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LAST STEP IRAN: What Our Recent Protests Were Really About

By Hamed Ghashghavi | 21st Century Wire | January 15, 2018

TEHRAN, Iran — Two weeks ago, the first demonstration was held in Mashhad and the main reason was people’s total dissatisfaction of credit institutions and banks, which took their money as a hostage for several months.

Some months ago, I witnessed myself people protesting peacefully in front of Iran’s Parliament and Central Bank. Actually, banks in Iran have effective powers (sometime more than European banks), and the interest rates are between 15 to 25%, invested in boondoggle building projects and other matters that normally they should not! We see similar situations the world over.

We can never deny that citizens, including myself, are facing financial problems due to the situation of the country. Essentially, after president Rouhani’s government has invested most of its time and energy on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ‘Iran nuclear deal’, he had promised the public that Iran’s economic and financial crisis will be resolved after that deal, however, this crisis is still escalating.

Of course the American and European embargoes have partly influenced that economic crisis, but it seems that this has been exacerbated by the inefficiency of the Rouhani Administration. For years, the Supreme Leader has been speaking about the ‘Resistive Economy’ (Economy of Resistance), and the importance of the internal economy (an indigenous one based on nation’s production and employment) while many officials, particularly in Rouhani government, believe the best solution is to be more in touch with European and American economies.

So after the Supreme Leader Sayed Ali Khamenei issued the principles of that Economy of Resistance, authorities began to repeatedly use that expression in their interviews and speeches which urged the Supreme Leader to choose “Economy of Resistance: Production and Employment” as the name of current year in Persian calendar.

Since that deal, many European companies such as Peugeot, Citroen, TOTAL and other leading Europe-based trans-national corporations have come to Tehran and signed multiple contracts with both governmental and non-governmental sides. Practically, and as the Supreme Leader has affirmed, these contracts have been only signed and nothing has changed on the ground. Besides, people have realised that Rouhani’s promises have not been fulfilled. Even if there were any economic advantages out of this deal, the benefits were for the big companies and not the middle class.

These days I hear even some friends saying that European states would like to stay committed to JCPOA, and so I would like to add this point toward European attitude on that issue:

Francesco Condemi, a French documentary filmmaker in his work entitled “L’affaire Peugeot (2013)” has affirmed that the Zionist Lobby in France has been putting a lot of pressure on Peugeot Company to cut its ties with Iran Khodro (Branded as IKCO, an Iranian multinational automaker headquartered in Tehran). Consequently, this emphasises that the Europeans are not committed to any kind of deal with Iranians and moreover, once their interests are threatened, they are the first to turn against you.

Not only based on that documentary and statistics, but also according to FranceTV analysts after France itself, Iran is world’s greatest market for their products, while over in Europe – French cars are a mere ‘third priority’ behind German and Italian cars, which are superior in quality.

Holding a peaceful demonstration in Iran is a guaranteed right as the constitution stipulates. None of the first demonstrations witnessed in the beginning were violent – not until our enemies’ agent provocateurs infiltrated events and began burning the national flag and martyrs’ portraits, attacking some military and government buildings and damaging public places and even setting fire to them. All of this only served to distract the focus of the demonstrations from their original raison d’etre.

In the recent presidential elections, 73.03% Iranian people participated, showing they support the Islamic Revolution and recognise the main reason for Iran’s stability and security in such a region is the Supreme Leader’s wisdom.

And honestly, what percentage of American and European citizens participate in their elections?

For those who are not aware of how Iran’s politcal system is designed, here are some useful infographics to help explain:

Sayed Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, in a public speech, on 15 February 2017, said (translated from Farsi):

“I say that to country’s officials, if people participate in 22 Bahman (The date on the Persian calendar coinciding with the anniversary of the February 11, 1979, Islamic Revolution) demonstration, it does not mean that they’re satisfied with what we do, people are gluttonous, they are gluttonous based on many issues happening in the country, people don’t like discrimination, anywhere they see some discrimination they feel bad and suffer, the same when they see hypothyroidism, the same when they see (authorities) being indifferent about their problems, when they see the things not advancing, they’re gluttonous. 22 Bahman has to be counted separately, people’s resistance against an enemy ambush to swallow Iran is one thing, which has been illustrated in 22 Bahman, and their expectation from us, the country’s officials – is another thing!”

“If people took to the streets on 22 Bahman it does not mean that they are satisfied with what the government does. The Supreme Leader added, “People’s grievances cannot be ignored: recession, unemployment, and inflation are important issues.”

He also said,

“One European official said to one of our officials that if it was not for the JCPOA, a war on Iran would be certain. This is just a lie! Why are they talking about war? Because they want to engage the minds of the people in war; however, the real war is an economic war – sanctions and ruining the levels of employment activity and technology industries within our country. They draw our attention to a military war so we may forget about these other wars. A real war is a cultural war.”


French mountebank Bernard-Henri Lévy prancing around the MENA region from one war to next, in the service of terrorists.

Undoubtedly, the right of people to demonstrate peacefully is an essential one, but we should be careful of foreign infiltration. We cannot forget what has happened and still is happening in Ukraine, Georgia and some other countries around Eastern Europe. In addition to that we discovered the media manipulation on Libya and Syria by people like French self-styled ‘philosopher’ Bernard-Henri Lévy, and colour revolution engineer George Soros, and their various fabricated Arab Spring narratives in places like Libya. We witnessed the same in Syria, as media operatives made-up the girls and boys as if they have been brutally wounded by Syrian Army, or in Ukraine when we saw similar events on the Maidan. To them, the media is a tool they use to conjure fabricated ‘revolutions’ for a global audience.


A warning to the world: if you see this man, Bernard-Henri Lévy, you can be sure that trouble is around the corner.

During the recent events in Iran, the western Mainstream Media has utilised the same videos from different Iranian cities. BBC Persian, VOA Persian and Manoto were all trying to stimulate chaos in any possible way. It is worth mentioning also that almost 200 Persian-language television channels were founded after the 2009 presidential elections. Like the Gulf-based Arab channels did with Syria, these channels continually provoke people to reject their government by calling them to demonstrate and come to streets. In addition, they brainwash the minds of the Iranians through TV series and movies that attack our cultural lifestyle, values and conventions. The TV series and movies in which we can’t understand who has sexual relation with whom, or if a woman is pregnant as result of having sex with her husband or boyfriend, while constantly promoting various types of intellectual and sexual perversions.

All of these international channels are backed and financed by Western powers, often used as tools of the British and American intelligentsia. Besides, so-called ‘civil society’ NGOs like Brookings Institution’s Centre for Middle East Policy (Saban Centre), International Republican Institute, Freedom House, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Albert Einstein Institution, Council on Foreign Relations, American Enterprise Institute and many others – are all trying their best to interfere in Iranian affairs on some level.

Trump & others, in the name of ‘human rights’, are working hard to create chaos in Iran, whilst they ignore their worldwide crimes, killing, massacring, torturing, doing genocides, raping, violating, and stealing the wealth and resources of poor nations.

On one hand, we can see how Iranians, people and elites, condemn the violence, while on another hand they are against the corrupted authorities who have to pay the price – and people must see the result of this as the Leader said. Nevertheless, many officials including Major General Mohsen Rezaee view that we should not put the infiltrated anti-governmental individuals with the peaceful citizens in the same basket. Those peaceful people request to have a better economic situation, which is a legitimate and fundamental right.

Definitely, Iran, Russia, Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah have defeated the American’s so-called “War on Terror” and the new US-led project for the Middle East which began on 9/11. All extremists sectarian Wahhabi groups failed to fulfill the American dream of further breaking up the region. Accordingly, creating chaos in Iran is their last step, but, fortunately, the Iranian people are wise enough to confront these conspiracies.


Western media refused to show massive nationwide pro-government demonstrations in early January because these did not fit their western ‘regime change’ narrative.

It is significant that pro-government demonstrations are occasionally held in democratic states such as Iran. People have taken to streets, despite the extremely cold and snowy weather, to slam the anti-government violent activities taking place. However, Western and Saudi mainstream media did not cover these pro-Leader and pro-Islamic Republic demonstrations – as they themselves, the West and Saudi monarchs – don’t have such a popularity or passion in their own countries. Remarkably, one of the people’s slogans condemning foreign agents infiltrated in initial protests was,

“WE THE PEOPLE TAKE CARE OF STOPPING THE ANTI-REVOLUTION DEMONSTRATION AND YOU THE OFFICIAL TAKE CARE OF ECONOMIC PROBLEMS.”

Here are numerous examples of such demonstrations during these past weeks:

Anniversary of December 30, 2009 pro-government rally in Iran , some photos of 2009 rally

(Dec. 29): Tabriz, (Dec. 30): Tehran 1, Across the Country 1, Qom, Tehran 2, Across the Country 2,

Pro-government rallies after recent events: Zanjan (Jan. 1), Across the country 1 (Jan. 2), Across the country 2 (Jan. 2), People appreciating police forces in Azadshahr of Mashhad (Jan. 2), Across the country 3 (Jan. 3), Tehran after Friday prayer (Jan. 5), Past Friday prayer in Tehan (Jan. 5), Across the country 4 (Jan. 4), Across the country 5 (Jan. 4), Across the country 6 (Jan. 7)

Rasht,
Mashhad 2, Isfahan, Tehran 2, Ahavz, Ilam and Bodschurd. . .

Double Trouble: US and Saudi Hegemony

US military bases have formed a strategic envelope around Iran, as well as the strategic positioning many US-backed and funded terrorist and extremist groups – such as Al-Qaeda on the Eastern borders, and ISIS on Western borders. However, recent victories by Syria and Iraq, with support from Iran, have proven these Western and Gulf-backed terrorist groups to be a complete failure, and in their failure – have instead strengthened Iran.

Supreme Leader Sayed Ali Khamenei has mocked US president Donald Trump and said that he would fail in his hardline stance against Iran, just as his “smarter” predecessor Ronald Reagan did before him. “Reagan was more powerful and smarter than Trump. He was a better actor in making threats. He also moved against us and shot down our plane,” Leader Khamenei emphasised.

