Category Archives: Economy/Economics

New York Times Advises China on Covid-19: Abandon Success, Try Failure

The recent outbreak of the Delta variant in China “shows that its strategy no longer fits. It is time for China to change tack.”

So declared a lead essay atop the New York Times Opinion/Editorial section on September  7 by Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Delta outbreak that “changed the game” in Huang’s words emerged after an outbreak at Nanjing international airport in July traced to a flight from Russia.  Did this outbreak change anything, in fact?

Let’s do the numbers.

Let’s do something that Huang did not; let’s look at the numbers from July 1 until September 7, the date of the article, a period that brackets the Delta outbreak cited by Huang.

During that period China experienced 273 new cases, about 4 per day, and no new deaths. That hardly seems like a failure.

To get some perspective on these numbers, during that same July1-September 7 period, the US, a country one fourth China’s size, reported 6,560,588 new cases (96,479 per day) and 45,054 new deaths (662 per day).

The same contrast can be seen for the entire period of the pandemic.  From the pandemic’s initial Wuhan outbreak in January, 2020, until September 7, 2021:

China had a sum total of 95,512 cases and 4,629 deaths;

The US had 40,196,953 cases and 648,146 deaths.

There have been two previous outbreaks of the Delta variant in China, one in Guangdong and another in Yunnan near the Myanmar border before the one arising in Nanjing.  The Delta variant was contained in each case. None of the three has turned out to be a “game changer,” as Huang incorrectly maintains.

Perhaps it is the U.S. that needs “to change tack.”

To anticipate an objection that has largely faded but persists in some quarters, can we believe the case and mortality count China gives us?  There are now many first-hand accounts of what life has been like in China these days that make the official tallies quite reasonable.  And quantitative evidence supporting China’s data is available in a peer-reviewed study in the prestigious British Medical Journal; it is summarized and discussed here.   Carried out by groups at Oxford University and China’s CDC, the study compares excess deaths in Wuhan and also in the rest of China during the period of the lockdown, and it finds that the official counts are remarkably accurate.

Do China’s life-saving measures imperil its economy?

China would need a very good reason to abandon its public health measures of massive, rapid testing, tracing and, where necessary, quarantining.  Are there any such reasons?  Mr. Huang states that the life-saving measures now “threaten overall economic growth in China”.  Does this prognostication fit the facts?

China’s GDP grew more slowly in 2020, but still it grew by 2.27%, the only major economy in the world not to contract.  In contrast the US economy contracted by 3.51%.  (Even China’s slowed growth in 2020 matched the US economy in normal times, which grew at an average rate of 2.3% in the four pre-pandemic years, 2016-2019.)

What about the future?  Economies are set to rebound in 2021 from their 2020 lows, with recent projections giving China an 8.4% bounce before settling in to an average growth of 6% over the following 5 years. For comparison the US jump in 2021 is estimated to be 6.4%, dropping to a 1.9% average over the following 5 years.

In terms of the economy present and future, China’s policies appear to be doing quite well, better, in fact, than any other major economy.  Mr. Huang has advanced a thesis that is unencumbered by the facts.

Why is the media’s failure to report on China’s success a threat to our very lives?

At every step of the way, China’s successes with Covid-19 have been met in the U.S. media with silence, denigration or a prediction that the success cannot continue (FAIR provides a brief survey here).  As a result, China’s measures are not widely known or understood.

China’s success with its public health measures is important for us now, because the pandemic is far from over. We don’t know what surprises viral evolution will have in store for us.  If a new variant emerges that is resistant to existing vaccines, then we have only public health measures to protect us until we catch up.  That is also true for future pandemics which will surely come our way. For us to be kept in ignorance of those measures or to have them dismissed, as Yanzhong Huang does, poses a threat to our very lives.

We might also wonder what would happen if the people of the West, including the U.S., understood clearly that measures were possible which could have protected us from the millions of deaths we have suffered.  Governments have toppled from far less.  Mr. Huang, the New York Times and the mass media, whatever else they are doing, are certainly protecting our Establishment from a rage that might have most unpleasant consequences.

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6 Reasons to Feel Grateful During Covid

A novel coronavirus, deadly and unnecessary lockdowns, civil unrest, political division, economic crises, a rise in mental health issues — the list goes on and on and on. Since March 2020, most of the world has suffered immensely in one way or another. But, amidst the madness, there is room for gratitude. More specifically, I’m suggesting we should be grateful for who and what has been exposed over the past 18 months or so.

6 Reasons to Feel Grateful During Covid

1. EXPOSED: Science and Medicine

If you ever had a doubt that these two “institutions” were hotbeds of corruption and greed, the response to Covid-19 surely cleared things up for you. Everything — from social distancing to masks to vaccines to variants to other treatments being demonized and beyond — was a poorly constructed lie.

2. EXPOSED: Corporations

The biggest money grab in history, #woke opportunism, support for mandates, and so much more. All their rainbow flags and BLM banners can’t change who they are (and have always been).

3. EXPOSED: Government

It’s a well-worn script: A crisis unfolds and elected officials — across the ideological spectrum — exploit it to enhance their power. If you were unsure whether or not any politician could be trusted, you now have your answer.4. EXPOSED: The #woke Left

The same clowns who once marched against Monsanto are now shilling for Moderna. Plus: Censorship, support for mandates, hypocrisy, thought control, groupthink… need I go on?

5. EXPOSED: Media and Social Media

All media outlets and social media platforms — regardless of their ostensible “narrative” — are nothing more than AI-assisted stenographers to power.

6. EXPOSED: The General Population 

Before Covid, did you ever wonder how your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc., would respond to a genuine (or manufactured) crisis? Well… take a good look around. Most of them, it seems, will follow orders and respect authority without question. They’ll willingly abdicate their autonomy, enthusiastically volunteer to be lab rats, and ruthlessly turn on anyone who doesn’t march in lockstep. They will embrace totalitarianism and surrender their freedoms in exchange for the illusion of safety. So, yeah… now you know.

I’m thankful that so many people and institutions in my life have clarified who they are and how they behave under duress. To connect with like-minded and open-minded comrades, you are required to move on from those seeking to harm you or, at least, hold you back. You know exactly who they are because they’ve openly exposed that they do not have your best interests at heart.

In order to move forward in a positive and powerful way, it’s essential to know where you stand in relation to others. If you wish to continue growing, learning, and evolving, you must be willing to see and accept what’s going on. Translation: You must reclaim the subversive pleasure of thinking for yourself. #gratitude.

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More Mandated Vaccinations Will Not Solve Economic Failure One Iota: May Even Make Things Worse

On September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden publicly issued sweeping statements and demands that make it clear that, whether they like or it, millions more people will have to get vaccinated or risk losing their livelihoods and security. His posture has been described by mainstream media as “aggressive.” Many alternative news and information sources describe Biden’s actions as righteous, arrogant, authoritarian, and incoherent. 1 Biden asserted that choice and freedoms are not the issue. He dismissed both in one breath. One’s right to consent to something was banished in three seconds. Many have also asserted that Biden does not have the legal authority to make and enforce such top-down mandates. Others claim that his White House speech on vaccinations is full of contradictions and disinformation.

Like Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and many other capital-centered ideologues and “leaders,” Biden keeps disinforming the polity with the worn-out dogma that economic recovery is largely dependent on getting everyone vaccinated. We are to believe that the broad and stubborn economic failure confronting everyone today is largely caused by the virus and that once the virus is “under control” through vaccines rush-produced by for-profit companies with a long record of malpractice, the economy will soar and flourish. A variety of mainstream news sources have been desperately reinforcing this disinformation for more than a year; they have no interest in economic science.

However, despite an enormous number of vaccinations issued worldwide, despite a large portion of humanity “taking the jab” already, the economy keeps declining and decaying; many serious economic distortions, problems, and uncertainties persist. Inflation, debt, inequality, homelessness, poverty, under-employment, and environmental destruction, for example, appear to be growing. More than one million people per month are still filing unemployment claims in the U.S. alone and job “creation” numbers are superficial and unimpressive. In addition, the U.S. labor force participation rate remains historically low and the number of long-term unemployed remains high. On top of all this, millions of employed workers are living pay-check to pay-check, which means that even full-time employment is no guarantee of security and prosperity. Various surveys also show that large majorities are not hopeful about the future and health of the economy.

It is no surprise that euphoric economic growth forecasts made just weeks or months ago by “leaders” and “experts” are already being revised downward—in some cases significantly. The ruling elite is always embracing magical thinking; they are not on good terms with reality.

It is also being said that large numbers of people will end up leaving their jobs—voluntarily or by being fired—rather than compromise their right to conscience and get vaccinated. This could mean even fewer workers taking available jobs and even more retailers, businesses, and services operating in dysfunctional, disruptive, and unreliable ways without employees. Thus, for example, many nurses, teachers, police officers, and other workers are choosing the right to conscience and unemployment over mandated vaccination. Thousands of businesses are already struggling to fill low-paying positions in the context of constantly-rising inflation and an uncertain future. The American Hospital Association said that Biden’s vaccination plan “may result in exacerbating the severe work force shortage problems that currently exist”. Not surprisingly, some organizations have already started to oppose Biden’s vaccination plan.

