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Trump holds back from destroying Iran deal

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | October 14, 2017

The US President Donald Trump’s statement on Friday regarding Iran turned out to be high on rhetoric but lacking in substance. Simply put, Iran can learn to live with it, as things stand. Prima facie, Trump ‘decertified’ the Iran nuclear deal – that is to say, he refused to certify that Iran is fulfilling its commitments under the agreement. On the other hand, it is an action that falls exclusively within the domain of the relevant US law, and has per se nothing to do with the implementation of the Iran deal.

The point is, Trump has not torn up the agreement. He has instead tossed the ball into the court of the US Congress, leaving it to the lawmakers to impose sanctions against Iran (which would effectively undermine the nuclear deal.) But then, the likelihood of the Congress imposing sanctions (or assuming the political responsibility to destroy the Iran deal) is also very low. Trump probably knows it, too. And, without a re-imposition of sanctions, the nuclear deal is not in any jeopardy.

So, what has been Trump’s game plan? First, his tirade against Iran – even recalling the hostage crisis in 1980 – shores up the traditional concerns of the Republican Party regarding Iran’s role in the Middle East and appeases the Israeli lobby. Second, Trump has taken one more step to fulfill his pledge to undo the legacy of his predecessor (after having scuttled the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Paris accord on climate change.) Third, Trump probably calculated that his brinkmanship – stepping up to the line but not killing the nuclear agreement – would enable him to rally the US’ European allies to a joint platform to pressure Iran to rein in its missile program and to moderate its regional policies.

The firm stance taken by the European Union – and UK, France and Germany, in particular – in support of the Iran nuclear deal has proved to be the clincher. The US faces isolation in the international community if it abandons the nuclear deal. An extraordinary joint declaration by the heads of governments of UK, France and Germany underscored that preserving the nuclear deal “is in our shared national security interest.” Having said that, the statement offered cooperation to the US in engaging Iran in constructive dialogue to work toward “negotiated solutions” to the concerns raised by Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional activities. In sum, US’ European allies have suggested a twin-track approach – on the one hand preserve the nuclear deal while on the other hand independently address “our collective wider concerns” regarding Iran’s foreign and security policies.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has reacted to Trump’s statement, meeting rhetoric with rhetoric. Evidently, Tehran understands that Trump has left the nuclear deal untouched and the chances are that the agreement may remain in place for the foreseeable future. Tehran will be open to the idea of a “constructive dialogue” with the Western powers on issues of mutual concern. Interestingly, the Iranian statement has reiterated that “Iran will not be the first to withdraw from the deal, but if its rights and interests in the deal are not respected, it will stop implementing all its commitments and will resume its peaceful nuclear program without any restrictions.” The text of the Iranian statement is here.

October 14, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

The underlying reasons for Turkey’s disengagement from the US and the West

By Dmitry MININ | Strategic Culture Foundation | 12.10.2017

The Turkish media is reporting that a staffer at the American consulate general in Istanbul was recently arrested under the serious charge of attempting the “destruction of the constitutional order,” “espionage,” and seeking “to overthrow the government.”

To be specific, ties have been uncovered between the man under arrest and some prominent members of Fethullah Gülen’s movement (FETÖ), which is banned in Turkey. Previous accusations had been made against General Joseph Votel, the commander of US CENTCOM and an expert in covert operations, alleging that he had cooperated with the conspirators who attempted a military coup in Turkey in July 2016.

And this is only the tip of a very cold and growing iceberg that has gradually been disrupting the relationship between these formerly close allies – the US and Turkey. Not even President Erdoğan’s visit to the US this year could buck these trends.

Observing that relations between the two countries have been deteriorating for more than a decade, US columnists, for example – Tom Rogan of the Washington Examiner – reflexively sum it all up as evidence of the deleterious influence of Vladimir Putin. In his assessment of the most recent meeting between the Russian and Turkish presidents in Ankara, that journalist points to the fact that Recep Erdoğan called Vladimir Putin “my dear friend” and even “stroked his ego” by speaking to him – horror of horrors! – “in Russian,” as though that were a crime.

CNBC also notes that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin “share a general suspicion and mistrust of the US.” It seems, however, that the reasons for Turkey’s growing frustration with its efforts to cooperate with its Western partners, including the United States, run deeper. According to the Huffington Post, Ankara realized several years ago that neither the US nor influential NATO members such as Germany, France, and Britain take Turkey’s security concerns or economic interests seriously. As a result, Ankara decided to go it alone and began “wooing” Russia militarily and Iran economically.

The joint study produced not so long ago by the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s Center for Strategic Research and America’s CSIS, which reviews relations between Ankara and Washington, did not anticipate anything of this nature. The “Arab Spring” had just begun, and few people correctly surmised how that would unfold. Moreover, the study proclaimed that the two countries’ “partnership has recently been enhanced by overlapping perspectives on the unprecedented transformation sweeping the Middle East.” But nothing quite worked out that way.

At that time the foundations for the strategic alliance between the US and Turkey were seen as: close cooperation on issues related to the “Arab spring”; a Turkish role in the NATO mission in Afghanistan; Turkey’s decision to join the NATO missile-defense program; and American assistance with Turkey’s military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

All these elements of their “bilateral rapport” have now turned into factors of their alienation. For example, the Turkish government considers the US government to be fully to blame for the failure of the “Arab spring,” a stance that it takes, apparently, in part in order to sidestep criticism from its own citizens. In any event, there is now no serious cooperation between Ankara and Washington to speak of. Each acts at its own risk and peril. Turkey’s presence in Afghanistan was long ago reduced to a purely symbolic role. And Turkey’s potential purchase of the Russian S-400 system is indicative of more than merely Ankara’s shift toward non-NATO weapons – it is a consequence of the country’s de facto refusal to participate in the NATO program to create a joint missile-defense shield. The S-400 is a missile interceptor that is quite powerful enough to allow Turkey to autonomously defend its own territory.

And there’s a good reason this deal is so irritating to Washington and Brussels. Due to the oscillations of American policy in Syria, the local branch of the PKK – the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – has suddenly become the US administration’s main bedrock of support there. And this is perhaps the biggest irritant for the Turks. Suffice it to say that the Americans failed to meet their obligation to move the Kurds east of the Euphrates River and out of Manbij and Tabqa. The promise they made to Ankara to disarm the Kurds after the defeat of IS has also been unabashedly left hanging. The Turks deeply dislike being deceived. There is an ever-growing possibility that the US and Turkey, which are “NATO allies,” will become embroiled in an indirect armed conflict (!) through their “proxies” from the pro-Turkish FSA and the pro-American SDF.

Surveys conducted in Turkey by the American Pew Research Center show that 72% of Turks consider the US to be a threat to their country’s security. This is a world record, hands down. Few in Turkey were swayed by Washington’s refusal to formally support the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan. They don’t think that the Iraqi Kurds would have risked a referendum at all without the Americans’ tacit consent. It is noteworthy that not only Erdoğan, but also pro-opposition Turkish nationalists are highly critical of the US Kurdish policy. They believe that by flirting with the Kurds, Washington is pursuing a long-term strategy to create a “second Israel” in the Middle East. They are particularly irritated by the inclusion of oil-rich Kirkuk – which they traditionally view as a Turkmen city – within the zone of the referendum.

One might ask: how enduring are these changes that have been seen in the relationship between the two countries and in the sentiments of the Turkish public? Might they be scrapped once the next generation of politicians gets into office? But it appears rather to be a manifestation of deep-seated patterns of behavior. The post-war threats to Turkey’s security that at one time prompted its close integration with Western institutions, including NATO, simply do not exist today. And they are unlikely to reemerge. The real dangers for Turkey all come from a completely different direction – the Middle East. And to a large extent those dangers can be blamed on the actions of Ankara’s Western allies, who, instead of providing security, have become agents of destabilization. Perhaps the discussion today should be more about finding protection from them, not about joint-defense operations with them.

In addition, by abandoning its dream once and for all of joining the European Union – and that issue can be seen as settled, once and for all, on both sides – Turkey must obviously give some thought to its dependence on NATO. Although there is not yet any talk of Ankara’s pulling out of that institution, it is clearly inevitable that Turkey will reject some of the restrictive commitments and rules mandated by the North Atlantic alliance. Those might chiefly involve decisions to use military force that is unsanctioned by NATO. Erdoğan set out to entirely eliminate Turkey’s dependence on defense imports – which includes the goal of launching his country’s own aircraft carrier – by 2023, when Turkey will celebrate the centennial of the founding of its republic.

It’s no secret to anyone that nowadays NATO positions itself as a kind of “introductory class” to prep countries on their path to EU membership. All of Eastern Europe, for example, was forced to pass through this purgatory. It’s no surprise that Austria, Finland, and Sweden, which were early joiners to the European Union, aren’t seriously contemplating becoming NATO members, despite the discussions on this topic that are constantly forced upon them. And as far as Turkey is concerned, without the prospect of joining the EU, that alliance has become too cumbersome and useless.

From the standpoint of Turkey’s real interests, gradual rapprochement with its regional neighbors – Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Russia, as well as with global unions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – may be more promising. Although some might currently view this drift as a mere episode, it is in fact quite a logical development, based on objective criteria and which may well prove to be long-term.

October 12, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Almost Half of Germans, French, Poles Think US Interferes in Foreign Elections

Sputnik – October 12, 2017

The majority of the educated European public think it is the US which exerts influence on the elections in other countries, according to Sputnik’s public poll, which has been conducted by the leading French pollster Ifop.

Sputnik asked French pollster Ifop (French Institute of Public Opinion), a renowned international market researcher that has been gathering public opinion for large companies and political parties worldwide since 1938, to discover what Europeans think about the issue of interference in foreign elections in the wake of the accusations of Russia of meddling in voting in other countries.

Russia has been accused by the US of interfering in foreign parliamentary and presidential elections, with the allegations leading to a new round of anti-Russian sanctions levied by Washington.

Ifop interviewed 3,228 respondents over 18 years of age in the UK, France, Germany and Poland, asking them, “Taking into account its political and economic influence and the capabilities of its special forces, which country exerts more influence on the elections in other countries?”

Among the suggested countries were the US, Russia and the EU bloc, other options suggested another country or none.

One-third of the UK residents think it is the US which exerts influence on the elections in other countries. However the percentage is higher in Germany and France (over 40%), the countries, which this year voted in federal and presidential elections correspondingly.

In Poland, which voted in parliamentary and presidential elections in 2015, 43% also think that it is the US.

21% of the UK residents and less than 30% of continental Europeans, however, believe that Russia has an influence on the voting in other countries.

The number of those who think that the EU interferes in the elections of other countries is almost twice as high in the UK (18%), than in France, Germany or Poland.

Age seemed to have an important influence on the answers, with the tech-savvy under 35’s showing less faith in the impartiality of the US political machine than the older generation.

In all four countries, the poll showed that education also played a factor, with those possessing a higher education choosing the US as the main culprit, in comparison to their less-educated peers.

With regards to their political preferences, in France, more supporters of the left (50%) think that the US is meddling in voting in other countries, than those who support the National Front and those who support the Democratic Movement party.

As for Germany, more Eastern Germans support the idea that the US interferes (46%), versus 39% of the Western Germans polled. Meanwhile, 31% of Westerners think the same about Russia, versus 18% in Eastern Germany.

In the UK, people residing outside the capital think the US interferes more, while about 30% of Londoners support this point of view.

