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US Policymakers Openly Plot Against Venezuela

By Tony Cartalucci | Land Destroyer | May 24, 2017

The US media has been paying increasing attention to the unfolding crisis in the South American nation of Venezuela. As the US media has done elsewhere, it is attempting to portray the unfolding crisis as a result of a corrupt dictatorship fighting against a “pro-democracy” opposition.

In reality, it is simply a repeat of US-driven regime change aimed at toppling Venezuela’s independent state institutions and replacing them with institutions created by and for US special interests.

The “opposition” is comprised of US-backed political parties and US-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) many of which are listed on the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) website.

The UK Independent in a 2016 article titled, “Venezuela accuses US of plotting coup as Washington warns of ‘imminent collapse’,” would even admit:

… observers of the region point out that the US has a long history of seeking to interfere in the politics of Venezuela, as well as elsewhere in Latin America.

In addition to supporting those who ousted Mr Chavez in 2002, the US poured hundreds of thousands of dollars to his opponents via the so-called National Endowment for Democracy.

To understand America’s actual role amid Venezuela’s unfolding crisis, one must read policy papers produced by organizations called “think tanks” which devise and promote US policy.

The Brookings Institution is a Fortune 500-funded policy think tank. It is populated by policymakers who represent the collective ambitions of some of the world’s most powerful corporate-financier interests including big-oil, defense, agricultural monopolies, pharmaceutical corporations, media interests, and more.

Some of the Brookings Institution’s corporate-financier sponsors

Brookings and think tanks similar to it, have regularly produced policy and media guidelines later disseminated across the Western media and Western legislatures through public relations firms and lobbyists. Think tanks are where the real agenda of the West is agreed upon and promoted from.

A recent piece featured upon the Brookings Institution’s website titled, “Venezuela: A path out of crisis,” lays out a 5-point plan toward escalating Venezuela’s already precarious situation (emphasis added):

1. The United States could expand its assistance to countries that until now have been dependent on Venezuelan oil, as a means to decrease regional support for and dependence on the Maduro government.

2. The United States could increase monetary assistance to credible civil society organizations and nongovernmental organizations able to deliver food and medicines to Venezuelans. By doing so, the United States should make clear that international pressure aims to support democracy, not punish the Venezuelan people.

3. The United States could support efforts by the opposition in Venezuela to build an “off-ramp” that would split moderate elements of the government away from hardliners, encouraging the former to acquiesce to a transition to democracy by lowering their costs of exiting government.

4. The United States could coordinate with international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to offer financial incentives for holding free and fair elections in 2018, and for the opposition to unify and compete in those elections. Such coordination would also involve developing and publicizing a credible plan to restart Venezuela’s economy.

5. As a last resort, the United States could consider raising economic costs to the government through an expanded sanctions regime that aims to limit Venezuelan earnings from oil exports and block further financing. This policy is risky, given that the Maduro government would be able to more credibly shift blame for the economic crisis onto the United States, and should be accompanied by well-publicized efforts to deliver humanitarian aid through credible civil society and nongovernmental organizations.

It is a prescription for further economic isolation, US-funded political subversion, and with its reference to “a transition to democracy,” an oblique call for regime change.

The US media – particularly organizations operating from under right cover – have portrayed Venezuela’s economic crisis as primarily related to “socialism” and corruption. In reality, factors that would have only impeded the full realization of Venezuela’s economic progress have been intentionally compounded through US sanctions, economic sabotage, and political subversion to precipitate the currently unfolding socioeconomic and humanitarian crisis.

Venezuela would not be the first nation the US targeted for economic implosion in South America.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its own online archives available to the public under a section titled, “CIA Activities in Chile,” would admit (emphasis added):

According to the Church Committee report, in their meeting with CIA Director Richard Helms and Attorney General John Mitchell on 15 September 1970 President Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, directed the CIA to prevent Allende from taking power. They were “not concerned [about the] risks involved,” according to Helms’ notes. In addition to political action, Nixon and Kissinger, according to Helms’s notes, ordered steps to “make the economy scream.”

These Cold War attitudes persisted into the Pinochet era. After Pinochet came to power, senior policymakers appeared reluctant to criticize human rights violations, taking to task US diplomats urging greater attention to the problem. US military assistance and sales grew significantly during the years of greatest human rights abuses. According to a previously released Memorandum of Conversation, Kissinger in June 1976 indicated to Pinochet that the US Government was sympathetic to his regime, although Kissinger advised some progress on human rights in order to improve Chile’s image in the US Congress.

With violence increasing in the streets of Venezuela and many of the rhetorical tactics used to set the stage for violent  regime change and humanitarian catastrophe in Libya and Syria are now being used to topple the government in Caracas – the world must get ahead of the propaganda and begin exposing this open conspiracy against yet another sovereign nation.

Venezuela’s political system is for the Venezuelan people themselves to decide – without US interference. A government dominated by US-backed opposition members will leave Venezuela as an extension of US corporate-financier special interests, not an alternative or check against them. This only serves in inviting further abuse by these interests not only in South America, but all around the world – Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Ukraine for example – where America’s unwarranted wealth and influence is sowing instability, conflict, and catastrophe.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Tory Lead Tumbling

By Matthew JAMISON | Strategic Culture Foundation | 23.05.2017

It has been quite a few weeks in the latest British General Election. The really interesting story is how the Conservative Party’s lead in the opinion polls keeps dropping. At the outset of the announcement of a General Election in the middle of April the Tories stood atop what looked like an insurmountable opinion poll lead. The opinion poll companies put the lead at somewhere in the range of 18-22%. This would have given the Conservative Party its biggest landslide majority in the House of Commons since the 1980s. Even as matters stand now the Conservatives are still on course to win the election and with a larger majority than at the 2015 General Election.

Yet their opinion poll lead rather than holding up or growing ahead of Election Day set for Thursday June 8th is actually declining as the campaign wears on. With so much of the mainstream press in Britain backing Theresa May’s Tory Party and the overwhelmingly hostile campaign of nearly all the newspapers and members of his own Parliamentary Party, Mr. Corbyn, had been pronounced by many in the London media and indeed within his party in the House of Commons as a dead man walking with no hope of slashing the Tory lead let alone consistently week on week bring it down by 3-4%. Now the Tories once mighty lead has fallen by nearly 10% in the space of three weeks or so. At this rate come election day it may even be tied between Labour and the Conservatives or a few points separating them.

How has this happened. Well, it would appear that while most of Mr. Corbyn’s Parliamentary Party were plotting his downfall with various journalists he and the Labour Leadership have been developing rich policy work across a range of public policy areas in need of drastic reform. Since the formal launch of the campaign all we have had from Theresa May and her Conservatives is one vacuous slogan: «Strong and Stable leadership.» Nothing on the NHS and the funding crisis it and schools in Britain are facing. Nothing on plans to update and improve Britain’s appalling infrastructure; nothing to help bring down the cost of living holding shark landlords and extortionate rents to account. Nothing on the job creation of the future. Basically on all the important domestic policies which affect people’s lives, Theresa May and the Conservative Party have said and presented nothing.

When she and her colleagues have finally started discussing their actual policies and governing vision for Britain it actually started to frighten some of what were thought to be some of the most reliable of the Tory horses – Pensioners. Pensioners and those nearing retirement were greeted with the Tory prospect that a «dementia tax» would be introduced which would see elderly people receiving social care and having to fund the entire cost, until they reached their last £100,000 of assets. They are quite a large voting bloc and overwhelmingly backed Brexit against the wishes of future generations who will actually be alive when those who voted for Brexit are long gone.

The average UK house price stands at £215,847, so the «dementia tax» would affect many middle-class voters. It is being compared to Margaret Thatcher’s flagship policy of her third term – the «Community Charge» or Poll Tax which proved so unpopular in the country that it fuelled a massive rebellion that ended her near 16 year leadership of the Conservative Party. So, perhaps British voters are finally, finally just starting (and here I emphasize just starting) to finally wake up and realize that the Tories are a deeply divisive, sinister party who offer nothing for those who need it the most and are a tiny clique of a party that represents the interests a very privileged, powerful, wealthy minority whose number one political agenda is to protect and preserve their privileges and vested interests while ensuring the perpetuation of economic and social inequality which suits the preservation and enhancement of their established wealth and with it power to the detriment of the country as a whole. There have also been Mrs. May’s lukewarm attitude towards preserving the «triple lock» on pensions and the possibility that VAT already at a staggering 20% may go up after the next Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party have been rolling out what appear to be well thought out; costed and popular policies with key constituencies across the UK. Many people have started to say that Jeremy Corbyn’s message on the home front or his foreign policy views make a great deal of sense and he is not the Stalinist madman that the likes of the Daily Mail and the Sun have made him out to be while Mrs. May’s vacuous, meaningless slogan «strong and stable leadership» is starting to wear very thin with little policy meat on the bones to back it up and what there is such as the «dementia tax» are thoroughly nasty, horrible policies. Mrs. May; her inadequate team and the party she leads may find come polling day they squandered one of the largest opinion poll leads in the shortest space of time imaginable. If by June 9th we are back to the situation of 2010 where no one party commands an overall working majority in the House of Commons there could very well be the possibility of a Labour/Liberal/SNP alliance forming a Coalition Government with the Greens thrown in for good measure. What delicious irony it would be if the only exit Mrs. May gets to preside over is her own exit from No. 10 Downing Street in the days after June 8th.

May 23, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment

All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron

Photo by Blandine Le Cain | CC BY 2.0
By Diana Johnstone | CounterPunch | May 22, 2017

A ghost of the past was the real winner of the French presidential election. Emmanuel Macron won only because a majority felt they had to vote against the ghost of “fascism” allegedly embodied by his opponent, Marine Le Pen. Whether out of panic or out of the need to feel respectable, the French voted two to one in favor of a man whose program most of them either ignored or disliked. Now they are stuck with him for five years.

If people had voted on the issues, the majority would never have elected a man representing the trans-Atlantic elite totally committed to “globalization”, using whatever is left of the power of national governments to weaken them still further, turning over decision-making to “the markets” – that is, to international capital, managed by the major banks and financial institutions, notably those located in the United States, such as Goldman-Sachs.

The significance of this election is so widely misrepresented that clarification requires a fairly thorough explanation, not only of the Macron project, but also of what the (impossible) election of Marine Le Pen would have meant.

From a Two Party to a Single Party System

Despite the multiparty nature of French elections, for the past generation France has been essentially ruled by a two-party system, with government power alternating between the Socialist Party, roughly the equivalent of the U.S. Democratic Party, and a party inherited from the Gaullist tradition which has gone through various name changes before recently settling on calling itself Les Républicains (LR), in obvious imitation of the United States. For decades, there has been nothing “socialist” about the Socialist Party and nothing Gaullist about The Republicans. In reality, both have adopted neoliberal economic policies, or more precisely, they have followed European Union directives requiring member states to adopt neoliberal economic policies. Especially since the adoption of the common currency, the euro, a little over fifteen years ago, those economic policies have become tangibly harmful to France, hastening its deindustrialization, the ruin of its farmers and the growing indebtedness of the State to private banks.