The economic depression confronting humanity at home and abroad will not be overcome by leaving major owners of capital in power while workers, the people who actually produce the wealth that society depends on, remain marginalized and disempowered. Economic collapse will not be reversed by funneling more socially-produced wealth to different monopolies and oligopolies, while leaving everyone else with less. Fostering policies, agendas, and arrangements that make the rich even richer is a recipe for deeper problems, not a promising path forward. To date, billions of vaccination shots at home and abroad have not stopped or slowed a range of serious economic problems.

Since the start of the never-ending “COVID Pandemic” more wealth has become concentrated in even fewer hands and more people have experienced more psychological, social, and economic problems. Inequality has soared over the past 18 months.

The current economic crisis started long before 2020 and is rooted in the same contradictions that produced big economic problems before 2020. Even if there were no covid virus mutations, the economy would still be declining because economic upheavals are endemic to the capitalist economic system. Depressions and recessions are not caused by external factors. To claim that the economic system is generally sound but runs into problems now and then because of exogenous forces is nothing more than a way to apologize for the outmoded economic system.

Without major changes, without vesting power in workers themselves, economic crises will keep recurring and deepening. The rich and their representatives have shown time and again that they are unable and unwilling to solve economic and health crises, let alone in a human-centered way.

  1. In December 2020 Biden publicly stated that the federal government should not or could not mandate vaccinations.
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Smashing The Heads of Farmers: A Global Struggle Against Tyranny

According to Reuters, more than 500,000 farmers attended a rally in the city of Muzaffarnagar in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on 5 September. Hundreds of thousands more turned out for other rallies in the state.

Rakesh Tikait, a prominent farmers’ leader, said this would breathe fresh life into the Indian farmers’ protest movement.

He added:

We will intensify our protest by going to every single city and town of Uttar Pradesh to convey the message that Modi’s government is anti-farmer.

Tikait is a leader of the protest movement and a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Indian Farmers’ Union).

Since November 2020, tens of thousands of farmers have been encamped on the outskirts of Delhi in protest against three new farm laws that will effectively hand over the agrifood sector to corporates and place India at the mercy of international commodity and financial markets for its food security.

Aside from the rallies in Uttar Pradesh, thousands more farmers recently gathered in Karnal in the state of Haryana to continue to pressurise the Modi-led government to repeal the laws. This particular protest was also in response to police violence during another demonstration, also in Karnal (200 km north of Delhi), during late August when farmers had been blocking a highway. The police Lathi-charged them and at least 10 people were injured and one person died from a heart attack a day later.

A video that appeared on social media showed Ayush Sinha, a top government official, encouraging officers to “smash the heads of farmers” if they broke through the barricades placed on the highway.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar criticised the choice of words but said that “strictness had to be maintained to ensure law and order”.

But that is not quite true. “Strictness” – outright brutality – must be imposed to placate the scavengers abroad who are circling overhead with India’s agrifood sector firmly in their sights. As much as the authorities try to distance themselves from such language – ‘smashing heads’ is precisely what India’s rulers and the billionaire owners of foreign agrifood corporations require.

The government has to demonstrate to global agricapital that it is being tough on farmers in order to maintain ‘market confidence’ and attract foreign direct investment in the sector (aka the takeover of the sector).

The farmers’ protest in India represents a struggle for the heart and soul of the country: a conflict between the local and the global. Large-scale international agribusiness, retailers, traders and e-commerce companies are trying to displace small- and medium-size indigenous producers and enterprises and restructure the entire agrifood sector in their own image.

By capitulating to the needs of foreign agrifood conglomerates – which is what the three agriculture laws represent – India will be compelled to eradicate its buffer food stocks. It would then bid for them with borrowed funds on the open market or with its foreign reserves.

This approach is symptomatic of what has been happening since the 1990s, when India was compelled to embrace neoliberal economics. The country has become increasingly dependent on inflows of foreign capital. Policies are being governed by the drive to attract and retain foreign investment and maintain ‘market confidence’ by ceding to the demands of international capital which rides roughshod over democratic principles and the needs of hundreds of millions of ordinary people.

The authorities know they must be seen to be acting tough on farmers, thereby demonstrating a steely resolve to foreign agribusiness and investors in general.

The Indian government’s willingness to cede control of its agrifood sector would appear to represent a victory for US foreign policy.

Economist Prof Michael Hudson stated in 2014:

American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports… It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

On the back of India’s foreign exchange crisis in the 1990s, the IMF and World Bank wanted India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture. In return for up to more than $120 billion in loans at the time, India was directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies, run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange.

The drive is to drastically dilute the role of the public sector in agriculture, reducing it to a facilitator of private capital and leading to the entrenchment of industrial farming and the replacement of small-scale farms.

Smashing protesters’ heads

A December 2020 photograph published by the Press Trust of India defines the Indian government’s approach to protesting farmers. It shows a security official in paramilitary garb raising a lathi. An elder from the Sikh farming community was about to feel its full force.

But “smashing the heads of farmers” is symbolic of how near-totalitarian ‘liberal democracies’ the world over now regard many within their own populations.

The right to protest and gather in public as well as the right of free speech has been suspended in Australia, which currently resembles a giant penal colony as officials pursue a nonsensical ‘zero-COVID’ policy. Across Europe and in the US and Israel, unnecessary and discriminatory ‘COVID passports’ are being rolled out to restrict freedom of movement and access to services. And those who protest against any of this are often confronted by a massive, intimidating police presence (or actual police violence) and media smear campaigns.

Again, governments must demonstrate resolve to their billionaire masters in Big Finance, the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations, the World Economic Forum and the entire gamut of forces in the military-financial industrial complex behind the ‘Great Reset’, ‘4th Industrial Revolution, ‘New Normal’ or whichever other benign-sounding term its political and media lackeys use to disguise the restructuring of capitalism and the brutal impacts on ordinary people.

This too, like the restructuring of Indian agriculture – which will affect India’s entire 1.3-billion-plus population – is also part of a US foreign policy agenda that serves the interests of the Anglo-US elite.

COVID has ensured that trillions of dollars have been handed over to elite interests, while lockdowns and restrictions have been imposed on ordinary people and small businesses. The winners have been the likes of Amazon, Big Pharma and the tech giants. The losers have been small enterprises and the bulk of the population, deprived of their right to work and the entire panoply of civil rights their ancestors struggled and often died for. If a masterplan is required to deliver a knockout blow to small enterprises for the benefit of global players, then this is it.

Professor Michel Cossudovsky of the Centre for Research on Globalization says:

The Global Money financial institutions are the ‘creditors’ of the real economy which is in crisis. The closure of the global economy has triggered a process of global indebtedness. Unprecedented in World history, a multi-trillion bonanza of dollar denominated debts is hitting simultaneously the national economies of 193 countries.

In August 2020, a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) stated:

The COVID-19 crisis has severely disrupted economies and labour markets in all world regions, with estimated losses of working hours equivalent to nearly 400 million full-time jobs in the second quarter of 2020, most of which are in emerging and developing countries.

Among the most vulnerable are the 1.6 billion informal economy workers, representing half of the global workforce, who are working in sectors experiencing major job losses or have seen their incomes seriously affected by lockdowns. Most of the workers affected (1.25 billion) are in retail, accommodation and food services and manufacturing. And most of these are self-employed and in low-income jobs in the informal sector.

India was especially affected in this respect when the government imposed a lockdown. The policy ended up pushing 230 million into poverty and wrecked the lives and livelihoods of many. A May 2021 report prepared by the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University (APU) has highlighted how employment and income had not recovered to pre-pandemic levels even by late 2020.

The report, ‘State of Working India 2021 – One year of Covid-19’ highlights how almost half of formal salaried workers moved into the informal sector and that 230 million people fell below the national minimum wage poverty line.

Even before COVID, India was experiencing its longest economic slowdown since 1991 with weak employment generation, uneven development and a largely informal economy. A recent article by the Research Unit for Political Economy highlights the structural weaknesses of the economy and the often desperate plight of ordinary people.

To survive Modi’s lockdown, the poorest 25% of households borrowed 3.8 times their median income, as against 1.4 times for the top 25%. The study noted the implications for debt traps.

Six months later, it was also noted that food intake was still at lockdown levels for 20% of vulnerable households.

Meanwhile, the rich were well taken care of. According to Left Voice:

The Modi government has handled the pandemic by prioritising the profits of big business and protecting the fortunes of billionaires over protecting the lives and livelihoods of workers.

Michel Chossudovsky says that governments are now under the control of global creditors and that the post-Covid era will see massive austerity measures, including the cancellation of workers’ benefits and social safety nets. An unpayable multi-trillion dollar public debt is unfolding: the creditors of the state are Big Money, which calls the shots in a process that will lead to the privatisation of the state.