In Poland, it is more the right (44%) and centrists (43%) who blame the US, while 38% of the left are of the same opinion.

October 12, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Antifa in Theory and in Practice

By Diana Johnstone | CounterPunch | October 9, 2017

Fascists are divided into two categories: the fascists and the anti-fascists.”

– Ennio Flaiano, Italian writer and co-author of Federico Fellini’s greatest film scripts.

In recent weeks, a totally disoriented left has been widely exhorted to unify around a masked vanguard calling itself Antifa, for anti-fascist.  Hooded and dressed in black, Antifa is essentially a variation of the Black Bloc, familiar for introducing violence into peaceful demonstrations in many countries. Imported from Europe, the label Antifa sounds more political.  It also serves the purpose of stigmatizing those it attacks as “fascists”.

Despite its imported European name, Antifa is basically just another example of America’s steady descent into violence.

Historical Pretensions

Antifa first came to prominence from its role in reversing Berkeley’s proud “free speech” tradition by preventing right wing personalities from speaking there. But its moment of glory was its clash with rightwingers in Charlottesville on August 12, largely because Trump commented that there were “good people on both sides”. With exuberant Schadenfreude, commentators grabbed the opportunity to condemn the despised President for his “moral equivalence”, thereby bestowing a moral blessing on Antifa.

Charlottesville served as a successful book launching for Antifa: the Antifascist Handbook, whose author, young academic Mark Bray, is an Antifa in both theory and practice. The book is “really taking off very fast”, rejoiced the publisher, Melville House. It instantly won acclaim from leading mainstream media such as the New York Times, The Guardian and NBC, not hitherto known for rushing to review leftwing books, least of all those by revolutionary anarchists.

The Washington Post welcomed Bray as spokesman for “insurgent activist movements” and observed that: “The book’s most enlightening contribution is on the history of anti-fascist efforts over the past century, but its most relevant for today is its justification for stifling speech and clobbering white supremacists.”

Bray’s “enlightening contribution” is to a tell a flattering version of the Antifa story to a generation whose dualistic, Holocaust-centered view of history has largely deprived them of both the factual and the analytical tools to judge multidimensional events such as the growth of fascism. Bray presents today’s Antifa as though it were the glorious legitimate heir to every noble cause since abolitionism. But there were no anti-fascists before fascism, and the label “Antifa” by no means applies to all the many adversaries of fascism.

The implicit claim to carry on the tradition of the International Brigades who fought in Spain against Franco is nothing other than a form of innocence by association. Since we must revere the heroes of the Spanish Civil War, some of that esteem is supposed to rub off on their self-designated heirs. Unfortunately, there are no veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade still alive to point to the difference between a vast organized defense against invading fascist armies and skirmishes on the Berkeley campus. As for the Anarchists of Catalonia, the patent on anarchism ran out a long time ago, and anyone is free to market his own generic.

The original Antifascist movement was an effort by the Communist International to cease hostilities with Europe’s Socialist Parties in order to build a common front against the triumphant movements led by Mussolini and Hitler.

Since Fascism thrived, and Antifa was never a serious adversary, its apologists thrive on the “nipped in the bud” claim: “if only” Antifascists had beat up the fascist movements early enough, the latter would have been nipped in the bud. Since reason and debate failed to stop the rise of fascism, they argue, we must use street violence – which, by the way, failed even more decisively.

This is totally ahistorical. Fascism exalted violence, and violence was its preferred testing ground. Both Communists and Fascists were fighting in the streets and the atmosphere of violence helped fascism thrive as a bulwark against Bolshevism, gaining the crucial support of leading capitalists and militarists in their countries, which brought them to power.

Since historic fascism no longer exists, Bray’s Antifa have broadened their notion of “fascism” to include anything that violates the current Identity Politics canon: from “patriarchy” (a pre-fascist attitude to put it mildly) to “transphobia” (decidedly a post-fascist problem).

The masked militants of Antifa seem to be more inspired by Batman than by Marx or even by Bakunin.

Storm Troopers of the Neoliberal War Party

Since Mark Bray offers European credentials for current U.S. Antifa, it is appropriate to observe what Antifa amounts to in Europe today.

In Europe, the tendency takes two forms. Black Bloc activists regularly invade various leftist demonstrations in order to smash windows and fight the police. These testosterone exhibits are of minor political significance, other than provoking public calls to strengthen police forces. They are widely suspected of being influenced by police infiltration.

As an example, last September 23, several dozen black-clad masked ruffians, tearing down posters and throwing stones, attempted to storm the platform where the flamboyant Jean-Luc Mélenchon was to address the mass meeting of La France Insoumise, today the leading leftist party in France. Their unspoken message seemed to be that nobody is revolutionary enough for them. Occasionally, they do actually spot a random skinhead to beat up. This establishes their credentials as “anti-fascist”.

They use these credentials to arrogate to themselves the right to slander others in a sort of informal self-appointed inquisition.

As prime example, in late 2010, a young woman named Ornella Guyet appeared in Paris seeking work as a journalist in various leftist periodicals and blogs. She “tried to infiltrate everywhere”, according to the former director of Le Monde diplomatique, Maurice Lemoine, who “always intuitively distrusted her” when he hired her as an intern.

Viktor Dedaj, who manages one of the main leftist sites in France, Le Grand Soir, was among those who tried to help her, only to experience an unpleasant surprise a few months later. Ornella had become a self-appointed inquisitor dedicated to denouncing “conspirationism, confusionism, anti-Semitism and red-brown” on Internet. This took the form of personal attacks on individuals whom she judged to be guilty of those sins. What is significant is that all her targets were opposed to U.S. and NATO aggressive wars in the Middle East.

Indeed, the timing of her crusade coincided with the “regime change” wars that destroyed Libya and tore apart Syria. The attacks singled out leading critics of those wars.

Viktor Dedaj was on her hit list. So was Michel Collon, close to the Belgian Workers Party, author, activist and manager of the bilingual site Investig’action. So was François Ruffin, film-maker, editor of the leftist journal Fakir elected recently to the National Assembly on the list of Mélenchon’s party La France Insoumise. And so on. The list is long.

The targeted personalities are diverse, but all have one thing in common: opposition to aggressive wars. What’s more, so far as I can tell, just about everyone opposed to those wars is on her list.

The main technique is guilt by association. High on the list of mortal sins is criticism of the European Union, which is associated with “nationalism” which is associated with “fascism” which is associated with “anti-Semitism”, hinting at a penchant for genocide. This coincides perfectly with the official policy of the EU and EU governments, but Antifa uses much harsher language.

In mid-June 2011, the anti-EU party Union Populaire Républicaine led by François Asselineau was the object of slanderous insinuations on Antifa internet sites signed by “Marie-Anne Boutoleau” (a pseudonym for Ornella Guyet). Fearing violence, owners cancelled scheduled UPR meeting places in Lyon. UPR did a little investigation, discovering that Ornella Guyet was on the speakers list at a March 2009 Seminar on International Media organized in Paris by the Center for the Study of International Communications and the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. A surprising association for such a zealous crusader against “red-brown”.

In case anyone has doubts, “red-brown” is a term used to smear anyone with generally leftist views – that is, “red” – with the fascist color “brown”.  This smear can be based on having the same opinion as someone on the right, speaking on the same platform with someone on the right, being published alongside someone on the right, being seen at an anti-war demonstration also attended by someone on the right, and so on.  This is particularly useful for the War Party, since these days, many conservatives are more opposed to war than leftists who have bought into the “humanitarian war” mantra.

The government doesn’t need to repress anti-war gatherings. Antifa does the job.

The Franco-African comedien Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, stigmatized for anti-Semitism since 2002 for his TV sketch lampooning an Israeli settler as part of George W. Bush’s “Axis of Good”, is not only a target, but serves as a guilty association for anyone who defends his right to free speech – such as Belgian professor Jean Bricmont, virtually blacklisted in France for trying to get in a word in favor of free speech during a TV talk show. Dieudonné has been banned from the media, sued and fined countless times, even sentenced to jail in Belgium, but continues to enjoy a full house of enthusiastic supporters at his one-man shows, where the main political message is opposition to war.

Still, accusations of being soft on Dieudonné can have serious effects on individuals in more precarious positions, since the mere hint of “anti-Semitism” can be a career killer in France. Invitations are cancelled, publications refused, messages go unanswered.

In April 2016, Ornella Guyet dropped out of sight, amid strong suspicions about her own peculiar associations.

The moral of this story is simple. Self-appointed radical revolutionaries can be the most useful thought police for the neoliberal war party.

I am not suggesting that all, or most, Antifa are agents of the establishment. But they can be manipulated, infiltrated or impersonated precisely because they are self-anointed and usually more or less disguised.

Silencing Necessary Debate

One who is certainly sincere is Mark Bray, author of The Intifa Handbook. It is clear where Mark Bray is coming from when he writes (p.36-7): “… Hitler’s ‘final solution’ murdered six million Jews in gas chambers, with firing squads, through hunger an lack of medical treatment in squalid camps and ghettoes, with beatings, by working them to death, and through suicidal despair.  Approximately two out of every three Jews on the continent were killed, including some of my relatives.”

This personal history explains why Mark Bray feels passionately about “fascism”. This is perfectly understandable in one who is haunted by fear that “it can happen again”.

However, even the most justifiable emotional concerns do not necessarily contribute to wise counsel. Violent reactions to fear may seem to be strong and effective when in reality they are morally weak and practically ineffectual.

We are in a period of great political confusion. Labeling every manifestation of “political incorrectness” as fascism impedes clarification of debate over issues that very much need to be defined and clarified.

The scarcity of fascists has been compensated by identifying criticism of immigration as fascism. This identification, in connection with rejection of national borders, derives much of its emotional force above all from the ancestral fear in the Jewish community of being excluded from the nations in which they find themselves.

The issue of immigration has different aspects in different places. It is not the same in European countries as in the United States. There is a basic distinction between immigrants and immigration. Immigrants are people who deserve consideration. Immigration is a policy that needs to be evaluated. It should be possible to discuss the policy without being accused of persecuting the people. After all, trade union leaders have traditionally opposed mass immigration, not out of racism, but because it can be a deliberate capitalist strategy to bring down wages.

In reality, immigration is a complex subject, with many aspects that can lead to reasonable compromise. But to polarize the issue misses the chances for compromise. By making mass immigration the litmus test of whether or not one is fascist, Antifa intimidation impedes reasonable discussion. Without discussion, without readiness to listen to all viewpoints, the issue will simply divide the population into two camps, for and against. And who will win such a confrontation?

A recent survey* shows that mass immigration is increasingly unpopular in all European countries. The complexity of the issue is shown by the fact that in the vast majority of European countries, most people believe they have a duty to welcome refugees, but disapprove of continued mass immigration. The official argument that immigration is a good thing is accepted by only 40%, compared to 60% of all Europeans who believe that “immigration is bad for our country”. A left whose principal cause is open borders will become increasingly unpopular.

Childish Violence

The idea that the way to shut someone up is to punch him in the jaw is as American as Hollywood movies. It is also typical of the gang war that prevails in certain parts of Los Angeles. Banding together with others “like us” to fight against gangs of “them” for control of turf is characteristic of young men in uncertain circumstances. The search for a cause can involve endowing such conduct with a political purpose: either fascist or antifascist. For disoriented youth, this is an alternative to joining the U.S. Marines.

