Category Archives: Bosnia-Herzegovina

Arrmenian Genocide Resolution Reaffirms G-word is a Tool for US Realpolitik

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in an overwhelming bipartisan majority to officially recognize the Armenian genocide more than a century after the atrocities were committed. The motion was a departure from decades of U.S. government refusal because of its realpolitik considerations of regional ally and fellow NATO member, the Republic of Turkey. The Ottoman Empire’s successor state and the Turkic state of Azerbaijan remain the sole nations in the world that explicitly deny the mass extermination and expulsion of 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians constitutes “genocide.” While the U.S. had previously acknowledged that war crimes were committed beginning in 1915, Washington refrained from using the ‘g-word’ to avoid fallout with Ankara despite the international community consensus. President Donald Trump would be the first commander-in-chief to utter the term if he follows suit, but that scenario is unlikely as the proposal came in reaction to his green-lighting a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held Northeastern Syria with a U.S. troop withdrawal that was unpopular with lawmakers.

In 2015, WikiLeaks revealed Trump-opponent Hillary Clinton’s email exchanges on the issue with her foreign policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, during the 100th anniversary. The disclosure gave a rare look inside the suspected cynical reasoning behind Washington’s longstanding lack of formal acknowledgement. Sullivan wrote:

Friday is the 100th Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. I presume the Armenian groups will be looking for a statement or a signal from the campaign on whether she will call it a “genocide” if she is elected president. As a Senator and candidate, she was unequivocal in recognizing the genocide. As Secretary of State, she did not use the term genocide but rather focused on future reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia. The White House has studiously avoided using “genocide” so far. There is an internal debate now about whether to change that posture given that it is the 100th anniversary. But in all likelihood they won’t change. Two questions: Do you all agree that she should embrace the position she took as Senator and candidate, even though she did not take it as SecState? Do you all agree that we should just wait until we are asked as opposed to doing something proactive? Sorry to bother with this, but as you all know this matters enormously to Armenian-Americans.

Campaign manager John Podesta replied, “quote the Pope.” Just two years into his papacy, Francis had described the mass killing of Armenians as the “first genocide of the twentieth century” which drew Turkey’s ire, but Clinton would never recite the Argentine holy father’s words despite her team’s encouragement. Her decision speaks to the power of the Turkish and Azeri lobbies which have spent millions bribing and extorting U.S. politicians for decades to prevent recognition of the Ottoman crimes against humanity by the legislature and any such proclamation by an American head of state. What an insult to the Armenian-American community which waited generations only to see the step finally taken under such dishonest circumstances. The measure has since been blocked in the Senate by neocon warmonger Lindsey Graham of South Carolina shortly after his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but the changes that brought about the ill-fated resolution should not go unexamined.

Turkey is often said to be the ‘bridge between East and West’, as its transcontinental territory extends across both southeastern Europe and western Asia. An ally during the Cold War with NATO’s second largest army, it was the U.S. placement of Jupiter ballistic missiles in Izmir which sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev retaliated by deploying intermediate-range nuclear missiles to Havana in an effort to thwart Washington from gaining the upper hand. Turkey has remained vital to geo-strategic interests as the point connecting Europe and the Middle East, but the rise of Moscow under Putin on the world stage has threatened to throw the Atlanticist alliance into disarray along with Washington’s reckless disregard for Ankara with its incorporation of the Kurds into the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition in the Syrian war. The U.S.’s arrogance that it could maintain an alliance while supporting Kurdish militants regarded as terrorists by Ankara marked a turning point in their relations with the prospect of Turkey exiting NATO suddenly no longer an impossibility.

When the neo-Ottoman sultan Erdoğan signed on with the U.S.-Saudi-Israeli attempt to oust the secular Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, he did not anticipate it facilitating a potential Kurdish state on Turkey’s doorstep. The likelihood of U.S. involvement in the failed 2016 coup d’etat attempt against him and Washington’s harboring of rival Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen did not help matters, nor did Turkey’s retaliation by purchasing Moscow’s S-400 missile defense system in noncompliance with its NATO commitments. It is ironic that it took Trump’s throwing the Kurds under the bus queuing the Turkish offensive to result in the house finally acknowledging the ‘other holocaust’, as many Kurds themselves were participants in the slaughter of the Armenians a century ago. Nevertheless, the resolution is further sign of the geopolitical alignment shifting and the inevitable decline of U.S. hegemony with its plans to redraw the Middle East derailed by Moscow. No one should be fooled into believing that Congress is motivated by anything other than a desire to punish Turkey for making the U.S. look bad while rebuking Trump for deviating from the bipartisan consensus of endless war.

Coincidentally, just as the row between the traditional allies of Washington and Ankara resulted in U.S. legislators affirming the Armenian genocide, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been mired in controversy for having awarded an accused “denier” of such atrocities in the Balkans. The Austrian-born playwright and novelist Peter Handke, perhaps best known for penning the screenplay to Wim Wenders’s art house classic film Wings of Desire, was the recipient of the 2019 prize for his body of work. Despite such career achievements, Handke has been plagued by scandal for his political activism, namely opposition to the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia during the 1990s. An Orthodox Christian convert, Handke was a member of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milošević when the former Serbian president was held for war crimes in the Hague Tribunal and even spoke at his funeral after he mysteriously died while in custody in 2006.

Long before the U.S. opportunistically declared what was done by the Young Turks to the Ottoman Armenians to be genocide, they were using the label to mischaracterize the Yugoslav wars as the basis for NATO’s Orwellian-styled ‘humanitarian intervention’ against Serbia. Even though ethnic cleansing was committed on all sides in what was fundamentally a civil war, the heroes and villains were preselected based on the Serbian alliance with Moscow and the time-honored anti-Russian strategy of aligning with Islamists designed by Zbigniew Brzezinski that began with the arming of the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets. After instigating the ‘USSR’s Vietnam’ in Afghanistan, the Atlanticists applied this same strategy to the Balkans and the North Caucasus to undermine post-Soviet Russia.

Winston Churchill famously referred to the Balkans as the “soft underbelly” of Europe during WWII when it was under Axis occupation. During the Yugoslav Wars, it once again become Europe’s ‘weak spot’ as the West supported the al-Qaeda elements in Bosnia and Kosovo against the Serbs. Mass media would never report the war crimes by the Bosnian mujahideen and Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) nor the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Serbs from Krajina in Croatia. When the Srebrenica massacre of military-age Bosniaks made international headlines in 1995, it became a PR-managed event designed to fixate world attention exclusively on one of many such killings that took place in the enclave by both sides in order to give grounds for NATO intervention without approval from the UN Security Council.

The late, great media critic Edward S. Herman, who proved to be more principled on the matter than his Manufacturing Consent co-author Noam Chomsky, summed it up in his final column before his death in 2017:

Milošević had nothing to do with the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Bosnian Serbs took revenge on Bosnian Muslim soldiers who had been ravaging nearby Bosnian Serb villages from their base in Srebrenica under NATO protection. The several thousand Serb civilian deaths were essentially unreported in the mainstream media, while the numbers of Srebrenica’s executed victims were correspondingly inflated.

