Category Archives: United Kingdom

Labour: anti-Semitic or just resisting occupation?

Today there’s an important addition to the group of MPs defecting from the UK Labour Party: Joan Ryan.

Important because Ryan is Chair of Labour Friends of Israel. She recently lost a no-confidence vote in her constituency so her days as an MP are probably numbered anyway.

Are we beginning to see an orchestrated drip-drip of resignations following the departure of ‘The Insignificant Seven’, as the Morning Star called them, at the start of the week? Their destructive intent is clear for all to see from their dizzy remarks.

In a statement Labour Friends of Israel said:

Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, anti-Jewish hatred and demonisation of the world’s only Jewish state has been allowed to flourish. The politics of the hard left represent a threat to the security of the UK, to our traditional alliances and to the stability of the Middle East and its only democracy, the state of Israel.

We will continue to work both within the Labour party and with like-minded, independent MPs on the left and centre left to promote a two-state solution, to combat anti-Zionist antisemitism and counter the delegitimisation of Israel. Joan Ryan MP will remain in her position as our Parliamentary Chair.

Israel, of course, is no Western-style democracy. It’s an ethnocracy, that is a deeply ethnic power structure behind a thin democratic veneer.

Joan Ryan leaves with a long, ranting attack on the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn in particular. Over the past three years, she says, the Labour party under Corbyn “has become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism. This problem simply did not exist in the party before his election as leader…. I have been horrified, appalled and angered to see the Labour leadership’s dereliction of duty in the face of this evil….

“I cannot remain a member of the Labour party while its leadership allows Jews to be abused with impunity and the victims of such abuse to be ridiculed, have their motives questioned, and their integrity called into doubt.

“I cannot remain a member of the Labour party while its leadership singles out for demonization and delegitimization the world’s only Jewish state.

“And I cannot remain a member of the Labour party while this requires me to suggest that I believe Jeremy Corbyn – a man who has presided over the culture of anti-Jewish racism and hatred for Israel which now afflicts my former party – is fit to be Prime Minister of this country. He is not.”

This “singling out” of Israel for criticism is an old refrain. Israel does a good job of delegitmizing itself by its contempt for international law and cruel subjugation of Palestinians whose lands they have stolen – and continue to steal. And people of conscience single out Israel because these unforgivable crimes are going on in the Holy Land, territory which is sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. It was also a British mandate and in 1948 we abandoned it in an unholy mess. We have a responsibility to make amends.

Ms Ryan complains about “a revolving door disciplinary policy with those accused of antisemitism briefly suspended and then quietly readmitted to the party”. Ken Livingstone will be interested to hear that. He was suspended “indefinitely” from the party nearly 3 years ago. Those accused of anti-Semitism are typically subjected to administrative suspension for around 6 months during which their reputation and public standing are shattered and they are hampered in their work if councillors or MPs. Life is made hell. And if the disciplinary hearing finds the charges baseless there are no consequences for the vexatious accuser.

And she grumbles about the party’s refusal to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. “Jeremy Corbyn had but one priority: to preserve the right of antisemites to label Israel a ‘racist endeavour’. That priority tells me all I need to know about his fitness to lead the Labour party and our country.” This remark is particularly stupid. Several legal experts have pointed out how the IHRA definition contradicts existing laws and conventions guaranteeing freedom of expression and would cause endless trouble if used in an attempt to punish.

Furthermore the Israel project was from the start – before Balfour even – unashamedly racist in purpose as demonstrated yet again only a few months ago when Israel enacted nation state laws that make its non-Jewish citizens distinctly second-class.

The Ryan rant goes on to include remarks like these:

  • “The Jewish community has made clear that it believes a Jeremy Corbyn government would be an existential threat to it. I will not campaign to put such a government into office.”
  • The mindset that tolerates antisemitism “is one that would ostracise the Middle East’s only democracy in favour of the Ayatollahs in Tehran: a regime which tramples on human rights, has the blood of tens of thousands of Syrians on its hands, and seeks to dominate and subjugate the region and impose its theocratic brutal rule.”
  • “And it is one that would abandon our friends in Europe in favour of appeasing Vladimir Putin….”
  • “Nine years of Tory government have caused enormous damage to my constituency and the country. Held hostage by the hard right of her party, the Prime Minister is now preparing to inflict a crippling hard Brexit – one that will rob the young of their future. Jeremy Corbyn and the Stalinist clique that surrounds him offers no real opposition to any of this.”

Under the influence

So, of the eight ex-Labour MPs now huddled together in the Independence Group six are signed up Friends of Israel. Why would any politician in receipt of a salary from the British taxpayer wish to promote the interests of a foreign military power – and a belligerent, racist one at that? Why are they allowed to? After all, doesn’t that breach the second of the Seven Principles of Public Life, namely Integrity – “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.”?

But put that to the watchdog, the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and you’ll get nowhere. Eleven years ago twenty senior professionals wrote to the CSPL about the undue influence of the Israel lobby at the heart of British government. They reminded the Standards Committee how Friends of Israel had embedded itself in the British political establishment with the stated purpose of promoting Israel’s interests in our Parliament and bending British policy.  The various Friends of Israel groups had gone to great lengths to influence those in power a good many of whom, it seemed, had reached their high positions with FoI help. The network acted as a sort of parliamentary freemasonry. The political director of Conservative Friends of Israel at the time claimed that with over 2,000 members and registered supporters alongside 80 percent of the Conservative MPs, it was the largest affiliated group in the party.

Its website stated that the CFI “strives to support the Conservative Party at all available opportunities. In the run up to the 2005 General Election… CFI supported candidates up and down the country. As candidates are now being continuously selected for target seats, CFI has developed a special programme of weekly briefings, events with speakers and a chance to participate in delegations to Israel.” It also had a ‘Fast Track’ group for Conservative parliamentary candidates fighting target marginal seats. The political director himself was seeking election to Parliament. If successful where would his loyalty lie?

Senior Conservatives tried to justify these activities by insisting that Israel was “a force for good in the world” and “in the battle for the values that we stand for, for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together” [my emphasis].

Eleven years on, we can see what “good” Israel has been in the world and what impact the British government’s “viewpoint” ever had on the Israeli government’s criminal conduct.

The best thing Corbyn could do is shut down the Labour Party’s Friends of Israel operation. If people want to form such associations let them do it outside Westminster. They should not be allowed to flourish within any parliamentary party.

As for the Conservative Party’s flag-waving for Israel, words fail.

Anti-semitism is Cover for a Much Deeper Divide in Britain’s Labour Party

The announcement by seven MPs from the UK Labour Party on Monday that they were breaking away and creating a new parliamentary faction marked the biggest internal upheaval in a British political party in nearly 40 years, when the SDP split from Labour.

On Wednesday, they were joined by an eighth Labour MP, Joan Ryan, and three Conservative MPs. There are predictions more will follow.

With the UK teetering on the brink of crashing out of the European Union with no deal on Brexit, the founders of the so-called Independent Group made reference to their opposition to Brexit.

The chief concern cited for the split by the eight Labour MPs, however, was a supposed “anti-semitism crisis” in the party.

The breakaway faction seemingly agrees that anti-semitism has become so endemic in the party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader more than three years ago that they were left with no choice but to quit.

Corbyn, it should be noted, is the first leader of a major British party to explicitly prioritise the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s continuing belligerent occupation of the Palestinian territories.

‘Sickeningly racist’?

Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP who has highlighted what she sees as an anti-semitism problem under Corbyn, led the charge, stating at the Independent Group’s launch that she had reached “the sickening conclusion” that Labour was “institutionally racist”.

She and her allies claim she has been hounded out of the party by “anti-semitic bullying”. Berger has suffered online abuse and death threats from rightwing extremists and neo-Nazis.

In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle, the former Labour MP said the Independent Group would provide the Jewish community with a “political home that they, like much of the rest of the country, are now looking for”.

In a plea to keep the party together, deputy leader Tom Watson issued a video in which he criticised his own party for being too slow to tackle anti-semitism. He added: “Time is short for us to confront the scale of the problem and meet the consequences, to keep others from leaving”.

Ruth Smeeth, another Jewish Labour MP who may yet join a later wave of departures, was reported to have broken down in tears at a parliamentary party meeting following the split, as she called for tougher action on anti-semitism.

Two days later, as she split from Labour, Ryan accused the party of being “infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism”.

Hatred claims undercut

The timing of the defections was strange, occurring shortly after the Labour leadership revealed the findings of an investigation into complaints of anti-semitism in the party. These were the very complaints that MPs such as Berger have been citing as proof of the party’s “institutional racism”.

And yet, the report decisively undercut their claims – not only of endemic anti-semitism in Labour, but of any significant problem at all.

That echoed an earlier report by the Commons home affairs committee, which found there was “no reliable, empirical evidence” that Labour had more of an anti-semitism problem than any other British political party.

Nonetheless, the facts seem to be playing little or no part in influencing the anti-semitism narrative. This latest report was thus almost entirely ignored by Corbyn’s opponents and by the mainstream media.

It is, therefore, worth briefly examining what the Labour Party’s investigation discovered.

Over the previous 10 months, 673 complaints had been filed against Labour members over alleged anti-semitic behaviour, many based on online comments. In a third of those cases, insufficient evidence had been produced.

The 453 other allegations represented 0.08 percent of the 540,000-strong Labour membership. Hardly “endemic” or “institutional”, it seems.

Intemperate language

Those figures, it should be remembered, have almost certainly been inflated by the efforts of Corbyn’s opponents to trawl through Labour members’ social media accounts in search of comments, some of them predating Corbyn’s leadership, that could be portrayed as anti-semitic.

Intemperate language flared especially in 2014 – before Corbyn became leader – when Israel launched a military operation on Gaza that killed large numbers of Palestinian civilians, including many hundreds of children

Certainly, it is unclear how many of those reportedly anti-semitic comments concern not prejudice towards Jews, but rather outspoken criticism of the state of Israel, which was redefined as anti-semitic last year by Labour, under severe pressure from MPs such as Berger and Ryan and Jewish lobby groups, such as the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement.

Seven of the 11 examples of anti-semitism associated with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition adopted by Labour concern Israel. That includes describing Israel as a “racist endeavour”, even though Israel passed a basic law last year stripping the fifth of its population who are not Jewish of any right to self-determination, formally creating two classes of citizen.

Illustrating the problem Labour has created for itself as a result, some of the most high-profile suspensions and expulsions have actually targeted Jewish members of the party who identify as anti-Zionist – that is, they consider Israel a racist state. They include Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni, Glyn Secker and Cyril Chilson.

Another Jewish member, Moshe Machover, a professor emeritus at the University of London, had to be reinstated after a huge outcry among members at his treatment by the party.

