Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition

April 25, 2017  /  Gilad Atzmon

GA: Ahead of our 30 April conference at Theatre 80 and following the desperate calls for censorship of the event Stanley Cohen wrote this wonderful piece on Counterpunch today. Please read and spread…   

http://www.counterpunch.org

by STANLEY L. COHEN

This coming Sunday, April 30th, at 5PM, there will be a panel discussion entitled “The Post Political Condition… Trump, Brexit, and The Middle East… What Next? at Theatre 80 located at 80 St. Marks Place on the Lower East Side (LES) of New York City.

Timely, and simple enough in its reach, this discussion will include myself and a number of intellectuals such as history professor Norton Mezvinsky, whistle blower Michael Lesher and author Gilad Atzmon. The panel will focus on the collapse of identity politics, the crises within new left thinking, and the future of liberal and progressive thought.

In particular, I will discuss“Insular View of the American Left” while Professor Mezvinsky will speak to “The Quagmire of Current Political Terminology in U.S. Society.” Mr. Lesher will explore dichotomy between “Jewish Identity and Jewish Religion” and Mr. Atzmon will address “The Tyranny of Correctness- deconstructing identity politics and understanding its origin.”

Although the panel will necessarily touch upon Zionism, Israel, and events in the Middle East, these topics will play but a small part in a much broader exploration of the political winds of today.

To some, the subject matter of the discussion is apparently of less consequence than the makeup of the panel itself. In particular, the presence of Gilad Atzmon, a onetime Israeli citizen and Jew who has since renounced both, has triggered an organized effort to bully the theatre into canceling the event or, failing that, to disrupt it.

I’ve long been accused of being a “self-hating” Jew largely because of my work as legal counsel for the political wing of Hamas and my fervent opposition to the state of Israel as one built from the marrow of ethnic cleansing.

Described as controversial because of my opposition to Zionism, and a long list of revolutionary clients and movements that have included more than a few accused of domestic or international terrorism, I’ve grown accustomed to being “shunned ” by the political opposition that rarely seeks to engage in public discussion or debate. That’s fine. For some, it’s so much easier to toss barbs from the safety of the shadows then it is to withstand open exposure for the weakness of one’s thought.

Yet, Gilad Atzmon presents another picture. Mr. Atzmon’s stinging criticisms of Zionism, Jewish identity… perhaps even Judaism itself… have so enraged both Zionists and some anti-Zionists alike, that the mob seeks to silence him and thereby deny us all the benefit of his speech.

Censors of thought are not new to time or place. Throughout history, they have deigned to dictate the parameters of acceptable dialogue and, when unable to control the discourse, have sought to shut it down as if ideas are in themselves dangerous.

One need only look to recent events in Washington D.C. to understand that those who fear the market place of free ideas often seek to shutter it whether by economic intimidation or through resort to violence.

Just this past month, JDL (Jewish Defense League) imports from Canada brutally attacked, and seriously injured, a 55-year old Palestinian-American professor from North Carolina who had the temerity to pass an anti-AIPAC demonstration with his family.

The mindless brutality of the Canadian JDL members, that day, cannot be seen in a vacuum but rather must be viewed in the light of 50 plus years of terrorism carried out by its US counterpart, now formally designated as an outlawed terrorist organization.

Over these many years, the membership, indeed,  leadership of the American branch of the JDL… or “associate organizations”… have unleashed an unprecedented reign of terror which has produced dozens of convictions for crimes ranging from a plot to bomb the office of Arab-American Congressman Darrell Issa and the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, Calif. to numerous bombings of foreign embassies and properties to attacks on US buildings to conspiracies of kidnap and murder to assaults on foreign nationals and US police. Countless other crimes, including murder and conspiracy to bomb, have been laid at the feet of the JDL but to date remain un-charged.

Despite this documented, nay, unprecedented history of violent attacks by zio-fascists upon free speech and association, neither the JDL of Canada nor its US counterpart will suppress this panel discussion at Theatre 80 or silence our voice. Ours is a community of free spirits and thinkers. Women and men directed by little more than the pursuit of truth and justice.

Indeed, long ago the community of the LES of New York City opened its arms to refugees who fled tyranny abroad and, in so doing, became a welcome host to the dissident, the politically unpopular, the revolutionary idea or person.

Today, that greeting is under attack by some who have failed to learn the history of this community that I have called home for most of my adult life. A journey down the hardscrabble, but exhilarating, road of this community of resistance can say far more than I can about the necessity of the exchange of ideas that will occur this coming Sunday evening at Theatre 80.

The History of Dissent on the Lower East Side

Long before the free speech battles of the 60’s, or the recent ones at Berkeley, there stood a proud tenement building at 208 East 13th Street in New York City.  More than a hundred years ago, it echoed with the booming resonance of resistance… a declaration of who we were at the time and, more important, who we could become if only we dared to challenge political and social orthodoxy.

Today, on the façade of that old battered 19th century tenement building on the LES of Manhattan sits a cracked and stained plaque that simply says “Emma Goldman lived here.” Enough said.

The same building was home to “Mother Earth,” Goldman’s periodical that promoted anarchist views and provided a platform for “radical” artists and militant ideas of the day… until it was closed as subversive by the government in 1917.

Goldman was a fierce and tireless supporter of “controversial” revolutionary struggles such as free speech, birth control, women’s equality, union organizing, workers rights, sexual freedom and peace.

Known as “Red Emma”, she was labeled by J. Edgar Hoover as one of the “most dangerous women” in the country.” Among her closest friends and comrades were Alexander BerkmanMargaret SangerRoger BaldwinMax EastmanJohn ReedDorothy Day and Floyd Dell… a veritable who’s who of radicals who, long ago, confronted political convention not all that different from that which seeks to intimidate or to silence us today.

In 1917, Goldman was sentenced to two years in prison after founding the No-Conscription League in protest against the draft.  It was one of several stints she did, beyond bars, for political beliefs that ranged from a year in prison for “inciting to riot”… for a speech she gave at a Union Square hunger demonstration where she told the poor to steal bread if they could not afford to buy it… to another one for illegally distributing information about birth control.  Following her arrest during the notorious Palmer Raids that began on November 7, 1919 (the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution), she was deported to Russia along with some 250 other “subversive aliens.”

While the Palmer Raids occurred throughout the United States with more than 10,000 arrests for subversion, they, in particular, targeted hundreds of high profile “militants” who were rounded up on the LES which was then home to a powerful and vibrant community of revolutionary thinkers and activists.

In the life blood of the LES, Goldman has been anything but the exception to the rule in a community that historically has been home to the dissident… the unconventional… those who see more to life than surrender to the whims of politically correct dogma or the constraints of “patriotic” mobs.

Dorothy Day heard the call of the LES.  Along with Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker Movement which, with anarchists and communists, fought for the rights of the homeless, workers, women, immigrants and others disempowered by virtue of gender or class.

