2012, which eurozone finance ministers approved for bailout packages of 9.2 billion euros on Monday and 34.3 billion euros last month.
Europe plunged into financial crisis in early 2008. The worsening debt crisis has forced the EU governments to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms, which have triggered massive protests in many European countries.
Greece faces the unenviable choice between accepting the terms of “the Troika” and facing the continuation and deepening of a socio-economic crisis, which includes five years of negative growth, over 23% unemployment, an astronomical rise in poverty (from less than 15% to over 40%) and mounting suicides, or a rejection of the “memorandum”, and a likely cut-off of Eurozone funding and capital markets with virtually few reserves to cover salaries, pensions or public services.
While the immediate cost of a break with catastrophic conditions imposed by Eurozone bankers may be high, it opens up the possibility of transforming the internal and external relations and structures which led Greece to ground zero.
Crises as Opportunity?
The prolonged and unending downward spiral of the Greek economy and living standards, the disastrous and destructive policies pursued by the formerly dominant two parties (PASOK and New Democracy) has conclusively demonstrated that Greek “capitalism” and EEC integration has been an unmitigated disaster; tried tested and failed to meet the minimum standards of human existence. Only dogmatic true believers in the innate virtues of ‘capitalism’ and the EEC can continue to prattle about the “need” to continue the same “austerity” policies which have devastated the lives of 80% of the people, closed half the business establishments in the country and failed to provide jobs for half of the young labor force (under 30 years of age).
The profound crisis demonstrates the need for basic changes in the organization of the economy, the urgency for new political leadership and the desire for a new political system responsive to the vast majority.
The old ruling oligarchies are totally discredited. The existing links to the EEC only bleed the economy: providing loans which deepen debt and which pass through the economy to overseas bankers. EEC ‘integration’ is in fact a great suction pump which depresses the economy and living standards in order to extract wealth for overseas bondholders.
No capitalist or politician of the old order provides any redeeming argument. In the past they plundered the economy; in the present they extract and transfer wealth abroad; and for the future they can only promise more of the same.
The basic challenge is not the abysmal conditions of the present but the opportunity that exists for a fundamental transformation. The problem is fashioning a transition from an unmitigated disaster to an equitable, dynamic and participatory economy. The problem facing a transition is the flawed structural and behavioral features of contemporary Greek society, polity and economy. Greece is deeply embedded with the legacy of a culture of pervasive state-party corruption and kleptocracy and bloated expenditures for the military and cliental bureaucracies. Most important Greece is dominated by rent seeking economic elites which pretend to be capitalists, but profit from state and overseas handouts from the Eurozone bankers and states.
To effect a transition requires that we first face the negative legacy of the past in order to see what proposals are viable and necessary.
The Negative Legacy and Debt Default: Greece is not Argentina
Many radical critics of the ‘austerity’ and debt crises in Greece cite the “Argentine example” of debt default, (over $100 billion dollars) and its ability to fashion a successful recovery and growth model based on ‘self-financing’. The critical advocates ignore the profound differences in the economic and social structures of the two countries as well as their respective locations in the regional economies.
Argentina, at the bottom of its crisis, was actually in a worse situation than Greece today. Unemployment hovered between 25% – 30% and over 50% in many working class districts, compared to 24% in Greece. Poverty levels in Argentina exceeded 45%; in Greece they exceed 35%. The depression in Argentina led to a negative growth rate of approximately 20% over the 3 year duration, equal to the loss in Greece over the past 5 years.
Despite starting from a more difficult and worse situation Argentina had several strategic advantages.
In the first place, in Argentina the ouster from power of the crises driven ruling elite was affected by a mass popular uprising (December 2001 – January 2002). In Greece, while mass demonstrations have certainly politicized, mobilized and radicalized a part of the electorate, the radical coalition vying for power (SYRIZA), has taken the electoral route. Secondly, the Argentine upheaval was a continuous process as mass unemployed picketers (piqueteros) blocked all roads and transport as a negotiating tool to ensure that resources were transferred from debt payments to unemployed workers’ family allowances and in reviving the economy. In Greece the vast army of unemployed has neither the organized capacity to sustain constant transport blockage nor can they count on neighborhood and trade union organizations for anything more than repeated one day work stoppages and marches.
Argentina immediately drastically devalued its currency – eliminating the dollar peg – from one to one, to three to one and vastly increased the competitiveness of Argentine export products. The center-left regime encouraged the substitution of local products for costly imports. Argentina, unlike Greece was not part of a currency union and could set its own currency rate. Greece, is bound to the euro and will have to convert to the drachma in order to take control over its finances, currency rate and monetary and investment policy tools.
Argentina possessed a substantial industrial – manufacturing sector, idled by the crisis, but with the worker-engineering-management capacity to respond to a new stimulus program. In addition, Argentina had a dynamic highly competitive agro-business sector, a world leader in beef, grains and soya, as well as energy (oil) and mineral wealth, which the center-left regime could activate.
Greece, during its 30 year membership in the European Union actually saw its meager and backward manufacturing and agricultural base shrink, in the face of cheap and better imports from developed capitalist countries like Germany, France, Holland and elsewhere. Unlike Argentina, Greece received billions of dollars in “transfers”, compensation funds to upgrade its economy and competitiveness and prepare it for full integration (lowering of tariff barriers). However, the “transfers” were not channeled into productive activity either by the two ruling parties or by the ‘capitalists’ and ‘farmers’. The ruling parties used the transfers to build extensive electoral patronage machines; they squandered funds for overpriced state contracts to provide builders engaged in non-productive building projects (including the multi-billion dollar swindle around the Olympic Games). Tens of thousands of unemployed graduates and party loyalists bloated the national, regional and local bureaucracy, increasing consumption, blocking any meaningful productive activity.
Capitalists designed “productive projects” and then transferred EU- loans and handouts to local and overseas real estate investments and luxury purchases. The Greek elite transferred loans to London, Swiss and Cypriot bank accounts – while the government signed off as ultimate guarantor.
In the agriculture sector, many property holders were doctors, dentists, lawyers and high officials who used the ownership of a few dozen olive or orange trees to receive low interest loans, import tax free luxury 4 x 4 vehicle imports and to build second or third vacation houses. Many farmers who received loans and grants, purchased land for homes for their married children or for extra room to rent to tourists or to send their sons and daughters to overseas universities.
Most important, the economic elite – bankers, ship owners, construction-real estate – politicians, speculators skimmed off billions from the EEC transfers in the form of illicit loans to cronies and in the form of fees, management charges for credit dealings and pension funding.
The European bankers, government officials and exporters were acutely aware that the “transfers” were being pillaged – but they went along, for obvious reasons of economic and political gain: lucrative interest payments flowed into their coffers; exporters took over Greek consumer markets; bankers and investment houses found willing pension fund manager’s ‘open’ to dubious investments. Even tourists enjoyed the sun and imports which reminded them of home: wiener schnitzel, English ale, Dutch feta. Moreover, Greece spent 15% of its budget on the military, serving NATO goals and bases.
Contrary to superficial appearances, Greece was not ruled by capitalists, small business people and farmers’ as some political scientists claim. Greece was ruled by an extensive class of kleptocrats, tax evaders and rentiers who pillaged, borrowed, consumed and invested overseas. Technologically Greece was among the most backward agro-manufacturing countries. Its overseas trained and educated professionals, returned and ‘adapted’ to the kleptocratic-rentier culture: most held several positions in public-private activities, guaranteeing a mediocre performance and conflicts of interests.
