Category Archives: Austerity

Societal Gaps Revealed by COVID-19

Image Source: Pixabay

It sometimes feels incredible that this time last year, many of us had never even heard of coronavirus. There had been no lockdowns. No lives lost. No economic collapse.

And for many of us, the threat of a pandemic felt like a relic of the last century, something about as menacing as hat pins, phonograph needles, or corsets laced too tightly.

But now the pandemic has come and the danger has shown itself to be very real. COVID-19 hasn’t just revealed to us the limits of modern medical science, however, or our continued vulnerability nearly as old as humanity itself.

No, the coronavirus has shown us much more. Above all, it has shown us the profound inequities that so many in our society face.

The gaps might have been papered over in the rush and distractions of ordinary life, but when the ordinary became extraordinary, they can no longer be ignored.

Economic Disparities

Studies show that it’s not only the elderly and the immuno-compromised who are at greatest risk from COVID-19. Minority populations are far more likely than the general population both to contract the virus and to die from it.

Disproportionate rates of poverty, combined with a pervasive lack of access to quality healthcare are allowing the virus to race through some minority communities like fire through a dry forest. Perhaps most frightening, these disparities aren’t the result of some residual anachronism, the lingering effects of centuries of racial injustice.

Instead, as the world retreated into lockdown and those who could transitioned to telecommuting, countless workers were left behind. And what this reveals, above all, is the casualties of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

While technological innovation is boosting the standard of living the world over, the pandemic has thrown into stark relief the reality that not everyone is a beneficiary of modern progress. According to a recent study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 40% of American workers were able to transition to fully remote work.

And the disparities fall strongly along racial lines. While nearly 30% of Caucasians are employed in jobs that allow them to work from home, that percentage drops to less than 20% for Blacks and just over 16% for Latinos.

The Majority Minority

The profound opportunity gaps suffered by racial and ethnic minorities are coming to the fore through the disproportionate infection and mortality rates of COVID in these communities. But coronavirus is also casting a spotlight on the inequities people with disabilities face.

Among the most pernicious forms this marginalization takes is in the lack of employment opportunities for people who have a disability. Research shows that companies that hire employees with disabilities generate 30% more revenue on average than those that don’t.

Nevertheless, the unemployment rate in the disabled community is significantly higher than that of the general population. It would seem, then, that the nationwide shift to telework would be particularly good news for persons with disabilities, particularly those with mobility issues or those who have health conditions that make them vulnerable to the virus.

The reality, however, is that substantial barriers to today’s technologies, including teleworking technologies, persist for many of those who have a disability. And this only serves to underscore the broader lack of accessibility in the physicial world beyond the internet.

People with disabilities may have limited opportunities to work a standard 40-hour job in a traditional office environment. This could be due either to health constraints or to physical or institutional and ideological barriers within the company itself.

In the age of telework, however, such barriers are often translated to challenges in accessing the technologies that would enable people with disabilities to use the internet and fully engage in virtual work.  This might include mobility challenges that make the use of a computer keyboard difficult; vision impairments that might make researching the internet an impossibility, or learning disabilities that make working with text-based documents a formidable challenge.

Rural Populations

It is not only minorities and persons with disabilities who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Those who live in rural areas are also particularly vulnerable. The coronavirus pandemic has also revealed profound inequities endured by those living in the most underserved areas of the nation and the globe.

Rural communities, for example, are characterized by a lack of consistent, quality healthcare. However, robust supportive care, such as that provided by family nurse practitioners (FNP) is being dispatched to bridge that gap.

As significant as the dearth of rural medical care, though, is the impact of the disruption in the global food supply caused by the pandemic. More than 250 million people worldwide are expected to face acute hunger as a result of the global lockdowns. As food shortages spread, the lack of social protections for the world’s most vulnerable populations threatens to teach a devastating lesson on just how many of us live each day balanced on the razor’s edge.

The Takeaway

COVID-19 has not just changed our world. It has taught us to see it for what it really is. And in far too many cases, that has meant uncovering the gross inequities and profound injustices that we would rather close our eyes to. It has cast into the light of day realities our “normal” lives had for far too long kept shrouded in darkness.

The post Societal Gaps Revealed by COVID-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What Governments Aren’t Telling You about the COVID-19 Pandemic

RT’s On Going Underground speaks to legendary journalist and film-maker John Pilger about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. He discusses the fact that the Conservative government was warned about shortages leaving the NHS vulnerable in pandemics 4 years ago, the damage privatisation has done to the National Health Service, budget cuts which have seen bed capacities fall to record lows, his criticisms of the Boris Johnson administration’s response to Coronavirus, the lack of mass-testing in the U.K. which has been seen in other countries such as Germany, South Korea and China, the government blaming China for the Coronavirus crisis, the threat to Julian Assange’s life as he is denied release from prison as Coronavirus claims its first victim in Belmarsh Prison and more!

Our leaders are terrified. Not of the virus, of us!

You can almost smell the fear-laden sweat oozing from the pores of television broadcasts and social media posts as it finally dawns on our political and media establishments what the coronavirus actually means. And I am not talking about the threat posed to our health.

A worldview that has crowded out all other thinking for nearly two generations is coming crashing down. It has no answers to our current predicament. There is a kind of tragic karma to the fact that so many major countries – meaning major economies – are today run by the very men least equipped ideologically, emotionally and spiritually to deal with the virus.

That is being starkly exposed everywhere in the west, but the UK is a particularly revealing case study.

Dragging their heels

It emerged at the weekend that Dominic Cummings, the ideological powerhouse behind Britain’s buffoonish prime minister Boris Johnson, was pivotal in delaying the UK government’s response to the coronavirus – effectively driving Britain on to the Italian (bad) path of contagion rather than the South Korean (good) one.

According to media reports at the weekend, Cummings initially stalled government action, arguing of the coming plague that “if that means some pensioners die, too bad”. That approach explains the dragging of heels for many days, and then days more of dither that is only now coming to a resolution.

Cummings, of course, denies ever making the statement, calling the claim “defamatory”. But let’s dispense with the formalities. Does anybody really – really – believe that that wasn’t the first thought of Cummings and half the cabinet when confronted with an imminent contagion they understood was about to unravel a social and economic theory they have dedicated their entire political careers to turning into a mass cult? An economic theory from which – by happy coincidence – they derive their political power and class privilege.

And sure enough, these hardcore monetarists are already quietly becoming pretend socialists to weather the very first weeks of the crisis. And there are many months more to run.

Austerity thrown out

As I predicted in my last post, the UK government last week threw out the austerity policies that have been the benchmark of Conservative party orthodoxy for more than a decade and announced a splurge of spending to save businesses with no business as well as members of the public no longer in a position to earn a living.

Since the 2008 financial crash, the Tories have cut social and welfare spending to the bone, creating a massive underclass in Britain, and have left local authorities penniless and incapable of covering the shortfall. For the past decade, the Conservative government excused its brutalist approach with the mantra that there was no “magic money tree” to help in times of trouble.

The free market, they argued, was the only fiscally responsible path. And in its infinite wisdom, the market had decided that the 1 per cent – the millionaires and billionaires who had tanked the economy in that 2008 crash – would get even filthier rich than they were already.

Meanwhile, the rest of us would see the siphoning off of our wages and prospects so that the 1 per cent could horde yet more wealth on offshore islands where we and the government could never get our hands on it.

“Neoliberalism” became a mystifying term used to reimagine unsustainable late-stage, corporate capitalism not only as a rational and just system but as the only system that did not involve gulags or bread queues.

Not only did British politicians (including most of the Labour parliamentary party) subscribe to it, but so did the entire corporate media, even if the “liberal” Guardian would very occasionally and very ineffectually wring its hands about whether it was time to make this turbo-charged capitalism a little more caring.

Only deluded, dangerous Corbyn “cultists” thought different.

Self-serving fairytale

But suddenly, it seems, the Tories have found that magic money tree after all. It was there all along and apparently has plenty of low-hanging fruit the rest of us may be allowed to partake from.

One doesn’t need to be a genius like Dominic Cummings to see how politically terrifying this moment is for the establishment. The story they have been telling us for 40 years or more about harsh economic realities is about to be exposed as a self-serving fairy tale. We have been lied to – and soon we are going to grasp that very clearly.

That is why this week the Tory politician Zac Goldsmith, a billionaire’s son who was recently elevated to the House of Lords, described as a “twat” anyone who had the temerity to become a “backseat critic” of Boris Johnson. And it is why the feted “political journalist” Isabel Oakeshott – formerly of the Sunday Times and a regular on BBC Question Time – took to twitter to applaud Mike Hancock and Johnson for their self-sacrifice and dedication to public service in dealing with the virus:

Spare a thought this morning for health secretary @MattHancock who has such enormous responsibility right now and is working crazy hours trying to help the nation beat this. The hourly judgements he and @BorisJohnson have to make are so difficult.

Be ready. Over the coming weeks, more and more journalists are going to sound like North Korea’s press corps, with paeans to “the dear leader” and demands that we trust that he knows best what must be done in our hour of need.

Saved by the bail-outs

The political and media class’s current desperation has a substantive cause – and one that should worry us as much as the virus itself.

Twelve years ago capitalism teetered on the brink of the abyss, its structural flaws exposed for anyone who cared to look. The 2008 crash almost broke the global financial system. It was saved by us, the public. The government delved deep into our pockets and transferred our money to the banks. Or rather the bankers.

We saved the bankers – and the politicians – from their economic incompetence through bail-outs that were again mystified by being named “quantitative easing”.