This has had inevitable political repercussions. The simplest reaction has been widespread reaction against both parties for continuing to pursue the same unpopular policies. The most thoughtful reaction has been to start realizing that it is the European Union itself that imposes this unpopular economic conformism.

To quell growing criticism of the European Union, the well-oiled Macron machine, labeled “En Marche!” has exploited the popular reaction against both governing parties. It has broken and absorbed large parts of both, in an obvious move to turn En Marche! into a single catch-all party loyal to Macron.

The destruction of the Socialist Party was easy. Since the “Socialist” government was so unpopular that it could not hope to win, it was easy to lure prominent members of that party to jump the sinking ship and rally to Macron, who had been economics minister in that unpopular government, but who was advertised by all the media as “new” and “anti-system”.

Weakening the Republicans was trickier. Thanks to the deep unpopularity of the outgoing Socialist government, the Republican candidate, François Fillon, looked like a shoo-in. But despite his pro-business economic policies, Fillon still cared about preserving France, and favored an independent foreign policy including good relations with Russia. It is unknown who dug into old records to come up with information about the allegedly fake jobs Fillon gave to his wife and children in past years, and how they were passed on to the weekly Canard Enchainé to be revealed at a critical moment in the campaign. The uproar drowned out the issues. To an electorate already wary of “establishment politicians”, these revelations were fatal. The impression that “politicians are all corrupt” played into the hands of Emmanuel Macron, too young to have done anything worse than make a few quick millions during his passage through the Rothschild Bank, and there’s nothing illegal about that.

In France, the presidential election is followed by parliamentary elections, which normally give a majority to the party of the newly elected president. But Macron had no party, so he is creating one for the occasion, made up of defectors from the major defeated parties as well as his own innovation, candidates from “civil society”, with no political experience, but loyal to him personally. These “civil society” newcomers tend to be successful individuals, winners in the game of globalized competition, who will have no trouble voting for anti-labor measures. Macron is thus confirming Marine Le Pen’s longstanding assertion that the two main parties were really one big single party, whose rhetorical differences masked their political convergence.

The Macron victory demoralized Republicans. Weakening them further, Macron named a Republican, Edouard Philippe, as his Prime Minister, in a government with four Socialist and two Republican, alongside his own selections from “civil society”.

Transforming France

Macron won in part because older voters in particular were frightened by his opponents’ hints at leaving the European Union, which they have been indoctrinated to consider necessary to prevent renewal of Europe’s old wars. But only the hysterical anti-fascist scare can explain why self-styled leftist “revolutionaries” such as François Ruffin, known for his successful anti-capitalist movie “Merci Patron”, could join the stampede to vote for Macron – promising to “oppose him later”. But how?

Later, after five years of Macron, opposition may be harder than ever. In recent decades, as manufacturing moves to low wage countries, including EU members such as Poland and Rumania, France has lost 40% of its industry. Loss of industry means loss of jobs and fewer workers. When industry is no longer essential, workers have lost their key power: striking to shut down industry. Currently the desperate workers in a failing auto-works factory in central France are threatening to blow it up unless the government takes measures to save their jobs. But violence is powerless when it has no price tag.

Emmanuel Macron has said that he wants to spend only a short time in political life, before getting back to business. He has a mission, and he is in a hurry. If he gains an absolute majority in the June parliamentary elections, he has a free hand to govern for five years. He means to use this period not to “reform” the country, as his predecessors put it, but to “transform” France into a different sort of country. If he has his way, in five years France will no longer be a sovereign nation, but a reliable region in a federalized European Union, following a rigorous economic policy made in Germany by bankers and a bellicose foreign policy made in Washington by neocons.

As usual, the newly elected French president’s first move was to rush to Berlin to assert loyalty to the increasingly lopsided “Franco-German partnership”. He was most warmly welcomed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanks to his clear determination to force through the austerity measures demanded by the Frankfurt budget masters. Macron hopes that his fiscal obedience will be rewarded by German consent to a European investment fund for stimulating economic growth, but this implies a degree of federalism that the pfennig-pinching Germans show little sign of accepting.

First of all, he has promised to complete the dismantling of the French labor code, which offers various protections to workers. This should save money for employers and the government. For Macron, the ruin of French industry and French farming seem to be welcome steps toward an economy of individual initiative, symbolized by startups.

The Macron program amounts to a profound ideological transformation of the French ideal of égalité, equality, from a horizontal concept, meaning equal benefits for all, to the vertical ideal of “equality of opportunity”, meaning the theoretical chance of every individual to rise above the others. This is an ideal easily accepted in the United States with its longstanding myth of the self-made man. The French have traditionally been logical enough to understand that everyone can’t rise above the others.

Horizontal equality in France has primarily meant institutional redistribution of wealth via universal access to benefits such as health care, pensions, communications and transportation facilities, allocations for families raising children, unemployment insurance, free education at all levels. These are the benefits that are under threat from the European Union in various ways. One way is the imposition of “competition” rules that impose privatization and favor foreign takeovers that transform public services into profit-seekers. Another is the imposition of public budget restrictions, along with the obligation of the State to seek private loans, increasing its debt, and the loss of tax revenue that all end up up making the State too poor to continue providing such services.

Very few French people would want to give up such horizontal equality for the privilege of hoping to become a billionaire.

Macron is sufficiently Americanized, or, to be more precise, globalized, to have declared that “there is no such thing as French culture”. From this viewpoint, France is just a place open to diverse cultures, as well as to immigrants and of course foreign capital. He has clearly signaled his rejection of French independence in the foreign policy field. Unlike his leading rivals, who all called for improved relations with Russia, Macron echoes the Russophobic line of the neocons. He broke tradition on his inauguration by riding down the Champs-Elysées in a military vehicle. A change of tone is indicated by his cabinet nominations. The title of the new foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who served as defense minister in the Hollande government, is “Minister of Europe and of Foreign Affairs”, clearly giving Europe preference in the matter. Sylvie Goulard, an ardent Europeist who has remarked that “she does not feel French”, has been named Minister of Armies and Minister of Defense. Clearly national defense is an afterthought, when the main idea is to deploy the armed forces in various joint Western interventions.

The Divided Opposition

Unless the June parliamentary elections produce stunning surprises, the opposition to Macron’s catch-all governance party appears weak and fatally divided. The Socialist Party is almost wiped out. The Republicans are profoundly destabilized. Genuine opposition to the Macron regime can only be based on defense of French interests against EU economic dictates, starting with the euro, which prevents the country from pursuing an independent economic and foreign policy. In short, the genuine opposition must be “souverainiste”, concerned with preserving French sovereignty.

Two strong personalities emerged from the presidential election as potential leaders of that opposition: Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen. But they are drastically divided.

Mélenchon ran a spectacularly popular campaign, leaving the Socialist Party far behind (the party he personally left behind years ago). Initially, as he seemed to be taking votes away from Le Pen as well as from the Socialists, he got friendly media coverage, but as he came closer to making it to the decisive second round, the tone started to change. Just as Le Pen was finally knocked out as a “fascist”, there is little doubt that had Mélenchon been Macron’s challenger, he would have been increasingly denounced as “communist”.

Mélenchon is intelligent enough to have realized that the social policies he advocates cannot be achieved unless France recovers control of its currency. He therefore took a stand against both NATO and the euro.  So did Marine Le Pen. Mélenchon was embarrassed by the resemblance between their two programs, and contrary to other eliminated candidates, refrained from endorsing Macron, instead calling on his movement, La France Insoumise, to choose between Macron and abstention. Finally, 25% of Mélenchon voters abstained in the second round, but 62% voted for Macron – almost exclusively motivated by the alleged need to “stop fascism”. That compares with the final total results of 66% for Macron and 34 % for Le Pen.

That vote confirmed the impossibility of forming a unified souverainiste opposition and allows Marine Le Pen to strengthen her claim to be the leader of a genuine opposition to Macron. She has admitted her own mistakes in the campaign, particularly in her debate with Macron, who beat her hands down with his arrogant performance as the economic expert. But despite her mere 34%, she retains the most loyal base of supporters in a changing scene. The problem for Mélenchon is that his electorate is more versatile.

Despite his loud appeal to “youth”, Macron was elected by France’s huge population of old people. Among voters over 65, he won 80% against 20% for Le Pen. Marine Le Pen did best with the youngest age group, 18 to 24, winning 44% against Macron’s 56%[1].

The differences were also significant between socio-professional categories. Macron won a whopping 83% of the votes coming from the “superior socio-professional categories” – categories where the “winners” in competitive society are largely ensconced. But in what are described as “categories populaires”, a French term for ordinary folk, with less education, the vote was 53% in favor of Le Pen. And she confirmed her position as favorite candidate of the working class, winning 63% of workers’ votes.

Note that the “superior socio-professional categories” are where the significance of these results will be defined. Individuals from that category – journalists, commentators and show business personalities – are all in a position to spread the word that this vote indicates that the workers must be “racist”, and therefore that we have narrowly escaped being taken over by “fascism”.

One of the many odd things about the latest French presidential election is the rejoicing among foreign “leftists” over the fact that the candidate of the rich roundly defeated the candidate of the poor. It used to be the other way around, but that was long ago. These days, the winners in the competitive game comfort themselves that they morally deserve their success, because they are in favor of diversity and against racism, whereas the less fortunate, the rural people and the working class, don’t deserve much of anything, because they must be “racist” to be wary of globalization.

The fact that Paris voted 90% for Macron is natural, considering that real estate prices have pushed the working class out of the capital, whose population is now overwhelmingly what is called “bobo” – the bohemian bourgeoisie, many of whom are employed in various branches of the dominant human rights ideology fabrication business: journalists, professors, teachers, consultants, the entertainment industry.  In these milieux, hardly anyone would even dare speak a positive word about Marine Le Pen.

What if Marine Le Pen had won?

Since politics is largely fantasy, we may as well try to imagine the unimaginable: what if Marine Le Pen had won the election?  This was never a realistic possibility, but it is worth imagining.

It could have had one, perhaps only one, extremely positive result: it could have freed France from its paralyzing obsession with the nonexistent “fascist threat”. The ghost would be exorcised. If the word has any meaning, “fascism” implies single party rule, whereas Marine Le Pen made clear her desire to govern by coalition, and selected the leader of a small Gaullist party, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, as her prospective prime minister. Poof! No fascism. That would have been an immeasurable benefit for political debate in France. At last genuine issues might matter. Real threats could be confronted.

Another advantage would have been the demise of the National Front. Since Marine Le Pen took over the notorious party founded by her reactionary father, it has kept a precarious balance between two opposing wings. There is the right wing in the southeast, along the Riviera, the bastion of the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a region represented in the outgoing parliament by his conservative granddaughter Marion Maréchal Le Pen. In the old industrial northeast region, between Arras and Lille, Marine Le Pen has built her own bastion, as champion of ordinary working people, where she won a majority of votes in the presidential election.