In summary Greece is not Argentina. A Greek default is an absolute necessity to begin the process of transition toward a productive and equitable economy. But the horrendous Greek legacy raises a whole series of new problems and challenges with few economic resources and in the absence of leading productive classes.
The Difficult Road Out of Crises
Any road map out of the Greek crises will be difficult, complex, and arduous – given the “scorched earth” economy which a left government (LG) will inherit. The first and most basic concern of a LG is to end the policies and especially the agreements with the “Troika” that demand further mass firings of public employees, the reduction in social services, the cuts in minimum wages and pensions. A new LG needs to impose a series of emergency measures to avoid economic bankruptcy.
It is absolutely clear that European bankers and regimes want to punish Greece for transgressions of their “austerity pact”. If Greece should succeed in renouncing the austerity pact, the Euro bankers fear that other countries – Spain, Portugal, Italy, Cyprus and Ireland might follow suite.
Greece should suspend debt payments, impose tight capital controls and freeze bank deposits to avoid capital flight, in the face of the Troika cut-off of funding. The LG should convoke a series of emergency commissions to (1) secure alternative sources of emergency financing from several reserve funds with Euro holdings. They must seek loans from Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China and other states not beholden to the Troika (2) make an inventory of available and potential productive enterprises – bankrupt or troubled firms, indebted enterprises – and convert them into state sponsored worker-employee operated co-operatives (3) investigate public debt to determine what can be classified as ‘legitimate’ (loans channeled into productive employment) or illegitimate (loans that enriched speculators, corrupt contractors, political leaders) (4) investigate and attach overseas holdings of wealthy Greeks who were engaged in multi-year multi-million tax evasion and who accumulated illicit income via unpaid loans and money laundering. Greek auditors should proceed to demand that Eurozone creditors should collect debt payments from the bank accounts of wealthy Greeks who laundered and deposited funds in London, Zurich, Frankfurt, New York and elsewhere.
The principle of the LG should be “those who borrowed the loans and profited, should pay them”. The European bankers who lent to corrupt politicians and business kleptocrats must assume the loss, for failing to exercise “due diligence” – oversight into the viability of the activity they were financing. After all private business ‘justifies’ its profits by the “risks” it takes. In the case of Greece, Euro-bankers’ demands that private bank loans and repayments be “guaranteed” by the state (no matter how badly they were managed) risk ‘moral hazard’: Guaranteeing bankers’ profits, irrespective of their ‘soundness’, encourages a repetition of reckless speculation such as had transpired in Greece over the past 30 years.
The LG should repudiate illegal debts (the vast majority) and renegotiate and roll-over the rest over an extended time frame, pending an economic recovery.
What should be recognized is that past Greek governments (despite being formally elected) engaged in illegitimate activity which prejudiced the sovereignty, productive capacity and livelihood of an entire people.
What is not acceptable is to force an entire people to sacrifice their lives because a minority of Greeks borrowed and didn’t invest or pay their debts to overseas creditors. Currently the kleptocratic millionaires are given “cover” and their illicit multi-billion Euro bank accounts and real-estate holdings are protected by the banks demanding payments from the Greek government. Their current demands are based on a savage demolition of living standards for a whole people. For outstanding obligations, the Greek LG can transfer tax debts of Greek tax evaders to creditors, letting them attach the overseas accounts of their Greek clients.
The LG can self-finance a recovery by drastically changing budget priorities: mainly by slashing its military budgets. Greece’s military expenditures as a percentage of its total budget, is one of the highest in the European Union. By eliminating expenditures for NATO operations, overseas military expeditions and numerous military bases, a LG can prioritize industrial and service investments.
Greece needs a (1) growth tax – a flat tax on the self-employed – professions, shop keepers, hotels, etc. – to ensure that they pay their share in financing the new economy. While the very rich engaged in mega swindles and evasions, it was also the case that the 50% self-employed sector imitated their behavior at the micro-level (2) a tourist tax – at airports, ferry-docks, tour ships stops – with tight oversight and or replacement of corrupt tax inspectors/collectors and customs officials who take a big cut of proceeds. Incarceration of corrupt officials should be mandatory. (3) A real estate tax which reflects the real value of land and property, especially of unused or uncultivated lands. (4) A tax on financial transactions and an end to tax exemptions for major banks, corporations and so-called property developers.
Exploiting Unused or Underutilized Human Resources
The new government has many sources of ‘human capital’ – hundreds of thousands of unemployed young educated people who can be mobilized for work in productive activity through selective public investments in priority areas, especially outside of the “greater Athens region”.
There are many regions and islands which have the potential to provide income and employment, properly addressed. One of the most salient is in food processing; one of the many perversities of the Greek economy is the production and export of apples and citrus products to Germany and the import of juices. Another is the failure to link local food and manufacturing to the 14 million tourist sector. Most food and furniture is imported; most vacation packages benefit overseas multi-nationals and foreign transport agencies. As a result the Greek economy and labor force derives a small share of total income from its “leading sector”.
The New Economy Cannot be Built with Kleptocrats of the Past
As mentioned above, Greece had few if any real entrepreneurs, who invested their own profits, invested in research and development and modernized their plant.
Public sector enterprises were overloaded with the unemployed ‘party members’, many virtually ‘no shows’; and many public sector unions engaged in nepotism and multiple-employment at the expense of efficient services, profitability and long-term development strategies. Public sector enterprises require a kind of re-nationalization’, to generate revenues and income to finance new jobs in new enterprises. Management of public enterprises should be transferred from the hands of stagnant ‘life time job-holders’ to dynamic workers – entrepreneurial – engineering management teams looking to broaden the scope and quality of activity within the new economy.
Pension funds and other savings must be mobilized alongside the billions retained by the state’s debt default to pay current expenses (pensions, salaries, basic imports etc.), to stimulate the revival of production among enterprises which show a willingness to rebuild the economy and collaborate in activating production and employment. Public profits should finance worker takeovers of factories and services abandoned by their previous owners, of which there are thousands.
The public sector must take the lead in investing, servicing and producing to create “confidence” among the small and medium size producers. The public sector must take the lead in negotiating with potential lenders and economic partners outside the Eurozone: new markets and financial arrangements will be necessary if the Eurozone cuts off all funding as a consequence of debt default or a moratorium.
The danger is that SYRIZA follows through on the default and has no alternative emergency plan in place to respond to a Eurozone cut-off. In the face of an EU/IMF offensive and lacking an alternative, a sector of SYRIZA (ex. PASOK public sector unionists) may back-track and seek to accept some form of “renegotiated” pact … which would divide and undermine the prospects for a truly viable and radical transformation and condemn Greece to its catastrophic downward spiral.
SYRIZA has been raised to a serious contender for state power by the most devastating capitalist crisis to affect a Western European country since WWII. It gained adherence through its dynamic grass roots organizing and the relative cohesion of its disparate components. It’s clear and forthright exposé of the corruption and pillage of the dominant parties and its image as a party with ‘clean hands’ has propelled it forward among a broad spectrum of classes, regions and generational groups. However, the very depth of the crisis, the total pillage and emptying of the treasury by the kleptocratic political-business class and the dismantling of the entire productive sector and the transfer of billions of Euros abroad by the millionaire rentier class, has created an immensely difficult terrain from which to launch the necessary transformation. The new government can and must guarantee the sovereignty of the nation by rejecting imperial dictates and end any further degradation (“austerity”) of the Greek people. Emancipation requires that first and foremost the new leadership takes the lead in making sacrifices: cutting out all the perks of office, salaries and overseas commitments. The new social priorities demand severe cuts in military budgets – bases, NATO, arms purchases. The new leaders must tell the Euro-bankers to collect payments from the accounts of the overseas billionaires who borrowed, bled the country and are now sheltered in the same banks.