We knew that last year’s ISIS attack in Tehran was funded and sponsored by Saudi government and even before that Bin Salman said “we will bring war into Iran”. And as we look at the recent events in Iran, most related hashtags were tweeted from Saudi Arabia. No surprise there.

As I’ve been asked by many friends about the current status of former president Ahmadinejad, I add this point as a big FORMER fan of this man – I can imagine how understanding of Iran’s domestic policies is difficult for the foreign audience and that is why Western mainstream media is regularly confused about it. That’s why in my last article I explained about the succession of Iran’s presidents and I suggest to those who would like to know why and how Ahmadinejad fits into this series of events, to please take a read to the related part of this article.

We all know that judiciary power in Iran is politically independent as we witnessed many relatives of officials as Hashemi Rafsanjani’s son (Mehdi)’s, president Rouhani’s brother (Hossein Feridon), vice-president Jahangiri’s brother (Mehdi), Ahmadinejad’s deputy (Mohammad Reza Rahimi) were all convicted of corruption and are currently jailed.

Ahmadinejad has recently started to attack judiciary power because his close friends have been arrested or jailed, in Iranian news agencies or websites, except one or two, until now there is no confirmed information about Ahmadinejad’s arrest or his probable involvement in recent provocations. But once again as a big FORMER fan of Mahmoud, (and himself he knows how much I loved him and he was a very important figure for me) I hope this news to be true as this ex-great man became very selfish and arrogant.

And lastly, a surprising point: after Trump’s stupid decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing that Holy City as a capital of an inhumane and absolute criminal entity – the whole world was talking about Palestine, but now after Iran’s recent events, who is still talking about Palestine? This demonstrates the power of distraction.

We’ll finish by quoting Iran’s Supreme Leader and his reaction from to recent events (from Jan 9). The Leader of the Revolution discussed the ‘triangular model’, or the international pyramid hierarchy scheme, used to describe who was responsible for the flow of money and carrying out the orchestrated events in Iran recently.

The hierarchy of the pyramid/triangle is listed from top (1) to bottom (3) in Ayatollah Khamenei’s own words:

  1. “The plot was made by Americans (US) and Zionists. They have been plotting for many months to initiate riots in small cities and eventually move towards the center.”
  2. “Money was provided by a wealthy government near the Persian Gulf. Well, these plots are costly. The Americans are not willing to spend money while such accomplices are already there.”
  3. “The third side of the triangle consists of the US submissive henchmen: Mohajhedeen-E-Khalq Organization, the murderous MEK [aka MKO].”

“The rulers in the United States, firstly, know that they didn’t achieve their goal: they might try to repeat it, but they know that can never achieve it. Secondly, they damaged us during these days, they know there will be some sort of retaliation.”

“The vast manifestations arising from millions of Iranians against recent riots is no ordinary event. Nowhere, in this world, have we witnessed the same exact phenomena. I am well informed on this. This great, coherent people’s movement against the enemies’ conspiracy, with such organization, awareness, and enthusiasm is unique among the world, and it continues for forty years now.”

“It’s not simply a question of a number of years. It is a fight of a nation against an anti-nation; a fight of Iran against anti-Iran; a fight of Islam against anti-Islam: this has always existed and will persists.”

“All actions that the enemies have waged against us, during the past forty years, are counter-attacks against the Islamic Revolution. The revolution uprooted the enemies’ political position in the country; now they (the enemy) uses counter attacks, frequently, and is defeated each time. The enemy acts and cannot advance because of the resistance: the strong national and popular barrier.”

“Once again, the nation with its full power tells the United States, the UK and their Londoners, ‘they couldn’t make it happen this time, and will never achieve their goals.’”

“Various analyses were proposed during these days. All these analyses had a common point: the point which allows the righteous and truthful desires of the people to be distinguished from and the brutal and destructive movements of another group. The two must be distinguished,”

“That a person is deprived of a right and objects to it: or that protesters – hundreds of people — come together and gather to express their concerns, is one thing; and that a number of the people from this gathering misuse this motive–to insult the Quran, to insult Islam, to insult the flag, to burn the Mosque, commit sabotage or set the country on fire–is another thing. The two should not be mixed.”

“The people’s wants, appeals, or protests have always existed in this country, and persist today. Well, like these problematic financial institutions, some of the institutes have been problematic and have made some people very dissatisfied.”

“These appeals must be dealt with and heard out. They must be answered as much as possible,”

All of us — I do not say “others must follow”— I myself am responsible; all of us “must follow this approach.”

“I would like to add that these events had a distinct triangle pattern or scheme. Events did not emerge overnight; but they have been carefully organized. My observances are based on information from sources of intelligence: some are made obvious by their own statements, some have been obtained through intelligence operations.”

“They were prepared months ago. The media of the MEK admitted to this; they said, recently, that they were in contact with Americans some months ago, to carry out U.S.’ orders: to organize riots, meet with this or that person, find individuals inside the country to help them fan out to the people. And that it was they who initiated this.”

“They began with a slogan [to catch attention] in opposition to high prices. Well, this is a slogan that everyone likes. They wanted to attract some people with this message, then enter the arena themselves to pursue their evil goals and attract followers. What people did here is this: First, some people came to streets–though not a big number–, however, just as they understood the real intentions behind, the people separated their lines.”

“On the one hand, the rioters shouted ‘my life be sacrificed for the sake of Iran,’ on the other hand, they burned the flag of Iran! The fools did not understand that these two actions simply cannot go together. Well, we hope that you (MEK) die for Iran! But, when have you stood up to the enemies of Iran? Those who have always stood against the enemy of Iran are the devout, believing, and revolutionary people. Who were the 300,000 martyrs of the Holy Defense era? They were these believing and revolutionary men who defended their country. When have you (MEK) died for Iran, that you shout ‘my life be sacrificed for the sake of Iran’?”

“Well, the United States is now angry, extremely furious; it’s not angry with only me; it’s angry with everyone and everything: angry with the Iranian people, angry with the government, and angry with the Revolution of Iran because it was defeated by this massive, retaliatory movement.”

“Now, the US officials have started to talk nonsense; the president of the United States says the Iranian government fears its very own people! No, the Iranian government was born by their people; it is for their people, is created by the Iranian people, and relies upon them. Why should it fear their own people? If the people were not there, no Islamic government would exists!”

“He [Trump] says that the Iranian government is afraid of U.S.’ power. So, if we are “afraid” of you, how did we expel you from Iran in the late 1970’s and expel you from the entire region in the 2010’s?”

“The rulers in the United States, firstly, know that they didn’t achieve their goal: they might try to repeat it, but they know that can never achieve it. Secondly, they damaged us during these days, they know there will be some sort of retaliation. Thirdly, this man who sits at the head of the White House— although, he seems to be a very instable man–he must realize that these extreme and psychotic episodes won’t be left without a response.”

In his final statements Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of the Revolution, reminded his audience: “Those who like to make friends with U.S. agents–whether outside or whether, unfortunately, some inside–they also know that this system is strongly standing and will resolve all weaknesses and problems with God’s grace.”

***

Author Hamed Ghashghavi is a polyglot researcher on North American and Western European Studies, as well as a linguist and documentary filmmaker & editor, based in Tehran.

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

US Urges EU to ‘Fix’ Iran Deal: Brussels Between a Rock and a Hard Place

By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 15.01.2018

President Trump said it was the final waiver extending Iran nuclear deal. He did it with strings attached. The president’s demands include: immediate inspections at sites by international inspectors and “denying Iran paths to nuclear weapons forever” (instead of 10 years as stipulated under current law). New sanctions were issued against 14 people and entities involved with Iran’s ballistic missile programs and a crackdown on government protesters. The president wants the deal to cover Iran’s ballistic missile programs.

Restrictive measures were extended three times last year. And Donald Trump never certified the agreement. Senator Bob Corker, the current chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, said “significant progress” had been made on bipartisan congressional legislation to address “flaws in the agreement without violating US commitments.”

According to President Trump, there are only two options: either the deal is fixed or the US pulls out. This time he wants to pass the buck, emphasizing that the decision to do it the last time is explained by his desire to secure the agreement of US European allies to fix what he calls “the terrible flaws” of the Joint Commission Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear deal. Europeans have 120 days to define their position. From now on, Europe is facing a real hard choice: it’s either dancing to the US tune or being adamant in its support for the deal. The latter will bring it closer to Russia.

Germany said on Jan.12 that it remained committed to the deal and that it would consult with “European partners to find a common way forward”. The European Union remains committed to support the implementation of the JCPOA.

The US plan hardly has a chance of success. Even if Europe joins the US, which is not the case, at least for now, the introduction of any changes to the deal requires the consent of other participants: Russia, China and Iran. Tehran has taken a tough stance, flatly refusing any talks on changes.

Another element of US proposal is also a tall order. The president wants a separate follow-on deal on Iran with the EU “to enshrine triggers that the Iranian government could not exceed related to ballistic missiles.” The consent of other participants is not needed but a separate agreement will bury the JCPOA as the provisions of the two deals will contradict each other. Iran will have to pull out and it will not be its fault and responsibility.

A unilateral US withdrawal is the most feasible option. But it will provoke an international outcry. It’s better to face the consequences being a member of an international coalition. So, the US is aggressively pursuing its goals. The stakes are high and Europe will have to make its choice. If it does not back the deal, its image as a reliable partner will be damaged internationally. The EU has economic interests in Iran. It’ll lose a lot pulling out from the JCPOA. On the other hand, Europe is not at all happy at the prospect of deteriorating relations with the United States.

There is another important aspect not to be forgotten. It’s a win-win situation for Moscow. Russia does not want the Iran deal threatened. Its contribution into it was important enough. But if Brussels succumbs to pressure, it’ll be a political win for Russia to bolster its image as a reliable partner remaining faithful to its obligations. Even with the JCPOA in place, some restrictions on economic and military cooperation remain in force. If the US tears up the deal, there will be no formal obligation to comply with them. Tehran will be pushed to develop even closer ties with Moscow and Beijing.