Unthinking prejudice

Alan Maddison, who has been conducting statistical research on anti-semitism for a pro-Corbyn Jewish group, Jewish Voice for Labour, put the 0.08 percent figure into its wider social and political context this week

He quoted the findings of a large survey of anti-semitic attitudes published by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in 2017. It found that 30 percent of respondents from various walks of society agreed with one or more of eight anti-semitic views, ranging from stereotypes such as “Jews think they are better than other people” to Holocaust denial.

However, lead researcher Daniel Staetsky concluded that in most cases this was evidence of unthinking prejudice rather than conscious bigotry. Four-fifths of those who exhibited a degree of anti-semitism also agreed with at least one positive statement about Jewish people.

This appears to be the main problem among the tiny number of Labour Party members identified in complaints, and is reflected in the predominance of warnings about conduct rather than expulsions and suspensions.

Far-right bigotry

Another of the institute’s findings poses a particular problem for Corbyn’s opponents, who argue that the Labour leader has imported anti-semitism into the party by attracting the “hard left”. Since he was elected, Labour membership has rocketed.

Even if it were true that Corbyn and his supporters are on the far-left – a highly questionable assumption, made superficially plausible only because Labour moved to the centre-right under Tony Blair in the late 1990s – the institute’s research pulls the rug out from under Corbyn’s critics.

It discovered that across the political spectrum, conscious hatred of Jews was very low, and that it was exhibited in equal measure from the “very left-wing” to the “fairly right-wing”. The only exception, as one might expect, was on the “very right-wing”, where virulent anti-semitism was much more prevalent.

That finding was confirmed last week by surveys that showed a significant rise in violent, anti-semitic attacks across Europe as far-right parties make inroads in many member states. A Guardian report noted that the “figures show an overwhelming majority of violence against Jews is perpetrated by far-right supporters”.

Supporters of overseas war

So what is the basis for concerns about the Labour Party being mired in supposed “institutional anti-semitism” since it moved from the centre to the left under Corbyn, when the figures and political trends demonstrate nothing of the sort?

A clue may be found in the wider political worldview of the eight MPs who have broken from Labour.

All but two are listed as supporters of the parliamentary “Labour Friends of Israel” (LFI) faction. Further, Berger is a former director of that staunchly pro-Israel lobby group, and Ryan is its current chair, a position the group says she will hold onto, despite no longer being a Labour MP.

So extreme are the LFI’s views on Israel that it sought to exonerate Israel of a massacre last year, in which its snipers shot dead many dozens of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza in a single day. Faced with a social media backlash, it quietly took down the posts.

The eight MPs’ voting records – except for Gavin Shuker, for whom the picture is mixed – show them holding consistently hawkish foreign policy positions that are deeply antithetical to Corbyn’s approach to international relations.

They either “almost always” or “generally” backed “combat operations overseas”; those who were MPs at the time supported the 2003 Iraq war; and they all opposed subsequent investigations into the Iraq war.

Committed Friends of Israel

In one sense, the breakaway group’s support for Labour Friends of Israel may not be surprising, and indicates why Corbyn is facing such widespread trouble from within his own party. Dozens of Labour MPs are members of the group, including Tom Watson and Ruth Smeeth.

Smeeth, one of those at the forefront of accusing Corbyn of fostering anti-semitism in Labour, is also a former public affairs director of BICOM, another stridently pro-Israel lobby group.

None of these MPs were concerned enough with the LFI’s continuing vocal support for Israel as it has shifted to the far-right under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have stepped down from the group.

Nor was their committed support for Labour Friends of Israel shaken by a 2017 undercover Al-Jazeera documentary investigating the Israel lobby’s tactics in the UK. It revealed that the LFI and the Jewish Labour Movement were both covertly working closely with an Israeli embassy official, Shai Masot, to damage Corbyn.

In fact, the secret filming recorded Ryan inventing a false claim of anti-semitism against a Labour party member.

She also admitted on camera that she was in almost daily contact with Masot, and was filmed speaking to Masot about £1 million he had secured on the LFI’s behalf to fly Labour MPs on junkets to Israel as part of recruiting them to the Israeli cause.

‘Wrong kind of Jews’

Anti-semitism has taken centre stage in the manoeuvring against Corbyn, despite there being no evidence of significant hatred against Jews in the party. Increasingly, it seems, tangible abuse of Jews is of little interest unless it can be related to Corbyn.

The markedly selective interest in anti-semitism in the Corbyn context among the breakaway MPs and supposed anti-semitism watchdogs has been starkly on show for some time.

Notably, none expressed concern at the media mauling of a left-wing, satirical Jewish group called Jewdas when Corbyn was widely attacked for meeting “the wrong kind of Jews”. In fact, leading Labour figures, including the Jewish Labour Movement, joined in the abuse.

And increasingly in this febrile atmosphere, there has been an ever-greater indulgence of the “right kind of anti-semitism” – when it is directed at Corbyn supporters.

A troubling illustration was provided on the TV show Good Morning Britain this week, when Tom Bower was invited on to discuss his new unauthorised biography of Corbyn, in which he accuses him of anti-semitism. The hosts looked on demurely as Bower, a Jewish journalist, defamed fellow Jewish journalist Michael Segalov as a “self-hating Jew” for defending Corbyn on the show.

Revenge of the Blairites

So what is the significance of the fact that the Labour MPs who have been most outspoken in criticising Corbyn – those who helped organise a 2016 leadership challenge against him, and those who are now rumoured to be considering joining the breakaway faction – are heavily represented on the list of MPs supporting LFI?

For them, it seems, vigorous support for Israel is not only a key foreign policy matter, but a marker of their political priorities and worldview – one that starkly clashes with the views of Corbyn and a majority of the Labour membership.

Anti-semitism has turned out to be the most useful – and damaging – weapon to wield against the Labour leader for a variety of reasons close to the hearts of the holdouts from the Blair era, who still dominate the parliamentary party and parts of the Labour bureaucracy.

Perhaps most obviously, the Blairite wing of the party is still primarily loyal to a notion that Britain should at all costs maintain its transatlantic alliance with the United States in foreign policy matters. Israel is a key issue for those on both sides of the Atlantic who see that state as a projection of Western power into the oil-rich Middle East and romanticise Israel as a guarantor of Western values in a “barbaric” region.

Corbyn’s prioritising of Palestinian rights threatens to overturn a core imperial value to which the Blairites cling.

Tarred and feathered

But it goes further. Anti-semitism has become a useful stand-in for the deep differences in a domestic political culture between the Blairites, on one hand, and Corbyn and the wider membership, on the other.

A focus on anti-semitism avoids the right-wing MPs having to admit much wider grievances with Corbyn’s Labour that would probably play far less well not only with Labour members, but with the broader British electorate.

As well as their enthusiasm for foreign wars, the Blairites support the enrichment of a narrow neo-liberal elite, are ambivalent about austerity policies, and are reticent at returning key utilities to public ownership. All of this can be neatly evaded and veiled by talking up anti-semitism.

But the utility of anti-semitism as a weapon with which to beat Corbyn and his supporters – however unfairly – runs deeper still.

The Blairites view allegations of anti-Jewish racism as a trump card. Calling someone an anti-semite rapidly closes down all debate and rational thought. It isolates, then tars and feathers its targets. No one wants to be seen to be associated with an anti-semite, let alone defend them.

Weak hand exposed

That is one reason why anti-semitism smears have been so maliciously effective against anti-Zionist Jews in the party and used with barely a murmur of protest – or in most cases, even recognition that Jews are being suspended and expelled for opposing Israel’s racist policies towards Palestinians.

This is a revival of the vile “self-hating Jew” trope that Israel and its defenders concocted decades ago to intimidate Jewish critics.

The Blairites in Labour, joined by the ruling Conservative Party, the mainstream media and pro-Israel lobby groups, have selected anti-semitism as the terrain on which to try to destroy a Corbyn-led Labour Party, because it is a battlefield in which the left stands no hope of getting a fair hearing – or any hearing at all.

But paradoxically, the Labour breakaway group may have inadvertently exposed the weakness of its hand. The eight MPs have indicated that they will not run in by-elections, and for good reason: it is highly unlikely they would stand a chance of winning in any of their current constituencies outside the Labour Party.

Their decision will also spur moves to begin deselecting those Labour MPs who are openly trying to sabotage the party – and the members’ wishes – from within.

That may finally lead to a clearing out of the parliamentary baggage left behind from the Blair era, and allow Labour to begin rebuilding itself as a party ready to deal with the political, social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The Attack on Facebook is not for our Benefit

It’s some achievement to get me sympathising with Mark Zuckerberg. But denunciations from a powerful combination of a parliamentary committee in the UK and self-appointed watchdogs of the new media like the Guardian almost managed it.

The digital, culture, media and sport select committee finally published a damning report into Facebook after an 18-month investigation, as reported today by the Guardian.

The solutions demanded by the committee, however, are intended not to make Facebook and new media more accountable, as the report claims, but to reassert the dominance of the British state in surveilling the public and revive the declining fortunes of the more trusted old media corporations, the Guardian very much included.

And lurking behind it all is the terror of the political-media class at the spread of a new kind of political insurgency – a rejection of the current status quo for war and neoliberal pillage – given voice on new media platforms that is readily dismissed, by both the committee and the Guardian, as “fake news”.

What is really at issue becomes clear the moment one starts to unpick the report. It intentionally conflates three entirely different problems, muddling them together to win support for all three.

The aim is to hammer Facebook into submission, not for our benefit – as is desperately needed – but so that the state and media establishment can “take back control”.

Let’s look at the report’s conclusions.

First, it rightly accuses Facebook of being “digital gangsters”, harvesting private information so that it can be sold. Facebook, the committee warns, has been monetising our private lives.

“Facebook continues to choose profit over data security, taking risks in order to prioritise their aim of making money from user data,” the report states.

It hardly needs pointing out that Facebook is a for-profit company that specialises in accumulating information, the details of our lives we willingly hand over.

It was inevitable that a global company providing a digital platform for sharing information between friends would get greedy and share that same information privately with those who wish to exploit us, whether commercially or politically.

Until data-sharing companies arose, the state and its security services had a near-monopoly on such covert surveillance. Think of all those CCTV cameras dotted along the high street. Or watch an episode of TV show The Hunted, where former police officers quickly hunt down members of the public on the run.

The parliamentary report sounds much less like a clarion call for our privacy to be respected than a threat to Facebook from the establishment over such information being spread around too much.

Because when this kind of data becomes too accessible, you risk unpredictable outcomes, like a Dominic Cummings using it to engineer victory in the Brexit referendum. And who knows, if this carries on, one day the Scottish nationalists might find a way to win independence from London rule.

Second, the committee is exercised by the fact that Facebook has created “market dominance” for itself to “crush rivals” and is “shutting them out of its systems to prevent them from competing with Facebook or its subsidiaries”.