The Left must move from criticism to practical deeds; from theorizing to creating jobs! Greece with a new government can put an end to open-ended austerity and decay. It can and must change its place in the international economy. In the final analysis, it is Greece’s last best hope.
A century ago, so many Greeks were arriving in Chicago that Hull House hired someone who spoke the language to learn their stories. Businesses run by Greeks were popping up west of the Loop in what is now Greektown and the UIC campus.
But the Jews found Chicago first, coming steadily from the 1840s onward.
What both groups have in common is a strong bond for their homelands – Greeks frequently sending money home to family members and buying land, Jews supporting the efforts to create a Jewish homeland in the Middle East and supporting Israel since its creation.
“We have two of the most significant diaspora groups in Chicago, both Jewish and Greek,” said Endy Zemenides, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council in Chicago.
The instability in the eastern Mediterranean recent years has brought Greek and Jewish communities in Chicago and across the U.S. together through an emerging trilateral alliance among the U.S., Greece and Israel.
“There is a need for an alliance. What is happening in the Middle East is affecting what is going on regionally and globally,” said professor Eytan Gilboa, director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
Gilboa, a world-renowned expert on international communication and U.S. policy in the Middle East was in Chicago this week as part of “Today’s Middle East: Challenges, Leadership, Communication,” which is charged with tackling a range of topics ranging from Iran’s weapons program to the special ties Israel has with Greece and Poland. The program ends Sunday.
At one of the events Wednesday, titled, “Greece, Israel and the United States: An Emerging Trilateral Alliance in the Middle East,” co-sponsored by the Greek consulate and National Strategy Forum, a set of panelists discussed challenges in the Middle East and the importance of strong ties among the countries.
“This is a strategic relationship; this is a relationship that will last forever. This is where the Greek, Israeli, Cypriot, and U.S. partnership can make a difference,” said Zemenides, whose group is one of the most influential Greek organizations in the U.S.
Gilboa and Zemenides stressed the importance of communicating to Greek and Jewish communities about the emerging alliance in face of challenges.
“Greeks and Jews have worked together for centuries,” Zemenides said. “If they work together you can influence U.S. policy and can create stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Insecurities faced by Israel and Greece today stem from Turkish assertiveness in the Mediterranean, nuclear proliferation, Iran’s weapons program, piracy in the high seas, terrorism, the Arab Spring, energy security and economic crisis.
“If you look at the map there is geopolitical-strategic change taking place. You can then understand the reason for improved relations,” Gilboa said.
All these events have caused great instability: So how can the emerging trilateral alliance stabilize the region and ensure the interests of the U.S., Greece and Israel?
By increasing the economic, military and energy ties taking place today and in years to come.
In 2010 prime ministers from both countries visited the other as a way to signify stronger diplomatic relations.
Benjamin Netanyahu was the first Israeli prime minister to officially visit Greece. There he and his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, discussed many topics such as an increase of military and economic ties.
This past April the U.S., Israel and Greece conducted joint military exercise in the Mediterranean named Noble Dina, simulating potential confrontations with Turkey.
On a less ominous note, Greece received a boost to its tourism sector last year thanks to 420,000 vacationing Israelis who took new non-stop flights from Israel to Greece. As Turkey and Israel’s relationship soured in 2009, Greece opened its doors to Israelis who normally vacation in Turkey.
On another front, energy cooperation among Israel, Greece and Cyprus has increased as well, with the discovery of natural gas off the shores of Israel and extending to Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon. The area known as the Levant Basin Province has enough natural gas for globalwide use for one year. Officials say they realize that the cooperation among Cyprus, Greece and Israel over the find increases the possibility of future confrontations with Turkey.
Though Greece is located outside the Levant Basin, it has shared national and economic interests with Cyprus.
The Greek-Israeli relationship was not always so cozy.
Before 1990, Greece was the only European member nation that did not have full diplomatic relations with Israel. Before then, Greece’s foreign policy was influenced by Arab states with whom it had important economic ties.
“We need an-on-the ground realistic assessment, we are on the outside looking in,” said Richard Friedman, president and chair of the National Strategy Forum, who moderated the event.
“We have honed in on the difficult issues and the people who have assembled in this room suggests to me that we have informed citizens,” Friedman said in his closing remarks to the 50 Greek and Jewish leaders in the audience.
“That is the whole purpose that we are all here. That is why we welcome Bar-Ilan University. What we are doing here is communicating.”
According to both Gilboa and Zemenides, economic constraints on countries have made alliances such as these attractive. Greece, Israel, the U.S. and even Cyprus have navies that make them Mediterranean powers. Combined, they can increase their influence.
“This alliance is fundamentally, culturally, historically, geo-strategically on the same page and it has to be encouraged,” Zemenides said. “We have to have stability in the eastern Mediterranean otherwise the world is in trouble.”
- Bibi: First We’ll Take Tehran, Then We’ll Take Istanbul (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Netanyahu’s Role in Crafting the “Strategic Asset” Myth (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Capitalism in the Second Decade of the 21st Century: From the “Golden” to the Dark Ages of Capitalism
The economic, political and social outlook for the second decade of the 21st century is profoundly negative. The almost universal consensus, even among mainstream orthodox economists, is pessimistic regarding the world economy.
Although, even here, their predictions understate the scope and depth of the crises, there are powerful reasons to believe that beginning in the second decade of this century, we are heading toward a steeper decline than what was experienced during the Great Recession of 2008 – 2009. With fewer resources, greater debt and increasing popular resistance to shouldering the burden of saving the capitalist system, the governments cannot revive the economic system.
Many of the major institutions and economic relations which were cause and consequence of world and regional capitalist expansion over the past three decades are in the process of disintegration and disarray. The previous economic engines of global expansion, the US and the European Union, have exhausted their potentialities and are in open decline. The new centers of growth, China, India, Brazil, Russia, which provided a new impetus for world growth during the first decade are de-accelerating rapidly and will continue to do so throughout the new decade.
The political and military outlook is equally bleak, especially in the Middle East and South Asia where the US and the EU are engaged in prolonged colonial wars, either directly or through proxies. Imperial wars are deepening the economic crises, draining resources, rather than extracting wealth, and in particular with regard to US-Israeli war preparations against Iran threatening to provoke a major economic depression.
We will proceed with an overview of the principal regions of the world political economy beginning with the ongoing crises in the European Union and follow with a discussion of the causes and consequences of the decay of the US Empire. We will then analyze the negative impact of the US proxy wars for Israel in the Middle East before turning to the dynamic growth, conflicts and reforms in the BRICs: China as it emerges as a major world economic power; Russia under the dynamic leadership of President Putin and Brazil as an emerging hegemon in Latin America. We will conclude by examining the social and political consequences of prolonged crises, especially the effects of prolonged class based austerity programs and new colonial wars on the class struggle and the reshaping of the global configuration of power in a world without a dominant hegemon.
The Crises of the European Union
The Eurozone faces a triple economic crises: an economy immersed in an ongoing recession including a depressed manufacturing sector; a severe decline in trade; and a precarious financial sector in which bankers in Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal are on the verge of bankruptcy .
A crisis is developing in the empire resulting from sequential costly colonial wars and economic sanctions toward the Arab-Islamic world – Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.