American Antifa looks very much like a middle class wedding between Identity Politics and gang warfare. Mark Bray (page 175) quotes his DC Antifa source as implying that the motive of would-be fascists is to side with “the most powerful kid in the block” and will retreat if scared. Our gang is tougher than your gang.

That is also the logic of U.S. imperialism, which habitually declares of its chosen enemies: “All they understand is force.” Although Antifa claim to be radical revolutionaries, their mindset is perfectly typical the atmosphere of violence which prevails in militarized America.

In another vein, Antifa follows the trend of current Identity Politics excesses that are squelching free speech in what should be its citadel, academia.  Words are considered so dangerous that “safe spaces” must be established to protect people from them. This extreme vulnerability to injury from words is strangely linked to tolerance of real physical violence.

Wild Goose Chase

In the United States, the worst thing about Antifa is the effort to lead the disoriented American left into a wild goose chase, tracking down imaginary “fascists” instead of getting together openly to work out a coherent positive program. The United States has more than its share of weird individuals, of gratuitous aggression, of crazy ideas, and tracking down these marginal characters, whether alone or in groups, is a huge distraction. The truly dangerous people in the United States are safely ensconced in Wall Street, in Washington Think Tanks, in the executive suites of the sprawling military industry, not to mention the editorial offices of some of the mainstream media currently adopting a benevolent attitude toward “anti-fascists” simply because they are useful in focusing on the maverick Trump instead of themselves.

Antifa USA, by defining “resistance to fascism” as resistance to lost causes – the Confederacy, white supremacists and for that matter Donald Trump – is actually distracting from resistance to the ruling neoliberal establishment, which is also opposed to the Confederacy and white supremacists and has already largely managed to capture Trump by its implacable campaign of denigration. That ruling establishment, which in its insatiable foreign wars and introduction of police state methods, has successfully used popular “resistance to Trump” to make him even worse than he already was.

The facile use of the term “fascist” gets in the way of thoughtful identification and definition of the real enemy of humanity today. In the contemporary chaos, the greatest and most dangerous upheavals in the world all stem from the same source, which is hard to name, but which we might give the provisional simplified label of Globalized Imperialism. This amounts to a multifaceted project to reshape the world to satisfy the demands of financial capitalism, the military industrial complex, United States ideological vanity and the megalomania of leaders of lesser “Western” powers, notably Israel. It could be called simply “imperialism”, except that it is much vaster and more destructive than the historic imperialism of previous centuries. It is also much more disguised. And since it bears no clear label such as “fascism”, it is difficult to denounce in simple terms.

The fixation on preventing a form of tyranny that arose over 80 years ago, under very different circumstances, obstructs recognition of the monstrous tyranny of today. Fighting the previous war leads to defeat.

Donald Trump is an outsider who will not be let inside. The election of Donald Trump is above all a grave symptom of the decadence of the American political system, totally ruled by money, lobbies, the military-industrial complex and corporate media. Their lies are undermining the very basis of democracy. Antifa has gone on the offensive against the one weapon still in the hands of the people: the right to free speech and assembly.

Notes.

* «Où va la démocratie?», une enquête  de la Fondation pour l’innovation politique sous la direction de Dominique Reynié, (Plon, Paris, 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

October 9, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Under the French Hate Speech Laws

By Lawrence G. Proulx • Unz Review • October 4, 2017

The term “hate speech” is employed more and more these days, and Internet companies and government agencies are being urged to suppress it. So it might be worthwhile to consider how countries without a First Amendment treat the types of speech that are likely to fall within the ever-expanding definition of the term.

I can report on one such country, France, which may be representative of European countries generally. I worked there as an (English-language) newspaper copyeditor from 1999 to 2016. While I am not competent to describe precisely how its complex legal system works, I believe I can offer an informative overview. To do this well, many thousands of words are necessary, but I have divided them into sections and invite you to jump ahead to the next whenever you might feel bogged down.

The United States is often described as a litigious society, even as the litigious society. This view has been shared by the French at least since the publication of “Democracy in America,” in 1835, in which Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “there is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.”

Today, however, an American observing French public life is likely to be surprised by the frequency with which the courts are asked to punish people for things written or said. A legal tradition different from our own, to which have been added a number of specific criminal laws, has produced a regulatory system in which fines, damage payments and prison sentences (almost always suspended) are imposed for violations.

In the United States, punishment for saying or writing things that others find objectionable is sometimes imposed by private entities, such as employers, and in the past few decades many businesses, institutions and organizations have established restrictions on expression. But the means of engaging the judiciary in this enterprise are severely limited. In this the United States differs not only from France but also from many other European countries as well as the developing legal structure of the European Union.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, adopted during the French Revolution and confirmed explicitly in 1958 in the preamble to the constitution of the Fifth Republic, states: “The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.”

It would be simplistic to say that the difference between the two systems lies primarily in the “but” clause of the latter. But even if the American amendment has inevitably been moderated by court decisions through the years, it does make every abridgment fight for its life, as it were, whereas the French formulation takes the inevitability of exceptions as a matter of course.

What infractions must a speaker or writer or editor or publisher avoid in order to stay within the law in France? Here are the basics, as discussed in the manual “Droits des journalistes et liberté d’expression” by Bernard Dapogny and Marion Dapogny:

  • False news, “made in bad faith, that disturbs the public order or is capable of disturbing it.”
  • Use of a false document in reporting.
  • Attempt to harm the discipline or morale of the armed forces or to hinder a war effort.
  • Defamation.
  • Insult. [The distinction between this and the preceding is that defamation must assert something specific, whereas insult can be merely an offensive word.]
  • Attempt to harm a person’s honor or reputation.
  • Defamation of or insult to the judiciary, the military services, various other public bodies including “junior high schools, high schools, universities, the Legion of Honor” as well as “local administrations, the police, hospitals, penitentiaries.”
  • Defamation of or insult to persons acting in a position of public authority, including “representatives and senators, ministers and Secretaries of State” as well as “police personnel, magistrates, teachers.”
  • Defamation or insult based on race, religion or belonging to an ethnic group or a nation.
  • Defamation or insult based on sex, sexual orientation or handicap.
  • Defamation of or insult to deceased persons, where the offense touches on the honor of the heirs or close survivors.
  • Provocation to the commission of a crime which leads to the crime.
  • Provocation to the commission of a crime which doesn’t lead to the crime.
  • Indirect provocation (apology), that is, stating that certain crimes were justified, including “war crimes, crimes against humanity or crimes in collaboration with the enemy.”
  • Provocation to hate, violence or discrimination, which could be based on a person’s “origin, sex, family situation, state of pregnancy, physical appearance, family name, state of health, handicap, genetic characteristics, morals, sexual orientation, age, opinions, politics, labor union activity, belonging or not belonging, real or supposed to a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion.”
  • Provocation to or apology for terrorism.
  • Contesting “the existence of one or several crimes against humanity as defined by Article 6 of the charter of the International Military Tribunal [the Nuremberg Tribunal] annexed to the London Agreement of August 6, 1945, and which were committed by the members of an organization declared criminal in application of Article 9 of the said charter, by a person recognized as guilty of such crimes by a French jurisdiction or by an international one.” Enacted in July 1990 and called the Gayssot Law.
  • Offending the president of the Republic. [This law was repealed in 2013.]

Many of these laws are seldom invoked; others are used frequently. To put flesh on the matter, I offer you a list of cases from 2013 that I put together in 2014 for an article that never found a publisher. (Sorry, but the work of assembling it was too tedious for me to undertake it again, and I think the general impression given by more recent cases would not be different.) Although details of the offensive language are frequently omitted in the news reports from which this list is compiled, a quick look will give a sense of how routine the cases are.

One thing should be mentioned first. An anti-racism law passed in July 1972, commonly called the Pleven Law, strengthened the restrictions on speech and granted to private associations dedicated to fighting racism the right to participate in the prosecution of criminal cases and to claim damages as well. Amendments to the law empowered additional categories of associations, for example, associations working “to defend the moral interests and the honor of veterans and victims of war and of those who died for France” or “to defend the memory of slaves and the honor of their descendants.” Such associations are frequently the first to blow the whistle on remarks they consider violative, and because they have the standing to file complaints even when no particular person is targeted by the contested remarks, their legal recognition is an important factor in the number of cases brought before the courts today.

2013 in Review

January

Marie-Josée Roig, the mayor of Avignon, files a complaint for public insults contained in a book purporting to be fiction (“Le Monarque, son fils, son fief”) by Marie-Célie Guillaume in which a character who resembles Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, demands a quick sexual “present” from a woman who resembles Roig.

Daniel Boyer, the mayor of Châteaubernard, files a complaint for public insults after a wave of graffiti attacking him and various acts of vandalism.

Frédéric Haziza, a Jewish journalist, files a complaint for public insult and public insult committed against a person because of his religion, after being attacked on the website of Alain Soral, a self-described anti-Zionist activist. Haziza had refused to invite Soral onto his show to discuss Soral’s book “Comprendre l’empire” because of Soral’s “clearly antisemitic” views.

March

A judge, Jean-Michel Gentil, files a complaint for contempt and insult against Henri Guaino, a deputy in Parliament, for having said that the judge “dishonored the [state] institutions and justice” after Sarkozy was interrogated on suspicion of abusing the weakness of a rich aged widow.

Bloc Identitaire, a nationalist group, announces its intention to file a complaint for public insult against Yann Galut, a deputy from the Cher department, for having called the members of the bloc “casseurs” (protesters who destroy property) in a Twitter message.

April

Rama Yade, a former secretary of state for human rights and for sports, is found guilty of defamation and insult for eight of twenty-eight contested statements posted on her blog about a political opponent, Manuel Aeschlimann, after she was challenged over her domicile status in the Hauts-de-Seine department.

May

Yvan Benedetti and Alexandre Gabriac, right-wing activists, file a complaint against Jean-François Carenco, the prefect of Lyon, and Albert Doutre, director of public security, for “hateful” public insults (such as “imbecilities” and “thugs”) made during the containment of a nationalist youth protest in front of the Socialist Party local headquarters.

June

The city of Angers files suit against a shopkeeper for public insult in the form of signs he put up to protest a proposed tax on businesses that serve clients on the sidewalk, which followed among other things a police check of whether he was serving alcohol without the proper license.

Pierre Dubois, the mayor of Roubaix, and the Human Rights League file a complaint against an unnamed man who, during the course of a heated discussion at a public meeting, suggested that the Roma (Gypsies) be sent to Auschwitz.

July

Sylvie Goy-Chavent, a senator of the Ain department who prepared a report on the security of meat production in France, files a complaint against a website, Internet JSSNews.com, which describes itself as a webzine of Israeli opinion, for calling her such things as “bitch” and “little shit” and writing, among other things, “Goy, she wears her name well.”

September

The Union of Jewish Students of France says it will file a complaint against the weekly magazine Valeurs Actuelles for provocation of racial or religious discrimination, hatred or violence. The group describes the cover of the magazine’s Sept. 26 issue, which shows a white bust of a woman representing France wearing a black Islamic veil and bearing the title “Naturalized: The Invasion They’re Hiding,” as “racist” and “hateful.” The magazine says in return that it will file a complaint against the group for calumnious denunciation, defamation and attack on freedom of expression.