Hmm, doesn’t that sound exactly like what companies are supposed to do in our neoliberal capitalist societies? After all, if we turn our attention to the old media for a moment, hasn’t Rupert Murdoch been allowed to create “market dominance”? Doesn’t he seek to “crush rivals”? Don’t all large companies try to “shut out” competitors? Why is it so bad only when Zuckerberg, does it?

Or is this not really about “market dominance”, but about a young upstart social media corporation replicating the economic models of the old media giants and nudging them into the long grass?

The problem is not that Facebook has market dominance, but that our economies are nowadays premised solely on the idea that a tiny number of corporations gain market dominance. Let’s challenge that idea, not single out Facebook.

Third, we get to the nub of what this is all about. The giveaway is in the report’s remit, as explained by the Guardian: it was set up in response to concerns “about the influence of false information and its ability to spread unscrutinised on social media”. Or as the paper describes it more pithily elsewhere, the committee was investigating “disinformation and fake news”.

The goal here is not just to ensure that the state regains control over our private information and that the old media regain their commercial  advantage.

More importantly still, the goal is that both get to control the political agenda, the ideological narrative. All that fearmongering about “Kremlin bots” and “fake news” on social media is designed to curtail dissidents voices, those who demur from the centrist – warmongering, planet-destroying, neoliberal – consensus.

The critical left – anything to the left of the Blairites, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – are being presented as politically toxic as the white-supremacist right. Both are viewed as equally a threat, as evidence of a dangerous populism, as the wild weeds sown by “fake news”.

The committee report is simply the latest hammer blow against the new media, with Facebook most prominent, to bring it into line, to fully subordinate it to the traditional political and media class.

Tom Watson, the Labour party’s deputy leader, and the man best placed to stab Corbyn in the back should the right moment arrive, is not even shy of making that clear: “If one thing is uniting politicians of all colours during this difficult time for our country, it is our determination to bring him [Zuckerberg] and his company into line.”

Facebook, of course, has no ideological objections to complying. It does not care about freedom of speech, or pluralism, only about its image and market position.

Karim Palant, the company’s UK public policy manager, happily responded: “We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee’s recommendation for electoral law reform.”

What holds it back from full compliance is not the damage that will be inflicted on our political freedoms from a crackdown on dissident views, or “fake news”, but the the economic pain it will incur if it hands back control of the digital data it has amassed.

Confronting the U.S./EU/NATO Axis of Domination

The hypocrisy and confusion on the issue of race and white supremacy revealed itself once again in the United States with a governor dressed in blackface and a decision by the Trump administration and supported by the European Union to execute a coup against the democratically elected government of Venezuela.

And while Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was outed as a racist when photos surfaced from his yearbook as a medical student in the 1980s that depicted him in either blackface or in a KKK outfit, the assumption that the U.S. and European Union had the right to determine the leadership of a nation in the global South escaped the same condemnation as a racist act of white supremacist power.

The liberal chattering class was quick to condemn this obvious expression of racism and call for Northam’s resignation. But as journalist Greg Palast points out, the attempts by the oligarchy in Venezuela to undermine the government is “at its heart, a furious backlash of the whiter (and wealthier) Venezuelans against their replacement by the larger Mestizo (mixed-race) poor. Which means that the intervention by the U.S. is an intervention in support of white power.

Yet liberals who pretended to be outraged by the racism of Northam and had lambasted Trump as a liar and incompetent who colluded with the Russians to influence the U.S. elections, gave their vocal and enthusiastic support for the Trump administration’s illegal intervention.

How can this be explained? What lesson must the colonized in the global South and the oppressed peoples and classes trapped in the nations of the North take from this unity of purpose between the neocons and liberal interventionists, the liberal bourgeoisie in the U.S. and Europe and even the general public?

The answer lies in the Eurocentric, white supremacist cultural discourses that have conditioned the collective consciousness of Westerners. The cultural affliction of Eurocentric, white supremacist ideology that has permeated all forms of cultural and ideological expression. It is not even a point of contention among the academic and non-academic population, both left and right, that “liberal” capitalist Europe represents a significant development in the history of human civilizations, if not the apex of human development.

This perspective, from Marxism that sees the capitalist phase as a necessary and inevitable stage (albeit with contradictions) to neoliberal globalists, represents a “commonsense” position embedded in all Western social institutions that simultaneously normalizes and invisibilizes behavior informed by the assumptions of white privilege and prerogatives.

Therefore, why shouldn’t Trump and the Democrats intervene in Venezuela to determine its leadership, especially when the racial element of that action is apparently beyond comprehension?

For the public in the U.S., Gov. Northam and Donald Trump represent the easy and crude examples of racism that is universally condemned. But the assumption that the white West has the right and responsibility to determine the leadership and way of life of peoples in the global South doesn’t even register as a debatable issue within discourse on white supremacy.

It is accepted as normal by the corporate media, most of the intelligencia and the public that the U.S. and Europe, without any authorization from any foundational source such as international law or the United Nations Charter, has the right and indeed the responsibility to police the world.

The lack of debate on this issue and the cavalier attitude that most have in the West to the real possibilities of yet another military engagement with a global South nation that will likely result in the deaths of thousands of human beings reaffirms once again that the value of human life is stratified; the more distant that life is from Europeans – geographically, culturally and ethnically – the less value it has.

Consequently, the people of the colonized global South fighting for authentic de-colonization and national self-determination along with the nationally oppressed peoples and classes in the North must be equally clear. The European Union Parliament’s decision to recognize the puppet government being imposed on the people of Venezuela is another reminder that there is a common enemy in the U.S./EU/NATO “axis of domination.”

The constituent elements of this contemporary axis of domination was established and is sustained as part of what the late Rod Bush referred to as the Pan-European Project – the white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy – that began with the invasion of the “Americas” by Europe in 1492.

That invasion provided the material basis for Europe moving from a backwater region of no significance to the various world orders to the predominant powers on the planet for the last 500 years.

It is important to understand, therefore, that the critique of white supremacy is not limited just to an idealization principle but has a structural reality. This is what differentiates this analysis from the simple rejection of racialism or white supremacy advanced by reform liberals.

The analytical and theoretical framework employed here centers and grounds the relationship between the institutions and structures of global white supremacy – the IMF, World Bank, WTO, international financial institutions and dollar hegemony, NATO – and the ideological expressions of white supremacy such as the belief in the cultural superiority of Europe, “humanitarian interventions” and the so-called responsibility to protect.

There can be no confusion – despite the sectoral fights inside the capitalist class that are currently playing out in the intra-class struggle against Trump – that the oligarchy is united when it comes to projecting the dominance of the Pan-European imperialist project in relationship to the global South. The bipartisan support for the imperialist agenda was in full display during the State of the Union speech by Trump when he proudly mentioned U.S. efforts to subvert the Bolivarian process and in the absence of any opposition to this policy by Stacy Abrams (and, by extension, Democrats) during her rebuttal.

What Must Be the Position of Black Radical Internationalists

Venezuela is just the latest expression of that bipartisan unity of interests and actions in support of the Pan-European imperialist project now led by the U.S.

In the case of Venezuela, we know what will happen if a U.S.-led military intervention takes place. It will be a replay of the 1989 invasion of Panama, where U.S forces turned the Black community of El Chorrillo into a “free fire zone,” resulting in the complete destruction of the community and the deaths of over 3,000 Panamanians.

The people of Venezuela have made a choice. We will not debate the merits of their process, its contradictions or problems. Our responsibility as citizens/captors of empire is to put a brake on the U.S. state’s ability to foist death and destruction on the peoples of the world.

However, as it is has been stated in other places, it is imperative that the Black working class is separated from this naked imperialist move on Venezuela and all imperialist assaults. African/Black people must be clear on the issue of U.S. and European capitalist/imperialist interventions. The war and militarism being waged against Africans/Black people in the U.S. by the domestic military we call “the police” – embodied by mass incarceration – is part of the global Pan-European axis of domination that is now conspiring against the Bolivarian revolutionary process in Venezuela.

Opposition to U.S. imperialism cannot be left up to the so-called progressives in the Democrat party or even the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). The CBC has consistently backed the white ruling class agenda of subversion and military intervention, from its support for the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) to its failure to oppose the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, responsible for transferring millions of dollars-worth of military equipment to local police forces that are then deployed against poor working class black and brown communities.

Representing the “new” Black managerial/administrative/professional petit-bourgeoisie that is now physically and psychologically disconnected from the Black masses, the CBC has completely thrown in its lot with the owners of capital – white power.

That is why the position of the Black Alliance for Peace should be embraced. BAP says, “not one drop of blood from working class and poor to defend the interests of the capitalist oligarchy.”

All rational human beings want peace. But there is no peace without justice. Real social justice, which requires radical structural change, cannot be realized without struggle. And there can be no effective social change without clearly identifying the enemy—the source of our oppression—and being able to imagine an alternative.

The revolutionary Black working class is clear and building our forces for the fight that must be waged against the U.S./EU/NATO axis of domination. The only question is, who will be our allies.

Dump the Guardian

We were sad to hear that the comedian Jeremy Hardy had died on 1 February. Typically, media reports and obituaries prefixed the label ‘left-wing’ before the word ‘comedian’ as a kind of government health warning. What they really meant was that he was ‘too far left’. Normally, the media don’t label entertainers as ‘extreme centrists’, ‘neocon sympathisers’ or ‘Israel supporters’, when perhaps they should.

Hardy was a regular panellist on BBC shows, the News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. His ability to be extremely funny and sharp-witted, as well as being popular with other panellists and the public, probably allowed him a measure of corporate BBC indulgence to inject left-wing bullet points that others might not have been afforded. Fellow comedian Miles Jupp noted that:

Many people have the ability to express their political beliefs coherently and many people have the ability to be funny. Jeremy Hardy, who has died of cancer aged 57, had an astonishing ability to do both things at the same time.

He added:

From the earliest days his socialist beliefs were a thread that ran throughout his comedy, as they did his life and his campaigning.

One of us (Cromwell) saw Hardy perform twice at Nuffield Theatre at the University of Southampton, where he had studied in the 1980s. On both occasions, he was very funny, sharp and thoroughly engaging. During the second performance, on 15 October 2017, he spoke passionately about the blatantly negative media coverage targeting Jeremy Corbyn:

The worst is the liberal media. Take the Guardian. What is it that the Guardian actually guards? It guards how progressive you’re allowed to be. You can go this far to the left and no further.

This echoed Noam Chomsky’s well-known remark about the liberal media policing the bounds of permissible debate:

‘Thus far and no further.’

It is ironic, but entirely apt, that the Guardian’s obituary noted that Hardy wrote a column for the paper between 1996 and 2001, but neglected to mention that he was dropped for being too left-wing.