Between April and July 2020, the total wealth held by billionaires around the world has grown from $8 trillion to more than $10 trillion. Chossudovsky says a new generation of billionaire innovators looks set to play a critical role in repairing the damage by using the growing repertoire of emerging technologies. He adds that tomorrow’s innovators will digitise, refresh and revolutionise the economy: but, as he notes, let us be under no illusions these corrupt billionaires are impoverishers.

With this in mind, a recent piece on the US Right To Know website exposes the Gates-led agenda for the future of food based on the programming of biology to produce synthetic and genetically engineered substances. The thinking reflects the programming of computers in the information economy. Of course, Gates and his ilk have patented, or are patenting, the processes and products involved.

For example, Ginkgo Bioworks, a Gates-backed start-up that makes ‘custom organisms’, recently went public in a $17.5 billion deal. It uses ‘cell programming’ technology to genetically engineer flavours and scents into commercial strains of engineered yeast and bacteria to create ‘natural’ ingredients, including vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and flavours for ultra-processed foods.

Ginkgo plans to create up to 20,000 engineered ‘cell programs’ (it now has five) for food products and many other uses. It plans to charge customers to use its ‘biological platform’. Its customers are not consumers or farmers but the world’s largest chemical, food and pharmaceutical companies.

Gates pushes fake food by way of his greenwash agenda. If he really is interested in avoiding ‘climate catastrophe’, helping farmers or producing enough food, instead of cementing the power and the control of corporations over our food, he should be facilitating community-based and lead agroecological approaches.

But he will not because there is no scope for patents, external proprietary inputs, commodification and dependency on global corporations which Gates sees as the answer to all of humanity’s problems in his quest to bypass democratic processes and roll out his agenda.

India should take heed because this is the future of ‘food’. If the farmers fail to get the farm bills repealed, India will again become dependent on food imports or on foreign food manufacturers and lab-made ‘food’. Fake food will displace traditional diets and cultivation methods will be driven by drones, genetically engineered seeds and farms without farmers, devastating the livelihoods (and health) of hundreds of millions.

This is a vision of the future courtesy of Klaus Schwab’s (of the elitist World Economic Forum) dystopic transhumanism and the Rockefellers’ 2010 lockstep scenario: genetically engineered food and genetically engineered people controlled by a technocratic elite whose plans are implemented through tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership.

Since March 2020, we have seen the structural adjustment of the global capitalist system and labour’s relationship to it and an attempted adjustment of people’s thinking via endless government and media propaganda.

Whether it involves India’s farmers or the frequent rallies and marches against restrictions and COVID passports across the world, there is a common enemy. And there is also a common goal: liberty.

The post Smashing The Heads of Farmers: A Global Struggle Against Tyranny first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Seven Theories of Politics: The Rehabilitation of a Loaded Vice Word

The reason I wrote this article is to get people excited about the explanatory power of the word “politics” and to make sense of the world and how to change it. In Part I of this article, I brought up some of major confusions over how the word “politics” is used to describe actions as well as to define the word theoretically. I then posed 12 questions that any political theory would have to answer. The questions were:

  • Temporal reach: How far back into history does politics go?
  • Cross-species scope: Is politics an activity which is confined to the human species?
  • Spatial reach: Where is the arena in which politics takes place?
  • Political agency: Who does politics? Professionals or everyone?
  • Political action: How is politics different from strategies?
  • Interpersonal processes: How is politics different from convincing and persuading?
  • What is the relationship between politics and power? Does politics drive power or does power drive politics?
  • What is the relationship between politics and force or coercion? Are they interchangeable? Are they opposites?
  • Interdisciplinary span? To what extent is politics influenced by economics, technology, history?
  • What are the forces that shape politics?
  • What is the relationship between theories of politics and theories of political sociology?
  • What is the relationship between theories of politics and political ideologies?

Lastly, I identified seven political theories. In Part I, I focused on three political theories that occupy the centrist portion of the political spectrum: old institutionalists (mainstream political science), civil republicans and Weberian political economy. In Part II I discuss the remaining four theories: radical feminism and Marxism on the left and Rational Choice Theory and Bio-Evolutionary on the right. At the end of this article, there is a table which summarizes how each of the seven theories answers the twelve questions above.

Marxist political economy

Contradictory nature of politics in Marx

Marx’s notion about politics is contradictory. In some places he lumps together politics with religion, morals, laws and contrasts this to the economic “base”. However, in his more political writing on France, he seems to give politics more importance than in the first formulation above. In a formal sense, Marx thought that politics was a product of class conflict. In this sense, he saw the state as the concentration of political struggle. In a narrow sense, this would exclude egalitarian societies from politics because they didn’t have any classes. Yet Marx was very interested in lack of private property and in the decision-making processes of these societies. But he implies that decisions about property relations and deciding whether or not to move to a new location are not political.

Politics is inseparable from economics

In Part I, we saw institutionalists and civic republicans both accept the separation of politics from economics, and institutionalists think what they are doing is “political science”. We also saw Weberians will not make this separation, claiming that what they are doing is “political economy”.  Yet they will come down more on the side of the importance of politics. When Marx talked about economics, most explicitly in Das Kapital, Grundrisse, and in other works, he also did so out of a tradition called political economy. People like Adam Smith and David Ricardo would never separate economics from the politics of the day. Despite all these qualifications, we can safely say that for Marx there was no such thing as politics without economics. Marx would have heaped scorn on the disciplines of “political science” for ignoring the economy and the economists who pretend there is no politics in economics.

Historical sweep: politics as relative

Marx had the second broadest historical sweep of the evolution of politics because he points to changes from the relations of property going all the way back  from communal, to slave, to feudal, to capitalist property. This broad sweep of politics enabled Marx to see the relativity of politics in a way that institutionalists, civic republicans and even Weberians do not. For Marx, tribal societies practiced no politics because there were no social classes. At the visionary end of Marx’s social vision, under communism there would be no politics because the existence of social classes would be abolished. Unlike any other theoretician of politics Marx believed politics emerged at a certain, relatively recent point in human history and it would wither away at a later point. Marx’s perspective was not only historically depthful but his interdisciplinary reach included not only economics and world history, but also anthropology and sociology.

The state as passive

Both institutionalists and Weberians think that the state is very important for enacting politics, though for very different reasons. With civic republicans, Marx did not think the state was very powerful in its political activity. Marx saw the state as a relatively passive instrument of the capitalist class, its executive committee and its representative bodies as the “talking shop of the bourgeoisie”.

Place of violence in politics

Marx understood all class conflict as violent because there was a struggle between two classes for control over the natural resources, tools, finished products and power settings. The extraction of surplus value from the working class by the capitalist class with state backing gives rise to class struggle. So for Marx, as for Weber, all politics was violent, either using force explicitly or implicitly. At the same time, the forces that shaped politics were the various contradictions within capitalism.  The electoral politics of institutionalists or the civic debates in public of civic republicans do not give a voice to the working class. With Weberians, real politics takes place behind the scenes and these scenes will never include the working class. Political conflicts cannot be resolved democratically because the economic contradictions that underlie the capitalist system are not addressed.

Political sociology and political ideology

In political sociology, there are ‘functional” Marxists who do not make as much of class struggle in the area of politics as they make in trying to understand the economic contradictions of capitalism – its problems of accumulation. Yet there are others who emphasise the importance of how the class struggle impacts the accumulation process and how the contradictions under capitalism cannot be understood without taking this into account. In terms of political ideology, Marxists are all socialists – social democrats, Leninists and council communists – and all claim Marx’s writings though they differ bitterly over the interpretation of his work.

Rational Choice Theory

Neo-classical economics on the prowl of politics

We said earlier that both Institutionalism and civic republicanism accepts the separation of politics and economics as opposed to the Weberian and Marxian claim that they cannot be separated. Rational choice theory:

  1. first separates economic behavior from politics; and,
  2. takes its theory of economic exchanges and projects it onto politics. There is a kind of political unconscious.

The political realm is a kind of economic market place in which politicians pursue their interests to maximize their benefits and minimize their costs under circumstances where their resources are scarce and wants are many. Rational and collective choice understandings of politics are rooted in neoclassical micro-economics, except they are applied to non-market situations. Gary Becker even tried to apply microeconomic principles of traditional economics to families and human sexual life. He wanted to counter the moralistic, idealistic and romantic beliefs that family and sexual life are supposedly beyond economic calculations.

Unlike institutionalism and republicanism, rational choice theory argues that economically people are self-interested maximizers in their economic exchanges and this is not just a product of capitalism. Rather, they say a desire to “truck, barter and exchange” goes all the way back to hunter-gatherers.