If the EU stands tall and has it its way, the US European partners may not back the United States in the United Nations, undermining what is called “Western unity”. Brussels and Moscow will get closer. Iran will become a field for cooperation. The process of rapprochement will be spurred if the US imposes restrictive measures on European companies participating in joint projects with Russia, such as Nord Stream-2, for instance. That’s how US sticking with tough stance on Iran may backfire. Acting high and mighty on international stage does not always bring the desired results. Taking well-thought-out foreign policy moves as elements of grand strategy does pay off but the US prefers to act otherwise. By doing so, it risks shooting itself in the foot.

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

US forcing Europe to abandon Russian gas & buy more expensive American LNG – Lavrov

RT | January 15, 2018

The United States is afraid of fair competition in the energy sector, and is hampering the implementation of the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“There is reprisal in the energy sector against North Stream 2. It is the US which is calling it politicized, leading to a split in Europe, and the strangling of Ukraine,” he said at a press conference on Monday.

“Washington clearly forces Europeans to abandon Nord Stream 2, despite the fact that gas deliveries to Germany via the pipeline could be 2,000km shorter than through Ukraine, and the cost of transit could be halved,” said the Russian diplomat.

Europeans “are being forced to buy much more expensive liquefied gas from the United States instead of Russian gas,” Lavrov added.

He also said that the US could not withstand fair competition from Russia in the gas-export sector.

Russia plans to build the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany, and to double the existing pipeline’s capacity of 55 billion cubic meters per year.

The project has faced fierce resistance from some EU members, especially from the Baltic states and Poland. They say the pipeline will cut gas transit through Ukraine and will result in a Russian monopoly in the EU gas market.

Other countries like Austria, Hungary and Germany are in favor of buying Russian gas.

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 3 Comments

Bezos Gives Millions to DACA, Amazon Staff Need Foodstamps

teleSUR | January 13, 2018

Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been hailed for donating US$33 million of his fortune to a scholarship fund for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, while more than 700 Amazon employees have to rely on foodstamps to feed themselves.

News outlets CNBC, Politico, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times published glowing reports on his philanthropic gesture benefitting immigrants, which comes on the heels of US President Donald Trump promising to revoke immigration protection for some 200,000 El Salvadorans living in the United States and referring to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.”

But a recent study by Policy Matters Ohio indicates that more than 700 local Amazon employees – the bulk of Bezos’ staff, who ensure products are correctly sorted, packaged and dispatched – have to rely on foodstamps to survive.

Amazon reportedly received more than $17million in tax breaks in Ohio to open its first two distribution centers, according to The Daily Beast. This act of corporate welfare, which was recorded in 2015, was hailed by lawmakers as a job-creator.

Yet the company has also faced multiple lawsuits and complaints. According to a report by The Morning Call, Amazon employees in Allentown, Pennsylvania, worked in a warehouse where the heat index reached some 102 degrees Farenheit. At least 15 collapsed from heat exhaustion.

“I never felt like passing out in a warehouse and I never felt treated like a piece of crap in any other warehouse but this one,” said Elmer Goris, who worked at the Lehigh Valley site.

Three plaintiffs sued Amazon in 2015, claiming that the company violated wage and hour policies in San Bernardino, California. Two years later, Amazon workers in Sacramento said they were denied overtime pay and rest breaks, according to Salon.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Amazon has been criticized in Scotland for not signing up to the government’s “fair work” program, despite having received more than £5.3million (US$7.28million) of taxpayers’ money to help spur job growth.

Forbes lists Bezos’ wealth at US$108billion, meaning his “philanthropic” donation to DACA recipients equates to roughly 0.03 percent of his total fortune.

January 14, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments

Trump’s craving for more nukes a ‘rip off’ that only benefits military industrial complex

RT | January 13, 2018

The Trump administration’s blueprint for building more nuclear warheads to contain “strategic competitors” is a “rip-off” that only benefits manufacturers, not the American people, foreign policy analyst Robert Naiman told RT.

The plan to expand the US low-yield nuclear arsenal, outlined in the draft of the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review leaked to the media, is an “outrageous and foolish” idea that will add nothing to US national security, argues Robert Naiman, policy director at Just Foreign Policy and president of the Truth Out organization.

“The United States has already more than enough nuclear weapons, and the idea of building more is foolish, dangerous and unnecessary and robbery of other priorities,” Naiman told RT. By channeling money into more nukes, Trump betrays his voters, who expected him to focus on infrastructure projects at home, he added.

“He talked about America First, rebuild America, people thought that meant we’re going to fix the roads and the bridges. Nah, we are going to build more nuclear weapons,” Naiman said.

While the nuclear plan is expected to be unveiled by Trump next month, the rather hawkish draft is still in the works and requires congressional approval, Naiman noted. He hopes lawmakers contest it.

Naiman also hopes other countries will not be “so stupid as to take the bait” and allow themselves to be dragged into an expensive new arms race. The funds that would be funneled into the pockets of arms manufacturers are US taxpayer dollars, stolen “under pretext of defending the US,” he stressed.

“Every billion dollars that are spent on nuclear weapons is a theft from education and healthcare and medical advances and roads – things that people need. Things that people need. We can’t eat nuclear weapons, we can’t educate ourselves with nuclear weapons. It’s a rip off.”

Attempts by the Trump administration to justify the nuclear build-up by claiming Russia and China pose a threat to the US do not hold water as “nobody really thinks that any sane person is going to do nuclear weapons in a strategic competition.”

While Russia and China are indeed “strategic competitors” to the US, the “idea that this means we need to produce more nuclear weapons doesn’t follow at all,” Naiman argued. In terms of nuclear deterrence, according to Naiman, it is not the quantity of nuclear weapons that matters, but the mere fact that the country possesses them.

The analyst believes it will be weapons manufacturers who will be the primary beneficiaries of the shift in nuclear policy, which is “not in the interest of the world” and “not in the interest of the majority of people in the United States.”

“The huge driver of this is the Pentagon industrial complex. Pentagon contractors are going to make money off producing nuclear weapons,” Naiman said, stressing that “parochial interests” of certain military industry players might be behind the overhaul. “We are not going to be more safe if we spend money on weapons that we don’t need.”

January 13, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Trump waives Iran nuclear sanctions, but for last time: White House

Press TV – January 12, 2018

US President Donald Trump has reluctantly agreed not to reimpose nuclear sanctions on Iran, but it would be the last time he issues such a waiver, according to the White House.

Trump wants America’s European allies to use the 120 day period before sanctions relief again comes up for renewal to agree to tougher measures, a senior White House official said Friday.

The US Congress requires the president to periodically certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement and issue a waiver to allow American sanctions to remain suspended.

While Trump approved a sanctions waiver, the US Treasury Department announced that it has imposed sanctions on 14 Iranian individuals and companies, including Iranian Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani.

A senior administration official said Trump had privately expressed annoyance at having to once again waive sanctions.

Trump has argued behind the scenes that he sees Iran as a rising threat in the Middle East and the nuclear deal makes the United States look weak, a senior US official said.

The Republican president had privately expressed reluctance to heed the advice of top advisers — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — recommending he not reimpose the suspended sanctions.

A decision to reimpose sanctions would have effectively ended the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The agreement was reached between Iran and six world powers — the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

The deal puts limitations on parts of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program in exchange for removing all nuclear-related sanctions.

Trump had come under heavy pressure from European allies to issue the sanctions waiver.

On Thursday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini together with foreign ministers of France, the US and Germany delivered a strong defense of the deal in separate statements, which were issued following a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Brussels.

January 12, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Why cutting US aid to the Palestinian Authority is not a bad idea

Dr Alaa Tartir | Middle East Eye | January 5, 2018

Many observers and analysts warn that cutting US aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is dangerous and may threaten stability. Some have even argued that US President Donald Trump’s funding threat to Palestinians is more dangerous than his decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“Do you think that the PA’s days are now numbered?” is one of the most recurring question by journalists over the past few days after Trump’s statement that “we pay the Palestinians hundred of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue.”

Actions against Palestinians

Trump continued by saying “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”. However, Trump’s threat to withdraw aid to the PA should not come as a surprise.

US aid has been always used as a political tool, and the conditionality attached to it has been harmful and damaging for the Palestinians.

But in case the threat of cutting aid to the PA materialises, is it really that bad? I argue no; it is not that bad. Arguably it may prove beneficial – possibly not in the short term, but certainly in the long term.

US aid to the PA largely aims to solidify the role of the PA as a subcontractor to Israel’s occupation and has made the Israeli occupation cheaper and longer, which has benefited Israel’s economy, entrenched Palestinian fragmentation, and denied the potential for Palestinian democracy. For all these reasons, cutting US aid to the PA is not that bad.

The first and foremost goal of the US to Palestine is to promote “the prevention or mitigation of terrorism against Israel”. In other words, aid is provided to the Palestinians to secure Israel; but is that an assistance to the Palestinians or to Israel?

Israel-first paradigm

According to this Israel-first security paradigm, the US administration poured millions of dollars of security assistance to the PA as a way to “professionalise” its security forces for the stability and the security of Israel, its occupation, and settlers in the occupied West Bank.

This skewed logic meant that the PA became a subcontractor to the Israeli occupation, thanks to US aid and conditionality.

This did not only sustain Israel’s occupation, but also it made it profitable for Israel, its economy and its companies. US assistance to the Palestinians is often used to pay PA creditors directly, many of which are Israeli companies charging predatory rates and taking advantage of a captive PA economy.

In addition, the majority of US aid for Palestine (up to 72 percent), especially the securitised aid, ends up in Israel’s economy. Therefore, a large portion of the US “assistance” to the Palestinians effectively translates to additional support for Israel and its security apparatus.

US aid has also entrenched Palestinian fragmentation over the past decade and fuelled the divide between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Also, the aid does not only deny the potential for Palestinian democracy but sponsors the emergence of an authoritarian style of governance in the West Bank.