A constitutional crises as rising mass protests have led to the extension of police state measures including the suspension of constitutional guarantees and the criminalization of social protests in Spain, Greece and England.
Throughout 2012 unemployment rose to the highest levels since the introduction of the single currency in 1999. Annual trade with the EU’s main-commercial partners in Asia fell precipitously – over 18% with China, 14% with South Korea and a similar downturn with Japan .
Specifically, the crises wracked European Union is on the verge of a break up and the de facto multi-tiered structure is turning into a series of bilateral/multi-lateral trade and investment agreements. Germany-France the Low and Nordic countries are best placed to attempt to weather the downturn. England, namely the City of London – in splendid isolation – is sinking into negative growth, its financiers scrambling to find new speculative opportunities among the Gulf petrol-states and other ‘niches’. Eastern and central Europe, particularly Poland and the Czech Republic, have deepened their ties to Germany but are suffering the consequences of the general decline of world markets. Southern Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy) are in a deep depression suffering double digit negative growth over the period 2009-2013 while unemployment skyrockets to over 20% as the massive debt payments fueled by savage assaults on wages and social benefits and the decline of public investments, severely reduce consumer demand .
Depression level unemployment and under-employment, running to one-third of the labor force and youth (17-24) unemployment of nearly 50% in southern Europe, detonates prolonged social conflicts, repeated general strikes in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy intensifying into popular uprisings. A break-up of the European Union is almost inevitable. The euro as a currency of choice may be replaced followed by a return to national currencies, accompanied by devaluations and protectionism. Nationalism and class struggle are the order of the day. Banks in Germany, France and Switzerland are preparing to suffer “haircuts” – huge losses on their loans to the South. Major bailouts have become necessary, polarizing German and French societies, between the tax-paying majorities and the bankers. Trade union militancy and rightwing pseudo ‘populism’ (neo-fascism) are challenging incumbent rightist (Spain, Portugal), social democratic and “technocratic” regimes (Greece, Italy).
In response to crises and mass protest, police state measures have increased in Spain. The neo-Franco regime of Mariano Rajoy has implemented new repressive laws, which penalize social movements for engaging in passive or active resistance to public authority, with jail terms ranging from one to three years . In Britain, Prime Minister Cameron has approved measures allowing police to intervene in any and all personal e-mails or other correspondence without any judicial authorization.
A depressed, fragmented and polarized Europe is less likely to join in any Zionist inspired US-Israeli military interventions. Already economic sanctions against Libya, Iran and even Syria, have caused a crippling 20% increase in the price of oil in 2012, undermining any chances of economic recovery. If crises ridden Europe follows Washington’s confrontationalist approach to Russia and China it will limit access to two of the most dynamic markets for its exports.
Wars and economic crises, each mutually reinforce the other in a downward spiral. As costly imperial wars multiply, the Eurozone domestic economy decays.
The US Crisis Continues
The US crisis has several inter-related dimensions: a decline in world market shares and hegemony especially in Asia and Latin America; rising class based inequalities and differential economic ‘recovery’ between capital and labor; and a increasingly repressive police state designed to forestall domestic opposition to new overseas wars (especially with Iran) and a long term decline in living standards.
Nothing illustrates the decline of the US empire as clearly as its shrinking share of world trade and manufacturing, in the latter case by China’s forceful entry as the “workplace of the world” . Even in traditional US “spheres of influence”. Latin America and the Caribbean the US no longer is the dominant trader and financier .
Between 2005-2010 Chinese state banks lent more than $75 billion to Latin America more than the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Ex-Imp Bank combined. The US has been displaced by China as the leading trading partner of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Ecuador – specializing in agro-mineral exports . US de-facto devaluation of its currency and state subsidized interest rates has prejudiced Brazilian exports and created what its Finance Minister describes as a “currency war” – setting the US on a collision course with the biggest and most important economy in the region . The US came up with no major economic initiatives to recast US relations with Brazil in recent meetings with President Rouseff. Nor did the US succeed in imposing its oil sanctions policy toward Iran in Latin America and Asia. India and China have rejected US policy and have continued to purchase Iranian oil .
Despite a slight and tenuous decline in unemployment, mainly a result of the shrinking o the labor force due to the fact that many long term unemployed workers have given up looking for jobs, the US economy has been incapable of dealing with a ballooning $1.6 trillion fiscal deficit. Because of cumulative public and household debt, Washington is finding it difficult to spend its way toward a robust recovery. Nor can it count on ‘exporting’ its way out of stagnation by turning to Asia, as China, India and the rest of Asia are losing economic steam. China’s growth for 2012 is likely to be 7.5% far below its 9% average and India will decline from 8% to 5% or lower .
The US economic crisis has hit the working and middle class the hardest They received nothing similar to the trillion dollar Wall Street bailout to ameliorate their socio-economic plight .
According to one report “about 12 million borrowers, or one in five of US homeowners with mortgages, owe more than their property is worth” depressing the housing market and reducing the net worth of US households by several trillion dollars .
The “decline in unemployment” claimed by the Obama regime is largely a result of the decline of the labor force from 146 million in 2007 to 140 million in 2011. In 2008 62.7% of the population was employed by 2012 it had dropped to 58.5%, thus accounting for the decline in unemployment from 9.3% to 8.3%. If the same number of workers were seeking work in 2012 as there were in 2007, unemployment  would be over 11%. The decline of the median income is cause and consequence of the sharp decline in the “middle class”. Well paid manufacturing jobs are replaced by low paid “service jobs”: over 90% of the 27.3 million new jobs added over the last two decades are in the service sector .
Exploitation of labor is evidenced in the growing productivity of labor even as the number of workers decreases: all the gains from technological innovations accrues to capital, as robots replace line workers. As efficiency rises, jobs dissolve and profits increase. Labor’s share of national income has fallen from 63% to 58% over the past 20 years. While median wages declined 2.7% since the recession of 2008-2010, profits have increased nearly 30%. While the domestic market shrinks, the Standard and Poor 400 draw 33% of their profits from exploiting cheap labor overseas. Globalization has clearly prejudiced US labor and benefited the multinational corporations (MNC). A case in point is General Motors which in 2011 recorded $7.6 billion, its largest profit ever in 2011 
The Obama 2013 budget plan proposes to deepen the social divide by cutting health care and social security by $364 billion while only increasing taxes on the rich by less than one-third that amount. 
Faced with growing discontent with the economic crisis, overseas imperial wars, rising oil prices and declining living standards, the US has vastly increased police state legislation allowing the state to assassinate citizens suspected of fraternizing with ill-defined terrorists, suspending judicial oversight (habeas corpus) on the use of police intervention in homes and offices and cyber sites.
A presidential decree on March 16, 2012, authorized the state seizure of all major work sites and the militarization of labor in time of “emergency” – including in peace time. 
The US and England are the biggest losers from the Iraqi post war economic reconstruction. Of $1.86 trillion dollars in infrastructure projects, US and UK corporations will gain less than 5% . A similar outcome is likely in Libya and elsewhere. US imperial militarism destroys an adversary, plunging into debt to do so, and non-belligerents reap the lucrative post-war economic reconstruction contracts. In fact empire building drains trillions in military spending without any commensurate extraction of economic wealth. In fact the domestic economy is drained to fund the military empire of 700 military bases. As the wars multiply, domestic consumption shrinks.
US economic stagnation and jobless recovery is evident in the rising number of Americans dependent on food kitchens, the epidemic in home foreclosure – over 10 million are 3 months or more behind in mortgage payments – and 30% of school children dependent on free lunches and breakfasts.