Politics as the management of public goods

For rational choice theorists, the practice of politics is not about the process of governmental goal-setting, decision-making, and monitoring (institutionalists). Neither is it about public debate and compromise to achieve a virtuous outcome (Civic Republicans). Politics is bartering and haggling involving the public, not in a reasoned debate striving towards a collective good, but occurs under very specific public conditions. Based on a Lockean notion of social contract theory, when people are in small groups they behave rationally as individuals. But around issues that involve large groups, there is a danger of collective irrationality. What might those conditions be?

Situations that involve the management of public goods is the arena for politics. This means goods from whose benefits people cannot be excluded, such as clear air, or the conservation of resources. What differentiates political behavior from economic transactions is that in political behavior participants must be far-sighted. What to do about pubic goods does not dissolve after an immediate market exchange. It goes on indefinitely. This requires the presence of institutions and networks. Politics is a kind of market place for regulating the messy collective consequences of trading where the rate of profit is low and the long-term consequences accumulate.

Politicians are like commodities governed by the supply and demands of voting

Rational choice theorists treat politicians as if they were commodities in a market. Just as supply and demand expectations of consumers control the price of commodities, the supply and demand of people’s voting preferences drives the competition between politicians who are driven into and out of office. Rational choice theory believes in liberal democracy not in a political sense, the way the institutionalists do. Rather they believe in an economic democracy where political competition for votes leads to democratic results, just as Adam Smith believed that economic competition leads to social good.

All interpersonal processes like convincing or persuading are really economic exchanges. What would make them political is the presence of public goods. Rational choice theorists do not pay a great deal of attention to political power, because they tend to see political actions as subject to a democratic process of supply and demand. This theory pays little attention to the predominant place collective and cooperative activity – building a bridge, working on a ship – has in human social life.

Politics takes place at the point of exchange

Neoclassical economists claim that capitalists’ profits take place at the point of exchange between capitalist competitors and between individual capitalists and the marketplace. Marxian political economics argue that the most important place where profits are made is at the point of production. This means that it is in the exploitation of the worker. According to Marx, the worker produces far more social wealth – surplus value – than she receives as a wage.

Rational choice theorists ignore political processes that occur before the moment of exchange. That would be in the policy settings of think tanks, upper class social clubs, foundations, and congressional hearings which take place long before voting,  Just as they see economic profits being made at the point of exchange, rather than as Marxists do as at the point of production, so too, they see politics taking place at the point of exchange rather than at the point of political production.  The school of political sociology which fits snugly with rational choice theories are political pluralists. In terms of political ideology, rational choice theory goes best with right-wing libertarians.

Radical Feminist

Critique of the public-private separation of politics from the non-political

Radical feminism goes the furthest of any political theory in how far it carries politics into other areas of human social life. Feminists argue when institutionalists limit politics to the state and its institutions, these accepted boundaries for the arena of politics are not natural self-evident boundaries. Rather, they are the product of past political struggles which resulted in a public-private dichotomy in the first place. For them politics takes place in private settings, such as in families.

Limitations of individualist self

The liberal institutionalists have as its foundation a separate, autonomous, rational and self-subsisting self. This self is not simply describing and reflecting individual-social relations under capitalism, but it appears to be prescribing and structuring relations as if this were the only possible self. Institutionalists ignore the research that in non-capitalist societies, the self is better understood as “collectivist”.

Social contract theory

Once the individualist self is granted, the stage is set for social contract theory. Whether it be Hobbes, Locke or Rousseau, social contract theory starts with the premise that individuals really could subsist in a state of nature but as a calculating rational act, they agree that they would be even better off under social relations than in a “state of nature”. This social contract is required to create both civil society and the state. But even further back into archaic states, radical feminists argued it required sexual contract whereby domestic relations were not understood as political but private.

Capitalist state exploitation of women

Politics has been more exclusively limited to men and more self-consciously masculine than any other social practice. Given that women have conventionally been defined in terms of their relation to what is domestic, this has marginalized women as political actors. The unacknowledged foundation of male public politics is autonomous individuals. Meanwhile, what is ignored is the support and care received from women at home which is a) unpaid, and b) seen as not political. At the same time, the state denies their responsibility to intervene in family disputes. Until recently, it has excluded domestic violence as a category outside its political jurisdiction.

The socio-construction of humanity

Radical feminists reject all social contract theory, and along with Marxists, claim that human beings are social long before we become individuals. Without society, most fundamentally the relationship between mothers and their siblings, there could be no individuality. In fact, there is no such thing as an individual separate from society. It is society that transforms a biological organism – first into a human being and then into an individual. All social relations are political whenever there are resources at stake. Politics is the process by which people organize the production, distribution and use of resources to produce and reproduce their lives.

Gender is political

While agreeing with Weberian and Marxism claims that politics must include economics and history, radical feminist theory insists that the domestic politics of the family and sexuality not be excluded. It is not just in formal settings such as elections or civic debate that politics takes place, but in informal settings as well. The process by which a family decides whether to redecorate the kitchen or go on a vacation is political. When a man takes up two seats on a train with one seat occupied by his bag, and a woman standing up nearby does or does not tell the man to move his bag so she can sit down, that’s politics. When men whistle at women as they go by and women look the other way, that’s politics. Politics is embedded in language. When women end their statements as if they were questions when they are speaking in front of men, that’s politics. When women do emotional work not to appear too smart on a date to keep the man interested, that’s politics.

Power with vs power over people

Unlike all political theory, with the possible exception of Marxism, all power is not hierarchical. There can be power with people, as in egalitarian pre-state societies. There is also power over people as comes is developed in rank and stratified societies.

Power as the process

Generally, feminists are reluctant to make a separation between politics and power as means and end. An egalitarian political process has a good chance of leading to power with people. What feminists are very sensitive to is when a political process over the production, distribution and use of resources and is not egalitarian. When this is the case, it makes power vertical, power over people, no matter how noble the ends. So, when Marxist-Leninists ignore what the working class actually say it needs, when it suppresses the collective creativity of workers self-organizing attempts, its power is always vertical no matter what Leninists say about speaking for the working class.

All strategies are political

While there may be a fine line between strategizing and politics, radical feminists are likely to say it is a safer bet to assume that all strategies are political. Why? Because the cost of assuming some interaction is political when it is really strategic is not nearly as high as mistaking a move someone makes is strategic when it is really political. The same is true with any kind of influence. Convincing, persuading, and negotiating are better understood as a form of subtle politics with bribery, or force at the other extreme. For too long, women have been lulled into what appeared to be cooperative endeavors but were really manipulations of sorts. It is better to assume assertion or even aggression is the norm and then be pleasantly surprised if it turns out otherwise.

Political sociology and political ideology

In terms of political sociology, no school fits it exactly, but the political class model probably comes the closest. When it comes to political ideology, radical feminism is likely to be either social democratic or anarchist.

Biological Evolutionary

Most political theories deny politics exist among non-human species

Up until now, we haven’t addressed the question of the extent to which politics exists outside the human species. Both institutionalism and civic republicanism would explicitly deny that is possible because a) only in state societies can politics exist, or b) politics require reasoned debate which is beyond the reach of any other species. For Weberians, politics requires a state and a monopoly over the use of force which is beyond other animals. For Marxists, since animals do not have social classes (the examples of hierarchies among some of the other animals would not be deemed of the same order as social classes) there would be no politics. Rational choice theory would dismiss the possibility of politics among other animals because the whole basis of politics involves weighing the pros and cons of choices and imagining long-term consequences.

Being a social species with cooperation and sharing makes you a political species

According to Tiger and Fox (Imperial Animal), in order for politics to occur in material production, traveling together in herds and mothers taking care of their young is not enough for politics to take place. There has to be:

  1. a) a division of labor and cooperation in the process of providing food, building shelters and providing defense against attack; and,
  2. b) sharing of resources.

Since there is little or no division of labor in provisioning in other animal societies, there is no economic sphere in which to ask the question about politics’ relationship to economics.

Politics occurs in the cross-fire where genetics, socio-culture and individual learning conflict

Roger Masters takes it further, arguing that politics is the mechanism by which the human species reconciles conflicts between genetic, socio-cultural and individual learning loyalties. He points out that in any situation there are opportunities:

  • to be selfish and only consider yourself, making enemies along the way;
  • to look out for your relatives, which is kin selection and which results in nepotism;
  • to look out for your friends and forming alliances based on reciprocity; and,
  • to look out for strangers regardless of what they give back in return – altruism.

Power is not just about control over material production and control over policy but control over sexual reproduction

What all theories of politics have in common is that it is either a means to power or synonymous with power. Most, if not all, theories of power argue that power has a great deal to do with control over the provisioning of material resources: economics such as food, land, tools, commodities. Most political sciences connect power to control of social policy in the future, and maintaining it practically within its judicial system and police.

However, feminists rightly point out that resources are not just material production. They also include control over sexual resources of reproduction. If we consider that politics is the means of gaining power over the forces of production (economics) and public decision-making and reproduction, then biological evolutionary theory of sexual selection has a great deal to teach us about the  sexual politics of reproduction.

