Category Archives: Greece

The Contradictions of Being Pro-Capitalist and Anti-War

In his lesser known novel, A Small Town in Germany, John Le Carré skewers the diplomatic class in the old West German capital of Bonn. An investigator sent to the drizzly town on the banks of the Rhine discovers a fog of misdirection as he tries to track down a fled spy. At one point, comfortably resigned to his frustration, a glib diplomat tells the investigator, himself at wit’s end, unable to capitalize on an array of clues, “There’s always something; there’s never enough.” This is largely the story of the socialist “opportunists” that the Russian Bolsheviks themselves skewered in the revolutionary and blood-scented atmosphere of World War One Europe. As Vladimir Lenin argues in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, the socialist opportunists argue for something: a few tepid reforms that may provide a transitory respite in the plight of the poor. But they never go far enough: challenging a system of predatory appropriation for which minor reforms are nothing but an extended sentence. They offered a map to nowhere on a path whose starting and end points are the same.

It is likewise the story of today’s bourgeois liberal class, a hollow parody of progressivism allied with the ruling class establishment. Not only are today’s Democrats purveyors of media misdirection with Russiagate, but their policies are likewise the stuff of fake news and forgotten promises. The liberal class, including its current champion, Bernie Sanders, has yet to face the incompatibility of corporate capitalism, particularly in its monopoly stage, and military imperialism. They are flip sides of the same fascist coin. The early Soviets knew this all too well.

In his memorable screed on onetime socialist Karl Kautsky’s slide into opportunism, Lenin lays out the contradiction between being anti-imperialism and pro-capitalism. After all, if imperialism, as Lenin argues, is the highest stage of capitalism itself, how could one deplore the former and approve the latter? You can’t, not without falling into a set of contradictions that render one’s entire position farcical. Lenin shows, with meticulous documentation, how capital tends to concentrate, creating monopolies and generating demand for new markets and new revenue streams.

An Iron Law of Capitalism

Through a meticulous review of European and North American data, Lenin writes that the “transformation of competition into monopoly is one of the most important–if not most important –phenomena of modern capitalist economy.” He notes how entire supply chains, or verticals, tend to combine for more fluid and efficient production. He notes, “…for example, the smelting of iron ore into pig-iron, the conversion of pig-iron into steel, and then, perhaps, the manufacture of steel…” and quotes one of the leading economists in the Weimar Republic, Rudolf Hilferding, writing, “Combination levels out the fluctuations of trade and therefore assures to the combine enterprises a more stable rate of profit.” It isn’t hard to recognize the empirical proofs of this claim, living as we do in an era of mergers and acquisitions, in which a mind-numbing $2.5 trillion in M&A were launched in just the first half of 2018.

Just consider the mediascape, in which a handful of elephantine conglomerates control some 90 percent of American media. They continue to gobble up smaller local media venues, guaranteeing the phenomenon cleverly spelled out in an 2011 infographic, which notes that 223 executives controlled the “information diet” of some 227 million Americans. While the mergers may indeed happen for reasons of capital, an epiphenomenon is the consolidation of opinion in a few ideologically sanguine hands. Example after example, cover the 1860s through the early 1900s, bring Lenin to the conclusion that “…the rise of monopolies, as the result of the concentration of production, is a general fundamental law of the present stage of the development of capitalism.” It is all done, of course, to stimulate super-profits. Not surprisingly, “the social means of production remain the private property of a few.”

When monopolies don’t get what they want, they take aggressive action against intransigent market entities. Lenin notes several tactics, including shutting down supplies of raw materials, foreclosing avenues of labor supply, quitting deliveries, blocking trade outlets, forming exclusive trade agreements, price cutting, and other vicious economic attacks.  Likewise, the control of capital itself, in the forms of credits and interest rates, is another signal feature of monopolist aggression. (Think of the Volcker Shock.) The monopolists are “…throttling those who do not submit to them…” It is interesting that these tactics are particularly evident in American foreign policy. Washington itself acts like a cartel enforcer for elite capital. These tactics, often in the form of sanctions, have been variously applied to China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and other nations that refuse to adopt the yoke of American economic imperialism.

But where does all this economic infighting lead? First to monopoly, then to imperialism. Not only must access to cheap raw materials be fitted into the verticalized supply chain, owned and operated by the monopolist subsidiaries, but new markets must forever be annexed in order to stem a falling rate of profit. Lenin’s argument suggests that World War One was a bloody dividing of the world into separate camps, for the redistribution of colonial possessions, and so on. Another consistent feature of capitalist imperialism we’ve seen in recent years in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya, all of which had underlying economic conflicts that drove military conflict.

The Buried Narrative

Lenin adds that monopolists leverage propaganda through media in the form of “false rumours” and “anonymous warnings” in the papers. Sound familiar? The media propaganda foisted on the public is a critical chapter of this story. The story that Lenin lays out, on the growth of competitive capitalism into monopoly and monopoly into imperialism, is a seminal link in the chain that yokes capitalism to war. And yet it has been largely scrubbed from the western record. And the absence of that knowledge is what permits imperialists like the Democratic Party to masquerade as paladins of peace and prosperity through capitalism, all cloaked beneath a feel-your-pain rhetoric aimed squarely at the working class.

Lenin opens a pivotal chapter in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, “Critique of Imperialism” with a comment that defines the corporate media and the professional class from which it comes, “’General’ enthusiasm over the prospects of imperialism, furious defence of it and painting it in the brightest colours—such are the signs of the times.” As he says, “’Social-Democratic’ Party of Germany are justly called “social-imperialists”, that is, socialists in words and imperialists in deeds.” Bourgeois scholars and publicists usually come out in defence of imperialism in a somewhat veiled form…do their very best to distract attention from essentials by means of absolutely ridiculous schemes for “reform”, such as police supervision of the trusts or banks, etc.”

He notes that most bourgeois arguments from nations seeking to shrug off the colonial shackles fail to recognize that imperialism is “inseparably bound up with capitalism,” and that requests to remove imperialism without removing capitalism are stillborn petitions, “strangled in the crib”, as Churchill might say, by their internal contradictions. Lenin points to the “anti-imperialists” in America that opposed the American trampling of the Philippines fell into the same trap of foreclosed imagination. While they railed against the “jingo treachery” of American false promises, Lenin said their criticisms would amount to little if they failed to recognize “the inseverable bond between imperialism and the trusts, and, therefore between imperialism and the foundations of capitalism…” His perspective on the Philippines protest almost, step for step, mirrors the reality of today’s “#resistance”, a farcical amalgam of costume parades and tweet storms that seeks to unseat anyone that uses politically incorrect language or wants displays their sexist or racist chevrons in public.

Discrediting sexism and racism is obviously good, if it is legitimately done. But Lenin lamented the “socialists in words and imperialists in deeds” that hounded the socialist landscape of his day. Today’s Democratic Party is progressive in words and neoliberal in deeds. The corporate liberal class has finally reached the stage where it can run a minority to do its dirty deeds. The population numbers foreseen in the Sixties have finally arrived. Barack Obama preached inclusivity from the political pulpit, but promoted exclusivity from the policy bench. It is no surprise: he is a member of a very exclusive club—an adoptee of the one percent.