In the years since, the inter-ethnic war has been widely referred to in the West as the “Bosnian genocide”, with Srebrenica a microcosm to misleadingly summarize the entire conflict. Thankfully, Moscow has vetoed efforts by the UN Security Council to condemn it as such. The truth is that the dice were loaded from the very beginning, as NATO’s kangaroo court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), was initiated as a U.S. policy option to disproportionately prosecute Serbs for war crimes with a clear bias against them, as revealed in a declassified CIA document from 1993 which states:

11. Establish a War Crimes Tribunal. Serb paramilitary leaders charged with war crimes might attempt terrorist operations in the West. The Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian Governments might harbor some high-ranking war criminals while turning over those considered expendable. They may even rid themselves of war criminals to cover up war crimes.

Most West Europeans — with the exception of Greece — probably would support this option.

Muslim states would approve a War Crimes Tribunal and publicizing Serbian atrocitiesEven treatment of Bosnian transgressions, however, would be regarded as tilting in Belgrade’s favor. [bold added]

This would explain why a Bosnian war criminal like Naser Orić, who commanded the assaults on Serb villages that resulted in the retaliatory killings of Bosniaks in Srebrenica, was acquitted while Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić received a life sentence. Meanwhile, the Bush administration made it clear that the U.S. would respond with military force if the Hague ever attempted to charge U.S. personnel with war crimes in the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, also known as the ‘Hague Invasion Act’, an astonishing display of bullying of the international community even for U.S. imperialism. The ICTY would be one of two rigged judicial organs created by the UN Security Council before the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the other being the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1994.

Although NATO did not directly intervene in the small African country’s civil war, it spun a similar one-sided account where the Tutsi heroes and Hutu villains were predetermined even as mass slaughter was committed by both factions. Rwanda had been a Belgian colonial territory following WWII where the favored Tutsi minority ruled the landlocked country under a monarchy that subjugated the ethnic Hutu majority until they revolted in 1959 and expelled more than 300,000 Tutsis to neighboring countries. Decades later, Tutsi refugees based in Uganda seeking to repatriate formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front army led by Paul Kagame and in 1990, the RPF invaded the small nation in a guerrilla campaign. The assault came following the assassination of Rwanda’s Hutu President, Juvénal Habyarimana, after his plane was shot down in a probable ‘false flag’ operation that was pinned on Hutu extremists. Despite the fact that the RPF started the armed conflict, the West transposed reality and painted the Hutus as pure villains in the violence that would follow.

No one disputes that anywhere from 800,000 to 1 million Rwandans were killed in the ensuing bloodshed. However, the figures of a “genocide” of Tutsis debunks itself, given that there were significantly less than a million of them in the country at the time with the highest estimate at 600,000. The simple fact is that the majority of the victims could only have been Hutu, considering there were at least 400,000 surviving Tutsis in the country after the war was over, thus the remaining number of victims in all probability were Hutu. Since the war began with an offensive by the RPF, that the lion’s share of victims would be their opponents is only to be expected except perhaps to Western propagandists and their newspeak that Kagame was conquering the country to “stop a genocide” while committing one himself. Even though the Kagame regime would go on to commit further atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), this would not prevent the media from maintaining its portrayal of him as a hero. However, the BBC of all news organizations would produce a must-see documentaryRwanda: The Untold Story, that challenged the official story in 2014 but not without stirring controversy.

Historically, the politicization of “genocide” began from its earliest implementations. Coined by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, he devised the term from the Greek word “génos” (group or race) and the Latin append “-cide” (killing), supposedly with the Armenians in mind. It was said that if the Genocide Convention of 1948 been ratified during the inter-war period following the annihilation of the Armenians, it could have prevented future atrocities against European Jews in WWII, citing a reputed quote by Adolf Hitler, “who after all, remembers the Armenians?” from a speech just prior to the invasion of Poland in 1939. Of course, for the Zionists this was at the exclusion of other, inferior groups victimized by the Germans whose sins the Palestinians are still paying for many decades later.

From the get-go, the g-word was a political football during the Cold War in order to legislate history with a pro-Western bias. In spite of having survived Nazi persecution himself, Lemkin argued in his writings that the Soviet Ukrainian famine of the 1930s qualified despite the myth of deliberate starvation having been concocted by their Ukrainian nationalist collaborators who fled to Western Europe and North America in order to escape penalty for their war crimes. Stories of the “man-made” hunger were then publicized in the pages of American sensationalist newspapers owned by media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, a Nazi sympathizer who ran columns by Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler himself, as well as the yellow press of his UK equivalent, Lord Viscount Rothermere, an open supporter of Nazi Germany and British fascist Oswald Mosley. Nevermind that Moscow had liberated both the European Jews and Armenians in both world wars, respectively. The post-war attempt to classify the Holodomor hoax as “genocide” instead of the mass destruction of indigenous peoples across the world by European settler colonialism was the beginning of the West’s conflation of Nazi Germany with the USSR in order to separate the former from its own legacy.

Ultimately, the Genocide Convention is as politicized witha pro-Western partiality as institutions like the Nobel Foundation. While its literature award is accustomed to controversy, so too is its peace laureate which has repeatedly bestowed its honor to questionable choices, if not outright war criminals. In 1973, it infamously awarded then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for negotiating a cease-fire between the U.S. and North Vietnam, even though he was by all accounts responsible for prolonging the Vietnam War, along with a laundry list of other destructive policies in his tenure that many feel warrant prosecution for crimes against humanity. This includes the secret U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War which facilitated the CIA-backed Khmer Rouge’s rise to power. The tens of thousands of deaths from Operation Freedom Deal would not be included with those attributed to the “genocide” by Pol Pot whose regime would be used to demonize communism, despite his Western support and that Phnom Penh was liberated by Vietnam. Later in 2009, just a year into his first presidential term Barack Obama became the Peace Prize recipient not for anything he had actually done but in a vacuous gesture as “a call to action.” The first African-American to hold the office would go on to drop hundreds of thousands of bombs on seven different nations. Then again, the accolade itself is inherently paradoxical considering that among Alfred Nobel’s list of accomplishments was success in arms manufacturing.

When Slobodan Milošević was being slowly murdered in custody in the Netherlands, Peter Handke was one of the few public figures brave enough to come to the former Serbian president’s defense, but he was not alone even amongst his fellow Nobel Laureates. The late British playwright Harold Pinter, one of the most influential dramatists of the 20th century, also lent his name as a signatory to the Slobodan Milošević International Committee. During a five decade career, Pinter was a dedicated anti-war activist in his private life and used the occasion of his accepting the literary honor in 2005 while still in poor health to deliver a powerful, scathing indictment of U.S. foreign policy in his Nobel Lecture. Since his name was announced, Mr. Handke has been the subject of relentless, unjustified attacks as a “genocide denier” and should be granted the same relative level of respect Pinter was paid when he was its honoree. It is likely geopolitical factors at play making Handke the subject of a smear campaign, with the restart of the Cold War and the need to demonize all things Russia-related with whom the Serbs share a brotherhood. Be it the case of Mr. Handke or the congressional exploitation of the Armenians, it is clear “genocide” is nothing more than a political construct earmarked for the usage of empire.