Sex and politics are traditionally separated

What is normally termed “sex” and “politics” are two sides of the same evolutionary coin. Yet what textbook on sexual behavior treats it as a political process? What primer on political science recognized that its subject matter is a derivative of a biological theme as fundamental as the struggle for reproductive success? What politician sees his own compulsive energy as fired by the ancient impulses of sexual competition? What lover sees his sexual process as pride being part of the necessary comportment of the successful mammalian politician? Sex and dominance, reproduction and power are so intimately linked that it is hard to disentangle one from the other when considering sex in its social setting.

Political economy and domestic economy

Unlike other theories of politics, for bioevolutionary politics involves two processes, a political economy and a domestic economy. Political economy involves material provisioning of natural resources to a society. It involves social production. The domestic economy involves sexual provisioning for mating and raising its children. It involves social reproduction.

The beginnings of a domestic economy

For the biological evolutionary perspective, the central political process is the process of sexual selection and sexual selection is based on bonding. A species can get by without much bonding. Flocks, herds, and schools of fish are notable for the interchangeability of their members. But like breeding systems with asexual reproduction, without bonding they restrict their options and reduce the amount of variety on which sexual selection can work. A true social system begins when animals respond differentially to other members of the species as individuals. They begin to select other members for specific kinds of relatively permanent interaction.

Before mammals were political about material resources, they were political about sexual resources. Sexual politics carries into all social species, most completely among chimps (Frans B. M. De Waal), dolphins and to a lesser extent among elephants. When animals form groups, they must organize themselves in terms of mating practices. As a result of fighting, posturing, cooperating, forming alliances and coalitions, males and females organize themselves into hierarchies. These hierarchies have built into them ground rules as to who can and can’t mate with who and under what conditions.

The domestic economy is about genetics, not sex.  While all males get a chance to copulate, only the more dominant get a chance to breed. The more powerful animal gets a better chance to perpetuate himself genetically. The dominate male is more or less sexually indifferent and will often let inferior males mount the females. Everyone copulates, but only dominates propagate. The dominant animal moves more freely, eats better, gets more attention, lives longer, is healthier and less anxious. On the other hand, the death rate among peripheral males at puberty is very high.

Hierarchies are biologically constituted

Bio-evolutionary theory agrees with feminism that family and sexual life is very political. But where most feminists take the existence of these hierarchies as socially and historically constructed and hope one day to abolish them, bio-evolutionary political theory would argue that these hierarchies are not simply products of society but are rooted in biology. The presence of gender stratification may enhance and amplify these hierarchies, but it doesn’t create them.

Furthermore, in response to Marxism, the creation of a communist society with social gender equality may reduce hierarchies but it wouldn’t abolish them, at least for the foreseeable future. Based on dominance hierarchies, the highest in the hierarchies would have access to the best food and the most comfortable nesting. However, that is not the same thing as having control over production. Darwinian political theory would say all social species are doing some kind of political jockeying come mating season.

What is the relationship between politics and natural selection?

There is, of course, competition for resources between species, but that is not political. Politics can only occur within a species in which fight or flight are not fruitful strategies.

The emergence of the state as an unusual problem to be explained

For neo-Darwinian politics, the emergence of the state is not the starting point of politics, but a problem that neither the traditional mechanisms of kin selection theory or reciprocity solves. What ecological, demographic, economic and technological problems arise that make it in the self-interest of most people to accept the subjugation, the asymmetrical production and distribution of resources that the state involves? Roger Masters offers a rational choice answer to the question. He argues that once collective goods emerge there is trade-off most members of society are willing to make between the benefits of irrigation systems, roads, trade, and the end of feuding that makes the subjection and increased alienation worth it.

Political agency, persuasion

There are no professional politicians in the non-human animal kingdom as far as I know, although De Waal makes some amusing cases for some chimps being more political than others. De Waal makes some interesting points about the power of body language to impact others, although sometimes it might be persuasion and sometimes force or the threat of force. I suspect bio-evolutionary politics would define politics as the strategy within a species to mate and maximize genes across generations.

Bio-evolutionary theory in political sociology and political ideology

It is difficult to place biological politics in the field of political sociology. Political managerial might be closest. A knee-jerk reaction of feminists and Marxists would be quickly to tar-and-feather any biological theory as the political ideology of fascists because of the legacy of social Darwinism. But modern bio-evolutionary theorists are generally hip to its past, and are sensitive to the racial and sexual implications it may have. A friend of mine did a survey among evolutionary psychologists to find out what their leanings are in terms of political ideology. In general, they were liberal. There are also a significant number of women in the field of evolutionary psychology who identify themselves as feminists.

Conclusion: Grand Definition of politics

In making a living, we are co-producers. At the very heart of our social existence has always been a wide range of conscious and planned activities involving the purposive use and production of resources for given ends. People in groups could more easily fell trees, and place them across gullies or streams, deploy hunting nets and chase animals into them if they planned together. In the process of planning there are disputes and debates about what policy to follow and how to achieve their aims.

Politics is:

  1. as an activity that consists of the process of social goal-setting, decision-making and monitoring activities which produce cooperation, negotiation and conflict; and,
  2. as an analysis, politics consists of the study of the provenance, origins, forms, resource allocation (human skills, animate sources of energy, inanimate sources of energy), distribution, and control and consequences of power.

Please see Table A which compares the seven theories of politics across twelve categories of questions. The table closes with each theory’s definition of politics.

• First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Seven Theories of Politics: The Rehabilitation of a Loaded Vice Word first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Economic Collapse Not Caused By COVID And Won’t Improve With Vaccines

For major owners of capital, the “COVID Pandemic” has been a perfect pretext and scapegoat for an obsolete economy failing due to its own intrinsic logic and dynamics. COVID has been a convenient and timely cover for the ongoing global economic decline that started well before the “COVID Pandemic.” It is much easier to blame the failure of the economic system on extenuating circumstances or external factors like a virus rather than the internal operation of the anachronistic economic system itself. This is especially true given the never-ending series of virus variants that keep appearing. In other words, deep economic problems will persist and worsen in the coming months and years.

It is well-known that the capitalist economic system goes through endless crises, “booms and busts,” recessions, “corrections,” and depressions. Stability, security, harmony, peace, and prosperity for all are absent under such an outmoded system. It is impossible for such an economic system to develop in a balanced way where all sectors operate in a mutually conditioning manner and are not distorted all the time. Advanced commodity production means there is no unity in production and consumption, no conscious organization of the economy for the benefit of society and its members. Modern nation-building is not possible under such conditions.

The notion that capital-centered politicians and policy makers can or will fix things is irrational. No major problems have been solved in decades. Every day there are new reports on how numerous conditions are deteriorating at home and abroad. Unemployment, under-employment, debt, poverty, and inequality are pervasive under capitalism.

All of this is taking place despite that fact that hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated. Vaccines have simply not “stabilized the economy.” The economy remains uneven and distorted in numerous ways.

The rich and their political and media representatives cannot find a way out of the current crisis. They never overcame the 2008 crisis or the effects of previous crises. Their policies and agendas just keep making things worse. Even if every individual on the planet were vaccinated 11 times, economic and social decay would persist. To date, no amount of fiscal or monetary policy has stabilized the economy and made it work for everyone. Instead, the economy keeps lurching from problem to problem and crisis to crisis while the rich get richer and everyone is left with a sinking feeling about what lies ahead. The big topic right now is runaway inflation. The price of dozens of products and items keeps climbing (e.g., food, gas, housing, cars) while wages and salaries stagnate or fall behind, which means that the majority are simply not getting ahead.

Equally dangerous in this fractured and unstable context are the contradictions that arise from the unwillingness and inability of the rich and their state to solve any problems. Such a situation actually makes things worse for large sections of the rich themselves. In other words, the rich are increasingly operating in ways that are self-sabotaging because they are so short-sighted, greedy, pragmatic, and egocentric. This, in turn, leads to even more wrecking activity and tragedies for more people. Humanity cannot afford such chaos, anarchy, and violence.

To solve the problems plaguing the economy, as well as the health crisis that is upon us with Covid, it is necessary for people themselves to control, decide, and direct all the affairs of society. Power must be wielded by those who actually have an investment in a bright future, the very people who actually produce the wealth needed to run society. This means ending all types of pay-the-rich schemes (e.g., “Public-Private-Partnerships”) and making major investments in social programs instead. The rich and their cheerleaders, especially their political parties, have proven time and again that they are unable and unwilling to solve serious problems, especially in a meaningful and lasting way. They can come up with quick short-term band-aids here and there that provide some with temporary relief but they will not take any action to end the marginalization of people and engender sustainable human-centered arrangements.

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Afghan Crisis Must End America’s Empire of War, Corruption and Poverty

Millions of Afghans have been displaced by the war.  Photo: MikrofonNews

Americans have been shocked by videos of thousands of Afghans risking their lives to flee the Taliban’s return to power in their country – and then by an Islamic State suicide bombing and ensuing massacre by U.S. forces that together killed at least 170 people, including 13 U.S. troops.