Lenin attacks Kautsky and other bourgeois pundits, who argue for leveraging the engines of capitalism to increase “’the consuming capacity’” of the populace. Lenin points out that “it is in their interest to pretend to be so naïve and to talk “seriously” about peace under imperialism.” Another familiar tactic. Anyone familiar with the modern Democrats would recognize it. Like Obama, who won a Nobel Peace Prize from a demented clan of flour-haired Scandinavians. In one of the books he penned before he was elected, Obama confirmed that he was “a free market guy”. No one in the mainstream liberal press was willing to recognize or capable of recognizing that in confirming his capitalist bona fides, he was simultaneously signaling his allegiance to empire.

Lenin’s contemporaries like Kautsky believed that the imperial monopolies of capitalism could be disbanded and returned to a state of free competition in which the oracular market would appease the warring instincts of states, and a market-led peace would ensue. Kautsky called it “ultra-imperialism”. Lenin called it a “reformist swindle”. He notes that monopolies arose out of competition, and that to uncouple the monopolies would only return the relevant entities to a state of fierce competition, in which inequities would arise, leading to new monopolies. It was akin to dialing back determinism and expecting a new outcome. Lenin notes how any pacific alliances between competing imperialists would be at best temporary as the balance of power would inevitably shift in one direction or the other, instigating new confrontations, conflagrations, and war.

Lenin also noted the great value of imperial conquest to capital. Ever in search of new avenues of investment, ever threatened by the scourge of overproduction, new colonies could be forced open to accept “commodity dumping” from developed nations that would undercut local industry. Usurious loans to these colonial dependents would provide the funds with which to buy the first-world commodities. He even points to a German loan to Romania that facilitated the purchase of German railway materials. How could anyone fail to recognize in this dynamic the European Union’s behavior toward its fragile periphery of Portugal, Ireland, and Greece, particularly the latter? Were not German loans made to Greece to purchase German goods, inflating the latter’s monopoly profits while inflating the former’s debt peonage? Lenin calls this “skinning the ox twice”. After all, the bank makes compound interest off the loan; then the loan is used to buy products from the bank’s clients. Then, once the debtor nation flounders under debt deflation, having less and less to fund its economy since so much of its income was redirected to interest payments on exorbitant loans, it will be forced, like Greece, to begin selling off its national assets at bargain prices to the lender nation, as the vultures gather round the carrion.

History’s Rerun

Lenin concludes that peace in capitalist geographies is merely a respite between conflicts. Little more than “the banal philistine fantasies of English parsons”. In effect, Kautsky and the “opportunist” elements of the middle class were doing little more than attempting to unhitch capitalism from imperialism in order to save the system of their own enrichment. A failed project, to be sure, as passage after passage of Lenin’s polemic reads like a lucid profile of the Democratic Party. The Bolshevik leader concludes that, “imperialism is the epoch of finance capital and of monopolies, which introduce everywhere the striving for domination, not for freedom.” Later he adds that, “…capital can maintain its domination only by continually increasing its military force.” Could there be a better description of our modern dilemma of financial exploitation and military conquest? The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is tens of billions larger than last year’s and supports nearly 900 military installations around the world.

Finally, Lenin remarks that there’s no hope for unity with “the opportunists in the epoch of imperialism.” He points to the bourgeois denunciations of imperial annexations by various powers. Immediately the theatrical denunciations of Russia in Crimea and Syria in its own territory come to mind. Lenin sensibly argues that the author of such condemnations can be, “sincere and politically honest only if he fights against the annexation[s]” his own country makes. Naturally, the beltway liberals are silent on our de facto annexation of parts of Syria, our clandestine coup d’état in Ukraine, our savage use of Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, not to mention a dozen other base camps we’ve established like a necklace of crimes across the planet. As a nation, what we condemn in others, often falsely, we do ourselves. And on a slightly smaller scale, what the Democrats condemn across the aisle, they often do themselves behind a patina of progressive rhetoric. Sophistry and sops from the banquet table of the rich; this is today’s Democratic Party writ large.

“Living above our means”: Macri, the IMF, and Other Victims of Austerity

Argentinian president Mauricio Macri speaking on September 3rd, 2018 (Youtube screenshot).

After a hectic weekend with speculation aplenty, Argentina woke up on September 3rd waiting for the announcements of president Mauricio Macri. After accomplishing the feat of being late in delivering a recorded video, the message of more than 20 minutes was finally broadcast, with Macri announcing new austerity measures to try and get an earlier disbursement of the funds contemplated in the agreement with the IMF that was signed in May.

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Argentina’s current context is one of economic contraction, inflation, an increase in interest rates and a strong devaluation of the currency, which has lost 50% of its value with respect to the US dollar so far in 2018. For all these woes the Argentinian president found the solution in resorting to the IMF. But he did manage to find a multitude of parties responsible for the current situation: the rise of oil prices, drought, the commercial “war” between the United States and China, troubles in Turkey and Brazil, and above all the corruption and bad policies of previous governments.

But while the Argentinian president did his best to assign blame to his enemies, near and far, the explanation for the crisis – the failure of neoliberalism – was right in the middle of the screen, since nobody embodies noeliberalism better than Mauricio Macri himself.

Finance minister Nicolás Dujovne later presented more details of the measures that the government wishes to implement, before departing to meet the IMF in order to secure an early release of funds. These measures include a tax on exports and a promise to reduce the 2019 deficit to 0. In the agreement with the IMF the goal was 1.3%, so this reduction will hinge on bigger cuts to public spending and hikes in energy and transportation prices.

It should be stressed that these measures do not represent a shift, but rather a doubling-down on the policies that have been implemented since the Cambiemos coalition took power. The past two years have seen brutal increases in electricity and gas prices, a pension reform, massive layoffs in the public sector, major cuts in areas such as science, education or healthcare, attacks against labour rights, etc., with disastrous consequences for the population.

The Argentinian government, who was represented by Dujovne in the US, hopes that this latest round of sacrifices to the almighty markets will slow down the currency devaluation and secure the blessing of the high priests of the IMF and Wall Street. Nevertheless, prophecies about market uncertainties do have a tendency to self-fulfil. Not only that, the Argentinian executive, now slashed in less than half, is a team of businessmen that will know which interests to protect when push comes to shove.1

Macri and Dujovne meeting with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on March 16, 2018 (Photo: Casa Rosada)

Discursive platitudes

Macri’s speech was littered with elements that would have sounded extremely familiar to anyone who followed the austerity programmes that were implemented since 2010 in countries like Portugal or Greece. When the Argentinian president said that “we have been living above our means”, any Portuguese person could have recalled listening to their own president in 2011 – Cavaco Silva – say exactly the same thing.