But we weren’t the ones rewarded. We did not own the banks or get a meaningful stake in them. We did not even get oversight in return for our huge public investment. Once we had saved them, the bankers went right back to enriching themselves and their friends in precisely the same manner that stalled the economy in 2008.

The bail-outs did not fix capitalism, they simply delayed for a while longer its inevitable collapse.

Capitalism is still structurally flawed. Its dependence on ever-expanding consumption cannot answer the environmental crises necessarily entailed by such consumption. And economies that are being artificially “grown”, at the same time as resources deplete, ultimately create inflated bubbles of nothingness – bubbles that will soon burst again.

Survival mode

Indeed, the virus is illustrative of one of those structural flaws – an early warning of the wider environmental emergency, and a reminder that capitalism, by intertwining economic greed with environmental greed, has ensured the two spheres collapse in tandem.

Pandemics like this one are the outcome of our destruction of natural habitats – to grow cattle for burgers, to plant palm trees for cakes and biscuits, to log forests for flat-pack furniture. Animals are being driven into ever closer proximity, forcing diseases to cross the species barrier. And then in a world of low-cost flights, disease finds an easy and rapid transit to every corner of the planet.

The truth is that in a time of collapse, like this decade-long one, capitalism has only “magic money trees” left. The first one, in the late 2000s, was reserved for the banks and the large corporations – the wealth elite that now run our governments as plutocracies.

The second “magic money tree”, needed to deal with what will become the even more disastrous economic toll wrought by the virus, has had to be widened to include us. But make no mistake. The circle of beneficence has been expanded not because capitalism suddenly cares about the homeless and those reliant on food banks. Capitalism is an amoral economic system driven by the accumulation of profit for the owners of capital. And that’s not you or me.

No, capitalism is now in survival mode. That is why western governments will, for a time, try to “bail out” sections of their publics too, giving back to them some of the communal wealth that has been extracted over many decades. These governments will try to conceal for a little longer the fact that capitalism is entirely incapable of solving the very crises it has created. They will try to buy our continuing deference to a system that has destroyed our planet and our children’s future.

It won’t work indefinitely, as Dominic Cummings knows only too well. Which is why the Johnson government, as well as the Trump administration and their cut-outs in Brazil, Hungary, Israel, India and elsewhere, are in the process of drafting draconian emergency legislation that will have a longer term goal than the immediate one of preventing contagion.

Western governments will conclude that it is time to shore up capitalism’s immune system against their own publics. The risk is that, given the chance, they will begin treating us, not the virus, as the real plague.

SYRIZA’s Betrayal of Greece is a Spectre haunting the Left

‘Super Tuesday’ in the 2020 presidential election season is over and Senator Bernie Sanders’s time as the unlikely frontrunner for the Democratic nomination may have stopped just as quick as it began. Despite an unprecedented smear campaign coordinated by the party leadership and corporate media against him, the self-described “democratic socialist” not only managed to single-handedly de-stigmatize the latter as a dirty word in U.S. politics but at one point seemed like he had improbably overtaken former Vice President Joe Biden as the favorite to be the party nominee. Suddenly, the scenario of a brokered convention with a repeat of the ‘superdelegate’ scheme determining the outcome seems more likely. Regardless of whether he beats the odds, no one can deny the significance of Sanders’s movement in taking the relatively progressive first step of returning “socialism” from exile to everyday U.S. politics which was once an inconceivable prospect. Unfortunately, a consequence is that now his idea of an ‘alternative’ to capitalism has been made synonymous with the word in the minds of Americans, regardless of its qualifications.

So far, Bernie has purposefully avoided discussing socialism in broader conceptual terms or as a social philosophy while persistently narrowing the discussion to issues of economic disparity, free higher education or a national healthcare system. In fact, Sanders’s own supporters are the ones who often push the acceptable parameters of the dialogue to bigger questions and take his movement to places he is unwilling, likely because his candidacy filled the void of the political space left vacant following the suppression of the Occupy Wall Street phenomena. For example, some of his devotees may define socialism as the ‘equal distribution of wealth’ or even the ‘collective ownership of the means of production.’ However, Bernie and his followers both equally avoid providing any philosophical basis to their ideas and usually reduce it to abstractions of moral principles or human rights.

The most vigorous elucidation of socialism and its historical development from material conditions rather than ideals can be found in Karl Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program, a letter written in 1875 by the German philosopher to the early incarnation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in which he scathingly attacked the SPD for drafting a more moderate platform at its congress. Just four years earlier, the short-lived Paris Commune in France had been brutally repressed and the German counterparts of the Communards appeared to be making concessions in the wake of its failure. In the address, Marx contends that socialism is an  atransitional phase between capitalism and communism where vestigial elements of the free market are mixed with state ownership of the productive forces. According to Marx, socialism does not develop on its own but “emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.”

While socialism might be an improvement, it still bears the stigma of capitalism because it is based on the idea that people will receive equal compensation determined by their individual contribution to the economy. Marx argues that even though profiting from the exploitation of the labor of others through private ownership of the means of production may decline, the exchange of labor itself as a commodity replicates the logic of the free market in that it still leaves workers under the dominion of what they produce if their earnings are equivalent to their labor. Since workers inherently have varying degrees of mental and physical ability, the primary source of economic inequality is left in place. Hence, Marx’s conclusion that human liberation can only be achieved once labor is transformed from a means of subsistence to freedom from necessity in a communist society, or “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” In the same document, it is made clear what role the state must play in this post-revolutionary but intermediary stage:

Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

Many on the left today, particularly social democrats, try to separate Marx’s words about the role of the state from the Bolsheviks who later expanded upon the working class seizure of power by revolutionary means and put it into practice in the Russian Revolution of 1917. However, Marx did consider the United States one of a handful of countries where a peaceful transition to socialism was a remote possibility, at least during his own lifetime.

The same SPD that Marx convinced to abandon its reformist platform for a more radical line would turn their backs on the working class decades later when it endorsed the imperialist carnage of World War I and collaborated with proto-fascists. In 1912, the SPD rose to prominence after it was elected to the majority of seats in the Reichstag, but once in power its duplicitous leadership voted to support the war effort despite the Second International’s vehement opposition to militarism and imperialism. Those within the SPD who protested the party’s pro-war stance were expelled which brought an end to the Second International, most notably Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemberg who would go on to found the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). After the war’s conclusion which resulted in a German defeat and the abolition of its imperial monarchy, mass social unrest and general strikes led to the Spartacist Uprising in the unsuccessful German Revolution of 1918–1919 which was violently crushed by the right-wing Freikorps paramilitary units under orders from SPD leader and German President, Friedrich Ebert. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were summarily executed in the crackdown and became forever revered martyrs in the international socialist movement.

The SPD would once again betray the German people during the Weimar Republic in the lead-up to the Second World War, rebuffing the KPD’s efforts to organize a coalition against fascism which sealed Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, as Michael Parenti described in Blackshirts and Reds:

True to form, the Social Democrat leaders refused the Communist party’s proposal to form an eleventh-hour coalition against Nazism. As in many other countries past and present, so in Germany, the Social Democrats would sooner ally themselves with the reactionary Right than make common cause with the Reds. Meanwhile, a number of right-wing parties coalesced behind the Nazis and in January 1933, just weeks after the election, Hindenburg invited Hitler to become chancellor.

Social democracy’s consistent impediment of the seizure of power by the working class led to its branding as the “moderate wing of fascism” by the Comintern. By the time the Third International and the social democratic Labor and Socialist International (LSI) finally cooperated to form a Popular Front in the Spanish Civil War, it was undermined by the disruptions of Trotskyists and anarchists which cleared the way for Franco’s victory. Today, social democrats who are embarrassed by these unpleasant facts try to sweep their own tainted history under the rug, ironically the same ideologues who are always eager to cite the ‘purges’ of the Stalin era to discredit communism. A 2017 article exonerating the SPD in Jacobin Magazine, the flagship publication of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), is a perfect example of such lies by omission.

Bernie Sanders is the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history, but a significant amount of the grassroots basis for his recent success has come from his backing by the DSA whose own rank-and-file increased by the tens of thousands during his 2016 candidacy and continued following Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. This culminated in the election of two DSA members to Congress, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Rashida Tlaib (MI), in the 2018 mid-terms. The DSA has historical roots in the Socialist Party of America (SPA), having been established by former chairman Michael Harrington, best known as the author of the classic 1962 study, The Other America: Poverty in the United States, which is widely credited as an inspiration for the welfare state legislation of the Great Society under the Lyndon B. Johnson administrationHowever, in stark contrast with the SPA and its founder, Eugene V. Debswhom Sanders idolizes and even once made a film aboutHarrington advocated for reforming the Democratic Party from within over building a third party.

Sanders might style himself as a “socialist”, but many have noted his actual campaign policies are closer to the New Deal reforms of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression. A more accurate comparison than Eugene Debs would be with the appointed Vice President during Roosevelt’s third term, Henry A. Wallace, who has been written out of history ever since the Southern reactionary wing of the Democratic Party convinced FDR to replace him on the 1944 ticket with Harry S. Truman. The progressive Wallace had been Secretary of Agriculture during Roosevelt’s first two terms and was a big supporter of his domestic program. After his one-term removal, Wallace served as commerce secretary until Truman succeeded Roosevelt and fired him in 1946 for giving a speech advocating peace and cooperation with the Soviet Union which contradicted Truman’s foreign policy that kick-started the Cold War. Wallace ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket in 1948 but his campaign was sunk by red-baiting, reminiscent of the recent bogus claims of “Russian meddling” to assist Sanders’s presidential bid. Yet even Wallace was much further to the left than Bernie is today, particularly on foreign policy. As Congressman of Vermont in 1999, Sanders notably voted to authorize the use of military force against Serbia, resulting in one of his campaign staffers quitting in protest and an end to his friendship with the previously cited Parenti.