Even as UN agencies warn of an impending humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the U.S. Treasury has frozen nearly all of the Afghan Central Bank’s $9.4 billion in foreign currency reserves, depriving the new government of funds that it will desperately need in the coming months to feed its people and provide basic services.

Under pressure from the Biden administration, the International Monetary Fund decided not to release $450 million in funds that were scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan to help the country cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. and other Western countries have also halted humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. After chairing a G7 summit on Afghanistan on August 24, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that withholding aid and recognition gave them “very considerable leverage – economic, diplomatic and political” over the Taliban.

Western politicians couch this leverage in terms of human rights, but they are clearly trying to ensure that their Afghan allies retain some power in the new government, and that Western influence and interests in Afghanistan do not end with the Taliban’s return. This leverage is being exercised in dollars, pounds and euros, but it will be paid for in Afghan lives.

To read or listen to Western analysts, one would think that the United States and its allies’ 20-year war was a benign and beneficial effort to modernize the country, liberate Afghan women and provide healthcare, education and good jobs, and that this has all now been swept away by capitulation to the Taliban.

The reality is quite different, and not so hard to understand. The United States spent $2.26 trillion on its war in Afghanistan. Spending that kind of money in any country should have lifted most people out of poverty. But the vast bulk of those funds, about $1.5 trillion, went to absurd, stratospheric military spending to maintain the U.S. military occupation, drop over 80,000 bombs and missiles on Afghans, pay private contractors, and transport troops, weapons and military equipment back and forth around the world for 20 years.

Since the United States fought this war with borrowed money, it has also cost half a trillion dollars in interest payments alone, which will continue far into the future. Medical and disability costs for U.S. soldiers wounded in Afghanistan already amount to over $175 billion, and they will likewise keep mounting as the soldiers age. Medical and disability costs for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could eventually top a trillion dollars.

So what about “rebuilding Afghanistan”? Congress appropriated $144 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2001, but $88 billion of that was spent to recruit, arm, train and pay the Afghan “security forces” that have now disintegrated, with soldiers returning to their villages or joining the Taliban. Another $15.5 billion spent between 2008 and 2017 was documented as “waste, fraud and abuse” by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The crumbs left over, less than 2% of total U.S. spending on Afghanistan, amount to about $40 billion, which should have provided some benefit to the Afghan people in economic development, healthcare, education, infrastructure and humanitarian aid.

But, as in Iraq, the government the U.S installed in Afghanistan was notoriously corrupt, and its corruption only became more entrenched and systemic over time. Transparency International (TI) has consistently ranked U.S.-occupied Afghanistan as among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Western readers may think that this corruption is a long-standing problem in Afghanistan, as opposed to a particular feature of the U.S. occupation, but this is not the case. TI notes that ”it is widely recognized that the scale of corruption in the post-2001 period has increased over previous levels.” A 2009 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that “corruption has soared to levels not seen in previous administrations.”

Those administrations would include the Taliban government that U.S. invasion forces removed from power in 2001, and the Soviet-allied socialist governments that were overthrown by the U.S.-deployed precursors of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the 1980s, destroying the substantial progress they had made in education, healthcare and women’s rights.

A 2010 report by former Reagan Pentagon official Anthony H. Cordesman, entitled “How America Corrupted Afghanistan”, chastised the U.S. government for throwing gobs of money into that country with virtually no accountability.

The New York Times reported in 2013 that every month for a decade, the CIA had been dropping off suitcases, backpacks and even plastic shopping bags stuffed with U.S. dollars for the Afghan president to bribe warlords and politicians.

Corruption also undermined the very areas that Western politicians now hold up as the successes of the occupation, like education and healthcare. The education system has been riddled with schools, teachers, and students that exist only on paper. Afghan pharmacies are stocked with fake, expired or low quality medicines, many smuggled in from neighboring Pakistan. At the personal level, corruption was fueled by civil servants like teachers earning only one-tenth the salaries of better-connected Afghans working for foreign NGOs and contractors.

Rooting out corruption and improving Afghan lives has always been secondary to the primary U.S. goal of fighting the Taliban and maintaining or extending its puppet government’s control. As TI reported, “The U.S. has intentionally paid different armed groups and Afghan civil servants to ensure cooperation and/or information, and cooperated with governors regardless of how corrupt they were… Corruption has undermined the U.S. mission in Afghanistan by fuelling grievances against the Afghan government and channelling material support to the insurgency.”

The endless violence of the U.S. occupation and the corruption of the U.S.-backed government boosted popular support for the Taliban, especially in rural areas where three quarters of Afghans live. The intractable poverty of occupied Afghanistan also contributed to the Taliban victory, as people naturally questioned how their occupation by wealthy countries like the United States and its Western allies could leave them in such abject poverty.

Well before the current crisis, the number of Afghans reporting that they were struggling to live on their current income increased from 60% in 2008 to 90% by 2018. A 2018 Gallup poll found the lowest levels of self-reported “well-being” that Gallup has ever recorded anywhere in the world. Afghans not only reported record levels of misery but also unprecedented hopelessness about their future.

Despite some gains in education for girls, only a third of Afghan girls attended primary school in 2019 and only 37% of adolescent Afghan girls were literate. One reason that so few children go to school in Afghanistan is that more than two million children between the ages of 6 and 14 have to work to support their poverty-stricken families.

Yet instead of atoning for our role in keeping most Afghans mired in poverty, Western leaders are now cutting off desperately needed economic and humanitarian aid that was funding three quarters of Afghanistan’s public sector and made up 40% of its total GDP.

In effect, the United States and its allies are responding to losing the war by threatening the Taliban and the people of Afghanistan with a second, economic war. If the new Afghan government does not give in to their “leverage” and meet their demands, our leaders will starve their people and then blame the Taliban for the ensuing famine and humanitarian crisis, just as they demonize and blame other victims of U.S. economic warfare, from Cuba to Iran.

After pouring trillions of dollars into endless war in Afghanistan, America’s main duty now is to help the 40 million Afghans who have not fled their country, as they try to recover from the terrible wounds and trauma of the war America inflicted on them, as well as a massive drought that devastated 40% of their crops this year and a crippling third wave of covid-19.

The U.S. should release the $9.4 billion in Afghan funds held in U.S. banks. It should shift the $6 billion allocated for the now defunct Afghan armed forces to humanitarian aid, instead of diverting it to other forms of wasteful military spending. It should encourage European allies and the IMF not to withhold funds. Instead, they should fully fund the UN 2021 appeal for $1.3 billion in emergency aid, which as of late August was less than 40% funded.

Once upon a time, the United States helped its British and Soviet allies to defeat Germany and Japan, and then helped to rebuild them as healthy, peaceful and prosperous countries. For all America’s serious faults – its racism, its crimes against humanity in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and its neocolonial relations with poorer countries – America held up a promise of prosperity that people in many countries around the world were ready to follow.

If all the United States has to offer other countries today is the war, corruption and poverty it brought to Afghanistan, then the world is wise to be moving on and looking at new models to follow: new experiments in popular and social democracy; renewed emphasis on national sovereignty and international law; alternatives to the use of military force to resolve international problems; and more equitable ways of organizing internationally to tackle global crises like the Covid pandemic and the climate disaster.

The United States can either stumble on in its fruitless attempt to control the world through militarism and coercion, or it can use this opportunity to rethink its place in the world. Americans should be ready to turn the page on our fading role as global hegemon and see how we can make a meaningful, cooperative contribution to a future that we will never again be able to dominate, but which we must help to build.

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“Green New Deal” Means More PPPs and More Economic and Social Destruction

These days there is no shortage of hype surrounding the “Green New Deal” (GND). The “Green New Deal” has become a major buzz-phrase that has ensnared many along the way.

Like so many top-down schemes, the GND is being promoted by many world leaders in unison. This alone should be worrisome. History shows that this is usually a red flag. Few pro-social things come out of movements that are not real grass-roots movements. These world leaders are the main representatives of the international financial oligarchy—a tiny ruling elite obsessed with maximizing private profit no matter the damage to society and the environment. These are the same forces responsible for tragedies such as high levels of inequality, poverty, unemployment, under-employment, inflation, debt, homelessness, hunger, racism, war, occupation, pollution, de-forestation, anxiety, despair, alienation, depression, and suicide worldwide.

The GND is being presented by the rich and their political and media representatives as something great for society and humanity; everyone is under pressure to “just embrace it.”

The GND uses the “New Deal” language of the 1930s and ostensibly addresses climate change, inequality, energy efficiency, job creation, labor rights, racial injustice, and other social aims. This includes a GND for public schools, healthcare, and housing as well.