The Foundation for the Memorial of the Black Slave Trade, along with the Federation of African Associations, the National Union of Overseas France, and other organizations and individual citizens file a complaint against Jean-Sebastien Vialatte, a deputy in Parliament, for public insult, defamation and incitement of racial hatred and racial discrimination, for his remarks after vandalism occurred during a celebration of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team. He had sent a Twitter message in which he said sardonically that “the people who vandalize are surely descendants of slaves, they have excuses[.] #Taubira [the justice minister] will give them some compensation!”

October

The League for the Judicial Defense of Muslims files a complaint against the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo for its July 10 cover which had a cartoon captioned in large letters with “The Koran, it’s shit; it doesn’t stop bullets”; against the magazine Valeurs Actuelles for its Sept. 26 cover; against the website Riposte Laïque for various articles; and against Manuel Valls, the secretary of the interior, for provocation of discrimination and hate, for saying, “Within ten years we will show, we are in the process of showing, there is a will, that Islam is compatible [sic] with the Republic.”

Bruno Gilles, a senator in the Union for a Popular Movement, files a complaint against a socialist, Patrick Mennucci, for “defamation and public insults.” “He called me a racist and xenophobe,” the senator said.

France-El Djazaïr, a Franco-Algerian friendship association, announces that it will file a complaint against a police officer in the city of Alès for “insults and incitement to xenophobic and Islamophobic hatred”; the officer had put on his Facebook profile page a photo-montage representing the Algerian flag over which was written “I hate Algeria,” attached to an image of a man wiping his bottom with the flag.

Bachir Bouhmadou, adjunct general secretary of Citizen Resistance, and Ali Saab, president of the Association of Muslims of the Territory of Belfort, file a complaint against Christine Tasin, a militant with the group Republican Resistance, for videotaped comments opposing ritual Islamic butchery and criticizing Islam.

Abdellah Zekri, the president of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, says he will file a complaint after his house was defaced with swastikas and graffiti saying “Islam Out” and “Heit [sic] Hitler.”

The National Front says it will file a complaint against Christiane Taubira, the justice minister, for public insult for having described the party’s way of thinking as “deadly and murderous” and summarizing it thus: “It’s the blacks in the branches of the trees, the Arabs in the sea, the homosexuals in the Seine, the Jews in the oven and so forth.”

November

A 65-year-old man is found guilty of insulting Claudine Ledoux, the mayor of Charleville-Mézières, on his website, l’Union-l’Ardennais, in a manner described by a regional newspaper as “menacing, racist and sexist,” in relation to her being made a knight in the Legion of Honor; he is ordered to pay a fine of one thousand euros and damages for mental distress of the same amount to Ledoux.

The association SOS Racisme says it will file a complaint for incitation to racial hatred against Minute, a 16-page rightist weekly, for its cover with a photo of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is a native of French Guiana, and for the title “Clever Like a Monkey, Taubira Finds the Banana Again,” which combines two common French expressions; to have the banana (or the peach) means to be full of energy.

A player files a complaint for racial insult after a rough soccer game (three red cards) between the second-stringers of the Sablé and Lude clubs. A player explained: “This attacker called me a dirty white. I called him a dirty black.”

The Movement Against Racism and for the Amity of Peoples files a complaint for provocation of racial hatred against Manuel Valls, minister of the interior, for comments about the Gypsies including, “The Gypsies should stay in Romania or return there.” The case will be dismissed in December 2013.

Bob Dylan is put under formal investigation for insult and provocation of racial hatred after the Representative Council of the Croatian Community and Institutions of France files a complaint against both him and the magazine Rolling Stone, the French version of which republished an interview in which he said, “If you’ve got a slave master or the Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. … Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.” The case will be dismissed in April 2014.

December

The comedian Nicolas Bedos testifies after being accused of complicity in making a public racial insult in an article in the magazine Marianne as well as on its website; among the phrases he used were “Negro bugger,” “island indolence” and “lazy natives.”

Gérard Huet, the mayor of Loudéac, is sued by the Human Rights League for comments about Gypsies he made at a meeting to discuss expenditures to renovate the area where the Gypsies were living. “They’ve stolen all our plumbing,” he says, and he later objects to the comment of another member of the city council with, “You’re defending thieves?” He sues the league in return for harassment.

The comedian Dieudonné files a defamation complaint after Alain Jakubowicz, the president of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, describes the “quenelle,” a gesture used by the comedian and his fans, as “corresponding to an inverted Nazi salute signifying the sodomizing of the victims of the Holocaust.” Dieudonné also says he will sue Le Monde, Le Figaro, BFMTV, France 2 and Manuel Valls, the interior minister.

The imam Hicham El Barkani files a complaint for insult after a protest described as islamophobic against the opening of a mosque in Papeete.

Historians on Trial

Some cases have greater import than those listed above, as when historians are attacked for their work.

The Columbia University historian Bernard Lewis gave an interview to Le Monde on November 16, 1993, in which he discussed the killings of Armenians by Turks during the First World War. In the course of it he said, “If one speaks of genocide, that implies that there was a deliberate policy, a decision, to systematically annihilate the Armenian nation. That is quite doubtful. Turkish documents prove a will of deportation, not of extermination.” On January 1, 1994, in response to strong objections to his remarks, he published a further explanation of his position, again in Le Monde, ending with a repetition of his main point, that “no serious proof exists of a decision and a plan by the Ottoman government aiming at exterminating the Armenian nation.” He was sued by the Forum of Armenian Associations of France and the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism on the claim that he had “gravely hurt the memory and respect of the survivors and of their families.” The civil court of Paris ruled that Lewis had “failed to meet his duty of objectivity and prudence in expressing himself without nuance on so sensitive a subject” and ordered him to pay a franc each to the two associations as well as the cost of publishing the decision. Lewis was also the defendant in other civil cases and one criminal one on the same subject, all of which were dismissed.

In 2001, the French Parliament “publicly recognized the Armenian genocide of 1915,” and in 2012 the Parliament passed a law instituting a punishment of imprisonment for one year and a fine of 45,000 euros of anyone who “contests or minimizes in an outrageous fashion” genocides recognized as such by French law, but the Constitutional Council ruled the latter law unconstitutional a month later. Both of the main candidates for president that year, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, soon announced that they would seek a new law to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide, and in January 2017 a law took effect providing for a year of prison and a fine of 45,000 euros for those who denied, belittled or “banalized in an outrageous way” recognized genocides, crimes against humanity, and enslavement or exploitation of an enslaved person.

In 2001 Parliament also passed a law recognizing “that the trans-Atlantic trade in Negroes as well as the trade in the Indian Ocean on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the slavery perpetrated starting in the 15th Century, in the Americas and the Caribbean, in the Indian Ocean and in Europe against the Africans, Amerindians, Madagascans and Indians constitute a crime against humanity.” Four years later this law was invoked against Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, a professor at the University of Southern Brittany. In the course of an interview given on June 12, 2005, in relation to his book “Les traites négrières” (The Negro Slave Trades), which had won many awards including the Senate History Book Prize, Pétré-Grenouilleau rejected a comparison of the slave trades to the Jewish Holocaust: “The slave trades are not genocides. The slave trade didn’t have the goal of exterminating a people. The slave was a good that had a market value that one wanted to make work as much as possible.” An association representing people of the Caribbean, French Guiana and Réunion filed a complaint against him for denying a crime against humanity and demanded that he be “suspended from his university functions for revisionism.” In the vehement debate that ensued, Pétré-Grenouilleau was strongly supported by many prominent historians, and in February 2006, acknowledging this opposition, the association withdrew its complaint.

Shortly before the Pétré-Grenouilleau affair erupted, another “memorial” law had been passed, in January 2005, aimed generally at recognizing the suffering of those French citizens who had been repatriated from North Africa at the end of the Algerian War. This law had itself evoked controversy, by requiring that “school programs recognize in particular the positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in North Africa.” A year later the law was emended and the “positive role” removed.

Real Prison Sentences

I know of only three writers who have recently been given sentences that were “fermes,” as the French say, that is, that were not suspended as soon as pronounced. Vincent Reynouard is a Frenchman born in 1969 and trained as a chemical engineer who has argued that the Nazis had no plan to exterminate the Jews and that gas chambers were not used to kill people. Among the many videos he has placed on the Internet, there is one in which he expresses his admiration for Hitler; he says, “I think that Hitler was a man too good for the 20th Century, too honest, too straightforward.” A month after being arrested in Belgium, Reynouard was extradited to France in August 2010 and served seven and a half months in prison for contesting a crime against humanity. He has continued to produce writings and Internet videos, and in February 2015 he was convicted of contestation of crimes against humanity and sentenced to two years in prison. In November 2016 he was given a five-months sentence for publishing two videos in which he stated that he would offer 5,000 euros to “anyone who can show me, in free, candid and courteous debate, that the homicidal Hitlerian gas chambers are not a myth of history.” To avoid a return to prison, he is said to be living in England.

Hervé Ryssen, according to Wikipedia, has been sentenced several times for his writings about Jews on counts, among others, of racial insult, racial defamation, defamation against a group of persons because of their belonging to a certain race, and incitation to racial hatred; and Boris Le Lay, who is living in Japan, has been sentenced in absentia many times, most recently in July this year to serve 32 months in prison and to pay 31,500 euros to the groups representing the supposed victims, for his writings judged to constitute incitement to discrimination and to racial hatred and violence, and to contain public racial insults. Among the recent charges against Le Lay was one of making death threats against activists of the Human Rights League; I have not been able to determine if he was convicted of this; if he was, he appears in that instance to be an exception to the other cases discussed in this article, which involve no violence or threat thereof.

Politicians on Trial

Although many speech cases involve politicians, two in particular deserve mention because they arguably played a role in the presidential election of 2007.

The first round of the previous election, in 2002, had stunned the country as Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, edged out Lionel Jospin, the Socialist candidate, for a place in the second round. Le Pen’s share of the first-round vote was only 16.9 percent, but Jospin was handicapped by an abundance of rivals on the left who split the vote. Before the second round, a broad denunciatory publicity campaign to block Le Pen took place, and his opponent, Jacques Chirac, the incumbent, refused to debate him. Chirac was re-elected with 82 percent of the vote.

Before the next election, in 2007, both Le Pen and the party’s second-ranking member, Bruno Gollnisch, would be defendants in high-profile cases over things they said.

On January 7, 2005, the rightist weekly Rivarol published an interview in which Le Pen said: “In France, at least, the German occupation wasn’t particularly inhumane, even if there were slip-ups, inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometers.” He also related a story about a German lieutenant, “crazy with pain” after an attack on a train in which many young soldiers died, who he said would have shot up a village had the Gestapo not intervened. Various groups filed complaints, and in March an investigation was formally opened. In February 2008 he was found guilty of complicity in the contestation of crimes against humanity and complicity in apology for war crimes. In January 2009 the appeals court in Paris confirmed the verdict on the first count but threw out the war-crimes verdict. In April 2011 the Court of Cassation overturned the crimes-against-humanity verdict, and remanded the matter to the appeals court, which again found him guilty in February 2012, a judgment confirmed by the Court of Cassation in June 2013. Le Pen was sentenced to three months in prison (suspended) and assessed a fine of 10,000 euros, and the editor of Rivarol and the interviewer were fined 5,000 euros and 2,000 euros respectively. Three of the complainant groups were awarded damages of 5,000 euros each, and Rivarol was ordered to pay for the publication of the decision in Le Figaro.