Labor exploitation (“productivity”) has intensified as capitalists force workers to produce more, for less pay, thus widening the income gap between wages and profits.  Several decades ago the average US CEO to worker salary differential was 70 to 1. Today it is 350 to 1. Inequalities have reached unprecedented levels and are increasing: over the past 10 years the top 1% of the class structure received 90% of the growth of income, leading to a real decline in median income of over 5%.
The economic downturn and growth of unemployment is accompanied by savage cuts in social programs to pay for the bailout of financially troubled banks, Wall Street investment houses and the automobile industry. The debates among the Democratic and Republican parties are over how much to cut the public health programs for retirees (Medicare) and for the poor (Medicare) and how to proceed in privatizing Social Security in order to secure the ‘confidence’ of the bondholders. Faced with limited political choices, the electorate is reacting by voting out incumbents, abstaining in large numbers – over 60% in congressional elections and 50% in presidential elections – or via spontaneous and organized mass movements, such as the “occupy Wall Street” protest. Dissatisfaction, hostility and frustration pervade the North American political culture. Both major parties attempt to deflect criticism and distract discontented voters by demonizing Islamic citizens and countries as “threats to national security” and augmenting the police powers of the state at the expense of constitutional freedoms. Democratic Party demagogues blame unfair trading practices of China rather than the massive flight of US MNC to mainland China. The Republican Party demagogues blame largely Latin American immigrant workers for “stealing American jobs” for Wall Street’s financial destruction of US manufacturing sector. Both, following the lead of the “Israeli Lobby, fulminate against Iran’s Islamo-fascists.
New Wars in the Midst of Crises: Zionists Pull the Trigger
In what is likely a first in world history, a global imperial power the US is subject to the dictates and pays tribute (in the form of military and economic aid to the tune of over a hundred billion dollars over the past half century) to a marginal state, Israel, with little significance to the world economy and few allies.  Never in past empires, has a tiny minority, US Zionists forcefully acted on behalf of the tributary state, and had such a powerful influence in harnessing an imperial state to serve the military interests of a foreign power. Never in history has a prosperous elite, educated in the most prestigious schools and occupying strategic economic, cultural and political positions of power, driven an empire into a series of prolonged colonial wars which prejudice major private institutions (oil) industry, drain the public treasury, impoverish the vast majority of taxpayers and consumers of energy in pursuit of the goal of a “Greater Israel”.
Finally never in the history of modern social analysis has the public and blatant display of elite power and political manipulation on behalf of a foreign regime been so deliberately slighted and obfuscated, by complicit or intimidated scholars and journalists, another instance of the pervasive power of intimidation of the Zionist power configuration .
It is precisely this elite exercise of power on behalf of a foreign regime that explains the repeated costly imperial wars against Arab and Islamic countries, even in the midst of a major prolonged economic crisis. Since the Israeli Lobby’s first and abiding loyalty is to Israel, they have no qualms about deepening the US fiscal deficit based on trillion dollar military expenditures for wars to advance Israeli domination in the Middle East.
The 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations and their “Israel First” followers in Congress, State, Treasury and the Pentagon have escalated economic sanctions and military preparations for war with Iran despite the loss of a major market for US exports and the sidetracking of scarce economic resources to unproductive military expenditures. As a result of war threats emanating from Washington and Tel Aviv, speculators have pushed up the price of oil by 20% in the first 6 months of 2012, further undercutting any hope of an economic recovery. A US-Israeli attack on Iran will not result in a short localized war: it will result in a regional conflagration, sharply reducing the flow of oil, sending prices skyrocketing and in short order lead to a world depression.  Given the extremist Israeli regime’s success in securing blind obedience to its war polices from the US Congress and White House, with regard to Iraq (2003), Libya (2011), Lebanon (2006) any doubts about the real possibility of an attack on Iran, with a major catastrophic outcome, can be set aside.
China: Neo-Liberalism and the Compensatory Mechanisms in 2012
China’s dynamic growth over the past 30 years owes as much to the socialist revolution in 1949 as it does to capitalist investment from 1980 to the present. The revolution created the modern state and defeated the Japanese imperial army, local warlords and corrupt political rulers of the Kuo Ming tan and ended Euro-US foreign coastal enclaves. The revolution laid the bases for a unified country. By mobilizing labor, it created the essential infrastructure linking economic sectors; via an agrarian reform liberated the peasantry from semi-feudal constraints and created a domestic market; via universal free public education and health programs it created a modern healthy, educated labor force and an army of scientists, engineers and technicians, producing innovations and spurring double digit growth. The capitalist transition began in 1980 and accelerated thereafter via the de-collectivization of agriculture, privatization of industry, trade and urban land and the large scale, long-term entry of major MNCs.
The transition and consolidation of capitalist China had a dual effect: it unleashed the forces of production leading to double digit growth and it polarized class relations between a super-rich ruling class, a privileged ‘new petty bourgeois’ and a vast army of poorly paid exploited factory workers and migrant construction and domestic service workers.
As China became the ‘workplace of the world’ it also became the locus of the world’s worst social inequalities. Chinese capital in partnership with foreign capital turned it into the world’s second biggest economy. But China’s second and third generation of post-socialist working class increasingly has engaged in mass action demanding a greater share of the wealth, a return to free public health and education and low cost housing. China’s elite is faced with dual pressures: on one side from private capital demanding greater financial de-regulation to allow for overseas investment and on the other side from labor’s clamor for greater political freedom and social spending on housing and an end to vast networks of corruption between Party officials and business elites. As China’s economy matured it turned to greater investments in basic research and advanced engineering, moving China up the value chain toward complex and innovat6ive manufacturing. Faced with shrinking trade surpluses due to declining demand from the crises ridden Euro zone and the US an increasingly sharp inter-elite struggle emerged, pitting neo-liberals against populists. The core leadership around premier Wen Jiabao embraced the opening of financial markets, the entry of foreign finance capital, the liberalization of the political system to allow for competing elites and the repression of advocates of neo-populist policies such as those proposed by former mayor of Chongging and ex- politburo member Bo Xilai. Bo promoted greater social insurance, environmental protection and social housing, greater social equality and robust prosecution of corrupt business-Party mafias . The defeat of the symbolic head of the “populist faction”, with the arrest of BoXilai, heralded by the western financial press as a victory over “neo-Maoist demagogy”, signals the deepening and open embrace of neo-liberalism and the gradual discarding of the public regulatory regime over foreign financial flows . This in turn increases China’s vulnerability to financial turmoil and opens opportunities for outward flows of capital by China’s new rich billionaires. The announced growth of domestic social spending has yet to ameliorate the class inequalities: China and its elite have become a mecca for luxury goods manufacturers and fashion designers both domestically and overseas in Paris, London, Milan and New York.
Faced with intensifying pressures from below and especially in light of the deepening of the neo-liberal option , the Chinese elite also has to deal with the crises in its principal export markets in the Euro zone.
China faces the US-EU crises of the new decade with several possibilities for ameliorating its impact. Beijing is shifting toward producing goods and services for the 700 million domestic consumers currently out of the economic loop. By increasing wages, social services and environmental safety, China is compensating for the loss of overseas markets. China is vastly increasing public spending on expanding public health coverage, increasing wages, and plowing billions into basic research and technology. China’s economic growth, which depended on real estate speculation, has shifted gears, as the regime has tightened lending and demanded greater municipal investment in low cost social housing for the middle and working class. To avoid a sharp downturn, leading to job losses, municipal bankruptcies and increased social and class conflicts, China is prepared to launch a massive stimulus package as it did in 2008/9. Faced with rising demands for greater economic and political liberalization from the new economic elite and working class demands for social equality and higher wages, the different factions in the Communist Party debate over greater liberalization and gradual democratization . The outcome will profoundly affect China’s class structure, political institutions as well as the relative strength of market – state relations. A turn toward greater liberalization and deregulation of financial markets, as appears most likely could heighten class conflicts and provoke an economic crisis which will likely strengthen opposition to the market.