As for his socialist credentials, all one has to do is look at the model Bernie consistently invokes as an example whenever pressed to define “democratic socialism” in the Nordic model which today scarcely resembles what it once was prior to the mysterious assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986. Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark may have high taxes on the wealthy and a strong social safety net while a large percentage of the workforce is unionized and employed in the public sector — a more “humane” form of capitalism — but these gains came from class struggle, not from the top down. Similarly in the U.S., the financial regulations and public programs during the Roosevelt administration were not enacted out of the goodness of FDR’s heart but because he was a pragmatic politician and member of the ruling class who understood that it was the only way to save American capitalism from itself and prevent workers, then well organized in a strong coalition of labor unions with socialists and communists, from becoming militant. Reforms such as those under the New Deal were enacted so they could be repealed later, as we see now with Social Security and Medicare increasingly under threat. If Sanders were to be elected but his policies obstructed, it would be because no such alliance behind him yet exists.

On the other hand, recent history shows that not even a united front and mass organization can ensure the democratic wishes of workers as Greece learned in 2015 after the electoral victory of the inappropriately named ‘Coalition of the Radical Left ’ — abbreviated SYRIZA — which completely double-crossed its constituency and the Greek working class once in power. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, Greece was impacted more than any other country in the Eurozone during the economic downturn and underwent a decline which exceeded that of the Great Depression in the United States as the longest of any modern capitalist country. However, like all debt run up by capitalist governments, Greece’s bankruptcy was created by the irreconcilable contradiction of the state being torn between its constituents in the masses of people and the rich and corporations who both want to pay as low in taxes as possible, an incompatibility which forces elected political leaders to borrow excessively instead of taxing the former which give them votes or the latter which gives them money.

Like the United States, many European countries saw their productive power slowly outsourced to the developing world in recent decades where bigger profits could be made and labor was cheaper while wages and living standards in the imperial core stagnated, though the process was slower in Europe because of social democracy. For the financial sector and predatory creditors, this made for a whole new market of consumer debt to invest in and a bonanza of speculative trading. That is, until 2008 when the speculations finally crashed after consumer credit reached its limit. On the brink of failure, the so-called leaders of industry and champions of private enterprise in the banking sector begged European governments to save them from collapse. Unfortunately for Greece, its small, poor economy was already heavily in debt and unattractive to lenders, therefore unable to borrow without paying high interest rates.

At the time of Greece’s debt crisis, European governments were already besieged by their respective banks in the form of bailouts. When the German and French banks turned out to be the biggest creditors of the Greek government, the prospect of Greece defaulting meant that the German and French governments could not provide financial assistance to their corresponding banks a second time without then-President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, committing political suicide. Therefore, the European Union’s political “solution” was to make Greece the whipping boy for the financial crisis by using the pooled collective money of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund— widely referred to as the ‘troika’ — to make a series of bailout loans to Greece so it could pay off the French and German banks, but which imposed draconian austerity measures and neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ onto its economy.

The troika’s ‘structural adjustment programs’ resulted in hundreds of thousands of state sector jobs lost and the minimum wage reduced by more than 20% while much of the energy, utilities and transit sectors underwent mass privatization. Greek workers saw their taxes raised just as pensions and benefits were cut, bonuses capped, and salaries frozen at the same time government spending on health and education was slashed. As many economists predicted, the spending reductions during the downturn only worsened the crisis. However, just as we have seen throughout the EU and the U.S. since the global financial meltdown, a silver lining to the crisis in Greece was an expansion of the political spectrum and Overton Window. By 2014, the far right Golden Dawn party suddenly became the third largest group from Greece in the European Parliament, but still far behind the first-place SYRIZA, founded in 2004 as a broad alliance of the country’s left-wing parties, sans the Greek Communist Party (KKE).

In the beginning of 2015, SYRIZA rode into office in a snap election, picking up half of the Hellenic Parliament seats on its campaign promise of rejecting austerity. After failing to reach an agreement with the troika, a referendum was held to decide on whether the country should accept the bailout terms and the result was a solid 61% pulling the lever against the country’s colonization by the EU and ‘reforms’ of the international creditors, a vote which also effectively signaled that the Greek people were willing to exit the Eurozone. Despite pledging to let the electorate decide the country’s future, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and SYRIZA stabbed the Greek working class in the back and ignored the outcome of the referendum, totally capitulating to the demands of the private banking corporatocracy. Much of the pseudo-left had pinned their naive hopes on SYRIZA, but the truth is that the warning signs were there from the very beginning, starting with Tsipras’s questionable decision to appoint economist Yanis Varoufakis as Finance Minister, a figure who had several conflicts of interest with the institutions he was assigned to stand up to.

Varoufakis was tapped to negotiate with the troika in spite of his open ties to the neoliberal Brookings Institute, a D.C. establishment think tank funded by a cabal of billionaires and the Qatari government, as well as his previous work as an advisor to the centre-left PASOK government of George Papandreou which preceded SYRIZA and initially ushered in the austerity. The “rock star economist” jumped ship after less than six months from his ministerial post on the stated reason it was evident the SYRIZA-led government was caving in to the troika, yet Varoufakis himself had already sold Greece down the river when he led the negotiations to extend its loan agreement with the IMF that was due to expire in his first month in office. Varoufakis could have used the prospect of a potential Grexit from the Eurozone as leverage and refused to negotiate, but instead fully surrendered to the troika’s bribery. When SYRIZA later fully embraced austerity, it was only a continuation of the process he set in motion while his resignation was motivated by self-interest in maintaining his radical facade.

Allowing the IMF to make a killing off Greece’s debt was just the first breach of faith. By the time Tsipras was voted out four years later, the SYRIZA-led government had made military deals with Israel, sold arms to Saudi Arabia during its genocidal war on Yemen, provided NATO with its territory for the use of military bases and naval presence, and paved the way for the latter to accede the renamed North Macedonia as a member state. Meanwhile, Varoufakis has since been busy lending his ‘expertise’ to left candidates in other countries. After the UK Labour Party’s resounding defeat in the 2019 general elections, many rightly faulted Jeremy Corbyn’s reversal of his decision to support the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum after he was convinced by the party establishment to change his longtime Euroskepticism. Unsurprisingly, another figure who had advised him to do the same was none other than the former Greek finance minister, who has also since partnered with Bernie Sanders to launch a “Progressive International.”

The 2019 UK general election was really a second Brexit referendum, where the electorate justifiably expressed their disgust at the Labour Party’s contempt for democracy and neutering of Corbyn. Once upon a time it was Labour who stood against the de-industrialization foisted onto Britain by the neoliberal imperialist EU and the offshoring of its manufacturing jobs to Germany and the global south. Corbyn should have listened to the words of past Labour leaders like Tony Benn, who opposed the European project and its unelected bureaucracy as a violation of British sovereignty and democracy, not charlatans like Mr. Varoufakis. Worst of all is that the “left” is now disparaging the entirety of the working class as bigots and reducing the Leave vote to a reaction against the migrant crisis, as if Greece’s bailout referendum never occurred. Like the Yellow Vest protests in France, Corbyn’s loss was a sign that the opposition to globalization by the working class is still in good condition but has no authentic left to represent it. If Bernie meets the same fate, a real vanguard should be prepared to take the reins.

King Tides and Who’s King of the Hill?

I’m watching the Pacific heave up a king tide in the tiny town of Waldport on the Oregon Coast. Houses right above the beach line are now soaked, their back and front yards littered with driftwood, logs and tree stumps.

And water. The power of that expanding ocean and the rising tides lend pause for any sane person realizing that this yearly cyclical event is a premonition: what I am seeing now is going to be the new normal. Everything shifts with one-three-nine feet of ocean rise in the next 20-30-50-100 years. The winds are pushing up more sea spray, and the entire scene is both amazingly beautiful and dangerous to the future of my town, a million towns across the globe.

That “normal” is no more beaches, or, that is, until the ocean takes out homes and front and back yards to sweep away more of the land to deposit beach materials to create beaches.

The idea of humanity is to deploy hard mitigation techniques to fight the tide of rising oceans — dikes, boulders, trillions of tons of earth, cement, sea wall, diversion conduits, stilts, bloated and expensive channeling and walling off wetlands.  You know, more and more busy bees, busy ants trying to push back on the forces of nature. Then there is retreat and abandonment. Obviously, we see how well retreat works when so many investments in capitalism are tied around the real estate and infrastructure of so many of their industries and businesses being so close to the impending ocean inundation. Forgot about abandonment for a long while, as we can see for obvious reasons beach community after beach community rebuilding after powerful hurricanes, that will look like rain storms under the impending new normal of heating ocean currents, etc.

There are other ways to plan for a world without ice, but we are an insane species who have let overlords control every blinking, swallowing, thinking, defecating, urinating, masticating, breathing, bleating, REM-ing moment of our lives. We have been so brainwashed and colluded and controlled that we can’t think even though we should and are capable of fixing the mitigation plans. Retrenchment is out of the question when it comes to capitalism, USA all the way, arrogance, and war making against people, planet, species. Ecosocialism!