Along the same lines, this was also the verdict reached by the Greek prime minister – Georgios Papandreou – who signed the first bailout agreement, and the all-powerful German finance minister – Wolfgang Schäuble – has always harped on this string to justify the austerity imposed on Greece. In truth the sanctimonious discourse of “living within our means” is no modern invention, but rather something that has always closely followed the neoliberal doctrine, even going back to Thatcher.

Another common element was the admission, with dishonest concern, that these measures will result in increased poverty. In 2011, the Portuguese prime minister went even further, saying that only by getting poorer would the crisis be overcome. In exchange, there is always a pledge that “the most vulnerable will be looked after”, and that those with more resources will be called upon to make bigger sacrifices, when it is well known that, almost by definition, the purpose is quite the opposite.

The cases of Greece and Portugal

Keeping in mind the distances between the examples we discuss, the similarities in the official discourse demand that we at least examine what took place in Greece and Portugal. In these cases the IMF was not the only creditor institution: it was joined by the European Central Bank and the European Union to form the fearsome “troika”. These were perhaps the most extreme cases of the austerity that was imposed throughout the continent in response to the crisis that broke out in 2008.

Greek GDP contracted by more than 40% since 2008. After the implementation of the memoranda of agreement with the troika, unemployment has consistently topped 20%, and youth unemployment has been around 40%. More than that, 4 out of 10 children are at risk of poverty. These are but a few indicators, among many others, that showcase the devastation that was unleashed upon the Greek people, while billions of euros of bailout money ended up directly in the hands of foreign banks.

As for the stated goal of the austerity packages, Greek public debt grew from 146% of GDP at the time of the first “structural reform” programme (2010) to 180% of GDP in 2018. Although officially Greece has exited the bailout programmes, the debt remains absolutely unpayable, and the idea that Greece can go on for decades balancing budgets under this weight is an illusion.

The Portuguese case is slightly less tragic. The 2015 elections resulted in a defeat for the right-wing coalition – which had implemented the deal signed with the troika in 2011 – and the emergence of a new government solution, which from afar might seem like it is on the left. The new government put an end to austerity and managed to revert the economic tendency and register economic growth once more.

The mere action of putting an end to austerity, while slowly reverting salaries and pensions to their 2011 levels, was a demonstration that the path of harsh budget cuts and tax increases was not the only choice. However, Portuguese public debt remains unpayable and an obstacle, among others, which will have to be confronted sooner or later.

Carlos Latuff depicts austerity in Greece

Where austerity leads to

This small transatlantic detour is useful to illustrate that, despite some declaring them as successful, the bailout plans did not manage to bring debt under control in Europe’s peripheral countries. But that goal, as well as the sacred budgetary targets, are simply argumentative artefacts.

Austerity packages, which are often more eloquently branded as “structural reforms”, are nothing but mechanisms to transfer wealth from labour to capital, with an underlying logic that profits are private and losses are socialised. When salaries and pensions are cut, when healthcare and education budgets are shrunk, when public services are dismantled, when thousands of workers are laid off, in order to pay back creditors, the people are being sacrificed to safeguard the interests of a handful of shareholders, be they national or foreign.

This transfer of wealth also occurs under the form of privatisations. These can be blatant or hidden under the pretext of the inefficiency of public management, but bailouts and structural adjustment plans have always been tremendous opportunities for capitalists. In the Greek case, important state assets, such as airports or the port of Piraeus, one of the biggest in the Mediterranean, ended up in private hands.

In truth, the Macri government has already made its position quite clear on the issue of privatizations; for example, in the energy sector, where the state is looking to sell its stake in several projects. In addition, the Argentinian company that produced satellites, ARSAT, was sold to an American company. The agreement with the IMF, and especially the version on steroids that will allow for an early release of funds, is sure to bring a new wave of privatisations, much to the delight of investors, and reviving ghosts of a not-so-distant past in Argentina.2

But it is not just through privatisation that room is opened up for private companies, especially multinational corporations, to flourish. The mere reduction of the reach of the state and public services leaves an open space to be filled by the whims of the market. In this context, the suppression of the health ministry, now reduced to a secretariat in the new ministry for health and social development, is quite symbolic. That this happened at a time when the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Coverage (CUS), a programme with a mercantile view of healthcare, is being discussed, is not a good omen for public healthcare in Argentina.

At this point we should go back to the issue of “living within our means”. The evolution of capitalism, even in times of crisis, has seen an ever growing concentration of wealth. It is estimated that 8 men own about as much wealth as the poorest half of the planet’s population. Therefore there are people living above what should be their means. But these are not pensioners, or public workers, or trade unionists, etc., as some would have us believe.

Resistance and repression

The Cambiemos government offensive, which will be intensified in the coming months, has been met with resistance from the Argentinian people in the streets. For example, a faculty strike in the university system, in protest against cutbacks in higher education and reforms in the pension system, was joined in August by a strong student mobilization in support, with several universities throughout the country temporarily occupied.

Trade unions, contradictions notwithstanding, also look to resist, and have called a general strike which is taking place on September 24-25. And perhaps there has been nothing more surprising and inspiring than the mobilisation of several hundred thousand people to defend the legalisation of abortion. Despite the goal not having been achieved for now, the awakening of consciences and the scale of the street mobilisations are building blocks for the upcoming struggles. The challenge is to turn all these struggles into attractor poles of a single, unified battle front.

Demonstration in Buenos Aires during a National Day of Protest, September 12 (Photo: Resumen Latinoamericano)

While it is fair to say that the rapid development of the crisis has caught the Argentinian government by surprise, the fact is that preparations to contain and repress any resistance to austerity had long been on the march. The decree which allows the armed forces to intervene in internal security matters, something which had not happened since end of the dictatorship, is particularly significant, not to mention the installation of US military bases in Argentinian territory.

The government and its talking heads have put forward a fallacious argument; namely, that with a tremendous sense of duty, those in charge are doing what needs to be done with no concern for upcoming elections. In reality what they are doing is ensuring that the interests of capitalists are shielded for decades, way beyond next year’s elections. It is the purest defence of class interests. Because at the end of the day power is not confined to the presidential palace or to legislative chambers.

An important difference with respect to cases such as Portugal or Greece is that in Argentina, thanks to the hegemony of media conglomerates such as the Clarín group, a scapegoat to which attention can be diverted has been put in place. This is the (alleged) corruption of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and members of her government, which is presented as the root of all evils that befall Argentina. Similarly to what has happened in cases such as Lula’s in Brazil, the goal is to have the trial in the media for short-term political gain.3

The cases of Portugal and Greece, alongside many other recent examples of “rescue plans”, give an idea of what is to come. Under the excuse of “having lived above our means”, different mechanisms to transfer wealth to capital, brazen or hidden, will be implemented. And faced with the difficulty of meeting unrealistic budgetary targets that are imposed from the outside there will be no solution other than imposing more and more sacrifices on the majority of the people.