Russia Faces the Crises
The post-Soviet decade (1990-1999) witnessed the greatest peacetime human catastrophe: life expectancy fell from 66 years to 58 years in the course of three years, with over 3 million Russians dying prematurely, as newly minted capitalist oligarchs plundered the economy and public treasury . Incumbent dictator Yeltsin literally bombarded the opposition led parliament in buttressing his regime. He was elected President in 1996 thanks to oligarchical media manipulation, gangster dominated regional electoral processes and massive State and private funding. Over a trillion dollars of public resources, from diverse sectors including oil, gas ,banks and transport, were seized by thugs and oligarchs for a fraction of their value . Living standards plunged, pensioners suffered extreme hardships and many were evicted from public housing in choice locations.
At the height of the neo-liberal onslaught over 60% of the Russian population fell below the poverty life – the greatest decline since the end of WW II. Russia fell from co-equal world superpower to a vassal state of the Euro-US Empire.
With the advent of the Putin era, at the onset of the new century, Russia began a rapid and steep recovery. During the first decade of the 21st century poverty was reduced to less than 20% of the population. Wages and salaries were paid on time and increased by over 90%. The Russian economy grew by nearly 8% per annum and its trade surpluses led to foreign reserves exceeding 300 billion dollars, Russia regained its status as a respected power in the international political arena, forming part of the rising BRIC quartet (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
Putin, while not reversing the privatization or prosecuting the oligarchic elites for illicit enrichment, did limit their stranglehold over public policy. For his pursuit of Russian national interests and opposition to US missile encroachment on its borders, he was targeted by the western media as “hardline” . For winning elections and imposing some restraints on the western funded and influenced propaganda – think tanks, NGOs and media outlets – he was dubbed “authoritarian” by the imperial mass media. Nevertheless, Putin’s stabilization and state promoted prosperity marginalized the western backed opposition and received the popular backing of close to two-thirds of the electorate.
The election of President Putin with over 60% of the vote in 2012 was a major blow to the western backed opposition intent on turning the clock back to the Yeltsin era … Putin promised a more independent policy and less collaboration in backing US promoted uprisings and sanctions against Russian allies like Syria and trading partners like Iran. Putin has turned toward greater trade and diplomatic ties with China. Russia benefits from the rise in oil prices, exceeding $120 a barrel. The crisis of the EU and weakening of NATO makes Obama’s planned missile placements pointed at Russia less palatable and more a provocation.
The western media backed opposition, despite its financial clout failed to degrade Putin’s image: its investment boycotts went nowhere and they were thoroughly beaten in the Presidential elections by a big margin. The recession has not weakened the Russian economy. Putin continues to rely on public ownership and greater dependency on overseas oil giants and oligarchs to sustain growth, an unstable and contradictory coalition.
The Transition 2011 – 2012: From Regional Stagnation and Recession to World Crises
The year 2011 laid the groundwork for deepening the crisis of the European Union. The crisis began with the recession in the Eurozone, stagnation in the US and the outbreak of mass protests against the brutal austerity programs that slashed living standards on a continent wide scale. The events of 2011 were a dress rehearsal for a new year of popular rebellions and general strikes. Moreover, the escalation of Zionist orchestrated war fever against Iran in 2011 led to brutal sanctions and the greater likelihood of the biggest regional war since the US-Indo-Chinese conflict. The electoral campaigns and outcomes of Presidential elections in the US and France offer no relief or alternatives – neither of the leading candidates offers an alternative to the deepening global conflicts and economic crises.
During 2011 the Obama regime announced a policy of military confrontation with Russia and military encirclement of China. His policies are designed to undermine Russia’s strategic defense and degrade China’s rise as a world economic power. In the face of a deepening economic recession and with the decline of overseas markets, especially in Europe, Washington perversely and aggressively pursues policies limiting lucrative export to the China market and the inflow of its investments. The White House effort to disrupt China’s trade and investments in Asia, Africa and elsewhere has been a dismal failure. In fact China has replaced the US as the principal aid beneficiary in Latin America and even the Caribbean. US efforts to exploit China’s internal ethnic and popular conflicts and to increase its military presence off China’s coastline has only encouraged China to increase its defense budget by 12% annually and to increase its investments in domestic security and social programs. A major provocation or fabricated offshore incident in this context is not to be excluded. US failed efforts to stem the rise of China has led to rabid chauvinist calls by right-wing pundits for a costly new ‘Cold War’. Obama’s Far East military build-up has provided the framework and justification for a large-scale, long-term costly confrontation with China. This is a desperate effort to prop up declining US influence and strategic positions in Asia. However, the US military “quadrangle of power” – US-Japan-Australia-South Korea – with satellite support from the Philippines is no match to China’s deepening trade, investment and currency ties with regional partners in Asia, and its growing financial links with Latin America and Africa. Washington’s military build-up exists in an economic vacuum, devoid of any new economic initiatives. It only serves to exacerbate the domestic fiscal deficit, while its military bases, troop emplacements, and arms spending add to the balance of payments deficit.
The austerity programs imposed in Europe, from England to Latvia to southern Europe took hold with a vengeance in 2012. Massive public sector firings and reduced private sector salaries and job opportunities, led to a year of permanent class warfare and regime challenges. The ‘austerity policies’ in Southern Europe were accompanied by debt defaults resulting in substantial bank losses in France, Germany and England. The British financial ruling class successfully pressured the Conservative/Liberal coalition regime to increase regressive taxes, reduce corporate taxes, privatize public health and education and repress popular unrest. A new tough neo-Thatcherite style of autocratic rule based on greater police powers over private communications has been legislated. The opposition Labor-trade union alliance has relied on vacuous verbal protest while tightening the leash on the rebellious rank and file. The regressive socio-economic policies put in place from 2008 to 2012 throughout Europe have set the stage for new non-elected technocratic and police-state regimes which in turn lead to more acute social confrontations. The second decade looms as a “lost decade” for workers and unemployed youth with no future.
The Coming Wars that End America “As We Know It”
The impossible demands that the Israeli regime dictated when the P-5 plus one announced the opening of a new round of negotiations with Iran have become the bases for Washington’s ‘non-negotiable demands’. Israel, via Washington, demands that Iran dismantle its newly built multi-billion dollar modern nuclear research center at Fordo, stop all uranium enrichment, destroy what they call “military grade enriched material”, (uranium enrichment to 20%) and allow permanent and pervasive International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring of all Iranian defense facilities . No country among the over one hundred engaged in nuclear research is subject to these conditions. In fact, Iran is well within the parameters of international law and the non-proliferation agreement – while Israel rejects any international inspection of its nuclear weapons stockpile and never signed the non-proliferation agreement.
The Iranians propose to negotiate the terms of enrichment limiting the quantity, level of enrichment and inspection. But certainly and justifiably they will not destroy their advanced research facilities, nor end all enrichment. In other words the Israeli-Zionist-Washington position is devised specifically to sabotage a reasonable compromise that assures the peaceful usage of Iran’s nuclear program. The purpose is to create a pretext for claiming that “negotiations” were “tried” but failed and that a military attack is “justified”. 