No, Srebrenica did not “inspire” Christchurch

Earlier this month, popular ‘progressive’ news website The Intercept published an article entitled “From El Paso to Sarajevo: How White Nationalists Are Inspired by the Bosnia Genocide”, written by journalist and staff writer Murtaza Hussain. The piece argued that many of the perpetrators behind mass shootings and domestic terrorism in the West — from the convicted far right extremist behind the 2011 Norway attacks to the suspect charged in the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand — were influenced by ethnic cleansing committed by Serbs against Bosnian Muslims during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Hussain uses a one-sided and Western-centric account of the inter-ethnic conflict in the Balkans to assess the Islamophobia burgeoning in Europe and the United States today. His analogy employs the same misreading used by NATO to facilitate the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia and justify its illegal military intervention and war crimes against Serbia. It is an irresponsible variety of yellow journalism that should be ruthlessly critiqued whenever it appears, especially at a news organization which purports to be “fearless, adversarial journalism that holds the powerful accountable.” It also does nothing to help address the growing foundations of fascism by diverting attention away from its real origins.

Hussain begins by accurately noting that the Australian-born suspect behind the massacre at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand, Brenton Tarrant, during his live-stream video prior to the carnage, played the song “Remove Kabab” (Serbia Strong”), an upbeat patriotic tune that pays tribute to former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić. Removed from the context of the Yugoslav Wars, the Serbian folk song and its accompanying wartime propaganda video were rediscovered by Western right-wing fanatics like Tarrant when it became a popular internet meme among the online fringe as an anthem for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in reaction to the influx of refugees from the European migrant crisis. The infamous convicted terrorist behind the July 2011 mass shooting and car bombing in Norway, Anders Breivik, also expressed affinity for the Serbs in his epic manifesto and was cited as an influence by Tarrant. However, despite the article title the author provides no evidence whatsoever to support the implication that the El Paso shooter, 21-year old Patrick Crusius, was in any way motivated by the Balkan conflict.

Brenton Tarrant also wrote the names of several historical Serbian military figures who fought against the Ottoman Empire in previous centuries in Cyrillic on his semi-automatic rifle used to carry out the slaughter. Curiously, he also wrote ‘Skanderbeg’, a legendary national hero of Albania who as a medieval military commander, defected from the Ottoman Turks and prevented their expansion toward western Europe in the 15th century. Despite his historical legacy of rescuing ‘Christendom’ from an Islamic empire to which Tarrant was likely referring, Skanderbeg holds varying significance to different peoples and for the predominantly Muslim Albanians he is viewed as a source of national pride and identity.

During WWII when Albania was under the Axis Powers sphere of influence, it was Muslim volunteers who formed the nucleus of the 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian), whose foremost victims were Christian Orthodox Serbs, in addition to Jews and Roma. In the Yugoslav Wars, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), de-listed terrorist group backed by NATO which fought against Serbia, sought to establish the modern equivalent of the ethnically pure ‘Greater Albania’ as envisioned by Benito Mussolini during WWII in the Kosovo protectorate. So if the Australian-born gunman was incited by Balkan history, it is because he was as confused and unknowledgeable about the complex subject as Hussain, given that he also wrote the number 14 on his firearm in reference to “the 14 words” from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Before falsifying the history of the Yugoslav Wars, Hussain does correctly observe that:

The Balkans are often condescendingly stereotyped as a backward region stuck in the grip of old prejudices. In reality, Serbs, Croats, and Muslims had lived together as compatriots in the former Yugoslavia for a long time before violent demagogues came to power; it took years of effort during the late 1980s and early 1990s for ultranationalist leaders to drum up the level of fear and hatred necessary for war to start.

Unfortunately, the author does not bother to investigate why they had successfully lived together in harmony as southern slavs for decades (under socialism), nor how such leaders took power and incited the different ethnicities into warring with each other as the country disintegrated, as if everything occurred in a vacuum. Following WWII, partisan leader Josip Broz Tito had indeed united the various Yugoslav peoples in congruity under a popular motto that the country consisted of ‘six republics, five nationalities, four languages, three religions, two alphabets — but one Yugoslav.’ Even the most fervent critics of socialism admit the republic was a relative success as it enjoyed freedom from being undermined by economic embargo as a neutral ‘non-aligned’ country during the Cold War after relations soured between Stalin and Tito and it became a strategic buffer between the West and the Soviets.

Following Tito’s death in 1980, a series of austerity programs sponsored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were put into effect and much like a recent study concluded regarding Weimar Germany in the 1930s, the gutting of the welfare system and the social fabric led to a resurgence of right-wing nationalism in the Balkans. Yugoslavia went through the same neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ as Chile the decade prior when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger sent the CIA to “make the economy scream” to prevent Salvador Allende from taking power, as well as post-Soviet Russia which the author’s The Intercept colleague Naomi Klein described so thoroughly in The Shock Doctrine. Yet for Hussain, the driving force in Yugoslavia’s downfall was bigotry itself, somehow isolated from the disaster capitalism forced upon it.

As only an empire denialist could overlook, Hussain makes no mention of the “encouragement of racism” on the part of U.S. imperialism, beginning with the coercive diplomacy of the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriation Act which instigated the separatist movements by providing aid exclusively to the republics that seceded and declared independence at the exclusion of the Yugoslav government. After the bill was passed by congress at the behest of the George H.W. Bush administration, only the federation of Serbia and Montenegro remained under the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. According to a declassified memorandum, the CIA had already been anticipating this collapse for several years.

Suddenly, much of the population consisting of the many different ethnic communities of the Balkans found themselves trapped within various newly formed ethno-nation states overnight that were not their own. They then began establishing proto-states within these new republics, spurring violent conflicts and territorial disputes resulting in ethnic cleansing (on all sides) across the country. Yugoslavia did not implode simply because of its own internal contradictions, but was the subject of exploitation by a more powerful outside actor seeking to economically and militarily dominate the Caspian Sea region in order to gain access to its crude oil and natural gas resources.

Serbian nationalism only saw a resurgence within Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina once Serbs became hostages under new hostile regimes, when we were told by the NATO acolytes in corporate media that it was Belgrade who were the real nationalists even though most Serbians still identified as Yugoslavs and generally wished to preserve the federation being partitioned. In fact, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague posthumously concluded that the late Serbian and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević, who died mysteriously while in custody on trial in the Netherlands, was not responsible for war crimes committed during the Bosnian war. When Radovan Karadžić was convicted by the ICTY, it was determined the Bosnian Serbs acted on their own accord and were frequently at variance with Belgrade on the execution of the war:

Based on the evidence before the Chamber regarding the diverging interests that emerged between the Bosnian Serb and Serbian leaderships during the conflict and in particular, Milošević’s repeated criticism and disapproval of the policies and decisions made by the Accused and the Bosnian Serb leadership, the Chamber is not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milošević agreed with the common plan.