Although the Movement found its vigor in Christian charity and promoted a political strategy of total non-violence, Day was never one to shy away from direct action. Jailed for picketing the White House in support of women’s right to vote, while imprisoned for her offense, she helped organize a hunger strike at Occoquan Prison.

It is said that, over the course of a long life of civil disobedience, Day was arrested more than one hundred times. A poster memorializing her final arrest at age 76 declares “our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system.” It hangs from the wall of my office.

To Dorothy Day, peaceful resistance necessarily demanded of activists’ controversial speech that directly confronted the tyranny of the status quo…  something she excelled at while working as the editor of The Masses.

Based in “Alphabet City” in the LES, Masses was a radical magazine that reported on most of the major labor struggles of its day: from the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912 in West Virginia to the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913 and the Ludlow massacre in Colorado. It strongly supported Big Bill Haywood and his IWW, the political campaigns of Eugene V. Debs and vigorously argued for birth control and women’s suffrage.

Until closed by the government in 1917 for its anti-war and “anti-government” platform, The Masses featured a chorus of militant voices including such writers as John Reed,  Crystal EastmanHubert HarrisonInez Milholland,  Mary Heaton VorseLouis UntermeyerRandolf BourneArturo GiovannittiMichael GoldHelen KellerWilliam English WallingAnna StrunskyCarl SandburgUpton SinclairFloyd Dell and Louise Bryant. It also featured a host ofpolitical artists including John SloanRobert HenriMary Ellen SigsbeeCornelia BarnsRockwell KentArt YoungBoardman RobinsonRobert MinorLydia GibsonK. R. ChamberlainHugo GellertGeorge Bellows and Maurice Becker.

At other times, the radical history of the LES has been marked not just by controversial speech or passive resistance alone, but by direct action that, on occasion, has exploded into violence captivating the watch of the rest of New York City as if this one hundred square block area is very much of a different world.

Thus, on January 13, 1874, over 7,000 largely unemployed workers gathered in Tompkins Square Park, in the largest demonstration New York City had ever seen, to demand financial assistance from the City during an economic depression.

Ten and a half acres in total, the square-shaped park is bounded on the north by East 10th Street, on the east by Avenue B, on the south by East 7th Street, and on the west by Avenue A. It is abutted by St. Marks Place to the west.

Without warning, not long after the demonstration began, some 1,600 policemen charged the park and dispersed most of the crowd beating people throughout it with clubs. Others, on horseback, cleared the surrounding streets. Some of the demonstrators fought back in vain… attempting to defend the square. Hundreds were injured.

Samuel Gompers, himself a resident of the LES,  who founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and was scheduled to address the demonstration that day, described the events and his experiences:

“. . . mounted police charged the crowd on Eighth Street, riding them down and attacking men, women, and children without discrimination. It was an orgy of brutality. I was caught in the crowd on the street and barely saved my head from being cracked by jumping down a cellar-way.”

Little more than a century later, on August 6, 1988, Tompkins Square Park exploded yet once again when police attacked a large group of peaceful demonstrators protesting a newly established curfew intended to clear the park of activists, homeless and so-called squatters that had made increasing use of Tompkins Square for demonstrations against the City and its misuse of local community space. Bystanders, activists, neighborhood residents and journalists were caught up in the violence.

Despite a brief lull in the fighting, the mêlée continued until 6 a.m. the next day. Numerous injuries resulted with over 100 complaints of police brutality lodged following the riot. One headline in the New York Times summed up the events: “Yes, a Police Riot.”

St. Marks Place

If Tompkins Square Park is the heart of the East Village, St. Marks Place is its soul. James Fenimore Cooper lived at 6 St. Marks from 1834-1836. While there, he published his epic “A letter To My Countrymen.” It proved to be his most scathing work of social criticism in which he denounces the “slavery of party affiliations.”

In 1854 The Nursery for the Children of Poor Women…the first of its kind… was set up in a rundown house on St. Marks.

In 1917, Leon Trotsky arrived on St. Marks Place where he wrote for the Novy Mir (“New World”), then based at 77 St. Marks, while living with his family across the street in an apartment at 80 St. Marks. Just a few years earlier, Berkman and Goldman opened the progressive Modern School at No. 16 St. Marks. Among its teachers were famed muckrakers Jack London and Upton Sinclair.

In the 1940’s, W.H. Auden resided on St. Marks.  In the 60’s, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin co-founded the Youth International Party (“Yippies”) at No. 30 St. Marks and Lenny Bruce lived for a while, on the famed street, at No. 13. In 1966, Andy Warhol housed his Exploding Plastic Inevitable collective above the Electric Circus nightclub at 19-25 St. Marks… installing the Velvet Underground as the house band. During the same period, Debbie Harry lived at 13 St. Marks. Often were the occasions when a vibrant sweep down St. Marks Place would mean a chance encounter with Jack KerouacWilliam S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg… a longtime area resident.

Elsewhere on the Lower East Side, throughout the 60’s, political activists, movements and artists alike continued its well established tradition of serving as a safe haven for cultural diversity, political dissidents and controversial speech.

For example, just up the block from what had been the home of Charlie Parker, stands the Christodora House.  Located on Avenue B, directly across the street from Tompkins Square Park, the Young Lords and Black Panther Party maintained their respective headquarters during this period.

The Young Lords, in particular, played an important role in what was, and remains, a heavily Latino neighborhood… creating community projects similar to those of the Black Panthers but with a Latino flavor. Such projects included a free breakfast program for children, the Emeterio Betances free health clinic, community testing for tuberculosis and lead-poisoning, free clothing drives, cultural events and Puerto Rican history classes. The female leadership in New York pushed the Young Lords to fight for women’s rights.

80 St. Marks Place

The venue for Sunday’s panel discussion has a storied history itself in the LES.  Beginning as a nightclub during Prohibition, 80 Saint Marks Place was home to performers that included such Jazz greats as Thelonious MonkHarry “Sweets” EdisonJohn Coltrane and Frank Sinatra.

After Theatre 80 was established in the former nightclub, its tradition of diversity in the arts continued as it launched the careers of famous performers including the likes of Gary BurghoffBob Balaban and Billy Crystal, who once worked there as an usher.

Richard “Lord” Buckley, described by Bob Dylan in his book “Chronicles” as “the hipster bebop preacher who defied all labels”, had his final performance at Theatre 80 when his cabaret card was seized by police from the vice squad and his show closed.  Outraged, Buckley went to the local precinct to demand his card’s return. Not long thereafter he ended up dead in St. Vincent’s Hospital of an apparent stroke. That brought about a movement which eventually ended the Cabaret Card system in New York City.

Not many years later, the legendary play “Hair” was cast at Theatre 80. During the 1970s and 80s it also served as a revival house where one could see vintage films. Among those who attended, often to see their own body of work was Gloria SwansonJoan CrawfordMyrna Loy, Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell.

More recently Theatre 80 presented a play by noted poet, playwright, author and racial equality activist, Sonya Sanchez.  Fred Hampton Jr. was often seen at the theatre to attend events for famed radical defense attorney, Lynne Stewart, who recently died having been politically persecuted and imprisoned for her life’s work.