Under Obama, as with his predecessor, the US has demonstrated its unyielding embrace of the doctrine of foreign policy by unilateral fiat in pursuit of a unipolar world.
Washington rejected a negotiated settlement of the Libyan crisis: it backed an all-out air and maritime war, marked by military success and the total destruction of its economy, society and political order. 
The US and its NATO satraps and Gulf state clients demand that the Syrian government unilaterally curtail its military defense of the country while they continue to provide arms, financial aid and mercenaries to the armed opposition. In effect the US backs a unilateral cease fire to facilitate the advance of their client mercenary “rebels”. 
The US, alone and without a single supporting country, insisted that Cuba be excluded from the “summit of the Americas” in Cartagena, Colombia on April 14-15, 2012 . The attending countries made it clear to Obama that this will be that last summit in which Cuba will be excluded . A unilateral US veto over Latin America’s progressive policies is dead and buried. In contrast the US, the Euro zone and Israel ally with the most retrograde regimes, like the Gulf petrol-dictators in pursuit of their colonial wars. Policies rejected by the major power in Asia (China, India) Latin America (Brazil, Argentina) Africa (South Africa) and Russia. In other words, despite growing international isolation and the tremendous chaos and destruction which colonial wars bring in their wake, the Zionist-militarist-Wall Street complex that rules the US and therefore NATO, refuses to reflect and reconsider the realities of the 21st century. Washington fails to recognize a multi-polar world, that colonial wars destroy empires and that an imperial policy dictated by a minority elite aligned to a racist-military-colonial regime can only lead to disasters.
Obama has laid the groundwork for a new and bigger war in the Middle East by relocating troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and concentrating them against Iran. To undermine Iran, Washington is expanding clandestine military and civilian operations against Iranian allies in Syria, Pakistan, Venezuela and China. The key to the US and Israeli bellicose strategy toward Iran is a series of wars in neighboring states, world- wide economic sanctions , cyber-attacks aimed at disabling vital industries and clandestine terrorist assassinations of scientists and military officials. The entire push, planning and execution of the US policies leading up to war with Iran can be attributed to the Zionist power configuration occupying strategic positions in the US Administration, mass media and ‘civil society’. Even the financial press highlights the political influence of Jewish money in the election and selection of presidential candidates and policy makers: The Financial Times highlights the role of the 1% Jewish power elite in its tittle article “The Jewish Vote: Small segment but a big role in raising funds” . Equally important, it is public knowledge that leading Israeli backed and Zionist run foundations play a deciding role in designing US and Euro- zone sanctions policy toward Iran, which prejudices their economies. According to the Financial Times “Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (sic) who helped write the latest sanctions bill admits that there is a risk oil prices could rise even further” . A systematic analysis of policymakers designing and implementing economic sanctions policy in Congress finds prominent roles for leading Zionists such as Waxman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Levin, Cantor, Berman and their numerous camp followers. Dennis Ross in [concert with] the White House, Jeffrey Feltman in the State Department and David Cohen in the Treasury, ensure that the White House toes the Israeli line. The Obama regime, in the midst of the presidential re-election campaign, is especially beholden to multi-millionaire Zionist fund raisers and takes its cue from the ‘52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organization. Combined they raise over 50% of the Democratic party campaign funds. The Israeli-US Zionist strategy is to encircle Iran, weaken it economically and attack its military. The Iraq war is the US “model” for its current build up for an attack on Iran. Israel is the principal political and military beneficiary of the Iraq and Libyan wars as is the case in the current proxy war against Syria. These wars have destroyed Israel’s adversaries or are in the process of doing so. But the economic, political and human cost to the US has been enormous: trillions of dollars in war debts have bled the US treasury, without any economic returns, as US oil profits have been sacrificed in Iraq and Iran.
Economic sanctions, which were designed to create domestic discontent in Iran, are the principal weapon of choice. This policy has backfired as it boosted the price of oil by 20% in 2012, undermining any economic recovery in the EU and the US. The global sanctions campaign which engaged the energies of the major Jewish-Zionist lobbies succeeded as the Obama regime followed with an escalation of financial sanctions. The US-NATO- Israeli regimes have faced no opposition from the mass media, Congress or the White Office. The Zionist power configuration (ZPC) is even virtually exempt from criticism by most progressive writers, peace movements and leftist grouplets – with a few notable exceptions. The past year’s re-positioning of US troops from Iraq, the dispatch of aircraft carriers off the coast of Iran, the economic sanctions and the rising pressure from Israel’s “lobby” in the US increases the likelihood of war in the Middle East. This likely means a “surprise” aerial and maritime missile attack by US-Israel forces. Israel’s pretext of an “imminent nuclear attack” and White House claims that the “failure” of Iran to negotiate in good faith will be faithfully transmitted by the Israel lobby to their lackeys in the US Congress and to the western public for consumption and transmission to the rest of the western world. Contrary to Israeli leaders this will not be a limited war: Iran is capable of sustaining a prolonged war, extending across the Gulf region. Iran is capable of crossing borders into Iraq aided by its Shi’a allies. It can paralyze the flow of oil in the Hormuz Straits. It can send missiles into the Saudi oilfields. A US-Israeli war on Iran will be a destructive, bloody, prolonged war which could provoke a global depression. The US will bear the direct military cost by itself and the rest of the world will pay a dear economic price. The Zionist promoted US war will convert the recession of 2008- 2012 into a major depression and probably provoke mass upheavals.
The world configuration of power in the new decade is far more complex than the designation concocted by the leading banking houses. For example, the “BRICs” includes a truly global power, China, a center of manufacturing, science and growth; Russia a military power highly dependent on energy exports and lacking a competitive manufacturing sector; Brazil is a commodity-dependent export economy suffering economic stagnation; and India where three quarters of the populace live at a or below $3 a day. The decline of the US-EU axis is not accompanied by a new multi-polar global power configuration. The crises engendered by neo-liberalism in the West is accompanied by its growth in Asia, especially China, India, South Korea and Indonesia. The decline of neo-liberalism is not accompanied by the rise of socialism: in Southern Europe, authoritarian rightist regimes buttress the crises-racked neo-liberal order by imposing policies by fiat and by criminalizing the social movements and civil disobedience and by centralizing executive power. By ignoring financial speculation as the detonator of the crises and the state bailout of the banks for the high indebtedness, the regimes perversely blame popular social program for the crises and impose harsh anti-popular austerity programs which lower living standards and increase profits. The debate between neo-liberals and neo-keynesians focuses on ‘austerity’ versus ‘spending’ – neither of which faces the class bases of state policy and the class relations which define economic costs and benefits. What is clear throughout the prolonged socio-economic crises is the impermeability of the state: despite mass disaffection, repeated general strikes and multitudinous and demonstrations, the capitalist state ignores majoritarian interests and persists in imposing savage retrograde reductions in living standards. Capitalist rule in the West is based on a reversal of seventy years of social gains. The reality of growing immiseration replaces the idea of social progress. We have passed from the so-called “golden age” of post-World War II capitalism to the long night of the “dark ages” of capitalism, an epoch of decay and descent into barbarism.