Serbs certainly committed their share of war crimes, but why do Western journalists dare not speak of the thousands of Serbs ethnically cleansed in Croatia from the self-proclaimed quasi-state of Krajina? Or the mass deportations of Serbs from Kosovo in the years since? The innocent heroes and stigmatized villains were pre-selected and to do so would be actual “fearless, adversarial journalism.” Many of the war crimes committed by Muslims against Serbs and Croats in the Yugoslav Wars were by foreign mujahideen volunteers whose ranks even consisted of two of the future 9/11 hijackers — the Saudi nationals Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — who allegedly seized American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed it into The Pentagon. Their barbaric acts included beheadings of Serb victims that were likely inspired by the Ustaše who did the same in WWII.

Hussain repeatedly refers to what took place in Bosnia as a “genocide”, citing the dubious Srebrenica massacre in July 1995. While it is certain that a horrific war crime took place in the town, to use such a politicized term is a slanted parroting of the NATO interventionist narrative. Virtually all of the victims were Bosniak Muslim men and boys as the Bosnian Serbs had specifically evacuated women and children from the enclave and the disputed, highly inflated quantity of Bosniak victims were mostly likely a combination of fatalities from the battle for the town and retaliatory summary executions by Bosnian Serbs once they besieged the territory. Prior to the incident, Srebrenica had been under the protection of the UN peacekeeping forces which Bosnian Muslim warlord Naser Orić had used to shield his militias following their routine attacks on neighboring Serb villages whose losses also numbered in the thousands. UN General Phillipe Morillon testified that the Srebrenica massacre was motivated by retribution for the war crimes committed by Orić:

JUDGE ROBINSON: Are you saying, then, General, that what happened in 1995 was a direct reaction to what Naser Orić did to the Serbs two years before?

THE WITNESS: Yes. Yes, Your Honour. I am convinced of that. This doesn’t mean to pardon or diminish the responsibility of the people who committed that crime, but I am convinced of that, yes.

If there were deliberate killings of large groups based on their ethnonationality on all sides, then what occurred was part of a civil war, not “genocide.” Noam Chomsky observed that while NATO based its intervention on the g-word, one of its member states in Turkey was carrying out far worse atrocities against Kurds and that to use the term was an insult to the victims of the Nazis in the region’s past. Who were the principal victims of the Ustaše and the Nazi puppet regime of the Independent State of Croatia during WWII? Serbs. It is also incredible that for a journalist so fixated on neo-fascism, Hussain did not find it significant that Bosnia and Herzegovina President Alija Izetbegović had been a literal member of the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS “Handschar” (1st Croatian) in his youth during WWII when Bosnia was under the Ustaše and did three years in prison under Tito for his offense.

Why did the UN peacekeepers fail to protect Srebrenica? It is an important question considering it brought the real turning point in the war. Not long after, NATO launched Operation Deliberate Force against Ratko Mladić’s forces resulting in the Bosnian Serbs capitulating to a return to negotiations in the Dayton Accord later that year. The former mayor of Srebrenica, Hakija Meholjić, claimed the town was deliberately sacrificed as part of a ‘red line’ agreement between Izetbegović and U.S. President Bill Clinton in a ‘false flag’ to prompt the NATO intervention, as shown in a 2008 Wikileaks Cable:

Meholjic suggested that Bosniak leaders “sold” Srebrenica to the RS (and abetted genocide) when “key members of the international community started saying publicly that enclaves cannot survive.” (Note: Oric, who left Srebrenica in 1993, was not asked to defend it in 1995; ever since there have been accusations that the then Bosnian leadership deliberately allowed the enclave to fall.

Hussain truly loses any remaining “progressive” credibility when he goes on to praise the Otpor! political organization which organized protests that led to the ouster of “dictator” Milošević (actually thrice democratically-elected) in 2000 following the three month NATO bombing campaign the previous year which left Serbia with the highest cancer rate in Europe from the use of depleted uranium ammunition, “justified” by the same lopsided argument made in the article. Otpor! was portrayed as a bona fide, grassroots movement while behind the scenes it was the recipient of millions of dollars from the US government through “soft power” NGOs and CIA-fronts like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and George Soros’ Open Society Institute, financed by the non-profit industrial complex or what author Arundhati Roy has called the “NGO-ization of resistance.” The success of Otpor! became the formula for Western regime change operations via indistinguishable “pro-democracy” Color Revolutions throughout Eastern Europe in the ensuing decade. Documentary filmmaker Boris Maligurski’s The Weight of Chains series is an excellent overview of the history of Yugoslavia and its first two installments are highly recommended, while the trailer for the forthcoming third film was just released.

Perhaps the reason Hussain unquestioningly heaps praise upon Otpor! is the enormous undisclosed conflict of interest on the part of The Intercept’s ownership in billionaire entrepreneur and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who established the site’s parent organization First Look Media. In The CIA as Organized Crime, journalist and author Douglas Valentine explains how Omidyar’s “philanthropic” investment firm co-financed with the U.S. State Department many of the NGOs in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution such as Center UA which flipped the 2004 Ukrainian election results to a pro-Western candidate. It went on to do the same funding the Euromaidan protests and subsequent coup in 2014 and both so-called Color Revolutions were modeled on the Otpor! movement.  Then, again, the entire premise behind First Look Media is suspect considering it made its name covering the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden while Omidyar’s eBay simultaneously owns Paypal, one of the biggest backers of NSA surveillance. What better way to commandeer dissent then to throw money at journalists?

Hussain also eagerly mentions that “Russian volunteers” participated in the killings at Srebrenica, omitting the equal number of Greek militiamen. This is another instance of thinly veiled Russophobia and the assignment of guilt towards Moscow for the rise of the far right in the West. Its intention is to include Russia within The Clash of Civilizations narrative which is itself a hypothesis for ‘remaking the world order’ through a division and conquering of Eurasia. Hussain does so by isolating the Yugoslav Wars from its context and weaponizing the region‘s history so as to deflect fault for the Islamophobia in the Anglosphere. However, Samuel P. Huntington excluded the Christian Orthodox nations of Russia and Serbia from his “core civilizations” and rather considered them ‘torn countries’ among the major civilizations. In Brenton Tarrant’s mind he may have been elevating the Yugoslav Wars through his act of terrorism, when all he accomplished was provide ammunition for the Western yellow press to further slander the Serbian victims of U.S. imperialism and drag their name through the mud for something they had nothing to do with.

As for the mass shooting in El Paso, the author should try directing the blame closer to home. One can’t help but be reminded of the brilliant observation made by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (before he became a shill for the Democratic Party) who made a connection between the Columbine High School shooting and its occurrence in the midst of the unilateral “humanitarian intervention” in Yugoslavia on the day the U.S. dropped the most amount of bombs in the Kosovo campaign which he further examined in his film Bowling For Columbine. President Clinton had to give two press conferences the morning of April 20th, 1999 — one addressing the Columbine massacre and another giving an explanation for the NATO killing of civilians in Serbia.

American society is suffering from a severely disconnected collective psyche when it fails to make a connection between mass shootings domestically and its endless wars abroad, the real catalyst for the Islamophobic reaction to the refugee crisis. U.S. gun culture is a product of the Cold War which conditioned a mass psychology of fear and liberals shedding crocodile tears who think gun control legislation is somehow a solution to the problem when it would only put a small band-aid on a much deeper wound are unwilling to explore the real roots of the issue. It’s true the U.S. is the only country that suffers from routine mass shootings like in El Paso and Dayton, but the U.S. is also the only country with 800+ military bases in more than 80 countries around the world while currently bombing 7 different nations. America is an insecure, terrified country that resolves everything with violence, at home and abroad, and until this connection is recognized, mass shootings like El Paso will likely continue just like our wars.