In the other case, Gollnisch, a professor of Japanese language and culture at the University of Lyon who at the time was director general of the National Front (before the ascension of Marine Le Pen), was charged with contestation of crimes against humanity for responses to a journalist’s questions at a press conference in October 2004. No electronic recording was made, but he was quoted as saying: “There is no serious historian who accepts completely the conclusions of the Nuremberg Tribunal; I think that the discussion should remain free concerning the drama of the concentration camps. The number of deaths, the manner in which the people died —historians have the right to discuss. … I don’t deny that there were homicidal gas chambers, but the discussion should remain free.” In 2006, before the verdict was rendered, he was suspended from his university post for five years.

During the trial Gollnisch was questioned intensively for hours one day in November 2006 over his true beliefs on the matter, and the attorney examining him, Alain Jakubowicz, representing the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, said he would withdraw from the case if Gollnisch would only admit “that the organized extermination of the Jews of Europe by the Nazi regime during the Second World War constitute an incontestable crime against humanity perpetrated notably by the use of gas chambers.” According to Le Monde, Gollnisch appeared surprised and hesitated before giving an answer that might alienate the “hard fringe of his movement.” Gollnisch replied, “Completely.” Asked to repeat his answer, he said: “My answer is affirmative.” He was convicted in January 2007, three months before the first round of the presidential election, and sentenced to serve three months in prison (suspended) and pay a fine of 5,000 euros. An appeals court in February 2008 confirmed the conviction and added fines totaling 39,000 euros to be paid to nine associations devoted to fighting racism or representing people deported from France during World War Two. But in June 2009 the Court of Cassation, judging that his contradictory remarks as presented to the court did not constitute contestation, overturned the verdict without possibility of retrial.

However these cases might be viewed in relation to freedom of speech, they also merit attention from a purely political point of view. In the 2002 election, Jean-Marie Le Pen scored an upset in the first round; in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidency by, in the view of many commentators, “borrowing the discourse” and luring the voters of Le Pen’s party. In between, both Le Pen and his righthand man were put on trial, to the accompaniment of much public commentary, on charges that suggested their approbation of Nazi atrocities. Under such circumstances, borrowing and luring may be much easier than would otherwise be the case.

Censored Books

In September 2013 the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism sought an injunction from a court in Bobigny to order the excision of passages from five books republished by Kontre Kulture, a publishing enterprise whose publication director is Alain Soral. David-Olivier Kaminski, an attorney for the league, described Soral as someone known as a “vector of hate” and characterized the re-editions as a “provocation, with the purpose of arousing tensions.” The league also asked for 20,000 euros in damages for each of the five books.

In November the court ordered the withdrawal from sale of one of the books, “L’Anthologie des propos contre les juifs, le judaïsme et le sionisme” by Paul-Eric Blanrue, which had originally been published by another publisher in 2007, and the removal of certain passages from the four others, all of which were reprints of books published long ago: “La France juive” by Edouard Drumont, “Le salut par les juifs” by Léon Bloy, “Le juif international” by Henry Ford, et “La controverse de Sion” by Douglas Reed. The court judged that the works constituted “insult toward a group of persons because of their belonging to a specific religion,” “negation of crimes against humanity,” and “provocation of racial hatred.” Kontre Kulture and Soral were also ordered to pay 8,000 euros each to the league as well as a part of its legal expenses. In December 2014 a court overturned the previous ruling on the “Anthologie” and it was again allowed to be sold.

The media reaction focused principally on the book by Léon Bloy. Bloy’s great-grandchild, Alexis Galpérine, reminded readers in Le Figaro that Bloy was a “philosemite” and that “Le salut par les juifs” had been recommended as a “book against antisemitism” by Franz Kafka. Pierre Glaudes, a professor at the Sorbonne, wrote in the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur : “This decision of justice arouses astonishment and disquiet by attacking a literary work that is 122 years old and has been republished several times without having attracted lightning strikes by justice. … This condemnation sets a dangerous precedent. Why not censor ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by Shakespeare, ‘Gobseck’ by Balzac or ‘Money’ by Zola for their antisemitic statements?”

Stage Show Blocked

The case of the comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala merits notice particularly for the legal manner in which the performance of his show “The Wall” in Nantes was forbidden in January 2014.

Dieudonné, the son of a Cameroonian man and a French woman, performed for several years early in his career with a Jewish partner, and their sketches often made fun of racism. Eventually he came to hold Jews responsible in large part for the slave trade, he expressed resentment at the attention given to the Holocaust in comparison with that given to the slavery, and he came to regard Jews not as fellow victims of prejudice but instead as important members of a power structure in which people of the Third World and of Third World origin are kept down. His new acts were sharply criticized, and he responded with provocations such as including Robert Faurisson, notorious as a denier of the Holocaust and gas chambers, in his acts. Dieudonné was found guilty of racial insult or defamation on numerous occasions, for example, for saying that a television host financed the Israeli Army, “which doesn’t hesitate to kill Palestinian children”; for characterizing Holocaust remembrance as “memorial pornography”; for stating that the directors of a pro-Israeli website were trying to paint him as an antisemite and “son of Hitler”; for describing the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism as one of the “mafia-like associations that organize censorship, … that deny all concepts of racism except that concerning the Jews. In fact, they are nothing but Israeli agents.”

Largely excluded from television and other standard venues, he has nonetheless maintained an enthusiastic and politically and racially mixed following through his stage shows and videos. In January 2014 his stage show “The Wall” was challenged by the government as a threat to public order and to the dignity of the human person. Its performance in Nantes was banned by the prefecture of the Loire-Atlantic region, which judged that it contained antisemitic remarks that would incite racial hatred and constitute an apology for discriminations, persecutions and exterminations perpetrated in the course of the Second World War. The ban was lifted on the day of the show by the region’s administrative tribunal, which held that the show “could not be regarded as having as its essential purpose an affront at human dignity,” but the tribunal’s ruling was overturned and the ban reinstated later the same day by a judge of the Council of State, the highest court in the administrative-law system, after an urgent request by Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Conclusion

French people in general seem content with the way free speech questions are handled. If in private they will occasionally murmur that “one can’t say anything anymore,” in public there is very little disagreement over the necessity of punishing infractions involving remarks characterized as racist or antisemitic or “negationist.” Prominent cases, such as the many brought against Jean-Marie Le Pen, are approved, explicitly or implicitly, by the vast majority of commentators in the press and on the radio and television. Even publications that push the limits of public tolerance in other ways — for example, with crude or even violently obscene and sacrilegious writings and cartoons — do not defend the targets of anti-racism or anti-contestation laws on general free-speech grounds; quite the contrary.

There is no high-profile organization or figure that publicly espouses the famous words that Voltaire apparently never really said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Over all the attitude is closer to that attributed to the revolutionary Saint-Just, “No liberty for the enemies of liberty.” The slogan of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, one of the organizations most active in denouncing speech offenders, is “Racism is not an opinion but a criminal offense.” Even a group such as Reporters Without Borders, which works to further the freedom of the press throughout the world, generally makes no objection to the laws discussed above, although it did oppose the one criminalizing the denial of legally recognized genocides. In an interview, Antoine Héry, in charge of the group’s activities in the European Union and the Balkans, explained to me: “I think that the problem in France is that there really are racist statements — many. … This climate exists; it isn’t a phantasm. There is, from this point of view, a necessity to regulate a little the domain of speech, because there are abuses. I don’t think that in the United States one finds this sort of mass behavior — because it is massive, it isn’t just one guy in his corner doing his thing.”

There have been dissident voices on the subject of the criminalization of so-called negationism and other “memorial laws.” One of the most prominent is a group called Liberté pour l’Histoire, which was formed in 2005 in response to what seemed about to become a wave of such laws. In a public appeal signed by nineteen historians in December of that year and later by hundreds more, it stated that “in a free state, it is not the business of the parliament nor of the judicial authority to define historical truth” and called for “the abrogation of these legislative measures unworthy of a democratic regime.” But even this unambiguous stand is not so solid as it might appear. In 2010, at the International Congress of Historical Sciences in Amsterdam, the group’s president, Pierre Nora, spoke of the Gayssot Law and stated: “It is now twenty years since the law was voted, and even if we continue to regret it intellectually speaking, the association Liberté pour l’Histoire does not campaign for its suppression and does not wish to challenge it for the simple reason that this legal and official challenge would only be seen in the public eye as authorizing and even encouraging the denial of the Jewish genocide.” There could hardly be a better illustration of the French ambivalence on the matter than this.

This ambivalence derives from an evident fact: the characteristics of the system that make it vicious from a free-speech perspective — the vagueness and elasticity of the definitions of the crimes, the politically selective application of the laws, the tendency of the trials to become examinations of the defendants’ thoughts and beliefs rather than merely of their public statements — are virtues for a system of political repression, and in France there is a general consensus that the “extreme right” needs to be kept down and that expressions of “racism” and “antisemitism” deserve to be squelched. While there are pockets of dissidence — such as the websites Polémia and Boulevard Voltaire, the independent rightist station Radio Courtoisie and the Internet television channel TV Libertés — the assumption remains widespread that anyone arguing that freedom should extend to such speech must have evil motives.

The legal procedures through which speech is restricted do sometimes come under criticism. For instance, the ban on Dieudonné’s show “The Wall” was widely criticized because it imposed a prior restraint, seen as equivalent to censorship in a way that punishing the performer afterward would not be. Jack Lang, who was minister of culture in the Mitterrand administration, said that the Council of State had opened a Pandora’s box of potential abuses; he objected as well to basing the decision on a vague principle of “human dignity” and pointed out that the risk to public order was not credible. Michel Tubiana, a former president of the Human Rights League, which also objected to the ban, told me in an interview that Dieudonné should have been allowed to do his show and then he could have been prosecuted in the normal way. On the league’s website, one reads: “Clearly it is necessary to let nothing pass, to systematically bring prosecutions against the delinquent, to denounce systematically his crimes.”

For the future, there is pressure to increase the surveillance, particularly of the Internet. At its annual dinners, which are grand affairs similar to those of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the United States, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France presses the attending government officials hard for ever more stringent restrictions, especially on Internet communications. In March 2016, for example, its president, Roger Cukierman, urged that the state of emergency “should also apply to the Internet,” and this year its new president, Francis Kalifat, called for “zero tolerance” for bloggers “of hateful content.”

In the meantime, France, like the other countries of the European Union, is a party to the Council Framework Decision “on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law,” adopted unanimously by the ministers in the Council of the European Union in November 2008. In a report in January 2014 on the implementation of this decision, the European Commission stated: “Member States must ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable when directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin:

  • publicly inciting to violence or hatred, including by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material;
  • publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising
  • crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court; or
  • the crimes defined in Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal appended to the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred against such a group or one or more of its members.”

And France does its part, by continuing to reinforce its laws. On August 5 of this year it made illegal any “nonpublic” insult or defamation (as, for example, made during a meeting in a company’s offices) “made toward a person or group of persons because of their origin or belonging or not belonging, real or supposed, to an ethnic group, a nation, a putative race or a particular religion; … [or] because of their sex, their sexual orientation or gender identity, or their handicap.”

The law provides for fines of 1,500 euros initially and 3,000 euros for recidivists. It also gives a judge the option of augmenting the punishment with a compulsory course in citizenship.