Unless we change the conversation. Unless we get people to start thinking about and talking about and working for a viable alternative to the market-driven collapse of civilization. Our job, as ecosocialists is to put forward a practical plan to slam the brakes on emissions, an emergency response to the climate emergency. This plan has to begin with brutal honesty:

We can’t have an infinitely growing economy on a finite planet.

We can’t suppress emissions without closing down companies.

We need to socialize those companies, nationalize them, buy them out and take them into public hands so we can phase them out or retrench them.

If we close down/retrench industries then society must provide new low- or no-carbon jobs for all those displaced workers and at comparable wages and conditions.

We have to replace our anarchic market economy with a largely, though not entirely, planned economy, a bottom-up democratically planned economy.

The environmental, social and economic problems we face cannot be solved individual choices in the marketplace. They require collective democratic control over the economy to prioritize the needs of society and the environment. And they require national and international economic planning to reorganize and restructure our economies and redeploy labor and resources to those ends. In other words, if humanity is to save itself, we have to overthrow capitalism and replace it with some form of democratic eco-socialism.

Yeah, I know, we didn’t all sign up for the pollution, the massive surveillance, the penury, the ecosystems destruction, the addictions promoged and promulgated by consumerism, the predilections of greed, the gentrification, McDonaldization, Walmartization, Facebook-Google-IZATION of our worlds, for sure. But all of that didn’t just happen, since this country has a DNA-warp which allows for almost complete deification of the rich and the powerful and the controlling. Celebrity cultism doesn’t even scratch the surface of how colonized the Western mind has become.

Yep, we were sleeping when all the psy-ops, info-wars, algorithmic predictive shit came barreling into our lives. And complicit in the entire colonization of our minds, bodies, hearts, souls, futures and fates by a Brave New World corporate SOP and a big brother government.

Wet, Wild, Unpredictable

I’m talking to a few people who are here in Waldport photographing with phones the king tide phenomenon, and they dance back and forth out of the surge of high tide and the sneaker waves pummeling parking lots, cars and yards.

Some say, “Well, this is man’s doing. Or it will be more and more each decade. Amazing we think we are the highest forms of life in our universe.”

Yes. this is a direct quote from one of the bystanders who also told me she plants as many trees on her five acres, and she sees the little town of Waldport sort of vanishing in the coming decades because she knows there is no will of the people to work together to move it, or to put in hard barriers, which in the end won’t do that much.

Oh, those 7 R’s: retrench, retreat, regroup, reorganize, reassess, reinvent, revive.

In my slow (by many of my friends’ standards) life here, I am faced with a lot of time to write, a lot of people who are precarious, faced with poverty and with people who end up in my column for a little rag on the coast. Some of those pieces end up in Dissident Voice.

Not exactly tinged with revolution and Marxism and anarchy and ecosocialism and hard left zeal to at least give a decent run at this perverse society of exploitative and predatory capitalism, the columns are my emotional and intellectual Prozac, man, insulating me for a few nanoseconds from the madness of this world and the reimagining of my own sanity. I’ve got a friend out there who sees the scientists and others I feature in this rag of a column as sell outs, as reasons for the many precipitates  the communities and the cultures within those communities are failing.

Scientists and capitalism, an old pairing that has done wonderfully destructive things to people, planet, ecosystems big and small. And I get it, really, as I plod through slipstream after slipstream. Man, I am on the thin ice of aging (63 next month) and being made anachronistic daily by my idiotic dream of still getting something out there on some mainstream best sellers or notable list for my brand of literary fiction.

Reimagining Sanity - Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (Paperback): Paul Haeder

I daily have fights on various channels and in person about how people like us, like me, give zero to society.

What great invention or engineering feat have you done? What contribution to the good of humanity have you done? I bet everything you do — including typing your idiocy on your computer — is the result of engineers and technologists and doers. Take your poor ass liberal teaching (indoctrination) and Podunk writing (who the hell reads your irrelevant stuff?) and crawl back to your tie-dyed, smoked out Oregon. Another libtard/turd . . . Living in Oregon? ‘Nuff said!

This is the hard-wired brain of many Americans — and the so-called left and the wavering liberals are part and parcel part of that mindset because so many in my lifetime have denigrated my brand of revolution, perspective and analysis as way too extreme or radical. Irrelevant. Utopian. Impossible. Foolish. Something along those lines, as tempered as the above quote really is since most people I run into who label me commie, socialist and libtard are threatening my life, want my expulsion from love-it-or-leave-it-in-a-coffin USA. It gets worse what these pigs of capitalism and red-white-blue Military Industrial Complex say to me on-line and sometimes in person.

They are here to wear us down . . . 

Nothing works, it seems. Each big, small, tiny, gargantuan community is flooded with takers, and the leavers of the world, the givers, are not only out-gunned, but the entire fabric of capitalism and consumer culture and this military-might-makes-right society is flooded with those Yankees.

Begging for a countywide warming shelter, no free clinics, no dentists, reckless law enforcement hobbling the poor with more violations and court dates and jail time. The RV-with-Jeep-in-tow-and-vacation-home America against the very people who do the oil changes, the plumbing fixes the burger flipping, the road . . . .

Have a beer and celebrate when the video of Saddam’s neck is snapped by a rope. Celebrate with tailgaters when Osama bin Laden’s supposed dead body is sealed up in body bags  by those magnificent SEALs.

Despair is easy in this country, with the wide gape of peering into the belly of the beast, which is really us, US, USA.

I work as a substitute teacher and also work for a national non-profit that has designed this anti-poverty program around social capital and unconditional cash transfers. I am daily struggling to see how my two books that are coming out will make a drop in any bucket, and I am plagued with the fear of lifelong bad decisions, with a general anxiety disorder, and my own form of collective Stockholm Syndrome just daily slogging along in this messed up culture, society and country.

Let me reframe here — Any creative artist who is revolutionary and communist in purpose is going to be whacked hard in this competitive, superficial, predatory, hard-boiled, violent, usury-drawn country. Every single monetary interchange and human exchange is filled with duality after duality. Contradictions. Counter-intuitive thinking. Equivocation. Rationalization.

Daily it’s as if I have to fight very hard to stave off the insanity from surfacing, or at least battening down all those mental duress points from congealing. Daily, I have to quell the anger. Daily, I have to resort to looking toward some spiritual  formula to stay sane, pacific, and within the constraints of the social contracts laid out to keep me from going ballistic.

And yet . . . . I also work with people in complete struggle against all aspects of capitalism — shitty jobs, low pay rates; shitty vehicles or vapid public transportation; shitty local culture for people with no money, or no places for children to gather without throwing in dollars for the ride; shitty schools for their kids; shitty housing situations; shitty social capital and community resources; shitty backgrounds; shitty family dynamics; shitty physical and mental health; shitty credit scores; shitty prospects; shitty people controlling their shitty lives; shitty air and water.

Then, it’s up against this backdrop of drive-in fast-food culture, in this homogenization of every mile of roadside attraction country. Little things like — Did you know that the 7-11 corporation is directly responsible for all those bodegas and cool little family holes in the wall in places like New York going belly up? Colonization, like cancer . . . page from the playbook of Starbucks, Walmart, Amazon, the lot of them. Flipping 7-11 “convenience” stores flooding neighborhoods using economies of scale and the power of billions to push out the mom and pop’s, the little guy or gal. Rents go out the roof, and that’s it, RIP small town/big town America.

Yet . . . but . . . however . . . hold on a minute! Many of these people living under shitty circumstances can muster some sense of positive daily outlook. Sure, many have false hope, and many believe that hype and propaganda of the American Dream, that anyone can be a millionaire — forgetting that there is-will be-was always a million suckers born every minute in this stolen land.

Given that, though, my whole life has been compelled to understand that survivable character in these people — how they can get a can of sardines and believe they have caviar. You know, the old lemons made into lemonade axiom.

That’s what the new short story collection coming out, Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam, galvanizes in the 17 short stories: the will to survive, and not always thrive. Like that coyote chewing leg out of trap to limp on three legs to still live another day and another. Three-legged Americans, these characters in this collection are all somehow tied to the Vietnam War, plagued by their own survival or someone close to them. It’s not thematic, and each story is a stand-alone. I didn’t even try and thread this or that juxtaposition to make the collection super cohesive or interlinked. Alas, though the book is a stand-alone in that all the stories have that atmospheric and gritty demarcation between failure and giving up and just going on, moving ahead . . . no matter the circumstances of past, present or future.

In that sense WOE is an American book, like the wide scope of American literature. That’s Wide Open Eyes from Cirque Press, available, gulp, on Amazon, my arch nemesis. There will be a review of the book here soon. Looking at maybe four sales from my DV crowd. Oh well.

That little detail is like death by a thousand cuts, and, coming around the bend to 63 years old, I am having a difficult time having my principles stick. Everything about Amazon, about Bezos, about the people who plan the company from coder to software and logistics engineer, who develop AI and flood the world with the non-competitive shit that is the company, I despise . . . and yet, here we are, Year of the Rat, 2020, and I have just given over my soul in a Faustian Bargain to Amazon hawking my book with their bloody cut of the deal.

Checking out isn’t an option, and the fight is now for the little guy and gal, the child, the wordless old man with Parkinson’s, the bent over old lady checking items at the Safeway. There may be MAGA in some of those struggling souls, and that’s a whole other deal. For now, though, what is this country, and what is the ordinary man-woman-child?