In his final, potent column on 4 April, 2001 Hardy had written:

Some of you will be relieved to know that this is the last column I shall be writing for the Guardian. Others may be sorry, and I thank you for that. I have been told that my column has run its course, which is a self-fulfilling accusation…also told that I shouldn’t use the column as a platform for the Socialist Alliance.

By contrast, commentators – including those holding senior Guardian positions – have not been told to stop using their columns as a platform for the apartheid Israeli state, neoliberalism or Western ‘intervention’ around the world.

Hardy crammed in many astute observations that make poignant reading now, 18 years later. He rightly observed that:

Most of the exciting developments in politics are happening outside the electoral orb.

Ironically, it was grassroots pressure outside Parliament and ‘the electoral orb’ that enabled Jeremy Corbyn to be elected Labour leader and pull off results in the 2016 General Election that stunned ‘seasoned’ political ‘analysts’. Consider, too, the recent Extinction Rebellion movement that is literally campaigning for the survival of the human species – precisely because electoral politics has utterly failed; or rather succeeded in entrenching the interests of a right-wing, super-rich and powerful elite.

Hardy warned presciently of the dangers of the Lib Dems attaining power in a coalition – which they did after the 2010 General Election, propping up an extremist Tory-led government. He also pointed to the emasculation of the trade union movement:

For me to write this will appal those socialists who still hold the line that “Labour is the party of the organised working class”, but I think it’s time to replace the word “working” with “capitalist”, and try the sentence again. Trade unionists put tremendous effort into the relationship but it’s an abusive one. I’m sure union leaders will say, “But Tony’s not like that when he’s with me”, but they’re just throwing money at the problem.

Ex-Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook commented via Twitter:

Fascinating reading now the late comedian Jeremy Hardy’s last column for the Guardian in 2001. He admits he was pushed out for refusing to use humour simply to provoke a postmodern chuckle and for being too outspoken against Tony Blair, who would go on to wage illegal war in Iraq.

When we highlighted on Twitter that the Guardian’s Jeremy Hardy obituary had omitted the uncomfortable fact that the paper dropped him for being too left-wing, the deputy obituaries editor of the Telegraph retorted:

He wasn’t dropped for being too left-wing. He was dropped for not putting in enough jokes. Read the column.

In fact, anyone reading the column beyond the first paragraph would have noted the crucial part when Hardy said he was ‘told that I shouldn’t use the column as a platform for the Socialist Alliance.’ It was clear from reading the whole column, and using common sense to read between the lines, that Hardy had indeed been dumped by the Guardian for his left-wing views. Hardy’s first wife, Kit Hardy, confirmed this:

As his wife at the time, I can vouch that he was dropped for being too left wing. It wasn’t about jokes. He’d have been kept on without jokes if he’d been willing to write inconsequential nonsense. He wasn’t.

Guardian readers with a long memory may recall that comedian Mark Steel, a good friend of Jeremy Hardy, had earlier been ditched by the Guardian in 1999, after contributing a column for over two years, for his ‘unflinching’ support of ‘unfashionable left-wing causes’ such as striking Liverpool dockers. A more recent example of a progressive columnist being dumped by the Guardian is the 2014 defenestration of Nafeez Ahmed for overstepping the mark in his critical reporting of Israel.

Eventually, even the hugely-respected, award-winning journalist John Pilger, with an unparalleled record of reporting the truth ‘from the ground up’, became persona non grata at the Guardian. He said in a radio interview in January 2018:

My written journalism is no longer welcome in the Guardian which, three years ago, got rid of people like me in pretty much a purge of those who really were saying what the Guardian no longer says any more.

And yet, the Guardian continues to employ, for example, Luke Harding who abruptly left an interview by Aaron Maté on The Real News Network when he was challenged to provide convincing evidence of the ‘collusion’ referred to in the title of his book, ‘Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win’. Harding was also behind the fake Guardian ‘exclusive’ last December that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange three times in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Harding and the paper’s editor Katharine Viner have shamefully remained silent in the face of robust questioning of their CIA-friendly propaganda story that appears to have no basis in reality.

US comedian Jimmy Dore, interviewed on RT’s Going Underground by Afshin Rattansi, who previously worked at the BBC, said scathingly:

‘Well, the Guardian has been doing fantastic work on this story. “Fantastic” meaning “fantastic fantasies” because the most surveilled building in the world has got to be that Ecuadorian embassy. And, somehow, the Guardian has a story that Manafort visited Julian Assange three times, and even knew what he was wearing, but there isn’t a picture of it.’

Dore concluded of the Guardian:

They’re pushing propaganda; they’re not doing journalism.

Dore also pointed to extremely well-paid, supposed ‘progressives’ in the US who have high-profile slots on US networks such as MSNBC:

You know how much MSNBC’s Chris Hayes or Rachel Maddow makes? They make $30,000 a day. That’s a lot of money and that buys your integrity.

He added, echoing his comments about the Guardian on Assange:

It’s just CIA talking points. In fact, they hire people from the CIA to be their “news analysts”. That’s the opposite of journalism, that’s propaganda.

On a recent MSNBC show, Maddow even speculated that, with parts of the US shivering in sub-zero conditions, the Russians or the Chinese might launch cyber attacks on vital pipelines and the power grid. This grotesque Red-scaremongering was justified as ‘the intelligence community’s assessment.’

She asked:

What would happen if Russia killed the power in Fargo today? What would you do if you lost heat indefinitely as the act of a foreign power on the same day the temperature in your backyard matched the temperature in Antarctica?

Dore rightly pointed out how this nonsense is but a part of the huge current wave of anti-Russian propaganda that is even worse than the anti-Red hysteria of the McCarthy era in 1950s US. Why worse?

Because it’s being pushed ubiquitously. The first Red Scare in the States came from the right. Well, the left is now pushing the Red Scare because they don’t want to admit that neoliberalism failed at the ballot box in 2016. 90 million people didn’t come out to vote in that election in 2016. And Hillary Clinton, the biggest, most well-funded political machine in the history of the United States lost the election to a political novice gameshow host who everyone referred to as a joke and a clown: Donald Trump.

Dore said of MSNBC management:

They wouldn’t even let their hosts cover Bernie Sanders [in the race to become 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate, losing to Hillary Clinton] because he was progressive. In fact, Ed Schultz got fired for covering Bernie Sanders.

He continued:

That tells you that all the people on air at MSNBC go along with war propaganda when told to, and don’t cover progressive politicians when ordered [not] to. Every one of those hosts goes along with the edict from the top of the corporation Comcast [owners of MSNBC] to tell them what they can talk about, and how they can talk about what they can talk about. They’re all puppets and they’re bought.

In a similar way, although with much lower salaries, the silence of Guardian commentators on numerous issues has also, in essence, been ‘bought.’ Not a single one, as far as we can tell, has called out the Guardian’s fake Manafort-Assange story. Not a single one has castigated the Guardian over its long-running cynical vendetta against Assange and WikiLeaks. Not a single one has exposed the Guardian’s editorial line that upholds the myth that Western foreign policy is largely determined by concerns over universal human rights, democracy and development. Not a single one has made any significant criticism of the Guardian‘s actual role in setting the limits of acceptable ‘news’ and commentary at the ‘liberal’ end of the media ‘spectrum’.

Complicit In Western Imperialism And Rampant Capitalism

To do proper journalism on vital topics – not least UK war crimes – seemingly requires that one leaves the Guardian to do so. Thus, Ian Cobain, formerly a senior Guardian reporter, recently published a shocking exclusive on the Middle East Online (MEE) website that the British army permitted shooting of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Soldiers who served in Basra in 2007 say they were told they could shoot anyone holding a phone or a shovel, or acting in any way suspiciously.

The British army operated rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan that at times allowed soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians who were suspected of keeping them under surveillance, a Middle East Eye investigation has established.

The casualties included a number of children and teenage boys, according to several former soldiers interviewed by MEE.

Cobain continued:

a former Royal Marine says that one of his officers confessed to his men that he had been responsible for the fatal shooting of an Afghan boy, aged around eight, after the child’s father carried his body to the entrance of their forward operating base and demanded an explanation.

Why has this not made front-page news in the Guardian or elsewhere in the British press, as far as we are aware? Likewise, needless to say, you’d be hard-pushed to find honest and disturbing accounts of UK war crimes making the headlines on BBC News at Ten.

Last November, Cobain reported that UK spy agencies knew that an important source of false Iraq war intelligence, a Libyan militant called Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, had been tortured. Cobain observed that UK government ministers ‘relied upon his answers to help justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.’ Again, Cobain’s piece appeared on the MEE website.

As Jonathan Cook said:

Interesting that the award-winning author of this article, Ian Cobain, used to work at the Guardian. Why is that writers like this, who are so effective at digging up the dirt on western intelligence agencies, no longer seem to find a home at the Guardian?

Meanwhile, as historian Mark Curtis pointed out, the Guardian continues its love affair with Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister who led this country into war on a false premise, leading to the deaths of around one million Iraqis:

The man who oversaw this criminality and public deception campaign has another article in the Guardian today – Blair is loved by the Guardian, the Anglo-American power elite’s main liberal asset in the UK.

That this keeps happening, and that the British public is routinely soaked in pro-war propaganda, exposes the untruth that there is genuine media oversight and regulation in the UK. Ofcom claims that:

We keep an eye on the UK’s telecoms, television, radio and postal industries to make sure they’re doing the best for all of us.

Really? ‘For all of us’? How does this square with the incessant media propaganda pumped out about Venezuela, currently threatened by Western power?

As John McEvoy noted for The Canary in a devastating, in-depth account of the Guardian:

It has a long record of smearing the Venezuelan government, supporting opposition power grabs, and presenting Western intervention as a noble solution. In doing so, it is complicit in offering moral authority to the current coup attempt in Venezuela, and therefore complicit in Western imperialism.

On 1 February, the Guardian published its first ever news piece written by a ‘bot’. A cynic, or perhaps a realist, might suggest that all Guardian news pieces on WikiLeaks, Venezuela and much else besides, might as well be written by ‘bots’. Depending on the source material fed to the bots, of course, they may well be more accurate and less propaganda-filled than the efforts spewed out by obedient, careerist, power-serving humans.

Journalist Matt Kennard, formerly a Financial Times reporter, has warned of:

how corporate media works to drain young journalists of idealism and infects them with an ideology they can’t even see (that’s the beauty of it).

In the afterword to his 2016 book, The Racket: A Rogue Reporter vs. the Masters of the Universe, he expanded his thoughts. First, he defined ‘the racket’:

An amalgamation of different players, including transnational corporations, banks, hedge and mutual funds, and insurance companies; in effect, the many different concentrations of private wealth we have in our society. We often don’t know the names of the people who run these institutions, but they hold the real power in our world, and are backed by the U.S. government, and as a last resort the U.S. military. But the racket is nothing without the media.