After its failure and exhaustion as a political project, neoliberalism resurfaced in Latin America essentially leaning on the media and on the (politicisation of the) judicial system. It now looks to contain any alternative, in the case of Argentina, by mortgaging the country’s future and reactivating repression mechanisms. All of this places Argentina in the front line of a battle that is not just about next year’s presidential elections. The task ahead is to resist, every day and in every way, against this renewed offensive, and at the same time to construct a true, and radical, alternative.

• Thanks to Luciana Daffra for her comments and corrections.

• First published in Investig’Action

  1. On September 17 Dujovne presented the 2019 budget before the Argentinian Congress. It is, in his words, an “austere budget”, with a 7% cut on public spending, a prediction of economic contraction of 2.4%, and a zero deficit goal.
  2. It is worth recalling that this is no pure ideological matter for Macri, since the Macri Group is one of the largest business conglomerates in Argentina, with activities over a range of sectors, and having directly benefited from privatisation of state assets in the past.
  3. Our goal is not to vouch for anyone’s innocence, rather to point out the clear manipulation of justice for political ends and the double standards (or lack of standards) of the media. In Argentina, for example, a large circus has been set up surrounding the famous “notebooks” which detail the corruption of a former official during the Kirchner governments. The notebooks came from a remorseful driver, but up until now only photocopies of the smoking gun have been presented. In exchange, Macri featuring in the Panama Papers did not seem to merit the same level of scrutiny from the media, and the same can be said about the “fake contributions” and money laundering in the campaign of Maria Eugenia Vidal, governor of the province of Buenos Aires and one of the main figures of Cambiemos.

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.

Where there is fire, there is smoke

If there was ever any doubt that tobacco or properly speaking nicotine research was bought from the scientific “community” (analogous to the currently ubiquitous euphemism “international community”) then the litigation the condemned BAT and essentially the makers of the “Marlboro man” for fake research should have made the political-economic morons whose primary libidinal satisfaction derives from “climate science” wary about the apparent conversion of the corporate foundations (the principal mechanism for buying the “Left”) to “climate research”.1

The Earth is not the centre of the universe. That was supposed to be the lesson of more than one ancient Polish astronomer. I was taught at school that if the sun “went out” we earthlings would be Popsicles in 8 minutes. Yet none of these cyber-Lefties ever talk about the astronomy showing shifts in the Earth’s relationship to the sun.

The reason is simple: the sun has no money and no mass media agency.

But never mind, there is a point when even my stomach for fashionable idiocy turns.

I have yet to read in the tracts and suits of the prostrate and the masturbate among the ‘global warming’ orgiasts any connection between the phenomenon they preach as “global warming” and the parasitic extraction of water by heavy industry, or more egregious, mention of the utter failure to include disarmament in the accords. After all the consumption of fuel and production of pollutants of all kinds by the Military – never mind excess CO2- is obscene in this era where all Western imperial powers are arming to the teeth.2

I smell witches burning and hear the demented cheering of so many who in their hearts sing ‘better them than me’.  It is worth mentioning that after all the fires in Southern Europe a strain of advertising for military and military hardware followed. (In hyper-militarized California this was superfluous.) Portugal and Greece are being bled dry by Goldman Sachs agents. It is no wonder they have so much flammable wood. Forcing diversion of scarce resources into their NATO-controlled military budgets will profit everyone concerned- except the normal inhabitants of Southern Europe. That is the real issue- good, old fashioned 18th century “enclosure” (a euphemism for elite terrorism against peasants/ farmers). It may be impolite- like in a Jane Austin novel- to ask where the money originates. Yet the charred flesh is there and neither the princes in Kyoto nor in Paris assembled agreed anything that will stop THAT kind of “warming”.

How can anyone take the ranting- even on these pages- about global warming policies seriously when, in fact, all we can read and hear is the whining of trained Puritan hypocrisy- a tradition of giving thanks for the “hut warming” that toasts the Natives to make the world free for phones smarter than their users and roasted turkey.

But don’t get me started…

  1. Joan Roelofs, Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (SUNY series in Radical Social and Political Theory, January 30, 2003.
  2. Joan Roelofs, The Political Economy of the Weapons Industry: Guess Who’s Sleeping With Our Insecurity Blanket?, Counterpunch Print Magazine, Volume 25, No. 3, July 2018.

Mediterranean Sea: The Largest Graveyard in Modern History

In June 2018 alone, more than 500 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Their boats were refused access to land in either Malta or Italy. They were force-driven back by gun-boats to the North African shores they came from, mostly Libya, but many boats capsized and countless refugees didn’t make it.

These are de facto murders, high crimes against humanity, committed by the very European Union. The same “leaders” (criminals, rather), whose forebears are known to have raped, exploited, tortured, ravaged peoples and their lands of Asia, Africa, Latin America over the past 1000 years of abject colonization. Europeans have it in their genes to be inhuman. This can possibly be extended to the ‘superior’ greedy white race in general. At least to those who make it to political or corporate high office in the formidable EU or exceptional US, or to those who appoint themselves into the European Commission. We should call them “The Heartless Bunch”.

This is the so-called West, now led by the United States of America, basically the British empire transplanted across the Atlantic, where they felt safer between two shining seas, than as a rickety island in the Atlantic, just in front of the enormous, contiguous land mass called Eurasia. The Old Continent, alias Europe, was given by the new trans-Atlantic empire, the new masters of the universe, a subservient role. And that was in the making for at least the last 100 years, when the new empire started weakening Europe, with two World Wars.

Today’s European (EU) leaders are puppets put in place by the Atlantist elites, to make sure that the rather educated Europeans do not go on the barricades, that they are debilitated regularly by free market corporatism creating unemployment, taking their hard worked-for social safety nets away, saturating them with fake news, gradually oppressing them with growing police states, with a massive militarization, and finally using the articulately planned flood of refugees from the very US-EU-NATO destroyed countries – destroyed economically and by wars as a further destabilizing weapon. Greece should serve as a vivid example of what’s really going on and is planned, starting with “inferior” southern EU states, those bordering on the strategic and economically important sea way, the Mediterranean Sea.

You think I’m crazy? Start thinking again and connect the dots.

The refugee death toll in the Med-Sea in 2017 was about 3,200, 40% down from 2016, and more than 600 up to end of April 2018, and another more than 500 in June. This figure is bound to increase drastically, given the European closed-border policy, and more. The EU is contracting among others, the Libyan Coast Guard with gun boats to chase refugee vessels back to the Libyan shores, many sink, and saving those thrown into the sea is ‘forbidden’. They are simply left to die. That’s the rule. Malta, a little island-appendix to Brussels, but important as a refugee transit, has issued strict bans on private fishing boats and NGOs trying to rescue refugees.

As a consequence, the by now well-known German NGO “Lifeline” boat with 234 rescued refugees and migrants on board from Africa and the Middle East, miserably poor, sick, desperate people struggling for sheer survival, many with small kids, who wanted nothing more than their children to have a better life was rejected by Malta, turned back into the sea under guidance of NATO and EU hired military-type private contractor gun-boats. Eventually Portugal offered her safe shores for the refugees. Malta has a Partnership for Peace (PfP) Agreement with NATO; i.e. obeys NATO orders. NATO, a killer organization, has, of course, not a shred of humanity in its structure, nor in the blood of the people at its helm anywhere in the world.