Driven by its securitised agenda, the US-sponsored securitised processes aims to criminalise resistance against Israel’s occupation and supress the Palestinian people’s needs and aspirations.

US aid intervention

The operations and interventions of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the office of the US Security Coordinator (USSC), were instrumental in causing all this harm. By doing so, these two institutions not only violate key international principles of aid delivery, but also they effectively act as a complementary arm of the Israeli colonial occupation.

Certainly, these damages and harmful consequences of the US aid intervention will not be automatically reversed if Trump’s threat to cut aid becomes a reality.

It is far more complex than that, as it requires dismantling complex structures, dynamics, and institutions that have emerged and solidified over the past quarter of a century.

What is crucial at this stage is that Palestinians do not panic and curse their luck for “losing” $300mn to $400mn a year; rather, they should act – and they have plenty of choices. As a starter, they should hold USAID and the USSC accountable, and they should revoke the registry exemptions the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat gave to USAID to operate without any Palestinian oversight.

Reverse vetting process

It is time to reverse the “vetting process”; instead of USAID vetting the Palestinians, it is time for the Palestinians to do the necessary vetting to USAID and the other US bodies in the aid industry in Palestine.

Doing so requires the political will and courage among Palestine’s political leadership. However, the current PA leadership remains fixated on its failing approaches and formulas.

The inability of the PA leadership to perform small actions, such as revoking USAID registry exemptions, reflects a deeper legitimacy crisis and illustrates the tactical moves by the current PA leadership to buy time, remain in authority, or re-arrange “peace” talk cards. Those ideas must be urgently resisted and replaced by new strategic directions that are dictated by the Palestinian people.

The remaining major challenge, however, is how to channel the Palestinian people’s demands and aspirations into a legitimate polity and representative institutions.

From the ordinary Palestinian people perspective, there will be short-term negative consequences in the event of Trump’s threat to cut aid  materialising. However, it is also crucial to recognise that aid to the PA does not automatically translate to aid to the Palestinian people.

It is misleading to assume that aid and its benefits trickle down to ordinary Palestinian people. The aid industry is designed to benefit few and harm many.

Sam Bahour, the chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy, recently argued: “I would not lose any sleep if Congress totally stopped funding the Palestinian Authority. It would not make daily life easier under occupation, but maybe it would wake up enough American leaders to see the absurdity of their being dragged around like a flock of sheep by their Israeli herder.”

I would not lose any sleep, either. While a US aid cut will have some negative consequences on Palestinian lives, long-term prospects may prove more more positive as this action would push the PA to abandon the framework of the Oslo Accords aid model. It’s time to lay the failed Oslo aid model to rest.

But a phasing out process requires serious actions, concrete and clear steps, and a national action/rescue plan for a transition toward a post two-state formula and a post-Oslo Accords framework.

Finally, while humanitarian assistance is important, what matters more for the ordinary Palestinians is not a coupon to get wheat or sardines, but rather the political roots to fight against the denial of their rights.

Until those political roots are addressed and no matter of how big the aid flows get, ordinary Palestinians will not feel the positive outcome of aid, be it American, European, or Arab aid.

Trump’s threat to cut aid offers ordinary Palestinians a new opportunity to place the principles of self-determination and dignity in the core of the aid framework and industry.

Dr Alaa Tartir is the programme director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, and a research associate at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP), The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva, Switzerland. Follow Alaa Tartir on Twitter @alaatartir and read his publications at www.alaatartir.com  

January 7, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran’s Aseman Airlines to purchase another 30 Boeing jets

Press TV – January 7, 2018

Iran says it plans to purchase another 30 planes from US aviation giant Boeing if the administration of US President Donald Trump creates no obstacles for the existing order by one of its key airlines.

The announcement was made by Vali Azarvash, the managing director of Atieh Saba Investment Company which is one of the main shareholders of Aseman Airlines.

Azarvash emphasized that no problem had so far occurred as per the previous order by Aseman Airlines to purchase 30 planes from Boeing. The first planes, he said, would be delivered within the next two years.

He said that Atieh Saba Investment would support 95 percent of the costs for purchasing the planes ordered with Boeing.

“If the US politicians create no problems on the way of the implementation of the existing contract, Aseman Airlines will purchase another 30 planes from Boeing,” he was quoted as saying by Iran’s IRNA news agency.

The agreement for the first batch of Boeing planes involves 30 Boeing 737 MAX jets and was signed between the two sides last August.

This came after almost a year of negotiations between Aseman Airlines and the US aviation giant, according to an IRNA report published at the time the contract was signed.

Boeing is to provide 50 planes of the same type to Iran’s flag-carrier airline Iran Air through a similar agreement. The overall value of Iran Air’s order that also involves 30 long-range wide-body 777 aircraft is estimated to be $16.6 billion.

Boeing 737 MAX planes – that would enter service in the second half of 2017 – have a passenger capacity of 130 people and are specifically adequate for domestic and regional flights, IRNA added in its report.

The planes that Aseman Airlines has purchased from Boeing would increase the company’s passenger transportation capacity to above 8,000 seats, it emphasized.

January 7, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Jacob Hacker Rises Again to Stop Single Payer

By Margaret Flowers | Health Over Profit for Everyone | January 5, 2018

In the American Prospect article linked below, The Road to Medicare for Everyone, Jacob Hacker is once again working to dissuade single payer healthcare supporters from demanding National Improved Medicare for All and use our language to send us down a false path. Once again, he comes up with a scheme to convince people to ask for less and calls those who disagree “purists”. Hacker calls his “Medicare Part E” “daring and doable,” I call it dumb and dumber. Here’s why.

Hacker makes the same assertions we witnessed in August of 2017 when other progressives tried to dissuade single payer supporters.

He starts with “risk aversion,” although he doesn’t use the term in his article. Hacker asserts that those who have health insurance through their employers won’t want to give it up for the new system. Our responses to this are: there is already widespread dislike for the current healthcare system; people don’t like private insurance while there is widespread support across the political spectrum for Medicare and Medicaid; there is also widespread support for single payer; and those with health insurance can be reassured that they will be better off under a single payer system. It is also important to note that employers don’t want to be in the middle of health insurance. Healthcare costs are the biggest complaint by small and medium sized businesses and keep businesses that operate internationally less competitive.

Next, Hacker brings up the costs of the new system and complains that it will create new federal spending. He points to the failures to pass ‘single payer’ in Vermont and California. First, it must be recognized that the state bills were not true single payer bills, and second, states face barriers that the federal government does not, they must balance their budgets. Hacker ignores the numerous studies at the national level, some by the General Accounting Office and the Congressional Budget Office that demonstrate single payer is the best way to save money. Of course there would be an increase in federal spending, the system would be financed through taxes, but the taxes would replace premiums, co-pays and deductibles, which are rising as fast as health insurers can get away with. Hacker proposes a more complex system that will fail to provide the savings needed to cover everyone, the savings that can only exist under a true single payer system.

Hacker also confuses “Medicare for All” with simply expanding Medicare to everyone, including the wasteful private plans under Medicare Advantage. This is not what National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) advocates support. NIMA would take the national infrastructure created by Medicare and use it for a new system that is comprehensive in coverage, including long term care, and doesn’t require co-pays or deductibles. The system would negotiate reasonable pharmaceutical prices and set prices for services. It would also provide operating budgets for hospitals and other health facilities and use separate capital budgets to make sure that health resources are available where they are needed. And the new system would create a mechanism for negotiation of payment to providers.

Finally, Hacker tries to convince his readers that the opposition to NIMA will be too strong, so we should demand less. We know that the opposition to our lesser demands will also be strong. That was the case in 2009 when people advocated for the ‘public option’ gimmick. If we are going to fight for something, if we are going to take on this opposition, we must fight for something worthwhile, something that will actually solve the healthcare crisis. That something is NIMA. We are well aware that the opposition will be strong, but we also know that when people organize and mobilize, they can win. Every fight for social transformation has been a difficult struggle. We know how to wage these struggles. We have decades of history of successful struggles to guide us.

One gaping hole in Hacker’s approach is that it prevents the social solidarity required to win the fight and to make the solution succeed. Hacker promotes a “Medicare Part E” that some people can buy into. Not only will this forego most of the savings of a single payer system, but it also leaves the public divided. Some people will be in the system and others will be out. This creates vulnerabilities for the opposition to exploit and further divide us. Any difficulties of the new system will be blown out of proportion and those in the system may worry that they are in the wrong place. When we are united in the same system, not only does that create a higher quality system (a lesson we’ve learned from other countries), but it also unites us in fighting to protect and improve that system.

Hacker succeeded in convincing people who support single payer to ask for something less in 2009 and we ended up with a law that is further enriching the health insurance, pharmaceutical and private healthcare institutions enormously while tens of millions of people go without care. Now, Hacker rises again to use the same scare tactics and accusations that he used then to undermine the struggle for NIMA. This is to be expected. The national cry for NIMA is growing and the power holders in both major political parties and their allies in the media and think tanks are afraid of going against the donor class. Social movements have always been told that what they are asking for is impossible, until the tide shifts and it becomes inevitable.

Our task is to shift the tide. We must not be fooled by people like Jacob Hacker. We know that single payer systems work. We have the money to pay for it. We have the framework for a national system and we have the institutions to provide care. Just as we did in 1965 when Medicare and Medicaid were created from scratch, and without the benefit of the Internet, we can create National Improved Medicare for All, a universal system, all at once. Everybody in and nobody out.

We know that we are close to winning when the opposition starts using our language to take us off track. “Medicare Part E” is not National Improved Medicare for All, it is a gimmick to protect the status quo and convince us that we are not powerful. We aren’t falling for it. This is the time to fight harder for NIMA. We will prevail.

Read Jacob Hacker’s article in the American Prospect here.

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Iran’s regime faces moment of truth

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | January 3, 2018

An unexpected side effect of the ongoing unrest in Iran is that it will consolidate the Turkish-Iranian entente in regional politics. The Turkish leadership has openly reached out to President Hassan Rouhani. Following up on the contact between the two foreign ministers on Tuesday and the statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry, President Recep Erdogan telephoned Rouhani today to express Turkey’s solidarity.