Country as an idea, country as something that doesn’t exist, country as something continually changing because of outside forces. Country as a word from the enemy, meaning the empire. — Roque Dalton, Salvadoran poet

Joseph Campbell (“The Power of Myth”) quote roiling around my busy mind:  I don’t think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognize it and then cultivate it and get going with it. I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman, or child.

Chile and Her History of Western Interference

Chile is experiencing the largest and most serious political crisis and public unrest throughout Santiago and the country’s major cities since the return to ‘democracy’ in 1990. A week long of fire, tear-gas and police brutality left at least 20 people dead, thousands arrested and injured. More than 1.2 million people protested on Friday 25 October in the Streets of Chile’s capital, Santiago, not just against the 4% hike in metro-fares. That was the drop that brought the glass to overflow. Years, decades of neoliberal policies, brought hardship, poverty and inequality to Chileans. Chile is the country with the world’s third largest inequality in wealth, with a Gini coefficient of close to 0.50 (zero = everybody has the same, 1.0 = one person possesses everything).

Important for Chileans to understand is not to believe President Sebastian Piñera’s smooth talk and compromising words. Whatever he says and apparently does in terms of backtracking from his neoliberal policies is sheer deviation propaganda. Many of these policies he already initiated during his first term (2010 – 2014). They were kept alive by Madame Michelle Bachelet (2014 – 2018) under pressure from the Chilean financial system which remains closely linked (and funded) by Wall Street, and, of course, by her IMF advisers. Continuing Piñera’s job, she helped further dollarizing Chile to the tune of 70%, meaning that Chilean banks finance themselves on the US dollar markets, mostly in New York and London, rather than on the local peso market.

A healthy economy finances itself largely from nationally earned and accumulated capital. But more often than not, national oligarchs who possess this capital earned locally invest it outside their countries, as they trust more in foreign markets than in their own country. This is classic in many developing countries and particularly in Latin America, where the elite still – or again, after a brief democratic center-left respite in the 1990s and early 2000 – looks for success and capital gains to the northern masters in Washington.

Madame Bachelet was effectively bought by the system – a former socialist, having seen her father suffer under the Pinochet regime – she has become a sad turncoat. She demonstrated her ‘conversion’ by her recent report on Venezuela’s Human Rights – which was a travesty of the truth – a sham, full of lies and omissions. Another one who sold out and became chief of a UN Office – the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Commission. How did that happen?  Who pulls the strings behind the scenes for such appointments?

Since 2018, it’s again President Piñera, who is hell bent to complete his neoliberal project. Sebastian Piñera is one of the richest people in Latin America with a net worth of close to 3 billion dollars. How could he even remotely imagine what it is, having to take the subway every day to go to work, depending on pensions which are gradually reduced under his austerity programs, having to pay school tuition for a public service which is free in most countries and being subject to privatized health services, let alone steadily depressed salaries and rising unemployment. Mr. Piñera has no clue.

Only 24 hours before the mass-protests started about a week ago throughout Chile, Piñera prided himself in public of leading the politically and economically most stable and secure country, the world’s largest copper producer, where foreign investors were keen to place their money, a “paradise island”, he called Chile, adding the country was a model for all of Latin America.

Did he really not sense what was happening? How his austerity measures – plus privatizing everything – was hurting and infuriating his compatriots to the point of no return? Or did he simply ignore it, thinking it may go away, people will continue swallowing economic tightening as they have done before?  Whatever – it is amazing!

As Piñera’s popularity has slumped to an all-time low of 14%, and protests erupted every day to a higher level, he started using people-friendly language and tone, promising increasing minimum wages, pensions and unemployment benefits. In a move to court the working class, on Monday 28 October he reshuffled his cabinet, replacing 8 of his Ministers with more “people-friendly” officials – but from all appearance it’s too little too late.

He addressed the people in a televised speech from the Presidential Palace, La Moneda, saying, “Chile has changed, and the government must change with it to confront these new challenges”. Nobody seemed to take these empty words seriously, as the masses assembled in front of La Moneda asking for Piñera’s resignation. The UN is sending a team to investigate Human Rights abuses by police and military. While Argentinians waited for regular general elections (27 October 2019) to oust their western-imposed neoliberal lynch pin, president Macri, it is not likely that Chileans will have the patience to wait until 2022.

Ever increasing inequality and skyrocketing cost of living reached a point of anger that can hardly be appeased with Piñera’s apparent promises for change. For at least 80% of the people these conciliatory words are not enough.  They don’t believe in a system led by a neoliberal multi-billionaire who has no idea on how common people have to make a living. They don’t believe in change from this government. It is highly possible, they won’t let go until Piñera is gone. They see what was happening in neighboring Argentina and don’t want to face the same fate.

Let’s just look at a bit of history. Going way back to the War of the Pacific, also known as the Saltpeter War confronting Chile with the Bolivian-Peruvian alliance, Chile counted with strong support from the UK – supplying war ships, weaponry and military advice. The war lasted from 1879 to 1884 and centered on Chilean claims of Bolivian’s coastal territories, part of the Atacama Desert, rich in saltpeter, coveted by the Brits. Thanks to the British military and logistics support, Chile won the war and Bolivia lost her access to the Pacific, making her a landlocked country. The Government of Evo Morales today is still fighting for Pacific Sea access in The Hague. Peru lost also part of her resources-rich coast line, Arica and Tarapacá.

Fast forward to 11 September 1973, The Chilean 9/11, instigated by the West, again. To be precise by Washington. In the driver’s seat of this fatal coup that changed Chile as of this day – and counting – if Piñera is not stopped was Henry Kissinger. At the time leading up to the CIA instigated coup, and during the coup, Kissinger was US National Security Advisor (the role John Bolton occupied under Trump, until recently). Kissinger was sworn in a Secretary of State 11 days after the coup – 22 September 1973; a decent reward for whom is today the biggest war criminal still alive.

The murderous coup, followed by almost 20 years of brutal military rule by Augusto Pinochet (1973 to 1990), with torture, killings, human rights abuses left and right, was accompanied by an atrocious economic regime imposed by Washington, hired, so-called “Chicago Boys” ruining the country, privatizing social services, national infrastructures and natural resources except for Chile’s and the world’s largest copper mine, CODELCO which was not privatized during the Pinochet years. The military would not allow it for reasons of “national security”.

The large majority of the population was put under constant surveillance and threat of punishment / abuse if they would protest and not “behave” as Pinochet ordered. Pinochet, along with the western directed financial sector, turned Chile into a largely impoverished, complacent population.

The British empire, at the time from London, later from Washington acting as the American empire, was always influential in Chile, expanding its influence and exploitation mechanism to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. But then, in the late 1990s and early 2000, Latin America stood up, democratically electing her own leaders, most of them left / center-left, a thorn in the eye of Washington.

How could American’s “Backyard” become independent?  Impossible. Hence the renewal of the Monroe Doctrine, which emanated from President James Monroe (1817-1825), forbidding Europeans to interfere in any American territory. The Monroe principle has now been expanded to not allowing any foreign nation to even do business with Latin America, let alone forming political alliances.

While within a few years in the early 2000s, most of Latin America has been converted into puppets of the United States, Venezuela and Cuba stand tall. They are the corner stones, not to fall. They will be the pillars from where a new sovereign Latin America will rise. The Monroe Doctrine will not hold for a falling US empire – while peace seeking Russia and China are closely associating, commercially as well as militarily, with South America – in rebuilding and defending of their sovereignty.

In addition, people living under neoliberal regimes, under western financial and IMF-imposed killer austerity programs, are waking up, demonstrating and protesting in Ecuador and Argentina – where they just in democratic elections disposed of the US-imposed neoliberal despot, President Mauricio Macri. Now, Chile’s population is angry. Their patience is collapsing, their fear is gone. They want justice. They want to choose freely their leader – and it is not Sebastian Piñera.

Chileans’ fury is not just directed at Piñera’s latest distasteful economic and financial austerity measures. They – the Chileans – still suffer from measures dating back to the Pinochet era, the era of the western Chicago Boys, measures that have never been changed, not even under the so-called socialist Madame Bachelet.

The Pinochet Constitution of 1980, under pressure from Chicago-educated advisors, the IMF and the dollar-based banking system, imposed a culture of economic neoliberalism and ideological conservatism. These key parameters, remnants from that epoch, are still valid as of this day:

Education: Chile has the most privatized and segregated education system of the 65 countries that use the OECD student evaluation standard, PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). In Chile higher education (university level) is not a right. In 1981 Pinochet has privatized most of the higher education institutions giving access mainly to students from privileged families.

Health: In 1979 Pinochet created the Preventive Health Institutions, administered by private financial institutions, providing services that most Chileans cannot afford; i.e. the Fondo Nacional de Salud (FONASE), replacing the former publicly financed health system.

Public Transportation: Chile has one of the most expensive public transport systems in all of Latin America. It’s run by private for-profit concessionaries. In Chile a metro ride costs the equivalent of US$ 1.13, in Brazil US$ 0.99, in Colombia US$ 0.67, in Argentina US$ 0.43. Mr. Piñera’s recent 4% tariff increase was just the trigger for a much larger discontent.

Abortion:  Since 1939 voluntary and secure abortion was possible in Chile. In 1989 Pinochet made abortion under whatever circumstances a criminal delict.

Pensions:  In 1980 Pinochet abandoned the old public system based on solidarity among pensioned adults and handed the accumulated funds to newly created and privately run AFPs (Administrations of Pension Funds), groups of private administrators of funds accumulated entirely by workers (no contributions by employers).