Actively involved in a wide range of community issues, the theatre, not long ago, along with Patti Smith, sponsored a concert to raise money for the victims of the Second Avenue gas explosion which caused two deaths, injured at least nineteen people… four critically… and completely destroyed four buildings between East 7th Street and St. Marks Place. It has held a number of so-called “truther” forums that explored the events of 9-11… an issue of burning interest to the local community.

Come this Sunday, the panel discussion will proceed in the ideal venue in the perfect community.  To be sure, at times, its participants will surely say things that may offend the sensibilities of some in the audience. On occasion, panel members will disagree with one another as the market place of ideas is not a group-speak but rather a challenge to explore diverse and often competing thoughts in the pursuit of truth.

Ideas may sting, they may hurt, and they may challenge us to explore issues that can cause great personal discomfort. That’s precisely what they are intended to do. There is no question that while the clash of ideas causes pain; the suppression of ideas causes greater harm… and sometimes pain is the stretch of growing.

Thanks to the refusal of Lorcan Otway, owner of Theatre 80, to surrender to howls of a few, join us this Sunday, April 30 at 5PM in the heart of the ongoing American evolution at Theatre 80, 80 St. Marks Place in the Lower East Side of New York City.

Le Pen &Trump aren’t even close – are we stuck with Emmanuel Macr-Obama?

April 24, 2017

by Ramin Mazaheri

It’s not that the National Front has changed since the 1980s – it’s that the other parties have changed so much for the worse.

C’est ça – that’s the point, as the French say, and which translates into English rather ineffectively.

Nobody should be happy about having to vote for Marine Le Pen, but please tell me what economic policies has Emmanuel Macron espoused which will end the systemic anti-Muslim, anti-Colored racism in France?

Got nuthin’? Of course you don’t.

And that’s why it is intolerable to hear French people say that a vote against Le Pen is a vote against racism: Racism is not just pretty words but concrete actions – it is the government installing a Black family next to yours to promote equality.

Don’t fancy that: congratulations, you are not a leftist!

But Emmanuel Macron is the epitome of today’s “fake leftism” – leftism which has a “non-racist” and “minority-friendly” face, but which is neutered of any economic or social policy that would actually improve the lives of any minority.

What good is having gay marriage in France if you can’t afford the marriage certificate because you are both unemployed?

Gay marriage typifies the misplaced priorities of the West’s fake leftists – the show over substance –which must make the Ho Chi Minh’s of the world roll their eyes and mutter, “This is the Left I sacrificed for?”

While preparing to cover the first round of France’s election I was reviewing five years of news reports I made while covering the Francois Hollande era for Press TV. I was reminded that November 7, 2012, is a day which must not be forgotten.

On that date Hollande announced he was breaking the essence of his electoral campaign: He cut taxes for the wealthy and on corporations, with financing to come from cuts to social services and a hike to the VAT (sales) tax, which is a regressive tax on the average person.

Here were the two lead paragraphs from that report:

“France has announced another round of austerity measures, in an unpredicted change-of-heart. Many expected a recent report calling for tax breaks for businesses to be ignored, but the Hollande administration will implement its neoliberal measures almost completely.”

“This plan corresponds with President Hollande’s promises,” said Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s Prime Minister. “They are leftist because our objective is to create more jobs and to correct injustice,”

Also on November 7, 2012: Hollande, Ayrault and the Socialist Party unveiled the bill for gay marriage in Parliament.

The politics of distraction….

It’s disgusting for fake leftists like Francois Hollande, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to manipulate civil rights in order to push right-wing economics, but it works.

Today, not enough French voters saw the through the masquerade of Macron, I’m sorry to report.

Even fewer remember the lessons from 5 years ago, it seems. How many journalists even helped people to remember?

However, all of France does remember perhaps the biggest-ever anti-government demonstrations which followed November 7, 2012: between 300,000 to 1 million people marched – not against austerity, but against gay marriage.

The politics of distraction causing misplaced priorities….

Then in January 2013 Hollande launched a war in Mali.

The politics of distraction, this time with dead Colored bodies….

Blame Hollande for a lot, including Macron

Hollande is the one who foisted Macron on us. He plucked him from the obscurity of the chorus, schooled him as his deputy secretary-general of Élysée Palace, appointed Minister of the Economy out of nowhere, and dubbed Macron to carry on his legacy.

Hollande admitted as much – he wants to see what he “built” continue. Many thought he was the only one who felt that way, and that’s why Hollande couldn’t even run for re-election.

So France elects a younger version of Hollande instead?

Once again I write these words: This ends the myth that the French are more sophisticated or intellectually cultivated than everyone else.

They couldn’t even see through Macron!

Anyone think Macron will be promoting peace? Or even “first do no harm” isolationism?

Le Pen might…if the military-industrial-financial-media-cultural complex doesn’t hound her with accusations of being a Russian spy like they did with Trump. Maybe she won’t even bomb Syria to get some breathing room from the fake leftist hordes in pussy hats.

Or maybe not, but Le Pen is, like Trump, the hope candidate in the French election because a vote for Macron is a vote for your own unemployment. Or your wife’s. Or your children’s.

One thing is sure: If they elect Macron the whole country will be crying in 6 months, just as France was with Hollande.

It’s simply staggering that he’s expected to win at a huge 65%-35% margin. Austerity has never worked anywhere, ever – even the IMF now admits that, only after decades of ruined lives – and yet the French are going to elect a guy who will enact 20% more austerity measures that Francois Hollande.

Trump and Le Pen are totally different

Let’s admit it – Trump is hilarious…by presidential standards.

His tweets, his self-importance, his shilling for Trump merchandise while meeting with the president of China – he’s what we’d all like to be if we had no conscience or sense of responsibility.

In France we call this person: Gerard Depardieu. Seriously! The French talk about how they secretly would love to be this fat, vineyard-owning glutton who shoots his mouth off however he wants – the guy got a Russian passport from Putin, after all!

But it’s simply not accurate to say that Trump and Le Pen are the same just because they both represent the White Trash Revolution sweeping the West.

Trump is hilarious and entertaining (and thousands of kilometers from where I live), yes, but hate for him is new: Le Pen and her family have been hated for decades.

The Le Pens have spent decades insulting Muslims, Roma, minorities – French people – and that simply cannot be erased.

French people repeatedly tell me: “Ramin, you are new here – you’ve only been here 8 years – you don’t understand the National Front.”

It’s possible, but I respond: Everybody I meet views the National Front in some sort of time warp. Only the cynics claim politics never changes: look closely and you see that the situation is different from 1980, or 2002, or 2007, etc. And they cannot see that five years of austerity will do far more collective damage than taking a risk on Le Pen.

Worse, they can’t understand that nearly all French parties are racist: Fillon wrote a book titled “Conquering Islamic Totalitarianism”; Melenchon is rabidly secular; the Socialists cracked down on the Roma worse than Sarkozy. Only the Communists got the brotherly love in France: Our 2 candidates only got 1.8% combined, and that is your fault and not ours.