Imagine in this context, an EU summit took place at the end of June 2018 to “arrange” and agree on how to handle the refugee crisis in the future, in other swords, how to keep them out of Europe. None of the countries, other than Germany, were even considering accepting some of these poor souls out of sheer humanitarian reasons, to give them shelter, food and medication. The discussion even considered where to build a wall – yes, fences were discussed to keep them out – Europe a xenophobic free-port for the rich, acting in questions of migration as a carbon copy of Trump. They deserve each other, Trump and Brussels, trade wars not withstanding – let them shred each other to pieces.

Well, this almost happened during, before and after the now-called “mini-summit”, with Madame Merkel almost losing her Chancellor’s job, as she, against all odds, represented the most humanitarian view of all the 28 neolibs. This did not go down well with her partner party, the ultra-conservative Bavarian CSU. Calls for her resignation abounded. The German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, was about to resign over Merkel’s alleged refugee ‘generosity’, in which case the highly fragile right-left coalition would have collapsed, and who knows how Germany may have continued to govern. Perhaps new elections would have had to be called, and then only god knows what might have happened. The empire could not allow this uncertainty to prevail, because Washington needs Germany as the chief-slave driver to lead Europe into total disarray and serfdom. It worked. Germany is alive and saved – and ticking.

Instead, the European refugee/migrant policy is in shambles. The EU are literally out to kill refugees, as a means of dissuasion? Mass-murder as a means of discouraging the desperate to seek shelter in those very countries that were instrumental in destroying their livelihoods, their families, their towns, their infrastructure, their education and health facilities, their youth? Generations of young Middle Eastern and African people are gone, destroyed.

Did these high-ranking EU officials in Brussels mention their own huge responsibility for the refugee floods with one single word? – No, of course not. Not with one breath. Has the conscience in one single head of these fake, neolibs-neonazis, as it were, self-serving EU heads of state been awakened by this very fact of guilt for what they are to confront? Has it caused sleepless nights? I doubt it. They are far from this level of human compassion; they are monsters.

Then, there was and is Italy, with her strange new coalition, a coalition of convenience. The leftish 5-Star Movement in alliance with the right-wing Lega Norte, selling their human conscience to be able to reign, giving away their responsibility for migration to the xenophobic, narcissistic, and yes, close to fascist Lega Norte which is adamant not to receive migrants. They would boycott any result that would force Italy to take in refugees, or even build border transit camps. In the end, they reached a toothless agreement; a non-agreement, rather; an accord that obliged none of the parties to do anything. Everything is voluntary. Period. And Macron said that this was the best refugee summit the EU ever had. So much for dismal brainlessness.

All was voluntary. The only agreement they could book for themselves is to build refugee camps in North African countries for the shipped-back survivors. Fortunately, every North African country, from Egypt to Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco said no. Having seen what happened in such literal slave camps in Libya, they had at least the compassion for these desperate human beings to prevent this from reoccurring. Compassion, a term, a feeling or sensation, the Europeans are devoid of.

However, no Israeli- Trump- Brussels-type wall or barbed-wire fence will keep the desperate in their economically, or by war, or western terrorism destroyed countries. The west, and only the west, is responsible for the endless destructive chaos, torture and lawlessness in these nations that the west wants to dominate, for myriad reasons – to steal their energy, minerals; for their strategic location, and finally on the way to total full spectrum world hegemony. This, the west will not achieve. That’s for sure. Evil will not prevail in the long run. Darkness will eventually cede to light. That’s the way nature works. But on its way to collapse, Evil will maim and kill millions of lives. Countless children will have no future, no parents, no education, no health services, no drinking water. They will be made to slaves as a means for their survival, to be raped and exploited or eventually killed. The European crime is of infinite dimension and nobody sees it, let alone stops it.

Keeping Your Refugees: Macron, Francafrique and Euro-African Relations

Ties between Europe and Africa have never been rosy.  A relationship based on predatory conquest and the exploitation of resources (slave flesh, minerals, and such assortments) is only ever going to lend itself to farce and display rather than sincerity.  The late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, whose death must be placed squarely at the feet of the Franco-Anglo-American intervention in the Libyan conflict of 2011, typified the cruelly distorted relationship, a man who morphed from erratic, third way statesman of revolution to terrorist inspired “Mad Dog”; then to a modern, if cartoonish figure capable of rehabilitating a state from pariah to flattered guest.

A neat expression of Euro-African ties was captured in the 2007 Dakar address by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  Like the current French President Emmanuel Macron, Sarkozy wanted to make an impression on those in what had been formerly characterised as the Dark Continent.  The leaders of the Maghreb and West Africa had been led to believe that promise was wafting in the air, that France would have a grand update on its relationship with former colonies on the continent.  The system of Francafrique, larded with neo-colonial connotation, would be scrapped.  Sweet sensible equality would come to be.

An impression he did make, albeit in spectacularly negative, sizzling fashion.  “The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history… They have never really launched themselves into the future.”

Sarkozy’s speech seemed a cribbed version of texts produced at a time when European officials were falling over each in other in acquiring and renting portions of the continent.  But in 2007, a French leader could still be found speculating about the limited world view of African agrarianism, its peasantry cocooned from enlightenment.  “The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words.”  This, for the French President, was a “realm of fancy – there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress.”

The impact of the speech was such as to prompt Senegal’s foremost scribe Boubacar Boris Diop to suggest a cognitive confusion of some scale.  “Maybe he does not realise to what extent we felt insulted.”  Defences were offered in France, one coming from Jean-Marie Bockel.  The speech, he concluded, had one thread through it: “the future of Africa belongs firstly to the Africans.”

And so now, in 2018, where history has again become an issue, throwing up its human cargo of suffering from conflict, poverty and strong shades of neo-colonialism, France, fashioned as a European leader, again finds itself considering how to respond to relations with the southern continent.

For various African states, the signs are not good.  Historical condescension and the sneer seemingly persists.  Macron, in an effort to steady the refugee control effort in the European Union, has gone into full school teacher mode.  The EU, he has iterated, cannot take decisions on behalf of African states, though he does suggest that, “Helping Africa to succeed is good for Europe and France.”

African states also suffered from a distinct problem of fecundity: unplanned population growth threatened further northward migration.  Immigrant processing centres in North Africa designed to halt the flow into Europe’s south, he suggests, “can fly, just if some African governments decide to organise it”.

This is something Macron has been onto for a time, and it replicates a broader formula adopted by wealthier states to more impoverished ones.  No doubt eyeing such ghoulish experiments as Australia’s Pacific Solution, which shifts the burden of processing and assessing refugee claims to small, low-income Nauru and unstable Papua New Guinea, Macron suggested in 2017 that states such as Libya carry the can, a suggestion as absurd as it is venal.