This is not the only time in history when an heiress has gone away with the heritage to join someone of whom her father disapproves. All those who want to cling to their comforting hatred of the left’s official Satan have trouble believing that Marine Le Pen broke with her reactionary father to go her own way (just as U.S. hawks couldn’t believe in Gorbachev). This change owes everything to her encounter with Florian Philippot, an intellectual who gave up on the ability of the Socialists to face the real issues. Marine has the personal qualities of a leader, and Philippot provided the intellectual substance she needed. Marine has decisively chosen Philippot as her advisor and co-leader, despite grumblings by Jean-Marie that she has been led astray by a gay Marxist. Had Marine won, her left wing would have been strengthened enough to enable her and Philippot to scrap the National Front and found a new “Patriot Party”.  However, by scoring below 40%, she has weakened her authority and must try to hold the troublesome party together in order to win seats in the new parliament – which will not be easy.

Marine Le Pen would have tried to enact measures to save French industry and the jobs it provides, provide various benefits for low-income people, withdraw from NATO, and even promote a peaceful world, starting with friendly relations with Russia. She would even have begun to prepare her compatriots for escape from the euro.

But not to worry, none of this “fascist” program would ever have come to pass. If she had won, bands of protesting “antifascists” would have invaded the streets, smashing windows and attacking police. The outgoing Socialist government was preparing to use the resulting chaos as a pretext to stay in power long enough to manage the parliamentary elections[2], ensuring that President Marine Le Pen would be held in check. A “color revolution” was ready to be stirred up. The deep state is vigilant in NATOland.

Diana Johnstone is co-author of “From MAD to Madness: Inside Pentagon Nuclear War Planning”, by Paul H. Johnstone, her father. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr

Notes

[1] According to poll of 7,752 representative voters by Le Figaro/LCI,

[2]Si Le Pen avait été élue… le plan secret pour ‘protéger la République’”, Le Nouvel Observateur, May 17, 2017

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Here’s why Saudi Arabia and Israel are allies in all but name

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | May 22, 2017

Those who claim that Israel is opposed to Donald Trump’s now openly warm relations with Saudi Arabia are missing the actual point. On the surface, many assume that Israel and Saudi Arabia have poor relations. Neither country has diplomatic relations with one another, one is a self-styled Jewish state while the other is a Wahhabi Sunni monarchy.

But they both have the same regional goals, they both have the same enemies and both are intellectual anachronisms in a 20th century that has seen the fall of multiple monarchies, the end of traditional European colonialism and the fall of segregated regimes in Africa (Apartheid South Africa and UDI Rhodesia for example).

Israel and Saudi Arabia have always been enemies of secular, Arab nationalist states and federations. Whether an Arab state is Nasserist, Ba’athist, socialist, Marxist-Leninist or in the case of Gaddafi’s Libya a practitioner of the post-Nassierist Third Political Theory: Israel and Saudi Arabia have sought to and in large part have succeeded, with western help, at destroy such states.

Unlike Israel’s Apartheid military state and Saudi Arabia’s human rights free monarchy, the aforementioned Arab styles of government are worthy of the word modern. These are countries which had progressive mixed economies, had secular governments and societies, had full constitutional rights for religious and ethnic minorities, they championed women’s rights and engaged in mass literacy programmes and infrastructural projects. In the case of the Syrian Arab Republic, such things still apply.

Such things still have wide appeal not just in the Arab world but universally. The very charter of the UN subtly implies that such goals are the way forward.

Secular Arab governments have therefore not fallen due to their lack of popularity but they have fallen due to political and military aggression from Israel, monetary blackmail and terrorism funded from and by Saudi Arabia and a combination of all of the above from the United States and her European allies. Useful idiots in the west who claim that groups like the obscurantist and terroristic Muslim Brotherhood represent majoritarian public opinion in secular Arab states are simply worse than useful idiots: they are lying, dangerous idiots.

This is why Syria is a country that Israel and Saudi Arabia are both interested in destroying. Both countries have indeed invested time and money into destroying Syria and thus far they have not been successful.

Syria is the last secular Arab Ba’athist state in the world. Unlike in Israel, minorities have full constitutional rights and unlike in Saudi Arabia, all religions are tolerated. In Syria, women can act, speak and dress as they wish.

Syria’s independence has in the past thwarted Israel’s ambition to annex Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and additional parts of Syria itself (Israel still occupies Syria’s Golan Heights). Syria has also been a true ally of the oppressed Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

Likewise, Syria has hurt Saudi Arabia and fellow backward Gulf state Qatar’s ambitions to expand their petro-empires. Qatar remains desirous to construct a pipeline running through Syria, something Qatar wants done on its terms and its terms alone.

Furthermore, since Saudi Arabia has little to offer the world in terms of culture, Saudi attempts to control and colonise their more educated and worldly Levantine Arabs is done through a combination of bribery and through the use of Salafist terrorist proxies such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.

There is also a psychological element to the mutual warfare which Saudi Arabia and Israel have waged on secular states like Syria.

So long as Syria exists, Saudi Arabia cannot say that there is no alternative to its backward style of government in the Arab world. Of course, others like Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt are secular states (Iraq less so now than at any time since independence), but these states have been wholly compromised through war and in the case of Egypt through political malaise.

Syria remains strongly independent and refuses to surrender its values.

Both countries also seek to destroy Iran. Iran unlike Saudi Arabia and Israel, practices an ethical foreign policy. Far from wanting to export its Islamic Revolution, Iran has been a staunch ally to secular Syria and has been at the forefront of the fight against Salafist terrorism like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Iran has also taken a principled stance on Palestine, whilst most Arab states with the exception of Syria, have long ago given up on the Palestinian cause.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have superficial differences in foreign policy, but their main goals are exactly the same. Both seek to retard the progress of the Arab world and to taint Islam as something it is not.

Saudi Arabia and Israel both want non-Muslims to think of Islam as something representing bombs, female enslavement, physical mutilation and barbarity. Syria has shown the world that real Islam looks a lot like Christianity and frankly a lot more like Christianity than atheistic Europe does in 2017.

Saudi Arabia and Israel are allies in the material and psychological war against secular, modern Arab countries. It is a war which the United States has been fighting on behalf of Riyadh and Tel Aviv for decades.

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

President Emmanuel Macron: Reversing Five Decades of Working-Class Power

By James Petras :: 05.21.2017 

Introduction

Whatever has been written about President Emmanuel Macron by the yellow or the respectable press has been mere trivia or total falsehood. Media lies have a purpose that goes beyond Macron’s election. Throughout Europe and North America, bankers and manufacturers, NATO, militarists and EU oligarchs, media moguls and verbal assassins, academics and journalists, all characterized the election victory of Macron as a ‘defeat of fascism’ and the ‘triumph of the French people’.

Macron and ‘What People’?

First of all, Macron received only 46% of the actual vote. Over 54% of eligible French voters either abstained, spoiled their ballots or voted for Marine Le Pen, the nationalist populist. In other words, 26 million voters rejected or ignored Macron’s candidacy versus 20.6 million voters who endorsed him. This was despite an unremitting push for Macron from the entire French and European mass media, all of the major political parties and the vast majority of academics, journalists, publishers, undertakers and doormen.

In a word: Emmanuel Macron is a minority President, unpopular to most of the French electorate.

There are some very sound political and socio-economic reasons why Macron’s candidacy would be rejected by most of the French people, while receiving full support from the ruling class.

Secondly, there was a phony image of Macron as the ‘novice, untainted by old-line corrupt politics’. The financial and business press busily painted an image of the virgin Manny Macron bravely prepared to introduce ’sweeping reforms’ and rescue France – a sort of banker-Joan of Arc against the veteran ‘fascist’ Marine Le Pen and her ‘deplorable’ supporters.

The reality is that Macron has always been a highly experienced member of the most elite financial-political networks in France. He served as a senior executive in the notorious Rothschild banking conglomerate. In a few short years ‘Saint Manny’ had accumulated millions of euros in commissions from fixing corporate deals.

Macron’s financial colleagues encouraged him to accept the post of Economic Minister under the decrepit regime of President Francois Hollande. Banker Macron helped the ‘Socialist’ President Hollande shed any of his party’s pro-labor pretensions and embrace a radical anti-worker agenda. As Economic Minister Macron implemented a 40 billion euro tax cut for businesses and proposed far-right legislation designed to weaken workers collective bargaining rights.

The Hollande-Macron proposals faced massive opposition in the streets and parliament. With the government’s popular support falling to the single digits, the anti-labor legislation was withdrawn or diluted … temporarily. This experience inspired Macron to re-invent (or re-virginize) himself: From hard-assed rightwing hack, he emerged the novice politico claiming to be ‘neither right nor left’.

The totally discredited ‘Socialist’ Hollande, following the example of France’s financial elite, supported presidential candidate Macron. Of course, whenever Macron spoke of representing ‘all France’, he meant ‘all’ bankers, manufacturers and rentier oligarchs – the entire capitalist sector.

In the first round of presidential voting, Macron’s candidacy divided the elites: Bankers were split between Macron and Fillon, while many social democrats, trade union officials and ‘identitarian’-single issue sectarians would end up voting Macron.

Macron won by default: Fillon, his far right bourgeois rival was snared in a political- swindle involving ‘family’ and his finicky supporters switched to Macron. The Socialists defected from their discredited Hollande to the ‘reconstructed choirboy’ Macron. Meanwhile, the ‘left’ had rediscovered ‘anti-fascism’: They opposed the national-populist Le Pen and slithered under the bankers’ backdoor to vote for Macron.

Almost one-third of the French electorate abstained or showed their contempt by spoiling their ballots.

Throughout the election theatrics, the media breathlessly reported every frivolous ‘news’ item to polish the halo of their ‘novice’ Macron. They swooned over the ‘novelty’ of Macron’s teen age ‘love affair’ and subsequent marriage to his former schoolteacher. The media played-up the charmingly ‘amateurish’ nature of his campaign staff, which included upwardly mobile professionals, downwardly mobile social democrat politicos and ‘off the street’ volunteers. The mass media downplayed one critical aspect: Macro’s historic ties to the big bankers!

Behind the carefully crafted image of a ‘political outsider’, the steely eyed Macron was never influenced by the swooning media propaganda: He remained deeply committed to reversing fifty years of working class advances in France in favor of the financial class.

Macron’s Power Grab : En Marche to Defeat the Working Class

Immediately upon his election, Macron presented his first major piece of legislation: The ‘liberalization’ (reversal) of France’s progressive and socially protective labor laws.