Understand this well: Very few people are “happy” about Macron tonight. Think about it: 4 candidates all won nearly 20% of the vote – that’s unheard of! Macron eked out a miniscule victory – this is no sweeping mandate whatsoever.

And listen to me now and believe me later: This is not a “seismic shift” in French politics. Yes, the Gaullists didn’t advance for the first time ever, and the other mainstream party is absent too, but Macron has no party: he will necessarily staff his cabinet with the same old Socialists and Républicains; his neophyte party will necessarily make a coalition government with them in Parliament.

Macron is simply an Obama-style brand shift by the Empire. Like Obama he will be a smooth-faced handmaiden for Clintonian globalization. Nothing will change if Macron is elected.

However, I can report to you that this current of National Front fear/resentment/myopia is too strong for me to think that Le Pen will win: I have met so many people from across all boundaries who simply cannot, will not, ever vote for any Le Pen. Their dead ancestors practically forbid it.

Nobody can say the same about Trump.

So I am not hopeful that Le Pen will go the way of Brexit and Trump.

I write this while waiting to do interviews #9 and #10 on Round 1 Election Day for Press TV – maybe I’m not thinking clearly?

The worst has been seeing my grinning colleagues on France’s major media stations – they are thrilled to pieces. Of course, they’re on the wrong side of most of the issues. I’ll give them some credit: The #1 channel in France – TF1 – interviewed me as part of a piece about the view of foreign journalists and had the sense to make the lead quote, LOL. I coulda done it in French – they didn’t ask!

I have been repeatedly proven wrong about Macron

I was hoping the fawning, brain-dead, hugely pro-Macron French media would be wrong about “the Roths-churian candidate”, but it seems I was.

I never took him seriously because he’s such a seriously flawed candidate: 39 years old, Rothschild banker, Macron Law author who sparked 4-months of strikes and protests in 2016, 64-year old wife, heir to Hollande-ism, 7 step-grandkids, selling off industrial jewel Alstom to the Americans which only profited shareholders and not citizens, etc. and etc.

The guy is like Teflon! Nothing stuck! And why? He said nothing! He didn’t unveil his 60 billion in euros in austerity cuts (10 billion more than Hollande) until early March!

Robbers never tell you they are stealing, after all. But, beyond just the economy, Macron was as vague as possible – and it worked!

Well, now it’s up to Le Pen to attack him mercilessly for the great sins of…his record. Everybody should.

But instead it is Le Pen who will be attacked mercilessly and by everybody under the French sun. And let’s be honest – she is no saint, and her sins are not just bad TV and gaudy real estate.

In fact, she’s a terrible candidate, period. She’s useful to spark debate, but she’s no winner. Who really wants her to win? This all makes her a loser on May 7, most likely – that’s what Trump would say, and he can say that: he won.

The National Front is fighting decades of correctly-earned ill-will. There is undoubtedly tremendous – just tremendous – dissatisfaction in France, but how is Le Pen going turn the battleship around to take office?

I think I can fairly write that nobody is happy tonight, but Macron will provide an uplift when he likely wins. He will: it’s human nature – he has youth on his side. I suppose he’s an Adonis when you stand him next to hated hobbits like Hollande.

People will look at Macron and say: “it’s a fresh start”. They’ll lie to themselves – human nature.

The fools – they’ll be crying in 6 months again. And I hate to write that – I’m a fool too. But I’ll be a fool for the 3% chance that Le Pen could turn out to be a real statesman instead of just a blonde Mussolini. I repeat: austerity has never worked anywhere – just ask the IMF.

Hell, I’m a fool for democracy! Give the people a chance to simply VOTE on a Frexit! How can the EU be “democratic” if we are scared of democracy?

Waitaminut – I’m really losing my head here, eh? I’m forgetting the damned facts, the damned platforms, no matter how much Macron tried to hide his!

A referendum on Frexit, leaving NATO, possibly dropping the euro, finally ending austerity…what on earth is Macron offering that is even close to that?!?!?!?!?!

Macron is economically as far-right as Marine Le Pen is on the far-right on the cultural spectrum! Do you have to be a Communist like me to even THINK about an economic spectrum actually existing anymore?!

Dammit, it’s not over! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?! Heck no! We have 2 weeks of serious debate to make! We can quit when it’s over, not before!

I just talked myself into having faith in Le Pen again!!!!!!!!!!

Sure it was borne out of desperation, but it’s founded on facts.

Now we just have to let France know that.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.

Le Pen, Macron to Face Off in French Runoff Election

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[ Ed. note – Marine Le Pen, who wants to steer France out of the EU, and Emmanuel Macron, the pro-EU candidate, will face off against each other in the May 7 runoff election in France.

Both have emerged as top vote-getters in today’s election. According to the New York Times, Le Pen, with 34 percent of the votes counted, is the official front-runner, having garnered 24.6 percent of the vote, compared to 21.9 percent for Macron. The BBC, on the other hand, while still naming Le Pen in first place, is saying the tallies were much closer–at 23.5 percent and 23 percent respectively.

“What is at stake in this election is a referendum for or against lawless globalization,” Le Pen said to the enthusiastic cheers of her supporters after claiming victory. “Either you choose in favor of a total lack of rules, without borders, with unlawful competition, the free circulation of terrorists, or you make the choice of a France that protects. This is truly what is at stake. It is the survival of France.”

Macron, too, spoke to a crowd of supporters–many of them waving both the French flag and the flag of the EU.

“The two political parties that have governed France for years have been discarded,” he said. “The deep … feeling which has led our people to love our country and overcome its divisions is spectacular. You have shown that the hope of our country was not a dream but a relentless and benevolent will.”

Below is an article actually published a couple of days ago, but it gives some insights into French politics and why today’s election may have turned out the way it did. ]

The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty

By Diana Johnstone

Paris.

The 2017 French Presidential election marks a profound change in European political alignments. There is an ongoing shift from the traditional left-right rivalry to opposition between globalization, in the form of the European Union (EU), and national sovereignty.

Standard media treatment sticks to a simple left-right dualism: “racist” rejection of immigrants is the main issue and that what matters most is to “stop Marine Le Pen!”  Going from there to here is like walking through Alice’s looking glass. Almost everything is turned around.

On this side of the glass, the left has turned into the right and part of the right is turning into the left.

Fifty years ago, it was “the left” whose most ardent cause was passionate support for Third World national liberation struggles. The left’s heroes were Ahmed Ben Bella, Sukarno, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, and above all Ho Chi Minh.  What were these leaders fighting for?  They were fighting to liberate their countries from Western imperialism.  They were fighting for independence, for the right to determine their own way of life, preserve their own customs, decide their own future. They were fighting for national sovereignty, and the left supported that struggle.

Today, it is all turned around.  “Sovereignty” has become a bad word in the mainstream left.

National sovereignty is an essentially defensive concept. It is about staying home and minding one’s own business.  It is the opposite of the aggressive nationalism that inspired fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to conquer other countries, depriving them of their national sovereignty.