“Carabineros” – Chilean Police Officers:  Under Pinochet, Carabineros have been given powers with military characteristics. They have constantly and with impunity violated human rights. For years civil society groups have requested successive governments – and ultimately again the Piñera Government to change their regime to police officers, respecting human dignity and human rights. So far to no avail, as demonstrated by police interference in the most recent protests.

These Pinochet leftovers will no longer be accepted and tolerated by Chileans. Chile’s population, and in particular, the more than 1.2 million protesting in Santiago last Friday, are requesting nothing less than Piñera’s resignation and a people’s elected Constitutional Assembly to build a new country with less, much less inequality, more social justice, and, especially without any remaining “Pinochetismo”, which today is still very present under Sebastian Piñera, who sent the military to control the mass demonstrations in Santiago and other large cities. Chileans are clearly saying these days are over. We want our country back.  We reclaim our national political and economic sovereignty.  No more western interference.

Revolts Against The Neoliberal World Order

March in Cape Town, South Africa, March 19, 2014 (from ActiveStills.org.)

Protests against the US and big finance-imposed neoliberal capitalism have exploded across the globe. Two weeks ago, in Pink Tide Against US Domination Rising Again In Latin America, we reviewed 12 Latin America nations that are rising up against privatization, the cutting of social programs, soaring prices and low wages. In the last week, mass protests in Chile and Bolivia have begun and Lebanon has widespread protests against debt and austerity measures. The Nonaligned Movement, which is critical of the use of illegal unilateral coercive measures by the United States to force countries to bend to its will, is meeting in Azerbaijan. A central part of the recent rise of the Pink Tide was the mass protests in Ecuador led by indigenous peoples and the labor movement. Their actions forced President Moreno to repeal a package of laws that were demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This week, after Moreno arrested movement leaders, talks broke off and then, on Thursday, the indigenous movement convened to form a popular parliament to develop a new economic plan to avoid detrimental changes required by the IMF. The future in Ecuador is uncertain, but the people are not backing down.

Chile protesters face off with the military, October 2019 (Yahoo News)

Chile Explodes In Long-Suppressed Rage, Government Responds With Abusive Military Force

This Friday, more than one million people took to streets in the Chilean capital of Santiago uniting in a call against extreme neoliberal capitalism. The capital was brought to a standstill after a week of widespread protests that were met by a heavy police and military force. So far, 16 people have died, over 200 have been wounded and over 1,500 have been detained, including children.

The protests began on October 14 when high school students demonstrated against a rise in transit fares from the equivalent of USD $1.12 to $ 1.16. By October 18, the protests grew to the point of shutting down all 136 stations of the Santiago metro system. Seventy stations were damaged and twenty were set on fire. The protests progressed into a nationwide uprising against the government and its unfair neoliberal policies. The metro fare hike was just the last straw in a long list of grievances against a system that has robbed working-class and middle-class people of a decent and dignified life.

The government declared a state of emergency and, for the first time since Pinochet, ordered the military with tanks and armored vehicles to patrol the streets. By Saturday, October 19, President Piñera went on television and said: “I have heard the voice of my compatriots.” He suspended the fare increase and announced he would host a round-table to discuss the issues. He said, “The people will be heard—but the protests have to stop.” This has not deterred the people from continuing to protest.

In a Sunday night address to the nation, Piñera declared: “We are at war with a powerful enemy which is prepared to use violence without limit.” But it was the 11,000 soldiers and Carabinero police who rampaged across Chile, firing live rounds at demonstrators and dragging protesters out of their homes at night. The president’s harsh response only aggravated the situation. Curfews were defied by thousands of demonstrators and, in Santiago, protesters holding pictures of victims under the Pinochet dictatorship temporarily surrounded the tanks.

Chilean journalist, Paul Walder describes how “a country that had seemed orderly and submissive last weekend, has exploded with anger, rage accumulated by generations and passed on to teenagers, as a decantation of the frustrations of their parents, siblings and grandparents.” The uprising and brutal conflict with the police and the military is a reflection of “social pain accumulated throughout the long history of Chilean neoliberalism.” The people of Chile have been subjected to economic and political violence by the state. Salaries are low and taxes on workers are high while billions of dollars have been stolen by corporations.

WSWS reported the uprising has expanded to involve workers writing, “Dockworkers marched en masse through several cities, stopping the bulk of national exports and closing 20 ports as part of a national strike. Donning yellow vests worn for work, the sea of thousands of dockworkers resembled France’s ‘yellow vests’ as they marched through the cities of Concepción, Antofagasta and San Antonio.” Further, copper miners, a historically militant section of the Chilean workers, who produce the country’s primary export, announced a national strike beginning Wednesday. Videos showed copper miners on lunch break banging plates and silverware and chanting “general strike!”

The uprising includes trade unions and student, feminist, and environmentalist groups. They are calling for a reversal of neoliberal capitalism and a new government.  Their demands are “transversal” (non-sectoral) and include “calling for Piñera’s resignation…pay rises and cheaper basic services, a forty-hour week, the restoration of union rights and sectoral collective bargaining, the nationalization of both public services and strategic energy sectors, student-debt forgiveness, the annulment of the country’s private-sector pension fund, the cancellation of the odious free market ‘water codes’ signed into law by Pinochet in 1981, progressive tax reform, and a new migration policy. Perhaps most dramatically, the demonstrators are calling for a new constitution to be drafted by the Constituent Assembly.”

The Washington Post referred to the specter of a “Latin American spring” similar to the revolutions that shook North Africa and the Middle East in 2011. Stratfor noted, “With regional economies squeezed by sluggish growth and governments still seeking to implement painful pro-market reforms, the situation is ripe for disruptive, widespread unrest.”

The uprising in Chile is significant because prior to these protests it was described as a success of capitalism. Chile is the original and perpetual laboratory for neoliberalism, with more than forty years of economic shock policies and a steady, low-intensity war waged against the nation’s working classes. Capitalists are shocked. Brian Winters, Vice President for Policy at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, said “Everyone following Latin America is watching this and saying, ‘Oh my god, Chile, too?’”

Bolivian protester shows support for Evo Morales outside the presidential palace in La Paz, Bolivia, on October 20, 2019 (Juan Karita, AP)

Bolivia Defends Its Democracy From A Coup

In Bolivia, President Evo Morales won re-election in the first round of voting. Morales, leader of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) Party, gained 47.07 percent of the vote, enough to put him 10 percentage points above his closest rival, Carlos Mesa, who received 36.51 percent of votes. Bolivia does not require a second round of voting if the top candidate achieves over 40 percent of the vote with a ten-point margin over the second-place finisher. This is the fourth time Morales has won the presidency in the first round of voting.

Before the results, the opposition announced it would mount a coup if Morales won re-election. After the result, Mesa called for street mobilizations that ended in violence at vote-counting stations, with some opposition protesters burning ballots and the buildings where counting was taking place. Mesa originally endorsed the results when they temporarily showed him having a slightly larger vote share but refused to recognize the results after they indicated that Morales won a first-round victory.

“A coup is underway, carried out by the right-wing with foreign support…what are the methods of this coup attempt? They’re not recognizing or waiting for election results, they’re burning down electoral courts, they want to proclaim the second-place candidate as the winner,” Morales told journalists.

Social movements organized to defend the election against the attempted violent coup. Movements declared a state of emergency and called for mobilizations in the streets to defend democracy while right-wing protesters launched numerous violent attacks across the country. Right-wing rioters blocked election materials from being delivered for the vote resulting in the count being suspended. Labor organizers joined the defense of democracy denouncing “the oligarchic and privatizing interests that hide behind these violent actions.”

The Organization of American States inflamed the opposition by questioning the results. The Center for Policy and Economic Research responded to the points raised by the OAS and urged them to retract their statement. Bolivia responded by inviting the OAS to carry out an audit of the final vote count. Secretary-General of the OAS Luis Almagro accepted the invitation to initiate an Analysis of Electoral Integrity. International observers in La Paz monitoring Bolivia’s general elections praised the legitimacy and transparency of the process, which contrasts statements by opposition leaders.

 

The foreign affairs ministerial conference for the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku, Azerbaijan. October 2019 (mnoal.org.)

The Non-Aligned Movement Unites Against Illegal Unilateral Coercive Measures of the United States

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is meeting in Azerbaijan this weekend. At the meeting, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro criticized the IMF and denounced the U.S. economic and financial aggressions for being as lethal as its armies. He criticized IMF neoliberal austerity and privatization policies as an attack on the most vulnerable and a violation of human rights. He described the unilateral coercive measures of the United States as a violation of international law aimed at pressuring people to support US neoliberalism by inflicting collective punishment against the people as blackmail.

The NAM was established in 1961 as a forum for independent dialogue and cooperation among 120 developing countries that sought to ensure national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries. NAM represents 55 percent of the world’s population. They oppose imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony. This July, NAM held a meeting in Caracas that supported Venezuela and opposed the economic war by the United States. They released the Caracas Political Declaration.

The rising left tide in Latin America and around the world is reflected in the NAM. Popular Resistance is working with organizations and activists around the world to create a worldwide network that will work together to oppose the lawless actions of the United States, and any country that acts similarly, such as interference in the politics of other countries through open and covert regime change operations, the imposition of unilateral coercive economic measures or the threat of militarism. Sign onto the Global Appeal For Peace here

People in the United States suffer similar conditions to those around the world who are plagued by neoliberalism. As the Arab Spring inspired the Occupy Movement, will this Anti-neoliberal Autumn rekindle mass protests in the United States? This is something we need to ponder and perhaps to prepare for and organize to make happen.