President Macron promised to eliminate industry-wide labor-capital negotiations, in favor of factory-by-factory negotiations. Undermining industry-wide collective power means that each monopoly or conglomerate can dominate and isolate workers in their work place. Macron envisions a complete shift of power into the hands of capital in order to slash wages, increase work hours and reduce regulations on workplace safety and worker health. The proposed anti-labor laws represent a return of capitalist power to the golden age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – precisely why the financial elite anointed Macron as ‘President of all France’.

Even more important, by destroying a unified, labor movement and the power of workers’ solidarity, Macron will be free to radically restructure the entire socio-economic system in favor of capital!

Concentrating all power and profits in the hands of the capitalist class, Macron’s legislative agenda will free him to fire over 150,000 public employees, drastically reduce public spending and investment and privatize critical public financial, energy and industrial sectors.

Macron will shift the balance of power further away from labor in order to increase profits, reduce middle and working class social, health and educational services and to decrease corporate taxes from 33.3% to 25%.

Macron’s plan will strengthen the role of the French financial elite within the European Union’s oligarchical structure and allow the bankers to impose harsh ‘austerity’ policies throughout Europe.

In the sphere of foreign and military affairs, Macron fervently supports NATO. His regime will back the aggressive US military policies toward Russia and the Middle East – especially the violent breakup of Syria.

President Macron’s reactionary, ‘liberalizing’ agenda will require his party and allies to gain a majority in next month’s parliamentary elections (June 2017). His strategy will consist of ‘diversity in appearance and hard, single-minded reactionary policies in content’.

The ‘diverse’ groups and individuals, allied with Macron, are largely composed of fragmented collections of opportunists and discredited politicos mainly in search of office. Under Macron, the parliament will include everything from old-line rightwing social democrats, as well as single-issue environment and gender opportunists, allied with conservatives looking for a chance to finally savage France’s labor laws.

If successful in the coming elections, Macron’s parliament will legitimize the policies of his far right Prime Minister and Cabinet. If Macron fails to secure an outright majority, he is sure to patch together a coalition with veteran right-wing politicos, which, of course, will be ‘balanced’ with 50% women. Macron’s coalition of dinosaurs and ‘women’ will eagerly smash the rights and living standards of all workers – regardless of gender!

Macron hopes to win sufficient parliamentary votes to negotiate alliances with the traditional conservative parties and the rump of the Socialist Party to consolidate the rule of the Troika: the bankers, the EU and NATO.

President Macron: By the Ballot or the Bullet

There is no doubt that the French working class, the salaried public and private employees, the unemployed youth, students and public health workers will take to the streets, with the backing of 60% or more of the public, including the 33% who voted for Marine Le Pen.

Strikes, general and partial, of long and short duration, will confront the Macron regime and its far right, self-styled ‘transformative’ agenda.

Rothschild’s errand boy, Manny Macron cannot mobilize supporters in the streets and will have to rely on the police. Many parliamentary backers are fearful of both the problem (strikes) and the solution (police repression).

The Corporate Elite: President Macron Adopts Napoleonic Decrees

In 2016 when Macron was the Economic Minister in the President Francois Hollande’s regime, he introduced a new regressive labor policy dubbed the ‘El Khomri’ law (named after the reactionary Labor Minister Myriam El Khormi). This led to massive street demonstrations forcing Hollande to withdraw the legislation. Now as President, Macron proposes a far more rigid and destructive labor law, which his corporate colleagues insist he implement by the ‘ballot’ if possible or the ‘billy club’ if necessary. In other words, if he cannot win the support of the National Assembly, he will implement the labor law by presidential decree.

The President of MEDEF (Mouvement des Entreprises de France), the employers’ federation, Pierre Gattaz, has demanded immediate implementation of policies to crush labor. Macron will outlaw labor protests via presidential decree and cut parliamentary debate in order to transform the elite’s ‘El Dorado’ of all (labor) reforms (sic) into reality.

The entire leadership of the capitalist class and financial press backs Macron’s bid to govern by decree as a ‘good idea in the circumstances’, (Financial Times, 5/10/17, pg. 2). Macron’s ‘Napoleonic’ pretentions will inevitably deepen class polarization and strengthen ties between the militant trade unions and Le Pen’s industrial working class supporters.

We face an approaching time of open and declared class war in France.

Conclusion

Reality has quickly cut through the lies about the origin of Emmanuel Macron’s electoral victory. Brutal police truncheons, wielded in defense of Macron’s election triumph, will further reveal the real faces of French ‘fascism’ better than any editorial by the French ‘left’. The fascists are not to be found among Le Pen’s working class voters!

The fools within the French academia, who backed the Rothschild candidate in the name of ‘fighting fascism at all cost’, will soon find themselves wandering among the workers’ street barricade, dodging the clouds of teargas, on the way to their cafes and computers.

The ruling class chose Macron because they know he will not back down in the face of street demonstrations or even a general strike!

The intellectuals who backed Macron as ‘the lesser evil’ are now discovering that he is the greater evil. They are not too late to be . . . irrelevant.

Macron’s grandiose vision is to introduce his hyper-capitalist ideology throughout Europe and beyond. He proposes to transform the EU into a ‘competitive capitalist paradise under French leadership’.

Given the historic role of the French worker, it is more likely that Macron will not succeed in implementing his ‘labor reforms’. His decrees will surely provoke powerful resistance from the streets and the public institutions. When he falters, his parliamentary supporters will fracture into little warring clans. Factory owners will bemoan the workers who occupy their plants and bankers will complain that the farmers’ tractors are blocking the roads to their country villas.

The Germans and British elite will urge their ‘little Napoleon’ to hold firm, for fear the ‘French contagion’ might spread to their somnolent workers.

On the one hand, Macron’s successful decree can open the way for a transformation of capital-labor relations into a modern 21st century corporate state.

On the other, a successful general strike can open the door to a Europe-wide revolt. Macron’s enigmatic (and meaningless) slogan ‘neither right nor left’ is now exposed: He is the “Bonaparte of the Bourse”!

May 21, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran imposes new sanctions on US-linked companies

RT | May 20, 2017

Iran has sanctioned nine US-linked companies in response to American sanctions over the Middle East country’s ballistic missile program. While Iran’s re-elected president Rouhani said the country was ready for dialogue, the US came up with prerequisites to start it.

Nine more US-linked businesses, organizations and individuals are put in the sanctions list, created in March. The new list of sanctions is dated May 18, with AP reporting that it was put online on Saturday.

The sanctions mean that Iran could seize local assets of the listed organizations and deny their employees entry to the country. The first batch of sanctions were announced back in March in response to actions of the Trump administration, which sanctioned more than two dozen Iran-linked people and companies in February in retaliation for a ballistic missile test.

Tehran’s actions followed US President Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday to renew the sanctions waiver maintaining the Iranian nuclear deal, but also to impose sanctions against two Iranian defense officials and a company allegedly linked to the missile program.

Iran’s re-elected President Hassan Rouhani vowed Saturday to continue reforms and said that the country was open for international dialogue.

“Our nation’s message in the election was clear: Iran’s nation chose the path of interaction with the world, away from violence and extremism,” Rouhani said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke of his vision of Iran’s dialogue “with the rest of the world.”

He made it clear the US would like to see an end to Iran’s missile program, as well as what he described as Iran’s role in supporting “destabilizing forces that exist in this region.”

Tillerson also called on Tehran to restore “the rights of Iranians to freedom of speech, to freedom of organization, so Iranians can live the life they deserve.”

“We hope that if Rouhani wanted to change Iran’s relationship with the rest of the world, those are the things he could do,” Tillerson said Saturday while speaking at a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart in Riyadh.

In April, Tillerson described Iran as “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” in a letter to Congress. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif then said in response that instead of repeating accusations against Iran, the US should fulfil its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Authoritarianism in Venezuela? A Reply to Gabriel Hetland

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | May 19, 2017

Venezuela is once again dominating international headlines as violent opposition protests bent on toppling the elected Maduro government enter their seventh week. The demonstrations have claimed to date at least 54 lives since April 4, surpassing the previous wave of violent anti-government protests in 2014, known as “the Exit”. However, this time around, the unrest coincides with a severe economic downturn and a transformed geopolitical landscape defined by the return of the right in Brazil and Argentina as well as an even more bellicose regime in Washington.

Meanwhile, the international outcry at this latest violent effort to oust the Chavista government has been far more muffled than the last time.

With the notable exception of an open letter by LASA members, a UNAC/BAP joint statement,  and other smaller protest actions, the US left has been largely passive vis-a-vis both the Trump administration’s escalating intervention against Venezuela as well as the systematic media blackout, preferring silence to active solidarity with Chavismo.

In this environment, some leftist academics have publicly broken with the Maduro administration over its response to the country’s current political and economic crisis.

In a recent piece for NACLA*, University of Albany Assistant Professor Gabriel Hetland parts ways with the Bolivarian government, citing concerns over Maduro’s “authoritarian” slide.

“Yet, while previous claims of Venezuela’s authoritarianism have had little merit, this is no longer the case,” he writes.

While we deeply respect Professor Hetland’s critical contributions to the debate on Venezuela, we at Venezuelanalysis ** – a collective of journalists and activists who at one point or another have lived, studied, and/or worked in Venezuela – firmly reject this charge of authoritarianism on both analytical and political grounds.

Setting the record straight

Hetland cites a number of recent actions of the Venezuelan government to bolster his claim, including the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s (TSJ) alleged “dissolving” of the opposition-held National Assembly (AN), the “cancel[ation]” of the recall referendum, the postponing of “municipal and regional elections that should have occurred in 2016”, and the TSJ’s blocking of the AN’s legislative activity in 2016.

There are of course a number of serious problems with this account.

To begin, several elements of this narrative are misleadingly presented, if not all-together factually inaccurate.

First of all, as Venezuelanalysis reported at the time, the TSJ’s March 29 decisions did not “dissolve” the Venezuelan National Assembly as was almost uniformly reported in the mainstream press. Rather, the rulings sought to temporarily authorize the judiciary to take on pertinent legislative functions, which in this particular case meant approving a pressing joint venture agreement between Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and its Russian counterpart, Rosneft, which was critical for the former’s solvency. The ruling – which was based on article 336.7 of the Venezuelan constitution – provoked a rift within Chavismo, with the current and former attorney generals lining up on opposite sides of the constitutional divide. One can certainly criticize the since-reversed decision on constitutional and political grounds, but to present it as a “dissolution” of the parliament is just disingenuous.

This brings us to the question of the Supreme Court’s blocking of the opposition-majority legislature in 2016. It is undeniable that the TSJ did in fact strike down three of the four laws the AN managed to approve last year. However, it takes two to tango and Hetland severely understates the opposition’s own role in this protracted institutional standoff. It’s important to note that the AN did not “act beyond its authority” only “in some cases”, as Hetland describes.