NATO: No Need, NEXIT

“EXIT NATO!”  was the glaring title on a huge screen greeting the several hundred participants of the Anti-NATO Conference in Florence, Italy, on 7 April 2019. Officially it was called The International Conference on the 70th Anniversary of NATO, sponsored by Global Research of Canada and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). I had the privilege to attend this important forum.

Following the EXIT NATO poster, was another huge slide decorating the conference wall proclaiming that NATO, as a reward for all their work for Peace, should be rewarded with the Peace Nobel Prize. No doubt, nuclear armament and eventually nuclear wars to be fought by NATO – by whom else – will make the world a safer place. Wars are actually good for Peace. They are also good for economics, but they are particularly good for Peace.

I’m not kidding you – these are declarations one can read – and has been able to read since practically 9/11, in such prominent “Truth News” papers like the Washington Post and the NYT.   So, why not the Peace Prize to NATO? It wouldn’t make much difference.  Considering the track record of the Nobel Prize Committee, it would fall right into place.

Other than that, the conference basically outlined the atrocities committed by NATO, its associate and crony terrorist armies, ISIS, Al Qada, Al Nusra and so on, changing names for revolving terrorists, recruited and trained by the CIA and funded by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and, of course the US directly or through her many State Department funded and subsidiary NGOs, like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and many others. And, of course, not to forget a prominent funder of terrorism, Turkey, who is now trying to make a smiling face to Russia and the east, even flirting with the idea of entering the club of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); on the one hand purchasing Russian military defense systems – the S-400 – and at the same time US fighter planes F35, dancing on as many weddings simultaneously as they can. Who would trust Turkey under Erdogan? Turkey also still hosts one of the most strategic and most dangerous nuclear-equipped NATO bases literally between east and west.

The Conference recalled the Cold War. By now everybody knows – really? – well, for those who don’t – that the so-called Cold War was one of the best propagated and fakest news of the 20th Century. It’s a brilliant idea that sprung out of the McCarthy Nazi-era – like NATO itself – to arm the US to the teeth, maximizing profits of the military industrial complex, under the pretext of halting the advancement of the Soviet Union into just liberated western Europe, just liberated from Hitler’s Nazi-Germany. Never mind that western Europe has been saved by the Soviet Union who lost 25-30 million people and basically their transport and production infrastructure. Yes, it was not the so-called allies – US, UK and France – they came in last, when the bulk of the job was already done by what is today Russia. But, of course, no western history book would tell you the truth. In fact, it must be said here too that the US funded Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union with money channeled from the FED, through Wall Street banks, and eventually through the Rothschild dominated Bank for International Settlement (BIS), located in Basel, Switzerland, right at the border to Germany, from where it was easy to pass the money on to the Reichsbank – Hitler’s Central Bank. Yes- that’s how the US was already then dancing on various fiestas at the same time; on the one hand bombing Germany and, on the other, financing Germany’s war against what the US already then perceived as an archenemy – The Red Scare – the Soviet Union. Well, these acts of treason then were the precursors of NATO today.

Anything socialist is evil for the US, still today. Trump, himself, and his minion clowns — Pompeo, Bolton and Pence — are lambasting Venezuela and Cuba for being evil and destructive socialist countries and that socialism will not be tolerated anywhere by the falling empire – sorry, falling it is – of the United States of America.

The other purpose of the Cold War farce was to make the Europeans believe that they were under a constant threat of a Soviet invasion, that they had to arm themselves also to the teeth – imagine war-recovering Europe having to spend their money on arms for no use! – and, of course, most of these weapons had to be bought – yes, you guessed it – from the US military industrial complex meaning more profit for the war oligarchs. The Anglo-media giants even created a virtual barrier between western “free” Europe and the bad-bad Red Scare, the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain. Yes, the Iron Curtain; children in school were indoctrinated to be aware that the enemy is hiding behind the Iron Curtain, and that the enemy always comes from the East. Hilarious, when you think back. At that time (almost) everybody believed it.

And the third, or perhaps first objective of the Cold War, was to block the Soviet Union from developing a viable and autonomous economy with which they could thrive, as most socialist countries do, until they are boycotted, punished and financially “sanctioned” into suffocation by the west. These illegal financial manipulations with and within sovereign countries’ economies, are, of course, illegal by any standards of international laws, laws that have become meaningless in the light of US / NATO power, scary nuclear power. These acts of financial and human rights high crimes are only possible because of the all dominating, fraudulent US-imposed – and NATO-protected – western monetary system.

The NATO-driven Cold War, a constant nuclear threat towards the Soviet Union, was intended to force Russia also to arm for their defense, instead of being able to use their economy’s added value to rebuild their devastated country. The USSR was never a threat to Europe. There was never an intention of the Soviet Union to invade western Europe. The same today, we are being made believe that Russia wants to invade Europe.  That’s why NATO needs to build all these military bases at the door step to Russia. Russia is by far the largest country, territory-wise, in the world, they don’t need to add more land. Historically, neither Russia or China have a record of expansionism.

In the end, the NATO-led Cold War managed to dismantle the Soviet Union by ‘buying’ some corrupt Soviet leaders, so that the new Russia, whose socialist system just was made to collapse, unprepared with legislation for what was to come – privatization by fire-sale of their entire economy. Like vultures, the financial institutions, IMF, World Bank, agents of the FED, descended on Moscow to literally steel by indebting whatever had any value. This misery still has not entirely abetted, as the Russian Central Bank was restructured, following the image of the FED – today, under President Putin, much has changed and was reformed; however, the financial sector is still heavily invaded by the Atlantists – or what you may also call the Fifth Columnists. And, of course, even those are protected by NATO as NATO issues threats, nobody knows from where they come, but you know who executes them, in case of…

The Florence Anti-NATO Conference also recalled some of the most abject killing sprees of NATO in its 70 years of existence, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Ukraine – the Maidan massacre followed by the so-called Ukrainian civil war – and the crowning of sorts, the ten-year war on Yugoslavia, the total destruction of Yugoslavia, with the final blow 1999, the merciless bombing of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Why Yugoslavia? Let’s dwell just a moment on this war of cruel destruction and killing because it is so typical for Pentagon-driven wars of annihilation. Yugoslavia, a socialist country, in the 1970s and 80s under Maoist President Tito, had a prosperous economy, much more so than the rest of Europe. The US-dominated west cannot let a socialist economy flourish. Other countries, especially stagnating western Europe, could get ideas.

Remember, socialism is evil. So, with what is today called the “Balkanization” – cut into pieces – of Yugoslavia was the old-old tactic of divide to conquer, as well as by creating internal chaos, the western powers kept control of the people, and eventually NATO was able to advance closer and ever closer to the Russian border, by occupying former Yugoslav republics with NATO bases (Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia and Kosovo is waiting in the wings), in addition to the further expansion east to Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, not to mention the former Soviet Republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

This expansion east, ever closer to Moscow, is a flagrant breach of a promise made by the allied forces. In 1991, then German Foreign Minister Genscher promised Russian President Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch further east than Germany. In fact, he assured Gorbachev that NATO would not move into what before the German unification was Eastern Germany. This promise was unfortunately never recorded in writing, and Gorbachev was miserably betrayed. As we know by now, a betrayal by the west is very normal.In the meantime,12 more NATO bases east of Germany, including in former East-Germany, were built.