This echoes our arguments, rooted in the pioneering work of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent (Vintage, 1988) that, in the current era of extreme climate instability:

The corporate media, including the liberal media wing, is a vital cog of the rampant global capitalism that threatens our very existence. (Propaganda Blitz, Pluto Books, 2018, p. 213.)

What happens to graduates who enter these corporate media outlets? Kennard warned:

As I saw young journalists coming up in the industry I noticed opinions changing or moderating as they became acclimatized to the institutions…slowly, you stop expressing opinions that are different from everyone else’s, shed any previously held idealism. If you do carry on thinking as before, you quickly become a “maverick” or, even worse, “immature” and “childish.” It’s hard to go into work every day for a whole career under this kind of groupthink pressure and stay sane.

After Kennard left the Financial Times, he tried contributing to the Guardian. He soon discovered that ‘progressive’ outlets like the Guardian and the New York Times:

‘are vital to maintaining the facade of a free and fair media. They give the impression of fighting against the racket when in fact they support it in the fundamentals.’

The Guardian is:

among the most biased and self-righteous institutions around…full of private-school-educated Oxbridge graduates who see themselves as crusading liberals fighting against corporate and state power. But if you step a bit to the left of them, you will know about it. They guard their left flank religiously, instructing the world that anyone operating there is beyond the pale.

Is it any wonder that over the past two decades, the ‘liberal’ Guardian has shed reporters and columnists deemed to have been operating ‘beyond the pale’? Is it any wonder that it has exploited ‘fake news’ about an ‘antisemitism crisis’ under Jeremy Corbyn‘s Labour? For anyone who cares about journalism that truly challenges the elite consensus, it is long past time to dump the Guardian, break the corporate media monopoly and support real progressive journalism instead.

Weapons against Venezuela: Stolen Money and “Humanitarian Aid”

The first trucks carrying the so called humanitarian aid for Venezuela have arrived at the Colombian border city of Cúcuta where a standoff is taking place after the Venezuelan government closed the border and blocked the highway with shipping containers and a fuel truck.

Together the European Union and the United States plan to send $60 million in aid, despite the fact that the Venezuelan government is demanding the return of more than $23 billion dollars frozen in accounts being held in the U.S., Canada and Europe that they consider stolen from their public treasury; money that could have been spent on the necessary import of food and medicine for the benefit of the entire population.

The sending of “humanitarian aid” to Venezuela by the U.S. is being presented as an emergency and something humane and necessary to the international community; however, the Bolivarian government of President Nicolás Maduro has made it clear that if their concern was genuine they would  unblock the funds that the world’s financial system have damned up.

The self proclaimed U.S. picked, wannabe, “president in charge”, Juan Guaidó and his group in charge of carrying out a coup d’état against the administration of President Maduro would claim the “humanitarian aid” the U.S. plans to send. Clearly this aid has nothing to do with the suffering of the Venezuelan people and everything to do with turning up the heat of the regime change strategy of Washington to undermine the democratically elected president of the country.

Maduro has also made it clear that Venezuela does not need charity and if the stolen money was returned, “Venezuela will move forward by its own means as it has always done throughout its history”.

In a press conference yesterday Maduro said:

Take all that humanitarian aid and give it to the people of Cúcuta, where there is a lot of need. This is a macabre game, you see? They squeeze us by the neck and then make us beg for crumbs. They offer us toilet paper like Trump threw at the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

The economic war against Venezuela started a while back but now as the war threats escalate it is really ratcheting down.

In 2017, financial service provider Euroclear blocked nearly $1.65 billion for the purchase of medicines and food for the Venezuelan population.

Similarly, in 2018 nearly $2.5 billion were blocked, while England already in 2019 has retained $1.2 billion (in gold) and the U.S. took another $7 billion in assets from Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

Just last week the Trump administration issued sweeping sanctions against state oil company PDVSA, freezing all profits generated by Venezuela’s refining subsidiary Citgo, and has vowed to starve Maduro’s government of any and all revenue.

There are some glaring historical similarities to the situation now in Venezuela where the U.S. has used economic warfare as a weapon. It is the strategy of slow steady strangulation to bring a country standing in opposition to imperialism to its knees, like Chile in 1973 when the Nixon Administration was destabilizing the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende and he ordered then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, “Let’s make the Chilean economy scream.” Or who, with any conscience, could forget in 1996 after U.S. led economic sanctions had resulted in the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went on 60 minutes and calmly said, “… we think the price was worth it.”

The six decade long unilateral U.S. economic blockade of Cuba is another example, one that is not just historical but current as well, that so far has cost the Cuban people over $130 billion in revenue. They too have been deprived of much needed specialized medicine and food but Cuba has prevailed through determination, principle and the international solidarity that Venezuela now needs.

“No Love on the Streets”: Knife Crime in Britain

I started carrying a knife aged 12…when I’ve got this [samurai sword] with me I feel safe, scare tactics init – the bigger [the knife] the better…No one breaks the cycle round here – the cycle never breaks.

A teenager in Liverpool made these statements to the BBC. ‘The cycle’ is an ugly pattern of petty disputes, escalation, violence and revenge, a brutal cycle that is destroying the lives of thousands of young people in Britain.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a society when children feel they have to carry deadly weapons in order to protect themselves.

In the year ending March 2018, according to Government figures, there were 40,100 “offences involving a knife or sharp object” in England and Wales, including 285 deaths – a record number. London has seen the highest levels of knife crime in the country; there were 14,700 attacks and half of all homicides by knife took place in the capital.

Such shocking statistics highlight the crisis, suggest patterns and correlations, but reveal little of the root causes; generalizations are riddled with errors and all too often strategies focus on the effects rather than the impelling causes, which pertain to the psychological environment and the collective atmosphere within which people are living, as well as circumstantial conditions.

Trivial disputes, fatal consequences

Victims and perpetrators of knife crime are overwhelmingly young men under 25, many are children, some as young as 12; they come from disadvantaged, poor backgrounds, with few opportunities and little support; absent Fathers are common and drugs are a factor, selling and using. It is a social issue relating more to class than race, although in London the victims are overwhelmingly black, further muddying the waters for those looking for answers within the sea of statistics.

What makes anyone, let alone a child, carry a knife? What leads him to use it and how can it be stopped?

Fear seems a major factor, fear of being attacked and the need, or perceived need for protection; the danger is if you’re carrying a weapon and you’re confronted, there is a temptation to use it. Awez Khan, 17, the Birmingham representative of the youth parliament, part of the British Youth Council, told The Guardian: “I know a lot of people who carry knives. A lot of it is paranoia and fear for their life…they don’t know when they might die and they have to defend themselves. It’s a kill-or-be-killed situation.” In the past knife crime was often a gang-related issue, but while this persists to a degree, police estimate that now “75% of those caught have no connection to gangs.”

Some attacks are unprovoked random acts of violence, which occasionally lead to death or life changing injuries, lives destroyed, families shattered. In other cases, perhaps the highest percentage, petty arguments escalate and quickly become violent feuds, with neither individual backing down for fear of being seen to be weak, and, whereas in days gone by the result might have been a fist fight, now it can lead to a stabbing. Within this category, “social media plays the biggest part”; insults are posted, taunting, denigrating friends, girlfriends or family members; images of weapons, filmed footage of violence, sometimes as it happens, is shared with friends of the victim; cyber bullying that spills over onto the streets within minutes, leading in some cases to loss of life. “A febrile online atmosphere was among factors responsible for rising knife crime, states Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick in The Times newspaper …“social media sites are driving children to commit violence and murders, within minutes…trivial disputes between young people were escalating into murder and stabbings at unprecedented rates.”

According to the Met Commissioner, many children carrying knives had been excluded from school, and “are people who have suffered some kind of adverse experience of a significant sort when they are young, and/or have limited or problematic family lives and parenting – all things that can lead to other negative outcomes, not just serious violence.” The lack of a positive male role model was a consistent factor; many young men, she said, were simply “looking to be loved”.

The risk of a custodial sentence (average four years) is not a deterrent; the majority don’t get caught and as 15 year old Dontae, from south-east London related to the BBC, “people are not scared of jail, [they] would rather risk it than actually get hurt by the weapon itself.” The police are viewed with suspicion or outright hostility and it’s rare that someone will share information relating to an attack with the police: they don’t trust the authorities, don’t want to be seen as a snitch and have no faith in the judicial system. Justice is seen as payback: “My justice is revenge,” a balaclava wearing teenager in south-east London told Channel 4 documentary, On a KnifesEdge. Anger, hate, retribution is the pattern of the streets, and underlying this madness is fear and mistrust.

Stop and Search tactics are used by the Police to take knives off the streets; figures suggest this approach can be effective, but most weapons go undetected and there are not enough police on the streets. Under the government’s austerity program, which is a cruel ideological attack on the poor, police budgets have been cut by 20% since 2010, resulting in the loss of around 21,000 officers. Adult and child social care has also been dramatically reduced, benefits have been effected and according to the Department of Education spending on youth services, clubs, community centers after-school facilities etc. has been slashed by a third since 2016. Such savage cuts inevitably have the biggest impact on the most disadvantaged families: it is not by chance that increases in knife crime have coincided with the reduction in services.

‘When there is fear there is no love’

Violence of all kinds is a social problem a ‘public health’ issue, not simply a criminal activity; it demands early intervention, identifying children who are potentially at risk of falling into crime and providing them with the support they need to ensure they don’t go down a destructive path, and a unified ‘joined-up’ approach with all services cooperating.

This entails sensitive understanding of a person’s life, his/her home environment, mental health, community and education as well as drug/alcohol use/dependency. “We are all committed to the notion that prevention is better than enforcement,” says Commissioner Dick, “which is, after all, the public health approach.” For such an approach to succeed though, it needs investment, not reductions, in social services, education, housing and health care.

A holistic methodology is essential if knife crime in Britain, like violent crime everywhere, is to be reduced and stopped, but if we are to create lasting harmony within society, nationally and globally, underlying causes and the interconnected nature of life need to be better understood.

Violence is the external expression of internal conflict; the key therefore to establishing peace within our world lies in identifying and removing the factors that feed discord – the psychological/sociological conditioning, false values and divisive ideologies.

Harmony within society rests upon there being a degree of inner contentment within those that make up any given community; ‘peace of mind’, according to the Dalai Lama “comes from warm heartedness, this reduces ill-feeling towards others, and reduces distrust.” ‘Warm heartedness’ is a feeling of affection towards others; like cooperation and tolerance, it is a natural part of our shared humanity and spontaneously arises when we move away from self-centered thinking and concern ourselves with the needs of others. When you “help others you get happiness, inner strength and purpose of life.”