From quite literally the moment that the new AN was sworn-in in January 2016, the body explicitly declared war on the Bolivarian institutional order crafted by Chavismo, with AN head Henry Ramos Allup promising to oust Maduro “within six months” – a blatantly unconstitutional threat against a sitting president. A sampling of the legislation pursued by the National Assembly in 2016 includes a law to privatize Venezuela’s public housing program, a law to return expropriated lands and enterprises to their former owners, a law forcing the executive to accept humanitarian aid into the country, the infamous Amnesty Law, as well as a constitutional amendment retroactively shortening the presidential term by two years. We can add to this list the opposition’s attempted parliamentary coup, in which it declared that Maduro had “abandoned his post” first in October and again this past January – which Hetland likewise neglects to acknowledge. Nor does he mention the reason for the legislature’s current “null” status, namely the opposition’s refusal to unseat three of its lawmakers from Amazonas state currently under investigation for alleged vote-buying in flagrant violation of the high court. Again, one may still criticize the TSJ’s blockage of the AN, but to understate the parliament’s systematic efforts to overthrow the Bolivarian government by any means necessary is quite misleading.

Hetland similarly omits the opposition’s own role in the suspension of the recall referendum (RR) process. As we noted, the opposition-held parliament came into office with the objective of overthrowing Maduro “within six months” – a goal evidently incompatible with the RR, which takes a minimum of eight months. Indeed, the RR was just one of the strategies in the opposition’s four-pronged plan to oust Maduro unveiled in March 2016, which also included the aforementioned constitutional amendment, a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution (which the opposition now opposes), and heating up the streets to force Maduro’s resignation. As a result of the opposition’s own internecine divisions, it delayed in beginning the RR and made serious procedural errors, such as collecting 53,658 fraudulent signatures, which gave the government a pretext to indefinitely stall the process in the courts. There is no doubt that the Maduro administration dragged its feet on the RR process knowing full well it would likely lose, but this was hardly the one-sided drama presented by Hetland.

Lastly, the National Electoral Council (CNE) did in fact postpone the regional elections scheduled for last year, citing logistical conflicts with the RR process, a move which is indefensible on constitutional and political grounds. However, it’s worth noting that there is a precedent for such a delay: the local elections slated for December 2004 were similarly postponed until August 2005 on account of the recall referendum against then President Chávez the year before. Hetland passes over this important detail in his rush to indict Venezuela’s democratic credentials.

Moreover, while it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize the Bolivarian government for delaying the governors’ races, municipal elections are a different story. Local elections are scheduled for 2017, meaning that they can be held any time before the close of the year. In suggesting that the government has postponed local elections, Hetland commits yet another factual error that serves to inflate his largely ideological case for the Maduro administration’s “creeping authoritarianism”, as we shall see below.

Fetishizing liberal democracy

Beyond these factual errors and misrepresentations, the main problem with Hetland’s piece is his implicit notion of “authoritarianism”, which he at no point takes the time to actually define.

Without going extensively into the genealogy of this term, it’s key to remember that authoritarianism is hardly a politically neutral concept.

As Hetland correctly observes, the charge of authoritarianism was dubiously leveled against the Chávez administration and other “pink tide” governments who were excoriated by Western commentators and political scientists for daring to challenge the hegemony of (neo)liberal capitalist representative democracy.

Indeed throughout the last decade, political scientists led by former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Casteñeda have distinguished between a “good” reformist, liberal left epitomized by Brazil’s Lula Da Silva that is willing to play ball with the Washington and transnational capital and a “bad” radical, populist left embodied by Hugo Chávez, which has opened up the liberal representative floodgates to direct mass participation in democratic governance.

As Sara Motta underlines, this binary is deeply colonial in nature: the “mature” and Westernized “good-left” has learned from the alleged failures of revolutionary Marxism and embraced incremental reform, while the “bad-left” remains mired in the clientelism and tribal authoritarianism of the “pre-modern” past, rendering it hostile to liberal democracy.

This “good-left”/“bad-left” dichotomy is of course nothing new, amounting to a minor aesthetic rehashing of the “revolutionary”/“democratic” distinction applied to the Latin American left in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, which in turn is founded on the classic “civilization” versus “barbarism” divide.

Hetland, in lieu of questioning the liberal ideological criterion behind this colonial binary, preserves the distinction, announcing that the Maduro government has passed over into the dark realm of authoritarianism:

By cancelling the recall referendum, suspending elections, and inhibiting opposition politicians from standing for office, the Venezuelan government is systematically blocking the ability of the Venezuelan people to express themselves through electoral means. It is hard to see what to call this other than creeping authoritarianism.

In other words, “authoritarianism” for Hetland seems to amount to the quashing of proceduralist liberal democratic norms, including most notably separation of powers, threatening the political rights of the country’s right-wing opposition.

What we get from this formalist approach is a sort of Freedom House-style checklist in which the pluses and minuses of global South regimes (freedom of speech, press, etc.) are statically weighed and definitive moral judgement concerning “democratic quality” are handed down. Venezuela is still not yet a “full-scale authoritarian regime,” Hetland tells us, “given the opposition’s significant access to traditional and social media and substantial ability to engage in anti-government protest.” In this point, Hetland’s conclusion is virtually indistinguishable from that of mainstream Latin American studies, which has long invented convoluted monikers such as “participatory competitive authoritarianism” to characterize the Bolivarian government.

The trouble with this perspective is that it ends up reifying these so-called authoritarian practices, casting them as the cause – together with the opposition’s regime change efforts – of Venezuela’s current crisis rather than a symptom of the underlying correlation of forces.

The Maduro administration’s alleged steamrolling of certain liberal democratic norms – particularly the postponement of regional elections – is undoubtedly quite concerning, precisely because it evidences the catastrophic impasse in the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

We at Venezuelanalysis have long been critical of the Bolivarian government’s top-down institutional power plays to contain the opposition’s efforts to oust Maduro, which we view as a conservative attempt to maintain the status quo in lieu of actually mobilizing the masses of people from below to break the current deadlock and resolve the crisis on revolutionary terms.

In this vein, we have critiqued those tendencies within the Venezuelan state which we see as consolidating the power of corrupt reformist “Boli-bourgeois” class fractions in the bureaucracy and armed forces, including direct military control over imports, the de-facto liberalization of prices, reduced social spending coupled with draconian debt servicing, the Orinoco Mining Arc, a dubious but since-modified party registration process, and a conservative turn in anti-crime policy.

Yet Hetland is strangely silent regarding these reformist retreats and regressions over the past four years, which for all intents and purposes are far more serious than many of the above “authoritarian” abuses he describes.

It is precisely here that the charge of “authoritarianism” betrays its liberal ideological bias: by prioritizing the procedural violations affecting the bourgeois right-wing opposition, Hetland renders invisible the underlying dynamics of class warfare brutally impacting the popular classes.

Therefore, contra Hetland, the problem is not that liberal democratic norms have been undercut per se, but rather that the revolutionary construction of alternative institutions of radical grassroots democracy – the “communal state” in Chávez’s terms – has come up against decisive structural roadblocks.

Here we must be unequivocal: liberal democracy is not absolute nor universal, and its relation to revolutionary processes is always mediated by context. To impose these norms on the Cuban Revolution, for instance, in its context of genocidal imperial siege is the height of absurdity and political irresponsibility. Given these circumstances, Cuba’s model of revolutionary democracy – despite all its faults and limitations – is no less legitimate than other democratic socialist projects that have made strategic use of elements of liberal democracy, such as Chile and Nicaragua in the 70s and 80s or Venezuela and Bolivia today.

The Bolivarian process is, however, fundamentally different, as it is premised on an electoral road to socialism in which the existing bourgeois democratic order is approached as a strategic space of counter-hegemonic struggle. In this context, the suspension of certain liberal rights such as elections or specific opposition freedoms would only be acceptable under exceptional circumstances in which the Bolivarian government were actually taking revolutionary measures to resolve the current crisis and commanded unquestioned legitimacy among its social bases.

Despite the undeniable spiral of political and economic violence driven by the opposition, Venezuela is unfortunately not going through an equivalent of a “special period” insofar as the leadership of the party and state has thus far failed to go on the offensive against endemic corruption and take the fight to the local and transnational capitalist enemy as was the case during crucial revolutionary turning points in Russia, China, and Cuba.

Given this reality, the message coming from some sectors of Chavismo that there can be no elections under conditions of warfare – a legitimate argument in other contexts including Nazi-besieged Britain – is questionable at best. Nonetheless, this counterfactual is useful insofar as it demonstrates that liberal democracy is a wholly inadequate yardstick for evaluating revolutionary processes, confounding far more than it clarifies, as in the case of Hetland’s critique of “authoritarianism” in Venezuela.

Throw them all out?

In this diagnosis of causes of the current crisis, our position coincides with that of the vast majority of Venezuelan left-wing movements whose chief grievance is hardly the litany of “authoritarian” practices against the right-wing opposition enumerated by Hetland, but, on the contrary, the reformist and at times outright counter-revolutionary policies being pursued by the Maduro government.

The same is true for Venezuela’s popular classes – the social base of Chavismo – who don’t particularly care that the Supreme Court has blocked the National Assembly and the president has been ruling by emergency economic decree since February 2016. According to independent pollster Hinterlaces, around 70 percent of Venezuelans negatively evaluate the opposition-controlled parliament, while 61 percent have little faith that a future opposition government will address the country’s deep economic problems. Rather, the majority of Venezuelans want the Maduro administration to remain in power and resolve the current economic crisis. Their discontent flows not from Maduro’s use of emergency powers – contrary to the international media narrative – but rather from his failure to use them to take decisive actions to deepen the revolution in lieu of granting further concessions to capital.

Despite the setbacks, retreats, and betrayals that have characterized the past four years since the death of Chávez, the mood among the Venezuelan masses is not a uniform rejection of Venezuela’s entire political establishment as Hetland suggests in a sweeping generalization:

If any slogan captures the current mood of the popular classes living in Venezuela’s barrios and villages it is likely this: Que se vayan todos. Throw them all out.

While Chavismo has undoubtedly bled significant support over the past five years and the ranks of independents, or ni-nis, has swollen to over 40 percent of the population , the PSUV remarkably remains the country’s most popular party, actually increasing its support from 27 to 35 percent since January. Similarly, Maduro still has the approval of approximately 24 percent of Venezuelans, making him more popular than the presidents of Brazil, Mexico, and Chile – a fact consistently suppressed by international corporate media. These poll numbers are nothing short of incredible in view of the severity of the current economic crisis ravaging the country, speaking to the partial efficacy of some of the government’s measures such as the CLAPs as well as the opposition’s utter failure to present any alternative program.

Likewise, despite growing disillusionment with the government and hints at a possible rupture, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Venezuela’s social movements and left-wing political parties continue to back Maduro.

What’s more is that this left unity in support of the Bolivarian government has only hardened in the face of the ongoing opposition onslaught and in anticipation of the National Constituent Assembly to be held in the coming months.

However baffling on the surface, this staunch defense of the Maduro administration actually makes perfect sense for at least two reasons.