In their 70 years of existence, US-NATO, allied and proxy forces, as well as mercenaries, have killed between 20 and 25 million people around the globe, in wars and conflicts – in the eternal war against “terror” – that was “justified” by self-inflicted 9/11, the start to the final phase of the PNAC – Plan for a New American Century – to reach Full Spectrum Dominance.

Wars have a cost – a financial, economic and a social cost. The US official military budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 is US$ 700 billion; for FY 2019 Trump proposes US$ 750. If approved it would be a 40% increase in the last 9 years. But that’s not all. This is just the officially published figure. The real cost for the war, defense and security apparatus to which also the opaque CIA and associated secret services count is well over a trillion dollars, perhaps as much as US$1.5 trillion per year.

The US has currently about one million military personnel stationed in 175 countries around the globe. The Pentagon maintains about a thousand military bases in more than 100 countries. The war cost, in currently seven war theatres, is prohibitive – medical costs for veterans, for social services to returning veterans – and we are not talking about the cost of off-battle ground lives; i.e., by ever-mounting suicide rates. The Veteran Administration released a study that covered suicides from 1999 to 2010, showing that roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes.

The reality is most likely a much higher figure – and the despair and human depression from anxieties related to the never-ending wars has increased exponentially in the last 9 years – more suicides, more desperation, more broken families, entire generations of kids with fathers at war. This cost cannot be put in figures of dollars and cents.  It’s a social cost that bears its toll in years, perhaps generations from now.

The US spends per capita ten times more than the rest of the world together on military / war expenses. President Trump requests European NATO countries to increase their military budget by contributing more to NATO, first up to 2% of GDP, threatening he may decide to withdraw NATO from Europe, if Europe does not comply with his request, still making believe that NATO is a defensive force  protecting Europe — from what and from whom?  Good-bye NATO. This is the moment to call Trump’s bluff.

But NATO – the Trans-Atlantic Treaty Organization – has also gone overseas to Latin America. NATO has since 2013 a Cooperation Agreement with Colombia, where the US has 5 military bases which will automatically convert into NATO bases. NATO is also negotiating with Brazil’s new Nazi-leader, Bolsonaro, to enter Brazil, and, as such being a threat and a potential attack force to topple the Venezuelan democratically elected socialist government. Washington makes no secret – they want Venezuela’s hydrocarbon resources, the world’s largest reserves, gold and other minerals of which Venezuela is rich. NATO is perfect to do the dirty job.

But it gets worse, this Trump clown or the masters behind him, had recently the audacity to ask for a European military budget increase to 4% of GDP – or else…. Yes. Let’s decide for else. Good riddens, NATO.

The overall NATO budget is well over a trillion dollars per year – yes, per year. And that is – people of Europe, people of the world! – that is to finance a killing machine that bulldozes countries into the ground with bombs and tanks, that kill indiscriminately civilians and other countries’ defensive military, countries that have never done any harm to the United States, nor to Europe which follows the Washington mandate like a bunch of vassals, what Europe has become.

Imagine what could be done with more than a trillion dollars or euros per year in terms of building up education, health services, public infrastructure, and other social services and expand these services to developing countries, to those very countries that are now bombarded mercilessly by NATO! This, dear People of Europe, is your tax money. Do you want it to be spent killing people around the world for Washington’s world hegemony?  NATO does not protect you. NATO has been designed as an aggressive force. You were just never told. But look out of the window, the window of your ‘safe space’, and you will see the squandering of your tax money.

NATO is invading the space of Russia and China, countries that are seeking friendly relations with the rest of the world, they are seeking a multi-polar world, but encounter instead a response of aggression. NATO is preventing the natural, namely friendly relations and trading as equals within the huge Continent Eurasia, of which Europe has been artificially separated as a continent. This tremendous landmass Eurasia, includes also the entire Middle East and connects to Africa. This enormous mass of land and people and resources does not need the west, the west called America.

Wouldn’t it be wise for countries and people of Eurasia to just live sovereign lives, with friendly interactions, trading as equals not with a one-upmanship as is currently the norm for trading between the rich OECD nations dominating the World Trade Organization (WTO), with the rest of the world- which depends on trade but is always on the losing end?

One more point that needs to be understood. Europe, the European Union as it was conceived and is limping along today, has never been the idea of Europeans, but was born during WWII in the heads of the CIA, then transplanted into some “willing” European heads and then ‘defended’ by NATO – the “unifying force”. Europe has no Constitution, only a number of non-binding accords, like Maastricht and Lisbon – but no Constitution that holds it together, that outlines a common vision in defense, in economic development, in monetary policy. The European Union results in a bunch of countries, some even hostile to each other. They have a common currency, the Euro, without even having a common economic base and development objective. This currency, forged as the little brother of the US-dollar, equally is nothing but fiat money, no backing whatsoever; this currency is not sustainable. So, the currency barely 20 years old, will eventually collapse or fade, and so will the European Union. It hasn’t happened yet, because NATO is holding it together, because Brussels is nothing but a puppet of the Pentagon. It is Washington through the Pentagon, and through NATO that is running Europe.

People of Europe, is it that what you want? Your tax money spent killing people and destroying countries around the globe, and having lost all independence, autonomy as a country, as well as monetary sovereignty – by being run by a military killing machine, called NATO?

It’s time to kill NATO, rather than being killed by NATO. Exit NATO now. It’s time for NEXIT.

The Working Class Strikes Back

Reading the daily headlines, it’s easy to forget that the corollary of a civilization in precipitous decline is a world of creative ferment, a new world struggling to be born. If you could have a God’s-eye view of all the creative resistance rending the fabric of political oppression from the U.S. to Indonesia to Colombia, you would surely be persuaded that all hope is not lost. This conclusion is borne out in detail by a book published earlier this year, The Class Strikes Back: Self-Organised Workers’ Struggles in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Dario Azzellini and Michael G. Kraft. The chapters, each dedicated to a different case-study, survey inspiring democratic activism in thirteen countries across five continents. The reader is left with the impression that the global working class, while facing an uphill battle in its fight against imperialism, business and state repression, and conservative union bureaucracy, may yet triumph in the end, if only because of its remarkable perseverance generation after generation. Its overwhelming numerical strength, too, bodes well.

In their introduction, the editors concisely state the book’s purpose: “This volume aims to examine how new, anti-bureaucratic forms of syndicalist, neo-syndicalist and autonomous workers’ organisation emerge in response to changing work and production relations in the twenty-first century.” Traditional unions, which they observe have been “part of the institutional setting to maintain capitalism” (my italics), have deteriorated on a global scale. In their place have sprung up more radical and democratic forms of resistance, such as blockades, strikes, and workplace occupations and recuperations. Workers’ actions have even made decisive contributions to the toppling of governments, as in Egypt in 2011.