Within the construct of contemporary society there are a variety of elements that work against our innate inclinations for the good, and serve to aggravate adverse tendencies like discontent, greed and fear. There is tremendous social injustice: wealth and income inequality, as well as inequality of opportunity, access to culture and influence. Comparison and competition have infiltrated all areas of society and are major negative factors; as His Holiness says, “society based on competition and material satisfaction cultivates fear, and when there is fear there is no love,” and without love the door is open to all that corrupts and poisons a human being. Perhaps unsurprisingly, love is the key to peace of mind and harmonious living; not sentimental or romantic love, but love as that most vibrant force for good, love expressed as sharing, as tolerance, as cooperation, as friendship; “friendship is essential, with friendship comes trust” and where there is trust community can be built, fear dispelled and peace made manifest.

Venezuela: The Straw that Breaks the Empire’s Back?

Venezuela in the limelight on practically all the written, audio and visual mainstream media, as well as alternative media. A purposeful constant drip of outright lies and half-truths, “fake news”, as well as misleading information of all shades and hues about Venezuela is drumming our brains, slowly bending our minds towards believing that – yes, the US has a vital interest in meddling in Venezuela and bringing about “regime change”, because of primarily, the huge reserves of oil, but also of gold, coltan and other rare minerals; and, finally, simply because Washington needs full control of its “backyard”. BUT, and yes, there is a huge BUT, as even some of the respected progressive alternative media pretend to know: amidst all that recognition of the AngloZionist empire’s evil hands in Venezuela, their ‘but’ claims that Venezuela, specifically Presidents Chavez and now Maduro, are not blameless in their ‘economic chaos’. This distorts already the entire picture and serves the empire and all those who are hesitant because they have no clue, whom to support in this antagonistic US attempt for regime change.

For example, one alternative news article starts:

It is true that some of Venezuela’s economic problems are due to the ineptitudes of the Bolivarian government’s “socialist command” economy, but this overlooks the role played by the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union…

Bingo, with such a low-blow beginning, the uninformed reader is already primed to ‘discount’ much of the interference by Washington and its minions. Some of the-so-called progressive writers have already been brain-smeared, by calling Nicolás Maduro a “dictator”, when, in fact, there is hardly any country farther away from a dictatorship than Venezuela.

In the last 20 years and since Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias was first elected in 1998 and came to power in 1999, Venezuela had another 25 fully democratic elections, of which 6 took place in the last year and a half. They were all largely observed by the US based Carter Institute, the Latin American CELAC, some were even watched by the European Union (EU), the very vassal states that are now siding with Washington in calling President Maduro an illegitimate dictator and instead, they support the real illegitimate, never elected, US-CIA trained and appointed, Juan Guaidó. Former President Carter once said of all the elections he and his Institute observed, the ones in Venezuela were by far the most transparent and democratic ones. By September 2017, the Carter Center had observed 104 elections in 39 countries.

Despite this evidence, Washington-paid and corrupted AngloZionist MSM are screaming and spreading lies, ‘election fraud’; and Nicolás Maduro is illegal, a dictator, oppressing his people, depriving them of food and medication, sowing famine – he has to go. Such lies are repeated ad nauseam. In a world flooded by pyramid-dollars (fake money), the presstitute media have no money problem. Dollars, the funding source for the massive lie-propaganda, are just printed as debt, never to be repaid again. So, why worry? The same Zionists who control the media also control the western money machines; i.e., the FED, Wall Street, the BIS (Bank for International Settlement, the so-called Central bank of central banks), the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the banks of London. The western public, armchair warriors, all the way to caviar socialists, believe these lies. That’s how our unqualified brains apparently work.

A recent independent poll found that 86% of all Venezuelans, including from the opposition, want no interference by the US and her puppet allies, but want to remain a sovereign state, deciding themselves on how to resolve their internal problem – economics and otherwise.

Let me tell you something. If Mr. Maduro would be a dictator – and all the diabolical adjectives that he is smeared with were to apply, he would have long ago stopped the western propaganda machine, which is the western controlled media in Venezuela; they control 90% of the news in Venezuela. But he didn’t and doesn’t, because he believes in freedom of speech and freedom of the ‘media’ even if the “media” are really nothing more than abject western lie-machine presstitutes. Mr. Maduro is generous enough not to close them down – which any dictator – of which there are now many in Latin America (take your pick: Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guatemala, Honduras….) would have done long ago.

*****

From the very beginning, when Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998, Washington attempted to topple him to bring about “régime change”. The first real coup attempt took place on 11 April 2002. Under full command by Washington, Chavez was ousted for less than 2 days, when an on-swell of people and the vast majority of the military requested his reinstatement. Chavez was brought back from his island seclusion and, thus, the directly Washington-led coup d’état was defeated (“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”). But the pressure mounted with economic sanctions becoming ever bolder and, in the case of Venezuela, they had severe economic and humanitarian impacts because Venezuela imports close to 90% of her food and medication – still today – and most of it from the US.

Both Chavez and Maduro had very little leeway of doing differently what they have already done. Sanctions, boycotts, outside money manipulations, driving inflation to astronomical levels and constant smear propaganda, these predicaments are biting hard. The US has a firm grip on Venezuela’s dollar dependency.

Last week, Washington confiscated about US$ 23 billion of Venezuela’s reserve money in US banks, blocked them from use by the legitimate Maduro government, and, instead, handed them to their US-appointed, puppet, never elected, “president”, Juan Guaidó.  He is now able to use Venezuela’s money in his US-EU-and Lima-Group supported “shadow” government. Will he dare?  I don’t think so. However, he has already invited US petrol companies to come to Venezuela and invest in and take over the petrol industry. Of course, it will not happen, as President Maduro stays in power, firmly backed by the military.

All of this sounds like a bad joke. Did you ever hear of Juan Guaidó, before the US and her European vassals almost unanimously and obediently aped Washington in supporting him?

Likewise, the Bank of England withheld 1.2 billion dollars’ worth of Venezuelan reserve gold, refusing to respond to the Maduro Government’s request to return the gold to Caracas. Both cases represent an extreme breach of confidence. Up to now, it was ethically, commercially and financially unthinkable that reserve money and gold deposited in foreign banks would not be safe from hooligan theft – because that’s what it is, what the US is doing, stealing other countries’ money that was deposited in good faith in their banks.

In a recent interview with RT, President Maduro said there was absolutely no need for “humanitarian aid”, as the UN suggested, prompted by the US. This so-called humanitarian aid has everywhere in the world only served to infiltrate ‘foreign and destabilizing’ elements into countries, just look at Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, to name just a few. While the US$ 23 billion blocked in New York banks could have supplied Venezuela with 20 years-worth of medication for the Venezuelan people, Maduro asserted, Venezuela has enough liquidity to feed and medicate her people.

However, what this latest Trump plunder (the money and gold confiscation) does, is hammering one more nail in the western monetary system’s suicide coffin. It sends an ever-clearer signal to the rest of the world, to those that haven’t noticed yet, the AngloZionist empire cannot – I repeat – CANNOT – be trusted. Ever. And the European Union is intrinsically and “vassalically” linked to the Washington rogue state – not to be trusted either. There is virtually no circumstance under which a country’s assets in western foreign lands – as bank deposits, or foreign investments – are safe. It will prompt a move away from the dollar system, away from the western (also entirely privately-owned) SWFT international transfer system by which sanctions can be enacted.

Indeed, the Russia and China and much of the SCO (Shanghai Organization Cooperation) members are no longer dealing in US dollars but in their own currencies. We are talking about half the world’s population broke free from the dollar hegemony. Europe has started a half-assed attempt to circumvent the dollar and SWIFT system for dealing with Iran. Europe’s special purpose vehicle, or SPV, is called INSTEX — short for Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges. It is a project of Germany, France and the UK, suspiciously chaired by the latter, to be endorsed by all 28 EU members.

It aims in a first instance at shipping “humanitarian aid” to Iran. Similarly, to Venezuela, Iran’s foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, after learning about the details, considered the conditions of INSTEX as insulting and rejected any dealings with Europe under this system. Iran, he said, does not need “humanitarian aid”, not from Europe, not from anybody. In the meantime, what was to be expected, has already happened. The Trump Administration issued a stern warning of “sanctions” to the EU, if they would attempt to deal with Iran outside of the dollar system. Europe is likely caving in, as they always do.

*****

Back in Venezuela, the NED (National Endowment for Democracy), the extended arm of the CIA, has, for the last two decades, trained funded and infiltrated ‘traitor’ agents into Venezuela, with the goal to assist the opposition to foment unrest, to carry out assassinations and other ‘false flags’, and to simply create chaos and unrest. However, some of these agents are also lodged in Venezuela’s financial institutions, as the Fifth Column, where they sabotage – often with threats – any economic policies that could rescue Venezuela from its economic predicament.

In June 2017, I was privileged to be a member of an economic advisory team to Mr. Maduro. During three days of intense discussions with government, a number of potential short- medium and long-term solutions emerged. They were well received by Mr. Maduro and his economic team. What became of these recommendations?  Well, maybe there are strong foreign-directed forces at play to prevent their implementation.

Clearly, any accusation that the Maduro Government may bear the blame for some of the economic chaos, have to be vigorously rejected. Mr. Maduro has very little space to maneuver the economy other than what he is already doing. His actions are severely limited by the ever-stronger squeeze by western claws.

With or without Venezuela’s new crypto currency, the oil-based Petro, the Venezuelan economy, including a major proportion of her imports, is strongly linked to the US dollar. With military threats and sanctions left and right, there is little that the Government can do in the immediate future to become autonomous. Yes, Russia and especially China will most likely help with balance of payment support loans, with investments in the oil industry to ease Venezuela’s US-dollar debt burden and vamp up oil production; and in the medium and longer run they may also help boost Venezuela’s agricultural sector towards 100% food self-sufficiency.

What is the real reason, you may ask, behind Trump’s intense ‘coup d’état’ attempt – aka, Bolton, Pompeo and Elliott Abrams (the ‘regime change’ envoy), or the diabolical troika’s killer mission?

  • Is it oil and other natural riches, like gold, coltan, diamonds and many more rare minerals? Venezuela with some 301,000 MMbbl (billions of barrels) of known reserves has about 12% more hydrocarbon reserves than Saudi Arabia. Shipping from the Gulf to Texas refineries takes 40-45 days and the risk of passing through the Iran-controlled strait of Hormuz. Delivering oil from Venezuela to Texas takes some 2-4 days.
  • Is it that Venezuela committed a mortal sin when circumventing the petro-dollar, when trading her hydrocarbons, notably with China and Russia in other currencies, like the gold-convertible yuan? – Remember, Saddam Hussein and Muamar Gadhafi attempted similar dollar-escaping actions – and look what it brought them. The US-dollar hegemony depends very much on oil and gas trade in US dollars, as per an agreement of the seventies between the US and Saudi Arabia, head of OPEC.
  • Is it that Washington cannot tolerate any socialist or socialist leaning country in its “backyard”?  Cuba and Nicaragua beware!
  • Is Venezuela a crucial stepping stone to fully dominate Latin America and her resources?  And, hence, a step closer to ‘full power dominance’ of the world?
  • Or all of the above?