First, as any Chavista who has lived through the last six weeks of right-wing terror can attest to, the choice between the continuity of Chavismo in power and an opposition regime is not a matter of mere ideological preference – it’s a question of survival, as there is no predicting the extent of the political and structural violence the opposition would unleash if they manage to take Miraflores. This is in no way to deny or downplay the fallout of the current economic crisis, for which the government bears a great deal of responsibility, but there is no doubt that an opposition government would take this economic war on the poor to new levels of neoliberal savagery.

Second, the existence of the Bolivarian government embodies the lingering possibility of transforming the inherited bourgeois petro-state as part of the transition to 21st Century socialism. While there is cause for skepticism about the real possibilities of pushing forward the democratization and decolonization of the Venezuelan state in this conjuncture, there has been an outpouring of grassroots support for the National Constituent Assembly which could serve as a vehicle to retake the revolutionary offensive and institutionalize radical demands from below.

This broad-based consensus of critical support for the government on the part of Venezuela’s left stands sharply at odds with Hetland’s “plague on both your houses approach”, which, in Steve Ellner’s terms, ends up “placing opposition and Chavista leaders in the same sack” as equally undesirable alternatives.

While there is indeed tremendous anger and frustration with the government – which may in fact translate to a crushing electoral defeat for Chavismo in the next elections – the prevailing sentiment among much of Venezuela’s popular classes in the face of the opposition’s present reign of terror remains “no volverán” (they shall not return).

The role of solidarity

All of this brings us to the position of international solidarity activists with respect to Venezuela.

We wholeheartedly agree with Hetland that it is the duty of each and every self-respecting leftist and progressive to “reject any and all calls for imperialist interventions aimed at ‘saving’ Venezuela”.

Nevertheless, while anti-interventionism is urgently necessary, this begs the question, with whom are we supposed to be in solidarity?

Hetland calls on us to stand with “the majority of Venezuelans who are suffering at the hands of a vengeful, reckless opposition, and an incompetent, unaccountable government.”

The end result of such a “plague on both your houses” approach is a refusal to take a side in this struggle – in a word, neutrality. This posture flows naturally from Hetland’s liberal framework of authoritarianism, which necessarily posits the Western intellectual as a disembodied arbiter – occupying the Cartesian standpoint of the “eye of God” in Enrique Dussel’s terms – uniquely capable of objectively weighing the democratic virtues and deficits of Third World regimes.

In contrast, we at Venezuelanalysis stand unconditionally with Venezuela’s Bolivarian-socialist movement, which at this conjuncture continues to critically support the Maduro administration.

We take this stance not out of a willful blindness to the Bolivarian government’s many faults and betrayals, but because we (and particularly our writers on the ground) know that for a great many Chavistas the choice between radicalizing the revolution and right-wing restoration is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

A version of this article was submitted to NACLA, but no initial response was received. The editor elected to go ahead and publish at venezuelanalysis.com in the interest of a timely response. UPDATE: NACLA did ultimately respond to our submission on the afternoon of May 19, but by that time, the article was already published. 

** Written by Lucas Koerner on behalf of Venezuelanalysis’ writing and multimedia staff as well as VA founder Greg Wilpert.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Reflections on the counter-revolution in France

Image by Andrija Vukovic
By Frank* | OffGuardian | May 20, 2017

One of the more significant features of the recent French Presidential election was the widespread predictability of the outcome. It was taken for granted that the establishment, cardboard cut-out, hologram candidate – Macron – representing the alt-centre, would win the final electoral contest against Madame Le Pen by a comfortable margin; and so it turned out, Macron winning by 66% to Le Pen’s 34% of votes cast. Okay, there was a widespread abstention amounting to 25% of the registered electorate, a 10% spoliation of ballot papers, and, in addition, tactical voting against Le Pen in the second-round run-off.

This left about 25% of the French electorate, those overwhelmingly petit-bourgeois and miscellaneous air-heads, who voted for Marcon rather than against Le Pen, but who had scant ideas of what Macron’s programme for France would entail. This wasn’t surprising, however, since he was simply a continuity candidate who offered nothing remotely significant in policy terms other than more of the same.

So, a candidate who has not been positively endorsed by 75% of the French electorate, and who seemingly has nothing to offer other than the continuation of wrecking ball neo-liberalism gets to be President of France for the next 5 years.

Upon consideration, it seems, the moral of the story is that the hard left, and hard right will continue to be shut out of power by the hard centre-right, centre-left, liberal coalition. This prompts a possibility of something quite heretical: to wit, is it possible for someone like Le Pen to form a working coalition, or at least an understanding, with someone like Melenchon?

After all the economic and foreign policies seem virtually identical. But understandably, perhaps, the left has historically been loath to consider such a course of action. Moreover, we have heard all the fascist anti-capitalist rhetoric before: The economic programme of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party – Nazis) particularly that emanating from the leftist elements in the SA (stormtroopers) and luminaries such as Ernst Rohm, the Strasser Brothers and Gottfried Feder, the party’s leading economist, were clear enough. As early as 1919 Anton Drexler opined that:

Toiling Germany is the victim of greedy western power’’ quoted by Daniel Guerin in Fascism and Big Business

This was an obvious allusion to the Treaty of Versailles, a conclusion which was shared by J.M.Keynes in The Economic Consequences of the Peace’’ (1919). Drexler goes on

The German workers must realize that never before enslaved as they are today by foreign capitalism … the struggle for liberation which the proletariat is carrying on as the most oppressed section of an oppressed nation is a civil war that we are no longer waging against ourselves but against the world bourgeoisie. (op.cit).

This was a view seconded by Gregor Strasser:

German industry and economy is in the hands of international finance capital; it means an end of all possibility of social liberation; it means the end of all dreams of a socialist Germany … We young Germans of the war generation, we ardent socialists, are waging a fight against capitalism and imperialism incarnated in the Versailles treaty.’’ (op.cit)

All very left-wing and stirring stuff. But the advertised National Socialist revolution never arrived. It was ruthlessly crushed by Hitler’s Pretorian Guard – the SS – during the Night of the Long Knives July 1934. Hitler was only stringing along the SA for his own purposes of winning the battle of ideas and the battle of the Streets. When he had achieved this goal, the SA became expendable.

The left would, therefore, be prudent not to recognise the radical opportunism of fascism.

Warning heeded.

But in what sense is Le Pen and the FN fascistic? Particularly, since the term has become increasingly redundant. In policy terms, she seems to be a leading part of the anti-systemic revolt against globalization. All well and good if this is taken at face value. Moreover, there seems little imperialist element in her programme, unlike, Macron, the globalist neo-con who many of the left saw fit to vote for to stop Le Pen. Le Pen’s FN is not an aggressive movement directed at other nations and peoples living beyond its borders but essentially a defensive movement fighting for the right of any nation for self-determination which is under attack by the globalist elites who control political-economic unions like the EU. Talking of Nazis, it should be borne in mind that the neo-cons – the military wing of the globalization project – have nurtured and protected their own brand of bona fide fascism in Ukraine and the Baltics.

The rise of neo-nationalism in the globalization era, as a movement for national sovereignty, has nothing to with the rise of what we may call ‘Euro-fascism’ … in the Baltics and Ukraine. The unifying element of these euro-fascists is that they implicitly or explicitly accept the New World Order (WTO) of neoliberal globalization. If not in their official ideology then at least in their practice. This is the case for instance of Ukrainian Euro-fascists (Svoboda, Right Sector Patriots of the Ukraine and the Azov Regiment) who were massacring people in the Maidan and in Odessa under the flag of the EU, sometimes juxtaposed to Swastikas! And were fully backed and funded (still are) by the west, i.e, the EUSA.’’ The New World Order in Action – Takis Fotopoulos)

The Azov Battalion. Note the yellow flags with the wartime German Waffen SS ‘Wolfsangel’ insignia in front of Stepan Bandera Statue

Please note flags of the Azov Battalion, centre, NATO left, and Nazi, right.

However much of the Left seems to have missed these political nuances and still imagine that they are living in the era of the Popular Front of the 1930s. This was cogently pointed out by Aidan Obrien in Counterpunch :

“Most western progressives however are stuck in the 1930s. They see Hitler everywhere. They’re still fighting the Spanish Civil War! Their advice – the advice of Noam Chomsky in America and Yanis Varoufakis in Europe – is to always follow the example of the 1930s and form something like a united front against fascism. In today’s elections that means joining up with the liberals to keep out the extremists.

But who are the extremists? Who are today’s psychopathic killers and psychopathic slave-drivers? Since 2002 it has been the advocates of liberalism. The fascists don’t even come close. The forces of “individual freedom” have given us the on-going holocaust in the Middle East. And the champions of the “free market” have more respect for Guantanamo Bay prisoners than they do for the international working class.

And who are the racists? Right before our eyes we are seeing one genocide and seeing the preparation for two or three more. The Arabs – this instant – are being burnt alive. And the Koreans, Russians and Chinese are next in line. And the Africans and Latin Americans? No one cares anymore about those sub-humans! The fascists are not responsible for this “divide, kill, starve and rule” global agenda. On the contrary it is the lovable liberals who are masterminding this – the final solution to the White Man’s Burden.’’

All very true. The point that must also be made was that both German and Italian Nazism/Fascism were both expansionist, imperialist doctrines which took war and conquest as a given policy. Hitler’s ‘Lebensraum’ and military expansion to the east was openly declared in Mein Kampf, and Mussolini’s military (mis)adventures in both East Africa and the Balkans were a confirmation of the genuine fascism of both dictators. To repeat, however, Le Pen has publicly stated that she wishes to withdraw from NATO, which sounds very Gaullist, compared to the continued and militant presence in France of NATO and its globalist backed geopolitical expansionist policies in eastern Europe. So, who is the imperialist warmonger, Macron and the neo-cons, or Le Pen and her neo-Gaullism? Rhetorical question really.

What would seem to be the great stumbling block to any rapprochement between left and right against the mutual class enemy, which might be formal or informal, is the knotty question of immigration. Large scale immigration into Europe has been a function of two factors.

  1. The immigration from eastern Europe to western Europe which has been a function of Eastern European integration into the EU (and often into NATO).
  2. The forced migration from the war zones in the middle-east and north Africa into southern Europe as the landing stage.

In terms of migration from Eastern to Western Europe there has taken place population declines in every Eastern European country with the exception of Czech Republic, Slovakia and Russia (although Russia is a special case). This is due in part to the economic collapse of countries such as Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania that have given rise to large scale migration, but also due to a declining birth-rate, and increasing death rates, which of course is related to the economic situation in these states.

The population of Lithuania has fallen by 12% since 2006, Latvia also by 12%, Ukraine by 9% (although this was due to migration to Poland and refugees seeking safety in Russia) Romania 7%, Hungary 8.5%, Bulgaria 6%, Poland 1%. As a result, there has been a wave of economic migrants from the old Soviet sphere of influence into the west. This was one of the principal outcomes of the removal of national borders and free movement of labour under, along with free movement of capital and commodities enshrined in the EU Constitution. Between 1990 and 2003 an average of about 60,000 migrants came to the UK each year; between 2004 and 2012 the figure rose to 170,000 the 2011 census put the number of UK residents from Poland alone at 650,000.