Lawrence G. Proulx is a retired copy editor who worked for more than 30 years at the Washington Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune and International New York Times.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Catalonia: Rajoy Moves Towards Extreme Measures

By Craig Murray | October 4, 2017

Things have taken a much more sinister turn in Catalonia, without sufficient notice being paid internationally. The leader of the Catalan regional police force has been formally arraigned for sedition by the Spanish attorney general, for refusal to comply enthusiastically with the beating up of old women. That carries a minimum jail sentence of four years. It is the first step towards major imprisonment of Catalan leaders. It is also extremely significant that this first step is aimed at decapitating the only disciplined and armed force under some measure of Catalan government control. What does that tell you about Rajoy’s next move?

This extreme action against Major Trapero is precisely in line with last night’s ultra hardline address by a man with the comic opera name of Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Grecia. It is hard to take seriously anyone named after a whiskey, but we live in such a strange world that this unelected, far right and immensely corrupt, inbred buffoon could spout about democracy and accuse anyone who did not bow the knee to him of disloyalty and sedition. That precisely prefigures the legal action taken against Major Trapero. It can only be a precursor to a Spanish attempt to impose physical control on Catalonia and imprison its leaders. Having rejected both dialogue and mediation, I see no other direction Rajoy will take.

The Catalan government has said it will declare Independence within days. I am not, and have never been, a pacifist. A vital duty of any state is the defence of its citizens. Once Catalonia declares Independence it will be in a different position as a state than as a movement for Independence within Spain. The highly impressive and disciplined non-violence of the Independence movement will no longer be appropriate. But physically, I am not aware of any capacity to defend itself against the Spanish forces which there is every sign Rajoy will unleash immediately after any Declaration of Independence. Catalonia will also need to move instantly to dismantle any parts of the state fabric, and particularly the judiciary and prosecutorial service, which may remain loyal to Madrid,

The EU failed to draw a line in the sand when Rajoy’s Francoist paramilitary thugs beat up old ladies, en masse, before the eyes of the whole world. Rajoy will be certain to calculate that if he now invokes article 155, seizes Catalonia by force, and imprisons all the Catalan leadership for 30 years for rebellion, that the EU will continue to back him. Following the “royal” address yesterday and the extreme charges against Major Trapero today, the Francoist solution seems to me to be where we are heading, with nobody in any position of authority in Europe making the slightest effort to stop it.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Russians Battle Western Sanctions

By Gilbert Doctorow | Consortium News | October 1, 2107

In 2014, when the United States and the European Union slapped sanctions on Russian officials and businesses, many observers both in Russia and the West predicted serious problems for the Russian economy and near-certain failure of the Russian government’s efforts to substitute for the lost access to foreign products. But those dire predictions were based on a complete misreading of the mood and general political situation in Russia.

The American legislators who initiated the sanctions believed that the punishment directed at the Kremlin leadership and Russia’s corporate chieftains would alienate the so-called oligarchs from President Vladimir Putin and possibly lead to regime change or, at a minimum, a change in Russia’s foreign policy to suit better the wishes of Washington.

U.S. and European politicians justified the sanctions as punishment for what they called Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea and Russia’s military intervention in the Donbas region of Ukraine in reaction to what Moscow and many eastern Ukrainians called a Western-orchestrated “coup” that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine in February 2014.

Russia responded to the Western sanctions with an embargo on food products from the sanctioning countries and rolled out a generalized policy of “import substitution” to sharply curtail the dependency of the Russian economy on outside commercial products and political pressures.

More than two years later – although Russia has faced some difficulties – the evidence is now clear that the sanctions against Russia have largely failed, on both an economic and political level. Reunification with Crimea and the ensuing Western sanctions aroused a swelling of national pride and patriotic feelings in the broad public.

So, instead of caving in to Western pressure, the Kremlin doubled down and has stayed the course on Crimea, on Donbas and – more recently – in Syria where its military support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad has gone directly against U.S. and Western policies of backing violent insurgents in another “regime change” project, a conflict in which Assad now appears to have largely prevailed.

So, in terms of domestic politics and international geopolitics, Putin and Russia appear to have frustrated the U.S. and the European Union as well as U.S. regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, which were strong advocates for Syrian “regime change.” But what about Russia’s strategy of creating domestic sources for what can no longer be imported?

Expectations of Failure

Within months of the Kremlin’s announcement of this policy, commentators were publishing statistics showing that “import substitution,” i.e., Russian products replacing Western ones, was negligible, that the strategy was failing. To explain why, these skeptics pointed to the unbalanced structure of the Russian economy, heavily dependent on the extraction of raw materials with massive resources invested in the highly profitable energy industry, which boosted the ruling elites. Moreover, Russia received low ratings as an “investor friendly” country, which limited outside investments.

Those doubts had validity and there were other problems, particularly the cost of money and its scarcity. In 2014, the Russian economy was experiencing high inflation and suffering from the attempts of the Bank of Russia to contain it with tight-money policies. The costs of borrowing for small businesses were particularly usurious. Indeed, lack of working capital at competitive prices was the main contributor to the flooding of the Russian market with imports and the collapse of local industry.

Yet, despite these headwinds, the Russian government began to make significant progress. Though the creation of industrial sectors can take years, the Kremlin identified priority sectors and provided various kinds of government assistance that included credit subsidies. The Kremlin also took steps to maintain the ruble at a low exchange rate to protect against imports whatever happens to the sanctions and embargo.

Agriculture is one sector where the potential payback was relatively quick, for example, by prioritizing wheat over livestock or poultry over pork. When the oxygen of subsidized credit was applied, the results were stunning. In 2017, despite negative weather conditions in the spring and early summer, Russia is expecting its largest ever grain harvest, possibly reaching 130 million metric tons, and the country is retaking its position as the world’s top wheat exporter and leading exporter of other grains and of beet sugar.

What is happening in other sectors of the economy which the government prioritized for import substitution will be obvious only in the years to come, precisely because of the greater capital and knowhow required and thus the slower payback. But given the way agriculture has responded to stimuli from the Kremlin, it is reasonable to expect similar success stories in manufacturing and service industries like banking, insurance and computer programming over time.

Since a rising tide raises all ships, the initial agricultural success has attracted big business interest not only to industrial-scale farming of grain crops but also to many other sides of the food supply and its processing. Such investments are being made not only by start-up small- and medium-sized businesses but also by the oligarchs, for whom this is a point of pride and a direct response to the wave of patriotism that has swept the country.

Thus, as The Financial Times recently reported, oligarch Viktor Vekselberg has been pouring vast capital via his Renova holding company into the construction of greenhouses for vegetable crops that are in great demand among Russia’s urban populations. Payback on these investments is measured in years, not months, and demonstrates great confidence of Russian competitiveness against ground crops from Turkey and Central Asia and from hothouse crops from Western Europe whenever the sanctions are lifted.

The result of these various undertakings is that Russian Federation Minister of Agriculture Alexander Tkachev, himself a farmer with large-scale interests in the sector, can report regularly on the dramatic progress being made in all areas of agricultural self-sufficiency. Indeed, in many product groupings quite apart from grains, Russia is becoming an exporter for the first time since before World War I.

The Fish Turnaround

This economic transformation has included progress in a surprising area, given Russian national traditions that favor meat over fish. This prejudice was long justified by the quality of fish products that were available in the market from Soviet times. The improvement in assortment and appeal of these products dates from the middle of the first decade of the new millennium.

The Financial Times article gave statistics for the Murmansk-based LLC Russkoye More, an ambitious firm that is rapidly expanding to occupy the leading position as supplier of farmed salmon in what is a major import substitution project. The Russian market for fresh salmon, like the E.U. market, was until two years ago entirely dominated by the Scandinavians, now on the embargo list.

Whereas The Financial Times addresses the changes in the fish sector at the corporate and macroeconomic level, there is also the microeconomic level where people live and where demand meets supply. From my own visits to supermarkets, to independent fish vendors, to covered street markets in cities and in the countryside up to 80 km from St Petersburg, I can speak from first-hand experience about how these fish supplies are reaching consumers. The distribution and logistical chain is all the more important in products as perishable as fresh fish.

Some specific fish varieties are locally grown in the Russian Northwest region, including the sig, a fresh water member of the salmon family native to Lake Ladoga, Europe’s largest body of fresh water that is 50 km east of Petersburg, and also the minnow-sized koryushka, another native of Ladoga that each spring travels down the Neva River to the lightly saline Gulf of Finland to lay its eggs and is caught on the way in vast quantities to the great pleasure of Petersburgers.

But the bigger picture is that — as the largest country on earth representing more than 10 percent of the world’s land surface — Russia has tremendous fresh water resources in terms of lakes and rivers that still abound in fish enjoying local reputation and retail distribution. This is particularly true of the Siberian rivers; smoked delicacy fish from there are sold at high prices across the Russian Federation. In addition, Russian fishing fleets based in Murmansk, to the north and in Vladivostok to the east have been and remain large suppliers of ocean fish.

What has changed is the scale of production and distribution of fish whether from fresh salt water or from lakes and rivers or farmed fish. In the past, the fish section in Russian supermarkets meant shelves of tinned sardines or catfish in tomato sauce, today every respectable market offers fresh fish, in filets or whole, presented on beds of ice.

Specialized fish stores have sprung up even in the hinterland in the Northwest, receiving daily shipments of farmed salmon, wild gorbusha and hefty flounders, among other varieties. By local standards, these fish are all substantially more expensive sources of protein than domestic chickens or pork chops. But they obviously do find their consumers and they are priced 30 percent or more below West European store prices for similar fish.

Until recently, ocean fish were brought to market frozen. The Soviet Union developed a large fleet of trawlers and fish processing ships that brought frozen product to port, much of it going into export. The fish were usually low grade, bony, good only for stews and soups. Higher-grade fish like cod appeared for sale in shops in bulk in contorted stages of rigor mortis, not very appealing to the faint of heart.

Meeting Demand

Now, in the past couple of years, the frozen foods bins of super markets are stocked with fish steaks packaged in clear plastic that are as attractive and as high quality as anything sold in Western Europe. These cod steaks, wild salmon (gorbusha) steaks have been flash frozen and are offered in half-kilogram portions. The labeling stresses that no preservatives have been used, that the products are natural and healthful, with detailed nutritional information provided.

In the days of the Soviet Union, the Russian fishing industry produced some world-beating tinned products including red and black caviar and Chatka brand king crab meat. These exclusive and very pricey products are exported, where they enjoy demand and are available domestically in specialty shops. But most tinned fish traditionally fell into the category of low-grade fish in tomato sauce or very poor grade vegetable oil.

Over the past several years, that has changed beyond recognition. Tinned fish of world-class quality is making its appearance on store shelves. For example, a week ago I discovered a new arrival: “premium” class chunk tuna in olive oil packaged in 200 gram glass jars. The producer is the Far East fishing fleet, and the fish name is given in Japanese as well as Russian. The product is similar in design and presentation to premium tuna on sale in Belgium at twice the price.

And finally another fish product category is worth mentioning: the salted, smoked or otherwise processed and unit-packed fish sold in the chilled products sections of supermarkets. This has expanded in product range and quality so as to be beyond recognition when compared with similar offerings just a few years ago.