In August that year, he ventured, with agreement from German, Spanish and Italian counterparts, to focus on the setting up of migrant processing centres in Libya, Chad and Niger.  These would involve European resources to help create and sustain them.  The gaping flaw of this suggestion, one carried over into the EU negotiations last week, ignores the shattered status of Libya, a state in all but name.

Such plans, in the assessment of Left MEP Malin Björk, were “tainted by structural racism towards the African population”. In the opinion of the Swedish MEP, “Europe has not right to criminalise mobility of movement especially not in third countries.”  Such views are coming across as marginally quaint in the hard nosed and distinctly inhumane line of EU politics.

The value of Macron’s schooling is also compounded by manifold problems on what Europe actually intends to do.  The EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan that came into force on March 20, 2016 was meant to be a holy of holies, stemming the flow of refugees into frontline Greece.  It came with the natural consequence of shifting the routes of movement towards the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean.  Like aqueous matter, human flows will find a way.

Macron is only speaking for Europe in one respect: regaining control of borders and putting the refugee genie as far as possible back into the bottle.  Disagreement reigns over the method.  During negotiations in Brussels, EU leaders agreed, for instance, that “regional embarkation platforms” established outside the zone would be implemented to target the people-smuggling process.  In principle, it was also agreed that there would be secure migrant processing centres set up in EU countries.

On this point, member states remain deafeningly silent, though Macron has insisted on the traditional formula that states who first receive the migrants should have those centres. The current Italian government hardly sees the point of why; other EU states are more than fit to also conduct such processes.

As such squabbling to the richer North takes place, the impecunious South will simply continue to be a massive conduit of dangerous, often deadly travel.  This, along with Francafrique notions and various lacings of European suspicion towards African states, will continue with headstrong stubbornness.

Greece: a State of Rule of Law, Turkey: a Gangster State, by Savvas Kalèndéridès

On May 2, 2018, a Turkish citizen named Musa Alerik, a worker in the municipality of Adrianople, passed by mistake into the Greek territory, in the area of Kastanies, and so got arrested by the guard of the nearby outpost. The impression immediately created was that Musa Alerik's case was "ideal" for Greece to handle it on the basis of reciprocity and ensure the release of the two Greek soldiers arrested on Thursday, March 1, because they had entered by mistake into the Turkish territory. (...)

The Good Friday Massacre: World…We Are All Palestinians Now!

… When Darkness and Disorder Began to Reign in a Kingdom…
There Appeared the Loyal Ministers.

— The Tao Teh Ching

Eighteen more Palestinians were unapologetically murdered this past “Good Friday” by the Israeli military. They were unarmed. They were on their own land. They were desperate.  They screamed their desperation as they marched. Then, they shouted their daily reality of personal horrors too close to Israel’s attention. So, they were killed.

These innocents were shot like fish in a barrel: No place to hide, no place to run, no chance of escape. The hunters all around them. Easy targets. In what now seems like a national sport, Israel has picked up the pace beyond tormenting Palestine…because it can!

For the record, it is important to accurately understand the current Israeli imposed rules of engagement for this latest round of unjustified violence. A synopsis is in order:

As any rational person should know well, Israel has been slowly — since the complete blockade of Gaza eleven years ago — torturing, by choking, what little is left to be stolen from Palestine. Thanks to the Israel-friendly inhabitants in the US White House, Israel has been given carte blanche to increase this inhuman stranglehold. The new US/Israeli policy towards Palestine holds the draconian view that any Palestinian love for their nation, their futures, their health, their families, and their happiness can be wiped away. Israel truly believes it can change the fundamental human mind of all of Palestine…if their imposed arbitrary torture and their killings are sufficient.

Beyond this increasing isolation, deprivation and degradation of Gaza and Palestine and the military takeover of the West Bank for more illegal Israeli settlements, the Likudists that dominate both Israeli and American politics, have managed to require their US president to hand them the Palestinian capital of Jerusalem as a gift for his ascendancy. Strangely, both these antagonists were then surprised that the Palestinians did not find this departure from history an acceptable US decision.

Despite having slowly seized, coerced or purchased 90% (95% if you count the Golan Heights) of original Palestine since the inception of Israel in 1948, suddenly sensing trouble, the IDF next declared a 350-meter no-go zone within the borders of what they had not already taken from Palestine. With their futures sinking like a bag of kittens wantonly cast adrift, direct action within what remains of Palestine was understandable. On March 30 “Land Day,” an annual commemoration of the deaths of six Arab citizens of Israel killed by Israeli security forces during demonstrations over government land confiscations in northern Israel in 1976, Hamas called for the start of a march called, “The Day of Return.” In protest they marched, some 17,000 strong, towards the border: To their border… right up to that fence.

Well, not quite.

One, two, three, four, five…eighteen…they were murdered. The videos do not lie. Bullets from the 100 Israeli snipers not being sufficient enough, however, a tank was used to blow to pieces a distant lonely farmer who was out of rifle-shot. Why? Not because they dared to visit the DMZ border zone. Not because they threw rocks that could never reach the fence. Not because the petrol bombs and burning tires of this desperate protest were hurled ineffectively in the direction of the thirty-foot-high, electrified, steel fence.

No. These little fish were killed for one simple, nay fundamental, reason: They refused to accept their fate. They would not change their minds. So…an example had to be made.

Are We Not All, Today, Palestinians?

“Resistance is futile.” That is the message of the IDF this week. It is also clearly implied within new US foreign policy designed to bring the Palestine, and particularly Gaza, to its knees. America considers this increased horror the means to a peaceful end to the bitter conflict of decades. This policy of delusion, however, too clearly echoes existing US foreign policy across the globe. That same threatening message is certainly explicit in too much of what is wrong with our world today. The arrogant Israeli horrors that are ongoing at this border protest are really just an extension of a collective worldwide US foreign policy that demands acquiescence and allegiance. Or Else!

Is resistance futile? In this, America is forcing everyone worldwide to become a Palestinian.

Take as example the Israeli military Court decision which met in secret to send 17 year-old Palestinian protester, Ahed Tamimi, to join hundreds of other convicted children in an Israeli prison for eight months. Her crime?  Not, that the IDF had just marched into her home. Not that her cousin had just been shot in the face by the IDF for throwing stones in their direction. No, her crime was that she did not willingly accept these horrors. She resisted; slapping the two soldiers for what they had done. This opinion was echoed by her lawyer, Gaby Lasky, who stated after the trial:

They want to deter other Palestinian youth from resisting occupation.

So, because she refused to accept being witness to this arbitrary horror, one that should shock the conscience, she is thus guilty of… resisting.

Take heed.