All indications point to the second decade of the 21st century being an epoch of unrelenting economic crises spreading outward from Europe and the US to Asia and its dependencies in Africa and Latin America. Catastrophic imperial and proxy wars accelerate the continued decay of the US empire and facilitate the rise of Asia as the epicenter of world capitalism and as the site for rising class conflict. The crisis in capitalist class rule is truly global and is spilling over into sharpening inter-imperialist trade confrontations. Colonial wars are undermining any efforts to ameliorate this crisis. Prolonged economic crises and a never ending downward spiral in living standards, fueled by class based austerity programs designed to reduce wages and social benefit and increase profits. In response emerging mass social movements are playing a dominant role within the anti-capitalist opposition. Direct action is gradually overshadowing electoral politics, moving over time from protests and rebellions, toward overt struggles for state power.
 On the continuing recession in the euro zone especially in Greece, see Financial Times, 2/16/12, p.2.
 Financial Times, 12/15/11, p. 3.
 BBC Business News, 4/2/12.
 LaJornada, 4/12/12.
 Edward Luce, Time to Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Decline (Little, Brown: 2012)
 Financial Times, 2/16/12.
 LaJornada, 4/10/12, and Financial Tines 1/11/12, p.7.
 Financial Times 3/2/12
 International Monetary Fund “Projections for Growth 2012”, March 2012.
 Financial Times, 4/11/12, p. 6.
 Financial Times, 12/12/11, p. 1.
 Financial Times, 12/15/11, p. 1
 Earthlink news 2/6/2012
 BBC News 2/13/2012
 Executive Order – National Defense Resource Preparedness, March 16, 2012; Stephen Lendman, “Police State America”, http://www.FreedomsPhoenix.com
 Financial Times 12/16/2011 p 3
 Financial Times 12/16/2011 p6
 James Petras, The Power of Israel in the United States (Clarity Press, Atlanta 2006).
 James Petras, “On Bended Knee: Zionist Power in American Politics” in James Petras War Crimes in Gaza (Clarity: Atlanta 2010) pp. 69 -104
 James Petras, “US-Israeli War on Iran: The Myth of Limited Warfare”, Axis of Logic, 4/15/2012; New York Times, 3/21/2012; Financial Times, 3/24/2012 p 7. http://petras.lahaine.org/?p=1894
 Chinaworker.info 3/18/12.
 Financial Times 2/29/12, p. 13.
 “A Bumper Year for Chinese Science” Science Vol. 335, March 9, 2012, p. 1156.
 Dexter Roberts “Chinese Premier Wen Jialao Talks Like a Bold Reformer”, Bloomberg Business Week, 4/4/12.
 Editorial Financial Times, 4/13/12, p. 8.
 Martin Hart-Landsberg, “China and Neoliberalism” http://media.1clark.edu
 Martin Wolf, “China is Right to Open Slowly”. Financial Times, 2/29/12, p. 13.
 David Hoffman, The Oligarchs (Public Affairs: New York 2002).
 Hoffman op. cit. Part Two, pp. 177 – 324.
 The entire western press including the New York Times: the Financial Times, to the Washington Post and El País, Le Monde have waged a savage propaganda campaign against Putin and in defense of the Yeltsin era, overlooking the enormous differences in quality of life.
 BBC News, 4/5/12.
 Financial Times, 3/6/12, p. 9.
 BBC News, 4/15/12.
 BBC News, 4/16/12.
 LaJornada 4/16/12.
 Financial Times 3/6/12, p. 9.
 Claudio Katz “El ajedrez global de la crisis” http://www.lahaine.org/index.php?p=27426, p. 7.
- Obama betrays Palestinians, stepping deeper into Zionist trap [Voltaire Network] (powersthatbeat.wordpress.com)
Financial aid to cash-strapped Greece is suspected to have been conditioned on the country’s managing to clinch arms deals with Germany and France, a report reveals.
“Speculation is rife that international aid for the country was contingent on Greece following through on agreements to purchase military hardware from Germany and France,” The Guardian said on Thursday.
Germany’s biggest arms market in Europe is Greece with around 15 percent of its total arms sales heading there.
Earlier in January, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a joint news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Berlin, “We must see progress on the voluntary restructuring of Greek debt.”
Merkel and Sarkozy both insisted to press ahead with a greater “fiscal compact” in Europe, and tougher penalties for the countries that violated the eurozone’s budget rules.
Greece’s Deputy Prime Minister Theodore Pangalos regretted during a May 2010 visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Athens was spending so much money on arms.
He said the country was being “forced to buy weapons” and that the deals made him feel “national shame.”
Thanos Dokos, a leading Greek defense expert, said the country had 1,300 tanks, more than twice the number in the UK and far beyond its needs.
Greece has the highest debt burden in proportion to the size of its economy in the 17-nation eurozone. Despite austerity cuts and bailout funds, the country has been in recession since 2009.
In order to secure an EUR-130-billion bailout package funded mostly by the eurozone member states and the International Monetary Fund, the country had to adopt harsh austerity measures, including massive cuts to its private and public sector wages, pensions, as well as health and defense spending, which have worsened the economic recession, leading to thousands of job losses.
- The Untold Story – Arms imports and the Greek debt crisis (antiworldnews.wordpress.com)
Any sanctions on Iran’s oil sector imposed over the country’s nuclear program will backfire on the United States, regardless of their outcome, says an energy economist and columnist.
“Oil sanctions are a bad idea if they work, and a bad idea if they fail,” wrote Robin M. Mills.
If the sanctions work, American allies will be punished and some economically vulnerable countries, such as Greece, will suffer a cutoff of oil just at the time they can least afford it, he explained.
Or, if they “succeed” more dramatically, and Iran’s exports are really interrupted, oil prices will soar, “plunging the world back into renewed recession,” Mills added.
“But most likely, oil sanctions would fail, and a great deal of diplomatic capital will have been expended to no avail,” the energy economist asserted.
He cited the examples of Japan and South Korea as evidence of the failure of the sanctions, saying both countries rely on Iran for 10 percent of their crude imports, and have waived oil sanctions.
The columnist further mentioned the case of Turkey which renewed its long-standing crude contract with Iran on December 21.
“Iran should be able to find ways round tightened oil sanctions,” Mills stressed.
Mills further reiterated the repeated assertions of Iranian officials that the sanctions have served as opportunities for the country.
“The United States’ last secret weapon — embargoing gasoline shipments to Iran — inspired Tehran to make its long-overdue subsidy reform and step up domestic refining capacity,” he said.
Mills who has authored The Myth of the Oil Crisis said domestic Iranian oil and gas companies have also been encouraged to develop shared fields with production potential of 1.1 million barrels per day.
“In a way, the US Congress did Iran a favor,” Mills said.
The economist said the proposed sanctions “make even less sense” on a geopolitical level as the embargoes are a gift on a plate to two US rivals, China and Russia.
“The lengths to which the United States will go to shoot itself in the foot are sometimes astounding,” Mills said.
He went on to draw attention to the deliberately concealed cost of the sanctions on the US economy, saying decades of sanctions resulting in expensive oil have set the United States back half a trillion dollars.
“Still unanswered is the rather important question of how the U.S. plans to turn any tactical gains from sanctions into strategic success — or, indeed, even to define what realistic “success” looks like.”
Mills also touched upon the resolve of the Iranian nation in overcoming the sanctions, saying they “have seen their country survive even tougher times than today, and emerge … with revolutionary fervor strengthened.”
“For them to bow to sanctions by making significant concessions on the nuclear issue would be political suicide.”
As an alternative to sanctions, Mills proposed the “acknowledgement of Iran’s legitimate interests, with removal of some sanctions as carrots for cooperation.”
“My advice? Ignore all the crowing coming from Washington,” he concluded.