While talking to a group of editors in Ankara today, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gently ticked off the US and Israel saying, “There are only two [world] figures who support protestors: Trump and Netanyahu. We are against such foreign interventions.” Cavusoglu added, “I have not seen any other world leader making such supportive statements. You may not like the regime but Iran’s president and government, apart from the religious leader, can only be changed through elections. And there are no objections about the security of elections [in Iran].”

Turkey did not have to go this far but it senses an imperative need to intervene. Turkey’s main concern will be Iran’s stability. Having said that, although Turkey is voicing open support for Iran in the current difficult period, it cannot be oblivious of the strong undercurrents playing out in Iran’s political economy. Erdogan has shown empathy for Rouhani’s approach – allowing the protests to take place peacefully without any intimidation by the state security agencies but effectively curbing any violent incidents. Rouhani told Erdogan that he hoped that the protests would end “within a few days.”

Even so, this ought to be a moment of truth for the Iranian regime. For the first time, perhaps, the unrest is largely among the downtrodden people who are losing hope in a better future under the existing regime. There is widespread resentment among poor people that the resources of the country are siphoned off by the ruling elites. The draft budget that was presented to the Majlis last month itself flagged a shocking misallocation of resources – Al-Mustafa International University (which propagates Shi’ism worldwide) has a budget that exceeds the combined budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the National Organization for Food and Drug.

There were high expectations among the poor people that following the signing of the nuclear deal in July 2015, the economic conditions would improve. They were jubilant when Zarif returned home after the nuclear deal and spontaneously thronged the airport to receive him. But two years down the line, these hopes have been dashed. The bazaar gossip is that billions of dollars in blocked funds lying in western banks that were returned to post-sanctions Iran have either been squandered away in overseas enterprises (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, etc.) or simply misappropriated by the religious establishment.

The current unrest is doomed to fizzle out. The absence of middle class (which is in the vanguard of all revolutions in history) guarantees it. Again, the lack of leadership among protestors would mean that “fatigue” would set in sooner or later. The wretched of the earth do not have the luxury to protest till eternity instead of eking out their daily livelihood to keep body and soul together.

What is the way forward? The people, clearly, want “change”. Arguably, they no longer have faith in the so-called “reformists”, either. On the other hand, Rouhani faces dogged opposition from entrenched interest groups who masquerade as “conservatives” or “principlists”. If the protests in 2009 (led by the middle class) were about political empowerment and had a narrow social base, this time around, the demand is ‘Where is my money?’ and the social base lies among the the downtrodden sections of society. Shockingly enough, the cry “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) was conspicuous by its absence throughout this turmoil, although it has been the signal tune of Iranian street politics ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The regime may be right up to a point in alleging that there has been foreign interference. But, hopefully, it will not become the alibi for postponing reforms. Certainly, the regime is in no immediate danger. But a challenging period lies ahead. Iran has crucial choices to make. Iran’s foreign policies should become an extension of its national policies, attuned to its development agenda – economic growth, job creation and alleviation of poverty – and to the creation of a just society. Geopolitics is not the priority for Iran today – it is nation-building.

January 3, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 2 Comments

IRAN PROTEST CRISIS: Everything you need to know

By Joaquin Flores – Fort Russ news – December 30, 2017

Across the websites of the Associated Press, Reuters, and the U.S establishment’s own ‘Twitter’ and ‘Facebook’, news stories covering apparent violence in Iran and a radical change in the demands of protests have today sprang up, with a tone of extreme urgency.

So what’s the problem? And why are Iranians protesting?

Problematic, however, has been any way to independently verify these claims. The Iranian government has generally been clear that there are two unrelated types of protests going on, simultaneously. However, these claims can only be juxtaposed to claims from Iranian ‘activists’ associated with the radical reformist Green Movement, originally of former Iranian PM Mousavi. But today are themselves divided, and a branch exists today aiding in organizing the smaller protests and ‘stunts’, which is organized in connection with US support.

But the other branch was actually reeled in, absorbed, tamed, and redirected by Rouhani under the auspices of the Ayatollah Khamenei. At the same time, this had the effect of bringing elements of radical reformism closer to vectors of power than they had been since the mid 1990’s.

The elected government’s official view, as reported internationally and by Iranian state media, is actually supportive of the legitimate demands of the mainstream protests. They have already announced this to the protesters, and are working at the level of civil society intervention to de-escalate the protests and usher in a series of new policies and programs aimed at ameliorating some of the legitimate concerns. Meanwhile, government supporters have also turned out en mass to counter the international image being projected by Western media.

With official unemployment at 12% and negative economic growth for a number of years until the 2016 GDP boom that saw 12% growth, without these gains properly trickling down, and a whole period of inflation which hasn’t been recovered from yet (as sellers saw what price maximums were possible), what we are also seeing in Iran are real people protesting about real problems.

To be clear – the government of Iran is not blaming the legitimate protesters as ‘Western agents’. They have said that the protests, correctly, are chiefly related to inflation and other economic related concerns. Rouhani himself has publicly stated that he shares precisely these concerns.

Are Iran’s problems its own doing? Or are there global factors at play?

It isn’t so easy simply to dismiss these complaints from the mainstream of protesters, and dismissively point instead to the economic encirclement the west has placed upon Iran. Iran is nevertheless still a class society with a wide and growing disparity between income groups. There are Iranian billionaires, private owners of firms and joint stock companies, who while operating within the parameters of Iranian sovereignty, also acquire their economic success on the backs of countless Iranians. Their wealth and stature in Iranian society grew significantly under Rafsanjani’s tenure.

That some of these firms themselves are, or had been, the subject of sanctions, is not entirely relevant to the fact that the economic policies of some of the reformists have led to the enrichment of a few at the expense of many. And this is the discourse we are seeing and hearing from Iranians today. What therefore is being presented in Western media, is an inversion of reality.

If anything, a plurality of protesters would likely want to see a return to the policies of Ahmadinejad. Unemployment, for instance, was lowest under his administration. He also placed price controls, and subsidized other goods, in response to the spiraling inflation caused by western imposed sanctions.

Is there anything more we should say about this?

Indeed, opposition to the privatizing and anti-social policies of Rafsanjani, is where the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran comes from. Rafsanjani, president in the late 80’s through mid 90’s, was of course not entirely unsuccessful in any number of projects important to Iran, including increasing ties with post-Soviet central Asian countries. But significant to the average Iranian laborer or small shop keeper, were his anti-popular measures. So the economic leftism of the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran is a response to this, and Ahmadinejad rose to prominence in large part through this movement, which he leads.

All this leads to only one conclusion – the Western media is manufacturing a story, with little basis in Iran’s reality and recent history.

So there is something very clear now we must understand about the legitimate mass protests, however, which is that they have nothing substantively to do with the solution set proposed by the Green Movement or, for example, the National Trust party of Karroubi (another prominent reformist). Western media would have you believe that all of this, what you are seeing, is homogeneous in its message, and reformist or even Green, in nature.

Now, understanding the political composition of the mass protests is not so easy – some of course are critical of Rouhani for not being reformist enough, and not open enough. They may parallel some of the demands and concerns of both wings of the Green Movement, or of Karroubi’s National Trust.

What’s the history here?

The Green’s spiritual leader, who was also a leader of the 1979 Revolution, but later fell out of favor in the mid 80’s for reasons we will mention now, is Montazeri. Montazeri himself was demoted and finally pushed out of leadership circles for having liberal criticisms of the Iranian Revolution, and also opposed the regionalization or exporting of the revolution.

So these are themes from the 80’s, which still in some prominent ways are dominating the internal debate within Iranian society today.

So who is protesting?

The vast majority of protesters are either not particularly partisan, or they are – contrary to how the western media blitzkrieg over the last 48 hours has painted it – sympathetic to Ahmadinejad’s criticisms of reformist economic and foreign policy, insofar as this is a policy which has favored an increased polarization of the distribution of wealth and opportunities in the Islamic Republic. So their chief issues are economic concerns, corruption, and distribution of wealth and human services. There is enough sophistication in Iran to understand that in terms of regional politics, everything Iran does in Syria and Iraq is an important move to counter and contain Israel. This is a ‘popular militancy’ that is carried on from the revolution of 1979 itself.

So to understand Rouhani, he has pursued a very similar foreign policy – in effect – as the conservatives and ‘revolution exporters’, as seen in the way that Iran today supports Shiite brigades in Iraq and Syria, and also has their own special forces fighting there in Syria and Iraq, as well as very close support and funding for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Again, these are contrary to what both the Green movement reformists, National Trust reformists, and run-of-the-mill moderate reformists want.

But the economic policy pursued by Rouhani – with a following proviso – has been that of the reformists. That policy has been to have warm economic relations with the west. While there are some divisions there about whether Europe or the US would be a better partner, nevertheless this has been pursued, and for that we saw the government of Rouhani enter into the anti-nuclear agreement that was supposed to be the pathway out of sanctions – one that has, with mixed results, generally worked.

And internally, that policy, again, favors the individual rights of owners and bosses against the middling and lower classes.

Yet the proviso we must insert here, is that the economic policy of the reformists, in their eyes, isn’t responsible for the economic crisis – they view and criticize Rouhani for not in fact succeeding in opening up ties as much as they could be.

Sanctions is a somewhat misleading framework to understand an underlying fact, which is that there is no mechanism or impetus to force seller and buyers in two countries to come to terms, and there are plenty of mechanisms within a country hostile to Iran to nudge its firms not to trade with Iran, even if ‘sanctions’ are not in place. In this way, we can understand the significance of sanctions, but also understand all of the more complex realities that may fall under that general concept, while not being in fact ‘sanctions’ per se.

Membership in the WTO, for example, would work to overcome the problem of this de facto category of sanctions, but the US has blocked Iran’s entrance since reformists pushed for its application in 1996. But just a few months back in September 2017, Iran announced it was officially withdrawing its application. This was a major turning point, and a very ‘anti-reformist’ move by the ostensibly reformist Rouhani.