One look at the failures of recent attempts at, and enthusiasm for, national democracy seems to clearly bolster this point. Take Greece. It took less than 150 days for the fledging Syriza party to go from achieving a stunning legitimately democratic victory to allowing the whole country and its future to be functionally overthrown by the feared Troika: the IMF, EC and ECB. The country was thus sold off for pennies on the Euro merely to obtain more debt. Greece is now economically and politically beholden to Brussels as is their treasonous president, Alexis Tsipras, the usual slippery politician who single-handedly (well, Finance Minister, Varoufakis certainly helped) sold Greece, his own government , and his soul willingly to a higher authority that controls virtually all of the future of Greece. A future that is already far worse, and of which they have no control.

Like the Palestinians?

Ukraine is an easy one. The US admits that it funded the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych’s presidential democratic election victory and that it has recently sent massive amounts of new high-powered weapons for a spring offensive of horror and wanton killing. America, its hand-picked president Poroshenko and his neo-Nazi themed government, hope to break the will of the eastern Ukrainians in the Donbass region using increased violence, and bringing them, too, to their knees and stealing their future.

Like the Palestinians?

Then there was Spain and the Catalonia election, failed, sadly, before it all got started due the leadership’s lack of understanding — like Greece — of the true strength of their adversaries within the EU and Spain. Theirs was a drastic overestimation of their true political power. Post-election victory, the result has been a disaster with independence referendum president, Carles Puigdemont, also being arrested with obvious EU complicity in Germany this week. Catalonian resistance has been again squashed, its leaders taken, its people told to go home, return to work…or else. Yes, do as they are told by a foreign governing body of immoral politicians that they did not choose to elect.

Next, consider the UK and Brexit, the monumental, shocking and successful democratic vote for resistance to foreign hegemony. Like Ukraine, Greece, and Catalonia the primal forces of nature are doing their very best to ensure that democracy, here too, will fail. As described in a June 27, 2016 article, Brexit was an easy target for delay and tactical overthrow well before it went to a vote. Almost two years later, Brexit is arguable, as predicted, further away from becoming a reality than before the vote because of the duality of the true allegiances of the UK politicians. So, who really holds power over the people of  Britain?  Politicians.  The House of Lords. The EU. Certainly not the people.

Like the Palestinians?

A Mind Programmed to Violence: The American Foreign Export.

The cause, the epicenter, of this mental malady that demands subservience at the end of the gun is the American Congress and its foreign and domestic policies of obedience. The fault here also lies with the American public’s tacit willingness to accept this increasingly authoritarian rule without complaint.

One would have thought that in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and the proven revelations of DNC corruption and Hillary Clinton criminal complicity, Americans would well know that they, too, do not have an opposition political party. Add the recent documentation of FBI and CIA collusion in the same conspiracy to bring HRC to power, while burying her proven crimes, and it is indeed a wonder that voters are once again excitedly heading off to the slaughter of the 2018 mid-terms.

Of course, few Americans see reality for themselves, but evidence abounds and with American foreign policy embracing, excusing and justifying these and a growing list of imposed horrors upon the conscience, the world would do well to understand from whence these are spawned: A country where violence and killing seem endemic. Where an artificially elected congress likes it that way.

Take the increase in police killings of unarmed citizens. For many, these US citizen’s resistance amounted to having their back turned, their hands in the air and/or running away. The US is certainly number one is this horror as well as in the least number of police convictions for same. The current White House marionette has already publicly embraced police brutality. Protests against these extra-judicial killings are paltry at best. So, the killings increase yearly.

Since taking office, Trump not just guaranteed that the Guantanamo Bay torture center will stay open. He has provided massive new and undisclosed funding for it. Ensuring that it will soon be at full capacity, he then named arguably the two most righteous, self-serving zealots of arbitrary torture and unabashed horror, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, to help with this goal: showcasing America’s hatred of human resistance.

Philip Giraldi, in an article on March 22, 2018, noted this point:

… every change reflects an inexorable move to the right in foreign policy… so he [Trump] is inevitably being directed by individuals who have long American global leadership by force if necessary.

Just in case, back in the USA Trump re-authorized the distribution of returning Mid-East military hardware to be distributed to towns across the country. Despite the best attempts of US media complicity, propaganda, and censorship, the government knows the people are slowly waking up to their own dismal futures. To this government and its military, it seems only a matter of time before the Second Amendment and the US military square-off against each other. They are preparing to crush this resistance.

Like the Palestinians?

But the American mind, one with a slowly building penchant for violence, helps to allow Trump and his monocracy in Congress to continue to get their unchallenged path to war by playing on this mindset. This is becoming endemic in the American mind; one that enjoys guns and killing. Spend just one hour watching American TV commercials and the routine level of violence shown via movie trailers, video games featuring ultra-violence and US military armed forces recruitment adverts is hour after hour like no country on earth. Congress and the NRA legislatively propagate this blood-lust, using America’s entrenched love for guns and killing as the misunderstood base rationale to increase the US budget for any and all the tools that kill.

This was sorely evidenced this past year when the US House and Senate passed legislation as an attachment that allowed hunters to not only kill wolves and bears, but to increase the thrill of the hunt, this Congress said it would be OK for these same hunters to now kill new born wolf puppies and bear cubs, too. So, the true morality of these humans was shown clearly. Despite every US senator being individually contacted by this reporter with the additional horrifying fact that this barbaric earmark of legislation would also allow these hunters to kill the pups and cubs during springtime and in their mother’s dens, the bill passed easily without any debate regarding this new degradation of the American conscience.

But, they had a good reason, as shown in their staff letters of reply, to abandon their conscience.

The earmark that all but doomed the North American wolf back to extinction after decades of recovery, was tucked away in a spending bill. As goes the US budget year after year, this was, in majority, a military spending bill. It needed Republican votes to pass. The price for one single lowly congressional vote, dangled by Alaska state rep., Don Young, was to allow tiny new-borns to be slaughtered at will. In the face of a military that needs to be fed and congressmen who need money and have a vote (soul) for sale; the wolves never had a chance.

Defenseless wolves or slaughtered Palestinians must be considered an example to the world. A call to action. Compared to a tranquilized US sponsored first world that ignores the real plight of the remaining civilized world around them, worldwide Palestinians know well what these disaffected and apathetic populations refuse to admit: That election results mean nothing, their government officials are controlled by others, their future and their lives are at the whim of American corporate economic interests, and… their happiness in life is of no concern to politicians at all.

Just like Palestinians?

Yes, the American man on the street will proudly tell you that his country is #1 in the world in everything. Of course, his argument does not include the fact that America is also number one in: Mass killings, Prison incarceration, police killings of civilians, personal debt per person, share of national debt per person, military expenditure, private military contractors, money printing (QE), manipulating elections, overthrowing governments, drone killings of the innocent, money donated to Israel, weapons given to Israel or UN vetoes of humanitarian resolutions, et al.

This military madness was all too evident in the recent US spending bill of mere weeks ago. Yes, the military had its budget demands as did the Israel lobby within Congress. In a stunning example that proves who is really in charge in Washington, the Congress within the $1.3 trillion spending bill incredibly approved  $15.5 billion extra for the US military despite it having only requested a paltry $654.6 Billion.  Also, Israel was  granted an additional $$558.4 million over their own budget request of $147.4 million. The total of $705.8 million is an increase of $105.4 million over what congress bequeathed to them last year.