I believe it’s all of the above, with a strong accent on Venezuela’s abandoning the US-dollar as hydrocarbon trading currency – putting the dollar-hegemony even more at risk. Once the dollar ceases to be the main reserve currency, the US economy will slowly collapse – what it is already doing. Twenty years ago, the US-dollar dominated world reserve coffers with about 90%. Today that proportion has sunk to less than 60%. The dollar is rapidly being replaced by other currencies, notably the Chinese yuan.

Now let’s cut to the chase.  It is clear that the Trump Administration with these stupid actions of dishing out sanctions left and right, punishing allies and foes alike, if they deal with Russia, Iran, or Venezuela – and this special blunt regime change aggression in Venezuela, nominating a 35 year old US puppet, trained in the US by CIA as Venezuela’s new ‘interim president’, confiscating Venezuela’s reserve assets in New York and London, stopping importing petrol from Venezuela and punishing anybody who imports Venezuelan oil except, of course, Russia and China. The ‘might’ of the US stops short of interfering in these non-dollar deals. With these and more ridiculous actions and military threats, Washington is actually not only isolating itself, but is accelerating the fall of the US economy. Ever more countries are seeking alternative ways of doing business with currencies and monetary systems other than the dollar-based fraudulent SWIFT, and eventually they will succeed. All they need to do is joining the China-Russia-SCO system of transfer in their local currencies and the currencies of the eastern SCO block and dedollarization is moving a step further ahead.

Dedollarization is the key to the end of the US (dollar) hegemony, of the US economic supremacy. The arrogant Trump, plus the impunity of the unfettered diabolical and outright dumb Bolton-Pompeo-Abrams approach of military threats and intimidations, may just make Venezuela the straw that breaks the Empire’s back.

Sharp Manias: Knife Crime in London

London — A bleak London assailed by daily news about Brexit negotiation, prospects of food shortages and higher prices in the event of a no-deal with the European Union, provides the perfect apocalyptic backdrop for headlines. The city is ailing; the residents are panicked; and the authorities are gloomy.

Such environments are ideal for talk about emergencies.  One doing much filling on London airtime is that of knife crime.  Not that knife crime, in and of, itself is unusual: for years, stabbing implements have made their way into broader law and order issues in the city’s policing scene, a good number featuring errant youth.  These have encouraged a wide array of myths masquerading as solid fact: London, the city of the “no-go” area; Londonistan, city of perpetual, spiralling crime.

In 2008, Britain’s public institutions – political and public – became darkly enraptured with knife crime afflicting inner city areas, with a heavy focus on London.  Stabbings were reported in lurid fashion; threats to urban safety were emphasised.  As Peter Squires noted in a fairly withering examination of the phenomenon in British Politics, “The knife crime ‘epidemic’, as it came to be called, coincided with a series of youth justice policy measures being rolled out by the government, and significantly influenced them.”

Kevin Marsh of the BBC, writing at the same time, wondered how best a news organisation might report such crime figures. “How much does tone and prominence distort the real picture?  Is some coverage self-fulfilling prophecy?  Does it spread fear and anxiety way beyond the rational?”  Marsh would admit that being a victim of a knife crime was “very, very unlikely”; and that young men, in the main, did not carry knives; “most young people are not components of what some politicians are calling the ‘broken society’.”

For all that, Marsh found himself admitting that “it’s part of the purpose of our media to draw things to our attention, however crudely.”  The crude element remains the sticking point, resisting nuance, despite the hope that reporters might help “us citizens really think hard about possible solutions”.

Knife crime has become the bread and butter of lazy reportage, one hitched to the coattails of the broken society argument.  Describing a broken fence is easier fare than describing a mended one; solutions remain dull, academic matters.  The emergency narrative tends to emerge ahead each time; matters of social causes and complexity receive short shrift.  In 2017, Gary Younge turned his noise up at the panic merchants, and deemed teenage knife crime “a tabloid obsession, blamed on feral youth running riot in our cities.”  Such fears speak to an obsession with decay and decline; youth go wrong if society does not go right.

In 2018, knife crime became a meme of terror.  The Express shouted with “London BLOODBATH” in a June headline, and subsequently began using it as a running title for any knife-related crime.  Political parties also capitalised on the atmosphere. In the east London borough of Havering, a local Conservative leaflet, buttering up electors ahead of the March local elections, promised mayhem.  “Mayor Khan and Corbyn’s men are desperate to grab power in our Town Hall, so get ready for… A London crimewave with even less police.”  In Lewisham East, UKIP candidate David Kurten added his bit in a by-election with a leaflet featuring the words “STOP THE KARNAGE” placed across a picture of a knife.

The dreary world of knife crime figures is erratic.  Between 2008 and 2014, offences involving knives or sharp instruments fell from 36,000 recorded offences to 25,000.  Then came an increase in 2015/6 – a nudge to 28,900.  The figures on death occasioned by knife crime are even more inscrutable, prompting Spiked Online to conclude that there was “no huge upsurge in knife violence because society overall is becoming less violent, and crime in general is falling.”  This was not to say that no concern should be felt: the issue is particular in London, and its effects disproportionate on young working-class black men. A possible explanation?  Not just indigence or exclusion, but nihilism and plain susceptibility.

Barely two months into this year, and the rounds of panic are in full swing.  As always, it’s the deceptive field of statistics dragged out to give a picture of clear, bolt-the-doors-and-hide doom.  It began with a spate of violent actions on New Year’s Eve, which saw four young men stabbed to death in London, prompting London Mayor Sadiq Khan to berate the government for its squeeze on youth services, policing and education.

Police statistics, pounced upon by the Evening Standard just in time for the evening commute on Monday, suggest that 41 percent across London’s boroughs involve those between the green years of 15 to 19.  Eight percent range from the even greener 10 to 14.

The Standard’s Martin Bentham sliced and spliced the announcement from the police with maximum, terrifying effect, all assisted by a picture perfect grim background of law enforcement officials at a crime scene on Caledonia Road.  “The new figures came as a Scotland Yard chief warned that attacks in the capital were also becoming ‘more ferocious’ as offenders were ‘more and more young’ tried to kill or injure by ‘getting up close and stabbing someone several times’.

Descriptions on police tactics follow, resembling those of urban battle plans keen on frustrating potential attacks.  Chief Superintendent Ade Adelekan, head of the Met’s Violent Crime Task Force, is quoted as claiming that “some progress” is being made.  There was also a more frequent use of search and “other tactics” including “the deployment of ‘embedded’ plain clothes officers to work with uniformed counterparts” in acts of prevention.

As Younge rightly notes, such realities are “more complex – and we cannot save lives if we do not understand it.”  But understanding is a term absent in times of panic. These are times rich for exploitation.  With Brexit having become the great psychodrama, all else is ripe for distraction and manipulation.

Venezuela Blitz: Tyrants Don’t Have Free Elections

In our new book, we describe a ‘Propaganda Blitz’ as a fast-moving campaign to persuade the public of the need for ‘action’ or ‘intervention’ furthering elite interests. Affecting great moral outrage, corporate media line up to insist that a watershed moment has arrived – something must be done!

A classic propaganda blitz was triggered on January 23, when Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself ‘interim President’. This was presented as dramatic new evidence that the people of Venezuela had finally had enough of Nicolas Maduro’s ‘regime’.

In reporting this news the following day, the BBC website featured a disturbing graphic of a captive with arms tied behind his back being tortured. The caption read:

Inside Venezuela’s secret torture centre

The image linked to a complex interactive piece that allowed readers to explore the torture centre. There was also a long report on the same centre. The interactive report included this statement by a former prisoner, Rosmit Mantilla:

In a country like Venezuela there’s no difference between being in or out of prison. You are equally persecuted and mistreated, and you can die either way.

Venezuela, then, is a giant gulag. The interactive piece had clearly taken a good deal of time and effort to produce – odd that it should appear on the same day that news of Guaidó’s coup attempt was reported. The BBC followed this up with a piece on January 25 openly promoting ‘regime’ change:

Venezuela’s Maduro “could get Amnesty”

Self-declared leader Guaidó also appeals to the powerful army, after receiving foreign backing.

In fact, Guaidó, also received foreign rejection from China, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Syria and Iran. On January 29, the BBC front page headline read:

Venezuela, “living under dictatorship”

The opposition leader tells the BBC President Maduro has abused power, and renews calls for polls.

Echoing the BBC’s ‘amnesty’ front page story, the Guardian’s Simon Tisdall, also talked up the merits of the coup:

It seems clear that Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader, has the backing of many if not most Venezuelans.

A remarkable claim, given that George Ciccariello-Maher reported in The Nation that an opinion poll in Venezuela conducted between January 7-16 had found that 81 per cent of Venezuelans had never heard of Juan Guaidó. But then this is the same Simon Tisdall who wrote in 2011:

The risky western intervention had worked. And Libya was liberated at last.

The Guardian may currently be Guaidó’s greatest UK cheerleader. After the opposition leader gave the paper an exclusive interview, former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook tweeted:

Extraordinary even by the Guardian’s standards. Juan Guaido, the CIA’s pick to lead a coup against Venezuela’s govt, gives the paper one of his first interviews – and it simply acts as a conduit for his propaganda. It doesn’t even pretend to be a watchdog’

On February 1, Cook added:

Oh look! Juan Guaido, the figurehead for the CIA’s illegal regime-change operation intended to grab Venezuela’s oil (as John Bolton has publicly conceded), is again presented breathlessly by the Guardian as the country’s saviour’

The BBC continues to administer a daily dose of propaganda. On January 31, the big morning news story was:

Venezuela opposition “speaking to army”

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó says his team has held talks with the army about regime change

As we noted, if a US version of Guaidó made that admission in public, he would soon be paid a visit by Navy Seals, perhaps shot on the spot and dumped at sea, or bundled away to a life on death row for probable later execution.

On February 4, the front page of the BBC website featured a heroic picture of Guaido’s mother kissing her son on the forehead at a protest rally. Sombre, stoic, the saviour’s head appears bowed by the weight of the hopes and expectations of his people (people who, until recently, had no idea who he was and had never voted for him). This was a pure propaganda image. More will certainly follow. We discussed earlier BBC efforts here.