The confusion is due to the fact that most of what calls itself “the left” in the West has been totally won over to the current form of imperialism – aka “globalization”.  It is an imperialism of a new type, centered on the use of military force and “soft” power to enable transnational finance to penetrate every corner of the earth and thus to reshape all societies in the endless quest for profitable return on capital investment. The left has been won over to this new imperialism because it advances under the banner of “human rights” and “antiracism” – abstractions which a whole generation has been indoctrinated to consider the central, if not the only, political issues of our times.

The fact that “sovereignism” is growing in Europe is interpreted by mainstream globalist media as proof that “Europe is moving to the right”– no doubt because Europeans are “racist”. This interpretation is biased and dangerous. People in more and more European nations are calling for national sovereignty precisely because they have lost it. They lost it to the European Union, and they want it back.

That is why the British voted to leave the European Union.  Not because they are “racist”, but primarily because they cherish their historic tradition of self-rule.

The Socialist Party shipwreck

As his five-year presidency drew to its ignominious end, François Hollande was obliged by his drastic unpopularity to let his Parti Socialiste (PS) choose its 2017 presidential candidate by primary.  In a surprising upset, the Socialist government’s natural candidate, prime minister Manuel Valls, lost to Benoit Hamon, an obscure member of the PS left wing who refused to vote for the unpopular, neo-liberal, anti-labor laws designed by Hollande’s economic advisor, Emmanuel Macron.

To escape from the unpopularity of the PS, Macron formed his own movement, “En Marche!” One after another, Valls, Hollande and other prominent PS leaders are tiptoeing away, leaving Hamon at the helm of the sinking ship.  As Hamon justifiably protests against their betrayal, the party bigwigs pledge their support to Emmanuel Macron.

Macron ostentatiously hesitates to welcome his shopworn converts into the fold, fearing that their conversion makes it too obvious that his “En Marche!” is a clone of the right wing of the PS, on the way to becoming the French subsidiary of the U.S. Democratic Party in its Clintonian form. Macron proclaims that he is neither left nor right, as discredited politicians from both left and right jump on his bandwagon, to his embarrassment.

Hamon himself appears to be unaware that the basic cause of the Socialist Party’s shipwreck is its incompatible devotion to two contrary principles: traditional social democracy, and the European Union (EU). Macron, Hollande and their fellow turncoats at least have made their choice: the European Union.

The Twilight of the Traditional Right

The great advantage of Republican candidate François Fillon is that his policies are clear.  Unlike Hollande, who tried to disguise his neoliberal policies as something else, and based his claim to be on the left on “societal” issues (gay marriage), Fillon is an unabashed conservative.  His policies are designed to reduce the huge national debt. Whereas previous governments (including his own, when he was President Sarkozy’s Prime Minister) beat around the bush, Fillon won the Republican nomination by a program of sharp cutbacks in government spending.  Fillon claims that his austerity measures will lead French capitalists to invest in France and thus save the country’s economy from being completely taken over by foreign corporations, American retirement funds and Qatar.  This is highly doubtful, as there is nothing under EU rules to encourage French investors to invest in France rather than somewhere else.

Fillon departs from EU orthodoxy, however, by proposing a more independent foreign policy, notably by ending the “absurd” sanctions against Russian. He is more concerned about the fate of Middle East Christians than about overthrowing Assad.

The upshot is that Fillon’s coherent pro-capitalist policy is not exactly what the dominant globalizing elite prefers. The “center left” is their clear political choice  since Tony Blair and Bill Clinton revised the agendas of their respective parties. The center left emphasis on human rights (especially in faraway countries targeted for regime change) and ethnic diversity at home fits the long-term globalist aims of erasing national borders, to allow unrestricted free movement of capital. Traditional patriotic conservatism, represented by Fillon, does not altogether correspond to the international adventurism of globalization.

The Schizophrenic Left

For a generation, the French left has made “the construction of Europe” the center of its world view.  In the early 1980s, faced with opposition from what was then the European Community, French President François Mitterrand abandoned the socializing program on which he been elected.  Mitterrand nursed the hope that France would politically dominate a united Europe, but the unification of Germany changed all that. So did EU expansion to Eastern Central nations within the German sphere of influence. Economic policy is now made in Germany.

As the traditional left goal of economic equality was abandoned, it was superseded by emphatic allegiance to “human rights”, which is now taught in school as a veritable religion.  The vague notion of human rights was somehow associated with the “free movement” of everything and everybody. Indeed the official EU dogma is protection of “free movement”: free movement of goods, people, labor and (last but certainly not least) capital. These “four freedoms” in practice transform the nation from a political society into a financial market, an investment opportunity, run by a bureaucracy of supposed experts. In this way, the European Union has become the vanguard experiment in transforming the world into a single capitalist market.

The French left bought heavily into this ideal, partly because it deceptively echoed the old leftist ideal of “internationalism” (whereas capital has always been incomparably more “international” than workers), and partly due to the simplistic idea that “nationalism” is the sole cause of wars.  More fundamental and complex causes of war are ignored.

For a long time, the left has complained about job loss, declining living standards, delocalization or closure of profitable industries, without recognizing that these unpopular results are caused by EU requirements. EU directives and regulations increasingly undermine the French model of redistribution through public services, and are now threatening to wipe them out altogether – either because “the government is bankrupt” or because of EU competition rules prohibit countries from taking measures to preserve their key industries or their agriculture.  Rather than face reality, the left’s reaction has mostly been to repeat its worn-out demand for an impossible “Social Europe”.

Yet the dream of “social Europe” received what amounted to a fatal blow ten years ago. In 2005, a referendum was called to allow the French to approve a Constitution for united Europe. This led to an extraordinary popular discussion, with countless meetings of citizens examining every aspect of this lengthy document. Unlike normal constitutions, this document froze the member States in a single monetarist economic policy, with no possibility of change.

On May 29, 2005, French voters rejected the treaty by 55% to 45%.

What seemed to be a great victory for responsible democracy turned into its major failure.  Essentially the same document, renamed the Lisbon Treaty, was ratified in December 2007, without a referendum.  Global governance had put the people in their place. This produced widespread disillusion with politics as millions concluded that their votes didn’t matter, that politicians paid no attention to the will of the people.

Even so, Socialist politicians continued to pledge undying allegiance to the EU, always with the prospect that “Social Europe” might somehow be possible.

Meanwhile, it has become more and more obvious that EU monetarist policy based on the common currency, the euro, creates neither growth nor jobs as promised but destroys both. Unable to control its own currency, obliged to borrow from private banks, and to pay them interest, France is more and more in debt, its industry is disappearing and its farmers are committing suicide, on the average of one every other day.  The left has ended up in an impossible position: unswervingly loyal to the EU while calling for policies that are impossible under EU rules governing competition, free movement, deregulation, budgetary restraints, and countless other regulations produced by an opaque bureaucracy and ratified by a virtually powerless European Parliament, all under the influence of an army of lobbyists.