The GND is supposed to improve conditions for humanity and help us all “build back better”—a major slogan of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which is dominated by millionaires and billionaires. Alongside this disinformation, the WEF is also promoting disinformation about “reinventing capitalism” to fool the gullible. The GND is supposedly rooted in the principles of economic justice, puts the planet ahead of profits, and provides a “blueprint for change.” It is said that Green Projects will cost hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Europe has its own version of the GND. “Variations of the [“Green New Deal”] proposal have been around for years,” says the New York Times. The so-called Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was introduced more than 20 years ago, for example. In 2007, the imperialist journalist, Thomas Friedman, wrote the following in the New York Times:

If you have put a windmill in your yard or some solar panels on your roof, bless your heart. But we will only green the world when we change the very nature of the electricity grid – moving it away from dirty coal or oil to clean coal and renewables. And that is a huge industrial project – much bigger than anyone has told you. Finally, like the New Deal, if we undertake the green version, it has the potential to create a whole new clean power industry to spur our economy into the 21st century.

Pollution, inequality, and 50 other problems have worsened since this observation was made 14 years ago. The quote rejects economic science and fails to help workers, youth, students, women, and others make sense of the economy in a way that favors their interests.

GND Means More PPPs and Tragedies

“Green New Deal” goals are to be attained through “joint” public sector and private sector “investments.” The disinformation from the rich is that the public can’t achieve the lofty goals of the GND on its own and that “investors” from the so-called “efficient,” “entrepreneurial,” “innovative,” and “smart” private sector are needed to achieve these big goals. It is by working “together” that “we” will supposedly achieve what the GND sets out to do. “New Deals” are purportedly too big for either sector to pull off alone and thus some sort of “partnership” or “alliance” is “needed.”

In reality, private competing owners of capital are unwilling and often unable to pay for major infrastructure projects and want the government to guarantee them big investments and returns using the public purse. PPPs essentially guarantee risk-free profits for various monopolies and further diminish control of the economy by workers and the public. PPPs enable major owners of capital to seize more of the added-value produced by workers through “infrastructure projects” guaranteed by the state at public expense. This further enriches a handful of people, intensifies inequality, and leaves workers and the public with less wealth and less control over the economy.

This is not how “partners” work. This is how an unequal relationship works.

Terms such as “alliance” or “partnership” are designed to fool the gullible and hide the enormous financial gain made by a handful of billionaires through PPPs that purport to advance the goals of the GND. In this, way the door is nonchalantly and pragmatically opened to imposing private alien claims on the wealth produced collectively by workers. The rich are given greater access to public funds and resources that belong to the public, all in the name of “partnership.” We are to believe that without a “Public-Private-Partnership” the GND will not become reality, meaning that the GND is possible only if the ultra-rich pocket more public wealth and resources. This is cynically called a “win-win.”

“Public-Private-Partnerships” promote the illusion that the public sector and the private sector can harmonize their philosophies, interests, aims, operations, activities, and results when in fact PPPs are antisocial, antiworker, and undercut a modern nation-building project.

The public and private sectors cannot be partners; they rest on different foundations, goals, world outlooks, operations, and legal frameworks; they are different categories and phenomena with different properties and characteristics. These differences are not trivial and cannot be reconciled or harmonized. Don’t believe neoliberals and privatizers whey they self-servingly claim that the two distinct spheres can “work together.”

Public and private are antonyms; they mean the opposite of each other; they are not synonymous. Public refers to everyone, non-competition, transparency, the common good, and society as whole (e.g., public parks, beaches, and roads). The public is pro-social and human-centered. It approaches life and relations with a big modern vision. Private refers to exclusivity, for a few, not for everyone, and usually involves rivalry and hierarchy. Private is also often associated with secrecy, not transparency, especially in business. The private sector pertains to relations between private citizens, whereas the public sector has to do with relations between individuals and the state. This distinction is critical. These spheres represent two profoundly different domains. The rights belonging to each sector are different.

Blurring the critical distinction between public and private should be avoided at all costs. It is irresponsible and self-serving to treat the public and private as being synonymous and easy to harmonize without big disadvantages for the public. The public does not benefit from blurring this distinction. The public suffers when the dissimilarity between public and private is obscured and not grasped in its depth.

PPPs conceal harsh irreconcilable class differences and interests in society. They reinforce a “no-class” outlook of society and, in doing so, distort reality at the ideological level, leaving many disoriented, unclear, and confused about their interests, which makes them vulnerable to disinformation from the rich and their media. In the world of PPPs, everyone is merely a “stakeholder.” There are no workers or owners of capital. There are no antagonistic irreconcilable social class interests. There are no classes and class struggle. There are no millionaires and billionaires on one side and workers on the other side who produce all the wealth of society.

Not surprisingly, PPPs form a big part of the antisocial “Great Reset” agenda of the world’s billionaires, which has been publicly articulated by the main leaders of the World Economic Forum such as Klaus Schwab. Many prime ministers, presidents, and prominent state leaders around the world continue to parrot the same tired slogans of the “Great Reset” agenda.

In practice, PPPs use the neoliberal state to funnel more public funds than ever to the private sector under the banner of “partnerships” and “making the world better for everyone.”

This funneling of more public funds to narrow private interests will not only solve no problems, it will intensify many problems that are already serious. The existing all-sided crisis will keep deepening under such a set-up.

As a main form of privatization, the “Green New Deal” will significantly intensify inequality, increase costs for everyone, reduce efficiency and quality, lessen accountability and transparency, increase corruption, and diminish the voice and wealth of workers and the public. It will not enhance democracy or improve the environment in any way because it will further concentrate greater economic and political power in even fewer hands, if that is even possible at this point in history. Funneling more public funds, assets, and authority to competing private interests in a highly monopolized economy is a disaster for the social and natural environment. It is the claims of workers, the public, and society that must be expanded and affirmed, not the narrow claims of competing owners of capital obsessed with maximizing their own profits at the expense of everyone and everything else.

The “Green New Deal” will not challenge the entrenched class privilege of the rich. It will not increase the power of workers or give them greater control of the wealth they produce. It will not make the economy more pro-social, balanced, diverse, and self-reliant. Pollution and de-forestation will still persist under the GND. Experience has repeatedly borne out that capital-centered environmental plans and activities ensure that things keep going from bad to worse.

A 2016 United Nations report highlights many ways that PPPs undermine the public interest and produce more problems. Global Policy Forum states that:

PPPs are used to conceal public borrowing, while providing long-term state guarantees for profits to private companies. Private sector corporations must maximize profits if they are to survive. This is fundamentally incompatible with protecting the environment and ensuring universal access to quality public services.

Public and private simply do not go together. The organization In The Public Interest offers many reports, articles, and documents that expose how PPPs harm the public interest and benefit major owners of capital at the public expense. Numerous other organizations around the world have also described and explained how PPPs make things worse for the public while enriching a handful of people.

In the context of a continually failing economy, competing owners of capital have no choice but to cloak their egocentric drive to maximize private profit by seizing public funds from the state as a “win-win” for everyone, as something great for the natural and social environment. The neoliberal state is increasingly being used to divert public funds and assets to major owners of capital as they compete with each other for domination of the economy in an increasingly unstable and dangerous environment. The old ways of profit-taking are no longer as lucrative as before, so the rich have to use PPPs to seize public funds for private financial gain under the banner of “working together” to “build back better.”

As always, the rich will not brook any opposition to their narrow private interests. They will not support anything that places a greater portion of the social wealth in the hands of those who actually produce the wealth of society: workers. They will continue to act like they have a natural right to the wealth produced collectively by workers.

Major owners of capital have no human-centered interest in improving the environment or social conditions. They pragmatically strive for what will best serve their narrow private interests and class privilege without any consideration for the well-being of all sectors of the economy as a whole. Modern nation-building cannot take place in such a context. The human-centered resolution of social, economic, and environmental problems requires confronting powerful private interests and their outdated economic system if humanity is to have a bright future.

To fix the economy and to reverse social and environmental problems requires a public authority worthy of the name. There is no reason why a real public authority cannot use the wealth and resources produced by workers to improve the social and natural environment for the nation. Planned public investment for the public and for modern nation-building is not possible under the direction and influence of competing owners of capital obsessed with maximizing private profit. Such forces are only looking out for their narrow interests, not the needs of a balanced self-reliant crisis-free economy that consistently and responsibly raises the material and cultural well-being of all.

There is no need to involve powerful private interests in social programs, social investments, or green projects. The rich are not only the cause of many problems the GND ostensibly seeks to remedy, they also have no valid and legitimate claim to any public funds, resources, and assets. The rich mainly seize and control the wealth produced by workers; they themselves do not produce the wealth of society.

The rich are a historically superfluous and exhausted force blocking social progress. Without the rich, their entourage, and their outdated political and economic system, the social product could be wielded by people themselves for the benefit of the natural and social environment. The impact of this shift and change on time and space would be monumental.

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Lesser Evil Politics Assure Greater Evil Economics

A new American president is presenting a program for renewal of human values in the marketplace unheard of since the 1930s but still projecting American military domination and environmental destruction far beyond the awareness of most Americans. Continued insistence that Russia and China are major global threats to everyone and not just American monopoly capitalists resonate not only in the cosmic void between the ears of our mentally disabled foreign policy experts but echo in the minds of innocent Americans since that’s all they get from major, and all too often minor media.