Two unrelated protest movements happening

In other words, there are at least two sets of protests going on, and while they are mirroring some similar talking points and general descriptions of grievances, their solutions are wildly at odds. We should note that in the north-west of the country, where there have been numerous but small protests, among the demands are a mixture of populist and left economic demands, with greater autonomy demands which mirror the reformists – the later of which the US would very much support as it creates opportunities and pretexts, the likes we have seen in places as far and away from each other as the former Yugoslavia and Syria re the Kurdish question.

To understand this: imagine genuine socialists and genuine libertarians both protesting in the U.S. about the failures of the public education system, with socialists urging greatly more funding, and libertarians urging that the system be abolished — literally opposite solutions to the same identified problem.

That’s how we might better understand what we are seeing today with the various protests in Iran.

CIA and Soros stunts, and Astroturfing

With the more radical wing of the Green Movement (et al, and similar), we see them pulling off various stunts. These are stunts, and not protests as such, because they involve at most several dozen ‘activists’ using camera angles, and unpopular chants, to simulate a larger protest with, what we are told are, popular radical chants.

This simulation of reality is only possible using a combination of western media hyperventilated coverage surrounding demonstrably isolated events carried out by less than a dozen individuals. A ‘twitter storm’, is being used – this is a centrally planned weaponized information method – and is essentially what one would conceive it to be, by its designation.

These are astroturf, not grass-roots type demonstrations. … Full article

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Immigration and Capital

By Maximilian Forte | Zero Anthropology | August 3, 2016

Immigration, rightly or wrongly, has been marched to the frontline of current political struggles in Europe and North America. Whether exaggerated or accurate, the role of immigration is situated as a central factor in the Brexit referendum in the UK, and the rise of the “America First” Trump movement in the US. It seems impossible that one can have a calm discussion about immigration today, without all sorts of agendas, assumptions, insinuations and recriminations coming into play. Staking a claim in immigration debates are a wide range of actors and interests, with everything from national identity and national security to multiculturalism, human rights, and cosmopolitan globalism. However, what is relatively neglected in the public debates is discussion of the political economy of immigration, and especially a critique of the role of immigration in sustaining capitalism.

Before going forward, we have to first dismiss certain diversionary tactics commonly used in public debate, that unfortunately misdirect too many people. First, being “anti-immigration” does not make one a “racist”. One does not follow from the other. Being a racist means adopting a racial view of humanity as being ordered according to what are imagined to be superior and inferior, biologically-rooted differences. Preferring “one’s own kind” (whatever that means) might be the basis for ethnocentrism, but not necessarily racism as such. It’s important not to always lunge hysterically for the most inflammatory-sounding terms, just because your rhetorical polemics demand an instant “win” (because you don’t win anything; you just sound like someone who doesn’t know what he or she is talking about). Also, xenophobia neither implies racism nor ethnocentrism, because it can exceed both by being a fear or dislike of anyone who is “foreign” or “strange”. Conversely, one can be entirely racist, and quite pro­-immigration at the same time, as long as immigration is restricted to members of one’s own race. Other forms of racist pro-immigration policies would include slavery itself, indentured labour, down to the casual racism of “let’s have Mexicans, they make such wonderful gardeners”. Furthermore, the available survey data in the US suggests that, “far from being rooted in racism, opposition to immigration in the U.S. seems to be rooted in concerns about the ability of less-skilled immigrants to support themselves without Medicaid, SNAP, the earned-income tax credit, and various other supports” (Salam, 2016b). Salam adds this point: “My guess is that if immigration policy were not viewed through a racial lens, opposition to immigration would in fact increase substantially”. Also, there is a distinction to be drawn between opinions that are anti-immigrant and policies that are anti-immigration, even if there can be overlap between the two. Finally, all of this obscures the basic questions that are seemingly never asked today in most public debates: 1) Are questions about racism, identity, and openness the most important ones to be asked about immigration? And, 2) Why must workers be pro-immigration?

When we turn our attention to the current political economy of immigration in Europe and North America, and the relationship between immigration and capital, we might discover two odd absences. One is that those on the left who in past years were vocal critics of mass immigration, especially of the illegal kind, have either been silent on the topic in current debates, or have reversed positions without any explanation. Second, you may find Marxist writers who, armed with all of the necessary conceptual and empirical tools, avoid drawing explicit connections in their own work that could be the basis for a critique of immigration. My guess is that what explains both absences is this fear of being stigmatized as xenophobic, or worse yet, racist—but as shown above, such fear is illogical and should be pushed aside.

From the Left: Past Public Criticism of Immigration

In the not-too-distant past, leftist activists and politicians, such as Naomi Klein and Bernie Sanders, have both gone public in criticizing immigration for its role in depressing wages, increasing unemployment, deepening proletarian dependency and despair, and fostering an elitist form of cosmopolitan detachment from place. For the record, let’s review the two.

Naomi Klein argued that “rooted people” are “the biggest threat” to neoliberal capitalism because they have “roots and stories,” so the global capitalists prefer to “hire mobile people”. Klein also recognized that this “economic model creates armies of surplus labour,” and migrant labourers are useful in “keeping wages very, very low”. Naomi Klein also spoke of the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where those who lost their homes, mostly African-Americans, did not get the jobs—instead, “a migrant workforce” was used.

Second, Bernie Sanders, who would later denounce “open borders” as a plot by the right-wing oligarchs, the Koch brothers, told Lou Dobbs the following in 2007:

“If poverty is increasing and if wages are going down, I don’t know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive wages down, even lower than they are right now.”

Dobbs added,

“And as we know, the principle industries which hire the bulk of illegal aliens—that is construction, landscaping, leisure, hospitality—those are all industries in which wages are declining….I don’t hear that discussed on the Senate floor by the proponents of this amnesty legislation.”

To which Sanders responded:

“That’s right. They have no good response.”

You can view/listen to the complete exchange here:

I am not playing this out here to rub salt into the wounds of Sanders supporters. Instead, it is simply to point how far back the left has retreated when it comes to a critique of the political economy of immigration, such that they can hardly have any legitimate complaint that the ground they vacated has been taken up by the Trump movement in the US, or by right-wing advocates of Brexit in the UK. As the Bloomberg article pointed out, “it’s Sanders’s rhetoric against guest-worker programs for legal immigrants that has brought him trouble with the left”. Should it have? Should Sanders have gone back on his record, and adopted his enthusiastically pro-immigrant stance (embracing even those who entered illegally)?

Yet Sanders is not the focus of this article; instead my broad purpose here is to argue for the negative in answering these questions. I will do so first by revisiting the work of a Marxist writer, David Harvey, even though he seems to evade the critique of immigration in his 2014 book on the contradictions of capitalism. While the writings of Marxist scholars can be useful for understanding how immigration works to uphold capitalism, and especially its neoliberal form, the writers themselves seem reluctant to draw out those connections too clearly, creating an eerie silence around what should be obvious.

Immigration: Serving the Owners of Capital

Those who consider themselves leftist and anti-capitalist while being pro-immigration with few if any restrictions, might be on the wrong side of the argument in one way or another. In David Harvey’s 2014 book, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, there are some useful insights about immigration’s role in propping up capital. However, the material is scattered throughout the book (I gathered the relevant elements below), and one might wonder if Harvey thus missed the eighteenth contradiction—the contradiction between unrestricted capitalism and the anti-immigration politics of working class movements. At least capitalists would think of the contradiction as an important one, given their now extreme public panic over the working class gaining the political upper hand, under the leadership of populist nationalists.

In Seventeen Contradictions Harvey notes that for many Marxists the contradiction between capital and labour is the primary contradiction of capitalism, not that Harvey (himself a Marxist) agrees that this contradiction can stand alone as an explanation for all capitalist crises (p. 65). Harvey’s own definitions of capital, and the way he distinguishes it from capitalism, leave much to be desired (see pps. 7, 73).1 Having fixed the place of labour in the unfolding history of capitalism—whether paramount or not it remains central—Harvey in his usual anthropomorphosis of capital says that “capital strives to produce a geographical landscape favourable to its own reproduction and subsequent evolution” (p. 146)—although it’s actual capitalists who do that, and not capital as such. What he could have added is that reworking the geographical landscape means how humans fit into landscapes, and moving workers around the planet is a definite reworking of “geography”. Having established the centrality of the capital-labour contradiction, and having introduced the significance of geographic changes, Harvey adds the third key component of his analysis: “that an economy based on dispossession lies at the heart of what capital is foundationally about” (p. 54). How are workers dispossessed?

The usefulness of immigration in the capitalist system lies in the ability of capitalists to use immigration to break the monopoly power of labour (p. 120). Simply put, labourers can assert a virtual monopoly over their work, especially when such work is specialized and the number of labourers is contained. The inflow of immigrants can thus help to break the labourers’ monopoly, by creating competition among the ranks of workers. Harvey explains this in detail—but without speaking of immigration—using an example which ends up being very relevant to the present in the US:

“What is on capital’s agenda is not the eradication of skills per se but the abolition of monopolisable skills. When new skills become important, such as computer programming, then the issue for capital is not necessarily the abolition of those skills (which it may ultimately achieve through artificial intelligence) but the undermining of their potential monopoly character by opening up abundant avenues for training in them. When the labour force equipped with programming skills grows from relatively small to super-abundant, then this breaks monopoly power and brings down the cost of that labour to a much lower level than was formerly the case. When computer programmers are ten-a-penny, then capital is perfectly happy to identify this as one form of skilled labour in its employ…” (pp. 119-120).