Many different suppliers vie in the category of cold or hot smoked, salted salmon shrink-wrapped in units of 200 grams plus or minus. Herrings filets in oil or in sauces are now very attractive and of generally high quality. Anchovies and other small fish filets have proliferated. And hitherto unknown product categories such as “seafood cocktails” consisting of baby octopus and squid, pink shrimp and mussels in brine are offered in small plastic pots; quality is in no way inferior to what you would find in an upscale supermarket in Western Europe.

All such alien — “indescribably awful” (??????? ) foods in the judgment of your average Soviet consumer — are today welcomed as the basis for salads, as stuffing for avocados, themselves a relatively new food item to the Russian shopper.

Travel abroad, and 10 million Russians do travel abroad each year, has turned them into quite sophisticated shoppers and diners. And what they have come to love they now can largely find in their supermarkets supplied by domestic producers, including all varieties of fish specialties.

The point is, that from nowhere, the Russian fishing industry has made enormous strides and, unlike the cheese industry, is fully replacing imports with equal or better quality contents and lower prices.

This is the consequence of change in demand as well as change in supply. Demand has changed because before 2014 Russians still distrusted their compatriots and believed that everything made in their country was rubbish. The Ukraine crisis, the reunification with Crimea, the war in Donbas, and the upsurge of patriotism prodded folks to try their own. What Russia has now is a virtuous cycle: the Russian people expect better and what they are getting is better.

Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His last book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015. His forthcoming collection of essays Does the United States Have a Future? will be published in October 2017.

© Gilbert Doctorow, 2017

October 1, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Trump, Syriza & Brexit prove voting is only small part of the battle

By Neil Clark | RT | October 1, 2017

If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it. That might sound a bit glib but consider these recent events.

In January 2015, the Greek people, sick and tired of austerity and rapidly plummeting living standards, voted for Syriza, a radical anti-austerity party. The Coalition of the Left, which had only been formed eleven years earlier, won 36.3 percent of the vote and 149 out of the Hellenic Parliament‘s 300 seats. The Greek people had reasonable hopes their austerity nightmare would end. The victory of Syriza was hailed by progressives across Europe.

But what happened?

Pressure was applied on Greece by ‘The Troika’ to accept onerous terms for a new bailout. Syriza went to the people in June 2015 to ask them directly in a national referendum if they should accept the terms.

“On Sunday, we are not simply deciding to remain in Europe, we are deciding to live with dignity in Europe,” Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, declared. The Greek people duly gave Tsipras the mandate he asked for, and rejected the bailout terms with 61.3 percent voting ‘No.’

Yet, just over two weeks after the referendum, Syriza accepted a bailout package that contained larger cuts in pensions and higher tax increases than the one on offer earlier.
The Greek people may as well have stayed at home on 27th June for all the difference their vote made.

Many supporters of Donald Trump in the US are no doubt thinking the same.

Trump won the election by attracting working-class ‘rust belt’ voters away from the Democrats and for offering the prospect of an end to a ‘liberal interventionist’ foreign policy. Yet just nine months into his Presidency the belief that Trump would mark a ‘clean break’ with what had gone before is in tatters. National conservative members of his team have been purged, while Trump has proved himself as much of a war hawk as his predecessors. Rather than ‘draining the swamp,’ The Donald has waded right into it.

The events of 2017 plainly prove as I argued here that the US is a regime and not a genuine democracy, and that whoever gets to the White House – sooner or later – will be forced to toe the War Party/Wall Street/Deep State line, regardless of what they promise on the election trail.

Brits too have had a lesson in the way ‘democracy’ works when people don’t vote the way the most powerful people in the establishment want them to. On June 23, 2016, rightly or wrongly, 52 percent voted to leave the EU. But 15 months on, the view that Britain will either never leave the EU or stay in it in all but name is growing. The government only sent off Article 50 in March, after the courts held that Brexit had to be initiated by Parliament.

Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May asked the EU for a two-year ‘transition’ period after Britain is due to leave in 2019. It’s not hard to imagine the transition period will be indefinitely extended. “I’ve been voicing that fear since long before the prime minister’s dismal speech in Florence, and I see nothing to reassure me that the referendum result will be honored,” says Peter Hill, former editor of the Daily Express.

The odds of Britain still being in the EU in 2022 are now about 3-1. And they’re shortening all the time.

Again, is that what the people who voted for Brexit in 2016 wanted to happen? The issue here is not whether we think leaving the EU is a good idea, but how the referendum vote has not led to the results that people expected.

These are not the only examples of people not getting what they thought they had voted for. In 2008, the citizens of Ireland voted to reject the EU’s Lisbon treaty. Was that the end of the matter? Not at all. They were asked to vote again – a year later – and this time the EU got the desired outcome.

In May 2012, the Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande won a decisive victory in France’s Presidential elections. Like Syriza, he pledged to end austerity.

“I’m sure in a lot of European countries there is relief, hope that at last austerity is no longer inevitable.” He declared. But guess what. Hollande didn’t end austerity. Just a year later he was pushing through a fresh round of cuts.

Proving once again the truth of the old adage: Plus les choses changent, plus elles restent les mêmes.

This wouldn’t have surprised French students of Hungarian politics as the same thing happened in Hungary in the mid-1990s. In the 1994 election Gyula Horn’s Socialist Party swept the right-wing Hungarian Democratic Forum from power, by promising to preserve the best elements of the old ’goulash communist’ system. Horn attacked energy privatization and pledged to put the interests of ordinary working Hungarians first. But the forces of Western capital had no intention of allowing any vestiges of socialism to survive in the former Eastern bloc country.

Under pressure from Western financial institutions, Horn did a spectacular U-turn, sacking genuinely progressive ministers- and appointing a neoliberal economic professor called Lajos Bokros to impose a brutal austerity program, which was far worse than anything the previous government had introduced. He also stepped up privatization.

See the pattern?

What the above examples illustrate is that regardless of how we vote, the people behind the scenes – the money men, the embedded bureaucrats, those who want to see no end to neoliberal globalization because they do so well out of it – won’t meekly accept the verdict of the people. If the ‘great unwashed’ vote the ‘wrong way,’ i.e., for Trump, for Syriza, for Brexit or for Hollande or Horn, then ways will be found to make sure that normal service is soon resumed.

There are important lessons I think here for the British Labour Party, who could be on the brink of power. Like many this week, I was hugely impressed by the speech to the conference made by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn pledged to develop “a new model of economic management to replace the failed dogmas of neo-liberalism,” and linked the rise in terrorism to neocon/liberal interventionist foreign policies.

This is heresy as far as the pro-war neoliberal elites are concerned.

Opinion polls show that Labour, which registered its biggest increase in vote share in any election since 1945 earlier this year, has a consistent lead. Establishment attack dogs have been snapping at Corbyn’s heels since day one, and it’s utterly naïve to think that it’ll all stop if he does get the keys to Number 10, Downing Street. In fact, the war against Jez and his closest comrades will only intensify. The good news is that Labour is already planning for capital flight and a run on the pound if it’s elected. Paul Mason, a pro-Labour commentator, has said the first six months of a Corbyn government would be like ‘Stalingrad.’

Of course, you could argue that the likes of Trump, Hollande, Horn, and Tsipras were never totally committed to the program they stood on, and they said the ‘right things’ to the people just to get elected. But even if politicians are 100 percent genuine as the veteran anti-war activist Jeremy Corbyn appears to be, the pressures on them to cave in to the powerful forces behind the curtain will be immense, especially if they are putting forward policies which the elites don’t favor.

It’s clear from recent history that in modern Western ‘democracies’ voting in itself doesn’t determine outcomes. It’s what comes afterward that’s the most important.

Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66

October 1, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Single Party French State … as the Majority of Voters Abstain

By Diana Johnstone | CounterPunch | June 21, 2017

French legislative elections follow hard on the heels of the Presidential election. The momentum virtually ensures a presidential majority. So it was taken for granted that voters would give President Emmanuel Macron a docile parliament for his five-year mandate.

But these elections were exceptional. The victory of Macron’s personal party, la République En Marche (REM), is novel in several ways. Not only has REM won an absolute majority of 350 out of 577 seats in the National Assembly. REM’s victory has also bled the two traditional governing parties, the Republicans and the Socialists, perhaps fatally.

With over 130 seats, the Republican Party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy and its allies came in second, and thus ranks as leading opposition party. But since Macron successfully lured two Republican politicians into prominent positions in his government – Edouard Philippe as Prime Minister and Bruno LeMaire as Economics Minister – it is hard even for the Republicans’ current leader, François Baroin, to explain just what they will oppose. How can they be a “right-wing opposition” to a government that intends to tear down the Labor Code, leaving workers at the mercy of employers, to deregulate the economy, to privatize, and to promote European militarization?

The plight of the Socialists is even more dire. Despite their strong historic implantation throughout the country, they won only 29 seats (which with small party allies gives them a group of 45 deputies).  Most of the prominent members of Hollande’s government who dared to run were defeated. Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ close victory in the town where he used to be mayor is being vehemently contested, by angry crowds, with accusations of cheating.

As an opposition party, the Socialists’ predicament is even worse than that of the Republicans. Macron was a pet advisor to Socialist President François Hollande, a minister of economics in his government, and was sponsored by leading Socialists as a way to perpetuate their own surrender to high finance. Since many of leading Socialist Party personalities have joined or endorsed Macron, the survivors are not sure whether to support him – or how not to. The confusion is total.

The result is that by cannibalizing the two discredited government parties, and adding a large contingent of political amateurs (described as representatives of “civil society”), Macron and his team have succeeded in creating a new form of single party state. The new majority of deputies in the National Assembly are not there to represent ideas, or a program, or local constituencies, but simply to represent… Emmanuel Macron. From the looks of it, he can do whatever he wants, and the parliament will approve.

Macron’s victory was both overwhelming and underwhelming. All records of abstention were broken; for the first time in over a century, a majority of eligible voters stayed away from the polls in the first round of the parliamentary elections, and abstention rose to 57% in the second round. He owes his landslide to less than 20% of registered voters.

There is no doubt that the election results reveal a rejection of traditional parties, of politicians, and to some extent even a rejection of electoral politics. This is a foreseeable result of the so-called “power of the markets” – which disempower the voters. Political elites have surrendered to the dictates of financial capital, primarily through the intermediary of the European Union, where economic policy is designed and imposed on Member States. Presented as “new”, Macron is simply more intent than his predecessors on pushing through EU economic policies, on behalf of the big banks and at the expense of everyone else. But many of those who voted for him did so fatalistically: “let’s give him a chance”, like playing the lottery.

Indeed, Macron ran as himself, “young, vigorous, optimistic” in a time of pessimism, and not as a program. And the election season showed that personalities counted more than parties or programs. The two most charismatic personalities in French politics, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, after their strong scores in the presidential elections, were both comfortably elected to the National Assembly from friendly districts (he in Marseilles and she in the depressed industrial north), but their followers did not rush to the polls to support their respective parties. Mélenchon’s party, La France Insoumise, won only 17 seats, which together with ten communists could make a group of 27 deputies.

As for Marine Le Pen, her National Front won only eight seats, four from the traditionally socialist north (including Marine), and four from the right-leaning south (including Marine’s life partner, Louis Aliot).  That reflects the ideological division in the party. In the Calais region, the winning National Front leader was a former regional Communist Party leader, José Evrard, who comes from a family of coal miners and anti-Nazi resistants. The intellectual leader of the left tendency, Florian Philippot, was not elected, but plans to work to create a broader “sovereignist” movement opposing Macron’s drive to integrate France irreparably into Western globalizing economic and military structures.