In this article I’ll summarize several of the most compelling case-studies. Unfortunately I’ll have to pass over many interesting chapters, including ones on the workers’ movement in Colombia, the solidarity economy and radical unionism in Indonesia, the sit-ins and ultimately the worker cooperative at a window factory in Chicago (about which I’ve written here), and the South African miners who were attacked by police and massacred in August 2012. The book is too rich to do justice to.

Greece

The crisis in Greece that followed the economic crash of 2008 and 2009 saw a savage regime of austerity imposed on the population, which resulted in a “diffuse precariousness” across the labor force. Conventional unionism and national collective bargaining have been among the victims of this neoliberal regime. And yet the general strikes that the trade union bureaucracy was compelled to declare early on, particularly between 2010 and 2012, were the most massive and combative of the past forty years. “Long battles with the police, crowds which refused to dissolve and regrouped again and again, the besieging for hours of the house of parliament, self-organisation and solidarity in order to cope with tear gas and take care of the wounded—all have become part of the normal image of demonstrations during strikes, replacing the nerveless parades of the past.”

Outside the framework of conventional unionism there have arisen exciting new forms of struggle. Since early 2013, the Vio.Me factory has operated under worker self-management, after its initial owners abandoned the site. Aside from the lack of hierarchy, the job rotations, and the directly democratic structure of the business, one innovative practice has been to run the factory in cooperation with the local community and, indeed, the whole society. After taking over the factory the workers consulted their community about what they should produce; they were asked to stop making poisonous building chemicals and instead to manufacture biological, eco-friendly cleaning products. A “wide network of militants and local assemblies” around the country has supported the effort from the start, which has enabled even the distribution of the firm’s products to be done in a completely new way, “through an informal network of social spaces, solidarity structures, markets without intermediaries and cooperative groceries.”

In general, labor struggles in Greece have become more intertwined with social movements. Early in the crisis, structures of mutual aid sprang up everywhere:

Throughout the country collectives have established community kitchens and peer-to-peer solidarity initiatives for the distribution of food, reconnected electricity that was cut down to low-income households, organised “without middlemen” the distribution of agricultural produce, established self-organised pharmacies, healthcare clinics and tutoring programmes and organised networks of direct action against house foreclosures.

Later on, grassroots initiatives became more political, in an effort to create institutions that would be long-lasting and relatively independent of capital and the government. The Greek squares movement of 2011 spread to almost every city and village in the country, leaving behind a legacy of local assemblies and social centers. It also “unleashed social forces which boosted the social and solidarity economy and the movements for the defence and the promotion of the commons.”

All this flowering of alternative institutions has not occurred without significant problems and defeats. There has been little success in establishing solid organizations of the unemployed, and grassroots labor struggles have failed to form durable structures that can challenge institutionalized unionism. Certain victories, nevertheless, have been impressive. Social movements were able to prevent the government’s privatization of public water corporations in 2014. Even more remarkably, after the government closed down the influential public broadcaster ERT in 2013, ERT employees, together with citizens and activists, took over the production of television and radio programs by occupying premises and infrastructure. For almost two years the self-managed ERT transmitted thousands of hours of broadcasting on the anti-austerity struggle, serving as an important resource for the resistance. When Syriza came to power in 2015, it reestablished the public broadcaster.

Worker and consumer cooperatives exist all over the country. Cooperative coffee shops and bookshops, for example, exist in most neighborhoods of Athens and Salonica, functioning “as the cells of the horizontal movements in urban space and the carriers of alternative values and culture.” Broadly speaking, labor identities are becoming more socialized, “because more embedded in local communities and grassroots struggles.”

The Greek experience is of particular interest in that other Western countries, including the U.S., are likely to replicate important features of it in the coming years and decades, as economic crisis intensifies. We ought to study how Greek workers and communities have adapted and resisted, to learn from their failures and successes.

Egypt

The mass movement that felled Mubarak’s regime in 2011 received sympathetic coverage from the establishment media in the West, but the key role of workers’ collective action was, predictably, effaced. Strike waves after 2006 not only destabilized the regime but also gave rise to the April 6th Movement in 2008, which would go on to catalyze the 2011 rebellions. Even after the fall of Mubarak, the flood of labor actions didn’t let up.

As everywhere around the world, neoliberalism meant decades of pent-up grievances against working conditions, privatizations, low wages, and economic insecurity. Finally in December 2006, 24,000 textile workers went on strike at Misr Spinning. Within a few weeks, “similar strikes were spreading between public and private sector textile producers, and from there to civil servants, teachers, municipal refuse workers and transport workers.” In the next couple of years, many more strikes occurred, frequently taking the form of mass occupations of workplaces.

Workers even managed to form the first independent unions in more than fifty years, beginning with the Real Estate Tax Authority Union (RETAU), established in December 2008. The conservative and bureaucratic Egyptian Trade Union Federation was unable to cope with all the sit-ins, strikes, and waves of democratic organizing, and saw its influence over the labor movement wane. RETAU’s consolidation “accelerated the development of other independent unions and proto-union networks among teachers, public transport workers, postal workers and health technicians,” raising their expectations of what could be achieved through collective action.

After the steadily rising wave of worker and popular resistance crested with the resignation of Mubarak in early February 2011, labor actions didn’t cease. In fact, Mubarak’s fall was followed by “a new tidal wave of strikes and workplace occupations, with nearly 500 separate episodes of collective action by workers recorded in the month of February 2011 alone.” Strike waves ebbed and flowed over the following two years, and did much to undermine the military and Islamist governments that succeeded each other before the crisis of the summer of 2013, when, after Mohammed Morsi fell, a successful counterrevolutionary offensive was launched by the Armed Forces, the Ministry of the Interior, the judiciary, and the media.

After the fall of Mubarak, a ferment of self-organization resulted in the founding of many new independent unions, which often engaged in intense battles for tathir, or the “cleansing” from management positions of the ruling party’s cronies. This was especially the case in public institutions. Public hospitals in Cairo, for example, “were the scene of attempts to assert workers’ control over management to a much greater degree than had been possible before the revolution.” These experiments weren’t always successful, but in a number of cases they did at least force the resignation of old directors and were able to establish, temporarily, democratic councils to oversee work.

In the end, the workers’ movement was unable to impose its demands on the agenda of national politics. Its leaders “did not score victories at that level on the question of raising the national minimum wage, or forcing a lasting retreat from privatization, or even of securing full legal recognition for the independent unions themselves.” Still, the authors comment that the nationwide revival of self-organization was an astonishing feat. “Factory and office workers created thousands of workplace organisations, despite conditions of acute repression and the lack of material resources. There have been few examples on this scale of a revival of popular organisation in the Arab world for decades.” Memories of these uprisings will not be erased easily, and will inspire the next generation of activists.

Venezuela

Venezuela differs from the other cases in that its Bolivarian revolution has entailed a commitment to elevating the position and the power of workers. So how successful has this process been? In recent years, of course, Venezuela’s severe economic crisis has undermined the Bolivarian process, with increases in poverty and less money going to social programs. But the achievements have not all been destroyed. The account in the book goes up to early 2016, well into the crisis years.