Of course, there was not a penny extra for any of the social services that were gutted in the first two rounds of budget ping pong.

Still, America is number one? This irrational mind is a tribute to America’s media. This also highlights the one most threatening fact about the American understanding of its role in the world: Willful, delusional ignorance. One that increasingly suffers at the hands of their politicians yet cheers on the cause of their own demise. As an American journalist, Robert Bridge, noted this week:

This apathetic attitude on the part of so many Americans to this wave of death and destruction against foreigners in foreign lands suggests that any semblance of an anti-war consciousness has left the building.

More so than in any country, in the US fact and truth are so easily accepted as lies. This shows a madness deep inside.  A failure of the mind, one that watches passively at the violent destruction of so much of the world, at the hands of their own country, yet fails to notice that their own homeland’s myopic, insular, flag-draped future is also, piece by piece, month by month, being removed from their grasp; until there is nothing left.

Just like Palestine.

When US Foreign Policy Meets Criminal Insanity.

The weekend after the Good Friday Massacre, Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, not only proved charges that he and his Likudist party are criminally insane (“a depraved indifference to human life”) and guilty of genocidal apartheid, he brashly showcased to the world a brand new crime of conscience: Criminal Hypocrisy.

Said Netanyahu’s office in a tweet:

The most moral army in the world will not be lectured by those who have indiscriminately bombed civilian populations for years.”

His sick joke failed to note, of course, Israel’s actual inclusion in the club of nations without consciences such as its US, EU, and UK patrons, and an incredible new allegiance with their new BFF, the Saudi Arabian, Mohammed Bin Salman. All collectively have the blood of millions on their hands. Distortion of this kind by Netanyahu shows the depravity of the mind aforementioned. As if these words were not enough to prove the point, IDF leader Avigdor Leiberman removed all doubt, stating with glee that the Israeli troops were “doing their job” and that all involved in the slaughter “deserved commendations“.

Only the insanity of US inspired military arrogance can utter such rot. Only those of a similar mind will believe it.

These self-serving — and false — statements belie the accurate casualty figures of the two previous Israeli inspired wars in Gaza and three in Lebanon when previously Israel felt the need to “cut the grass.”  When it comes to war, however, the actual facts forever prove a very different result of Israeli army tactics that can best be summed up in one word: chickenshit!

Casualty figures and the eyes of the world show without doubt that Israel never picks a fair fight, preferring civilian deaths to IDF body bags. Despite the world’s seventh largest military, Israel will not fight any Army without full US financial, military, munitions, intelligence, foreign policy, and UN assistance. Its massive, American funded military, prefers to attack the defenseless, the innocent and the civilian. This was shown clearly in daily TV horrors during the 2006 Lebanon War and the 2014 Gaza war. To argue otherwise is madness.

Worse, Israel leaves the on-the-ground killing to its proxies in the US, UK, EU nations and Saudi Arabia, nations that regularly use their national coffers and militaries, not for their own people, but to affect what, in reality, provides only a positive geopolitical bearing for Israel; not their own countries.

In doing so, it is the political leaders not the citizens of these many countries, and far too many others, that have almost thoroughly sold out their voters and their country to be co-opted into the embrace of America’s pro- Israel/pro-war modern doctrine; one that increases in its threat to humanity with each and every Trump cabinet replacement.

The list of countries similarly affected, as are the Palestinians, by US foreign policy, beyond those referenced here, is so long and well established that one must pause in the task and reflect: why it is necessary to write it again? If the world, the Palestinian world beyond Gaza and the West Bank, has not, after all the worldwide horror, taken note on their own, it is not worth the effort. For thus they have not, despite all this evidence, realized their kinship with the beleaguered Palestinians of the world, and this is indeed their own madness.

This madness predictably continued this past week in the aftermath of just one day of the Good Friday protests.

An investigation was called for by a special session of the UN Security Council, which the US vetoed. Going further, an Israel IDF spokesperson stated that there would be no investigation on their part. This is not surprising from a new world order that makes no apologies, much less admission, for its war crimes against humanity.

Amazingly, an IDF spokesperson did exactly that, publicly and disgustingly admitting, via Twitter, Israel’s guilt when issuing his proud statement:

Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.

Nothing was ever so clear.

Back in America, the next few weeks will see Trump, his foreign policy, and the American people’s attention have their own Land Day style protest problem come to their own border. Approximately 1700 people are walking directly towards Trump’s symbolic wall. The majority are desperate refugees from Honduras, a country destroyed many times over by malicious US control that continues to inflict daily military horrors on its people with US weapons. The recent Honduran presidential election was overthrown by the US collusion in a very suspect recount when the US-backed presidential candidate initially lost by too slim of a margin. Now the country is in turmoil, killing routine, and these Honduran Palestinians have vowed to walk right up to Trump’s US border wall and demand asylum. Since the US directly caused their plight this would seem a fair request.

However, considering the true nature of the intent of US foreign policy, their example of resistance will have to be quashed. This will certainly be the case since April 3, 2018, a publicly nervous US president Trump authorized the US military to take control of the US southern border. What will transpire upon the refugee’s arrival will be an interesting test — if Mexico doesn’t stop it first. How many feet before the border will these refugees be allowed before being shot in cold blood? Will the US ship them all back to uncertain death in their home countries as the Israelis are doing to the black North African refugees now?

A good part of the world too well understands our current relationship to our national politicians. Those that have experienced or witnessed their horrors. The rest needs to awaken quickly.

A battle now rages worldwide. To merely witness it is to perish. The shrinking civilized world of correct and moral conscience is in a fight against those who believe that they can infect the mind of the whole planet with the same madness that drives them to climb over the backs of all others onwards to their own oblivion, as if this were a cherished goal.

This is the mind that believes in one fundamental: The rest of us? We are all Palestinians.

It is time to resist the temptation to do nothing. It is time to resist this madness that would numb us into willfully watching our own demise. It is time to march right up to walls of power across the globe and cast these world leaders out from their citadels. It is time to tell them, “Je Suis…Palestine!”

Just like Palestinians.

Turkey announces its preparations for invading Greece

On 17 February President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered a speech on Operation Olive Branch (the current invasion of Syria by the Turkish army) at the Provincial Congress of Eskişehir of the AKP. He declared the following: “Those who think that we have erased from our hearts the lands of from which we withdrew in tears, 100 years ago, are quite mistaken. On ever occasion we say time and time again, that Syria, Iraq and other places on the map of our hearts are no different from our own (...)

Turkey announces its preparations for invading Greece

On 17 February President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered a speech on Operation Olive Branch (the current invasion of Syria by the Turkish army) at the Provincial Congress of Eskişehir of the AKP. He declared the following: “Those who think that we have erased from our hearts the lands of from which we withdrew in tears, 100 years ago, are quite mistaken. On ever occasion we say time and time again, that Syria, Iraq and other places on the map of our hearts are no different from our own (...)