Secondly there was the unscheduled mass movement of non-European refugees from a vast conflict area stretching from Nigeria and Mali, through the middle-east to Afghanistan (MENA). This of course has been the result of the ‘war on terror’ carried out by the US and its euro vassals which has wrecked country after country in the MENA.

The first migration wave was not accidental; it was formulated and enabled by globalist elites under the banner of free-movement; free-movement of labour, capital and commodities. This of course will have the intended effect of a downward harmonisation on wages, working conditions, corporation tax, welfare spending, privatisation and deregulation. Sovereign nations will be disempowered, and global multinationals already thus enabled, will be even further empowered by trade treaties such as TTIP and/or Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

The second wave of unauthorised migration came from MENA and complemented the first, only under banner of the Refugee crisis.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the sticky finger prints of George – Mr Colour Revolution – Soros, have been all over this wave of humanity. According to Associated Press :

Soros to invest $500 million to Help Refugees and Migrants’’ ABC News, 20/09/2016.

This is a dual crisis engineered by the globalists in Brussels and the neo-cons in Washington its object being to destabilise Europe and colonize the MENA.

As Le Pen commented:

Globalization is a barbarity; it is the country which should limit its abuses and regulate it (globalization). Today the world is in the hands of multinational corporations, and large international finance … immigration weighs down on wages whilst the minimum wage is now becoming the maximum wage.’’

Unfortunately, the centre-left no longer uses this sort of rhetoric – or indeed practise – and instead covertly, and sometimes even openly, supports the globalist agenda, with occasional reservations of course. What is usually trotted out is the well-worn ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA) argument which is assumed to be unanswerable. Change the EU from the inside! Don’t overthrow the Bourbons, reform them! This in fact is the response of the collaborationist.

No wonder most members of the old working class have abandoned their ‘’natural’ leaders (Labour and Green parties) and even their own trade union leaders (apart from a few honourable exceptions) … even when their immediate motive is the fight against immigration, indirectly their fight is against globalization, as they realize that it is the opening of all markets, including labour markets … which is the direct cause of their unemployment or low-wage employment.’’ (Fotopoulos – Ibid.)

We live in enigmatic times: the left has moved right and the right has moved left. Strange alliances seem to be forming, new pathways emerging. The real left must reconfigure its theories and practice to oppose the New World Order – it is imperative. In the words of Lenin and before him Chernyshevsky – ‘What Is To Be Done?’’

With apologies to Edmund Burke for the paraphrase

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

When the Trump Coup-makers Cometh

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | May 18, 2017

So what did you think a U.S.-styled “soft coup” would look like? What we’re seeing regarding the intended removal of President Trump is not that much different from what has happened in dozens of other countries, whether Iran in 1953 or Ukraine in 2014 or Brazil in 2016. This one just has a few extra American touches.

Like other coups, there are often vague and unproven accusations leveled against the target and his or her entourage. Even though hard evidence is usually lacking, “process crimes,” such as making misstatements to prosecutors or obstructing justice, are developed as a substitute under the popular saying: “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” Whatever the case, a complicit media then trumpets alleged wrongdoing into grave and impeachable offenses.

And, if you had any doubts about what is looming, you should read Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr.’s op-ed, entitled in print editions “A quick end would be better,” which states:

“There is really only one issue in American politics at this moment: Will we accelerate our way to the end of the Trump story, or will our government remain mired in scandal, misdirection and paralysis for many more months — or even years? …

“Nothing could be worse than slow-walking the Trump inquiries. The evidence is already overwhelming that he is temperamentally and intellectually incapable of doing the job he holds. He is indifferent to acquiring the knowledge the presidency demands and apparently of the belief that he can improvise hour to hour. He will violate norms whenever it suits him and cross ethical lines whenever he feels like it.”

The History of Coups

As this American coup against Trump progresses, one commonality of coups around the world – whether “hard coups” of military tanks or “soft coups” of “constitutional” removals – is that the coup’s target is not some perfect human being. He or she has likely made political mistakes or cut some corners or had associates who lined their pockets.

Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh

But the difference between those misdeeds being treated as politics as usual or becoming the stuff of “scandal” has more to do with the interests of powerful interests – a domestic “deep state” or an outside “superpower” – than any evenhanded pursuit of justice.

To say that Trump is an imperfect messenger for whatever populist message he thinks he’s carrying stretches beyond the breaking point any normal definition of the word “imperfect.” Indeed, Trump may be the perfectly imperfect messenger.

Yet, what’s really at stake in any coup is power and the direction that a country will take. In the case of Donald Trump, there appear to be several factors at play: he is regarded by many establishment figures as too incompetent and uncouth to serve as America’s President; he also defies the neoconservative orthodoxy over U.S. foreign policy; and perhaps most significantly, he doesn’t believe in the New Cold War, which will assure the Military-Industrial Complex years of expensive new weapons systems by making Russia the new/old “enemy.”

There is, of course, some truth to all these concerns. Trump is an egotistical buffoon who doesn’t seem to know what he doesn’t know. Often his brain doesn’t connect to his tongue – or his Twitter fingers. He is more a Kardashian “reality star,” saying stuff to get attention and to attract eyeballs, than a sober leader who holds his cards close and chooses his words carefully.

Though many Americans voted for him because they viewed him as a no-nonsense businessman, he was actually someone who ran what amounted to a family business without the kind of accountability that often comes with managing a large public corporation.

Puffing up his own importance, Trump even has bragged about his impunity. During the 2016 campaign, he was revealed as the kind of jerk who boasts about grabbing women by the “pussy” and getting away with it because of his star status and personal power.

So, yes, Trump is both incompetent and uncouth. But he is hardly the first president to bring unseemly personal baggage or an inadequate skill set into the Oval Office. Bill Clinton was known as an insatiable hound dog preying on vulnerable women, and George W. Bush was shockingly unqualified for the demands of the presidency.

While Barack Obama had the intellectual skills and behaved commendably in his personal conduct, he had little experience in managing a complex organization – and it showed in some of his disastrous personnel decisions, such as appointing the hawkish Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and keeping Bush loyalist Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense.

In other words, Trump’s skill limitations were not by themselves disqualifying. With the proper advice and a modicum of self-control, Trump could have performed acceptably as Chief Executive. But he failed to recruit wise advisers and couldn’t discipline either his tongue or his Twitter fingers.

Even staunch Trump supporters whom I’ve spoken with wish he could have parked his large but fragile ego at the White House gate rather than bringing it into the Oval Office.

Foreign Policy Dissent

Still, Trump’s larger vulnerability was his failure to accept the foreign policy parameters prescribed by the neocon-dominated Establishment. He started out insulting powerful neocons by challenging their self-exculpatory narrative of the Iraq War – that it was a great idea sabotaged by poor execution but then salvaged by the “surge” before being betrayed by Obama.

Trump also belittled some of the neocon champions, such as old-lion Sen. John “No Hero” McCain and rising star Sen. Marco “Little Marco” Rubio. It would have been a neocon dream to have the 2016 campaign a match-up between Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton, but the former fell to Trump in the primaries and the latter lost to Trump in the general election.

But Trump’s greatest sin was his refusal to buy into Official Washington’s big-ticket Russia-bashing, the goal of making Moscow an implacable enemy that then required massive new spending on both propaganda (supposedly to combat Russian “propaganda”) and military projects (including NATO expansion up to Russia’s borders and new weapons systems to deter Russian “aggression”).

Despite his simple-mindedness (or perhaps because of it), Trump couldn’t understand why the United States had to demonize Russia when he saw many areas of possible cooperation (such as the fight against terrorism).

Trump and a few of his advisers were so out-of-step on the “Russia thing” that Official Washington developed a new groupthink that the only possible explanation was that Trump and his team must be somehow on the Kremlin’s payroll. Any alleged “connection” to Russia – no matter how tenuous or seemingly innocuous – became front-page news.

For instance, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s speakers bureau negotiated a relatively modest speaking fee of $45,386 for him to address the tenth anniversary of RT, the Russian network, in December 2015, with RT even whittling down his fee – and that speech became a major cause celebre.

On Dec. 29, 2016, after the election and as the national security adviser-designate, Flynn took a phone call from Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak while Flynn was on vacation in the Dominican Republic, and Flynn later offered an incomplete account of the conversation, which the National Security Agency knew because it had intercepted the phone call.

Instead of people shrugging their shoulders and giving Flynn the benefit of the doubt, Obama’s holdovers in the Justice Department literally made a federal case out of it, invoking the archaic and virtually-never-used 1799 Logan Act (which bars private citizens from negotiating with foreigners) and then advancing the absurd argument that somehow the discrepancies in Flynn’s recollection made him vulnerable to Russian blackmail to get Trump to fire Flynn.

Then, Trump’s alleged suggestion to then-FBI Director James Comey that Flynn was a good guy who had served his country and had suffered enough – and that it might be best to “let it go” – has now become the latest argument for impeaching Trump.

In Deep Water

Whether he knows it or not, Trump is now in very deep water and has no idea how to dog-paddle back to the shore. His aides seem to think that a nine-day foreign trip will do him good, but it is more likely to make him grovel before Saudi King Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, knowing that any offense that those leaders might take would simply expedite Trump’s political doom.

Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov

Trump is surely in no position to tell the Saudis to cut out their covert funding for Al Qaeda and other Sunni terrorist groups – or to insist that they stop bombing Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. Nor could Trump dare challenge Netanyahu on the Israeli abuse of the Palestinians, the Prime Minister’s obstruction of the peace process, and his blatant efforts to manipulate U.S. politics in favor of bloody neocon interventions across the region. Trump will be the desperate supplicant hoping for a reassuring pat on the head.

There is one – and perhaps only one – winning move that Trump has left. He could authorize CIA Director Mike Pompeo to prepare for release U.S. intelligence information regarding turning-point moments in recent years, such as the truth about the 2013 sarin incident in Syria and the 2014 Malaysia Airlines shoot-down in eastern Ukraine. [See here and here.]

If – as I’m told – the Obama administration systematically misrepresented the intelligence on those catastrophes to register propaganda gains (against the Syrian government in 2013 and Russia in 2014), the U.S. government’s internal information could shift those key narratives in more peaceful directions.

But whatever the truth is, Trump could shift his own image from a compulsive liar who disdains facts into a champion for transparency and honesty in government. He could turn the tables on The New York Times (which has set itself up as the great hero for Truth) and The Washington Post (which has fashioned a new melodramatic slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”). He could point out their hypocritical lack of aggressiveness in challenging the Obama administration’s excessive secrecy.

Trump would also give his dispirited supporters something to rally around. Many blue-collar voters backed Trump because they thought he was at least addressing their economic fears of lost work and lost status, while Hillary Clinton – in their view – treated them with disregard and disdain, even calling many of them “deplorables.”