“Tyranny” as a Motive for Corporate Media Concern

The BBC, of course, is not alone in promoting the view that Venezuela is a ‘dictatorship’. The Times offered a typically compassionate ‘view on Venezuelan protests against Maduro’:

Paradise lost – A ruthless dictator has driven his people to the brink.

The reference to ‘paradise lost’ recalled a famously foolish remark on Venezuela made by BBC journalist John Sweeney in the Literary Review in 2013:

The country should be a Saudi Arabia by the sea; instead the oil money has been pissed away by foolish adventurism and unchecked corruption.

Apart from any obvious issues of head-chopping tyranny, the fact is that Saudi Arabia is ‘by the sea’.

The Economist focused on:

How to hasten the demise of Venezuela’s dictatorship

Recognising an interim president instead of Nicolás Maduro is a start.

The Mail on Sunday wrote of the ‘despot of Venezuela’. In the Telegraph, Ross Clark discussed ‘brutal dictatorships like Venezuela and Zimbabwe’. The editors of the Sun appeared to be holding a vigil for the suffering people of Venezuela:

We hope too that Venezuelans finally topple Nicolas Maduro, the crooked hard-left tyrant Corbyn once congratulated, and rebuild their economy.

The Sun’s Westminster correspondent Kate Ferguson reported that John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, was backing ‘the hard-left Venezuelan despot Nicolas Maduro’. The Express wrote of ‘the corrupt regime in Venezuela’.

Writing in The Australian, Walter Russell Mead observed that ‘dictator Nicolas Maduro clings to power’.1

Under the title, ‘Venezuelan spring,’ Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

The latest Venezuelan effort to topple dictator Nicolas Maduro is a pivotal moment in Latin American history…

The Guardian habitually uses the term ‘regime’ to signal the illegitimacy of the Maduro government.

An emotional Minister for Europe, Sir Alan Duncan – who once worked as a trader of oil and refined products, initially with Royal Dutch Shell, and who, in 1989, set up Harcourt Consultants, which advises on oil and gas matters – told Parliament:

The UK and our partners cannot and will not stand by and allow the tyranny of Maduro’s regime to continue. He has caused endless suffering and oppression to millions of his own people…

The people of Venezuela do not need the weasel words of a letter to The Guardian, from assorted Stalinists, Trotskyists, antisemites and, apparently, dead people, and also from members of Labour’s Front Bench. What they need is our solidarity with the legitimate, elected, social democratic president of the National Assembly: interim President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó.

Writing in the Independent, Patrick Cockburn commented in September 2016:

Sir Alan does have a long record of befriending the Gulf monarchies, informing a journalist in July that Saudi Arabia “is not a dictatorship”.

Sir Alan tweeted:

The dictatorial abuses of Nicolás Maduro in #Venezuela have led to the collapse of the rule of law and human misery and degradation.

We replied:

How much human misery and degradation did *you* cause by voting for war on oil-rich Iraq in 2003 and by supporting oil-rich Saudi tyrants attacking famine-stricken Yemen? Your compassion for the people of oil-rich Venezuela is completely and utterly fake.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also tweeted:

We stand with the people of #Venezuela as they seek to build a better life. We cannot ignore the suffering or tyranny taking place in this proud nation. Neither should other countries who care about freedom and prosperity.

Political analyst Charles Shoebridge commented:

Now speaking of “US standing with the people of #Venezuela against tyranny”, when just days ago he was also speaking of the US standing with US allied repressive tyrannies such as UAE Saudi Arabia Bahrain.

Glenn Greenwald made the same point, adding:

I’d have more respect for the foreign policy decrees of US officials if they’d just admit what everyone knows – “we want to change this country’s government to make it better serve our interests” – rather than pretending they give the slightest shit about Freedom & Democracy.

Writing on the Grayzone website, Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal describe how:

Juan Guaidó is the product of a decade-long project overseen by Washington’s elite regime change trainers. While posing as a champion of democracy, he has spent years at the forefront of a violent campaign of destabilization.

Almost entirely overlooked in ‘mainstream’ coverage, the New York Times reported last September:

The Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, according to American officials and a former Venezuelan military commander who participated in the talks.

Associated Press reported last week:

The coalition of Latin American governments that joined the U.S. in quickly recognizing Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president came together over weeks of secret diplomacy that included whispered messages to activists under constant surveillance and a high-risk foreign trip by the opposition leader challenging President Nicolas Maduro for power, those involved in the talks said.

In mid-December, Guaido quietly traveled to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to brief officials on the opposition’s strategy of mass demonstrations to coincide with Maduro’s expected swearing-in for a second term on Jan. 10 in the face of widespread international condemnation, according to exiled former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, an ally.

Labour MP, Chris Williamson, virtually a lone honest voice on this issue in the UK Parliament, commented:

Donald Trump, who received nearly 3m fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, throws his weight behind a guy [Guaidó] who didn’t even stand in last year’s Venezuelan presidential election and UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, gives Trump his servile support

Williamson was impressively rational in this interview with Going Underground. Sir Alan remains unimpressed, commenting shamefully of Williamson in Parliament:

I’m astonished he’s even been prepared to show his face in this House today.

Lack of Free Elections as a Motive for Corporate Media Concern

As we have seen, the corporate media’s first great reason for opposing Maduro is that he is a ruthless ‘dictator’. This label is credible only if he prevents free elections, which, of course, are intolerable to any self-respecting tyrant.

Again, corporate media are as one in their opinion. The Guardian’s Latin America correspondent, Tom Phillips, writes that Maduro was ‘re-elected last May in a vote widely seen as fraudulent’. The ‘impartiality’ of Phillips’ reporting on Venezuela is clear even from the tweet ‘pinned’ to his Twitter feed:

It is 20 years since Hugo Chávez’s election kicked off his ill-fated Bolivarian dream.

A Guardian editorial noted that Maduro had won a ‘dodgy presidential vote boycotted by the opposition’. The Economist went further: ‘The election he won in May was an up-and-down fraud.’ Ross Clark in the Telegraph:

Opposition politicians have been jailed, while observers in last May’s election reported inflated vote tallies.

The Observer editors opined on January 27:

Nicolás Maduro was re-elected Venezuela’s president last May by fraudulent means, as regional governments and independent observers noted at the time, and his leadership lacks legitimate authority.

Echoing its positions on earlier ‘regime change’ efforts that brought utter catastrophe to Iraq and Libya, the Observer added:

Given this grim record, Venezuela would be well rid of him and the sooner the better. If Maduro truly has the people’s best interests at heart, he should recognise that he has become an obstacle to national renewal – and step aside.

Venezuela needs ‘national renewal’, or ‘modernisation’ in Blairspeak. Like the Guardian, the Observer then insisted that reasonable options ’emphatically do not include US intervention in Venezuela’. Nobody should be fooled by this apparent anti-war sentiment. US media analyst Adam Johnson of FAIR made the point:

I love this thing where nominal leftists run the propaganda ball for bombing a country 99 yards then stop at the one yard and insist they don’t support scoring goals, that they in fact oppose war.

A further prime example of propaganda ball-running was supplied by The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan:

I’m no expert on Venezuela but I’m pretty sure you can think Maduro is a horrible/bad/authoritarian president *and* also think it’s bad for the US to back coups or regime change there.

Beyond the ‘mainstream’, credible voices have argued that last May’s elections were free and fair. Human rights lawyer Daniel Kovalik of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, writing for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, commented:

I just returned from observing my fourth election in Venezuela in less than a year. Jimmy Carter has called Venezuela’s electoral system “the best in the world,” and what I witnessed was an inspiring process that guarantees one person, one vote, and includes multiple auditing procedures to ensure a free and fair election.

I then came home to the United States to see the inevitable “news” coverage referring to Venezuela as a “dictatorship” and as a country in need of saving. This coverage not only ignores the reality of Venezuela, it ignores the fact that the U.S. is the greatest impediment to democracy in Venezuela, just as the U.S. has been an impediment to democracy throughout Latin America since the end of the 19th century.

More than 150 members of the international electoral accompaniment mission for the elections published four independent reports. Their members ‘include politicians, electoral experts, academics, journalists, social movement leaders and others’. The mission’s General Report concluded:

We the international accompaniers consider that the technical and professional trustworthiness and independence of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela are uncontestable.

The Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America, a grouping of electoral technicians from across the continent, many of whom have presided over electoral agencies, commented:

The process was successfully carried out and that the will of the citizens, freely expressed in ballot boxes, was respected…the results communicated by the National Electoral Council reflect the will of the voters who decided to participate in the electoral process.

The African Report:

Our general evaluation is that this was a fair, free, and transparent expression of the human right to vote and participate in the electoral process by the Venezuelan people, and that the results announced on the night of May 20 are trustworthy due to the comprehensive guarantees, audits, the high tech nature of the electoral process, and due to the thirteen audits carried out previous to and on the day of elections which we witnessed.

We can also conclude that the Venezuelan people who chose to participate in the electoral process of May 20 were not subject to any external pressures.

And also the Caribbean Report:

The mission was satisfied that the elections were conducted efficiently in a fair and transparent manner. All of the registered voters who wanted to exercise their right to vote participated in a peaceful and accommodating environment. Based on the process observed, the mission is satisfied that the results of the elections reflect the will of the majority of the voters in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

If all of this has been ignored in the current debate, it is because corporate media, in fact, do not care about free elections in Venezuela.

Consider the elections held in Iraq on January 30, 2005. On the BBC’s main evening news that month, reporter David Willis talked of ‘the first democratic election in fifty years’.2  A Guardian leader referred to ‘the country’s first free election in decades’. The Times, the Financial Times, the Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Observer, the Independent, the Express, the Mirror, the Sun and numerous other media repeated the same claim hailing Iraq’s great ‘democratic election’.

But this was all nonsense. Iraq was not just under illegal, superpower occupation; invading armies were waging full-scale war against the Iraqi resistance. Just weeks before the election, Fallujah, a city of 300,000 people, was virtually razed to the ground by US-UK forces. Six weeks before the election, the UN reported of the city that, ’70 per cent of the houses and shops were destroyed and those still standing are riddled with bullets.’ A quarter of a million people had been displaced from this one city alone by the onslaught. One year later, The Lancet reported 655,000 excess Iraqi deaths as a result of the 2003 invasion.

There was obviously no question of a free election under these lawless, extremely violent conditions. The corporate press was not the least bit interested or concerned. Indeed, our search of the LexisNexis media database at the time of the elections showed that there had not been a single substantive analysis of the extent of press freedom in Iraq under occupation anywhere in the UK press over the previous six months. And yet the media were all but unanimous in describing the elections as free and fair.

• Part 2 coming soon

  1. Walter Russell Mead, ‘Moscow savours latest Latin American crisis to destabilise region,’ The Australian, 31 January 2019.
  2. Willis, BBC News at Ten, January 10, 2005.