Until 2006, the Chavez government focused on promoting cooperatives (in addition to nationalizing the oil industry and expropriating large landowners). In nationalized medium-sized companies, for example, workers became co-owners with the state. Whereas Venezuela had had only 800 registered cooperatives in 1998, by mid-2010 it had 274,000, though only about a third were determined to be “operative.” It had been hoped that these businesses would produce for the satisfaction of social needs rather than profit-maximization, but the mixed-ownership model, according to which the state and private entrepreneurs could be co-owners with workers, vitiated these hopes.

By 2006 a new model was spreading, which was more communally based. Its political context was that “communal councils” began to be recognized as a fundamental structure of local self-government: in urban areas they encompassed 150 to 400 families, while in rural areas they included a minimum of 20 families. “The councils constitute a non-representational structure of direct participation, which exists alongside the elected representative bodies of constituted power. Several communal councils can come together to form a commune. By the end of 2015, over 40,000 communal councils and more than 1,200 communes existed.” Councils and communes can receive state funding for their projects, which now began to include community-controlled companies instead of cooperatives. “In these new communal companies, the workers come from the local communities; these communities are the ones who, through the structures of self-government…decide on what kind of companies are needed, what organisational form they will have and who should work in them.”

In 2008 a new model for these companies emerged, the Communal Social Property Company (EPSC). “While different kinds of EPSCs can be found in the communities today, their principal areas of activity correspond with the most pressing needs of the barrios and rural communities: the production of food and construction materials, and the provision of transport services. Textile and agricultural production companies, bakeries and shoemakers, are also common.” Under the initiative of workers, even some state enterprises are partly under community control, at least regarding their distribution networks.

Despite Chavez’s commitment to workers’ control, it has not been easy to shift the orientation of a state and a private sector deeply hostile to workers. Workers’ councils and struggles for worker participation can be found in almost all state enterprises and many private ones—and workers have taken over hundreds of private businesses, sometimes after the state’s expropriation of the original owners—but even in the chavista state bureaucrats were apt to undermine the Bolivarian process. Whether through corruption, mismanagement, obstruction of financing to state companies with worker-presidents, or other means, ministerial bureaucracies and even corrupt unions impede workers’ control. In many state enterprises the situation is ambiguous: workers don’t control the company or even participate in management, but “they control parts of the production process, they decide on their own to whom they will give access to the plant, [and] they are in a full-scale conflict with the management.”

Despite all the advances made under Chavez, the fact is that the economy’s social relations of production have not really changed and capitalist exploitation remains the norm. Private interests are still too powerful and have too much influence over the government, promoting mismanagement and corruption. It is still a rentier economy. But a revolutionary process has begun and is being carried forward by communities and workers across the country. The transformation of a society from authoritarian to democratic does not happen overnight.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Like the rest of the post-Soviet world, Bosnia-Herzegovina has suffered terribly from the privatizations, asset-stripping, marketization, and rampant corruption that have attended its transition to capitalism since the mid-1990s. Unemployment and economic insecurity are at epidemic proportions. In 2014, workers in Tuzla, Bosnia’s third largest city, organized a massive mobilization against their deteriorating conditions, the first since the 1992–95 conflict. While the movement didn’t last, its legacy may inspire further mobilizations in the future.

The 2014 demonstrations were a response to the wretched situation of workers in a laundry detergent factory, DITA, which at one time had provided 1,400 jobs. After its privatization in 2005, things started to go downhill. The company paid them minimal wages, issued meal vouchers only in bonds rather than cash, and eventually stopped paying them pension funds and health insurance. In 2011 they began a long strike, but in December 2012 the firm closed, having ignored all their demands.

Picketing the factory and filing lawsuits didn’t secure justice for the workers, so in February 2014 they teamed up with their counterparts from four other nearby factories to stage demonstrations in front of Tuzla’s canton court. All five work forces had similar demands: investigation of the questionable privatization processes that had destroyed their livelihoods; compensation for unpaid wages, health insurance, and pensions; and the restarting of production. Their demands didn’t get a very sympathetic hearing: during one of the demonstrations, riot police secured the entrance of the canton building and fired teargas and rubber bullets. This brutality only further inflamed the workers, who kept up their resistance the following couple of days. The number of demonstrators rose to 10,000 as students and other citizens joined the protests, finally setting the government buildings on fire.

Chiara Milan’s summary of the ensuing events is worth quoting:

The action [of burning government buildings] resonated throughout the country. Within days, rallies in solidarity with Tuzla’s workers took place across Bosnia-Herzegovina. Increasing discontent among the social groups suffering under government policies led tens of thousands to join in the main cities of BiH [i.e., Bosnia-Herzegovina]. Like a domino effect, the rage spread and the revolt escalated. On 7 February the government buildings of the cities of Mostar, Sarajevo, and Zenica were set ablaze by seething protesters. While politicians tried to hide the plummeting economic conditions of the country by constantly playing the ethnic card, the workers of Tuzla triggered wider social protests, arguing that rage and hunger do not recognise ethnic differences. The protests spawned a mass movement of solidarity that overcame the ethno-national divisions inside the country, travelling across the post-Yugoslav space. Rallies in support of the workers were reported in nearby Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia…

Soon, directly democratic assemblies called plenums were set up across the country. “The citizens gathered in leaderless, consensus-based assemblies where everybody had the right to one vote and nobody could speak on behalf of other people.” Each plenum had working groups addressing such issues as media, education and culture, and social problems. “Demands that arose during the plenums were collected and delivered to [these] working groups, in charge of reformulating them in a coherent way. Once reformulated, the demands typically returned to the plenum for a final vote [after which they were submitted to the cantonal government]. All the plenums were coordinated through an organisational body called interplenum…”

A new labor union was also formed in the wake of the protests, called Solidarnost, which quickly reached 4,000 members from dozens of companies. It was intended as an alternative to the conventional unions that had so signally failed to protect the interests of their rank and file. While it didn’t succeed in winning the battle for the workers, it did keep fighting for years afterwards, as by staging weekly protests in front of the canton court.

The moment of collective outrage slowly faded away, especially after the flood that hit the country in May 2014 turned into a national emergency. The workers at the DITA factory, however, still did not give up: in March 2015 they occupied the factory and restarted the production of cleaning products, publicly appealing for international support. Shops and retail chains decided to sell the “recuperated factory’s” products, and groups of activists volunteered to help the workers optimize production.

In general, Milan comments, the uprisings left a legacy of solidarity and activist networks, which challenge “the dominant rhetoric of ethnic hatred” and may be drawn on in future struggles.

*****

The path forward for the working class in an age of neoliberal crisis is tortuous and uncertain. Given the near-collapse of mainstream trade unionism and many left-wing political parties, it’s necessary for people the world over to forge their own institutions, their own networks, to fight back against the rampaging elite and construct a new, more equitable society. The stories collected in The Class Strikes Back are an encouraging sign that workers everywhere are already waging the war, that democratic institutions can germinate in even the most crisis-ridden of societies, and that the ruling class’s hold on power is, in fact, ultimately, rather tenuous.  The next generation of activism is sure to bring major changes to a morally corrupt civilization.