Benoit Hamon remains firmly stuck on the horns of the left’s fatal dilemma: determination to be “socialist”, or rather, social democratic, and passionate loyalty to “Europe”. While insisting on social policies that cannot possibly be carried out with the euro as currency and according to EU rules, Hamon still proclaims loyalty to “Europe”. He parrots the EU’s made-in-Washington foreign policy, demanding that “Assad must go” and ranting against Putin and Russia.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Grasps the Nettle

Not only is the drab, conformist Hamon abandoned by his party heavies, he is totally upstaged on the left by the flamboyant Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a maverick ready to break the rules.  After years as a PS loyalist, Mélenchon broke away in 2005 to oppose the Constitutional Treaty, gaining prominence as a fiery orator. In 2007, he left the Socialist Party and founded the Parti de Gauche (Left Party). Allied with the much weakened Communist Party, he came in fourth in the first round of the 2012 Presidential election with 11% of the vote.  This time he is running for President with his own new movement, La France Insoumise, which can be translated in a number of ways, including “the France that does not submit”.

Submit to what?  Mainly, to the euro and to the antisocial, neoliberal policies of the European Union that are ruining France.

French flags and la Marseillaise have replaced the Internationale at Mélenchon rallies. “The Europe of our dreams is dead,” he acknowledges, vowing to “end the nightmare of dictatorship by banks and finance”.

Mélenchon calls for outright disobedience by violating EU treaties that are harmful to France. That is his Plan A.  His Plan B is to leave the EU, in case Plan A fails to convince Germany (the current boss) and the others to agree to change the treaties. But at best, Plan B is an empty threat to strengthen his hand in theoretical negotiations.  France is such a crucial member, he maintains, that a French threat to leave should be enough to force changes.

Threatening to leave the EU is just part of Mélenchon’s vast and complicated program which includes calling a national convention to draft a constitution for France’s “sixth Republic” as well as major ecological innovation.  Completely changing both France and the European Union at the same time would require the nation to be in a revolutionary effervescence that is by no means visible. It would also require a unanimity among the EU’s 28 member States that is simply impossible.

But Mélenchon is canny enough to have recognized the basic problem: the enemy of jobs, prosperity and public services is the European Union. Mélenchon is by far the candidate that generates the most excitement.  He has rapidly outdistanced Hamon and draws huge enthusiastic crowds to his rallies. His progress has changed the shape of the race: at this moment, he has become one of four front-runners who might get past the first round vote on April 23 into the finals on May 7: Le Pen, Macron, Fillon and himself.

The Opposites are (almost) the Same

A most remarkable feature of this campaign is great similarity between the two candidates said to represent “the far left”, Mélenchon, and “the far right”, Marine Le Pen.  Both speak of leaving the euro.  Both vow to negotiate with the EU to get better treaty terms for France. Both advocate social policies to benefit workers and low income people. Both want to normalize relations with Russia. Both want to leave NATO, or at least its military command.  Both defend national sovereignty, and can thus be described as “sovereignists”.

The only big difference between them is on immigration, an issue that arouses so much emotion that it is hard to discuss sensibly.  Those who oppose immigration are accused of “fascism”, those who favor immigration are accused of wanting to destroy the nation’s identity by flooding it with inassimilable foreigners.

In a country suffering from unemployment, without jobs or housing to accommodate mass immigration, and under the ongoing threat of Islamist terror attacks, the issue cannot be reasonably reduced to “racism” – unless Islamic terrorists constitute a “race”, for which there is no evidence. Le Pen insists that all French citizens deserve equal treatment regardless of their origins, race or religion. She is certain to get considerable support from recently nationalized immigrants, just as she now gets a majority of working class votes. If this is “fascism”, it has changed a lot in the past seventy years.

What is significant is that despite their differences, the two most charismatic candidates both speak of restoring national sovereignty. Both evoke the possibility of leaving the European Union, although in rather uncertain terms.

The globalist media are already preparing to blame the eventual election of a “sovereignist” candidate on Vladimir Putin. Public opinion in the West is being prepared for massive protests to break out against an undesired winner, and the “antifa” militants are ready to wreak havoc in the streets. Some people who like Marine Le Pen are afraid of voting for her, fearing the “color revolution” sure to be mounted against her.  Mélenchon and even Fillon might face similar problems.

As a taste of things to come, on April 20, the EU Observer published an article entitled “Russia-linked fake news floods French social media”. Based on something called Bakamo, one of the newly establishment “fact-check” outfits meant to steer readers away from unofficial opinion, the article accused Russian-influenced web sites of favoring Marine Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, François Fillon, Francois Asselineau, and Philippe Poutou. (They forgot to mention one of the most “sovereignist” candidates, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, currently polling in sixth place.)  Since a large majority of the eleven candidates, including three of the four front-runners, are strongly critical of the EU and of NATO and want to improve relations with Russia, it would seem that Putin wouldn’t have to make a great effort to get a more friendly French government next time around.  On the other hand, the EU Observer article is only a small sample of blatant “interference in the French election” on the part of the globalists on behalf of their favorite, Emmanuel Macron, the most enthusiastic Europhile.

The Future of France

Among those listed as alleged Russian favorites, François Asselineau is by far the most thorough critic of the European Union.  Systematically ignored by the media since he founded his anti-EU party, the Union Populaire Républicain (UPR), ten years ago, François Asselineau has thousands of ardent supporters who have plastered his poster all over the country. His tireless didactic speeches, reproduced on internet, have driven home several key points:

– there is no way to improve the EU from the inside, because any change would require unanimity among 27 member states who disagree on key issues.

– the only solution for France is to use Article 50 of the EU treaties to withdraw entirely, as the United Kingdom is currently doing.

– only by leaving the EU can France save its public services, its social benefits, its economy and its democracy.

– it is only by restoring its national sovereignty that genuine democratic life, with confrontation between a real “left” and “right”, can be possible.

– by leaving the EU, France, which has over 6,000 treaties with other countries, would not be isolated but would be joining the greater world.

Asselineau is a single issue candidate.  He vows that as soon as elected, he would invoke Article 50 to leave the EU and immediately apply to Washington to withdraw from NATO.  He emphasizes that none of the other critics of the EU propose such a clear exit within the rules.

Other candidates, including the more charismatic Mélenchon and Le Pen, echo some of Asselineau’s arguments.  But they are not ready to go so far as to advocate a clear immediate break with the EU, if only because they realize that the French population, while increasingly critical of the euro and alienated from the “European dream”, is still fearful of actually leaving, due to dire warnings of disaster from the Europeists.

The first round campaign is an opportunity for Asselineau to present his ideas to a wider audience, preparing public opinion for a more coherent “Frexit” policy.         By far the most fundamental emerging issue in this campaign is the conflict between the European Union and national sovereignty.  It will probably not be settled in this election, but it won’t go away.  This is the major issue of the future, because it determines whether any genuine political life is possible.