But Trump’s promises of recovered jobs were largely hollow. Whatever improvement Americans might be feeling in their pocketbooks, it is more the result of Obama’s careful economic management and the normal recovery from Bush’s Wall Street crash and the Great Recession than anything Trump can or will do.

So, revealing hidden truths – where the American people may have been misled – would not only be the right thing to do for democracy, it also could be the smart thing to do. When the Establishment coup-makers come for Trump – as they now almost certainly will – he can at least say that he tried to do something to return the U.S. government to the American people.

That might not save his presidency but it would at least elevate his purpose and possibly create some positive legacy to attach to the Trump name. As the situation stands now, Trump appears headed for a humiliating exit that won’t just strip him of the presidency but would strip away any luster for the Trump brand.

In other words, his impulsive foray into politics might not just make him one of the most reviled U.S. presidents in history but take down the Trump businesses, too.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, False Flag Terrorism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Britain Has a Real Choice on June 8 – and the Anti-Democratic Democrats Hate It

By Neil Clark – Sputnik – 19.05.2017

For the first time in a quarter of a century, the British electorate has an opportunity to make a clean break with the banker-friendly neoliberal policies which have dominated politics since the era of Margaret Thatcher and which have led to a major redistribution of wealth away from the majority to the super-rich.

Well, we can’t say we haven’t got a choice.

Labour’s manifesto, while still being nowhere as left-wing as the ones the pipe-puffing Harold Wilson won two elections on in 1974, nevertheless returns the party emphatically to the territory it occupied before the grinning faux-progressive Tony Blair came along in the mid-90s and turned Labour into a more socially liberal version of the Tories. There’s pledges to renationalize Britain’s railways — easily the most expensive in Europe — set up a publicly owned energy supplier and take water in England back into public ownership.

The rich will pay more tax, zero hours contracts will be outlawed and tuition fees will be scrapped. If it’s an exaggeration to call the manifesto socialist, then its certainly social democratic and offers hope of a better future for millions of ordinary Britons who have seen their living standards fall dramatically in recent years. By contrast the Tories have lurched still further to the hard right and their elite-friendly agenda could not be clearer.

There’s money a plenty to bomb Syria-and continue with the neocon policies of endless war — but not enough to provide pensioners with winter fuel payments or all infants with free school lunches. The desire of the elderly to pass on their property to their children will be hit by what has been labeled a new “Dementia Tax” to pay for social care. Pensioners will also be hit by replacing the “triple lock” on their state pensions with only a “double lock.” Meanwhile, corporation tax will fall to 17% by 2020 — the lowest rate of any developed economy.

On the railways, water and energy, the Tories only promise a continuation of the current privatized system which enriches a few and leaves the vast majority paying over the odds. The Tories are billing their manifesto as one for “mainstream Britain,” but the regressive policies in it would have old “One Nation” Tories from the 60s and 70s like Sir Ian Gilmour turning in their graves.

Labour — if it hadn’t been for the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader in 2015, would be offering only a slightly milder variation of the policies the Tories are putting forward now. That’s how our politics has worked since the 1990s. By narrowing the parameters of what was/wasn’t “politically acceptable” neoliberalism destroyed choice and by doing so destroyed democracy.

Evidence of this can be seen the huge increase in the numbers not bothering to vote at election time. 78.8% turned out in February 1974 — when a wide range of policies was on the menu- but in 2001, just 59.4% went along to the polling booth. Who can blame the absentees when the “choice” was between a neoliberal pro-war Labour party led by Tony Blair and a neoliberal pro-war Tory party led by William Hague?

Now though there’s policies on offer that we haven’t seen on election “menus” for many years. The howls of anguish from elite media pundits that the Labour party has abandoned the ludicrously misnamed “center ground” — and is actually campaigning on a program that puts the interests of ordinary people first — have been highly revealing. Commentators who believe in bombing Middle East countries to “spread democracy” are having a collective nervous breakdown now that democracy is breaking out at home. One pro-Iraq war commentator described Labour’s abandonment of Blairism as “bad news for democracy.”

Yes, that’s right- Jeremy Corbyn and his team offering genuinely popular policies which voters are calling for, such as renationalization of the railways — is “bad news for democracy.” You really couldn’t make it up, could you? For the anti-democratic democrats who dominate the UK commentariat “democracy” means that our leading parties have to offer more or less the same program.

They’ve all got to genuflect to the City of London, support privatization, cuts in corporation tax and the policies of “liberal interventionism,: aka Endless War, in the Middle East. In this Orwellian political landscape, to “provide a proper opposition” to the Tories, Labour has to offer what is fundamentally a Tory program. The parties must of course appear to have disagreements — but only about things that won’t affect the interests of the 1%.

The Establishment must not only control the government but the “opposition” too. That’s all changed with Jeremy Corbyn. As I wrote two years ago, at the time of the Labour leadership election:

“The attacks on Corbyn have been many, but in essence what these establishment commentators are saying is this: it’s outrageous that a man who doesn’t support neoconservatism or neoliberalism and who is implacably opposed to imperialism and endless war is standing for the leadership of one of Britain’s major parties.”

What the hysterical reaction to Labour’s manifesto demonstrates is that people having a real choice at election time is the last thing the fake democrats who pose as “progressives” want.

Their ideal scenario would be for the Tories to be “opposed” by a Labour party led by the ultra-Blairite David Miliband — meaning that whatever the election result nothing would change.

Corbyn’s program is far from revolutionary, but it does offer the majority of Britons the prospect of a new and much fairer economic settlement than the one which has imposed since the late 1970s. And the anti-democratic democrats in our midst are absolutely terrified that the people finally have an opposition which opposes.

Follow @NeilClark66 on Twitter

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

New North Korea-Russia Sea Route Throws Washington’s Ambitions Into Doubt

Sputnik – 18.05.2017

Moscow has kicked off its first North Korea-Russian ferry service following Washington’s expansion of its sanctions against Pyongyang. On May 18 the DPRK vessel Man Gyong Bong arrived at the free port of Vladivostok. According to RIA Novosti contributor Alexander Khrolenko, this is how Russia responded to US’ unilateral sanctions.

Following US Congress’ endorsement of new sanctions on North Korea’s ships and employees, Russia has established permanent maritime communication between the DPRK’s Rajin port and Vladivostok; according to RIA Novosti contributor Alexander Khrolenko, this is hardly a coincidence.

On May 18, North Korea’s vessel Man Gyong Bong arrived in the Russian port of Vladivostok. While Russia and the DPRK already have a railway connection, the Rajin-Vladivostok route has become the first service between the countries.

“It took about nine hours [for Man Gyong Bong] to cross the sea,” Khrolenko wrote, “It is planned that the ferry will transport Chinese tourists (from Hunchun) to Russia every week, Russian tourists to Rajin and North Korean workers to Vladivostok and back (from May 25).”

“The Man Gyong Bong has three dry cargo holds with a total capacity of 1,500 tons, which will probably not be empty on voyages,” the Russian journalist elaborated, “The ice-free port of Rajin is located in the North-Korean city of Rason which enjoys the status of a special economic zone with free business allowed. The free port of Vladivostok is also a zone of special customs, tax, investment and related regulation.”

Previously, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for expanding sanctions against Pyongyang. The bill bars vessels owned by the DPRK or by countries involved in trade with Pyongyang from operating in American waters or docking at US ports.

In accordance with the legislation, those countries which hire North Korean employees would be subjected to sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Power Act.

Khrolenko remarked that Congress even went so far as to maintain special control over Russia’s Far East ports of Vladivostok, Nakhodka and Vanino, as part of the measures.

Meanwhile, on May 16 US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haily urged other countries either to exert more pressure on North Korea or choose between Washington and Pyongyang.

“You either support North Korea or you support us, you are either with North Korea or not,” Haily said as quoted by Bloomberg.

“The free port of Vladivostok has already responded [to the US sanctions],” Khrolenko pointed out, referring to the ferry service linking North Korea and Russia.

The journalist noted that Russia is complying with the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2270 on restrictions against North Korea inked by President Vladimir Putin in December 2016. However, that doesn’t mean that the US has the right to impose its own police control on sovereign states, he added.

“No country and no international organization have authorized the US to monitor the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions by police or ‘cowboy’ methods,” Khrolenko wrote, adding that the bill supported by the US Congress contradicts the principle of sovereignty and calls into question international economic activity.

The journalist reminded his readers that Washington wants to track ships coming to Russia and other countries including China, Syria, Iran, and inspect cargo transported to certain ports of the DPRK.

He added that special US services can obtain the right to inspect ships and aircraft that have visited North Korea during the last 365 days.

Predictably, Washington’s unilateral initiative prompted criticism from Russian politicians.

Commenting on the issue, Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that de jure the bill’s realization means “forced inspection of all vessels” by US warships. Such a scenario amounts to a declaration of war, Kosachev noted.

However, according to Khrolenko, the US congressmen’s plan to maintain control over the countries’ trade is nothing but wishful thinking.

“It is impossible to control the ports and economic activities of independent states from Washington,” the journalist noted, “As for the Far Eastern ports of Russia, the Americans may only conduct remote monitoring [of the region].”

“The US can also obtain information by using space reconnaissance means, remote hacking of the ports databases or agents in the field. Or they can simply inspect any vessel in neutral waters… Everything is possible, but taking into account the total volume of shipping and the capabilities of the Navy of the aforementioned countries [Russia, China, Iran, Syria], such control appears to be too dangerous,” he elaborated.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

China Becomes First Country to Lift ‘Combustible Ice’ From Ocean Floor

Sputnik – 18.05.2017

China has managed to successfully mine combustible ice in the South China Sea after nearly two decades of research and exploration.

The trial mining site is situated in the Shenhu area of the South China Sea. It is a major breakthrough that may lead to a global energy revolution, according to China’s Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming.

In a statement published on China’s government website it said that the natural gas hydrate is the best replacement for oil and natural gas.

Combustible ice usually exists in seabeds or tundra areas, which have the strong pressure and low temperature necessary to keep it stable. It can be ignited like solid ethanol, which is why it is called “combustible ice.”

China first discovered combustible ice, a kind of natural gas hydrate that can be lit on fire and burned as fuel, in the South China Sea back in 2007.

CCTV channel, reported that samples of combustible ice were lifted from a depth of 1,266 meters in the South China Sea region, 285 kilometers from Hong Kong.

Since May 10, the Chinese oil industry has produced 120,000 cubic meters of combustible ice which contains 99.5% of methane.

Experts believe that the extraction shows China has mastered combustible ice mining technology.

“Many countries along the Maritime Silk Road have a demand for combustible ice mining,” Qiu Haijun, director of the trial mining commanding headquarters said, Shanghai Daily reported.

“With the advanced technology we could help resolve the energy resource problem and boost economic development and exchanges between countries,” Qiu said.

May 18, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , | 2 Comments