Trump and Black Misleadership Class

In a case that finally started to receive national attention over the last few weeks, Baltimore prosecutors finally achieved their desired goal after three attempts, a conviction of Keith Davis Jr., a young Black working class resident of Baltimore, who his supporters say, was set up by Baltimore police, for the murder of Kevin Jones.  Two trials ended in hung juries and another resulted in the judge overturning the conviction of Davis.

Community supporters of Davis said that the aggressive prosecution was just another example of the heavy-handed use of state power by local Black authorities that the residents of the city have come to expect in Baltimore.

When social pimp Rev Al Sharpton showed up in Baltimore standing with members of the Black petit-bourgeoisie to defend their “great city” from the unfair attacks by Donald Trump, no one raised any doubt about the fairness of Keith Davis Jr’s conviction. They didn’t talk about the over 40,000 abandoned properties in the city, the massive displacement of Black residents aided and abetted by the Black overseers of Baltimore. And no one dared to mention Freddie Gray.

Yet, in another bazaar example of “Trump derangement syndrome” the national Black community is supposed to defend these opportunists and servants of white capital just because they were called out by Trump.

After the Keith Davis verdict, Baltimore state prosecutor Marilyn Mosby issued a statement in which she said that “this case has been — and was always — about the pursuit of justice for Kevin Jones,” she wrote. “I truly hope Kevin’s loved ones can finally close this gruesome chapter of grief and find their path to healing.”

But what about the family of Freddie Gray? Doesn’t his life matter, don’t they deserve some justice also?

After one trial that led to an acquittal, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said that it would not be worth it to pursue cases against the other officers accused of killing Gray. So, all charges were dropped. And since the Obama Department of Justice also didn’t think Gray’s life was worth a Federal investigation, the killers walked, no convictions, no justice for the Gray family.

When Elijah Cummings, the new darling of liberals who one would think was some champion of social justice and principled Black leadership, was asked if there should be a Federal investigation of the officers after charges were dropped against the officers, Cummings said he didn’t have an opinion!

The controversy that has emerged from Trump’s comments on Baltimore reflects three interrelated theoretical and practical issues among Black/African peoples in the United States: The continued hegemonic standing of liberalism within mainstream Black political thought, the subordination of what is defined as Black politics to the dictates and agenda of the democrat party and the class consciousness of the Black petit-bourgeoisie and the lack of class consciousness among the Black working class.

It is understandable that a negative comment from Donald Trump regarding a major city in the country under the political leadership of Black people might spark an initial defensive reaction by many in the country because of his pattern of disparaging non-European peoples, regardless of their legal status in the U.S.

However, to try to advance an argument in opposition to Trump that frames life for African Americans in Baltimore as anything more than desperate, deprived and destitute requires a flight from reality that only members of the elite have the luxury to engage in. For Cummings, who has gone from having difficulty paying child support at the time he was first elected to Congress to today being a multi-millionaire, and his friends in the Black professional/managerial/administrative petit-bourgeois things are just fine in Baltimore.

But for the Black working class and poor who have been subjected to the systematic ravages of neoliberalism that devastated Baltimore’s industrial base, including the Baltimore port that was a hub for good paying jobs for the working class, facilitated massive displacement with urban recolonization (gentrification) and created a low-wage, de-skilled Black labor poor that is largely economically redundant, Baltimore in reality resembles the city that Trump referred to, and all the crying in the world will not change that reality.

The reality of Baltimore is the reality of decaying and dying cities and rural areas across this nation. These conditions are the conditions of late state, neoliberal capitalism that has de-centered capitalist industrial production and supply chains from the metropoles to the peripheral nations of the system. Many of the nation’s largest urban areas that have been devastated by these policies over the last few decades are also the areas with the greatest concentrations of African Americans with political leadership, but not economic power, in the hands of a Black overseer class.

When a Donald Trump with his own racist agenda distorts these systemic issues it does not follow that we should reinforce that by offering an analysis of Baltimore or any of these other cities where neoliberal Black democrats serve white power, that reduces an explanation of systemic issues to just one of the pigmentation of political class in charge in the cities or in the White House.

The Black petit-bourgeoisie as a “class for itself” is highly offended by Trump’s comments but because its class interests are in alignment with a sector of big-bourgeoisie, it is silent when Obama refers to the resisters in Baltimore as “thugs and criminals” and unleashes U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein on the people of Baltimore. Yes, the same Rosenstein at the center of Russigate.

While the DOJ only intervened into one case of killer-cops under Obama, Rosenstein made a special request to prosecute the poor, Black working-class individuals charged with various crimes during the Baltimore uprising. The result was draconian sentences that received no mention and no support because even the NGOs supposedly working on criminal justice reform went silent. Rosenstein’s position was clear and a warning to anyone who might resist state power “Anyone in the future who participates in a ‘riot’ should know that police, prosecutors and citizens will track them down and send them to prison.”

The Black misleadership class, liberal and centrist democrats, the forces grouped around Trump and even some radicals, have one essential thing in common, they all believe in the legitimacy of the U.S. state, the capitalist/imperialist system and are ready to fight to the last drop of your blood and mine to preserve this system.

The objective political and class ties of these elements is reflected in the unanimity of positions of “Full spectrum dominance, support for Israel, animosity toward the government in Venezuela, support for Department of Defense 1033 program responsible for militarizing police forces across the country, and the expansion of AFRICOM on the African continent.

This is the madness and reality of U.S. political culture. Scratch a liberal and not only do you find an imperialist supporter but a Donald Trump.

Greece:  Suicide or Murder?

Pundits from the left, from the right and from the center cannot stop reporting about Greece’s misery. And rightly so because the vast majority of her people live in deep economic hardship. No hope. Unemployment is officially at 18%, with the real figure closer to 25% or 30%; pensions have been reduced about ten times since Syriza – the Socialist Party – took power in 2015 and loaded the country with debt and austerity. In the domain of public services, everything that has any value has been privatized and sold to foreign corporations, oligarchs, or, naturally, banks. Hospitals, schools, public transportation – even some beaches – have been privatized and made unaffordable for the common people.

While the pundits – always more or less the same – keep lamenting about the Greek conditions in one form or another, none of them dare offer the only solution that could have rescued Greece (and still could) – exiting the euro zone; return to their local currency and start rebuilding Greece with a local economy, built on local currency with local public banking and with a sovereign Greek central bank deciding the monetary policy that best suits Greece, and especially Greece’s recovery program. Why not? Why do they not talk about this obvious solution? Would they be censured in Greece, because the Greek oligarchy controls the media as oligarchs do around the (western part of the) globe?

Instead, foreign imposed (troika: IMF, European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission (EC) — the latter mainly pushed by German and French banks and the Rothschild clan — austerity programs have literally put a halt on imports of affordable medication, such as like for cancer treatments and other potentially lethal illnesses. So, common people no longer get treatment. They die like flies; a horrible expression to be used for human beings. But that’s what it comes down to for people who simply do not get the treatment they humanely deserve and would have gotten under the rights of the Greek Constitution; however, they simply do not get treated because they can no longer afford medication and services from privatized health services. That is the sad but true story.

As a consequence, the suicide rate is up, due to foreign imposed (but Greek government accepted) debt and austerity, annihilating hope for terminally ill patients, as well as for pensioners whose pensions do no longer allow them to live a decent life and especially as there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Now, these same pundits add a little air of optimism to their reporting, as the right wing New Democracy Party (ND Party) won with what they call a ‘landslide’ victory on the 7 July 2019 elections; gathering 39.6% of the votes, against only 31.53 for Syriza, the so-called socialist party, led by outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who represents a tragedy that has allowed Greece to be plunged into this hopeless desolation. The ND won an absolute majority with 158 seats in the 300-member Greek parliament. Therefore, no coalition needed, no concessions required.

The new Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (51), son of a former PM of the same party, in his victory speech on the evening of 7 July, vowed that Greece will “proudly” enter a post-bailout era of “jobs, security and growth”. He added that “a painful cycle has closed” and that Greece would “proudly raise its head again” on his watch.

We don’t know what this means for the average Greek citizen living a life of despair. What the “left” was unable to do – stopping the foreign imposed (but Greek accepted) bleeding of Greece; the strangulation of their country – will the right be able to reverse that trend? Does the right want to reverse that trend? Does the ND want to reverse privatization, buy back airports from Germany, water supply from the EU managed “Superfund”, and repurchase the roads from foreign concessionaires, or nationalize hospitals that were sold for a pittance and – especially – get out from austerity to allow importing crucial medication to salvage the sick and dying Greek, those who currently cannot afford treatment of their cancers and other potentially deadly diseases?

That would indeed be a step towards PM Mitsotakis’ promise to end the “painful cycle” of austerity, with import of crucial medication made affordable to those in dire need, with job creation and job security – and much more – with eventually a renewed Greek pride and Greek sovereignty. The latter would mean – finally – it’s never too late to exit the euro zone. But, that’s an illusion, a pipe-dream. Albeit  it could become a vision.

If the ND is the party of the oligarchs, the Greek oligarchs that is, those Greeks who have placed literally billions of euros outside their country in (still) secret bank accounts in Switzerland, France, Lichtenstein, Luxemburg and elsewhere, including the Cayman islands and other Caribbean tax havens, hidden not only from the Greek fiscal authorities, but also impeding that these funds could, crucially, be used for investments at home, for job creation, for creation of added value in Greece. If the ND is the party of the oligarchs, they are unlikely to make the dream of the vast majority of Greek people come true.