If you want the Tories out, only one man can show them the door: Jeremy Corbyn

If you want the Tories out, only one man can show them the door: Jeremy Corbyn

Anyone who wants to avoid another disastrous four years of austerity should put aside their differences.

How many times did Theresa May or her aides deny the possibility of a snap general election? Enough to make it clear that she has no problem telling lies.

Her cynical decision to call an election should be a warning to all of us. May has seized upon a moment when Labour is polling poorly and there is still enough inner-party division to potentially hand the Tories a sweeping victory. Once she has this, Theresa May will set about driving exactly the kind of Brexit that she wants through Parliament, without argument and without accountability.

May is a perfect example of why public trust in politicians is low, making U-turns on key issues (like Brexit) with impunity and delighting in saying one thing then doing another – all in the name of pure self-interest.

On 8 June, I will be casting my ballot for Labour and for Jeremy Corbyn. Unlike Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn has proved to be a man of his word. Since becoming an MP in 1983, his principles remain virtually unchanged. He has championed the rights of women and LGBT people, campaigned for peace and diplomatic solutions, fought against inequality, and found himself on the right side of history time and time again, voting against the Iraq War and campaigning to end Apartheid in South Africa. No moats or duck houses for Jeremy, instead he was the lowest expenses claimer in the country in 2010, after spending just £8.70 on an ink cartridge.

More importantly, Corbyn is fronting a set of common-sense election pledges that will benefit wider society, not just the frosting of privilege on the top. Britain needs a government that will commit to providing affordable housing, full employment and cheap, efficient public transport. We need leadership that will take initiative when it comes to the environment, by investing in carbon-neutral solutions and green technology, and creating jobs while they’re at it. We need to tackle inequality by providing free, high-quality education for every single child, not just those born into more fortunate circumstances

I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a country where rich people can’t decide to just not pay their taxes in full, because they can afford an army of slippery accountants who exploit loopholes in the law. I want tackling violence against women and girls to be a priority, as two women in Britain are killed every week by a current or former partner. I want to be part of a Britain where no one dies because they’re hungry and their benefits were sanctioned, or they were found ‘fit for work’ when they have serious mental health problems.

Theresa May became leader of the Conservative party because all the other contenders in a panicky, post-referendum leadership race simply dropped out. Corbyn was elected leader in a landslide victory, attracting thousands of new members to the Labour party. He was challenged in an unprecedented second leadership election, and again emerged victorious.

Jeremy Corbyn
Labour party leader Jeremy CorbynAndy Buchanan/AFP

However, it’s Corbyn who faces the ire of the British media, and has received incredibly hostile coverage since he assumed leadership of the party. The character assassination of Corbyn has come from all angles, not just from traditionally right-wing publications, but also from more liberal outlets like the Guardian and New Statesman. Even the BBC has been accused of bias against Corbyn. The onslaught of dismissive or downright vicious coverage makes the mocking of Ed Miliband for chowing down on a bacon sandwich seem minor.

It’s Corbyn who is portrayed as weak and incompetent, as someone who people cannot get behind, despite energising thousands of supporters and attracting people who had previously been cynical about politics. Corbyn’s determination and resolve in the face of these media attacks, coupled with open dissent from the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), shows strength of character that I’m not sure many of us would be capable of replicating in his situation.

Perhaps it would’ve been better, and easier, if Corbyn had stepped down before the snap election was called, and allowed a candidate to assume leadership who was unsullied by the constant, exhausting drip, drip of negative news articles. It would be foolish to assume that Jeremy Corbyn is the only person who can lead the Labour party on a solid platform that benefits ordinary working people and reverses the damage done by the Tories’ failed austerity programme.

However, it’s too late for a change in leadership. Every single person who wants to avoid another disastrous four years of austerity under a Conservative government should be putting aside their differences and rallying behind Corbyn. He has served as an MP and as the Leader of the Opposition with honesty, decency, and strength in the face of overwhelming adversity. The least we, as the electorate, can do is vote based on the policies he is putting forward, not on a skewed image presented by an increasingly partisan media, largely owned by vested interests.

A vote for Labour is a vote for ordinary working people, for a strong NHS, for quality education for all, and for economic growth that doesn’t come at the expense of the lowest paid and most vulnerable members of society. Whatever the Lib Dems, Greens or even the sad, silly remnants of UKIP say, Labour is the only credible option for keeping the Tories out.

Come June 8, will you cast your ballot in support of May’s lies, or will you choose a man who behaves with honesty and honour? I know which one I’ll pick.


Harriet Williamson is a writer, intersectional feminist, and mental health ambassador, based in Manchester. She has been published by Vice, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Buzzfeed and others

#Brexit: Flip flopping Trump ‘set to put Brussels AHEAD of Britain in trade talks queue after Merkel meeting’

Trump ‘set to put Brussels AHEAD of Britain in trade talks queue after Merkel meeting’
DONALD Trump has shunned Britain and put the UK second-in-line behind the European Union for a new free trade deal with the US, according to Washington officials.

Backtracking on his previous opposition to negotiating with the crumbling Brussels bloc, the President softened his stance after individual EU member states rejected attempts by his officials to start talks on separate trade agreements.

According to the Times, German chancellor Angela Merkel managed to convince Trump at a private dinner last month that striking a deal between the US and EU would be simpler than he thought.

A senior German politician told the newspaper: “Ten times Trump asked her if he could negotiate a trade deal with Germany.

“Every time she replied with: ‘You can’t do a trade deal with Germany, only the EU.’

“On the element refusal, Trump finally got the message: ‘Oh, we’ll do a deal with Europe then.’”

trump merkel mayGETTY

The move comes after Merkel convinced Trump it would be easy to strike a deal with the EU

borisGETTY

Boris Johnson said in January Britain would be “first in line” for a trade deal with the US

But this “realisation” led the Trump administration to believe a trade deal with the EU would be more important to US interests than a post-Brexit deal with Britain, according to a top White House official.

The news comes in stark contrast to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s claims in January, where after meeting Trump’s advisers claimed Britain would be “first in line” for a trade deal.

The EU is America’s biggest trading partner, with US exports to the bloc last year worth $270billion, and imports worth $417billion.

However, in the same period, the US exported just $55billion in goods to Britain and imported $54billion.

The developments now mean a new deal could be struck between the US and the EU – but reportedly could also mean a resurrection of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Trump made scrapping the agreement a key pledge during his presidential campaign last year, but officials have allegedly claimed the White House has softened its position on the deal

#Brexit: Proposed US-UK Trade Deal Slammed as ‘TTIP On Steroids’

Proposed US-UK Trade Deal Slammed as ‘TTIP On Steroids’

A new report says the proposed US-UK trade deal promised by Trump will be “TTIP on steroids,” bringing in “corporate courts,” privatization of health services and a threat to climate change, Sputnik has been told.

The US Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, April 19, told delegates at the think tank Policy Exchange in London, England that the United States and Great Britain play a critical role in promoting regional and global stability, creating new opportunities for trade and economic partnerships, and spoke of the “enduring importance of the special relationship between [the] two countries.”