Now we can update that explanation by factoring in immigration. Harvey highlights increased access to training as means of increasing the numbers of skilled workers, but he misses—and this is odd, because he has worked in universities for most of his life—the fact that another key way to increase the numbers is by bringing in foreign students to undergo such training, and then retaining those foreign students, or otherwise importing specialists from abroad through formal immigration. This is in fact a central plank in the platform of Hillary Clinton in her 2016 presidential run—around which silence generally prevails thanks to the diversionary tactics of political correctness that I mentioned above. Thus in Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology & Innovation, we can read the following:

Attract and Retain the Top Talent from Around the World: Our immigration system is plagued by visa backlogs and other barriers that prevent high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs from coming to, staying in, and creating jobs in America. Far too often, we require talented persons from other countries who are trained in U.S. universities to return home, rather than stay in here and continue to contribute to our economy. As part of a comprehensive immigration solution, Hillary would ‘staple’ a green card to STEM masters and PhDs from accredited institutions—enabling international students who complete degrees in these fields to move to green card status. Hillary will also support ‘start-up’ visas that allow top entrepreneurs from abroad to come to the United States, build companies in technology-oriented globally traded sectors, and create more jobs and opportunities for American workers. Immigrant entrepreneurs would have to obtain a commitment of financial support from U.S. investors before obtaining the visa, and would have to create a certain number of jobs and reach performance benchmarks in order to pursue a green card”.

Thus US students who acquired massive debts to gain degrees in STEM disciplines, will find it increasingly harder to get their heads above water when they have to compete with immigrants for a finite number of positions, or when their salaries drop as the availability of replacement workers increases. What Clinton is proposing is nothing very new: she would be formalizing and making more efficient the already existing realities of competition from foreign white-collar workers (see Munro, 2016).

At the root of capitalists’ power to depress wage levels, is the depression of employment opportunities. In the US case, it is not just the fact that immigrant workers are competing for jobs, it’s that they are also getting a disproportionate share of the available employment opportunities. Thus while foreign-born workers make up only 15% of all workers, they gained 31% of new jobs (see Kummer, 2015).

In Marx’s analysis, the interest of capitalists is in possessing a vast “industrial reserve army” in order to contain the ambitions of the employed (Harvey, 2014, pp. 79-80). And, as Harvey adds, “if such a labour surplus did not exist, then capital would need to create one” (p. 80). How would it do that? Harvey identifies two ways to create a labour surplus: technologically induced unemployment (automation), and opening access to new labour supplies (such as outsourcing to China) (p. 80). It is again peculiar that Harvey does not list another obvious option: expand the “domestic” supply of labour by importing labourers (immigration). Since immigration can play an important role in creating a labour surplus, then why not mention it?

So far we have talked about how immigration is used to break the monopoly power of labour, by expanding the domestic supply of labour, or by outsourcing. Harvey does mention in passing that immigration can serve as a spatial fix for the capitalist system, by redistributing surplus labour where it is needed most (p. 152). But spatial fixes of a contemporary kind appear in two forms—one of them is what we call outsourcing or offshoring (p. 148). Offshoring essentially makes workers subsidize capital—it is one of the absurdities of contemporary “free trade” that all sorts of government subsidies to workers are banned, but workers can be super-exploited at atrociously low wage levels that account for the competitive global cheapness of their products. That is a subsidy, just not a voluntary one, and not a state subsidy. However, offshoring, where jobs go overseas, is just one way to increase competition among workers. A second method is what we might call onshoring: it’s not the jobs that go to meet workers overseas, it’s workers overseas who migrate to meet the jobs—immigration. Unfortunately, Harvey does not mention onshoring as part of a pair of options along with offshoring.

Historically, immigration has been used to depress the wages of workers in the receiving nation. This is especially true in the US case. As Paul Street recently explained,

“The ever-shifting supply and demand for labor power is a factor that holds no small relevance to the triumphs, trials and tribulations of the American working class past and present. As the leading left U.S. economist Richard Wolff explains, the long historical rise in real wages in the United States ended more than thirty years ago thanks to ‘the combination of computerization, exported jobs, women surging into the labor market, and a new wave of immigration… this time mainly from Latin America, especially Mexico and Central America…. Capitalists from Main Street to Wall Street quickly realized that employers could slow or stop wage increases, given that supply now exceeded demand in the labor market…’

“If you don’t believe immigration is used by employers to depress living and working standards in the U.S., then take a job in any U.S. factory that has a significant number of unpleasant low-skill tasks. You will see your capitalist bosses keeping wages down and workers cowed and oppressed by (among other things) hiring immigrants whose experience of extreme poverty, violence, and other forms of misery in their lands of origin make them more than ready to work obediently and without outward complaint for $10 an hour or less in ‘modern manufacturing’”.

Nonetheless, “expert opinion” persists in creating the myth that immigration has no negative impact on workers.

Another key way that immigration can sustain capital has to do with the purchasing power of wages. As we have seen, it’s in the interest of capitalists to keep wages as low as possible. However, the contradiction that arises—and Harvey devotes considerable attention to this—is that lower wages means less money available to purchase goods, which shrinks market size, and reduces the profit gained by capitalists. So if workers all have less money, what to do to sustain demand? One option is to increase wages—bad. Another option is to increase credit, as is being done. A third option is to increase the total mass of workers—as is also being done. Workers may all have less money to spend, but by importing more workers, you have a greater number of people spending (however little). Thus immigration can help to sustain or even increase demand, without increasing wages (see p. 82).

“A phenomenal rate of growth in the total labour force,” Harvey writes, “would augment the mass of capital being produced even though the individual rate of return was falling” (p. 107). However, Harvey does not mention that one way to engineer a phenomenal growth in the total labour force is by fostering mass immigration, or tacitly allowing for large numbers of people to enter illegally. What Harvey does say is that immigration can help to support future economic growth, but it’s not clear how as soon after he says that, in the US case, “job creation since 2008 has not kept pace with the expansion of the labour force” and that the seeming decline in the unemployment rate instead reflects “a shrinkage in the proportion of working-age population seeking to participate in the labour force” (pp. 230-231). Again, he fails to consider the impact of millions entering the work force from abroad.

Why David Harvey would appear reticent about producing a focused critique of immigration, might be explained by one very peculiar line in his book, where he seems to blame the working class itself, and its attitudes toward others, for its own unemployment through offshoring:

“When a rising anti-immigrant fervour among the working classes grabbed hold, capital migrated to the Mexican maquilas, the Chinese and Bangladeshi factories, in a mass movement to wherever surplus labour was to be had”. (Harvey, 2014, p. 174)

What a disappointing statement. Suddenly, capital is no longer in charge, in this abrupt deviation from Harvey’s central narrative. It is the working classes that have somehow “grabbed hold”. How did they achieve such power as to grab hold of the very production processes that they never owned? And if the working classes had a cheerier view of competition from immigrant labour, would those jobs not have still gone overseas? Do capitalists make their decisions on where to gain the most profit, by first consulting workers on what they feel about others? I don’t know that there is any evidence at all that can remotely validate such an absurd conclusion.

Where Harvey might have found a more fruitful point of entry, in his own discussion, is where he wrote that “three of the most lucrative businesses in contemporary capitalism” are “trafficking women, peddling drugs or clandestinely selling arms” (p. 32). Trafficking “women”? Why not trafficking workers—as is the case with illegal immigration, which is exploited by human traffickers in far greater numbers than the trade in women alone? Either way, “open” or weak borders are a boon to the “three most lucrative businesses” of contemporary capitalism. The best way to maximize the growth in the total labour force is precisely by illegal means, because as should be obvious “illegal” means that the movement is: (a) unregulated by the state, and not subject to political debate; (b) unrestricted in volume; and, (c) the situation where workers cannot avail themselves of rights under labour laws.

In the frame of current political debates in the US, Harvey reminds us of some important points. One is that it was under the administration of President Bill Clinton that the US saw a vast increase in the number of poverty-ridden unemployed workers. In return, Harvey points out, “Clinton has been handsomely rewarded since by business organisations, earning some $17 million in 2012 from speaker’s fees mainly from business groups” (p. 176). One of the many things shared in common between Bill and Hillary Clinton is therefore a consistent set of policy-making designed to ensure the growth of the “reserve army” of workers. Otherwise, with current debates in mind, there is little in the book to explain how Mexico, as an example, gains from the outflow of migrants to the US (producing remittances) along with the production of cheap goods for export. One would think this was important, because it disturbs established neo-Marxist models of the one-way flow of capital from the periphery to the centre—or maybe it doesn’t, but that is why further discussion would be useful.

Otherwise, Harvey does have some useful insights into how we are witnessing a conflict between “politics” and “economics” over migration policies (p. 156). By politics, he means the state, and the territoriality of state power, and by economics he means the interests of capital. As Harvey observes, “the constructed loyalty of citizens to their states conflicts in principle with capital’s singular loyalty to making money and nothing else” (p. 157). In what again should have been an opening for Harvey to reflect on immigration, he writes that, “affections and loyalties to particular places and cultural forms are viewed as anachronisms” which he follows by asking: “Is this not what the spread of the neoliberal ethic proposed and eventually accomplished?” (p. 277). Here we might revisit Naomi Klein’s comments above.

A less charitable argument about Seventeen Contradictions would be that the persistent reluctance of David Harvey in allowing his critiques to incorporate the realities of immigration is troubling, in part because it suggests a weakness not just in the analytical frame, but also in the ability or willingness to analyze. A more charitable argument would say that Harvey explicitly admits to leaving out race and gender among the contradictions he studies (p. 7), and therefore immigration might just be another of the contradictions he did not address. His reasoning is that race and gender conflicts are not specific to capitalism—and one might say that mass migrations of human populations long preceded capitalism too. However, contemporary inter-state migration definitely is a phenomenon of the modern capitalist system, and thus his logic of exclusion would not apply, and I might add that his argument is also on particularly shaky grounds when it comes to racism (which is not a prehistoric form of labour discipline and discrimination).