The charge that China is conducting genocide on its Islamic people coming from the butchers of hundreds of thousands of Islamic people in the middle east would be a dreadful sick joke if not so incredibly evil, but poor souls condemned to network media remain stuck in a misinformation chamber amplifying our ruling power’s message day in and day out. The fact that growing majorities have little or no faith in government or media is a hopeful sign but until we totally clean out the sewage system much of corporate news has become, the stench that wafts up remains a carrier of the information pandemic.

While alleged economic threats from China actually do offer market competition to the empire – and market competition is supposed to be good, according to the theology preached by the priest-rabbi-therapists of the church of capital – and China is under the control of communists who at least try, not always with success, to force it to work for the common good and not just the minority of Chinese capitalists, why and how and to whom is that a threat? Only to America where majorities exist in numbers of those in debt but never those who vote nationally. This is called  “our” democracy by many wishful thinkers still unaware that the political process is owned and operated by the wealthiest minority, which spends billions to maintain political control by purchase and rental of candidates and office holders. Citizens innocently proclaiming this hustle as “our” democracy are like past slaves referring to “our” plantation. If they were the minority house negroes of the time they could afford such fantasy but the overwhelming majority who toiled in the fields and suffered the most brutal treatment had no such luxury.

And as if the treatment of these two powerful nations didn’t show enough imperial idiocy, that of a nearly helpless tiny nation currently, as usual, under assault, is greater indication of lunacy bordering on stark raving insanity.

After 60 years of a murderous attempted strangulation of the Cuban political economy, that tiny nation survives with the support of the overwhelming majority of governments on earth. Recently at the United Nations 184 countries voted to end the filthy American embargo with only Murder Inc. headquartered in the USA and Israel still, as always out of step with the overwhelming majority while spouting humanitarian rhetoric and practicing murderous brutality. This still finds well meaning people waving flags and quoting bibles and constitutions as though these fabled symbols clean up the reality of degenerate social practice as hypocritical as a rapist claiming victims only to assure they do not suffer sexual frustration.

The anti-Cuban lobby, second only to that of Israel in its control of American foreign policy, was originally a creature of the Cuban upper classes who escaped to Miami from the revolution that was working to spread education, jobs, health care and other necessities of life to the greatest number of people who had long been denied by American partnership with Cuban ruling power. They loom large in the current scenario of an alleged uprising against the terror and horror of millions of people eating, going to school and getting health care despite the ugly embargo and other violent attempts to smother the island of 11 million so that capital might again profit from gambling and drugs, as it did before 1960.

Meanwhile, another bloody lie in Afghanistan has ended with the Taliban, the group we were allegedly protecting poor afghans from, has taken over the government of their own country. This after billions have been spent and hundreds of thousands murdered in pursuit of profits while good people here have been fed stories about emancipating women and educating Afghans to the joys of democracy like ours, where hundreds of thousands of Americans live in the street while we spend trillions to kill people and billions to care for pets.

And far beyond wretched national policies looms the global curse of what private profit industrial and war marketing are doing to the environment shared by humanity and not just one or anther national identity group often claiming super status with a special connection to deities ranging from Santa Claus to the Easter bunny for all they are worth in the material world. Words about democracy are not balanced by deeds of mass murder, oppression and absolute support for rich minority rule that assures continued profit making from exploitation of workers whether they clean toilets, drive buses, pilot airplanes or walk dogs. Like the sex workers who use their private parts to create private profits for their entrepreneurial pimps, those who create, package and deliver the consumer goods that are the foundation of the economy are doing it for the benefit of owners and investors rather than their own which would be far better served if they owned and ran the businesses they form the foundation for while others get rich on their labor.

Facing horrible news at what the future of humanity looks like under the environmental stress called climate change, more people than ever are working to end foul methods of economics that assure disaster for humanity but trying to do so while maintaining market rules of private profit assures further destruction or worse, simply throwing people out of work they do only to survive and thus destroy hope of survival. The future must be to keep people alive by assuring the public good before any pursuit of private profit. We do not need professional economists to explain that capitalism is the only answer to social problems all the while collecting fat salaries and investment opportunities while society fails more quickly under their rule.

In truth, if workers are doing dirty work that affords them salaries so they can pay their rent, mortgages and other life supports, but it costs society billions to have to clean up the mess they create, we would all best be served by paying them to not go to work. We’d be saving the billions we’d have to spend to clean up the mess they created in service to private profiteers and assure their survival by using those mammoth savings to help them learn and get better jobs for them and everyone else, that serve all of us and not simply minority investors. As the world grows more threatened and conditions become more dangerous with the USA holding several hundred military bases in foreign countries and surrounding Russia and China with troops and war ships, immediate action must be taken to both confront environmental conditions that threaten us all and war like preparations that are profitable to a criminal minority while threatening the planet and all its people.

In short, we need global democratic communism before anti-social capitalism destroys us all.

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Covid End of US Empire?

The United States is facing perfect storm conditions for the grueling continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic. The long-term economic impact could hasten the end of its global power as we know it.

Infections, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise again – as they are in other capitalist states. But the outlook for the U.S. is uniquely bleak.

Already, the US has the shameful title of having the world’s biggest death toll from the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and its disease Covid-19. At over 630,000 deaths, that represents nearly 15 percent of the world’s total. Despite a relatively high level of vaccination (50 percent of the population), the disease appears to be resurgent.

The problem for the United States is the dominance of capitalist imperatives over social policy which prevents a coherent, effective public health strategy. The imperative of private profit is also present in European nations, but to a lesser extent compared with the US. Britain is probably closer to the US than any other European country in its compliance with capitalist interests, and it is no coincidence that Britain has the worst Covid-19 mortality in Europe, despite having a high rate of vaccination.

Compliance with capitalist interests prevents a proven policy of containing and eradicating the Covid-19 virus. That policy is best seen in practice in China where the government implements strict lockdowns, travel restrictions, widespread testing, rapid tracing of infections, masking-wearing in public, and mass vaccination. However, that policy is made feasible because China’s socialist system provides the public resources to enable compliance. Public health is the priority, not commercial interests.

By contrast, in the United States, the public is largely expected to bear the costs of lockdowns, long-term unemployment and general living costs. With an over-reliance on vaccination alone, the Biden administration is declaring the end of lockdowns, social distancing and wearing of masks. Government aid for the unemployed and rental assistance for families is being terminated.

Workers are being forced back to workplaces and schools are being reopened in total denial of the epidemiological scientific advice to maintain isolation. Why? Because of the imperative for capitalist businesses to resume profit-making. And, of course, without adequate government support to laid-off workers, many millions of citizens are frustrated by the need to get back to work.

One can easily understand anti-lockdown protests when people are not given financial support to cope with lockdown. The problem is not the practice of public health policy, per se, it is the practice of public health policy in a capitalist society where there is little support for furloughed workers.

Another distinctive problem for the United States – and to lesser extent European states – is the inordinate level of misinformation. Millions of Americans believe that there is no pandemic. Despite the death toll and prevalent sickness, it is incredible that so many people are convinced that the pandemic phenomenon is all a hoax. Such a view is particularly popular among Trump supporters and US Republicans who hold the outlandish conspiratorial belief that it’s all a giant ruse to take away individual liberty, impose a “Grand Reset” and a “fascist liberal tyranny” (what a discombobulation!).

This kind of unscientific conspiracy delusion feeds into other irrational convictions that are opposed to wearing face masks in public or against the administering of vaccines. Irresponsible pundits and media commentators especially on the right-wing Murdoch outlets Fox and Sky promulgate anti-vaccination theories that are deterring large sections of the population from taking up inoculation. Some of the wilder fringes actually believe that vaccines will turn us into zombies as in the horror film, I Am Legend. Then these same pundits talk about the danger of “Covid civil war” breaking out. Well, they have helped create an atmosphere of confusion, fear, ignorance and distrust.

The United States is doomed. In its private-profit-driving society, all basic measures of public health management are confounded. On top of this, the level of misinformation and misdirection also further thwarts a rational plan to contain the pandemic. That is why we are seeing a grave resurgence in the pandemic across the United States. By failing to contain the disease, the perfect storm conditions in the US make for the emergence of new deadlier variants of Covid-19. The biggest worry is that the existing vaccines will no longer be effective against a newer virulent strain of the virus.

Millennia of history attest that deadly plagues have altered the course of history and have even wiped out civilizations.

For most of the past century, many observers have pondered on whether the United States and its global imperial power would be taken down through war with a geopolitical rival such as the Soviet Union or more recently Russia and China.

Then along comes an invisible danger, a virus, that is ripping through the United States in a way not foreseen. And the vulnerability of the US is all down to its own internal failings as a capitalist society saturated with misinformation.

• First published in Sputnik

The post Covid End of US Empire? first appeared on Dissident Voice.