​”We should measure the success of the special relationship not just by how we treat each other, but rather by how well we can leverage this moment to seize a real opportunity for our two nations,” Paul Ryan said.

However, in a new briefing, campaign group Global Justice Now says a US-UK trade deal will only work for the US, following US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy.

The group says it would contain “more extreme forms of all the controversial elements of the deal that was being negotiated between the EU and the USA” — the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

“Being desperate to make a deal under any circumstances, while having a very weak bargaining hand, is the worst possible combination for the UK to be entering into any sort of trade discussions with the US, so it’s not surprising that Trump is keen to make a deal when it could so massively benefit US corporations,” Jean Blaylock, trade campaigner at Global Justice Now told Sputnik.

​The report said any US-UK trade deal would still create “corporate courts” that allow foreign corporations to sue governments outside of the national legal system to challenge such things as environmental protection or public health policy, lock in the privatization of public services, including of the National Health Service (NHS) and would undermine climate commitments.

“Tariffs between the US and the UK are already low and trade levels are high. So any deal would be about stripping away protections around labor rights, public services and consumer standards that are hugely beneficial to ordinary people, but occasionally inconvenient to business interests. There’s an enormously powerful private health care sector of the US that is licking its lips at the prospect of being able to open up the NHS under such a trade deal,” Blaylock told Sputnik.

Dispute

At the heart of the TTIP deal is the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) — the so-called “corporate courts” — protocol, under which companies that are barred from selling their goods and services in any state that is part of the agreement can sue the government for loss of earnings.

If a US food company that produces chicken meat by cleaning the plucked carcass in chlorinated water is prevented from selling it in the EU — where such practice is banned — the company can invoke the ISDS protocol, have the case heard by a special tribunal and sue for loss of earnings. The same is true of genetically modified foods, which are largely banned in the EU, but not in the US.

“Governments can never win from an ISDS case — even if the judgement is in their favor, they have legal costs which on average are just under US$6.4 million for each case,” the Global Justice Now report says

Michael Fallon “Arms company MBDA is a ‘role model’ for post-Brexit trade”

Arms company that sold missiles to Gaddafi is a ‘role model’ for post-Brexit trade

Arms company that sold missiles to Gaddafi is a ‘role model’ for post-Brexit trade, Fallon says

The Defence Secretary also said the Government is backing more arms sales to Saudi Arabia

michael-fallon-defence-secretary-tory.jpgMichael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence EPA

An arms company that sold missiles to the Gaddafi regime in Libya is a “role model” for the sort of business Britain will be engaged in after Brexit, the Defence Secretary has said.

Sir Michael Fallon said MBDA is “strengthening the reputation of this country” with its work and that it is “a role model for the kind of partnerships we’ll be seeking” once the UK has left the EU.

In 2007 MBDA signed a contract to provide £200 million worth of missiles and military communications equipment to Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. The dictator was deposed in 2011 during a brutal civil war during which he was accused of bombing his own citizens

The firm also makes the Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles and sells them to the Saudi Arabian air force, which is bombing civilians in Yemen. The UN estimates that Saudi-led forces have caused the vast majority of civilian deaths in the country’s bloody conflict, with reports of schools, hospitals and food factories being bombed. It is estimated that one third of Yemen’s 24 million people are at risk of starvation.

Anti-arms trade activists slammed the Defence Secretary for courting the arms company, accusing him of glorying a firm that “profits from war and arms tyrants”.

Sir Michael said MBDA had built “a great reputation manufacturing missiles that keep us safe” as he unveiled a £539 million MoD contract for the firm to supply Britain with three new missile systems. He said the contract was worth 130 jobs in Britain.

“As you know we are leaving the European Union but in leaving the European Union we are going to become an even more global country, reaching out to our friends and allies across the world,” he told assembled staff members at the firm’s headquarters in Stevenage.

“If you want to know what that means in practice look at yourselves, look at your company here. A partnership that already combines British, French, German, Italian skills in one company, forming the only European group that is capable of creating these kinds of missile systems that meet the multiple demands of all the different domains: land, sea, and air.

“You are a role model here for the kind of partnerships we’ll be seeking in future: for our defence, for our manufacturing, and for our country.”

When asked by The Independent whether he considered the sale of arms to the Gaddafi regime to be “role model” behaviour, Sir Michael said: “You know our arms export criteria are some of the strictest we have in the world and we take very good care to look at every single licence application to make sure they conform to the criteria.”

Asked whether the British Government was making the same mistake it had made in 2007 by signing off arms sales to Saudi Arabia, he replied: “Saudi Arabia has the right to defend itself. It’s being attacked by Houthi missiles over its southern border and is also attempting to restore the legitimate government of Yemen.

“Every export application that we have for Saudi Arabia gets scrutinised against our normal criteria. There’s a court case pending at the moment and we’ll wait for the result of that.”

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Colonel Gaddafi was deposed in 2011, four years after the missile deal was signed (AFP/Getty)

Sir Michael also backed BAE, which part owns MDBA, to sell more arms to the Saudi Arabian government. The firm is seeking a significant new contract with the autocratic petro-state.

“Are we supporting them? Absolutely. It’s something ministers have been pressing with the Saudi government for a number of years now,” he said.

Britain is the second biggest arms exporter in the world, according to UK Trade and Investment. The Independent revealed last year that Britain has sold weapons to 22 of the 30 countries on its own human rights watchlist since 2010.

The Government is currently defending a High Court challenge by campaigners who say that it is breaking its own arms exporting licence criteria by continuing to sign off the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.

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As many as 460,000 children face severe malnutrition in Yemen and 70 per cent of the population struggle to feed themselves (Reuters/Naif Rahma)

Documents revealed in court show the head of the Government’s own Export Control Organisation recommended arms sales be stopped, but this advice was not adopted by ministers. The court is currently considering its verdict. Saudi Arabia is intervening in Yemen on the side of the internationally recognised Yemeni government and fighting against Houthi rebels.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade said: “If Fallon believes MBDA is a role-model then it says very worrying things about how he sees the UK’s post-Brexit future

“MBDA is a company that profits from war and arms tyrants, it is among the last companies Fallon should be encouraging others to replicate

“If the UK is to play a positive role on the world stage then arms companies like MBDA need to be condemned, not celebrated and glorified by Government ministers.”

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Tom Brake accused Sir Michael’s party of “turning the UK into the arms dealer of choice for the world’s most repressive regimes”.

“If this is Theresa May’s vision of a global Britain, it is one which millions of people across the country are disgusted by and want nothing to do with,” he said.

Dave Armstrong, managing director of MBDA UK, said: “MBDA is delighted by the continued trust placed in us by the Ministry of Defence and the British military.

“The contracts announced today for Meteor, CAMM, and Sea Viper will help protect all three UK armed services, providing them with new cutting-edge capabilities and ensuring their current system remain relevant for the future.

“They will also help to secure hundreds of highly-skilled people at MBDA UK and in the UK supply chain, maintaining the UK’s manufacturing base and providing us with a platform for exports.”

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