Immigration: Serving the Owners of Votes

If you agree with Marx, that it’s in the interest of capitalists to possess a large reserve army of unemployed workers to keep wage levels down and to possibly break the back of collective labour organization, then you would not think that the creation of disposable workers was in any way new. (You also do not need to be a Marxist to agree with what is in fact an observation of reality.) However, it should also be clear that in the US, Canada, and parts of Europe, deindustrialization that stems from free-trade deals has left many more unemployed than previously. The phenomenon of increased job loss due to globalized free trade is particular to neoliberal capitalism. Clearly for those benefiting from this state of affairs—the political and economic elites who rule this system to their own advantage—a crisis has set it in for them now that they experience a backlash from those they dispossessed. Liberal democracy, a system of power, was only permitted once politics were divorced from economics, and voting did not appear to threaten the economic system (Macpherson, 1965, pp. 12, 13, 51). However, once dispossessed workers find a way to register their protests through elections, then that boundary begins to break down. No wonder then that liberal democratic elites now routinely proclaim that what we are witnessing today is the “suicide of democracy,” writing even in apocalyptic terms that “the end is nigh” and that “tyranny” is coming. What is at an end—because it had to be, it was so obviously irrational and unsustainable—is the “democratic elitist” system the rulers created that they hoped would preserve the economic system by removing popular politics (Bachrach, 1980). Instead, voters now realize that in exceptional cases they can, in effect, cast a vote on globalization, free trade, and neoliberalism—as in the case of the UK’s Brexit vote and in the case of the Trump movement in the US.

(But who knew that the elites could be so delicate, and hysterical, that now when they are richer than ever before in human history any talk of a reduction in their ability to take more is conceived in terms of suicide and apocalypse?)

Otherwise liberal democracy never makes such questions about free-trade or immigration available for popular decision-making. It never meant to, as workers are held in deep disdain (see Krugman, 2016; Confessore, 2016). In the case of Brexit, there has been open disregard for democracy by those who voted for Remain—everything from calling on parliament to simply ignore the result of the referendum, to calling for a second referendum with a higher threshold for victory for Brexit to be possible, and both efforts have failed. Members of the metropolitan left have turned on the working class. That some of the advocates of Remain were motivated by the prospects of new quantities of cheap labour, is something that did not escape attention. The oligarchs are in deep trouble, and they would like the rest of us to save them.

An oligarchic system that is in trouble, looks for solutions of course. Having rendered the majority of existing workers disposable, the key lies in finding ways to also make them disposable as voters. Fortunately for the oligarchs, history offers them solutions. On the US State Department’s own website, there are lessons for regime survival from politicians who imported grateful immigrants as a new supply of voters. One of these cases concerns Guyana under the rule of Forbes Burnham and the People’s National Congress (PNC). With a working class divided between Afro- and Indo-Guyanese, with the latter supporting the opposition party and having greater numbers, what Burnham did was to import black immigrants from some of the nearby smaller islands of the Caribbean, who would vote PNC in thanks for Burnham’s patronage. Similar things happened in Trinidad & Tobago, under the US-allied government of Eric Williams and the People’s National Movement (PNM). In this it was widely suspected that the large growth in the immigrant population from Grenada and St. Vincent boosted the PNM voter base.

In the US, there seems to be relief bordering on glee when Democrats can pronounce the decline in the number of white working class voters, and the rise in number of Hispanic voters—thanks to both immigration, both legal and illegal, which their policies helped to support. I would not argue that the current rulers of the US directly took hints on regime survival from states that used immigration to engineer new demographic bases of support—nor do I think that the logic is so exotic that it needs to be imported. Instead, the point is to understand how immigration is used as a tool for regime survival in an ethnically-divided nation. An unusually wise insight came from one of the right-wing talk radio hosts in the US who, in mocking the political correctness of calling illegal immigrants “undocumented workers,” he instead called them “undocumented Democrats”.

“Open borders” provide the opportunity for extending the lifespan of an unpopular regime. The ruling elites realize that: (a) disposable workers are disposable voters, and, (b) that they can always import a new voter base, grateful for their patronage—as long as they can make their pro-immigration talk stick. This is where they turn to identity politics, the neo-tribal lobby, and righteous moral narcissism that exploits calculated expressions of outrage. As the oligarchs turn to the rest of us to save them, many have fallen for the seductive, exploitative politics of identity and moral outrage. Some do so under the illusion that they are in some age-old fight against “fascism,” and they come to the fight appropriately armed with photos posted to social media of the classic Marxist texts from the 1800s and early 1900s that they are proudly reading. Others do so because once again they let instant emotional reactions guide them toward aims they barely perceive.

What is instructive is that the real Fascism did not take root in a nation that was experiencing high levels of immigration. Instead, it emerged in one of the world’s leading producers of emigrants: Italy, where the very concept of fascism was invented. Indeed, actually existing historical Fascism included a plan for colonization in order to settle and employ a burgeoning population at home—none of which describes Trump’s positions.

While immigration can sustain regime survival at home, it can also be a destabilizing factor when it stems from regime change abroad. Immigration was a leading factor motivating the recent Brexit victory in the UK (see Kummer, 2016a, for details). As some have explained, “British society has been transformed by a wave of immigration unprecedented in its history”: since the advent of Tony Blair’s government, “roughly twice as many immigrants arrived in the United Kingdom as had arrived in the previous half-century” (Salam, 2016a). As a result, some have argued that Brexit is a victory for Britain’s working class.

eu-poll-immigration-as-top-concern-2 poll-most-important-issue-facing-the-eu

In the European case, the aftermath of the massive inflow of refugees and migrants during the past two years, traveling via Turkey, Greece, and Libya, has not promoted stability for the dominant political class. Here we see European governments, some of which actively supported/support US regime change campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, reaping the blowback of a refugee influx. Having created weakened states or virtual non-states in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, while severely undermining the Syrian state, the unprecedented levels of violence in those nations have generated massive refugee populations. For a while, it was possible to transfer the burden to nations little or least able to afford hosting refugees, such as Jordan, Turkey, and even a badly crippled Greece. Syria itself hosted hundreds of thousands of Iraqis after the US invasion. Once a portion of the region’s refugee populations began to move northward, into the European Union, the ruling political elites effectively transferred the costs to the working class, by crowding them out of already reduced social services that have shrunk under austerity, and expecting them to be accommodating. Protests from the working class were then labelled “racist” and “xenophobic,” especially by supposed “progressives”. The point here ought not to have been whether those who can least afford making room for refugees and migrants should be welcoming or hostile—the point is that Western nations should not have created those refugee populations in the first place, as they did with their invasions, occupations, and bombing campaigns.

Conclusion: The Vanishing Left?

Thus far we have witnessed a number of cases where the left, broadly speaking, has abandoned any effort to articulate a critical perspective on immigration. We see it in cases such as,

  • the retreat of leftist politicians and activists from critiques of immigration, as with Naomi Klein and Bernie Sanders, who have either gone silent or reversed themselves;
  • the clear reluctance of Marxist academics like David Harvey in drawing obvious connections within their own work;
  • leftists denouncing working classes resisting the added austerity of losing access to health, education, and social services to make room for migrants; and,
  • political elites who try to appeal to the left, claiming to be progressives who support migrants from Mexico and Central America.

However, given the way immigration has been enmeshed in sustaining neoliberal capitalism, and given the current collapse of neoliberal rule, the left is threatening itself with extinction by following along the tracks of neoliberal politicians. “I won’t vote for a racist or bigot” can easily be translated as “I am saving the oligarchy”. What we may be witnessing in the West then is an even bigger historical turning point than some of us might have previously imagined—where the future will be shaped by the left’s absence from the future. Even if one is less pessimistic, the left could amount to little more than a residue, a legacy, that occasionally appears in the form of various surface appearances or a series of phrases and motifs, rather than a substantial social force.

Without a left, current left-right distinctions (which are already blurred and evaporating, on all sides) will become increasingly meaningless, especially as the right begins to take over key issues and concerns that were once the domain of the left. Taken a few steps further, in the US case what could happen is a new reversal: the Democrats will be more clearly positioned as the Party of Big Business, while the Republicans will become the Party of Workers, but in no absolute fashion as both parties are essentially multi-class alliances. Whatever left there may be, whatever left may mean, it will have to rework its alignments accordingly and write new core texts for itself.

The most important thing we should do now, in broad political terms, is to subject immigration to democratic decision-making. It needs to be debated thoroughly, and there should be broad public consultation. Simply shaming people into silence, with the aid of facile and sometimes hypocritical charges of “racism,” will not do as a substitute for democracy. The public needs to know how immigration can impact wages, prices, employment opportunities, social services, and union organizing—given that the subject is so deeply tied to economic, welfare, and trade policy. At present in the US I suspect that, for too many on the left, the US should be held more answerable to non-US citizens for its immigration policy than to US citizens, and this is a harmful and irrational approach. In addition, too often immigration policy-making has been sequestered behind the closed doors of committees that are laced with influence from private interests, producing twisted and shady immigration programs, and deflecting debate until momentous turning points—by which time the political field has become so polarized, that debate proceeds only in the most absolute terms. Finally, in terms of US foreign policy, what needs to be reversed is the decades-long practice of promoting the US internationally as a beacon, a model, the highest point of human achievement in wealth and development, that makes it the automatic choice of destination for so many, who choose it with little question and without knowing better.

Notes

  1. I confess that sometimes I find Harvey’s explanations and definitions to be murky—for example, at one point he defines capital in a manner that seems to include everything economic: capital is money, land, resources, factories, and labourers labouring (p. 73). If labour is capital, then how can there be a contradiction between capital and labour? At other moments, his distinction between capital and capitalism becomes cloudy, such that we may not know if he means a contradiction of capital, or a contradiction in capitalism—and the title of his book (“the end of capitalism”) does not help to make the case for the former. He says he is making a clear distinction between capital and capitalism, and where he says he does that he only offers his definition of capitalism (p. 7). So no distinction is actually offered, and nearly 70 pages later capital is defined basically as a thing or maybe as processes for making things—and since things do not make history, and processes are processes of something, it would seem that capitalism is what makes sense of capital. As I confessed, it was quite confusing. However, given the routine anthropomorphosis of capital in Harvey’s work, such that “capital” takes on human qualities of initiative, decision-making, and action, this suggests that he too might not be all that clear on when to write “capital” and when to write “capitalists”.

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