Worse even, these Greek oligarch-billionaires call the shots in Greece not the people, not those who according to Greek tradition and according to the Greek invention, called “democracy” (Delphi, some 2500 years ago) have democratically elected Syriza and have democratically voted against the austerity packages in July 2015. Now, that they are officially in power, they are unlikely to change their greed-driven behavior and act in favor of the Greek people. Or will they?

Because, if they do, it may eventually also benefit them, the ND Party and its adherents — a Greece that functions like a country, with happy, healthy and content people, is a Greece that retains the worldwide esteem and respect she deserves — and will, by association, develop an economy that can and will compete and trade around the world, a Greece that is an equal to others, as a sovereign nation. A dream can become a reality. It just takes visionaries.

Back to today’s reality. The Greek Bailout Referendum of July 5, 2015, was overwhelmingly rejected with 61% ‘no’ against 39% ‘yes’, meaning that almost two thirds of the Greek people would have preferred the consequences of rejecting the bailout, euphemistically called “rescue packages”, namely exiting the euro zone, and possibly, but not necessarily, the European Union.

Despite the overwhelming, democratic rejection by the people, the Tsipras government reached an agreement on 13 July 2015 – only 8 days after the vote against the bailout with the European authorities for a three-year bailout with even harsher austerity conditions than the ones rejected by voters. What went on is anybody’s guess. It looks pretty obvious, though, that “foul play” was the name of the game which could mean anything from outright and serious (life) threats to blackmail, if Tsipras would not play the game and this to the detriment of the people.

President Tsipras’ betrayal of the people resulted in three bailout packages since 2010 and up to the end of 2018, in the amount of about €310 billion (US$ 360 billion). Compare this to Hong Kong’s economy of US$ 340 billion in 2017. In that same period the Greek GDP has declined from about US$ 300 billion (€ 270 billion) in 2010 to US$ 218 billion (€ 196 billion), a reduction of 27%, hitting the middle- and lower-class people by far the hardest. This is called a rescue?

The democracy fiasco of July 2015 prompted Tsipras to call for snap elections in September 2015, hélas – he won, with a narrow margin and one of the lowest election turnouts ever in Greek postwar history; but, yes, he ‘won’. How much of it was manipulated – by now Cambridge Analytica has become a household word – so he could finish the job for the troika and the German and French banks, is pure speculation.

Today, the ND has an absolute majority in Parliament, plus the ND could ally with a number of smaller and conservative parties to pursue a “people’s dream” line policy. But they may do the opposite. Question: How much more juice is there to be sucked out of broken Greece? Of a Greece that cannot care for her people, for her desperate poor and sick, cannot provide her children with a decent education, of a Greece that belongs into the category of bankruptcy? Yes, bankruptcy, still today, after the IMF and the gnomes of the EU and the ECB predict a moderate growth rate of some 2%?  But 2% that go to whom?  Not to the people, to be sure, but to the creditors of the €310 billion.

Already in 2011, the British Lancet stated “the Greek Ministry of Health reported that the annual suicide rate has increased by 40%”, presumably since the (imposed) crisis that started in 2008. From this date forward the suicide rate must have skyrocketed, as the overall living conditions worsened exponentially. However, precise figures can no longer be easily found.

The question remains: Is the Greek population dying increasingly from diseases that could be cured, but aren’t due to austerity- and privatization-related lack of medication and health services and of suicide from desperation? Is Greece committing suicide by continuing to accept austerity and privatization of vital services, instead of liberating herself from the handcuffs of the euro and very likely the stranglehold of the EU?  Or is Greece the victim of sheer murder inflicted by a greed-driven construct of money institutions and oligarchs, who are beyond morals, beyond ethics and beyond any values of humanity? You be the judge.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

In the U.S. they are never called human rights violations

Trump’s 2020 budget proposal reflects another significant increase in military spending along with corresponding cuts in spending by Federal agencies tasked with the responsibility for providing critical services and income support policies for working class and poor people. Trump’s call for budget cuts by Federal agencies is mirrored by the statutorily imposed austerity policies in most states and many municipalities. Those cuts represent the continuing imposition of neoliberal policies in the U.S. even though the “A” word for austerity is almost never used to describe those policies.

Yet, austerity has been a central component of state policy at every level of government in the U.S. and in Europe for the last four decades. In Europe, as the consequences of neoliberal policies imposed on workers began to be felt and understood, the result was intense opposition.  However, in the U.S. the unevenness of how austerity policies were being applied, in particular the elimination or reduction in social services that were perceived to be primarily directed at racialized workers, political opposition was slow to materialize.

Today, however, relatively privileged workers who were silent as the neoliberal “Washington consensus” was imposed on the laboring classes in the global South — through draconian structural adjustment policies that result in severe cutbacks in state expenditures for education, healthcare, state employment and other vital needs — have now come to understand that the neoliberal program of labor discipline and intensified extraction of value from workers, did not spare them.

The deregulation of capital, privatization of state functions — from road construction to prisons, the dramatic reduction in state spending that results in cuts in state supported social services and goods like housing and access to reproductive services for the poor — represent the politics of austerity and the role of the neoliberal state.

This materialist analysis is vitally important for understanding the dialectical relationship between the general plight of workers in the U.S. and the bipartisan collaboration to raid the Federal budget and to reduce social spending in order to increase spending on the military. This perspective is also important for understanding the imposition of those policies as a violation of the fundamental human rights of workers, the poor and the oppressed.

For the neoliberal state, the concept of human rights does not exist.

As I have called to attention before, a monumental rip-off is about to take place once again. Both the Democrats and Republicans are united in their commitment to continue to feed the U.S. war machine with dollars extracted — to the tune of 750 billion dollars — from the working class and transferred to the pockets of the military/industrial complex.

The only point of debate is now whether or not the Pentagon will get the full 750 billion or around 733 billion. But whether it is 750 billion or 733 billion, the one sector that is not part of this debate is the public. The attention of the public has been adroitly diverted by the absurd reality show that is Russiagate. But this week, even though the budget debate has been disappeared by corporate media, Congress is set to begin debate on aspects of the budget and specifically on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Raising the alarm on this issue is especially critical at this moment. As tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf, the corporate media is once again abdicating its public responsibility to bring unbiased, objective information to the public and instead is helping to generate support for war with Iran.

The Democrats, who have led the way with anti-Iran policies over the last few decades, will be under enormous pressure not to appear to be against enhancing military preparedness and are likely to find a way to give Trump and the Pentagon everything they want.

Support for Human Rights and Support for Empire is an Irreconcilable Contradiction

The assumption of post-war capitalist order was that the state would be an instrument to blunt the more contradictory aspects of capitalism. It would regulate the private sector, provide social welfare support to the most marginal elements of working class, and create conditions for full employment. This was the Keynesian logic and approach that informed liberal state policies beginning in the 1930s.

The idea of reforming human rights fits neatly into that paradigm.

As seen, a state’s legitimacy was based on the extent to which it recognized, protected and fulfilled the human rights of all its citizens and residents. Those rights included not only the right to information, assembly, speech and to participation in the national political life of the nation but also the right to food, water, healthcare, education, employment, substantial social security throughout life, and not just as a senior citizen.

The counterrevolutionary program of the late 60s and 70s, especially the turn to neoliberalism which began in the 70s, would reject this paradigm and redefine the role of the state. The obligation of the state to recognize, protect and fulfill human rights was eliminated from the role of the state under neoliberalism.

Today the consequences of four decades of neoliberalism in the global South and now in the cosmopolitan North have created a crisis of legitimacy that has made state policies more dependent on force and militarism than in any other time, including the civil war and the turmoil of the 1930s.

The ideological glue provided by the ability of capitalism to deliver the goods to enough of the population which guaranteed loyalty and support has been severely weakened by four decades of stagnant wages, increasing debt, a shrinking middle-class, obscene economic inequality and never-ending wars that have been disproportionately shouldered by the working class.

Today, contrary to the claims of capitalism to guarantee the human right to a living wage ensuring “an existence worthy of human dignity,” the average worker is making, adjusted for inflation, less than in 1973; i.e., some 46 years-ago. 140 million are either poor or have low-income; 80% living paycheck to paycheck; 34 million are still without health insurance; 40 million live in “official poverty;” and more in unofficial poverty as measured by alternative supplemental poverty (SPM).  And more than half of those over 55 years-old have no retirement funds other than Social Security.

In a report, Philp Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, points out that: the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France and Japan combined.

However, that choice in public expenditures must be seen in comparison to the other factors he lays out:

  • US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.
  • Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the US and its peer countries continues to grow.
  • US inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries
  • In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.
  • The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.

For African Americans in particular, neoliberalism has meant, jobs lost, hollowed out communities as industries relocated first to the South and then to Mexico and China, the disappearance of affordable housing, schools and hospital closings, infant and maternal mortality at global South levels, and mass incarceration as the unskilled, low-wage Black labor has become economically redundant.

This is the backdrop and context for the budget “debate” and Trump’s call to cut spendings to Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and even the State Department.

The U.S. could find 6 trillion dollars for war since 2003 and 16 trillion to bail out the banks after the financial sector crashed the economy, but it can’t find money to secure the human rights of the people.

This is the one-sided class war that we find ourselves in; a war with real deaths and slower, systematic structural violence. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can be depended on to secure our rights or protect the world from the U.S. atrocities. That responsibility falls on the people who reside at the center of the Empire to not only struggle for ourselves but to put a brake on the Empire’s ability to spread death and destruction across the planet.