In short, President Emmanuel Macron is intent on using his unprecedented single party powers to reduce the power of France by intensifying its commitment to globalization. But how much power does he really have, or is he an instrument of other powers?

Chief power guru, Jacques Attali, tends to glorify himself shamelessly, but when he says that he is “very proud” of having launched Macron’s brilliant career, he is telling the unchallenged truth. As for the next President after Macron, Attali claims to know “who she is”, as well.

But whoever he or she may be, Attali’s point is that genuine power is not exercised by politicians any more, but by financial institutions. The President of the Republic has much less power than people think, he told a recent television panel. One reason is the euro, he said, which “means that a large part of economic policy has fortunately become European.

Decentralization, major investments and major infrastructures are no longer up to the State. Globalization and the market have won hands down. There are a large number of things that were thought to be up to the government and no longer are.”

Presidents “no longer have real power over society.”

As for getting out of the clutches of European dictates, Attali boasts that those who, like himself, took part in writing the first versions of the EU treaties “made sure that getting out is no longer possible.”

“The market is going to spread to sectors to which it hasn’t had access until now such as health, education, the courts, the police, foreign affairs…” The outcome will be a dominant market which causes more and more concentration of wealth, growing inequality, absolute priority to the short term and to the tyranny of the present instant and of money, Attali concedes cynically.

A fairly realistic sense of powerlessness underlies the high abstention rate and the search for a providential leader. Since the Socialists and the Republicans have been contaminated with Macronism, the serious parliamentary opposition is reduced to the small party of Mélenchon and the still smaller party of Marine Le Pen. Mélenchon has the oratorical skill to be the leading opposition voice within and even outside the new Parliament. Marine still commands strong personal loyalty. But as long as they fail to find common ground, the Macron machine will play on their differences to marginalize them as the “extreme right” and the “extreme left”. And French democracy will continue to be disempowered by global governance. The single party state is at least an accurate expression of that reality.

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

October 1, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Goods from Israel settlements granted preferential EU trade deals

MEMO | September 28, 2017

Goods from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have been bypassing European Union (EU) laws and profiting from the preferential trade tariffs with the EU, MEMO has learnt.

The EU has admitted that it has become “impossible” to monitor the source of goods imported to Europe from Israel despite a legal obligation to implement a policy of differentiating between Israel and settlement activities within its multibillion dollar bilateral trade relations.

Documents obtained under EU freedom of information rules seen by MEMO revealed that it has become “impossible” for the EU to differentiate between Israel and the Green Line following the introduction of a “new 7 digit zip code system”.

Notes from a meeting in June between Israeli Minister of Economy, Eli Cohen, and Lars Faaborg-Andersen, then the EU’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, state that the new zip code is “impossible for the delegation to follow” and the “EU requested Israel’s input to address the issue”.

The EU delegation confirmed that the European side suggested using a different method to ensure that settlement products are not granted the same preferential treatment Israel gets under existing trade rules, but the reply from the Israeli side was that “the current system is very effective and that the arrangement operates in a very satisfactory manner”.

It’s unclear if the new zip code system introduced four years ago was intended to circumvent tariff rules that differentiate between Israel and the occupied territories. However “despite having rather fewer people than China” said the Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, “Israel [is] switching to a rather more complicated 7-digit postal code system”.

The EU delegation repeated its stance on the differentiation rules but the admission by the EU Ambassador Faaborg-Andersen indicates that under his term, EU trade rules have been flouted for four years.

The influential European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) explained to MEMO details of the trade agreement between the EU and Israel. The EU and its member states, like the rest of the international community, do not recognise any legal or de facto Israeli sovereignty over the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This duty of non-recognition is based on international law, resulting in a legal obligation to clearly differentiate between Israel and its activities beyond the Green Line within their bilateral relations.

Asked how far the EU could go to uphold its own trade rules, ECFR representative said that the EU will not be able to completely terminate its trade agreement with Tel Aviv but if it really insisted on being faithful to its rules, then Brussels could cancel all its preferential trade deals with Israel until it clearly distinguishes between itself and the territory beyond the Green Line. In the meantime the EU and Israel could maintain a non-preferential trade agreement.

Read also: UN warns companies about doing business in Israeli settlements

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Footfall in the attic of Europe’s geopolitics

By M K Bhadrakumar |Indian Punchline | September 27, 2017

The German Question has been at the very core of geopolitics in Europe at least since 1453, a poignant year in world history signifying the notional end of the Middle Ages. Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror put an end to the Byzantine Empire by capturing Constantinople (present day Istanbul); France recaptured Bordeaux, marking the end of the Hundred Years’ War. For the next four centuries, the German Nation lurked as a fragmented space in the heart of the Holy Roman Empire, sucking instability from outside, until late 19th century when a re-united Germany began ‘exporting’ instability.

The European Union project aimed at containing German revanchism following World War II by diverting its energies and attention to the Cold War struggle. But with the end of the eighties, things began changing dramatically with the unexpected unification of Germany and the unforeseen disbandment of the Soviet Union. The EU has since proved incapable of managing the re-emergence of German power and itself increasingly resembles the old Holy Roman Empire. (“I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse,” Emperor Charles V once said.)

Against the above backdrop, Sunday’s election to the German Bundestag assumes great significance. The importance of Germany in terms of its location, size, population, economy and military strength add up to immense potential. To what extent is Germany going to ‘pull its weight’; the likely elements of continuity and change in the German Question; how the emergent internal order of Germany is going to impact European (as well as Eurasian and Euro-Atlantic) balance of power – these are big questions.

The reactions of the US, Russia and France to the election victory of Chancellor Angela Merkel provide insight into the power dynamic. The US President Donald Trump phoned up Merkel on September 23 “to wish her country a successful election” on the next day “when Germans go to the polls” and to underscore “the steadfast bond between the United States and Germany.”

Trump hasn’t spoken to Merkel after she won the election on Sunday. When asked about it on Tuesday, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that “they’re working on timing for a second call of congratulations. But I don’t believe that’s taken place yet today… No, I think they’re just working on the logistics piece of both leaders coordinating.”

The Russian President Vladimir Putin called up Merkel on Tuesday and congratulated her “on CDU/CSU’s success”. The crisply worded Kremlin readout said that they “reaffirmed their readiness to carry on with business-like, mutually beneficial cooperation” between the two countries.

The French President Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, made a major speech on Tuesday at the Sorbonne, hot on the heels of Merkel’s victory, on the future of Europe. Macron reiterated his proposals for the eurozone having its own budget and finance minister to ensure the stability of the single currency union and “to weather economic shocks”.

Macron also proposed a shared European military intervention force and a shared defense budget and a European defense strategy to be defined by the early 2020s. He offered to open the French military to European soldiers and proposed other EU member states do the same on a voluntary basis. He suggested the creation of a European intelligence academy to better fight against terrorism, and a shared civil protection force. He said that a European asylum agency and standard EU identity documents could better handle migration flows and harmonize migration procedures.

It is no secret that Merkel has had difficult relationships with both Putin and Trump. Indeed, Merkel has little in common with their ‘world view’ and they are far from enamored of her being a flag carrier of western liberalism. Merkel’s foreign policy is very much centered on supporting global institutions and she has also remained at the forefront of defining a common European response to geopolitical challenges.

Merkel’s diplomatic relations with Trump have been reserved at best and their stances on trade, climate change and immigration are poles apart. Trump has been a trenchant critic of Merkel’s move to allow over one million refugees to enter Germany in 2015. When it comes to Putin, Merkel is unforgiving on Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its alleged intervention in Donbas. At the bottom of it all, the fact remains that the ‘regime change’ in Ukraine has been Merkel’s botched up project, thanks to Russia’s counter-offensive. The bitterness and mutual suspicions cannot easily dissipate.

What salvages the German-American relationship is that ultimately it is also a close institutional relationship (which is not the case with Russia.) In the final analysis, Germany remains dependent on the US military and economic leadership.

The Russian commentaries have caricatured that Merkel won a hollow victory. An acerbic commentary carried by RT is titled Merkel’s days as German Chancellor are probably now numbered. Disarray in German politics suits Russia, since Merkel has been the main exponent of the EU sanctions against Russia. And disunity within the EU in turn shifts the balance in favor of Moscow, which will be far more comfortable dealing with European countries at the bilateral level, none of them individually being a match for Russia.

The alacrity with which Macron has spoken goes to show France’s keenness to preserve its axis with Germany. Merkel is Macron’s best bet in Berlin. Despite her election losses, she intends to remain at the helm of European affairs. The EU is at a historic crossroads, with Brexit and Trump’s ‘America First’ changing the alchemy of European integration. Macron’s speech aims at strengthening Merkel’s hands as she begins the painful process of cobbling together a new coalition government in Berlin with partners who have divergent views on European integration.

Macron is due to meet Merkel on Thursday at the EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia. Read an analysis by Spiegel entitled Uncertainty Dogs Europe After German Election.

September 27, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

No place for Ukraine in EU, Hungary says after Kiev outlaws education in minority languages

RT | September 26, 2017

Hungary has pledged to obstruct Ukraine’s EU integration at every step after Kiev adopted a new education law which bans teaching children in any language other than Ukrainian. Ukraine’s neighbors call it a form of persecution of minorities.

“Hungary will block all steps within the European Union that would represent a step forward in Ukraine’s European integration process in the spirit of the Eastern Partnership program,” Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement came after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed into law a controversial bill which in essence bans state schools in Ukraine from teaching children in any language other than Ukrainian. Under the law, next year only children in grades 1-4 would be allowed to learn the curriculum in their native tongues in Ukraine, and by 2020 even that will no longer be legal.

The law is expected to affect at least 400,000 children studying in 735 state schools which offer instruction in minority languages. The majority of these children are ethnic Russians, but other minorities in Ukraine include Romanians, Hungarians, Moldovans, and Poles. The law provides minor concessions for “EU languages,” English, and some minorities that have no national states of their own.

Poroshenko claimed that the new law “strengthens the role of the Ukrainian language in education” while protecting the rights of all minorities. But some nations, like Hungary, do not seem to be convinced, with Budapest calling the move “a stab in the back” from Ukraine after the bill was adopted by the Ukrainian parliament earlier in September.

Romania made a similarly critical statement and cancelled a state visit to Ukraine by President Klaus Werner Iohannis in protest last week. Bucharest also refused to host a parliamentary delegation from Ukraine, saying the visit no longer had any purpose.

Moldova’s maverick President Igor Dodon said Ukraine’s Moldovan and Romanian minorities risked “denationalization” under the new law and called on Kiev to block it.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the new law is unconstitutional and violates the rights of millions of ethnic Russians living in the country.

The language issue is highly political in Ukraine. After a violent coup in Kiev replaced its elected government in 2014, one of the first acts of the new government was to scrap a law which allowed regions to adopt Russian as a second official language. The decision was later overturned, but by that time it had already triggered an uprising in the predominantly Russian eastern regions of Ukraine, leading to a bloody military crackdown by Kiev.

While the language provisions of the new law gained the most publicity, critics of the legislation complain about other parts, as well. The law reduces the number of obligatory subjects in Ukrainian state schools from 22 to 9. Among other things, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, and astronomy will be combined into one subject. Critics fear these changes will negatively affect the level of education in the country.

September 26, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment