في ذكرى النكبة… الأسطورة التي أغفلها غارودي

السبت 15 أيار 2022

المصدر

موفق محادين 

هذه هي الأسطورة الغائبة التي أغفلها غارودي والعالم، ولم ينتبها إلى دورها وأهميتها البالغة في تضليل الرأي العام الغربي.

ربما كان مهدي عامل أوّل من أضفى بُعداً معرفياً على الطائفية، بوصفها أيديولوجيا ما قبل الرأسمالية، في خدمة الرأسمالية، مميّزاً بينها وبين الدين، كمرجعية إيمانية خالصة.

في ذكرى النكبة… الأسطورة التي أغفلها غارودي

ولم تجد مقولة عامل هذه صداها، كما وجدته في الأيديولوجيا الصهيونية.

فبالرغم من كل ما قيل عن الصهيونية كتعبير عن البورجوازية اليهودية الكبيرة (اليسار العربي الكلاسيكي) أو عن البورجوازية الصغيرة (أبراهام ليون)، فإنّ الوقائع والمعطيات وبنية الخطاب الصهيوني لا تغادر هذه المقولة، وتجعلها ملائمة وقابلة للاستنتاج أن الصهيونية هي أيديولوجيا ما قبل رأسمالية، سواء في مفاهيمها النظرية الأولى، كما كرّستها كتابات الصهاينة الأوائل ومؤتمر بال، أم في مشروعها السياسي، الذي رافق الإعلام الصهيوني عن قيام الدولة العبرية على الأرض العربية في فلسطين.

هذه هي الأسطورة الغائبة التي أغفلها غارودي والعالم، ولم ينتبهوا إلى دورها وأهميتها البالغة في تضليل الرأي العام الغربي، وإعادة إنتاجه في كل مرة، وفق المقاييس السرية لتقارير وملفات وزارة المستعمرات البريطانية، وهي تصمّم محميّة رأسمالية شرق المتوسط، بأيديولوجيا ما قبل رأسمالية.

لقد قدّمت الصهيونية نفسها كأفضل ممثل للغرب في الشرق، وكخطوة أولى في رحلة الألف ميل، من أجل شرق ديمقراطي معاصر! وتمكّنت أيضاً من اختراق العديد من الأوساط الثقافية العربية، المثقلة بالتخلّف، والتي لم تدرك بعد أن هذا التخلف يعود في واحد من أهم أسبابه إلى دور الصهيونية في احتجاز مشروع الاندماج القومي، وإعاقة هذا المشروع بالهويات الجهوية القطرية البدائية، التي يجري تسويقها كهويات وطنية مستقلة جداً.

فهل تعبّر الصهيونية عن الأيديولوجيا الرأسمالية حقاً، أم هي صورة كاريكاتورية لهذه الأيديولوجيا في مضامينها ودلالاتها ما قبل الرأسمالية؟ وماذا عن القراءات والملاحظات التالية:

أولاً: لم تتأسّس “إسرائيل” كدولة قومية بورجوازية خارج الدين الذي كان فصله عن الدولة شرطاً أساسياً من شروط النمط الأوروبي لهذه الدولة. بل تأسّست كداعشية توراتية لليهود، الذين ينتسبون إلى عشرات القوميات والأعراق والأجناس.

والدين اليهودي كما سجّله عزرا في السبي البابلي، ليس مثل أي دين آخر. ففي التلمود تتساوى النفس اليهودية مع العزة الإلهية، ويصبح اليهود شعباً مقدّساً مكتفياً بذاته. ولذلك لم يحاول اليهود التبشير بدينهم، لأنهم لا يقبلون خفض مستوى واجبهم نحو تجسيد النموذج الأرقى بجعله واجباً لكل البشر.

ولا تزال بنية الخطاب الصهيوني، الذي ينتج العقل اليهودي الجمعي كل صباح، بنية محكومة أو مسكونة بهذه الحالة، التي لا تعتبر دم اليهود ودم الأغيار من القوميات والأديان الأخرى دماً متساوياً، والتي لا تسمح لغير اليهودي بتسلّم أيّ منصب مهم في الدولة، ولا تسمح ببيع الأرض والبيوت والحقول للأغيار، ولا تسمح بإنقاذ غير اليهودي يوم السبت.

وهناك عشرات الأمثلة التي يعرضها إسرائيل شاحاك في أعماله المنشورة، التي تكذّب كل ما يقال عن الطابع العلماني للدولة العبرية.

ثانياً: لم تتأسّس “إسرائيل”، بصورة طبيعية، كما كل البلدان الأخرى، ولم تعبّر عن مصلحة بورجوازية معينة في بناء دولة سوق خاص بها.

وإضافة إلى التأكيدات المعروفة في التاريخ الصهيوني بشأن الدور العام الذي يمكن لليهود أن يلعبوه بين السويس وطريق الهند الشرقية، وأن يمنعوا عودة روح محمد علي إلى مصر ثانية (وفق تحذيرات البارون روتشيلد، وناحوم سوكولوف، وجابوتنسكي…).

إضافة إلى كل ذلك، وبالاشتقاق من الوظيفة غير الطبيعية للصهيونية السياسية المذكورة، اشتقت الصهيونية من هذه الوظيفة أيديولوجيا غير طبيعية في ملامحها ما قبل الرأسمالية، من جهة، ومن قدرتها على الاستمرار كذلك، كواحدة من مظاهر الرأسمالية نفسها. ومن ذلك:

· فكرة التطويب المقدّس للأرض، بوصفها حالة خلق جديدة، مماثلة للخلق الأول، وصورة عن الفعل النموذجي، الذي قامت به السماء وجسّدته في هبوط نوح على البرية وبناء مملكة الله الأرضية وسط عالم من الخطايا، فتكون “إسرائيل” معادلاً لنوح، وتكون الكوارث التي سبقت قيام “إسرائيل” معادلاً للعماء الكوني الأول، والوحش المائي الذي يرمز إلى ذلك. ويكون مصرع هتلر، والإخفاق العربي في حرب 1948، معادلين لهزيمة الوحش المائي، وما تستدعيه من قرابين بشرية ضرورية للتطويب المقدس الجديد.

· فكرة الألفية أو العود الدوري، والتي لا يمكن تصور الأيديولوجيا الصهيونية من دونها. فهي الفكرة التي تضفي على الهزائم والكوارث طابعاً مقدساً، بوصفها المسوّغ التاريخي للانبعاث مرة أخرى. وهي الفكرة التي توفّر جسراً أو صلة ما بين أيديولوجيا ما قبل رأسمالية كالأيديولوجيا الصهيونية، وبين الأيديولوجيا الرأسمالية في حقبتها الإمبريالية، كما عبّر عنها “فوكوياما” في نهاية التاريخ.

·       فكرة الأمة المزعومة أو الشعب المقدّس، التي تتعالى على التاريخ والسيرورة، وتلغيها بإحالة المعرفة البشرية كلها إلى حدوس صوفية، وما عداها ضرباً من الخطيئة.

ومن المفهوم أن الحدوس المقصودة في البنية التوراتية للخطاب الصهيوني، هي حدوس محسومة بصورة ربانية للشعب المختار: (روح الله عند أبراهام كوك، والقدرة العليا عند آحاد هعام، والأسطورة الحية عند هرتزل).

ثالثاً: لم تتأسّس “إسرائيل” على أسس ديمقراطية بورجوازية، بل وفق ديمقراطية أخرى، هي الديمقراطية الجرمانية، وما تستدعيه من عرقية خالصة (مفبركة) لتسوّغ علاقة السيد اليهودي (الأنا) بالعبد العربي (الآخر).

فالدولة هنا ليست مؤسّسة قائمة على الحق، بل مؤسّسة قائمة على تصوّر أيديولوجي مرتكز على العرقية.

والحرية والديمقراطية شرط داخلي لإنتاج فاشية خارجية،  وليستا نموذجاً إسرائيلياً لديمقراطية فريدة في الشرق الأوسط.

رابعاً: لم تؤسّس الصهيونية دولة مدنية حديثة، بل أسّست نموذجاً لدولة قديمة ما قبل رأسمالية، هي الدولة-القلعة. وكانت في كل ذلك تعبيراً عن نموذج الدولة الحامية والجغرافيا السياسية التقليدية القديمة، القائمة على التخادم السياسي.

وبالارتباط بذلك، لم تؤسّس الصهيونية لمجتمع حديث مؤهّل لإنتاج دولة معاصرة، بل إنّ الدولة هي التي أنتجت المجتمع، وكان بالضرورة وجهها الآخر.

فكما ولدت وعاشت الدولة العبرية على الريع الخارجي والعائدات الإقليمية للوظيفة التاريخية، ولد المجتمع اليهودي على شاكلة دولته. واتّسم بطابع ريعي مماثل، وظلّ يعيد إنتاج بنيته وآلياته الداخلية على إيقاع الوظيفة السياسية الخارجية، واستعاد صورة المجتمع الذي شهدته إسبارطة وروما، وكان ينقسم، كما هو معروف، إلى سادة ونبلاء وبيروقراط من جهة، وعبيد منتجين، من جهة ثانية.

فمقابل النبلاء والسادة في أثينا، يتولى الأشكينازيم في الكيان الصهيوني المناصب الرفيعة في الجيش والاقتصاد والمجتمع. ومقابل العبيد، يقوم الأغيار من العرب والعمال الآسيويين بالأعمال اليدوية.

خامساً: وبالارتباط بالدولة الحامية ومجتمع الدولة الريعي، ظل الاقتصاد الإسرائيلي، بالرغم من عمليات الضخ الخارجي الكبيرة، اقتصاداً شديد الارتباط بالموقع الإقليمي لـ”إسرائيل” داخل لعبة الأمم بين أحواض النفط والطرق والممرات الكبرى، وخطوط التصدّع العالمية.

وأعاد إلى الأذهان اقتصادات الدول-القلاع القديمة، التي كانت تعيش وتتغذّى على طرق التجارة وحماية القوافل والغارات المأجورة.

فبخلاف الطابع المستقل للعسكرة عن البنية الاقتصادية – الاجتماعية في بلدان الديمقراطية الرأسمالية، تمثّل العسكرة في “إسرائيل” جزءاً لا يتجزأ من بنية الدولة والاقتصاد والمجتمع.

وبخلاف الاقتصاد المفتوح في بلدان الرأسمالية الكبرى، التي ترعى الدولة العبرية، تحتفظ هذه الدولة باقتصاد مركزي، ليس له ما يبرّره سوى اعتبارات الوظيفة الخارجية، وما تستدعيه هذه الاعتبارات من شروط اجتماعية داخلية لتعزيزها والتقاطع معها باستمرار.

سادساً: لم تؤسّس “إسرائيل” تقاليد أو مناخات وحدة وصراع طبيعية مع أحد، لا مع الأصدقاء وخاصة الولايات المتحدة، ولا مع العرب.

فعلاقاتها الخاصة مع واشنطن ليست علاقة قائمة على قانون الوحدة والصراع في إطار الوحدة، كما هي حال العلاقات التي تميّز الدول والقوى الصديقة أو المتحالفة، بل علاقة قائمة على اعتبارات أخرى، تحيل “إسرائيل” برمّتها إلى حالة أميركية داخلية، تجعل أيديولوجيا الأنظمة اليهودية، ما قبل الرأسمالية، مجرد تنويعة خاصة على أيديولوجيا نهاية التاريخ الإمبريالية.

وعلاقاتها مع العرب لم تقم، في المقابل، على قانون الوحدة والصراع في إطار الصراع، بل أخذت، وبالضرورة، شكلاً صراعياً من نوع مختلف، لا يستهدف الإخضاع وتقاسم النفوذ الإقليمي، داخل منطقة عربية أصلاً، بل يستهدف الإقصاء والنفي في مستويين مترابطين: نفي الشعب الفلسطيني لا إخضاعه، وتفتيت البنى العربية، وتحويلها إلى كانتونات وجزر معزولة، على غرار دولة البانتوستانات القبلية التي صنعتها جنوب أفريقيا في ما مضى، كأحزمة وأشرطة حدودية حولها.

ولدينا هنا أكثر من مفارقة: الأولى أن “إسرائيل” لا تسعى من وراء الاتفاقيات التي وقّعتها مع غير طرف عربي إلى تكريس أيّ من هؤلاء الأطراف والتعايش معهم، بل إلى تحويل التسوية معهم إلى مناخات موضوعية لتفكيك هؤلاء الأطراف أنفسِهم وتحويلهم إلى مكعبات متناثرة وظواهر إسرائيلية داخلية يتحمّلون في الوقت نفسه الأعباء الأمنية والاجتماعية المباشرة في دوائرهم الخاصة، ويعيدون إنتاج هذه الظواهر في المدار الإسرائيلي بأقل التكاليف الممكنة.

والمفارقة الثانية أن السياسات الإسرائيلية المذكورة لا تتّسم بالطابع الرأسمالي التقليدي المعروف لدى المتروبولات الدولية والإقليمية، بل بطابع أقرب إلى النمط الإقطاعي، وذلك بفضل الموقع الحاسم للأيديولوجيا الصهيونية التوراتية، داخل الوظيفة السياسية الخاصة للدولة-القلعة، والشعب-الطبقة.

صحيح أن مشروع التفتيت الصهيوني للمحيط العربي يقوم على فلسفة السوق وإملاءات البنك الدولي، مقابل مشروع المركزة الإسرائيلية، الذي يقوم على رأسمالية الدولة وقانون الكتل الانتخابية، إلا أن هذه الآليات الرأسمالية تتحرك عملياً ضمن تصورات وبنى اجتماعية ما قبل رأسمالية أو متماهية معها.

فالمعادلة السابقة هي التي تجعل دولة اليهود هذه أقلية طائفية كبرى، وسط أقليات عربية صغيرة، متطاحنة.

أخيراً…

كان متّى يقول: كل ما يؤخذ بالسيف، بالسيف يهلك.

وكان البيتار ينشدون: بالدم قامت يهوذا، وبالدم سقطت، وبالدم ستبعث من جديد.

فكان السؤال: لماذا لا تزول ثانية، فكل ما ينبعث، بحسب غوته، جدير بالزوال.

إلى ذلك، وإضافة إلى مصالح بريطانيا الاستعمارية في إقامة قاعدة عسكرية شرق المتوسط لحماية طريقين مهمّين وتأمينهما، طريق شركة الهند الشرقية، وطريق السويس، فإن الذي نفّذ المشروع الصهيوني فريق بريطاني كامل مرتبط بالصهيوني وايزمان، ويتألف هذا الفريق من كل من:

1. كامبل بنرمان

2. ونستون تشرشل

3. اللورد سايكس

4. الجنرال اللنبي

5. اللورد بلفور

6. شبكة سارة التجسّسية

7. لورنس العرب وشبكة الجواسيس المرتبطة به

8. هربرت صموئيل

9. إيلياهو ساسون.

وقد لعب بنرمان دوراً مهماً في التنبيه إلى أهميّة عزل مصر عن مشرق الوطن العربي عبر إقامة كيان يهودي في فلسطين، وكانت تجربة محمد علي الذي وحّد مصر وبلاد الشام ماثلة في ذهنه.

وأخذ سايكس على عاتقه تمزيق سوريا الطبيعية إلى أربعة أقاليم، سوريا الحالية، ولبنان، وشرق الأردن وفلسطين، مقدمة لوضع فلسطين بتصرّف الحركة الصهيونية. وجاء بلفور بوعده المعروف تتويجاً لاتفاقية سايكس-بيكو، واستكمل ذلك كل من تشرشل والجنرال اللنبي، الأول بتأسيسه للفيلق اليهودي في القوات البريطانية، والثاني باحتلال فلسطين وطرد الأتراك منها وتسليمها للبريطاني الصهيوني هربرت صموئيل، الذي كان ابنه ضابطاً في الفيلق اليهودي.

كما عهد إلى شبكتين للتجسّس وتجنيد المرتزقة توفير الظروف المواتية لإطلاق المشروع الصهيوني كما أداره الصهيوني وايزمان بالتنسيق مع هرتزل وروتشيلد (الصندوق المالي). فإضافة إلى شبكة لورنس المعروفة، لعبت اليهودية سارة وشبكة التجسّس والدعارة التي تديرها دوراً كبيراً في اختراق أوساط عربية عديدة واستمالتها، أما إيلياهو ساسون أو إيلياهو إيلات، فقد عهد إليه بتقديم نفسه كمستشرق بريطاني مهمته دراسة الأحوال العربية المحيطة بفلسطين، حيث أمضى، فعلاً، سنوات عديدة بين الأهالي في مصر وسوريا وشرق الأردن ولبنان، تمكن خلالها من إقامة علاقات واسعة مع زعامات وشيوخ في هذه المناطق، وفّرت له الاطلاع عن كثب على أحوالهم وطرق تفكيرهم ومصالحهم من جهة، كما لعب دوراً في إشاعة ثقافات كيانية تدعو إلى الاستقلال عن سوريا والتخلص من نفوذ أكبر حزب كان يدعو إلى استقلال ووحدة سوريا الطبيعية آنذاك، وهو حزب الاستقلال السوري. وبحسب مذكّراته (إسرائيل وجاراتها) التي تقع في ألف صفحة تقريباً، فقد قدّمت الحركة الصهيونية دعماً مالياً للعديد من الزعامات والقوى (الجديدة) المعادية لوحدة سوريا الطبيعية، وكان يرى أن سيطرة اليهود على فلسطين لا يمكن أن تحدث وتستمر بوجود سوريا الواحدة الموحّدة.

إن الآراء المذكورة في هذه المقالة لا تعبّر بالضرورة عن رأي الميادين وإنما تعبّر عن رأي صاحبها حصراً

Forward to the USSR and Operation Z+

May 04, 2022

Source

By Batiushka

On 28 April 2022 President Lukashenko of Belarus spoke of a possible coming together of various independent countries, former Soviet republics, to join the Russian Federation and Belarus in a ‘Union State’. (https://www.reporter.am/the-former-soviet-republics-may-also-be-part-of-the-union-state-lukashenko/). Then, on 3 May President Putin and President Lukashenko discussed the construction of this Union State further. (https://news.mail.ru/politics/51151818/?frommail=1).

In 1991 the Soviet Union, the successor of the Russian Empire, suddenly collapsed in a remarkably similar way to the way in which the former suddenly collapsed in 1917 and on orders from exactly the same transatlantic financial and political circles. No coincidence. Since then the territory concerned, the heartland of Northern Eurasia, like much of the rest of the world has been in chaos, with poverty, injustice and war. Geopolitically, the formation of a Sovereign Union (not Soviet Union) of the peoples and nations of Northern Eurasia is now perhaps the only way of overcoming the vacuum created, which has been at the root of planetary chaos since 1991.

Northern Eurasia, whatever it has been called, is, like it or not, marked by its central and by far its largest nation, the Russian. This is the only one capable of bringing together the sovereign states of the many and varied peoples who live in this continuous intercontinental land-area for peace and justice. Indeed, many look to Russia to carry out precisely this task and so to rescue them from the present disorder of Western ‘divide and rule’ politics, the resulting Western exploitation of their natural resources and oppression of Western-loving oligarchs.

Speaking to citizens of the former Soviet Union of many nationalities over the last 30 years, some things are certain. Nobody wants to go back to the old Soviet ways, for example, to arrests and imprisonments for criticism of the drab, ultra-centralised system, or simply to the daily queuing to obtain even staple goods, food and clothes, the result of the gross inefficiencies of central planning. Nobody wants to live in a country where sausage meat, appearing at best once a week, was sold out by 10 a.m. and where women could not even obtain sanitary products. Nobody wants to go back to a centralised system, where even minute decisions were made by micro-managing, out-of-touch bureaucrats, working on the basis of falsified statistics in distant Moscow.

On the other hand, whatever happened to free healthcare (even if underfunded), free education, full employment, (modest) homes for all, low crime, social justice, liveable pensions, subsidised high culture and the other benefits of the Soviet Union? Little wonder that there is among many all over Eastern Europe a nostalgia for the old Communist system and many still vote Communist. As one woman said to me in Moscow twelve years ago: ‘Of course, we knew that the Communists were lieing to us about our wonderful life under Communism, but what we did not know is that they were telling us the truth about the awfulness of life under Capitalism. Before we had shortages, but we were secure. Now we do not have shortages, if we have money, but we have no security’.

The old Russian Empire gathered together many peoples beneath its double-headed eagle, looking both ways, uniting both East and West. The old Soviet Empire gathered together many peoples beneath its hammer and sickle, imposing a centralised Union, opposing Capitalism in both East and West. Now, hope against hope, we await the foundation of a successor Union, one which must shun the errors of the past, bravely attempting to provide Justice and Prosperity for all.

A Sovereign Union, composed of sovereign nations with new and just borders, agreed on after referenda, freely co-operating in terms of trade and defence, is possible. These initial sovereign nations, in possible order of membership, could be: The Russian Federation, Belarus, much of the old Ukraine, liberated, with its new name, borders and new government, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Thus would be formed a new USSR, a Union of Sovereign Social Republics, a Sovereign Union (SU). Many would rejoice at this, for the dangerous vacuum, the social injustices, the neo-feudal oligarchs’ kleptocracy and divisions left by the collapse of the old USSR have proved to be extremely destabilising for the whole of Northern Eurasia, one sixth of the Earth’s land surface. And that instability has affected the rest of the world quite profoundly, as we can see at this very moment, which is left shuddering at the possibility, however slight, of World War III.

A unique Sovereign Union from Brest to Vladivostok, from the Arctic to Central Asia, could provide an Alliance not only for the new nations formed thirty years ago, but also with still to-be-liberated nations in Europe. Freeing themselves from the shackles of the Anti-sovereign and Anti-social EU, these nations would include Hungary and Slovakia, Serbia and Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, Montenegro and Macedonia. Perhaps there could be an Alliance with the undeluded elsewhere in Europe, as well as in Asia, in Mongolia, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, and in Africa, and in the ex-Western colonies of the three continents of the New Worlds. Is it really past human ingenuity to live in a system in which there is freedom and social justice for all, in an Alliance, with a Union of Sovereign Social Republics?

A Sovereign Union, standing over the world like a mother stretching out her arms over Eurasia to care for her children, could establish an Alliance of the World’s Nations, a real United Nations, not that corrupt pastiche of one in New York. Everywhere, peoples’ struggles to settle long-standing historic injustices through the abolition of borders drawn up long ago by Colonial Office cultural ignoramuses and natural resource asset-strippers in faraway London, Paris and Washington, would become possible. The formation of new countries, new borders, new constitutions and new prosperity, could gradually be resolved in peace.

After all, what is the alternative? To continue in the present hellish chaos of perpetual war, grinding poverty and cynical injustice? Zorro’s Operation Z, the liberation of the Ukraine, is just the beginning. Operation Z+, the liberation of the world, is the end. Yes, it is a highly unlikely end, but still the only noble one directed towards a worthy New World Order, enough to inspire a direction in even the most disheartened of hearts.

المشهد الدولي والإقليمي في ظلّ المواجهة الروسية الأطلسية في أوكرانيا

الخميس 21 نيسان 2022

ـ مسار العملية العسكرية يدلّ بوضوح إلى أنّ النتيجة ستكون في منتهى السلبية للنظام القائم في أوكرانيا ومن خلال ذلك للحلف الأطلسي التي قد تكون ضُربت مصداقيته ضربة قاضية ـ كشفت جائحة كورونا التبعية للمواد الأساسية الموجودة في كلّ من روسيا والصين… والاتحاد الأوروبي منكشف تجاه روسيا في موضوع الطاقة ولا يستطيع الاستغناء عنها رغم التصريحات المعاكسة

زياد حافظ

لا يمكن أن نتصوّر تداعيات المواجهة المفتوحة بين روسيا والحلف الأطلسي في أوكرانيا دون التوقف على الأسباب. فهذه الأسباب التي دفعت إلى المواجهة هي التي ستلقي بظلالها على المشهد العالمي والإقليمي. فجوهر الصراع هو صراع بين مذهبين في منظومة واحدة. المنظومة هي الرأس المالية والمذهبان هما أولا الرأس المالية الريعية المالية التي تقوده الولايات المتحدة والحلف الأطلسي وثانياً الرأس المالية الإنتاجية التي تتماهى مع الاقتصاد الموجه التي تقوده الكتلة الأوراسية بقيادة روسيا والصين.

بهذا التعريف للمواجهة نضمّ الأبعاد الجيوسياسية والدوافع التوسعية لدى المحور الأطلسي قابلتها الهواجس الأمنية لروسيا والصين. وفي الإطار الأوسع للمواجهة هناك نموذجان من داخل العائلة الواحدة يتنافسان على قيادة العالم والنموذج الذي تتبناه الولايات المتحدة يخسر لصالح النموذج الآخر.

 يبقى علينا أن نستشرف ماذا بعد؟ والإجابة تتوقف على مسار العملية العسكرية القائمة في أوكرانيا ونهايتها. فالحلف الأطلسي وخاصة الولايات المتحدة غير متحمّسة على إنهاء الصراع بل على تمديده بهدف استنزاف روسيا عسكرياً واقتصادياً وفرض العزلة الدولية عليها. الهدف الأميركي بات واضحاً وهو تغيير النظام القائم في روسيا.

لكن الرياح الروسية لم تجر كما اشتهت السفن الأطلسية والأميركية. فمسار العملية العسكرية يدلّ بوضوح على أنّ النتيجة ستكون في منتهى السلبية للنظام القائم في أوكرانيا ومن خلال ذلك للحلف الأطلسي التي قد تكون ضُربت مصداقيته ضربة قاضية. فكيف ستكون تداعيات ذلك المسار على العالم بشكل عام والإقليم والمشهد العربي بشكل خاص؟

في هذه النقطة بالذات نريد أن نؤكّد أن قدرة روسيا على مواجهة الغرب لم تكن لتحصل لولا الصمود العربي خاصة في محور المقاومة. فالمقاومة في العراق أفشلت المشروع الأميركي واستنزفت قدراته بينما كانت روسيا تعيد بناء قواها العسكرية والاقتصادية. كما أنّ صمود المقاومة في لبنان منع تحقيق مشروع الشرق الأوسط الجديد بينما روسيا كانت أيضاً في إطار استعادة القدرات. كما أنّ صمود سورية في مواجهة العدوان الكوني ساهم في تعزيز الثقة بأنّ الغرب ليس قدراً على العالم. كما أنّ صمود المقاومة في فلسطين أفشل مشروع صفقة القرن والاتفاقات الابراهيمية وأنّ صمود اليمن ساهم في إعادة رسم الخارطة السياسية للأمن الإقليمي خارج النفوذ الأميركي. فهذا الدور العربي مكّن كلّ من روسيا والصين وحتى الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران من تعزيز قدراتها وترسيخ تضمانها بل تحالفها والآن نرى روسيا تقف بوجه الهجمة الأطلسية في أوروبا الشرقية وتهزمها نيابة عن العالم. فلا بد للنظام العربي ان يتأثر بكلّ ذلك خاصة أنّ الجزء الخارج عن سيطرة ذلك النظام استطاع أن يقلب المعادلات التقليدية في الإقليم وبالتالي في العالم. هناك معادلة جيوسياسية بسيطة. من يريد السيطرة على العالم عليه أن يسيطر على الجزيرة الأوراسية لما لها من موارد وإمكانيات. ومن يريد أن يسيطر على تلك الجزيرة فالبوّابة لها هي المشرق بشكل عام والمشرق العربي بشكل خاص. هنا يبرز البعد الاستراتيجي لمحور المقاومة وما يمثله من دور في إعادة رسم التوازنات الدولية.

صحيح أنّ العملية العسكرية لم تضع أوزارها بعد عند إعداد هذا التقرير لكن هناك نتائج واضحة على الصعيد الدولي وبطبيعة الحال على الصعيد الإقليمي والعربي. أولى النتائج هو شبه إجماع على أنّ القوّامة الأميركية والأطلسية لم تعد كما كانت عليه. صحيح أنّ الولايات المتحدة لن تستسلم بسهولة إلى الواقع الجديد لكن ليس باستطاعتها تغيير موازين القوة والعوامل التي أدّت إلى ذلك التراجع. فهذه العوامل داخلية بالدرجة الأولى كما أنها خارجية تعود إلى التخطيط البعيد المدى الذي قامت بتنفيذه دول المحور الرافض للهيمنة الأطلسية والأميركية. فتقييم المشهد الداخلي لا يوحي بأن هناك إمكانية في تعديل الميزان. فليس هناك جهوزية عسكرية أميركية لمواجهة شاملة وحاسمة لكل من روسيا والصين كما أن قدرة اللجوء إلى الحرب بالوكالة عنها أصبحت شبه معدومة. فالتصدّعات داخل الحلف الأطلسي والاتحاد الأوروبي لا توحي بإمكانية حشد قوّات عسكرية تستطيع مواجهة روسيا وذلك رغم الكلام العالي النبرة لمكوّنات الحلف الاطلسي. ليس هناك من استعداد للتضحية في سبيل أوكرانيا. فالخطة هي فقط الاستنزاف عبر تحفيز الأوكرانيين والمرتزقة من الأوروبيين على مواجهة الالة العسكرية الروسية.

كذلك الأمر على الصعيد الاقتصادي حيث كشفت جائحة كورونا التبعية للمواد الأساسية الموجودة في كلّ من روسيا والصين. والاتحاد الأوروبي منكشف تجاه روسيا في موضوع الطاقة ولا يستطيع الاستغناء عنها رغم التصريحات المعاكسة لذلك. فالبديل للغاز الروسي هو الغاز الأميركي بأسعار مرتفعة تصل إلى أكثر من عشر أضعاف سعر الغاز الروسي ناهيك عن عدم وجود تجهيزات لاستيراد الغاز الأميركي قبل ثلاث سنوات على أحسن تقدير. فماذا تستطيع ان تفعل الدول الأوروبية طيلة الفترة غير الدخول في انكماش كبير أن لم يكن في كساد أكبر مما كان في الثلاثينات من القرن الماضي؟

أما على الصعيد المالي لن تستطيع الولايات المتحدة وحلفاؤها من منع قيام أنظمة مدفوعات دولية لا ترتكز إلى الدولار. كما أن التعامل بالدولار بدأ بالتراجع في دول واقتصادات وازنة كالصين والهند وروسيا على سبيل المثال. حتى بعض الدول العربية التابعة للقرار الأميركي بدأت تفكّر جدّيا بالتعامل مع الروبل الروسي واليوان الصين والروبية الهندية.

بناء على ذلك نستطيع أن نقول إن نتائج العملية العسكرية الروسية في أوكرانيا ستكرّس تراجع دور الولايات المتحدة وأوروبا في الهيمنة على مقدرات العالم.

اما النتيجة الثانية لذلك التراجع هو واقعياً بروز نظام دولي جديد متعدد القطبية يرتكز إلى القانون الدولي وقرارات مجلس الأمن واحكام المحكمة الدولية إضافة إلى الاتفاقات والمعاهدات بينما الطرح الأميركي ومعه الأوروبي هو نظام «أحكام قيم» لا قاعدة قانونية لها وملتبسة في أحسن الأحوال ولا تعترف بسيادة الدول. وهذا النظام سيشهد تجاذبا بين الدول التي تريد الخروج من الهيمنة الأميركية وبين الدول التي لا تستطيع الخروج عنها وعددها يتقلّص يوما بعد يوم ولن يضم في آخر المطاف إلاّ الحلف الانكلوساكسوني، أي الولايات المتحدة والمملكة المتحدة وأستراليا وكندا وربما نيوزيلاندا. أما أوروبا الغربية فهي عدة أقسام: المحور الألماني الفرنسي الذي يقود الاتحاد الأوروبي، دول أطراف أوروبا، ودول أوروبا الشرقية. ليس هناك من انسجام في المواقف داخل هذه الكتل الثلاث لأسباب عديدة تعود منها للتاريخ ومنها لبنيتها السياسية والاقتصادية لا وقت لنا شرحها. ما يهمنا هو أن عدم الانسجام سيحدّ من فعّالية موقف موحد. ولذلك سنرى أوروبا في تجاذب بين النظام المبني على القانون الدولي والمعاهدات وقرارات المحكمة الدولية وطبعا قرارات مجلس الأمن.

في ذلك السياق لا نستبعد إعادة النظر في تركيبة مجلس الأمن حيث الدول صاحبة حق النقض هي خمس فقط بينما قد تدخل إليه دول كالهند والبرازيل وجنوب إفريقيا ودولة عربية بالتداول مع الدول العربية وحتى الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران. كما نتوقع تقليص دور ونفوذ الولايات المتحدة في المؤسسات العاملة والتابعة للمنظمة الدولية التي أصبحت ذراعا للسياسة الخارجية الأميركية. فهناك دول وازنة تستطيع أن تملأ الفراغ المالي الذي سينتج عن تخفيض مساهمة الولايات المتحدة في تمويل المؤسسة وربما خروجها من المنظمة ككل. لن يحصل ذلك في المنظور القريب بل ربما في فترة لا تتجاوز نهاية هذا العقد من الألفية الثالثة. كما أن منظمة الأمم المتحدة المعدّلة ستعمل بتنسيق واسع مع المنظمات الإقليمية وخاصة الآسيوية كمنظومة شانغهاي على سبيل المثال وليس الحصر. هذا يعني أن القضايا الدولية ستعالج من باب النظر بمصالح الجميع وعلى قاعدة رابح رابح وليس على قاعدة اللعبة الصفرية التي تفرضها والولايات المتحدة.

النتيجة الثالثة هو التحوّل إلى نظام اقتصادي عالمي جديد مبني على تكامل المصالح وليس على تصارعها أو تنافسها. فدول الجنوب الإجمالي أي كل الدول الإفريقية وأميركا اللاتينية والدول الاسيوية غير الصين والهند ستجد في العلاقات الدولية ما يساعدها على نهوضها والحفاظ على سيادتها بينما النظام الاقتصادي القائم مبني على تبعية الاطراف للمركز الذي هو الغرب بشكل عام والولايات المتحدة بشكل خاص وعلى حساب مصالح تلك الدول.

النتيجة الرابعة هي تراجع دور الدولار في المنظومة المالية الدولية. فعملات أخرى كالروبل الروسي واليوان الصيني والروبية الهندية وفيما بعد الراند الإفريقي الجنوبي ستكون ركيزة الاحتياطات النقدية الدولية كما أن تعاظم التعاطي بالعملات الوطنية سيخفّض الطلب على الدولار ليصبح عملة من بين العملات وليست أداة لتمويل الحروب والهيمنة على العالم.

النتيجة الخامسة تعود إلى تراجع المكانة الصناعية الأوروبية. فرغبة قياداتها في التخلّي عن الغاز الروسي سيقضي على القدرة التنافسية الأوروبية ما يجعل الدول الأوروبية تدخل مرحلة تفكيك التصنيع (de industrialization) للدخول في مرحلة ما بعد التصنيع (post industrialization) فتصبح تابعة لمراكز التصنيع الفعلية في دول الجنوب الإجمالي.

هذه النتائج لن تأتي بسرعة ولكن مسارها واضح وحتمي إذا ما كانت الإرادة الجماعية تهدف إلى تحقيق الاستقرار والأمن. فلا بد من التعديلات في المؤسسات الدولية ولا بد من تعديلات في التعاطي والعلاقات ولا بد من ترسيخ قاعدة الرابح رابح ونبذ قاعدة اللعبة الصفرية. وما يساعد على تحقيق ذلك موازين القوّة الجديدة التي تظهرها العملية العسكرية في أوكرانيا والتحالف الروسي الصيني ونهوض الكتلة الاوراسية وتعزيز منظومة البريكس.

لكن إلى أن تحصل تلك التحوّلات فالعالم دخل فعليا في مرحلة ترقّب ومراجعات في العلاقات حيث العديد من الدول تقوم بتقييم النتائج المرتقبة من العملية العسكرية في أوكرانيا. لذلك سنشهد توترات عديدة في الأسواق العالمية في الطاقة والمواد الغذائية وسلسلة المورّدين إلى أن تستقر الأمور وتستسلم الولايات المتحدة للوقائع الجديدة. هنا تكمن المشكلة لان حالة الانكار بين النخب الحاكمة وأو الطامحة للحكم في الولايات المتحدة ما زالت تعتبر أن القدر المتجلّي للولايات المتحدة واستثنائيتها يجعلها موكلة بقيادة العالم. النظرة التوراتية للأمور تتحكم في اللاوعي الأميركي وهنا الخطورة من الانزلاق نحو حماقات كارثية خاصة أن الهروب إلى الأمام هو السبيل الوحيد عند تلك النخب. الرهان لعدم حدوث ذلك هو على تيقّن العقول الباردة، وهي موجودة ولكن معزولة، في التغلّب على موجة الجنون الجماعي التي تتحكّم بتلك النخب. وبالتالي قد لا نستبعد حصول تغييرات داخل البيت الأبيض وفي منظومة الحكم بعد الإخفاقات الكارثية التي حققتها الإدارة الحالية.

أما على الصعيد الإقليمي فنتوقع تحوّلات كبيرة في الملفات الساخنة كفلسطين المحتلة وسورية واليمن. كما نتوقع ترسيخ قواعد لنظام عربي جديد قد يأخذ ما تبقّى من العقد الحالي حتى منتصف العقد القادم، أي منتصف الثلاثينات من القرن الحالي.

فعلى صعيد فلسطين فإن الكيان الصهيوني الاستيطاني المحتل يواجه أزمة وجود بحدّة لم يألفها منذ إقامته. فالخطر الوجودي الذي يشعر به بسبب فقدان الأمن وعبثية الرهان على تطبيع مع أنظمة لا تستطيع أن توفر الأمن للكيان يتلازم مع ارتفاع وتيرة المواجهة المسلحة من أبناء فلسطين. فتداعيات العملية العسكرية في أوكرانيا عرّت المواقف الغربية في توفير الحماية لأوكرانيا في مواجهة روسيا. والدرس بات واضحا للقيادات الصهيونية أن وعود الغرب لا تتجاوز الحبر على الورق وأن الغرب لن يقاتل في سبيل ما هو أهم من الكيان. فمستقبل أوروبا أهم من الكيان وتبيّن أن القادة الأوروبيين لن يقاتلوا في سبيل تصوّراتهم لأوروبا. فهل يعقل أن أوروبا ستقاتل في سبيل كيان تتشوّه سمعته يوما بعد يوم وتظهر على حقيقته البغيضة؟ وكذلك الأمر بالنسبة للولايات المتحدة التي أعلنت أنها لن تقاتل مع الكيان في مواجهة الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران وأنها لن ترسل إلا السلاح للكيان وكأن مشكلة الكيان هي الضعف في التسليح. كما أن الولايات المتحدة لن تقاتل من أجل أوكرانيا وفقا لتصريحات قادتها. تداعيات الازمة الأوكرانية ستكون وخيمة على الكيان خاصة وان قادته كانوا مربكين في اتخاذ موقف من الأزمة. وعندما حسم الكيان تردّده ووقف مع الحكومة الأوكرانية ضد روسيا فإن لذلك تداعيات مباشرة على العلاقة بين الدولتين وخاصة في مقاربة المشهد العسكري في سورية.

من جهة أخرى نرى تحولين أساسيين في المشهد الفلسطيني. فنهاك تصاعد ملموس في المواجهة الشعبية الفلسطينية مع قوى الاحتلال تجلّى بتطوّر ملحوظ في طبيعة المواجهات. فبعد موجة المواجهات بالحجارة والدهس والطعن بالسكاكين برزت المواجهة بالسلاح الناري. لن نسترسل في مقاربة هذه التطوّرات لضيق المساحة بل نكتفي بملاحظة ظهورها مع العملية العسكرية في أوكرانيا ما يدل أن الشعب الفلسطيني يشعر بضعف الحلف المعادي له فيتجرّأ على الاقدام على عمليات لم تكن مألوفة.

أما التحوّل الثاني فهو تثبيت القوى الردعية لفصائل المقاومة في غزة ما يتيح الفرصة لانتفاضة شعبية ضد قوى الاحتلال في مختلف أنحاء فلسطين المحتلة. كما أن المقاومة وضعت الخطوط الحمراء فيما يتعلق بمستقبل القدس والاحياء العربية التي ما زالت تقاوم عمليات التهجير وأيضا فيما يتعلق بمحاولات المستعمرين لاقتحام الأقصى. أيضا القوّة الردعية للمقاومة تعزّزت مع الشعور بأن الحلف المعادي يعاني من الضعف ما يجعل آفاق النصر أكثر وضوحا وقربة.

ومن تداعيات العملية العسكرية في أوكرانيا الارباك في النظام التركي الذي تردّد بين مصالحه مع روسيا والشرق بشكل عام والتزاماته الأطلسية. لكن الضعف الأطلسي ستجعل تركيا أكثر استجابة للضغوط الروسية والإيرانية في الملفّ السوري خاصة أن أوراق الضغط الروسي ليست ضعيفة كصواريخ أس 400 والتدفق السياحي الذي يشكل خشبة الخلاص في الأزمة الاقتصادية التي تشهدها تركيا. فالخروج من سورية أصبح ضرورة لتجنّب التداعيات السلبية من رفض احترام السيادة السورية على أراضيها.

والتداعيات للعملية العسكرية في أوكرانيا تأتي في سياق أخفاقات كبيرة للسياسة الأميركية انعكست على سلوك العديد من الدول العربية المحسوبة على الولايات المتحدة والتي تدور في فلكها. ويمكن وصف الحال في تلك الدول بداية جادة لمراجعة العديد من مواقفها وتحالفاتها ومقارباتها للعديد من الملفات التي ساهمت في انقسام البيت العربي. نذكر في هذا الإطار الامتناع عن التصويت في الجمعية العمومية للأمم المتحدة لصالح قرارات تدين روسيا. كما نذكر عدم الموافقة على فرض عقوبات اقتصادية ومالية على روسيا. بل العكس نجد حكومات هذه الدول تفكّر جدّيا بالانفصال عن الدولار في تسعير براميل النفط التي تصدّرها وبدأت تدرس إمكانيات التعامل بالروبل الروسي واليوان الصيني. هذه الإشارات الصريحة لم تكن واردة منذ بضعة أشهر ونضعها في خانة تداعيات العملية العسكرية في أوكرانيا التي عرّت الأطلسي وأظهرت ضعفه وعجزه. فالدول العربية التي كانت تتبنّى نظرية ملكية ال 99 بالمائة من أوراق اللعبة الدولية بيد الولايات المتحدة بدأت بمراجعة لتلك النظرية.

وهذه المراجعة التي تأتي في سياق مشاهدة التراجعات الأميركية في أفغانستان وفي مفاوضاتها غير المباشرة مع الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران في الملف النووي تدفع الدول المتخاصمة مع إيران إلى مفاوضات ما زالت في بدايتها والتي كانت غير ممكنة منذ سنة أو أكثر. كما أن المراجعات في الملفات المتعلقة بسورية واليمن والعراق ولبنان قد تصل إلى انفراجات ضرورية للنهوض من الحالة الكارثية التي تعيشها الدول. كل ذلك لم يكن ممكنا لولا وضوح الإخفاقات الأميركية في أوكرانيا التي لم تكن لتحصل لولا القدرات الروسية وحلفها مع الصين. فهذه القدرات كما أشرنا في البداية لم تكن لتقوم لولا صمود القوى المقاومة العربية في كل من العراق ولبنان وفلسطين وسورية واليمن.

الإخفاقات الأطلسية في أوكرانيا تتلازم مع التصعيد في المواجهة الشعبية في فلسطين ما يلغي جدوى التطبيع مع الكيان المحتل. فإذا كانت الأوراق بيد الولايات المتحدة غير فاعلة فإن البوّابة للحصول على الرضى الأميركي أي الكيان الصهيوني المحتل لم تعد ضرورة. هذا لا يعني التراجع الفوري أو القريب عن التطبيع بل سنرى اشتداد المقاومة الشعبية للتطبيع دون ان عوائق كبيرة ما يفرغ التطبيع من مضمونه.

أما في الساحة السورية فسنرى تصعيدا في المواجهة مع قوى التعصّب والغلو والتوحّش المحتشدة في إدلب وجوارها كما سنرى تصعيدا في مواجهة القوى المتحالفة مع الولايات المتحدة في شرق سورية ومواجهات متصاعدة مع القوات الأميركي التي ستخرج في نهاية المطاف في كل من سورية والعراق. الإخفاقات في أوكرانيا لن تمكن الولايات المتحدة في الاستمرار في العراق وسورية ومواجهات محتملة مع الحلف السورية الروسي.

وأخيرا فيما يتعلّق باليمن فقوى التحالف العدواني على اليمن مضطرة إلى إنهاء العدوان والتفاهم مع القوى اليمنية الصامدة. اما الحل السياسي للمشكلة اليمنية فهو في الحوار بين مكوّنات الشعب اليمني وليس عبر إملاءات خارجية سواء كانت دولية أو غربية أو إقليمية.

المراجعات والتحوّلات الميدانية في المشرق العربي وتراجع موجة التطبيع ستفرض حتما مراجعة للنظام الإقليمي العربي. من المبكر التكلّم عن شكل النظام الجديد بل نكتفي بالقول ان قاعدته ستكون المربع السوري العراقي الجزائري اليمني، وفيما بعد دول الجزيرة العربية بقيادة اليمن وبلاد الحرمين، ثم بلاد وادي النيل والتشبيك المتزايد بي مصر والسودان، وأخيرا دول المغرب الكبير محوره الجزائر والمغرب. وركيزة ذلك النظام هو التشبيك الاقتصادي والسياسي بين دول المجاورة في الأقاليم العربية ولكن لذلك حديث آخر في مناسبة منفصلة.

*باحث وكاتب اقتصادي سياسي والأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي وعضو الهيئة التأسيسية للمنتدى الاقتصادي والاجتماعي

In Memory of JFK: The First U.S. President to be Declared a Terrorist and Threat to National Security

November 22, 2021

By Cynthia Chung for the Saker Blog

In April 1954, Kennedy stood up on the Senate floor to challenge the Eisenhower Administration’s support for the doomed French imperial war in Vietnam, foreseeing that this would not be a short-lived war.[1]

In July 1957, Kennedy once more took a strong stand against French colonialism, this time France’s bloody war against Algeria’s independence movement, which again found the Eisenhower Administration on the wrong side of history. Rising on the Senate floor, two days before America’s own Independence Day, Kennedy declared:

“The most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile – it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent. The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism – and today that means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism. Thus, the single most important test of American foreign policy today is how we meet the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further man’s desire to be free. On this test more than any other, this nation shall be critically judged by the uncommitted millions in Asia and Africa, and anxiously watched by the still hopeful lovers of freedom behind the Iron Curtain. If we fail to meet the challenge of either Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines or high-level conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and to our security.”[2]

In September 1960, the annual United Nations General Assembly was held in New York. Fidel Castro and a fifty-member delegation were among the attendees and had made a splash in the headlines when he decided to stay at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem after the midtown Shelburne Hotel demanded a $20,000 security deposit. He made an even bigger splash in the headlines when he made a speech at this hotel, discussing the issue of equality in the United States while in Harlem, one of the poorest boroughs in the country.

Kennedy would visit this very same hotel a short while later, and also made a speech:

Behind the fact of Castro coming to this hotel, [and] Khrushchev…there is another great traveler in the world, and that is the travel of a world revolution, a world in turmoil…We should be glad [that Castro and Khrushchev] came to the United States. We should not fear the twentieth century, for the worldwide revolution which we see all around us is part of the original American Revolution.”[3]

What did Kennedy mean by this? The American Revolution was fought for freedom, freedom from the rule of monarchy and imperialism in favour of national sovereignty. What Kennedy was stating, was that this was the very oppression that the rest of the world wished to shake the yoke off, and that the United States had an opportunity to be a leader in the cause for the independence of all nations.

On June 30th, 1960, marking the independence of the Republic of Congo from the colonial rule of Belgium, Patrice Lumumba, the first Congolese Prime Minister gave a speech that has become famous for its outspoken criticism of colonialism. Lumumba spoke of his people’s struggle against “the humiliating bondage that was forced upon us… [years that were] filled with tears, fire and blood,” and concluded vowing “We shall show the world what the black man can do when working in liberty, and we shall make the Congo the pride of Africa.”

Shortly after, Lumumba also made clear, “We want no part of the Cold War… We want Africa to remain African with a policy of neutralism.[4]

As a result, Lumumba was labeled a communist for his refusal to be a Cold War satellite for the western sphere. Rather, Lumumba was part of the Pan-African movement that was led by Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah (who later Kennedy would also work with), which sought national sovereignty and an end to colonialism in Africa.

Lumumba “would remain a grave danger,” Dulles said at an NSC meeting on September 21, 1960, “as long as he was not yet disposed of.”[5] Three days later, Dulles made it clear that he wanted Lumumba permanently removed, cabling the CIA’s Leopoldville station, “We wish give [sic] every possible support in eliminating Lumumba from any possibility resuming governmental position.”[6]

Lumumba was assassinated on Jan. 17th, 1961, just three days before Kennedy’s inauguration, during the fog of the transition period between presidents, when the CIA is most free to tie its loose ends, confident that they will not be reprimanded by a new administration that wants to avoid scandal on its first days in office.

Kennedy, who clearly meant to put a stop to the Murder Inc. that Dulles had created and was running, would declare to the world in his inaugural address on Jan. 20th, 1961, “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.

La Resistance

Along with inheriting the responsibility of the welfare of the country and its people, Kennedy was to also inherit a secret war with communist Cuba run by the CIA.

The Bay of Pigs set-up would occur three months later. Prouty compares the Bay of Pigs incident to that of the Crusade for Peace; the Bay of Pigs being orchestrated by the CIA, and the Crusade for Peace sabotaged by the CIA, in both cases to ruin the U.S. president’s (Eisenhower and Kennedy) ability to form a peaceful dialogue with Khrushchev and decrease Cold War tensions. Both presidents’ took onus for the events respectively, despite the responsibility resting with the CIA. However, Eisenhower and Kennedy understood, if they did not take onus, it would be a public declaration that they did not have any control over their government agencies and military.

Further, the Bay of Pigs operation was in fact meant to fail. It was meant to stir up a public outcry for a direct military invasion of Cuba.

On public record is a meeting (or more aptly described as an intervention) with CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell, Joint Chiefs Chairman Lyman Lemnitzer, and Navy Chief Admiral Burke basically trying to strong-arm President Kennedy into approving a direct military attack on Cuba. Admiral Burke had already taken the liberty of positioning two battalions of Marines on Navy destroyers off the coast of Cuba “anticipating that U.S. forces might be ordered into Cuba to salvage a botched invasion.”[7] (This incident is what inspired the Frankenheimer movie “Seven Days in May.”)

Kennedy stood his ground.

“They were sure I’d give in to them,” Kennedy later told Special Assistant to the President Dave Powers. “They couldn’t believe that a new president like me wouldn’t panic and try to save his own face. Well they had me figured all wrong.”[8]

Incredibly, not only did the young president stand his ground against the Washington war hawks just three months into his presidential term, but he also launched the Cuba Study Group which found the CIA to be responsible for the fiasco, leading to the humiliating forced resignation of Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell and Charles Cabell. (For more on this refer to my report.)

Unfortunately, it would not be that easy to dethrone Dulles, who continued to act as head of the CIA, and key members of the intelligence community such as Helms and Angleton regularly bypassed McCone (the new CIA Director) and briefed Dulles directly.[9]

But Kennedy was also serious about seeing it through all the way, and vowed to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

* * *

There is another rather significant incident that had occurred just days after the Bay of Pigs, and which has largely been overshadowed by the Cuban fiasco in the United States.

From April 21-26th, 1961, the Algiers putsch or Generals’ putsch, was a failed coup d’état intended to force President de Gaulle (1959-1969) not to abandon the colonial French Algeria. The organisers of the putsch were opposed to the secret negotiations that French Prime Minister Michel Debré had started with the anti-colonial National Liberation Front (FLN).

On January 26th, 1961, just three months before the attempted coup d’état, Dulles sent a report to Kennedy on the French situation that seemed to be hinting that de Gaulle would no longer be around, “A pre-revolutionary atmosphere reigns in France… The Army and the Air Force are staunchly opposed to de Gaulle…At least 80 percent of the officers are violently against him. They haven’t forgotten that in 1958, he had given his word of honor that he would never abandon Algeria. He is now reneging on his promise, and they hate him for that. de Gaulle surely won’t last if he tries to let go of Algeria. Everything will probably be over for him by the end of the year—he will be either deposed or assassinated.”[10]

The attempted coup was led by Maurice Challe, whom de Gaulle had reason to conclude was working with the support of U.S. intelligence, and Élysée officials began spreading this word to the press, which reported the CIA as a “reactionary state-within-a-state” that operated outside of Kennedy’s control.[11]

Shortly before Challe’s resignation from the French military, he had served as NATO commander in chief and had developed close relations with a number of high-ranking U.S. officers stationed in the military alliance’s Fontainebleau headquarters.[12]

In August 1962 the OAS (Secret Army Organization) made an assassination attempt against de Gaulle, believing he had betrayed France by giving up Algeria to Algerian nationalists. This would be the most notorious assassination attempt on de Gaulle (who would remarkably survive over thirty assassination attempts while President of France) when a dozen OAS snipers opened fire on the president’s car, which managed to escape the ambush despite all four tires being shot out.

After the failed coup d’état, de Gaulle launched a purge of his security forces and ousted General Paul Grossin, the chief of SDECE (the French secret service). Grossin was closely aligned with the CIA, and had told Frank Wisner over lunch that the return of de Gaulle to power was equivalent to the Communists taking over in Paris.[13]

In 1967, after a five-year enquête by the French Intelligence Bureau, it released its findings concerning the 1962 assassination attempt on de Gaulle. The report found that the 1962 assassination plot could be traced back to the NATO Brussels headquarters, and the remnants of the old Nazi intelligence apparatus. The report also found that Permindex had transferred $200,000 into an OAS bank account to finance the project.

As a result of the de Gaulle exposé, Permindex was forced to shut down its public operations in Western Europe and relocated its headquarters from Bern, Switzerland to Johannesburg, South Africa, it also had/has a base in Montreal, Canada where its founder Maj. Gen. Louis M. Bloomfield (former OSS) proudly had his name amongst its board members until the damning de Gaulle report. The relevance of this to Kennedy will be discussed shortly.

As a result of the SDECE’s ongoing investigation, de Gaulle made a vehement denunciation of the Anglo-American violation of the Atlantic Charter, followed by France’s withdrawal from the NATO military command in 1966. France would not return to NATO until April 2009 at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit.

In addition to all of this, on Jan. 14th, 1963, de Gaulle declared at a press conference that he had vetoed British entry into the Common Market. This would be the first move towards France and West Germany’s formation of the European Monetary System, which excluded Great Britain, likely due to its imperialist tendencies and its infamous sin City of London.

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson telegrammed West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer directly, appealing to him to try to persuade de Gaulle to back track on the veto, stating “if anyone can affect Gen. de Gaulle’s decision, you are surely that person.”

Little did Acheson know that Adenauer was just days away from signing the Franco-German Treaty of Jan 22nd, 1963 (also known as the ÉlyséeTreaty), which had enormous implications. Franco-German relations, which had long been dominated by centuries of rivalry, had now agreed that their fates were aligned. (This close relationship was continued to a climactic point in the late 1970s, with the formation of the European Monetary System, and France and West Germany’s willingness in 1977 to work with OPEC countries trading oil for nuclear technology, which was sabotaged by the U.S.-Britain alliance.

The Élysée Treaty was a clear denunciation of the Anglo-American forceful overseeing that had overtaken Western Europe since the end of WWII.

On June 28th, 1961, Kennedy wrote NSAM #55. This document changed the responsibility of defense during the Cold War from the CIA to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and would have (if seen through) drastically changed the course of the war in Vietnam. It would also have effectively removed the CIA from Cold War military operations and limited the CIA to its sole lawful responsibility, the collecting and coordination of intelligence.

By Oct 11th, 1963, NSAM #263, closely overseen by Kennedy[14], was released and outlined a policy decision “to withdraw 1,000 military personnel [from Vietnam] by the end of 1963” and further stated that “It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by 1965.” The Armed Forces newspaper Stars and Stripes had the headline U.S. TROOPS SEEN OUT OF VIET BY ’65.

It would be the final nail in the coffin.

Treason in America

Treason doth never prosper; what is the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”

– Sir John Harrington

By Germany supporting de Gaulle’s exposure of the international assassination ring, his adamant opposition to western imperialism and the role of NATO, and with a young Kennedy building his own resistance against the imperialist war of Vietnam, it was clear that the power elite were in big trouble.

On November 22nd, 1963 President Kennedy was brutally murdered in the streets of Dallas, Texas in broad daylight.

With the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, likely ordained by the CIA, on Nov. 2nd, 1963 and Kennedy just a few weeks later, de facto President Johnson signed NSAM #273 on Nov. 26th, 1963 to begin the reversal of Kennedy’s policy under #263. And on March 17th, 1964, Johnson signed NSAM #288 that marked the full escalation of the Vietnam War and involved 2,709,918 Americans directly serving in Vietnam, with 9,087,000 serving with the U.S. Armed Forces during this period.

The Vietnam War would continue for another 12 years after Kennedy’s death, lasting a total of 20 years for Americans, and 30 years if you count American covert action in Vietnam.

Two days before Kennedy’s assassination, a hate-Kennedy handbill was circulated in Dallas accusing the president of treasonous activities including being a communist sympathizer.

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On November 29th, 1963 the Warren Commission was set up to investigate the murder of President Kennedy.

The old Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana was a member of that Warren Commission. Boggs became increasingly disturbed by the lack of transparency and rigour exhibited by the Commission and became convinced that many of the documents used to incriminate Oswald were in fact forgeries.

In 1965 Rep. Boggs told New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison that Oswald could not have been the one who killed Kennedy.[15] It was Boggs who encouraged Garrison to begin the only law enforcement prosecution of the President’s murder to this day.

Nixon was inaugurated as President of the United States on Jan 20th, 1969. Hale Boggs soon after called on Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell to have the courage to fire J. Edgar Hoover.[16]

It wasn’t long thereafter that the private airplane carrying Hale Boggs disappeared without a trace.

Jim Garrison was the District Attorney of New Orleans from 1962 to 1973 and was the only one to bring forth a trial concerning the assassination of President Kennedy. In Jim Garrison’s book “On the Trail of the Assassins”, J. Edgar Hoover comes up several times impeding or shutting down investigations into JFK’s murder, in particular concerning the evidence collected by the Dallas Police Department, such as the nitrate test Oswald was given and which exonerated him, proving that he never shot a rifle the day of Nov 22nd, 1963.

However, for reasons only known to the government and its investigators this fact was kept secret for 10 months.[17] It was finally revealed in the Warren Commission report, which inexplicably didn’t change their opinion that Oswald had shot Kennedy.

Another particularly damning incident was concerning the Zapruder film that was in the possession of the FBI and which they had sent a “copy” to the Warren Commission for their investigation. This film was one of the leading pieces of evidence used to support the “magic bullet theory” and showcase the direction of the headshot coming from behind, thus verifying that Oswald’s location was adequate for such a shot.

During Garrison’s trial on the Kennedy assassination (1967-1969) he subpoenaed the Zapruder film that for some peculiar reason had been locked up in some vault owned by Life magazine (the reader should note that Henry Luce the owner of Life magazine was in a very close relationship with the CIA). This was the first time in more than five years that the Zapruder film was made public. It turns out the FBI’s copy that was sent to the Warren Commission had two critical frames reversed to create a false impression that the rifle shot was from behind.

When Garrison got a hold of the original film it was discovered that the head shot had actually come from the front. In fact, what the whole film showed was that the President had been shot from multiple angles meaning there was more than one gunman.

When the FBI was questioned about how these two critical frames could have been reversed, they answered self-satisfactorily that it must have been a technical glitch…

There is also the matter of the original autopsy papers being destroyed by the chief autopsy physician, James Humes, to which he even testified to during the Warren Commission, apparently nobody bothered to ask why…

This would explain why the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), reported in a July 1998 staff report their concern for the number of shortcomings in the original autopsy, that “One of the many tragedies of the assassination of President Kennedy has been the incompleteness of the autopsy record and the suspicion caused by the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded the records that do exist.” [emphasis added]

The staff report for the Assassinations Records Review Board contended that brain photographs in the Kennedy records are not of Kennedy’s brain and show much less damage than Kennedy sustained.

There is a lot of spurious effort to try to ridicule anyone who challenges the Warren Commission’s official report as nothing but fringe conspiracy theory. And that we should not find it highly suspect that Allen Dulles, of all people, was a member and pretty much leader of said commission. The reader should keep in mind that much of this frothing opposition stems from the very agency that perpetrated crime after crime on the American people, as well as abroad. When has the CIA ever admitted guilt, unless caught red-handed? Even after the Church committee hearings, when the CIA was found guilty of planning out foreign assassinations, they claimed that they had failed in every single plot or that someone had beaten them to the punch, including in the case of Lumumba.

The American people need to realise that the CIA is not a respectable agency; we are not dealing with honorable men. It is a rogue force that believes that the ends justify the means, that they are the hands of the king so to speak, above government and above law. Those at the top such as Allen Dulles were just as adamant as Churchill about protecting the interests of the power elite, or as Churchill termed it, the “High Cabal.”

Interestingly, on Dec. 22nd, 1963, just one month after Kennedy’s assassination, Harry Truman published a scathing critique of the CIA in The Washington Post, even going so far as to state “There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position [as a] free and open society, and I feel that we need to correct it.[18]

The timing of such a scathing quote cannot be stressed enough. Dulles, of course, told the public not to be distressed, that Truman was just in entering his twilight years.

In addition, Jim Garrison, New Orleans District Attorney at the time, who was charging Clay Shaw as a member of the conspiracy to kill Kennedy, besides uncovering his ties to David Ferrie who was found dead in his apartment days before he was scheduled to testify, also made a case that the New Orleans International Trade Mart (to which Clay Shaw was director), the U.S. subsidiary of Permindex, was linked to Kennedy’s murder. Col. Clay Shaw was an OSS officer during WWII, which provides a direct link to his knowing Allen Dulles.

Garrison did a remarkable job with the odds he was up against, and for the number of witnesses that turned up dead before the trial…

This Permindex link would not look so damning if we did not have the French intelligence SDECE report, but we do. And recall, in that report Permindex was caught transferring $200,000 directly to the bankroll of the OAS which attempted the 1962 assassination on de Gaulle.

Thus, Permindex’s implication in an international assassination ring is not up for debate. In addition, the CIA was found heavily involved in these assassination attempts against de Gaulle, thus we should not simply dismiss the possibility that Permindex was indeed a CIA front for an international hit crew.

In fact, among the strange and murderous characters who converged on Dallas in Nov. 1963 was a notorious French OAS commando named Jean Souetre, who was connected to the plots against President de Gaulle. Souetre was arrested in Dallas after the Kennedy assassination and expelled to Mexico, not even kept for questioning.[19]

What Does the Future Hold?

After returning from Kennedy’s Nov. 24th funeral in Washington, de Gaulle and his information minister Alain Peyrefitte had a candid discussion that was recorded in Peyrefitte’s memoire “C’était de Gaulle,” the great General was quoted saying:

What happened to Kennedy is what nearly happened to me… His story is the same as mine. … It looks like a cowboy story, but it’s only an OAS [Secret Army Organization] story. The security forces were in cahoots with the extremists.

…Security forces are all the same when they do this kind of dirty work. As soon as they succeed in wiping out the false assassin, they declare the justice system no longer need be concerned, that no further public action was needed now that the guilty perpetrator was dead. Better to assassinate an innocent man than to let a civil war break out. Better an injustice than disorder.

America is in danger of upheavals. But you’ll see. All of them together will observe the law of silence. They will close ranks. They’ll do everything to stifle any scandal. They will throw Noah’s cloak over these shameful deeds. In order to not lose face in front of the whole world. In order to not risk unleashing riots in the United States. In order to preserve the union and to avoid a new civil war. In order to not ask themselves questions. They don’t want to know. They don’t want to find out. They won’t allow themselves to find out.”

The American people would do well to remember that it was first John F. Kennedy, acting as the President to the United States, who was to be declared a terrorist and threat to his country’s national security.

Thus is it not natural that those who continue to defend the legacy of Kennedy should be regarded today as threat, not truly to the nation’s security, but a threat to the very same grouping responsible for Kennedy’s death and whom today have now declared open war on the American people.

This will be the greatest test the American people have ever been confronted with, and it will only be through an understanding of how the country came to where it is today that there can be sufficient clarity as to what the solutions are, which are not to be found in another civil war. To not fall for the trapping of further chaos and division, the American people will only be able to rise above this if they choose to ask those questions, if they choose to want to knowto want to find out the truth of things they dared not look at in the past for fear of what it would reveal.

Whenever the government of the United States shall break up, it will probably be in consequence of a false direction having been given to public opinion. This is the weak point of our defenses, and the part to which the enemies of the system will direct all their attacks. Opinion can be so perverted as to cause the false to seem true; the enemy, a friend, and the friend, an enemy; the best interests of the nation to appear insignificant, and the trifles of moment; in a word, the right the wrong, the wrong the right. In a country where opinion has sway, to seize upon it, is to seize upon power. As it is a rule of humanity that the upright and well-intentioned are comparatively passive, while the designing, dishonest, and selfish are the most untiring in their efforts, the danger of public opinion’s getting a false direction is four-fold, since few men think for themselves.”

-James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851(

We must dare to be among the few who think for ourselves.


The author can be reached at https://cynthiachung.substack.com/

  1. David Talbot, “The Devil’s Chessboard,” pg 304 
  2. Ibid, pg 305 
  3. Ibid, pg 295 
  4. Ibid, pg 319 
  5. Ibid, pg 319 
  6. Ibid, pg 319 
  7. Ibid, pg 337 
  8. Ibid, pg 337 
  9. Ibid, pg 359 
  10. Ibid, pg 350 
  11. Ibid, pg 353 
  12. Ibid, pg 347 
  13. Ibid, pg 354 
  14. L. Fletcher Prouty, “The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy,” pg xxxiv 
  15. Anton Chaitkin’s paper “Hoover’s FBI and Anglo-American Dictatorship” 
  16. New York Times, April 6, 1971, “Boggs Demands That Hoover Quit,” p. 1. 
  17. Jim Garrison’s “On the Trail of the Assassins” p. 116 
  18. David Talbot, “The Devil’s Chessboard,” pg 201 
  19. Ibid, pg 422 

Democrats wage ‘World Anti-Fascist War I’, don’t know it’d be ‘WAFW II’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Donald Trump (L) and Joe Biden meet for the last presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (File photo)

Saturday, 06 February 2021 7:06 PM  [ Last Update: Tuesday, 09 February 2021 4:47 AM ]

Democrats wage ‘World Anti-Fascist War I’, don’t know it’d be ‘WAFW II’
Ramin Mazaheri (@RaminMazaheri2) is currently covering the US election. He 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. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China,’ which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

By Ramin Mazaheri and cross-posted with The Saker

For four years American Democrats have taken hugely brave stances on places like Facebook, Reddit and Twitter. What enormous personal risks they took.

What fortitude they showed when they sat on couches and cheered the marches on the other side of town.
Galvanized by these victories in solitary living rooms across the country, Democrats were absolutely certain of a “Blue Wave” from the county seat to the very top.

The Blue Wave shockingly failed at every local level, and when protesters’ civil disobedience turned violent (by conservatives, this time) at Capitol Hill on behalf of a vote genuinely disputed by 40% of the country… this means war!

“Yes to war!” In America this is a “progressive” slogan, somehow?

The past month has seen so very, very much of what the American context suggests we label as “reverse neo-McCarthyism” – yes, America is so twisted up right now, on the eve of a useless 2nd impeachment trial of Donald Trump, that we can’t think of a label which is less contortionist than that. Those who voted conservative must be “reprogrammed” and “cleansed”. 

It’s the final solution.

And history will show that this was how World Anti-Fascist War II was declared – by people who almost certainly have no idea that there already was a World Anti-Fascist War I.

‘American exceptionalism’ means history not only doesn’t apply, it doesn’t even exist.

The World Anti-Fascist War is what the Chinese call World War II, and I don’t blame them – they were the first country to suffer from and fight fascist invasion, in 1931.

It’s interesting that in the US not only is there a perception that they defeated the fascist Germans mostly all alone, but that they definitely defeated the fascist Japanese entirely alone – one cannot find here one iota of the sense that Chinese and Americans fought against a common enemy 75 years ago? The West gives at least grudging – if only occasional – admission of the Soviet role in defeating the Germans, but there is zero acknowledgement of the 20 million Chinese martyrs who stopped the fascist war machine on the Eastern end of Eurasia. 

The phrase is credited to Mao Zedong, who adopted the phrase “World Anti-Fascist War” to signal the obvious, undeniable, natural and openly-declared alliance between the socialist USSR and socialist China against its hardline conservative & anti-socialist enemy aggressors.

“World Anti-Fascist War” was an amazing bit of political intelligence from China – it shows exactly the intellectual and physical scope of the war, no? “World War II” implies only physical scope – should aliens find a ruined planet with a trinket containing that phrase the aliens would know absolutely nothing about what the war was actually fought over. “World Anti-Fascist War? Ah, now I know what the war was about.” 

Clearly, the phrase did not stick in the West because their fascist forces – forced back into the rabbit holes of their own nations, where they switched party affiliations and allied with the US occupiers – did not want it to stick. They liked fascism… and Jim Crow, and Apartheid, and ethnically cleansing Palestine, and dictatorial Arab monarchs, etc. & etc.

The Chinese clearly saw the scope in its fullest range, and they also wanted to publicly ally with those who were as anti-fascist as they were in order to create the greatest amount of solidarity – it’s amazing craftwork in the craft of politics, indubitably. “World War II” is more… meh. Too apocalyptic; too vague.

But, as we were just reminded, the West doesn’t want to ally with China in Beijing’s still-reigning anti-fascism ideology – look at what new US president Joe Biden just said in his first speech on foreign policy:

“American leadership must meet this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing determination of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage our democracy,” he said.

It’s as if Biden has either idiots or fascists writing his speeches – China’s biggest fault is that it wants to be a “rival” to the United States? What kind of competition-loving capitalist is this? Answer: in his pinstripe suits Biden is not promoting capitalism, but fascism. It’s fascistic when you can’t even permit a rival; when the Chinese babe must be smothered in the cradle, lest it achieve even mere rival status.

All this helps explain why the problem in America which I have is: I can’t tell which party is the fascist one anymore?

Will the Trump trial accomplish anything but more hysterical ‘enthusiasm’?

How leftist or righteous or non-fascist can Democrats be when since the 1960s they have morphed into being pro-war, pro-FBI, pro-conformity, pro-censorship and many other “pro-“ things which are historically and rightly associated with fascists? Democrats want me to believe that Republicans are the fascists because they are all racists, but the November 4th realization that 26% of Trump’s voters cannot be non-White White Supremacists should have ended this gross exaggeration and obvious diversion.

But in the US my journalism and my personal discussions simply go nowhere with many Biden supporters.

The ardent Bidenites don’t just want to not discuss politics in a friendly, tolerant, exchanging manner with me – they don’t want to talk with me at all. Even about the weather.

It makes sense: everyone has heard how civilities, friendships and families have been ruined over a widespread inability to discuss important things in a friendly manner. It reminds me of how France may be full of sad people, but at least they can talk to each other – America is full of very angry people. Of course, I am too polite to mention to these Americans that I must not be losing out on very much insight, given their rather fascist-like desire for my total conformity to their personal moral and political beliefs.

America in February 2021 is not at all a pleasant place. It surely wasn’t in February 2020, either, and yet they seem to be able to keep this up endlessly? It reminds me of a question raised 90 years ago by the classic movie King Kong: Somebody asked if the person with the idea to go capture a giant monkey was insane, or if he was just displaying that quintessential American “enthusiasm”? It’s often very difficult to tell the two apart, no?

Democrats have “enthusiastically” whipped themselves up into a frenzy that they are – to use that dusty Reagan Republican phrase (the public discrediting of which helped get Trump elected in 2016) – “the leader of the free world”, but not only do Democrats seem so very unfree to me but they also aren’t allowing others to be free. What else can we call this current “reverse neo-McCarthyism”? It’s a phrase which I can’t find anywhere, yet, but it is applicable given American history and the ongoing demonization and/or criminalization campaign of those who voting for the losing candidate.

Many disagree with me on this point, but I believe that people do change – political parties change, too. I’m truly not sure which party exhibits the greater amount of fascist policies – Trumpers or Democrats? I’d truly have to sit down and figure that out that math problem.

But I’m not about to waste my time – I know what the World Anti-Fascist War was, so I’ll know a genuine WAFWII when I see it.

What Democrats are saying – and it’s all the same here, whether you tune into ABC, NBC, CNN, National Public Radio, The New York Times, “The Tonight Show”, “The View” – must be waged inside America against Trumpism: this ain’t it.

America has totally distinctive American problems – this is normal and not exceptional.

As usual, they try to export their problems to other countries and foreign minds by saying that these problems are actually caused by the suppression of “universal values” which only they have fully comprehended and codified; that everyone is secretly like Americans at heart; that everyone desires to be exactly like Americans – and while I certainly understand and can discuss America, the reality is that with the ascension of Biden they are suddenly returned to being totally uninteresting.

I wish the (faux-) anti-fascist forces in the US good luck on galvanizing support for WAFWII, but this post-Trump “reckoning” will be and should be a totally domestic affair.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

www.presstv.ir

www.presstv.co.uk

www.presstv.tv

The Great Interregnum

The Great Interregnum

February 01, 2021

by Francis Lee for The Saker Blog

The road to the future, to a new expansion as is always close to the heart of capital, led outwards, to the still pleasantly unregulated world of a borderless global economy in which markets would no longer be locked into nation-states, but nation-states locked into markets. (1)

The golden age of post-war capitalism which lasted from the Bretton Woods arrangements of 1944 ended definitively with the great 1971 counter-revolution; a process which began with the removal of the US$ from the gold standard. Since the rest of the world’s currencies were fixed to the dollar these currencies were automatically detached from gold. What emerged, whether by accident or, more likely by design, has defined the contours of the 21st century and this has borne witness to the emergence of a New World Order (NWO) of a neo-liberal, globalization settlement and conjointly the collapse of actually existing socialism. This realignment was by no means accidental and represented fundamental policy changes rather than unconnected random events.

THE RISE OF NEOLIBERALISM AND THE NWO

This NWO has been established on the basis of deep structural changes in the nature of actually existing capitalism and qualitatively different to the welfare, inclusive capitalism of the immediate post-war period. However the counter-revolution caught the left unprepared and who have seemingly been unable to grasp this fact. Moreover the collapse of actually existing socialism ended the historical period of political ascendency of the left – a process which dated back to the Russian revolution of 1917 – and transmuted into the great neo-liberal counter-revolution which began in 1971.

This eclipse of socialism – or anything resembling socialism – has been the feature of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Both social-democratic and even communist parties have been politically marginalised by their theoretical inability to discern the deficiencies in their political agendas. The counter-revolutionary wave of the late 20th century began in stages to sweep all before it. The decline of a moribund social-democracy and even eurocommunism with their entrenched and seemingly immovable policies of an earlier period – Progress through Parliamentary Reform – were found to be wanting, out of date and out of time, running out of steam with their economies plagued by stagflation and declining growth. By the late 60s early 70s Le Trente Glorieuses were no more and this gave rise to the surge of counter-revolution initially led by the Reagan-Thatcher axis. This move into the future was – if anybody noticed – a backward movement. Winners included the then Head of Siemens, Heinrich Von Pierer, to triumphantly proclaim: ‘’The wind of competition has become a storm, and the real hurricanes still lies ahead of us.’’(2)

THE EFFECTIVE DEMISE OF THE LEFT

To think that the Left which had once occupied and dominated Western Europe and consisted of mass parties of social-democrats and communists, and moreover, even in 1945 there were armed communist partisans operating in Albania, Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy, and France, including a large Parliamentary representation.

But the Left capitulated and adapted to the new order and for better or worse – actually worse – and was to imbibe the fashionable doctrines of neo-liberalism.

I vividly remember being a student delegate at Labour Party Annual Conference in the seaside town of Blackpool in 1976. Conference was always a rather tedious and dispiriting affair but this time it was historic. James Callaghan the then Prime Minister gave the following address. The key passage was as follows:

‘’We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession and increase employ­ment by cutting taxes and boosting Government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists, and that in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of infla­tion into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step. Higher inflation followed by higher unemployment. We have just escaped from the highest rate of inflation this country has known; we have not yet escaped from the consequences: high unemployment.’’ Apparently, Keynes was now passe and Von Hayek was flavour of the month.

What Callaghan was in fact articulating was the demise of social-democracy in the UK, and for that matter everywhere else; it was over, finished, and now a complete political racket infested with careerists and parvenus on the make. So Orwell was right even before then to describe the Labour Party as being ‘pale pink humbug’(The Road to Wigan Pier 1937). The neo-liberals had won, and it was an Atlantic-wide victory. Be advised that a party which calls itself a party of the Left, but which adheres to the neo-liberal orthodoxy is simply a fraud. Ex-centre-left parties have simply moved over to the centre-right en bloc. This project was definitively operationalised with considerable success by Blair (New Labour) and Clinton (political centrism) in the 90s.

TAKE A KNEE TO THEM NOW

This political about-face where the ashes of the left and the emergence of the neoliberal right was presided over by a new goddess known as TINA—There Is No Alternative. The long list of her high priests and priestesses extends from Margaret Thatcher via Tony Blair down to Angela Merkel and Bill Clinton. Anyone who wished to serve TINA, to the accompaniment of the solemn chorus of the united economists of the world, had to recognize the escape of capital from its national cages as both inevitable and beneficial, and would have to commit themselves to help clear all obstacles from its path. Heathen practices such as controls on the movement of capital, state aid and others were to be tracked down and eradicated; no one must be allowed to escape from ‘global competition’ and sink back into the cushioned comfort of national protections of whatever kind. Free-trade agreements were to open up markets and protect them from state interference, global governance was to replace national governments, protection from commodification was to be replaced by enabling commodification, and the welfare state was to give way to the competition state of a new era of capitalist rationalization. By the end of the 1980s at the latest, neoliberalism had become the de rigeuer for both the centre left and the centre right—with haemorrhaging membership and a declining electoral participation, disproportionately so at the lower end of the social scale. Additionally, a beginning in the 1980s this was accompanied by a meltdown of trade-union organization, together with a dramatic decline in strike activity worldwide—altogether, in other words, a demobilization along the broadest possible front of the entire post-war machinery of democratic participation and redistribution The old political controversies were now regarded as being obsolete by the PTB.(3)

THE ROAD TO NEMESIS

But history is full of surprises. In their hubris the new ruling elites were to become victims of their own propaganda, a customary and predictable human failing. Cracks were beginning to show in the neo-liberal paradigm during the holding period of 2008-2020 and the model was, whether they liked it or not, beginning to show deep structural fault-lines. The new economic system was becoming increasingly obsolete and unstable, the elephant in the room is now beginning to make its presence felt. This has been the result in the build-up of problems which were occasioned by the 2008 blow-out.

At the present time, however, the cracks which had papered over the post 2008 bodge and the distribution of national income was increasingly tilted away from the 99% to the 1%. Such a polarization of wealth and income cannot possibly endure without economic and political chaos. The process is in its early stages and represents the most severe trial of the new order since the 1971 establishment. In effect democracy is being sacrificed by the requirements of capitalism. This Great Reset is the Hayekian wonderland of a 21st century slave state.

‘’If capitalism of the consolidation state can no longer produce even the illusion of equitable growth, the time will come when the paths of capitalism and democracy must part. The likeliest outcome would be the completion of a Hayekian social dictatorship in which the capitalist market economy was protected from democratic correction. Its legitimacy would depend upon whether those who once were its citizens would have learned to equate market justice with social justice and to think of themselves as members of a unified marktvolk. Its stability would further require instruments for the ideological marginalization, political disorganization, and physical restraint of anyone unwilling to accept this lesson. Those who refused to bow to market justice, in a situation where political institutions economically, would then be left with what used to be described in the 1970s as extra-parliamentary protest: emotional, irrational, fragmented, and irresponsible. And this is what we would precisely expect if the democratic channels for the articulation of interests and the formation of preferences are blocked, only because the same outcomes can never emerge or because what emerges no longer makes any difference to the markets … The alternative to capitalism without democracy is democracy without capitalism. (4)

So now we are living in a period of what Antonio Gramsci described as the interregnum. “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”(5) Its outcome can only be guessed at.

La Lotte Continua.

NOTES

(1) Wolfgang Streeck – New Left Review – 104

(2) Der Spiegel 1996

(3)Wolfgang Streeck – New Left Review 104

(4) Grace Blakeley – Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialization -pp.172/73.

(5) Prison Notebooks – Antonio Gramsci.

It is not about Trump or Biden

BY GILAD ATZMON

biden trump.jpg

By Gilad

It is about Urban vs. Rural

It is about Globalist vs. Nationalist

It is about Cosmopolitans vs. Patriots

It is about Tribal vs. Universal

It is not about Democrats or Republicans 

It is about Identitarians vs. Americans

It is about the ‘as a’ people vs. Authenticity 

It is about a ‘Great Reset’ vs. longing for greatness

It is about Jerusalem vs. Athens

It is really about the ‘last days of the Weimar Republic’ all over again. 

Throughout its history, capitalism has been using different tactics to suppress opposition. 

At one stage it was the fantasy of an inevitable revolution. It is indeed the threat of that rebellious spirit which contributed to the evolvement of the welfare state, yet the promised revolution never materialized. 

 It doesn’t take a genius to gather that in historical perspective, those senses of freedom, productivity and hope which became Western emblems during the post-World War II era, had very little to do with our humanist desires and whims. Our ‘freedom’ was manufactured to titillate the poor human fellows behind the Iron Wall. The Cold War which threatened to wipe out civilization was just the means towards capitalist growth. Accordingly, it would be right to argue that we owe our post-war sense of ‘freedom’ to the USSR and Stalin. The more oppressive communism was, the more liberal the West pretended to be. Once the Soviet bloc evaporated, there was no need to sustain our ‘freedom.’ There was no one to ‘titillate’ with Coca Cola and McDonalds. A new Battle Zone was required to divert the masses’ attention from their true eternal oppressors.

Once again it was the so-called ‘Left’ that provided the goods. Instead of the old Left mantra that called to unite us into a proletarian angry fist regardless of our race, skin color, gender or ethnicity, the ‘New Left’ introduced a completely new hymn. Against the most basic Left universal ethos, the New Left taught us to think and speak ‘as a’: ‘as women,’ ‘as a gay,’ ‘as trans,’ ‘as a Jew,’ ‘as a Latino,’ ‘as a Black.’ We practically learned to fight each other instead of uniting into one people. Instead of eliminating differences, we built new ghetto walls emphasizing and celebrating every possible dividing line (White/Black, male/female, heterosexual/LGBTQ etc.). Instead of identifying Wall Street, MSM propaganda and the technology giants as our fierce global enemy, these actually became the catalysts and cash suppliers in a war we, the people, foolishly declared upon ourselves.

In this new ‘Left’ Identitarian amalgam, every ‘as a’ voice is welcome except the White one. Is it because anyone really believes that ‘White people’ are categorically or collectively bad? I doubt it. It is simply because the so-called ‘White’ was picked to play the ‘role’ of the Soviet bloc. The ‘White’ has become the new imaginary ‘evil.’ 

As things stand no one in America can unite the nation: neither Biden nor the DNC can introduce a harmonious solution as the above are actually extensions of the problem. Biden and the DNC are inherently tied to Wall Street, Soros, the MSM and technology giants that formulated and sustain this tragic battle. Trump and the GOP of course, cannot do much either, because in the eyes of his many opponents Trump himself is the core of this entire disaster.  He is clearly ‘too white’ on top of being a ‘man’ and if this is not enough, he is also an abrasive narcissist. 

What we see in America is practically the Weimar Republic all over again.

The public is losing its trust in the democratic process and democratic institutions. Poverty and public unrest is spiking. The national press and media are becoming more and more detached from larger segments of the population. Amidst all of this, Wall Street is booming. The two sides of this divide cannot tolerate each other. They are removed demographically, spiritually, culturally and intellectually.  Democracy is becoming a nostalgic notion in the USA and this shouldn’t take us by a big surprise as democracy and freedom are not and never have been prime capitalist goals or values. Democracy and liberty were the means, not the goal. They were there to serve mammonism.* But not anymore; back in November 2016 Wall Street gathered that democracy is in the way. The City of London came to the same conclusion after the Brexit referendum.

If America wants to save itself, it may have to grasp its conditions first. It better transcend itself beyond the fake battle between Trump and Biden or between the Democrats and the GOP. America should figure out who is pushing it into the abyss of civil war.  America should figure out who works so hard and successfully, so far, to split it and every other Western country in the middle.

If Orwell’s 1984 carries any prophetic merit, it is easy to figure out who is taking care of the Big Brother’s role. What you may want to do next is figure out who is/what is the current Immanuel Goldstein? Who controls the opposition?    

* Mammonism the obsessive pursuit of material wealth and possessions.

Russian President Putin Delivers Speech at Valdai Discussion Club -2020 – Update

Source

The Transcript follows.

Update : October 24th

The formal transcript is now complete

Update : October 23rd

Note that it is not quite complete and we are waiting for the Kremlin resources to complete (as usual correct and accurate) the complete transcript.  Yet, most of it is here, and the most interesting details are in the Questions and Answers.  (Settle in, it was a 3 hour session and nobody wanted to let Mr Putin go, even after 3 hours!)

Fyodor Lukyanov: Friends,

Guests of the Valdai Club,

I am delighted to welcome you to the final session of the 17th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. It is my special honour and pleasure to welcome our traditional guest for our final meetings, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends,

Participants of the 17th plenary meeting of the Valdai Club,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you all to our traditional annual meeting. We are meeting in an unusual format this time; we are videoconferencing. But I can see there are also people in the room. Not as many as usual of course, but nevertheless there are people present, and, apparently, you have had an in-person discussion, and I am delighted that you have.

We are certainly aware, we can see that the coronavirus epidemic has seriously affected public, business, and international affairs. More than that – it has affected everyone’s routine rhythm of life.

Almost all countries had to impose various restrictions, and large public gatherings have been largely cancelled. This year has been challenging for your Club as well. Most importantly, though, you continue to work. With the help of remote technology, you conduct heated and meaningful debates, discuss things, and bring in new experts who share their opinions and present interesting outside-the-box, sometimes even opposing, views on current developments. Such an exchange is, of course, very important and useful now that the world is facing so many challenges that need to be resolved.

Thus, we still have to understand how the epidemic affected and will continue to affect the present and future of humanity. As it confronts this dangerous threat, the international community is trying to take certain actions and to mobilize itself. Some things are already being done as collaborative efforts, but I want to note straight away that this is only a fraction of what needs to be done in the face of this formidable common challenge. These missed opportunities are also a subject for a candid international discussion.

From the onset of the pandemic in Russia, we have focused on preserving lives and ensuring safety of our people as our key values. This was an informed choice dictated by our culture and spiritual traditions, and our complex, sometimes dramatic, history. If we think back to the great demographic losses we suffered in the 20th century, we had no other choice but to fight for every person and the future of every Russian family.

So, we did our best to preserve the health and the lives of our people, to help parents and children, as well as senior citizens and those who lost their jobs, to maintain employment as much as possible, to minimise damage to the economy, to support millions of entrepreneurs who run small or family businesses.

Perhaps, like everyone else, you are closely following daily updates on the pandemic around the world. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has not retreated and still poses a major threat. Probably, this unsettling background intensifies the sense, like many people feel, that a whole new era is about to begin and that we are not just on the verge of dramatic changes, but an era of tectonic shifts in all areas of life.

We see the rapidly, exponential development of the processes that we have repeatedly discussed at the Valdai Club before. Thus, six years ago, in 2014, we spoke about this issue when we discussed the theme The World Order: New Rules or a Game Without Rules. So, what is happening now? Regrettably, the game without rules is becoming increasingly horrifying and sometimes seems to be a fait accompli.

The pandemic has reminded us of how fragile human life is. It was hard to imagine that in our technologically advanced 21st century, even in the most prosperous and wealthy countries people could find themselves defenceless in front of what would seem to be not such a fatal infection, and not such a horrible threat. But life has shown that not everything boils down to the level of medical science with some of its fantastic achievements. It transpired that the organisation and accessibility of the public healthcare system are no less, and probably much more important in this situation.

The values of mutual assistance, service and self-sacrifice proved to be most important. This also applies to the responsibility, composure and honesty of the authorities, their readiness to meet the demand of society and at the same time provide a clear-cut and well-substantiated explanation of the logic and consistency of the adopted measures so as not to allow fear to subdue and divide society but, on the contrary, to imbue it with confidence that together we will overcome all trials no matter how difficult they may be.

The struggle against the coronavirus threat has shown that only a viable state can act effectively in a crisis – contrary to the reasoning of those who claim that the role of the state in the global world is decreasing and that in the future it will be altogether replaced with some other forms of social organisation. Yes, this is possible. Everything may change in the distant future. Change is all around us, but today the role and importance of the state do matter.

We have always considered a strong state a basic condition for Russia’s development. And we have seen again that we were right by meticulously restoring and strengthening state institutions after their decline, and sometimes complete destruction in the 1990s.

Then, the question is: what is a strong state? What are its strengths? Definitely, not total control or harsh law enforcement. Not thwarted private initiative or civic engagement. Not even the might of its armed forces or its high defence potential. Although, I think you realise how important this particular component is for Russia, given its geography and the range of geopolitical challenges. And there is also our historical responsibility as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to ensure global stability.

Nevertheless, I am confident that what makes a state strong, primarily, is the confidence its citizens have in it. That is the strength of a state. People are the source of power, we all know that. And this recipe doesn’t just involve going to the polling station and voting, it implies people’s willingness to delegate broad authority to their elected government, to see the state, its bodies, civil servants, as their representatives – those who are entrusted to make decisions, but who also bear full responsibility for the performance of their duties.

This kind of state can be set up any way you like. When I say “any way,” I mean that what you call your political system is immaterial. Each country has its own political culture, traditions, and its own vision of their development. Trying to blindly imitate someone else’s agenda is pointless and harmful. The main thing is for the state and society to be in harmony.

And of course, confidence is the most solid foundation for the creative work of the state and society. Only together will they be able to find an optimal balance of freedom and security guarantees.

Once again, in the most difficult moments of the pandemic, I felt pride and, to be honest, I am proud of Russia, of our citizens, of their willingness to have each other’s backs. And of course, first of all, I am proud of our doctors, nurses, and ambulance workers – everyone, without exception, on whom the national healthcare system relies.

I believe that civil society will play a key role in Russia’s future. So, we want the voice of our citizens to be decisive and to see constructive proposals and requests from different social forces get implemented.

This begs the question: how is this request for action being formed? Whose voice should the state be heeding? How does it know if it is really the voice of the people and not some behind-the-scenes messages or even someone’s vocal yelling that has nothing to do whatsoever with our people and that at times becomes hysterical?

Occasionally, someone is trying to substitute self-serving interests of a small social group or even external forces for a genuine public request.

Genuine democracy and civil society cannot be “imported.” I have said so many times. They cannot be a product of the activities of foreign “well-wishers,” even if they “want the best for us.” In theory, this is probably possible. But, frankly, I have not yet seen such a thing and do not believe much in it. We see how such imported democracy models function. They are nothing more than a shell or a front with nothing behind them, even a semblance of sovereignty. People in the countries where such schemes have been implemented were never asked for their opinion, and their respective leaders are mere vassals. As is known, the overlord decides everything for the vassal. To reiterate, only the citizens of a particular country can determine their public interest.

We, in Russia, went through a fairly long period where foreign funds were very much the main source for creating and financing non-governmental organisations. Of course, not all of them pursued self-serving or bad goals, or wanted to destabilise the situation in our country, interfere in our domestic affairs, or influence Russia’s domestic and, sometimes, foreign policy in their own interests. Of course not.

There were sincere enthusiasts among independent civic organisations (they do exist), to whom we are undoubtedly grateful. But even so, they mostly remained strangers and ultimately reflected the views and interests of their foreign trustees rather than the Russian citizens. In a word, they were a tool with all the ensuing consequences.

A strong, free and independent civil society is nationally oriented and sovereign by definition. It grows from the depth of people’s lives and can take different forms and directions. But it is a cultural phenomenon, a tradition of a particular country, not the product of some abstract “transnational mind” with other people’s interests behind it.

The duty of the state is to support public initiatives and open up new opportunities for them. This is exactly what we do. I consider this matter to be the most important for the government’s agenda in the coming decades – regardless of who exactly will hold positions in that government. This is the guarantee of Russia’s sovereign, progressive development, of genuine continuity in its forward movement, and of our ability to respond to global challenges.

Colleagues, you are well aware of the many acute problems and controversies that have accumulated in modern international affairs, even too many. Ever since the Cold War model of international relations, which was stable and predictable in its own way, began to change (I am not saying I miss it, I most certainly do not), the world has changed several times. Things in fact happened so quickly that those usually referred to as political elites simply did not have the time, or maybe a strong interest or ability to analyse what was really going on.

Some countries hastily ran to divide the cake, mostly to grab a bigger piece, to take advantage of the benefits the end of the cold confrontation brought. Others were frantically looking for ways to adapt to the changes at any cost. And some countries – recall our own sad experience, frankly – just fought for survival, to survive as a single country, and as a subject of global politics, too.

Meanwhile, time increasingly and insistently makes us question what lies ahead for humanity, what the new world order should be like, or at least a semblance of one, and whether we will take informed steps forward, coordinating our moves, or we will stumble blindly, each of us just relying on ourselves.

The recent report of the Valdai Club, your club, reads: “…in a fundamentally changed international setting, the institutions themselves have become an obstacle to building a system of relations corresponding to the new era rather than a guarantee of global stability and manageability.” The authors believe that we are in for a world where individual states or groups of states will act much more independently while traditional international organisations will lose their importance.

This is what I would like to say in this respect. Of course, it is clear what underlies this position. In effect, the post-war world order was established by three victorious countries: the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain. The role of Britain has changed since then; the Soviet Union no longer exists, while some try to dismiss Russia altogether.

Let me assure you, dear friends, that we are objectively assessing our potentialities: our intellectual, territorial, economic and military potential. I am referring to our current options, our overall potential. Consolidating this country and looking at what is happening in the world, in other countries I would like to tell those who are still waiting for Russia’s strength to gradually wane, the only thing we are worried about is catching a cold at your funeral.

As a head of state who works directly in an environment that you and your colleagues describe from a position of expertise, I cannot agree with the assumption that existing international structures must be completely rebuilt, if not dismissed as obsolete and altogether dismantled. On the contrary, it is important to preserve the basic mechanisms of maintaining international security, which have proved to be effective. This is the UN, the Security Council and the permanent members’ right to veto. I recently spoke about this at the anniversary UN General Assembly. As far as I know, this position – the preservation of the fundamentals of the international order established after World War II – enjoys broad support in the world.

However, I believe that the idea of adjusting the institutional arrangement of world politics is at least worthy of discussion, if only because the correlation of forces, potentialities and positions of states has seriously changed, as I said, especially in the past 30 to 40 years.

Indeed, like I said, the Soviet Union is no longer there. But there is Russia. In terms of its economic weight and political influence, China is moving quickly towards superpower status. Germany is moving in the same direction, and the Federal Republic of Germany has become an important player in international cooperation. At the same time, the roles of Great Britain and France in international affairs has undergone significant changes. The United States, which at some point absolutely dominated the international stage, can hardly claim exceptionality any longer. Generally speaking, does the United States need this exceptionalism? Of course, powerhouses such as Brazil, South Africa and some other countries have become much more influential.

Indeed, by far not all international organisations are effectively carrying out their missions and tasks. Called to be impartial arbiters, they often act based on ideological prejudices, fall under the strong influence of other states, and become tools in their hands. Juggling procedures, manipulating prerogatives and authority, biased approaches, especially when it comes to conflicts involving rival powers or groups of states, have unfortunately become common practice.

The fact that authoritative international organisations following in the wake of someone’s selfish interests are drawn into politicised campaigns against specific leaders and countries is saddening. This approach does nothing but discredit these institutions, and leads them towards decline and exacerbates the world order crisis.

On the other hand, there are positive developments when a group of interested states joins forces to resolve specific issues, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which for almost 20 years now has been contributing to the settlement of territorial disputes and strengthening stability in Central Eurasia, and is shaping a unique spirit of partnership in this part of the world.

Or, for example, the Astana format, which was instrumental in taking the political and diplomatic process regarding Syria out of a deep impasse. The same goes for OPEC Plus which is an effective, albeit very complex, tool for stabilising global oil markets.

In a fragmented world, this approach is often more productive. But what matters here is that, along with resolving specific problems, this approach can also breathe new life into multilateral diplomacy. This is important. But it is also obvious that we cannot do without a common, universal framework for international affairs. Whatever interest groups, associations, or ad-hoc alliances we form now or in the future – we cannot do without a common framework.

Multilateralism should be understood not as total inclusivity, but as the need to involve the parties that are truly interested in solving a problem. And of course, when outside forces crudely and shamelessly intervene in a process that affects a group of actors perfectly capable of agreeing among themselves – nothing good can come of that. And they do this solely for the purpose of flaunting their ambition, power and influence. They do it to put a stake in the ground, to outplay everyone, but not to make a positive contribution or help resolve the situation.

Again, even amid the current fragmentation of international affairs, there are challenges that require more than just the combined capacity of a few states, even very influential ones. Problems of this magnitude, which do exist, require global attention.

International stability, security, fighting terrorism and solving urgent regional conflicts are certainly among them; as are promoting global economic development, combatting poverty, and expanding cooperation in healthcare. That last one is especially relevant today.

I spoke in detail about these challenges at the UN General Assembly last month. Meeting them will require working together in a long-term, systematic way.

However, there are considerations of a more general nature that affect literally everyone, and I would like to discuss them in more detail.

Many of us read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry when we were children and remember what the main character said: “It’s a question of discipline. When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet. … It’s very tedious work, but very easy.”

I am sure that we must keep doing this “tedious work” if we want to preserve our common home for future generations. We must tend our planet.

The subject of environmental protection has long become a fixture on the global agenda. But I would address it more broadly to discuss also an important task of abandoning the practice of unrestrained and unlimited consumption – overconsumption – in favour of judicious and reasonable sufficiency, when you do not live just for today but also think about tomorrow.

We often say that nature is extremely vulnerable to human activity. Especially when the use of natural resources is growing to a global dimension. However, humanity is not safe from natural disasters, many of which are the result of anthropogenic interference. By the way, some scientists believe that the recent outbreaks of dangerous diseases are a response to this interference. This is why it is so important to develop harmonious relations between Man and Nature.

Tensions have reached a critical point. We can see this in climate change. This problem calls for practical action and much more attention on our part. It has long stopped being the domain of abstract scientific interests but now concerns nearly every inhabitant of the planet Earth. The polar ice caps and permafrost are melting because of global warming. According to expert estimates, the speed and scale of this process will be increasing in the next few decades.

It is a huge challenge to the world, to the whole of humanity, including to us, to Russia, where permafrost occupies 65 percent of our national territory. Such changes can do irreparable damage to biological diversity, have an extremely adverse effect on the economy and infrastructure and pose a direct threat to people.

You may be aware that this is very important to us. It affects pipeline systems, residential districts built on permafrost, and so on. If as much as 25 percent of the near-surface layers of permafrost, which is about three or four metres, melt by 2100, we will feel the effect very strongly. Moreover, the problem could snowball into a crisis very quickly. A kind of chain reaction is possible, because permafrost melting will stimulate methane emissions, which can produce a greenhouse effect that will be 28 times (sic!) larger than in the case of carbon dioxide. In other words, the temperature will continue rising on the planet, permafrost will continue melting, and methane emissions will further increase. The situation will spiral. Do we want the Earth to become like Venus, a hot, dry and lifeless planet? I would like to remind you that the Earth has an average surface temperature of 14°C while on Venus it’s 462°C.

Another subject, completely different. I would like to say a few words on a different subject. Let us not forget that there are no longer just geographical continents on Earth. An almost endless digital space is taking shape on the planet, and people are mastering it with increasing speed every year.

The restrictions forced by the coronavirus have only encouraged the development of remote e-technology. Today, communications based on the internet have become a universal asset. It is necessary to see that this infrastructure and all cyberspace operates without fail and securely.

Thus, remote, distance work is not just a forced precaution during a pandemic. This will become a new form of organising labour, employment, social cooperation and simply human communication. These changes are inevitable with the development of technological progress. This recent turn of events has merely precipitated these processes. Everyone appreciates the opportunities and conveniences provided by new technology.

But, of course, there is a reverse side as well – a growing threat to all digital systems. Yes, cyberspace is a fundamentally new environment where, basically, universally recognised rules have never existed. Technology has simply moved ahead of legislation and thus, judicial oversight. At the same time, this is a very specific area where the issue of trust is particularly urgent.

I think that at this point we must return to our historical experience. What do I mean? Let me recall that the established notion of “confidence-building measures” existed during the Cold War. It applied to relations between the USSR and the US, and between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, that is, military-political relations.

That said, let me emphasise that now, competition is usually “hybrid” in character. It concerns all areas, including those that are just taking shape. This is why it is necessary to build confidence in many areas.

In this sense, cyberspace can serve as a venue for testing these measures, like at one time, arms control paved the way for higher trust in the world as a whole.

Obviously, it is very difficult to draft a required “package of measures” in this area, cyberspace. However, it is necessary to start on it. This must be done now.

As you may be aware, Russia is actively promoting bilateral and multilateral cyber security agreements. We submitted two draft conventions on this subject at the UN and established a corresponding open-ended working group.

Recently, I proposed starting a comprehensive discussion of international cybersecurity issues with the United States. We are aware that politicians in the United States have other things to focus on now because of the election campaign. However, we hope that the next administration, whatever it may be, will respond to our invitation to start a discussion of this subject just like other items on the Russia-US agenda such as global security, the future of the strategic arms reduction treaty and a number of other issues.

As you are aware, many important matters have reached the point that they require candid talks, and we are ready for a constructive discussion on an equal footing.

Of course, the times when all important international matters were discussed and resolved by essentially just Moscow and Washington are long gone, lost to the ages. However, we see the establishment of a bilateral dialogue, in this case on cyber security, as an important step towards a much broader discussion involving many other countries and organisations. Should the United States choose not to take part in this work, which would be regrettable, we will still be willing to work with all interested partners, which I hope will not be lacking.

I would like to point out another important aspect. We live in an era of palpable international shocks and crises. Of course, we are used to them, especially the generations which lived during the Cold War, let alone World War II, for whom it is not just a memory, but a part of their lives.

It is interesting that humanity has reached a very high level of technological and socioeconomic development, while at the same time facing the loss or erosion of moral values and reference points, a sense that existence no longer has meaning and, if you will, that the mission of humankind on planet Earth has been lost.

This crisis cannot be settled through diplomatic negotiations or even a large international conference. It calls for revising our priorities and rethinking our goals. And everyone must begin at home, every individual, community and state, and only then work toward a global configuration.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which we have all been dealing with this year, can serve as a point of departure for such a transformation. We will have to reassess our priorities anyway. Trust me, we really will have to do it, sooner or later. All of us are aware of this. Therefore, I fully agree with those who say that it would be better to start this process now.

I mentioned history and the older generations who went through all the trials of last century for a reason. Everything we are discussing today will soon become the responsibility of young people. Young people will have to deal with all of the problems which I mentioned and you discussed today. Speaking about Russia, its young citizens, who are still growing up and gaining experience, will have to do this as soon as in the 21st century. They are the ones who will have to confront new and probably even more difficult challenges.

They have their own views on the past, present and future. But I believe that our people will always retain their best qualities: patriotism, fortitude, creativity, hard work, team spirit and the capacity to surprise the world by finding solutions to the most difficult and even seemingly insoluble problems.

Friends, colleagues,

I touched on a wide range of different issues today. Of course, I would like to believe that despite all the current difficulties the international community will be able to join forces to combat not imaginary but very real problems, and that we will eventually succeed. After all, it is within our power to stop being egoistical, greedy, mindless and wasteful consumers. Some may wonder if this is utopia, a pipe dream.

To be sure, it is easy to wonder if this is even possible considering what some individuals are doing and saying. However, I believe in reason and mutual understanding, or at least I strongly hope that they will prevail. We just need to open our eyes, look around us and see that the land, air and water are our common inheritance from above, and we must learn to cherish them, just as we must cherish every human life, which is precious. This is the only way forward in this complicated and beautiful world. I do not want to see the mistakes of the past repeated.

Thank you very much.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, thank you for this detailed statement. You have said that COVID-19 can serve as a point of departure for a reassessment. I can see that you are indeed reassessing things, because it is not everyone who speaks now about trust, harmony, the meaning of life and our mission on the planet Earth, and it was rarely so in the past as well.

I would like to say a few things in follow-up to what you have said. Of course, such a rethinking is ongoing, and we are trying to contribute to this process at the Valdai Club. However, the shocking spring developments, when we thought that the world would never be the same again, were followed by a degree of stabilisation. When global politics awoke from the mental torpor, it turned out that the agenda has hardly changed at all: we are facing the same problems, the conflicts are back and their number has even increased. But you continue with your active work despite the strained situation in global politics. Do you think that this shock had any effect on us? Do you feel any change in the sentiments of your counterparts at the top level?

Vladimir Putin: You said that the conflicts resumed when the situation improved a bit. In fact, they never abated. There is much talk about a second wave, and that the situation is back to where we were in the spring. But just look at what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh: the conflict is still with us. And it is not just the conflicts that matter. I believe that no matter how the necessity to combat the pandemic can rally the international community, we still need to take systemic measures to settle recurring problems. This concerns the Middle East, the Syrian crisis, Libya and a great number of other problems, including terrorism and the environment. In other words, the pandemic will not help us to deal with them.

However, the pandemic is playing into our hands when it comes to raising our awareness of the importance of joining forces against severe global crises. Unfortunately, it has not yet taught humanity to come together completely, as we must do in such situations. Just look at the crises I have mentioned. We have already proposed, at the UN, among other places, that all economic and cultural restrictions be lifted for humanitarian reasons, at least temporarily.

I am not referring now to all these sanctions against Russia; forget about that, we will get over it. But many other countries that have suffered and are still suffering from the coronavirus do not even need any help that may come from outside, they just need the restrictions lifted, at least in the humanitarian sphere, I repeat, concerning the supply of medicines, equipment, credit resources, and the exchange of technologies. These are humanitarian things in their purest form. But no, they have not abolished any restrictions, citing some considerations that have nothing to do with the humanitarian component – but at the same time, everyone is talking about humanism.

I would say we need to be more honest with each other and abandon double standards. I am sure that if people hear me now on the media, they are probably finding it difficult to disagree with what I have just said, difficult to deny it. Deep down in their hearts, in their minds, everyone is probably thinking, “Yes, right, of course.” However, for political reasons, publicly, they will still say, “No, we must keep restrictions on Iran, Venezuela, against Assad.” What does Assad even have to do with this when it is ordinary people who suffer? At least, give them medicines, give them technology, at least a small, targeted loan for medicine. No.

Therefore, on the one hand, it seems like there is a tendency to unite, but, frankly speaking, by and large, I do not see any practical steps to bring it to reality. Although this trend does exist.

As for technology, it is another side of the matter. As for technology, of course, online education, telemedicine and other advanced solutions – all the modern digital technologies that had been increasingly penetrating all spheres, of course, with the pandemic have made a breach in the existing regulatory systems. They are forcing politicians, legal professionals, and administrative regulators, to move towards decision-making at a faster pace than they used to. And this is certainly, definitely changing the world.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Here is one more question related to what you have said.

Speaking about the strategy of combating the epidemic, you clearly and unequivocally stated that people’s life and safety are the main values. This strategy is understandable, but tactics differ. Last spring, the countries that chose a different path were sharply criticised.

For example, Sweden and Belarus did not introduce an economic lockdown or a tight quarantine. There were many pro and contra arguments. Six months later, we can see that the world is largely following in the footsteps of these countries instead of doing what we did in spring. I believe that you also said yesterday that there would not be any economic lockdown.

Does this mean that the balance is changing and that the balance should sometimes change in favour of the economy?

Vladimir Putin: I would say that nothing is changing in our country. I do not know about Sweden. On the other hand, I do know some things, and I will say a few words about them. The same is true about Belarus and other countries, where the decisions are made by their leadership. As for us, nothing has changed: people’s lives and health remain our priorities, without a doubt.

On the other hand, life and health are directly connected to healthcare, which must receive serious support from the federal and other budgets. For these budgets to be replenished, we need a working economy. Everything is closely interconnected. One needs to find a balance. I believe that we found this balance at the very beginning. We took a number of serious steps to support the economy. This support amounted to 4.5 percent of the GDP. Some other countries allocated even more funds for this purpose.

The point is actually not so much the amount of allocated funds but their effective use. I believe (we discussed several related issues with the Government today) that we disposed of these funds quite effectively, in a selective way and using the considerable resources we accumulated in the past years, as well as relying on the macroeconomic health of our economy, macroeconomic indicators and all the other positive achievements of the past years, to support our people, families with children, small and medium-sized businesses, and even large companies and whole industries.

Overall, there is no need in the current situation, at least in Russia, to reintroduce such restrictions as we had in spring, when we sent our people on paid leave and closed down whole enterprises. There is no need for this also because our healthcare system performed quite efficiently. We have also built up reserves, including a reserve of hospital beds, created new medicines and developed treatment guidelines. Our medics have learned how to deal with this disease, they know what and when needs to be done. In other words, we have become confident that we can deal with these problems. This is the first thing I wanted to say.

The second thing. We said from the beginning – I would just like to remind you, keeping in mind the vastness of our territory – that we were handing down a considerable part of authority for decision-making to the level of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. Incidentally, all major countries, have, in fact, followed this path somewhat later. This has proven to be the right approach.

There is no such need today. The economy is recovering. The processing industry is recovering, the agro-industrial sector is performing quite well and is even growing, exports are recovering… Yes, we have issues that we should target. But look, we have basically acceptable macroeconomic indicators. Russia’s second-quarter economic contraction was 8 percent, and, say, the US economy, declined by 9 [percent], and the Euro zone, if I am not mistaken, by 14.5 – 14.7 [percent].

You have mentioned Sweden that imposed no restrictions, but they also happened to face an economic downturn. At first, they went public with the figure of 8.3 [percent], which was later adjusted to less than 8 [percent] – 7.7 [percent], if my memory serves me correctly. Here we go: they have introduced no restrictions, nor have they done what we have in supporting people and the economy, but their result is the same as ours. The modern world is extremely interconnected. But an economic decline is inevitable, the first thing to do is to take care of the people. This logic is immaculate. I am certain that you will agree on this point.

Now, regarding Belarus. President Lukashenko – I had many conversations with him – is fully aware of the COVID-19 threat. But Belarus has no comparable gold and currency reserves, nor such a diverse economic landscape, and he, as he says, simply had to keep the economy viable. But on the whole, the situation there is not worse, in fact, than in many other countries.

Therefore we face – and faced – no choice of this sort; our priorities are people, health, and life. We are not going to impose tough restrictions, there is no such need. There is no need to close businesses. What is needed is to adjust support for certain sectors, for example, for small and medium-sized businesses. Certain parts of this work require additional support, maybe the extension of tax benefits and some other measures that are due to expire shortly. It is necessary to take a closer look at transportation, the transport sector, and the services. We are aware of all this, we see this, and we will continue to work in these areas, no matter how difficult this might be. As I have repeatedly said, we will get through this difficult period together, with the people’s support and trust.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Colleagues, we are moving on to our traditional conversation. This time the setup of this discussion will be quite complex, since we have people sitting in the audience here, and I am also receiving questions from those who are watching online, and some of our colleagues will be able to ask their questions in person. Therefore, I will try to act as an impartial moderator and manage this conversation, and I apologise for any possible hiccups.

Let us begin. Timofei Bordachev, our colleague from the Valdai Club.

Timofei Bordachev: Good evening, and thank you for this unique opportunity.

Mr President, there has been much talk and debate, in the context of the global economic upheavals, about the fact that the liberal market economy has ceased to be a reliable tool for the survival of states, their preservation, and for their people.

Pope Francis said recently that capitalism has run its course. Russia has been living under capitalism for 30 years. Is it time to search for an alternative? Is there an alternative? Could it be the revival of the left-wing idea or something radically new? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Lenin spoke about the birthmarks of capitalism, and so on. It cannot be said that we have lived these past 30 years in a full-fledged market economy. In fact, we are only gradually building it, and its institutions. Russia had to do it from the ground up, starting from a clean slate. Of course, we are doing this taking into consideration developments around the world. After all, after almost one hundred years of a state-planned economy, transitioning to a market economy is not easy.

You know, capitalism, the way you have described it, existed in a more or less pure form at the beginning of the previous century. But everything changed after what happened in the global economy and in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, after World War I. We have already discussed this on a number of occasions. I do not remember if I have mentioned this at Valdai Club meetings, but experts who know this subject better than I do and with whom I regularly communicate, they are saying obvious and well-known things.

When everything is fine, and the macro economic indicators are stable, various funds are building up their assets, consumption is on the rise and so on. In such times, you hear more and more that the state only stands in the way, and that a pure market economy would be more effective. But as soon as crises and challenges arise, everyone turns to the state, calling for the reinforcement of its supervisory functions. This goes on and on, like a sinusoidal curve. This is what happened during the preceding crises, including the recent ones, like in 2008.

I remember very well how the key shareholders of Russia’s largest corporations that are also major European and global players came to me proposing that the state buy their assets for one dollar or one ruble. They were afraid of assuming responsibility for their employees, pressured by margin calls, and the like. This time, our businesses have acted differently. No one is seeking to evade responsibility. On the contrary, they are even using their own funds, and are quite generous in doing so. The responses may differ, but overall, businesses have been really committed to social responsibility, for which I am grateful to these people, and I want them to know this.

Therefore, at present, we cannot really find a fully planned economy, can we? Take China. Is it a purely planned economy? No. And there is not a single purely market economy either. Nevertheless, the government’s regulatory functions are certainly important. For example, consider major industries such as aircraft construction. Without some regulatory function from the top – or from the left, right, bottom, for that matter, whether this regulatory function is visible or not – without it, it is impossible to operate in this market. And we can see that all the countries that claim respect as aircraft-building powers (contextually, I would say), their governments provide assistance to their aircraft manufacturers, all of them. And there are plenty of support methods.

By the way, the situation is much the same in the automotive industry, and in other industries. We just need to determine for ourselves the reasonable level of the state’s involvement in the economy; how quickly that involvement needs to be reduced, if at all, and where exactly. I often hear that Russia’s economy is overregulated. But during crises like this current pandemic, when we are forced to restrict business activity, and cargo traffic shrinks, and not only cargo traffic, but passenger traffic as well, we have to ask ourselves – what do we do with aviation now that passengers avoid flying or fly rarely, what do we do? Well, the state is a necessary fixture, there is no way they could do without state support.

So, again, no model is pure or rigid, neither the market economy nor the command economy today, but we simply have to determine the level of the state’s involvement in the economy. What do we use as a baseline for this decision? Expediency. We need to avoid using any templates, and so far, we have successfully avoided that. As I have said, the so-called developed economies, in Europe, have seen their GDP plummet by more than 14 percent. How high has unemployment grown in the eurozone? As far as I know, by over 10 percent. Ours has grown, too, but only by 6.3 percent. This is the result of government regulation. Or take inflation. We have been fighting it desperately. Is this not a regulatory function of the state?

Of course, the Central Bank and the Government are among the most important state institutions. Therefore, it was in fact through the joint efforts of the Central Bank and the Government that inflation was reduced to 4 percent, because the Government invests substantial resources through its social programmes and national projects and has an impact on our monetary policy. It went down to 3.9 percent, and the Governor of the Central Bank has told me that we will most likely keep it around the estimated target of around 4 percent. This is the regulating function of the state; there is no way around it. However, stifling development through an excessive presence of the state in the economy or through excessive regulation would be fatal as well. You know, this is a form of art, which the Government has been applying skilfully, at least for now.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, since you mentioned greed, I have to ask you the following. A lively discussion began the other day on the Finance Ministry’s proposal to reduce the staff at security-related agencies and to adjust their salaries and pensions. Is this a good time for this proposal? Or is it that the crisis is forcing us to cut expenses?

Vladimir Putin: The Finance Ministry regularly makes such proposals, crisis or no crisis. It is always in favour of reducing expenditure. In general, nearly all finance ministries in other countries do this as well. There is nothing unique in the proposal of the Russian Finance Ministry.

We do not envisage making any decisions yet. We have no term reduction or extension plans. It was just one of the Finance Ministry’s proposals. It has not even been reported to me yet. It is still at the level of discussion among Government agencies. When we need to make a final decision, I will take into account the economic realities and the real situation regarding people’s incomes, including in the security and military spheres, and a comparison of the levels of income in the country’s military and civilian sectors. There are many factors we need to take into account to prevent an imbalance on the labour market, and so on. I would like to repeat that these issues have not been discussed on the practical level. These discussions are ongoing within the framework of the Government.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Great. Our meeting has produced at least one result: the military can breathe out.

I would like to give the floor to our long-time friend who has been helping the Valdai Club a lot. Please meet Sam Charap from Washington, D.C. Usually, we had him here, but now he is at his workplace. We can get him on air now.

Sam, please.

Sam Charap: Hello, Mr. President,

I would like to return to your initiative to restore trust in cyberspace, which you mentioned in your remarks. Many argue whether there is trust in the outcome of the talks or the premises for holding them. It is not only about the election campaign, but the firm belief of many in Washington (and outside of it) that Russia is actively interfering in this area, and so on.

Can we ponder some kind of truce in this sphere in order to create proper grounds for talks and a minimum level of trust as a prerequisite for achieving more during ensuing talks? How do you think such a digital truce, so to say, may look like?

Vladimir Putin: Listen, as far as cybercrime is concerned, it always went hand in hand with digital technology and will probably always be there just like other offences. However, when we talk about relations between states, it is no coincidence that in my opening remarks I mentioned the dialogue on limiting offensive arms between the Soviet Union and the United States.

We agreed among ourselves to keep these weapons at a certain level. We propose reaching agreements in the sphere that is taking shape now right before our eyes and which is extremely important for the entire world and our countries. We need to discuss these matters in a broad context and come up with solutions.

I am not quite sure what kind of truce you are talking about. I believe it is already in place. You said that Russia is actively interfering. But I say: “We are not interfering in anything.” Moreover, the official probes conducted in the United States, including with the involvement of a special counsel, did not bring any results. They led to admitting the fact that there was no evidence of Russia’s interference. Therefore, I believe there is no need to set any preliminary conditions for us to start this dialogue. We must immediately sit down and talk. What is wrong with that approach? We are not proposing anything that does not meet our partners’ interests. If someone thinks that someone else is interfering in their affairs, well, let us come up with some general rules and develop verification tools to monitor compliance. Frankly, I do not understand where this persistence is coming from.

During the last months of President Obama’s presidency, his administration sent us a message to the effect that, indeed, it had taken them a while to review this matter, but they are now ready for a dialogue. Unfortunately, this ended quickly, and another president came to office. We started from centre-field with the new administration. Again, almost four years later now, we have not accomplished much.

I strongly hope that when the elections are over, our partners will return to this issue and respond positively to our proposals.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Fyodor Voitolovsky, Director of IMEMO, our flagship institute of international relations. Please.

Fyodor Voitolovsky: Mr President, in your statement today you mentioned one of the most burning issues of global politics, arms control. During the Cold War and especially at its final stage, the Soviet Union and the United States both applied a huge amount of efforts to create a network of treaties and a system of confidence-building measures, which limited the quantitative growth of their arsenals and reduced the risk of a conflict. Over the past 20 years, our American partners have consistently and very easily dismantled this system: first the ABM Treaty, and then the INF and Open Skies treaties. As of now, there are problems with extending the New START Treaty. Hence my question. Do you think the arms control system has a future? What new moves can be taken in this sphere?

Thank you.

Fyodor Lukyanov: I would like to add that we have a great number of questions about strategic offensive arms and especially the latest initiative advanced two days ago, and also a great deal of bewilderment over what this may mean and whether Russia has made excessive concessions.

Vladimir Putin: You asked if such arms control treaties have a future. I think that the world will have no future unless limits are put on the arms race. This is what all of us should think about, and this is what we are urging all of our partners to think about.

All of us are well aware of the problem, and you have mentioned this just now: withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, the INF Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty (the United States has not officially pulled out of it yet, but it has stated that it had launched the withdrawal process). Why? What is the reason for this decision? They do not even try to explain. They simply do not explain. Our European colleagues tell us, “Let them withdraw, but you should not do the same.” I reply, “All of you are NATO members, and so you will make flights and forward the data you collect to the Americans, while we will be unable to do this because we will remain committed to the Treaty. Let us not play dumb. Let us be honest with each other.” In fact, as far as I am aware, the United States’ European partners would like it to remain a member of the Open Skies Treaty, to keep it intact.

With regard to the INF Treaty, we have spoken about it many times, and I do not want to go over it again. When withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, the United States acted openly, directly and bluntly, but honestly. Here, though, they came up with an excuse and accused Russia of some violations, and then withdrew from the Treaty. If this were the case, if everything were just like our American partners are saying, they could also go ahead and violate it without much ado. Who was stopping them? Instead, they took this step publicly for everyone to see.

Just do not tell me that they are white and fluffy goody two-shoes who are not into underhand dealings. We are aware of what is happening with verification, in the sphere of nuclear weapons among other thing, where they weld the lids or tamper with the aircraft. They get away with it and do not let us in there. Okay, we keep quiet, but the experts know what I am talking about. They just made it a point to take these steps, and to do so publicly, with broad coverage. Clearly, they are pursuing a political goal. I just do not see any military purpose here. But the best solution is for the verification and monitoring to be implemented by all contracting parties, so that our agreements are reliably protected by these monitoring systems.

Now, START-3.We took account of all the problems when we were negotiating these issues. Only one thing was left out. It is what Russia acquired in response to the United States withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. Precisely in response to the withdrawal. I am referring to our innovative high-precision hypersonic weapons. Indeed, neither the United States nor other countries have access to such weapons, although they are working on it, and someday they will have them as well. They are telling us, “You have it, we do not, so we must take this into account.” Well, we do not mind, let us take it into account. Both regarding the number of carriers and the number of warheads. We do not mind.

There are other issues that we can discuss. But what choice do we have? The treaty expires in February. After all, my proposal is very straightforward. It lies on the surface. Nothing will happen if we extend this agreement, without any preconditions, for one year and persistently work on all the issues of concern both to us and the Americans. We will work on it together and look for solutions.

After all, the trick is that we have had hardly any constructive discussions about this so far. Our partners, to put it bluntly, shied away from a direct and substantive professional discussion. The treaty will expire in February 2020, and that is all we have left now.

Question: What is better: to preserve the current treaty as it is, to start discussing it in detail and try to find some compromise during the year or to lose it altogether and leave us, the US and Russia, and the entire world practically without any legal foundation that limits the arms race? I believe the second option is much worse than the first.

I think it is simply unacceptable but I have said, and I want to emphasise it once again, that we are not holding on to this treaty. If our partners decide it is not necessary – all right, let it be, there is nothing we can do to prevent them. Our security, Russia’s security will not be damaged by this, especially because we have the latest weapons systems. This is the first part.

The second part boils down to making these agreements multilateral by including our Chinese friends in them. But are we against this? Russia is not against this but just do not shift on us the responsibility of making this treaty multilateral. If someone wants to do this, it is fine to try to achieve this. We do not object to this. Are we an obstacle on this road? No.

But the arguments quoted by our Chinese friends are very simple. China is an enormous country, a great power with an enormous economy and 1.5 billion people. But the level of its nuclear potential is almost twice, if not more lower than that of Russia and the US. They are asking a lawful question, “What will we limit? Or will we freeze our inequality in this area?” What can you reply to this? It is the sovereign right of a 1.5 billion strong nation to decide on the best way of building its policy on ensuring its own security.

Of course, it is possible to turn this into a subject of an argument or discussion and simply block any agreement. But may I ask why would only China be pressed to be involved in this process and in signing this treaty? Where are the other nuclear powers? Where is France that, as the press reports, has just tested another submarine-launched cruise missile? Great Britain is also a nuclear power. There are other nuclear states that are not officially recognised as such, as it were, but the whole world knows that they have nuclear arms. So, are we going to behave like ostriches? Hide our heads in the sand and pretend that we do not understand what is going on? What we need is not a checkerboard pattern on our car. We need to drive it, therefore we need to ensure security. So, let us get them involved as well. Let us do it. We are not against this. The only question is whether there is any reason for this, a goal to strive for, whether there is any positive example to follow such as the agreements between the US and Russia? Or is there nothing at all?

We are ready to work from scratch, from centre-field, fine. If you ask about our position, I believe it is better not to lose what was achieved before, to move forward from the positions that have already been reached by previous generations, by the leaders of our countries. However, if our partners decide on something different, we are willing to work in any format and on any of these tracks.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Anatol Lieven, another one of our veterans, who could not come to this meeting but is taking part in it via videoconference. Please.

Anatol Lieven: Thank you very much, Mr President, for speaking to us. And I would also like to thank you personally for your very strong statement on climate change and the environment.

My question, however, relates to the new outbreak of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia, like other members of the international community, has been trying very hard to bring about a peaceful solution to this conflict, but so far these efforts have failed. If they continue to fail, given Russia’s old historic links and given Russia’s military alliance with Armenia, will it be necessary in the end for Russia to take sides against Azerbaijan and Turkey?

On the other hand, could this perhaps provide a positive opportunity for Russia, given the increasing confrontation which we see between France and Turkey over Turkey’s claims in the Eastern Mediterranean? Could this perhaps be an opportunity for a rapprochement between Russia and France and other West European countries? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I did not quite understand the last part of the question. What does the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict have to do with this?

Fyodor Lukyanov: Maybe he meant the possibility of rapprochement with France and Europe, since Turkey is now opposed to both them and, to a degree, to us?

Vladimir Putin: I see.

Let us begin at the beginning, with Nagorno-Karabakh and who to support in this conflict. You said that Russia has always had special relations with Armenia. But we have also always had special ties with Azerbaijan as well. There are over 2 million Armenians and some 2 million Azerbaijanis living in Russia, both those who have come to Russia in search of jobs and those who live here permanently. They send billions of dollars to their families back home. All these people have stable and close ties with Russia at the humanitarian level, person-to-person, business, humanitarian and family ties. Therefore, Armenia and Azerbaijan are both equal partners for us. And it is a great tragedy for us when people die there. We would like to develop full-scale relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Yes, there are some individual elements in each case, and some things in our relations with one partner differ from our relations with the other partner. In the case of Armenia, it is Christianity. But we also have very close ties with Azerbaijan in other spheres.

Speaking about religion, I would like to point out that nearly 15 percent of Russian citizens are Muslims. Therefore, Azerbaijan is not an alien country to us in this sense either.

But what we certainly cannot forget is what happened in the destiny of the Armenian people, the Armenian nation during World War I. This is an enormous tragedy for the Armenian people, This is the second part.

The third part is based on the fact that this conflict broke out not just as an interstate conflict or struggle for territories. It started with ethnic confrontation. Regrettably, it is also a fact that violent crimes against the Armenian people were also committed in Sumgait and later in Nagorno-Karabakh. We must consider all this in a package.

At the same time, we understand that a situation where Azerbaijan has lost a substantial part of its territory cannot continue. Over the years, we have suggested many diverse options for settling this crisis with a view to stabilising the situation in the long-term historical perspective.

I will not go into detail at this point but believe me, this was intensive work on bringing the positions of the parties closer. Sometimes it seemed like a bit more effort, another small step and we would find the solution. Regrettably, it did not happen, and today we are seeing the worst-case scenario in this conflict. The death of people is a tragedy. There are heavy losses on both sides. According to our information, there are over 2,000 dead on either side. The total number of victims is already approaching 5,000.

Let me emphasise that the Soviet Union, the Soviet army lost 13,000 people during the ten years of war in Afghanistan. Now the toll is almost 5,000 in such a short span of time. And how many are wounded? How many people, how many children are suffering? This is why it is a special situation for us.

Yes, the Minsk Group was established, I believe, in 1992. As its co-chairs, Russia, France and the US are responsible for organising the negotiating process. It is clear, and I am 100 percent confident of this, that all participants in the process are sincerely striving to settle the situation. That said, nobody is interested in this as much as Russia is, because this is a very sensitive issue for us. This is not just happening before our eyes, but in a broad sense, it is happening with our people, our friends and our relatives. This is why we are in a position that allows us to be trusted by both sides and play a substantial role as a mediator on the rapprochement of positions in settling this conflict. I would very much like to find a compromise here.

As you may be aware, I maintain close contacts with both President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan. I speak to them on the phone several times a day. Our respective foreign ministers, defence ministers and heads of special services are constantly in contact. Foreign ministers of both countries came to us again. Today, or rather on October 23, they will have a meeting in Washington. I strongly hope that our American partners will act in unison with us and promote a settlement. Let us hope for the best. This covers the first part.

The second part concerns disputes within NATO between Turkey and France. We never take advantage of frictions between other states. We have good and stable relations with France. I would not say they are full-fledged, but they hold a lot of promise and, in any case, have a good track record.

Our cooperation with Turkey is expanding. Turkey is our neighbour, and I can tell you in more detail how important interaction between our states is for both Turkey and Russia.

I do not think anyone needs our mediation. Turkey and France are perfectly capable of regulating relations between themselves. No matter how tough President Erdogan’s stance may look, I know that he is a flexible person, and finding a common language with him is possible. Therefore, I hope the situation will get back to normal here as well.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, a follow-up if I may, since it is a hot topic.

Still, Turkey’s much more active role than ever before is what makes the current crisis in the South Caucasus different. You said President Erdogan is flexible. That may well be the case as you spent a lot of time with him. However, many experts believe that Erdogan’s policy is actually about expanding his zone of influence to the borders of the former Ottoman Empire. These borders stretched far and wide, as we know, and they enclosed a lot of territory, including Crimea, which was part of it at some point. It was a long time ago, but nonetheless.

Should we not fear that if this becomes a consistent policy, we would have certain differences with Ankara?

Vladimir Putin: Russia is not afraid of anything. Thank goodness, we are not in a position where we should be afraid of anything.

I do not know about President Erdogan’s plans or his attitude towards the Ottoman legacy. You should ask him about it. But I know that our bilateral trade exceeds $20 billion. I know that Turkey is really interested in continuing this cooperation. I know that President Erdogan is pursuing an independent foreign policy. Despite a lot of pressure, we implemented the TurkStream project together rather quickly. We cannot do the same with Europe; we have been discussing this issue for years, but Europe seems unable to show enough basic independence or sovereignty to implement the Nord Stream 2 project, which would be advantageous to it in every respect.

As for Turkey, we implemented our project quite quickly, despite any threats. Erdogan, who was aware of his national interests, said that we would do it, and we did it. The same is true of our ties in other areas, for example, our military-technical cooperation. Turkey decided it needed a modern air defence system, and the world’s best is the S-400, a triumph of Russian industry. He said he would do it, and he bought it. Working with such a partner is not only pleasant but also safe.

As for aspirations, regarding Crimea or anything else, I know nothing about them, and I do not care about them because the interests of Russia are reliably protected, take my word for it. I am sure that our other partners are fully aware of this.

Regarding Turkey’s refusal to recognise Crimea as part of Russia, well, we do not see eye to eye on all subjects. For example, we are not always on the same page regarding the situation in the South Caucasus. But we also know about the positions of Europe and the United States. They claim to be true dyed-in-the-wool democrats, but they do not even want to hear about the people of Crimea voting for their future in a referendum, which is the highest form of direct democracy.

As I said, they adopted sanctions against the Crimean people. If Crimea was annexed, then they are the victims. Why are sanctions adopted against the victims? But if they voted freely, it was democracy in action, so why are they being punished for democracy? This is all rubbish and nonsense, but it is also a fact of life. So why point the finger at Erdogan? Just take a look at what is happening in other countries.

This is a consistent stand: he does not recognise Crimea, and he does not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh. What should we do? We must continue working with everyone and remain calm. This is exactly what we have been doing: trying to prove that our position is correct, and we will continue to uphold it, and when positions diverge, we look for compromise.

For example, as far as I know, our views on the developments in the South Caucasus do not coincide, because we believe that conflicts should be settled diplomatically at the negotiating table rather than with the use of armed force. Of course, one could say that talks have been ongoing there for 30 years, but to no avail. Well, I do not see this as a reason to start shooting.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

Of course, Mr Erdogan has been consistent. For example, he recognises Northern Cyprus. But this is perhaps part of the flexibility that you were talking about.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, you are right. I agree. I was supposed to say this but it slipped my mind. But you are correct. Northern Cyprus, yes. However, as far as I know, Turkey does not object to the country finally being unified. The principles of this unification are the problem. But, overall, you are right.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Anatoly Torkunov, President of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Anatoly Torkunov: Mr President,

Although there are still more than two months left in 2020, I think all of us see this year as one of very dramatic and unpredictable events. So of course, there is a joke that goes, if by the end of the year we encounter aliens, nobody will be surprised.

Never mind the aliens, we will see how it goes. My question is, of course, not about them. It is related to the developments around our borders. Thank you for such a detailed and interesting account. As an expert, I was very curious to hear your remarks on the South Caucasus.

But in general, developments around our borders seem to be rather dramatic. Let us take the events in Kyrgyzstan. The elections in that country have always prompted some kind of turbulence, although this year the civil disturbances have been particularly rough. The situation in Belarus is somewhat complicated. There is also the problem of Donbass. I understand that you must be tired of talking about this. We know your firm and consistent stance on this issue.

My question is what are Russia’s current fundamental foreign policy goals in the post-Soviet space, considering that it directly concerns our security and humanitarian links? Today you have stressed several times that these people are not foreigners to us – meaning the Caucasus but also our friends in Central Asia and our friends in Belarus and Ukraine.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: You know this better than anyone else, you are a very experienced person and a professional with a capital “P”. Our policy in the post-Soviet space within the CIS framework is the main component of our overall foreign policy. This is obvious because all the countries you listed and every other country with which we have good, very good multilateral relations, as well as those with whom our ties seem to be in a stalemate in some cases – they are not foreign countries to us all the same. These are not remote countries somewhere overseas about which we know little.

It is obvious that we lived in a single country, and not just for many years but for centuries, We have strong ties and very deep cooperation in the economy, humanitarian ties. We all speak a common language. In a sense, to a greater or lesser degree, we are essentially people of the same cultural space, not to mention our history. We have a common history and a common victory over Nazism. Our predecessors – our fathers and grandfathers – validated our special relations with their blood.

Regardless of the current events and today’s political environment, I am sure that this community of interests will eventually pave the way to the restoration of our ties with all these countries, no matter how difficult our ties with them are.

At the same time, and this is also an obvious fact, when our common state, the USSR began disintegrating, the people who dealt with this did not think about the consequences this would lead to, something they should have thought about. But it was clear that our neighbours did not always have identical interests. Sometimes their interests diverged and rope pulling was always possible. I believe we must and will find solutions to complicated issues in any way we can, but we need to avoid fueling or exaggerating anything or emphasising disputed issues. On the contrary, we must look at what can and must unite us and what does unite us. What is this? Our common interests.

Look, with respect to economic integration, who is not interested in this? Only our competitors. And the post-Soviet countries are bound to understand, at least smart people are bound to understand that a concerted effort, considering we have a common infrastructure, common transport and energy system and a common language that unites rather than divides us, etc., is our distinct competitive advantage in achieving the things for which some economic associations and structures have been fighting for decades, while we have received all this from our predecessors. We must use this, and this brings benefits to all of us. It is absolutely obvious that this is simply beneficial.

Look, Ukraine saw a revolution in 2004, and then in 2014 another revolution, a state coup. What happened as a result? Read the statistics published by the Ukrainian statistical services: shrinking production, as if they had more than one pandemic. Some of the local industries, ones the entire Soviet Union and Ukraine itself were proud of – the aircraft industry, shipbuilding, rocket building – developed by generations of Soviet people, from all Soviet republics, a legacy Ukraine, too, could and should be proud of – are almost gone. Ukraine is being de-industrialised. It was perhaps the most industrialised Soviet republic, not just one of them. There was of course the Russian Federation, Moscow, St Petersburg, Siberia, the Urals – all right, but Ukraine still was one of the most industrialised republics. Where is all this now and why is it lost?

It was just the stupidity of those who did it, just stupidity, that is all. But I hope that these common interests will still pave the way for common sense.

You just mentioned Belarus – indeed, we have witnessed these turbulent processes there. But there is something I would like to highlight As you may have noticed, Russia did not interfere in what was happening there. And we expect no one else to interfere either. No one should be stirring up this conflict to promote their own interests and impose any decisions on the Belarusian people. I already said in my opening remarks that nothing introduced from the outside without taking into account the peculiarities, culture and history of the people will ever work for that culture, those people.

The Belarusians themselves should be given the opportunity to calmly handle their situation and make appropriate decisions. The decisions they will make could pave the way for amending the country’s Constitution or adopting a new Constitution. President Lukashenko said this publicly. True, people can say, well, he will just write something for his own benefit, this kind of constitution will have nothing to do with democracy. But, you know, it is possible to slander just about anything, and there are always sceptics. But I already said this, so I will not go into more detail.

But what happened in Belarus compares favourably with what happened on the streets of some big cities in developed democracies, do you see that? There has been some harsh action indeed, I give you that, and maybe even unjustified, but then, those who allowed it should be made responsible. But in general, if you compare and look at the pictures – in Belarus, no one shot an unarmed person in the back, that is what I mean. So let us just calmly deal with this.

The same goes for Kyrgyzstan. I think current developments there are a disaster for Kyrgyzstan and its people. Every time they have an election, they practically have a coup. What does this mean? This is not funny. It means that many of these countries are taking the first steps towards their own statehood and the culture of state development.

I have told my colleagues many times that the post-Soviet countries should be treated with special attention, and we must carefully support these new sprouts of statehood. In no case should we be pressing advice or recommendations on them, and even more so, avoid any interference, because this will destroy the fragile, nascent institutions of sovereignty and statehood in those countries. It is necessary to give these nations the opportunity to carefully build these relations within society leading by example, but not acting like an elephant in a china shop with advice and piles of money to support one or the other side.

I strongly hope that we have helped Kyrgyzstan, as a member of the CSTO and the EAEU, to get on its feet, invested hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Kyrgyz economy and various industries and to help Kyrgyzstan adapt so it can join the EAEU. This also goes for phytosanitary services, customs systems, individual sectors of the economy and enterprises. We have recently implemented projects valued at up to $500 million. I am not even talking about grants that we provide annually in the amount of tens of millions of dollars.

Of course, we cannot look at what is happening there without pity and concern. Please note that we are not pressing our advice or instructions on them. We are not supporting any particular political forces there. I strongly hope that things in Kyrgyzstan will get back to normal, and that Kyrgyzstan will get on the path to progress and we will maintain excellent relations with them.

The same goes for Moldova. We can see the developments related to Moldova, and we know the Moldovan people’s needs for promoting democracy and economy. But who is buying Moldovan wine? Will France buy Moldovan wine? Who needs it in the European markets? They have more than enough of their own. When they ship wine from country to country, even within the European Union, the farmers dump it into ditches just to get rid of the cargo.

This is not just about wine. Other sectors of the economy are so closely tied to Russia that they simply cannot exist without it, at least for now. They can only sell their products in Russia. This is exactly what happened to Ukraine. Therefore, we hope that during the next election in Moldova, the Moldovan people will appreciate the efforts that the current President of the republic is undertaking to build good relations with Russia.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

Hans-Joachim Spanger has joined us from Frankfurt.

Hans-Joachim Spanger: Mr President,

Allow me to turn to an issue which is connected with a person whose name reportedly is not really used in the Kremlin, at least not in public – Alexei Navalny.

A renowned Russian scholar, Dmitry Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, recently stated, let me quote: “The poisoning of the opposition activist Alexei Navalny has become a turning point in Russo-German relations.” And this, according to him, essentially means that, another quote, “this special role performed by Germany and its Chancellor in recent years is now a thing of the past. From now on, Germany will have the same attitude to Russia as all the other countries in Western Europe.”

My question is whether you share this view that a) there was such a special role of Germany in bilateral German-Russian relations, and b) whether you also detect such a turning point now, and if so, what Russia can do to avoid it happening, or, conversely, to turn the turning point around again? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I will start with the first part of your question, about the poisonings. First, we have heard about poisonings here and there many times. It is not the first time.

Second, if the authorities had wanted to poison the person you mentioned or to poison anybody, it is very unlikely they would have sent him for medical treatment to Germany. Don’t you think so? As soon as this person’s wife contacted me, I immediately instructed the Prosecutor General’s Office to see if it was possible to allow him to travel abroad for medical treatment. They could have prohibited it because he was under restrictions due to an investigation and a criminal case. He was under travel restrictions. I immediately asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to allow that. And he was taken to Germany.

Then we were told that they found traces of this infamous Novichok that is known around the world. I said, “Please give us the materials.” Primarily, the biological material and the official report so that we can do more research that can give us official and formal legal grounds for initiating criminal proceedings. What was unusual about this request? Our Prosecutor General’s Office, in keeping with the agreements we have with Germany, has repeatedly forwarded official requests for these materials. Is this unusual? In addition, in a conversation with a European leader, I suggested that our specialists go to Germany and together with French, German and Swedish experts work on site to obtain the necessary materials, which we could use to initiate criminal proceedings and, should this incident prove to be a crime, investigate it. But they would not give us anything. How can you explain why? There is no explanation, there is just no explanation. This all looks strange.

Well, they said that they had found traces of Novichok. Later they passed whatever they had on to the OPCW – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Then quite unexpectedly, they said, it is not Novichok – it is something else. So, is it Novichok or not? This has cast doubt on what was said before. Well, let us investigate the incident together. I say, as I have said several times, that if this is really true, we will definitely conduct an investigation. Unfortunately, there have been attempts on the lives of public figures and businessmen in our country. These cases were investigated in Russia, the culprits were found and punished and, what is important, all of them were punished. We are prepared to spare no effort in this case as well.

As for specific individuals, we have quite a few people like Saakashvili, but I do not think that currently these people have influence to speak of… They may also change, why not? They may undergo some transformation – which, in principle, is not bad – and will also get involved in realpolitik instead of making noise in the street. Take Occupy Wall Street – where is it? Where? Where is all the informal opposition in many European countries or the United States, for that matter? There are many parties there. Where are they? Two parties dominate the political stage and that is it. However, look what is going on in the streets.

This is why we are developing the Russian political system and will continue to do so, offering all political forces – seriously-minded, sincere and patriotic ones – the opportunity to work in compliance with the law.

Now, regarding Germany’s role. We have had very good relations with Germany in the post-war years. I think this was largely due to the German Democratic Republic, the GDR, which was the Soviet Union’s key and main ally in Europe, at least during the time that state existed. We have developed very good relations at the personal and political levels, and in the economic sphere. I know there are still a lot of people there now who sympathise with Russia. And we appreciate that.

Incidentally, the Soviet Union did play a decisive role in the reunification of Germany. It was indeed a decisive role. Some of your current allies, allies of Germany, in fact, objected to the unification of Germany, no matter what they said. We know this; we still have it in our archives. While the Soviet Union played this role. I personally believe that it was the right thing to do, because it was wrong to break a single whole into parts, and if the people there really want something, in Germany’s case they wanted unity, reunification, their pursuit should not be contained by force, as it will not do anyone any good. As for building relations between East and West Germany – this should be up to the Germans, of course. Has Germany played any special role, say, as a mediator between Russia and the rest of the world or Russia and the rest of Europe? I do not think so. Russia is a country that does not need intermediaries.

At the same time, we have always had very special economic, and even humanitarian ties with Germany. Why? Because Germany wanted to play a special role? Well, no, I think it had more to do with Germany’s own interests. Even now, Germany is Russia’s second largest trade partner, in gross volume. It used to be the first, by the way, but it is second to China now, as our trade with China is twice the volume it is with Germany. Nevertheless, there are more than 2,000 companies with German capital in our market. We have a fairly large volume of German investment and German businesses are interested in working in Russia. We are happy about this, because we know these are sincere people interested in expanding ties with our country. I regularly meet with representatives of German business; they are all our friends, or I would like to think so, anyway. This cooperation provides millions of jobs in the Federal Republic of Germany as well, because goods produced by German enterprises go to the Russian market; they enjoy demand here, which means jobs there.

Incidentally, many industries have been seeing a high level of cooperation in recent years. All the above are manifestations of the special nature of our relations, of a mutual interest, I would say. Mutual interest is at the heart of this relationship – not an ambition to play some special role. And this mutual interest will not go away, regardless of the current political situation, and we will maintain such relations, no matter what anyone does.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

We will stay in Europe for now.

Nathalie Tocci from Rome has joined us. Nathalie, please go ahead.

Nathalie Tocci: Thank you, Mr President, for your extremely candid remarks.

You spoke very eloquently about the importance and centrality of the state, but at the same time the importance of international cooperation, and, in particular, highlighted areas like security as well as climate, which I would associate also with energy transition.

Now, when it comes to security, perhaps a follow-up question on the Caucasus and the resumption of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. At some point, hopefully very soon, there will be a new ceasefire. At the same time, the conflict itself won’t be resolved. Given that the current configuration of the three Minsk Group co-chairs has been unable to deliver a settlement in all these 26 years, does Russia think that this is the setup that should be reconsidered?

And then, perhaps, if I may, a question on climate change and, in particular, energy transition. Now, energy transition requires funding. The European Union, for instance, will dedicate approximately 40 percent of its next-generation new fund to the Green Deal. Now, when it comes to Russia, it is clear that, being a country that has depended quite importantly on its fossil fuel exports, stabilising energy markets is obviously going to be key for Russia in order to obtain the funds to move forward.

In your speech you highlighted the importance OPEC Plus had in that stabilisation of the market, and I think Russia itself played an extremely important role in ensuring that supplies were cut so as to stabilise prices. But at the same time, we are now in a second wave of the pandemic, and we are likely to see demand continuing to be rather sluggish. Would you expect, or would you like to see in 2021, a further cut in supplies to ensure a further stabilisation of prices?

Vladimir Putin: I will start with the first part of your question regarding the Minsk Group negotiation format and whether it should be changed. Unfortunately, Nathalie, I cannot answer your question. This is for a number of objective reasons, not because I want to emphasise Russia’s role, we all understand that Russia is where it is, nearby. These are our neighbours, and we have special relations with these countries and these peoples. The influences are very strong. I have already said that 2.4 million Armenians and about 2 million Azerbaijanis live in Russia. They wire tens of billions of dollars to support their families. But this is just one factor. I am not even mentioning many others, including the use of markets, cultural ties, and so on. That is, in our case, the situation is very different from relations between the United States and Armenia, or the United States and Azerbaijan, or even Turkey and Azerbaijan. Therefore, of course, we bear special responsibility and must be very careful in what we do.

In this context, the support of the United States, France and other members of the Minsk Group – 10 or 12 countries – matters a lot to us. There are European countries there, and Turkey as well. Do we need to change anything in this regard? I am not sure. Maybe the format could be tweaked a little, but it is imperative to find constructive and acceptable compromises for both sides.

To reiterate, for many years we have been looking for these compromises. We have proposed, believe me, very persistently, a variety of compromises, down to minute details and kilometres, to tell you the truth. All sorts of “corridors” were suggested, as well as an exchange of territories. All the things that were suggested… Unfortunately, we were unable to identify a solution, which eventually led to this tragedy. I hope these hostilities will come to an end soon. I agree with those who believe, including you, that the first thing is to immediately stop the hostilities. We, in fact, agreed to this during the meeting in Moscow. Unfortunately, we were unable to avoid this situation. We will continue to strive for this.

Now I would like to say a few words about oil and everything connected with it, the demand for oil and so on. We are working on alternative energy sources ourselves. We are one of the richest countries in hydrocarbons, oil and gas, but this does not mean at all that we should not think about the future. We are thinking about it and about solar energy and hydrogen energy. We are working on this. Moreover, we are working on this with a view to improving the current situation.

You know for sure that we have adopted a decision in line with which in 2022 we must make our 300 largest contaminators, that is, 300 major companies that are the biggest emitters of these gases, switch to the most accessible, latest technology that would minimise emissions into the atmosphere and into the environment in general of any pollutants, and reduce these emissions by 20 percent by 2024. But we understand that by dealing with these 300 companies and 12 cities where most of them are located, we will not drastically improve the situation. Our strategy in this respect is aimed at halving all anthropogenic emissions by 2030. We must move towards this goal. We have set it for ourselves and will pursue it consistently. We will work on it.

That said, I do not think it will be realistic, provided every country wants to be competitive, to abandon hydrocarbons in the near future. I believe the near future embraces several decades: 30, 40 and 50 years from now. This is simply unrealistic.

Therefore, when we hear about European novelties on hydrocarbons and relevant restrictions, I do not know on what basis these proposals, conclusions and decisions are made. Are they explained by domestic political struggle? Later they are followed by restrictions in international trade and cooperation, right? I do not think this will lead to anything good. It is necessary to achieve a result in this respect not through restrictions but through cooperation and a striving to reach common goals.

We have done what we ought to do under the Kyoto agreement. We have fulfilled everything we did. We are active participants in the Paris agreement and intend to do all this. We are not shutting down from it. On the contrary, we think this is the way to go.

I spoke in my opening remarks about the speed at which permafrost is disappearing and the consequences this may have for all humankind. And what about us? We have a lot of transport systems in this zone: oil and gas pipelines and railways. Our residential districts and whole cities are located on this territory. This is a huge problem for us, and that is why we are willing to work and will work, both ourselves and at the international level, for a clean environment and a reduction in anthropogenic emissions. That said, it is impossible to do without hydrocarbons.

But there is also natural gas as a hydrocarbon source. It is actually the cleanest of hydrocarbons. And what about nuclear energy? Despite what anyone says or the scare tactics around nuclear power and nuclear power stations, it is one of the cleanest kinds of energy. So what are we talking about? Take automobiles, what is the primary energy source there? Even now, Europe and the entire world still use coal to produce electricity. Yes, coal’s share is falling but it is still used.

Why should any fiscal constraints be placed on using natural gas and even diesel fuel? By the way, it can be made to be extremely clean with modern purification and usage standards. So what is the point? To give competitive advantages to certain sectors of the economy in this or that country, with politicians standing behind it. That is the only way I can explain it, not as a simple desire to improve the environment. Nevertheless, I hope sound decisions will be taken here and we will be able to find a proper balance between environmental and economic interests.

As for the demand for oil and work within OPEC+, we maintain contacts with all our partners – both the Americans and the Saudis. We do so regularly at the ministerial level. Literally just the other day I spoke to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, we consult with one another. We believe there is no need to change anything in our agreements as of yet. We will be closely tracking the recovery of the market. You said it was sluggish. It was but is recovering, I will note, it is growing.

The world economy did indeed contract due to the pandemic but consumption is on the rise. That has something to do with our decisions as part of OPEC+. We are of the opinion that nothing needs to change right now. However, we are not ruling out either maintaining existing production limits or not lifting them as soon as we had intended earlier. And if necessary, we will make further reductions. But currently we do not see the need. We have agreed with all our partners that we will closely monitor the situation.

Russia is not interested in higher or lower prices necessarily. Here, our interests overlap with those of our US partners, perhaps primarily with them, because if oil prices drop significantly, shale production will experience great difficulties, to put it mildly. However, although it did not join the OPEC+ deal in a meaningful way, the United States has, in fact, reduced output.

So, almost all market participants, all players have close or overlapping interests, as diplomats say. We will proceed based on the actual situation so as not to make a negative impact on the market. As you are aware, it is important not to impact geological exploration and the preparation of new wells. If we treat the energy sector like a stepchild and keep saying it is not good enough and does nothing but pollute, investment will dry up, and prices will skyrocket.

That is why it is necessary to act responsibly and not politicise this issue or chatter idly, especially for those who know nothing about it, but to act based on the interests of the global economy and their own countries’ interests and find a compromise between protecting nature and growing the economy, so our people can earn enough to support themselves and their families. We will succeed only if we manage to balance these interests. Anything less will lead to ruin.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, we at the Valdai Club have the pleasure to meet with you regularly and so we have a basis for comparison. If I may say so, I think you have learned something from the pandemic. You sound at peace when you talk about it. I have to ask. You speak so well of Europe, but does it bother you that you are considered almost a murderer there, that those closest to you in government are sanctioned and you are always called on to justify something? And yet I can hear absolution in what you say.

Vladimir Putin: You know, there is little that bothers me, because to a certain extent, when I carry out my official duties, I become the function of protecting the interests of the Russian people and the Russian state. Everything else I try to shut out, so that it does not interfere with the performance of this function. I have had a long time to get used to these attacks, since 2000, when we fought international terrorists in the Caucasus. I heard and saw everything. They portrayed me with fangs and in every other way imaginable. So, it has no effect on me.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Let us jump to the other side. Zhao Huasheng, Shanghai.

Zhao Huasheng: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Zhao Huasheng: Thank you very much for this great opportunity.

This year’s theme at this Valdai Club session is The Lessons of the Pandemic and the New Agenda: How to Turn a World Crisis into an Opportunity for the World. I will paraphrase this: how can we turn a world crisis into an opportunity for Sino-Russian relations?

The world is rapidly changing now. Given these conditions, how do you think Sino-Russian relations should develop? I am referring to political and economic ties and regional and international cooperation. What new approaches can be expected? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I would give a very brief answer to the question on how to further develop Sino-Russian relations: the same way we have been doing it and are doing it now. Russian-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented level.

I am not even mentioning the term “specially privileged” relations, etc. What matters is not the name but the quality of these ties. As for the quality, we treat each other with deep trust; we have established durable, stable, and most importantly, effective ties across the board.

My friend – and I have every reason to call him a friend –President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping and I continuously consult each other on what and how things need to be done based on what has already been achieved, but we always find a way to move forward.

You know that we are working together in aviation and nuclear power engineering, as I have just mentioned, and further developing trade ties. Last year, our trade was over 111 billion. This is far from the highest figure that we can achieve. We will certainly achieve more.

We are developing infrastructure, building bridges that unite us in the literal meaning of the word. We are developing humanitarian ties and seeking implementation rather than simply planning large projects in the areas where we supplement each other effectively, including energy.

China is a big shareholder in a number of large Russian projects on gas production, and later, on liquefaction (LNG). Where are these projects carried out? Not on the border with China but in the north of the Russian Federation. We work together in a variety of other areas. And, as we have said many times, there is no doubt that international cooperation is a very important factor in stabilising world affairs; this is absolutely obvious.

To say nothing of our military and defence industry cooperation. We have traditionally maintained relations in this area on a significant scale. I am not only talking about buying and selling, I also mean the sharing of technologies. We hope to maintain this working relationship with our Chinese friends – a friendly relationship based on mutual respect, oriented toward achieving the best results for the people of both China and Russia.

As for Shanghai, it happens to be a sister city of St Petersburg, where I am from. I have been to Shanghai on more than one occasion. It is a magnificent and beautiful city, and I wish the people of Shanghai all the best.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Here is a follow-up question from China to clarify a bit what you just said. Professor Yan Xuetong wants to ask you a very simple and straightforward question: Is it possible to conceive of a military alliance between China and Russia?

Vladimir Putin: It is possible to imagine anything. We have always believed that our relations have reached such a level of cooperation and trust that it is not necessary, but it is certainly imaginable, in theory.

We hold regular joint military exercises – at sea and on land in both China and the Russian Federation – and we share best practices in the build-up of the armed forces. We have achieved a high level of cooperation in the defence industry – I am not only talking about the exchange or the purchase and sale of military products, but the sharing of technologies, which is perhaps most important.

There are also very sensitive issues here. I will not speak publicly about them now, but our Chinese friends are aware of them. Undoubtedly, cooperation between Russia and China is boosting the defence potential of the Chinese People’s Army, which is in the interests of Russia as well as China. Time will tell how it will progress from here. So far, we have not set that goal for ourselves. But, in principle, we are not going to rule it out, either. So, we will see.

Anyway, we are satisfied with the current state of relations between Russia and China in this area. Unfortunately, we have to confront new threats. For example, the intention stated by our American partners to possibly deploy medium- and short-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific Region, of course, raises alarm, and we undoubtedly will have to take reciprocal steps – this fact is self-evident.

Of course, before it comes to that, we have to see what if anything is going to happen, what threats it will pose to us, and, depending on that, we will take reciprocal measures to ensure our security.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Piotr Dutkiewicz from Canada, please.

Piotr Dutkiewicz: Mr President, thank you so much for this unique opportunity to talk to you.

You mentioned in your speech that the youth will have to push the future of Russia, the development of Russia forward. But young people are very unhappy with the world. Look at what is happening in the US, France and Israel. They are saying we have shut the door to a good future for them. According to international opinion polls, over half of young people think they will live worse than their parents do. But they are not impressed by any of this. So, I would like to ask you as the President of the Russian Federation, what you can advise and offer to Russian youth?

Vladimir Putin: I touched on this in my opening remarks, but I can say it again. Of course, the future belongs to the youth, This is the first thing.

Second, young people are usually discontent not with what is happening but with what they have achieved for today, and they want more. And this is right, this is what underlies progress. This is a foundation for the young people to create a better future than the one we have built. And there is nothing surprising or new in this idea. We can understand this from classic Russian literature. Read Fathers and Sons, it is all there.

But what can we offer? We believe we will give young people more opportunities for professional growth and create more social lifts for them. We are building up these instruments and creating conditions for people to receive a good education, make a career, start a family and receive enough income for a young family.

We are drafting an increasing number of measures to support young families. Let me emphasise that even during the pandemic, most of our support measures were designed for families with children. What are these families? They are young people for the most part.

We will continue doing this in the hope that young people will use their best traits – their daring striving to move ahead without looking back at formalities that probably make older generations more reserved – for positive, creative endeavours. Eventually, the younger generation will take the baton from the older generation and continue this relay race, and make Russia stronger.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

We have an unusual connection with Australia today. I do not remember anything like this before.

Anton Roux, Please, go ahead.

Anton Roux: Thank you, Mr President, for the opportunity to ask you a question. I really appreciated your insightful, heartfelt and considered remarks during your speech; and I come to you from our second state lockdown in Melbourne, Australia, which is also a sister city to St Petersburg. I embrace also your urging to cast aside silo mentalities.

My question is the following: How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be as a world leader and the President of the Russian Federation during the first half of the 21st century? How would you like international historians across the world to write about you and your legacy as a leader, a man and a human being at the end of the 21st century? And how might you shape this any differently during the next phase of your leadership as President of the Russian Federation?

Vladimir Putin: If the translation is correct, you said “who lived in the 21st century.” But, thank God, we are alive and keep living in the 21st century. To be honest, I never think in terms of the areas you mentioned. I do not think about my role in history; those who are interested can decide. I never read a single book about myself.

I just keep working day in, day out, trying to resolve current issues and looking into the future so that these current issues do not stand in the way of achieving our strategic goals. It is, in fact, routine work. I proceed from what I must accomplish today, tomorrow, this year, or in three years given that we plan the budget of the Russian Federation three years in advance.

Of course, as I have said, we do consider strategic goals; this is why we have drafted and continue pursuing national development plans and national projects. But this totally unrelated to any desire to mark my place in history in some way. It is related to something completely different – ensuring the interests of the Russian people, the Russian state, strengthening Russia.

How I will be seen by future generations, I would rather leave to them and their judgment. But then, I do not think I would be interested in these judgments when they are made. In this sense I am a pragmatic person, and I am trying to work not for my image as a world leader, and I do not think I am one (I do not think I am any different from my colleagues – the heads of other states), I work to strengthen my country. This my priority and the meaning of my life.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you. I remember your interview a few months ago, ahead of the constitution referendum, when you openly said that an opportunity to remain in office after 24 years is a guarantee against bureaucratic intrigue, the people around you, so they would not look around in search of a successor.

But if this is true, it is an endless circle; they will always be searching, even while you remain in office.

Vladimir Putin: No, it must definitely end one day, I am perfectly aware of that. And the changes in the Constitution you mentioned are aimed not only at granting the incumbent head of state the right to be elected in 2024 and later, but these amendments are basically aimed at reinforcing the sovereignty of the Russian Federation, outlining our development prospects and building up the fundamental constitutional foundation for progress in the economy, the social sphere and enhancing our sovereignty.

I expect it will all work.

As to what will happen in 2024 or later – we will see when the times comes. Now we all just have to work hard like St Francis, everyone at his or her place.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Alexander Rahr, please.

Alexander Rahr: Mr President, my question is about nostalgia as well. I remember your historical speech at the German Bundestag 20 years ago, where you actually proposed building a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Do you regret that?

Here is my point. The French and the Germans supported the idea. The Eastern Europeans did not. America will not, either. Actually, that keeps us from building our relations with Russia, which, I think, many Europeans would like.

If you had the opportunity to address the Bundestag again, would you also propose working together in the digital sphere or, perhaps, the environment, which would unite Europe and Russia in terms of energy? I think this is a promising idea for the future.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding what I would say if I were speaking there now, here is what happened back then.

At that time (it was 2007, correct?), many of my colleagues told me it was a bit harsh and it was not very good.

What did I actually say? I will refresh your memory. I said it is unacceptable for one country to extend its law beyond its national borders and try to subject other states to its regulations. Something along these lines.

What is happening now? Is it not Western European leaders who are saying that secondary sanctions and extending US jurisdiction to European companies are unacceptable?

If only they had enough guts to listen to what I said back then and to try to at least change the situation, do it carefully, without destroying Atlantic solidarity or the structural arrangement in NATO or elsewhere. I was not talking about that, but about the fact that it is unacceptable and bad for everyone, including those who do this.

Back then, our European partners seemed not to care and everyone looked the other way. Here again, what happened then is happening now. I am saying that this is still bad for everyone, including those who are pursuing or trying to pursue a policy of exceptionalism, because this actually destroys relations and interaction between Europe and the United States, and ultimately causes damage to the United States itself. Why do this?

This fleeting tactical gain that the United States is seeking may lead to negative strategic consequences and the destruction of trust. This is not my business, but since we are having an exchange at the discussion club, I will go ahead and philosophise. This is an absolutely obvious thing.

So, I did not say anything unusual, harmful or aggressive in Munich in 2007. But if I were to speak there now, I would not, of course, say I told you so. I would not do that just out of respect for my colleagues. I am fully aware of the realities back then and today. We do not live in a vacuum, but in real life conditions, our relationships are real and our interdependence is strong.

We understand everything perfectly well, but we need to change things. We are talking about a new world order, so these realities must be taken into account when building modern international relations, which must, of course, be based on consideration for each other’s interests and mutual respect, and respect for sovereignty.

I hope we can build our relations carefully and calmly, without destroying what has been created over previous decades, but while taking into account today’s needs. These relations will meet present requirements and the interests of all participants in international communication.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Alexei Yekaikin. Since we have talked a lot about ecology today, we cannot go without this.

Vladimir Putin: What time is it?

Fyodor Lukyanov: Yes, we are finishing up, Mr President. We feel we have already exceeded our time, but we cannot do without ecology in the end.

Vladimir Putin: No, we cannot. I agree.

Alexei Yekaikin: Thank you, Fyodor.

Good evening, Mr President.

Maybe, this question will seem a bit surprising to you although we have met several times over the years and talked about this. I would like to raise it again. It is about the Antarctic. We spoke about this at the climate session and, in general, this is an anniversary year for us – 200 years since the discovery of the Antarctic.

This is what my question is about. Russia has adopted or is adopting a strategy for developing activities in the Antarctic. A new Vostok station is under construction in the Central Antarctic as part of this strategy. You know this.

It would seem that everything is fine, investment in the infrastructure and the like. So, you may get the impression that we are doing well in the Antarctic. Alas, this is not the case, because the policy is about infrastructure but does not say a word about science. This is a fairly paradoxical situation. I would call it strange because we invest in the infrastructure whereas the main goal for which we need it, that is, science, remains somewhere backstage.

At our Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, we have prepared a draft federal programme for studying the area around the Vostok station for the next 15 years. It has been drafted in detail. It consists of two main themes. The first is the study of the past climate based on ice core data, and this study is very closely connected with the climate theme. Yes, this is drilling the ice, that is right.

The second theme concerns the subglacial lake Vostok. You also know about this. It is one of the most unique phenomena on the planet.

These are two subjects in which we, Russian scientists, are generally strong; we are not trying catch up with anyone in this respect. We are at the proper level and even ahead of some of our colleagues. Nonetheless, there is no government support for research in the Antarctic. I find this strange.

We sent this draft programme to the Ministry of Natural Resources, our relevant ministry. I do not know where exactly it is now. We do not know what happened to it. My question is very simple: does the Russian Government have the opportunity to support our efforts to study the Antarctic or will this topic go down the drain?

After all, it would be a pity to lose our priority in this area.

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Alexei, first of all, the fact that your colleagues and you made it to Lake Vostok and made this discovery, got to this water that is thousands of years old and that was not connected in any way with the world, remaining under the ice, this, of course, is of great interest to people like you, researchers, who study what eventually became the Earth and how the climate was changing.

I saw this; they brought me the core samples and the water. It is exciting. However, the fact that the infrastructure is being created means that preparations for research are underway. I do not know the plans regarding the allocation of funds for these purposes. You said that money was allocated for the infrastructure, but not scientific research. I doubt this is a lot of money. If the Ministry of Natural Resources …unfortunately, budget cuts are underway, which are caused by certain economic difficulties.

I am not sure if it was necessary to cut the already small expenses associated with Antarctic research. I promise I will look into it. We will punish anyone who made a mistake.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, you mentioned in your speech that you do not miss the Cold War. Do you miss anything at all?

Vladimir Putin: My children, I rarely see them.

Fyodor Lukyanov: We at the Valdai Club miss the opportunity to get together in person. With all the great advances in technology that allow us to hold almost complete meetings, we would still very much like to talk in person to you and each other next year.

We have not broken the record; there was a forum where the President spent more time with us, but we are close. We talked with the President of the Russian Federation for almost three hours, for which we are sincerely grateful.

Thank you very much. We will try to quickly get back to our normal schedule, and we look forward to seeing you next year.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much for hosting this.

I want to address all members of the Valdai Club, the analysts, politicians and journalists who work with this entity. It is an entity, because it has been operational for many years now. I hope you find it interesting and useful.

I am grateful to you for showing interest in Russia, in our development plans, in us today and in our history. This means that you are engaged, and it is important for us to know your opinion.

I am saying this sincerely, because by comparing what we are doing, by comparing our own assessments of our progress and our economic and political plans, comparing them with your ideas about what is good and what is bad, we find the best solutions and can adjust our plans.

I want to thank you for this and to wish you every success. I also hope for a personal meeting next time.

Good luck to you. Thank you very much.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much. Good-bye.

Vladimir Putin: Good-bye.

Gosplan: The God that failed

June 04, 2020

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

Gosplan: The God that failed

Between 1989 and 1992 Soviet GDP per head fell by approximately 40 per cent. What happened?

The short century of the Soviet Union which began in 1917 reached its nemesis in 1989. The great experiment was, to all intents and purposes, over. Symbolically this was occasioned by the fall of the Berlin wall when huge crowds of East Germans simply strolled, unmolested by the Volkspolizei, into the western sector of the City. Moreover this historical watershed was to become highly infectious and led to a succession of Potemkin states in the rest of Eastern Europe going their own way (with a little encouragement from the west of course). These monumental events represented an unexpected application of the American ‘domino theory’.

It would be wrong, however, to understate the achievements of Soviet communism. No political/economic system is all bad; name one which is? Russia and its periphery were transformed from rural backwardness into an industrial and military super-power, albeit at a tremendous cost of civil wars and the great purges of the 1930s. That being said the modernization of the USSR enabled it to defeat the Wehrmacht in the Great Patriotic War 1941-45. In Winston Churchill’s words the Red Army had ‘torn the guts’ out of the once mighty German military machine in titanic battles most critical of which were Stalingrad and Kursk – but at a huge cost both economic and human.

On the more positive side the system introduced mass education and welfare systems which provided social security for its citizens. However, all this was achieved at a terrible cost in human lives, economic and social mayhem, including famine in the Ukraine, and absurd and inquisitorial show trials, and the mass destruction and near extinction of the country resulting from its ill-preparedness for war. But the USSR survived and counter-attacked.

As the Red Army went on the offensive and rolled forward into Eastern Europe after Kursk (1943) Soviet client regimes in eastern Europe were created in the Soviet image with the imposition of the Stalinist political and economic system. This was essentially a setting up of puppet states, but almost certainly a mistake as many of these regimes had been former enemies including Romania, Hungary and Slovakia who were integrated into the Soviet bloc with their own little marionette leaders such as Ceaucescu in Romania. Unfortunately, this was accompanied with an unprepossessing and macabre parody of the Great Terror of the 1930s ‘Yezhovschina’ – accompanied by the sinister pantomime of show trials and summary ‘liquidations’.

Moreover, armed insurrections against the regimes in both East Germany 1953 and Hungary 1956 were brutally suppressed. The system became a little more tolerant after the 1960s but never really lost its essentially totalitarian character. This was unquestionably a rigidly hierarchical society and, contrary to its claims, never in any sense egalitarian. However, unlike capitalism where power was in the hands of the owners of the means of production and their political apologists, power in these societies was concentrated in the state bureaucracy which included most importantly the communist party and the secret police.

It is in the nature of things that wherever societal scarcity exists – and this includes just about all societies – inequalities will arise. In this respect communism was no different to capitalism. The prominent East German dissident, Rudolf Bahro drew attention to this in 1978 as follows. ‘’ … Individual opportunity in our society – the DDR – is on the whole just as unequally distributed as in late capitalist society.’’ (1)

However it was the structural anomalies internal to the system rather than individual shortcomings of particular party officials such as Stalin and Ceaucescu, although these certainly played a key role. No, the problem was ultimately systemic, and it was this which eventuated in the final collapse. These internal structural weaknesses – which incidentally were just as applicable to capitalism and communism, given that the nature of these fault-lines and the dates were different – gave rise to inertia, and stagnation. The crisis became unavoidable.

This situation was in the fullness of time to become common knowledge as early as 1960. Disturbing reports from Soviet economists showed slowing rates of growth particularly in agriculture and manufacturing, in addition the poor quality of many goods and the most backward industry in the modern world. In particular there was criminal wastage in production ranging from timber to steel. Among the workforce there was widespread absenteeism and alienation. By 1980 the situation had reached critical levels. Gorbachov’s perestroika and Glasnost reforms were too little, too late, since by this time the entire system was beyond reform.

Various reasons have been put forward to explain this collapse. What gave rise to this systemic failure of communism and the command economy? The short answer was a lack of understanding of economic policy based upon a system of central planning and the role of the market mechanism. In a market economy price signals tells producers what, how, and when to produce. Take away this mechanism and decisions of these types are left to the planners. This is not to say that a market mechanism cannot be part of an integrated system of overall economic planning. Models of economic integration based upon markets and planning have been part of state-capitalist and social-democratic economic systems for at least a century and perhaps more. But the Gosplan model was characterised by the almost total exclusion of the market mechanism from economic policy. Instead of which various ministries were set up with a brief to oversee the establishment and implementation of what turned out to be policies with which none had any experience of the business end of economics whatsoever. Ministries responsible for the production of goods were not joined up to other ministries responsible for packaging, production and distribution. The situation was frankly amateurish, and the lack of overall coordination was built into the system from the outset.

Then there were also additional problems of accountability. These unwieldly and unresponsive bureaucracies, which were becoming increasingly parasitic and self-serving had little idea of what to produce and how much. In a market system a product which is shoddy will often fail as consumers turn to other producers to spend their hard-earned cash. In a command economy firms which do not deliver the goods go bust. But this was not a market economy; it was a centrally planned economy which could not go bust and there was insufficient incentive to maintain standards of excellence. In defence of a command economy it could be argued that it is good for producing T34 tanks, but the war was over and economic diversification was conspicuous by its absence.

Certainly efforts at quality control were attempted but none of them worked satisfactorily. Planners would specify a number of tractors to be produced by tonnage and the response of the local manager was to weld steel plates to each tractor as it moved off the assembly line. Tonnage quotas were thus being duly met and even over-fulfilled.

Given the distance between the planners and the local managers the imposition of production targets by the former tended always to be overoptimistic and politically driven. It became a pretend game. Everything was fine and dandy and nobody wanted to rock the boat. This was eerily similar to the current situation of western capitalism in 2008 and 2020. A much vaunted but totally overblown, western economic model – wholly deregulated, privatised and liberalised and based upon ‘pretend and extend’ gimmicks as well as other exotic variations of a Ponzi scheme whereby existing (record) debt levels are serviced by newer injections of debt.

But let’s get back to the USSR (courtesy) of the Beatles. This lack of economic realism was mirrored on the part of the local managers. These functionaries had a vested interest in keeping the production figures low and exaggerate the need for as much as possible in terms of resource allocation. So from the outset the information flow from managers to planners was invariably mendacious and distorted. Resources required would always be overstated, capacity underestimated and hoarded resources undeclared. This of course resulted in a gross misallocation of resources. Colossal waste was also a feature of this system since there was no incentive to reduce costs.

The system was to become ossified with the final nail in the coffin, being the Soviet economy’s inability to integrate the new technologies – which were just coming on stream in the 1970s and 1980s – into its production methods. A writer at the time noted that ‘’ … the most telling evidence of the command economy’s failure … was its inability to absorb and apply the latest developments in science and technology to the Soviet economy.’’ The book further quotes Gorbachov as saying: ‘‘At a time when the western countries started a large-scale restructuring of their economies with the emphasis on resource saving and the latest science and state-of-the-art technology, scientific progress slowed down (in the Soviet Union) mostly because the economy was not responsive to change.’’ (2)

This was hardly surprising given the universal nature of bureaucracy (the ‘Iron Cage’ as the great social theorist Max Weber 1864-1920 had called it) and its tendency toward routine and inertia. Like it or not this is a universal drift in the modern age. For those pursuing career paths within the organization, it became no longer a means to an end, but an end in itself. In sociological jargon this is known as ‘’goal displacement’’, This is explained as follows:

‘Initiative within a bureaucracy is always restricted and discouraged … not so much by getting the initiator into trouble … but rather by the experience of the fruitlessness of personal investment in any affair which oversteps one’s realm of competence. As far as careers are concerned … a progressive image is far more useful than any genuine activity, which disturbs the ‘’normal functioning’’ and may always be inconvenient, for whatever reason. The purpose of rivalry between employees who wish to get ahead can only ever be to present a ‘’positive appearance’’ to those above. The incentive to conform is thus built into the initiative mechanism from the outset … Bureaucracy, as the dominant form of management and work organization produces a specific human type of conservative mediocrity.’ (3)

By the 1980s the USSR was lagging badly behind the capitalist west in the development and application of computer technology, cybernetics, robotization, new energy sources, chemically-created construction materials, biotechnology and the like. Military spending was double that of the US from an economy half its size. What had become known was that ‘actually existing socialism’ was losing and eventually lost the economic cold war with western capitalism.

By 1990/91 the jig was up. The end of the Soviet system had sealed the initial, and I emphasise ‘’initial’’, triumph of globalization. The country was then thrown open to the vagaries of unrestricted competition both internal and external. The Soviet Union was fragmented into a number of smaller quasi-states with Russia being stripped of its industries. This involved the giving away of most massive of former state enterprises for pennies in the pound to ex-communist technocrats and secret service thugs. Russia was left with 70% of its economy in the hands of thirty-six corporations. That is to say, 36 men. It had been converted from a highly centralised public system into the most concentrated private sector of the world’s big economies. This was the beginning of the Yeltsin catastrophe: privatisation, liberalisation and free-trade became the new orthodoxy; about which the less said the better. It took Putin to stop the rot in 2000 but the struggle between the Atlantic integrationists and Eurasian Sovereignists – continues and is far from over.

The damage done during the Yeltsin period set back Russia and its economy to a semi-peripheral status. Trade policy became a case in point. It shouldn’t be a secret to anybody with a rudimentary understanding of international trade relations that when developed nations trade with developing nations most of the trade advantages accrue to the developed nations. This is due to the formers lower cost structures, higher levels of productivity, and comparative advantages in higher, value-added, research-intensive goods in the secondary product markets. However, the peripheral economies tend to produce primary goods – predominantly agriculture, raw materials, and plantation fruits.

As income rises expenditure on these income-inelastic primary goods stays static, or actually falls; contrariwise the demand for secondary goods, which are income-elastic – predominantly cars, computers, IPhones, etc. – rises in line with rises in incomes. From this it follows that primary exporting states need to sell more of their goods to developed states because the ‘Terms of Trade’ (see below fn 4) have a tendency to move in favour of the developed economies and against the developing states. It is argued that contemporary Russia is in international terms a semi-peripheral economy.

It has been particularly difficult for Russia to break out of this straight-jacket since Russian leaders have been seriously handicapped by the need to struggle against this internal corporate/criminal power structure. And it is a struggle which continues. Underdeveloped or semi-developed economies will not ascend the ladder of economic growth by relying on the production of primary goods. A policy of free-trade (actually there is no such thing, but let that pass) was rejected in the 19th century by the United States – under the influence of Alexander Hamilton, and in Germany by Friedrich List. The object of their mercantilist strategic trade policy was to catch up and pass Britain during the course of the 19th century, which they did. Russia would do well to note this.

Summing up: The development of the USSR so long as the economic goals were simple and could be calibrated quantitatively – tons of steel, kilowatts of electricity, or numbers of tractors produced – centralised planning worked relatively well. Alec Nove, probably the most objective analyst of the Soviet economy over the years said.

‘’Planning worked in those sectors to which the state gave priority and whose needs could easily be quantified. This applied first and foremost to armaments, but also to electrical energy, where the product is homogeneous and thus readily ‘plannable’. It also applied to the production of oil and gas, and to the construction of a network of pipelines. In each of these fields the Soviet Union made impressive gains.’’ (5)

However as the Soviet economy became more complex, as the number and variety of products expanded, and it became increasingly obliged to measure its performance against that of advanced capitalism the systems inherent limitations and negative aspects were revealed.

‘’The plan as it turned out, was not really a plan at all. Simply at the technical level the central apparatus had no way to process – let alone to absorb and evaluate – all the necessary information on resources, performance, transportation, warehousing, technology, consumer needs, and so on that would have to go into developing a realistic plan. (Since computers might have made at least the gathering and processing of such information possible, the fact that the Soviet planners never managed to ensure the full development and employment of computer technology is itself highly suggestive of the plans arbitrary character and the systems inherent inertia.) (6)

The Soviet Union and the other command economies stagnated and collapsed due to their general backwardness and involving inter alia the absence of any reliable method of resource allocation and quality control. The absence of the market mechanism in this respect left production and allocation decisions dependent on the subjective judgements of the planners as well as those nefarious semi-criminal activities cited above. This resulted in a misallocation of resources on a gigantic scale as well as inferior quality goods

However, it should be noted that the collapse of the command economies in Eastern Europe did not herald the beginning of any capitalist nirvana – quite the contrary. If anything the post-communist societies all experienced a catastrophic fall in production, living standards and most seriously of all depopulation. Some have now recovered but many are still worse off than before the fall of communism, and many are nostalgic for the old days of communist rule. The move from the command economy to the most extreme form of capitalism was in fact a jump out of the frying pan into the fire for some.

Thus by way of conclusion we may say that in contemporary society any viable economic system must include both planning and market/price mechanisms. Heeding the lessons of history it can clearly be discerned – unless we are ideologically blinkered – that both pure free markets (if they ever really existed) and command economies simply do not work in the narrower sense and record; the first because it is based upon totally unrealistic assumptions and works with timeless and purely formal categories of value, price and efficiency; these categories have little or no relation to the real world of actually existing capitalism, devoid as they are of any human or empirical dimensions; and the latter because it is simply too rigid and unresponsive to change and innovation which, because of its essential characteristics, it will tend to stifle and suffocate.

Markets are a good servant but a bad master. A system of regulated markets – this regulation being particularly rigorous in the case of financial markets – and economic planning are essential to any economic system since it is necessary to combine innovation and dynamism with stability and continuity. It is to be hoped perhaps some time in the future economists will remember these lessons when attempting to construct any social and economic orders.

(1) Rudolf Bahro – The Alternative in Eastern Europe – 1987

(2) Irwin Silber – Socialism: What Went Wrong? – 1996.

(3) Bahro – Ibid

(4) Terms of Trade. The main theory for the declining commodity terms of trade is known as the Prebisch-Singer thesis, after two development economists who explored its implications in the 1950s. They argued that there was and would continue to be a secular decline in the terms of trade of primary commodity exporters due to a combination of low income and price elasticities of demand. This decline would result in an ongoing transfer of income from poor to rich countries would only be combated only by the efforts to protect domestic manufacturing industries through a process that has become to be known as import substitution. But as well as this growth and modernisation can and has been achieved by export driven growth characteristic of East Asian countries. It could be argued that this problem of primary producing countries is not dissimilar to the position of Russia. It was argued that,

‘’After the Soviet Union collapsed, its former constituent republics embarked on the transition to capitalism. But this was not, and could not be, a transition to the highly developed capitalism of the global centre … within the framework of the world capitalist system, these newly converted states could only occupy a place in the backward and dependent periphery … The share in exports represented by products of manufacturing industry is very low … (Moreover) the data shows that the net outflow of private capital is a persistent tendency of the Russian economy. In the crisis of 2014-15, alone, it exceeded $210 billion. This huge amount could have been used to increased wages and investment and overcome the slump.’’ See Semi-Peripheral Russia and the Ukraine Crisis, Ruslan Dzarasov – Department of Political Economy, Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Moscow.

(5) Abraham Brumberg – Chronicle of a Revolution – 1990 – p.54)

(6) Irwin Silber – Actually Existing Socialism – Socialism: What went wrong. pp,124/125 – Pluto Press 1994

May 17: The date the Great Lockdown must end or Everything Bubble 2 pops

May 17: The date the Great Lockdown must end or Everything Bubble 2 pops

May 07, 2020

By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

The 2008 crisis was top-down – the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers came out of the blue to the average person. Contrarily, a result of the Western coronavirus overreaction, the 2020 economic implosion is building from the bottom-up: it will occur from the result of millions of tiny Lehmans throwing in the towel.

Reality was ignored for 12 years: small- and medium-sized businesses need as many rounds of QE as their corporate & high finance counterparts. Fatally for the West’s “real” economy, QE was hoarded instead of downloaned. They still aren’t getting loans: In the US only three million small businesses are getting federal aid out of 30 million – 90% remain frozen out of public policy.

There is a very important difference between the relative ease big companies can get back to work, and the enormous inertia faced by small businesses. Corporations can reportedly get back to normal in 5 to 8 weeks – this is why a corporate-focused media talked with such certainty about a “V-shaped” recovery when the Great Lockdown began. They ignored the outlook of the small businessperson, who often doesn’t have the savings to get back to work and, more crucially, maybe not even the desire.

Me, I never wanted to be a small-business owner – it seems like a LOT of stress for usually very little profit. And owning a restaurant, just so I can freak out twice a week over the possibility of being stuck with unsold fish? Pills are a much easier way to cause my early death. But only an inexperienced and judgmental teenage Che Guevara would not realise that these “humble capitalists” often display global values like hard work, thrift, diligence, etc.

Because of a dogmatic hatred towards capitalism and a disinterest in how economics works, many modern leftists foolishly do not include small proprietors in the proletariat (modern far-rightists do not dismiss their importance, however); and yet they do include craftsman, essentially entrepreneurs who can be even more overcharging, prone to bribery and lordly (nowhere more so than in Paris, in my experience). In France the precarious small shopkeeper is very often an ardent supporter of the Yellow Vests, for example.

The reality is that socialism is mostly a worldview, mindset and acceptance of an idealistic and never-ending task: to assume something about somebody because they are in a certain class or group is stupid prejudice. Deng Xiaoping rightly declared that journalists are in the working-class, and we are… but should we really include all those journalists who get paid an Uber-like/freelancer pittance and yet slavishly champion the upper class and their faux-values to class-jump as soon as possible?

The Western economy hinges on the loneliness of Mom and Pop – give them QE (and a phone call)

One one hand, all Westerners need to do is to get back to work (to satisfy their creditors even more than their Protestant workaholism) – who cares if nobody buys a car as long as cars are being made: Over-supply would be a temporary problem, but it would provide a solution to the problem of the lack of wages being paid. Once people have wages, then they can buy and reduce that oversupply.

On the other hand, many jobs are expressly about getting people to buy – retail, restaurants and many Mom and Pop shops, for example. But how can they put their Confucian values in practice when they aren’t allowed to open up their stores? To me it’s extremist and absurd: After all these weeks we really can’t arrange ANY safe way for Mom and Pop to sell some goods for even ONE hour a day?

There’s another problem just as big – the long-term depression of consumer demand which seems like a certain outcome of the Great Lockdown: what’s the point of opening up when finally allowed if consumers are so scared of making purchases that nobody shows up to buy? The compounding parallel problem of not having any wages to buy with also applies here.

The prospect of multi-month loneliness and poverty for the small business owner is thus a huge variable in the determining the severity of the upcoming economic chaos.

Furthermore, a lot of what small businesses sell isn’t actually necessary – you can, in fact, just eat at home. Yet most Western economies are consumer economies heavily predicated on consumption; why anybody needed a yearly iPhone upgrade was only explained by the University of Missouri’s Thorstein Veblen and his theory of conspicuous consumption, but how will you know if you are impressing the opposite sex when they’re all wearing masks? (LOL, this is not a good era to be single!)

Many business owners are going to have a light flipped on – they don’t need the hassle anymore. They’re going to shut the lights before the bank repossesses the light bulbs, and live off the public dole while they brainstorm and query contacts for a new job. So not only will they be added to the unemployment ranks but – even worse – their employees as well. Corporate layoffs make the headlines but small businesses provide half of all jobs in the US.

Another thing is certain – this can only happen once: a second Great Lockdown is a financial impossibility for the Mom and Pop shop, and likely stroke-inducing as well.

Yet many nations are planning exactly that: staggering and dragging out lockdowns through the summer, like France’s insane (but still tentative) plan to shut down both international and domestic tourism even though it’s at least 10% of their economy. The Eurozone has a huge competitive advantage upon reopening because they actually cared about protecting jobs and supply chains – he who restarts first, and better, captures market share – but their policy-making idiots are poised to squander it via prolonged lockdowns.

If we extend “the greatest economic shock in our lifetimes” then it is no longer just a “shock” but a long-term policy; this policy is not something which small businesspeople can withstand without QE injections similar to what big banks have been given to prevent their own bankruptcies.

What’s certain is that half of all US small business owners said they could only last two months under Great Lockdown conditions – 80% of Americans were on lockdown on April 1.

Hubei was locked down for 76 days, with CCP members bringing people food thanks to a modern, 99%-focused, socialist-inspired democracy (with both direct and indirect aspects, just like West democracy) which actually listens to the needs of their people. That’s a “good” lockdown, which the West cannot/will not do for their 99%. Anybody who said in January, “The neoliberal Western economy has safeguards which would allow it to survive two months of no profit-making/wage-making,” would surely have been laughed at, after all.

I have crunched the data and May 17 should be circled on your calendars as the “tipping point”. If the Great Lockdown is not rolled back by then, there is no going back – the West’s Everything Bubble 2 economy will have been popped by the corona hysteria.

Western policymakers only understand corporate psychology, not Mom and Pop’s, nor that of (working, single) Mom

The stories from the US lower classes are just staggering: The Chicago Tribune’s Feeling hopeless? Worried? Chicago-area pandemic survey shows you’re not alone was not a emotion-focused piece – its poll found that a stunning 42% of locals think it’s unlikely they will have a job by the end of May, and that 23% had run out of food in the last month and had no money to buy more. That portends economic catastrophe.

Such a study of the general public is not an outlier: Over half of poor US households say someone has already been fired or taken a paycut, and that study was from two weeks ago.

I could not be more sympathetic to US workers, who are basically third-world in their instability: Eighty percent of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, which is a very tiny step above daily hand-to-mouth. From the beginning I have said that they should not go back to work in unsafe conditions but… it is America! What else can they do in a system geared towards the aristocrat/landlord/massa like in the 18th century? Leftists say that the needs of the average worker must be considered by Western policy and I agree, but back in March I was realistic that this type of a “cultural revolution” would not be taking place by the end of April – it has not.

Anybody advocating a three-month Great Lockdown until July 1 simply isn’t working within realistic paradigms: by then supply chains will break down, goods will be in short supply and thus prices will increase amid the “liquidity issues” of the lower class masses. Corporations will join their small-business counterparts with bankruptcies and layoffs. Dogmatic leftists insist that factory workers are oh so very much more rightly-guided and politically knowledgable than Mom and Pop Shopkeeper – so then why are US autoworkers planning to reopen on May 18?

Considering how many Western invasions and blockades are launched to control it, we’d be remiss not to mention oil: storage will run out as early as May 18. Capping and restarting wells is extremely difficult, with no guarantee a restarted well will return to the same production level. Can we imagine the world’s oil producers shutting down and what long-term effects that could have on the “lifeblood of the modern economy”? This alone seems to make a May restart vital.

But in the Western system it’s all about the banks:

After three months of Great Lockdown the stresses on their banking system will be unprecedented and well-beyond the designs of any post-2008 government-regulated “stress tests”. At what point do they say – and corporate banks have essentially already said this, even if community banks realise their viability is tied to their local Main Street: “We don’t have the ability, the bureaucratic size and efficiency, the will, nor the profit motive to work through round after necessary round of small loans,”? What Mom and Pop needed was direct government loans, but in the Western anti-socialist/anti-government “bankocracies” they are forced to go through these parasitic middlemen first, last and always.

The fatal flaw of this very Western system should now be totally exposed: Bankers can very easily quit and say, “I didn’t sign up to save the Western economy,” but that is exactly what neoliberals expect them to do, because they refuse to – sensibly – hand this task to government. Bankers became bankers to get rich, of course. Small businesses held out hope (and held back on layoffs) of government assistance only to be reminded that they have no influence in a Western system dominated by very high-priced “free speech” (and lobbyists).

Perhaps the good news is that we shouldn’t care about stock prices anymore: they will go up, always. Even though there is no way that corporate profitability will return until 2022 or 2023, the past couple months have merely seen a “bull-market pause”, LOL. This is due to the official confirmation of what everybody already knew: central banks will print money to enable stock buying and now also corporate debt – capitalist fundamentals no longer matter.

Western media focuses on the stock market, and the needs of corporations, and only rarely can even see as far as protecting supply chains, but they do not care about Mom and Pop – focusing on them are mere “human interest” stories. However, ignoring the lower classes is the hallmark of the Western aristocratic/bourgeois liberal system – making the lower classes the priority has only ever been documented in socialist-inspired systems.

At heart we have three main issues driving this bottom-up implosion: 1) policymakers who only do anything as a result of high finance, 2) policymakers who don’t understand the needs and psychology of the lower classes, and 3) policymakers who underestimate the enormous economic importance of the lower classes. There is a solution to push back my fail-by date: Massive, rapid and new rounds of People’s QE (i.e. to workers and small businesses) – merely extending the extra $600 unemployment benefits until July 31 won’t be nearly enough, but anyway those Unemployment benefits will be reduced after July 31.

Why my May 17 assessment is so very rightly-guided

Readers know this is a historic era: We are currently in the middle of the worst Ramadan month ever. It’s like the Christmas season has been cancelled.

The 23rd night of Ramadan for Shia is known as the last of the “Night of Destiny” (27th for Sunni, but the night must be “searched for” among the odd-numbered nights of last 10 days as the exact date was never revealed) – this is when it is believed that Mohammad received the Koran’s first verses. Many stay up the whole night worshipping and meditating because the rewards of prayer on the Night of Destiny are better than those of a thousand months combined. It is also the night when God issues his annual decree for what will happen over the next year, thus “Night of Decree” is actually a better translation of Laylat al-Qadr.

This year the 23rd night likely falls on May 16, and – while you will surely allege that I am biased – I think it is very appropriate to say that this is the night upon which the fate of Western neoliberal economics hinges. Thus, if Western leaders do not start acting correctly – which many would view as a Ramadan miracle – it seems certain that their economic fate will be determined by the morning of May 17.

Perhaps what the West’s leaders may have needed was a culture which regularly allows for times of humility and reflection, and for putting a temporary stop to ambition and worldly grasping? Not necessarily an Islamic culture – as Islam is forbidden to be imposed, which is why there are no missionaries – but something which allows space for these ideals, and the neoliberal form of capitalism decidedly does not.

Going until June 17 and still avoiding bottom-up economic catastrophe? You must be out of touch with the lower classes. Until July 17? You must be a lab-bound epidemiologist with a very comfortable salary, savings and home. Until August 17? You are either hysterical, or plan to profit from human suffering, or plan to have your guns blazing amid the West’s World War III.

Still scoffing at my Islamic socialist analysis, eh? FYI: if you didn’t have usury (compound/excessive interest) you probably wouldn’t be in such a huge mess in the first place. But fine, let’s use capitalist competition as our gauge: Do you really think the West’s Great Recession/anti-interventionist economy is even 75% as capable as China’s 76-day Hubei lockdown? That would equate to a May 28 opening.

No, by May 16 most of us will be praying for divine help and for a very, very different calendar year to come – they can give this year back to the Indians, as far as I am concerned. On May 17 that year will be permanently set in motion.

Please note that my date is just a prediction and educated guess – I am certainly not the decree-issuer! And, full disclosure: many have said for many years that I am obviously not even rightly-guided.

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Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Capitalist-imperialist West stays home over corona – they grew a conscience? – March 22, 2020

Corona meds in every pot & a People’s QE: the Trumpian populism they hoped for? – March 23, 2020

A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020

MSNBC: Chicago price gouging up 9,000% & the sports-journalization of US media – March 25, 2020

Tough times need vanguard parties – are ‘social media users’ the West’s? – March 26, 2020

If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020

Landlord class: Waive or donate rent-profits now or fear the Cultural Revolution – March 31, 2020

Corona repeating 9/11 & Y2K hysterias? Both saw huge economic overreactions – April 1, 2020

(A Soviet?) Superman: Red Son – the new socialist film to watch on lockdown – April 2, 2020

Corona rewrites capitalist bust-chronology & proves: It’s the nation-state, stupid – April 3, 2020

Condensing the data leaves no doubt: Fear corona-economy more than the virus – April 5, 2020

‘We’re Going Wrong’: The West’s middling, middle-class corona response – April 10, 2020

Why does the UK have an ‘army’ of volunteers but the US has a shortage? – April 12, 2020

No buybacks allowed or dared? Then wave goodbye to Western stock market gains – April 13, 2020

Pity post-corona Millennials… if they don’t openly push socialism – April 14, 2020

No, the dollar will only strengthen post-corona, as usual: it’s a crisis, after all – April 16, 2020

Same 2008 QE playbook, but the Eurozone will kick off Western chaos not the US – April 18, 2020

We’re giving up our civil liberties. Fine, but to which type of state? – April 20, 2020

Coronavirus – Macron’s savior. A ‘united Europe’ – France’s murderer – April 22, 2020

Iran’s ‘resistance economy’: the post-corona wish of the West’s silent majority (1/2) – April 23, 2020

The same 12-year itch: Will banks loan down QE money this time? – April 26, 2020

The end of globalisation won’t be televised, despite the hopes of the Western 99% (2/2) – April 27, 2020

What would it take for proponents to say: ‘The Great Lockdown was wrong’? – April 28, 2020

ZeroHedge, a response to Mr. Littlejohn & the future of dollar dominance – April 30, 2020

Given Western history, is it the ‘Great Segregation’ and not the ‘Great Lockdown’? – May 2, 2020

The Western 1% colluded to start WWI – is the Great Lockdown also a conspiracy? – May 4, 2020


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. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

Global Economic Collapse Reveals the Complete Failure of Neo-Liberal Capitalism

Global Economic Collapse Reveals the Complete Failure of Neo-Liberal Capitalism

Written by Dr. Leon Tressell exclusively for SouthFront

  • Fitch Ratings, ‘Unparalleled Global Recession Underway’
  • Economist Sven Heinrich, ‘Central banks are weapons of economic mass destruction.’

As each day passes by data pours in revealing the immense economic damage caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Most politicians and economic pundits will put the blame for up the economic hurricane, blasting tens of millions into unemployment, on Coronavirus lock downs. Fitch Ratings has given a brief snapshot of the unfolding economic catastrophe which it predicts will last well into the 2020s:

“World GDP is now expected to fall by 3.9% in 2020, a recession of unprecedented depth in the post-war period. This is twice as large as the decline anticipated in our early April GEO update and would be twice as severe as the 2009 recession.”

“The decline in GDP equates to a USD2.8 trillion fall in global income levels relative to 2019 and a loss of USD4.5 trillion relative to our pre-virus expectations of 2020 global GDP. Fitch expects Eurozone GDP to decline by 7%, US GDP by 5.6%, and UK GDP by 6.3% in 2020.”javascript:window[“$iceContent”]

Yet at the beginning of this year the financial media and political classes around the world were making rosy forecasts how we were going to experience moderate economic growth this year built upon solid economic foundations. There was no cause for worry or alarm just let global capital work its magic and trickle-down economics would ensure living standards would rise for all.

Fast forward 4 months and a global health pandemic has revealed how shallow, brittle and unstable were the economic foundations of the neo-liberal economic order that has been heralded as such a success since the Reagan-Thatcher era of the 1980s. These foundations were built upon infinitely low interest rates, an exponential rise in debt both public and private (sending global debt over the $250 trillion mark) and a massive increase in social and economic inequality. Alongside this, has been the intense exploitation of nations in the developing world and the use of regime change wars as naked resource grabs which cement the neo-liberal economic model in position.The world economy was slowing down during 2019 and heading towards a global recession. Japan’s economy had already entered recession territory in the last quarter of 2019, meanwhile PMI data from China and Germany indicated that they were hovering just outside recession territory.The global economy at the end of 2019 was teetering on the brink and just needed a catalyst or pin to pop the everything bubble which has seen massive inflation in the prices of paper assets across the globe ranging from stocks and bonds to derivatives such as collateralized loan obligations.

The anaemic economic growth experienced by global capitalism since the last financial crisis, which was a mere 12 years ago, has been based upon a gigantic expansion of the global money supply as central banks and governments mistakenly believe that the only way to sustain our debt fuelled economic system was to create ever more debt.

The last 12 years since the 2008 global financial crisis have witnessed an unparalleled wealth transfer from the working classes to the billionaire class which wields immense political influence over governments across the world. Central bank stimulus programs i.e. quantitative easing together with historically low interest rates fuelled a speculative bonanza which has pushed financial markets to all-time highs across the globe.

Meanwhile, governments across the world have sought to give the hard pressed billionaire class a helping hand by cutting capital gains, income and corporation taxes across the board. President Trump’s $1 trillion tax give away to the economic elites in 2017 is the most egregious example of this phenomena.

At the same time, wages for billions of ordinary people have stagnated or fallen whilst welfare benefits and health care have declined. We now have the utterly surreal situation whereby 26 billionaires control as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity amounting to over 3.8 billion people.

The working and middle classes together with the underemployed poor of the developing world were made to pay for the costs of the 2008 global economic crisis. Once the Coronavirus pandemic has finally burned itself out the working people of this world will be confronted with an economic depression which will rival and indeed may exceed in severity that of the 1930s. Governments across the board will once again seek to make ordinary people pay for the cost of the gigantic debts incurred by government and central bank bailouts.

In a desperate effort to prop up their system and protect the interests of their own class central bankers and corporate politicians across the globe are presiding over yet another wealth transfer that benefits the richest 1% in society. Bloomberg has noted how over $8 trillion has been printed out of thin air by global central banks and governments to prop up their debt fuelled system. The bulk of this horde of fiat money has gone to service the needs of Wall Street and its counterparts in London, Paris Frankfurt, Shanghai et cetera.The Wall Street Journal has openly acknowledged this truth in an editorial:

“The Fed may feel all of this is essential to protect the financial system’s plumbing and reduce systemic risk until the virus crisis passes, but make no mistake the Fed is protecting Wall Street first. The goal seems to be to lift asset prices, as the Fed did after the financial panic, and hope that the wealth effect trickles down to the rest of the economy.”

As the 2020s progress massive wealth and health inequalities, hunger and poverty will lead large numbers of people to question the hyper financialised economic system whose sole motive is to protect the interests of the 1%.

The American dominated monetary system which gives preferential treatment to the empire and its allies is in decline. Its decline will be exacerbated by the twin hammer blows of the Coronavirus pandemic and the global economic depression now unfolding.

During the coming decade the make the world will become an even more unstable place as the hegemonic power of our era seeks to maintain its dominant position in the global economy at the expense of other nations. The contradictions and tensions between the United States and its rival China will be greatly exacerbated during the next period. As we saw in the 1930s once these economic contradictions and tensions reach breaking point then the superpowers of the day have few course of action open to them beyond war or appeasement of their rival.Yet during the 1930s there were instances where the onward march to war could have been averted. If Republican Spain had defeated Franco’s fascist insurgency then the momentum towards war would have been slowed. It would have greatly strengthened the Popular Front government in France and halted the appeasement policies that allowed Nazi Germany to grow in strength like a cancerous tumour.
During the next decade there will no doubt be other such instances where the onward march to war can be averted.

Corona at a Time of War

Source

Wednesday, 22 April 2020 

In late January China sealed off Wuhan an industrial centre of about 11 million people . Though the Chinese government’s actions have been described as “Draconian” by some, with the passage of time they have also proven to be right.

As corona virus spread many countries tried to follow in China’s footsteps but were unable to and so the virus raged that the world might witness an immense corona virus explosion as reports indicate that in some poorer countries corona virus remains undetected or if detected has not been treated with the seriousness that it deserves.

The effects of the pandemic have not been limited to the health sector only but have had a volcanic effect on the world as we know it.

It revealed weaknesses in both countries and individuals  where so many countries hid behind the glamour of their state of the art technologies and their capitalist systems, corona came forcing them into the nude and depriving them of what they had thought of as “inalienable rights”. Maybe corona will change world order and countries that consider themselves in the lead will reconsider that claim. For to be in the lead is not only to have an abundance of guns and bombs, neither is it the ability to bully other countries into submissiveness but it is to have the backbone to stand straight in times of duress. It is never to forget our human compass, but foremost it is the ability to hold on to our principles, our ethics and our morals.

 With the rise of corona crime has in general plummeted. However, insecure and afraid people  have resorted to theft to secure their needs. Malls have been broken into and their goods stolen (Providence Mall, U.S.A. March23). Panic buying has led to many buying far more then their needs require, thus depriving others. But it is a more serious crime that should be looked into, for it seems that piracy has retuned to the forefront of the crime list. Countries have resorted to committing acts of piracy, stopping ships loaded with medical equipment and stealing what is on board. The U.S. was accused of diverting a shipment of masks intended for the German police. Others ships destined for particular countries never docked in the ports of these countries and their cargo was stolen.

Blame was distributed and distributed unjustly – China was blamed for the spread of corona when in reality the response of  European countries and the U.S.A was sluggish almost slow motion. Panic spread like wildfire and attacked health systems that were unprepared for the onslaught. The U.S. and the E.U. blamed each other and Trump’s decision to ban travel to the European Union (except for the UK, which has a rising number of infections) created an antagonistic atmosphere.

Bitterness spread amongst the countries of the E.U. Spain and Italy felt that they had been betrayed by the rest of the E.U. Italy witnessed the burning of EU flags on its streets, as well as Spain.

Russia and China however have rushed into help with China sending shipments of necessary medical supplies to European countries and even to the United States (though Trump has unceasingly referred to corona virus as the “Chinese Virus”).

The actions of both Russia and China have clearly portrayed to western countries that stereotyping is downright wrong and that they should, post corona, re think major aspects of intra European countries and should also specifically re think their strained relations with Russia and China. In this particular aspect capitalism has lost the war.

In the Middle East dealing with corona was never prioritized until late March. With so much fighting and confrontations going on, corona was dealt with as if it were a hazy danger one that couldn’t possibly be more threatening than all the shooting, killing and explosions that were already happening.  As a young reporter from Aleppo (Lama Al Khaly) put it “we have witnessed so much horror, seen so much bloodshed, prayed so much for our kidnapped ones and wept endlessly over our martyred loved ones that it has become so difficult to grapple with the idea of fighting an invisible enemy like the corona virus”. The idea of self isolation for Syrians who have lost their homes due to terrorism is sadly almost laughable. Many large families are cramped into one room with almost no help from UN humanitarian organizations and so the idea is simply not workable.

However the Syrian government took the necessary precautionary methods thus  reducing the risk of corona virus infections. It imposed a curfew, reduced the work load, banned all kinds of gatherings whether for joy or sorrow and suspended prayers. It will be a shy Ramadan this year for the Syrian lacking in its usual celebratory style. Even the ritual of Haj has been suspended this year (Haj is approximately two months and ten days after the end of Ramadan). Though banning Friday communal prayer and Sunday mass are thorny issues for most Syrians, they were accepted as they came within the package of precautionary measures in the fight against corona.

However for Syria the problem of fighting corona is for more complex and requires much more than imposing a curfew or a ban. Heavy sanctions imposed on Syria including ones in the pharmaceutical- field have led to shortages in many medicines (not forgetting that many factories that were specialized in the manufacture of medicines, mainly located in Aleppo were either dismantled and transported to Turkey or simply destroyed by the war. Syria prior to the war covered 97% of its own medical needs, even exporting to Arab and foreign countries). The U.S. and western medical sanctions on Syria have resulted in Syria having fewer ventilators then the bare minimum required- fewer raw medical supplies from which to produce effective medicine and fewer medical instrument. These sanctions are pointless as they have in no way affected the flow of the war but they have hit civilians hard-which makes them coercive and downright cruel. This collective punishment of a whole population during a pandemic is simply barbaric. Even the passage of aid ships to Syria has been forbidden.

There have been many calls made by Syria’s representative to the U.N to lift off international sanctions against Syria as they obstruct the country’s efforts to fight the corona virus.

Others joined in call for lifting the sanctions against Syria. Like Chine, Russia, the EU parliament and many other countries. The World Health Organization has also asked that sanctions be lifted off Syria. Up till now all these calls have fallen on deaf ears, as corona continues to spread worldwide.

Like all counties in the world the economy of Syria has been adversely affected. Many Syrians are day laborers and that pay has stopped with the current Corona. Businesses have shrunk and restaurateurs are out of work as all restaurants, coffee shops and eateries have been closed more than a month. Gingerly, Syria is reopening again, but the situation on the ground remains tense and Syrians are in need of a solution that is hard coming- a solution not only related to the corona virus but one that will ease their lives and allow them the medicaments they deserve to lighten the suffering of the ill.    

Editor in Chief

Reem Haddad                                   

OPEC’S STILLBORN DEAL AND COVID-19’S OVERESTIMATIONS

South Front

OPEC's Stillborn Deal And COVID-19's Overestimations
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On April 7th, Rystad Energy, a Norwegian independent energy consulting company released the 5th edition of its COVID-19 report. [pdf]

In it, several noteworthy factors are underlined.

As it’s quite apparent, and known for a while, but somehow entirely disregarded by both governments and media, the number of actual COVID-19 cases is much, much larger than the official one.

OPEC's Stillborn Deal And COVID-19's Overestimations
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Reported cases are only a fraction of the number of actual infected people:

  • Many infected people are asymptomatic. They are unaware of being infected and are never tested or registered.
  • Most sick people stay at home, and given the limited testing capacity in most countries, they are not registered as having been sick.

In populations where large groups have been tested, the following figures have been registered:

  • Infection mortality rates (IFR) of 0.3%-1.0%, averaging 0.66%
  • IFR appears stable across regions when adjusted for age.
  • Thus, IFR is a better indicator of actual infected people, rather than reported cases. However, as the time from onset to fatality is, on average, 18 days, number of fatalities is giving a rather precise figure for «true infected» 18 days earlier.

The number of critical cases could potentially be another indicator of true cases because:

  • 33% of all cases will need intensive care, according to our analysis as published earlier.
  • However, critical case reporting practices vary from country to country, and cannot be trusted in all countries.
  • Also, limited ICU capacity could lead to lower figures because people with a real need for ICU beds still do not get it.
  • The time from onset to the critical phase is typically 12 days
  • Still, the number of critical cases will also be used as an indicator to find the true number of Covid-19 cases.

Reported fatalities is currently 5.4%, or about 8 times higher than expected IFR. This is due to underreporting of actual cases.

For example, some countries tested 0.48% of the population, and of these 5% were tested positive (250 people per million, whereas the requirement for an epidemic, according to WHO is 100 sick people per 100,000).

“We can assume that primarily sick people were tested positive, but also some without symptoms. If theoretically these countries tested another 2% of the population (4x more than already tested), and 1.5% (30% of current intensity) of those were positive, total number of infected people would grow by 300 per million to 550 per million. IFR would then be 2788/(550*748) = 0.68%, i.e. close to our assumed true IFR.”

Additionally, there were, and still are, several scenarios for the pandemic, with their respective results on the economy and the moral of the general population.

Naturally, the most economically viable course of action would be for a country (or all countries together) to do nothing, the relatively low actual mortality rate would put some strain on healthcare systems, but still, demand of oil and other commodities would remain relatively high, some loved ones will pass, but what are a few lives for the good of capitalism.

The three general options of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic are presented below, and it is very apparent which course of action the countries in Europe have chosen.

The “very sudden market collapse” is likely meant in a manner that a drop in prices, margins, profits and so on would be very sudden and sharp, but then a normalization would follow, at lower, re-evaluated growth. And, as it can be seen, many (if not all) of the European countries are attempting a sort of double-sided approach, focused on both managing the virus and effective prevention.

The market collapse, however, wouldn’t effectively be “short term” since it will not return to its high levels prior to 2020 anytime soon.

OPEC's Stillborn Deal And COVID-19's Overestimations
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The “negative moral impact” means that, the propagation of the COVID-19 hype in media would mean that any government, or large business, that undertakes no actions to curb the spread of the deadly diseases is faced with a very real threat of being sent into oblivion. This is also seen from various celebrities who are churning out content, calling for people to stay home, and so on. Any action to the contrary currently has no hope of public approval (or at least very limited such approval that, in the long and even short term would lead to no benefit to the government or business).

Now, economically GDPs are going to shrink, there is no avoiding it at this part, the question is by how much.

Rystad Energy provides several graphs presented how GDP growth compares to oil demand, in thousands of barrels per day per year.

OPEC's Stillborn Deal And COVID-19's Overestimations
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Global oil demand growth is strongly related to GDP growth. The relationship is given by oil demand intensity, which gradually decreases with improved fuel efficiency and – going forward – electric vehicle market penetration. The correlation is not fully linear due to demand elasticities.

“Our research indicates that pre-virus global oil demand in 2020 would be flat if GDP growth was to slow down to 2% (IMF: “global recession”), while oil demand growth would be 1 million bpd if global GDP was to expand by 3%. However, based on the latest reporting on the spread of Covid-19 and the state of the stock markets, some macro analysts now see global GDP contracting.”

Thus, it is expected that a contraction of 4 million barrels per day in oil demand is possible in the current scenario.

“We now estimate that oil demand destruction in April could amount to 27 million barrels per day, of which nearly 5 million barrels per day will come from the three largest consumers; China, Japan and India. As a result we caution that the world may run out of storage capacity, causing refineries to shut-in and crude oil prices to reach extreme lows. With the very low oil prices expected in 2020, and high prices expected in 2022, oil companies might see a business case to close down fields today and reopen in 2022.”

And, now, to return to the OPEC+ deal, to reduce production by 10 million barrels per day in May and June would be too little too late, it is, also questionable if it would have been effective if it happened on March 6th, as well.

The deal was essentially stillborn, if the forecast of a 27-million-barrel oil demand destruction, the deal is approximately 3 times too little for it to cope, simply because there’s not enough storage capacity.

And the deal led to some increase in price, but this is simply a short-term effect and it is unlikely that it would last, or there would be a significant increase, rather, even still a decrease is expected.

Currently, Saudi Arabia aside (since a massive decrease in demand would lead the Kingdom possibly to near-bankrupt), Russia is the one most under threat of economic turmoil due to the situation.

For Russia, reducing production will require well conservation, which is associated with high costs. For example, in 2019, 7,861 new wells were commissioned in Russia, of which only 6% fell to the share of fountain wells (510 units), the operation of which is not as expensive as the wells for which sucker rod and centrifugal pumps are used (91% of the wells commissioned last year, 7,150 units).

Subsequent re-commissioning of wells will also require additional costs from companies.

But, for example, in March, Lukoil announced its intention to cut costs by $ 1.5 billion, i.e. 19% compared to 2019’s capital expenditures.

The deal was also opposed by Mexico, which only agreed to reduce production by 100,000 bpd, instead of 400,000.

At the same time, Norway did not join the agreement, which participated in the negotiations only as an observer and which, according to OPEC forecast, this year will increase production by 300,000 bps (up to 2.04 million bps). Despite OPEC calls, the United States did not coordinate production cuts.

According to Wood Mackenzie, with an average annual Brent price of $ 35 per barrel (versus $ 64 in 2019, according to the World Bank), production capacities of 4 million bpd will become unprofitable, and with a price of $ 25, the volume of lost production will increase to 10 million bpd.

The US is currently trying to benefit from this, as it will likely not reduce anything, despite US President Donald Trump saying that he would cooperate with Saudi Arabia and Russia, and praised the deal.

The other party that benefits much from this is China – as it is already, more or less, free of the COVID-19 it can begin importing cheap crude oil and fuel its recovery and further growth.

Reduced oil production could reach 20 million barrels per day by early June (compared with the announced 9.7 million), taking into account possible reductions in countries such as Brazil and Norway, as well as natural decline in production in the US and Canada, S&P Global Platts reported.

Energy Intelligence analysts add that even after a decline in production, global oil reserves in storage will increase this year by 730 million barrels and exceed the record of last August by 8%. The cuts are aimed at restraining further overstocking of the market, Energy Intelligence notes, predicting that oil prices will remain in the range of $30–40 in the next few months.

It also should be noted that while Canada formally welcomed the OPEC+ deal, it did not formally agree to a curtailment policy. Canada is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer. In February, its output was some 4.9 million barrels per day.

This paints a very clear picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic is heavily exploited for a purely economic purpose, and to pressure certain countries, who’s using the situation comes down to speculation (and possibly conspiracy theories).

At the same time, Russia, with its overly-conservative measures, supposed mistakes in estimating the situation, as well as unclarity in applying the decided measures is undermining itself, with public support for the leadership fading away.

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Who Are You to Call Me a Virus?

By Jeremy Salt

Source

Trump Delivers Remarks During a Coronavirus Update Briefing 01d3b

So the actor Alec Baldwin thinks Trump is a virus. An interesting idea, the virus as a metaphor. Some would say the US itself is a virus, taking millions of lives in its endless wars. Yet others would say we, homo sapiens, are the virus. Imagine how we must look from a million miles away. Squiggling organisms hanging on to a clod of earth as it whirls through space.

Corona is only doing what viruses do. They latch on to living bodies, and die or mutate into different forms when the host can no longer sustain them, which is the state the host of the organism known as homo sapiens, Planet Earth, seems to be rapidly approaching. We adapt to changing circumstances, as all viruses do, but are we are reaching the point when it will be too late to adapt?

Like any virus, we are consuming our host, and never more greedily than in the past 100 years.We are being warned all the time that when the planet is ecologically dead, we will die too. We know this but, riddled with another virus, consumerism, we cannot stop ourselves. We take what we can while we can, just like the viral microdots colonizing our bodies as we once colonized Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Those affected died in their millions. We in the ‘developed world’ lived off their poverty and plundered resources. Now it is our bodies being plundered by an enemy we cannot even see.

We are already being told there will be no return to the normal. Of course, there is no static normal any more than there is a static ‘human nature.’ ‘Normal’ and ‘human nature’ depend on geography, education, cultural conditioning, socio-economic structures and natural or man-made disasters such as war and earthquakes. Both change as circumstances change. Additionally, what is normal in one society is not necessarily regarded as normal somewhere else. ‘Normal’ is what we perceive as being normal, what we are taught to believe is normal but that changes, too. Who in the 19th century could have believed that governments around the world would pass legislation allowing men to marry each other?

Our greedy leaching of the planet’s resources may be hastening the frequency and increasing the scale of natural disasters. After all, how much battering can any fixed object take? Hit a rock often enough and hard enough and it will break. So will iron. While earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis have been recorded throughout history, sinkholes appear to be relatively new. They certainly weren’t in the news three or four decades ago. Could they be a sign that the tormented earth’s crust just can’t take it anymore?

Accelerating consumption requires accelerating industrialization to meet demand. We in the so-called ‘developed world’ know that even if we can drink clean water and breathe relatively fresh air, countless millions elsewhere don’t have either. They live in Africa or they work in the factories of China and Southeast Asia that produce the goods enabling us to lead the good life. Their cheap labor subsidizes the way we live. Their air, rivers, and seas are heavily polluted because of the absence of effective environmental safeguards in their world. This is not accidental or coincidental but the inevitable consequence of economic ‘globalization.’

When the normal gives way to the new normal, what will we learn, something or nothing? The fallout is bound to be substantial. The virus has again exposed the corrupt underpinnings of capitalism. This has happened many times before but we still don’t learn the lesson. Capitalism commodifies everything. Much of what used to have a moral value now has only a market value. Education is still regarded as a right and a necessity, as it certainly is for a corporate sector needing workers and consumers, but the quality frequently depends on money. As for health care, in most ‘liberal democracies’ the citizen only gets as much as he or she can afford. Public health in the US is frequently provided in hospitals starved of staff and resources. This is the same population the capitalist order wants to work and consume endlessly but is not prepared to pay for health services to make sure it can do both.

Globalization appeared as the latest evidence of the adaptability of the capitalist order. It was based on the ‘deregulation’ of economies, which added up to the clearing away of all global obstacles in the way of corporate profits. National borders were turned into lines on the map and governments into the regional satraps of corporations, which would make their offers and go somewhere else if their terms were not accepted. As they had the money, they had the power.

Societies were turned against each in the interests of profit. With tariff barriers dropped, the corporations closed their factories and headed for countries where labor was cheap and the workforce controlled by anti-strike legislation and the competition for jobs. In these countries, they could produce goods at a fraction of the production costs in their home countries. They could then export their goods back to the home country and sell them as if they had been made there.

This is not just what governments allowed but encouraged. They opened the door to the flight of manufacturing industry. In cities across the US, Britain, Australia, wherever one looked, once-thriving factories were abandoned and the people who worked in them left without jobs and possessed of skills employable only in other factories that had been closed down. The privatization of essential government services swung into effect at the same time. Given that no risk was involved in the supply of water, gas and electricity, this was no more than the transfer of vast amounts of public money into private pockets. Social services built up with public money over more than a century disappeared almost overnight. The fine old buildings from which these services were provided were sold off for corporate use.

These shifts were harnessed to the destruction of labor unions and the notion of ‘enterprise bargaining’ which left the individual worker in search or a higher salary or better working conditions to face the corporation on his or her own. This was like putting a bantamweight into the ring to fight a heavyweight. Herbert Spencer’s rugged 19th-century individualism and the jungle rules of social Darwinism underpinned the new order, summed up by Margaret Thatcher in her remark that “there is no such thing as society.” Economically, of course, for the corporations to take maximum advantage of the new/old circumstances, society – a word denoting a small or large human community working together for the common good and forming associations to protect common interests – there could be no such thing as what society used to be.

Alighting on new hosts, the virus of globalization left the old host in ruins. The rust belt in the US is the evidence. Factories were closed down en masse and cities fell into ruin. Livelihoods had already been swept from under the feet of blue and white-collar workers when the financial institutions collapsed in 2008/9. The endless privatization of profit was succeeded by the socialization of loss. It was the people who had to pay for the corruption and malpractice endemic in financial institutions, through the loss of their jobs and homes and the siphoning-off of their taxes. The res publica – the ‘public thing’ – had shown the people where their government’s first loyalties lay.

According to Mike Collins, writing in Forbes business magazine, “The operating principles of the big banks is a cesspool of greed, [lack of] ethics and criminal intent.” Insider trading was a large part of the picture, so was money-laundering with the US branch of HSBC bank, which was found to have laundered $881 billion for Mexican drug cartels. The rating agencies (Moody’s and Standard and Poor) giving a AAA rating to the banks granting a flood of unrepayable sub-prime mortgages were paid by the same banks. By 2015, Mike Collins estimated, the bailout had cost not the $700 billions the people were originally told but $16.8 trillion (Mike Collins, ‘The Big Bank Bailout,’ Forbes, July 14, 2015.)

There had to be some sacrificial lambs (Lehman Brothers) but with the help of ‘government’ money – the people’s money – the rest were soon back on their feet, making mega profits without having to pay back one cent of the torrents of cash that had pulled them out of the ditch. What better metaphor can there be for such rapacious capitalism than that of the virus? Having eaten its way through society – the host body – it was then given a new lease of life by a government elected to protect society.

The virus is a metaphor that has no limits. All living things consume to live. Something has to die so they can live. Some people eat to live. Others seem to live to eat. They are encouraged to over-consume by the addictive ingredients deliberately fed into the food and drink chain by producers. An obese population is an unhealthy population but one that keeps returning healthy profits even as medical costs soar that the corporations don’t have to pay. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 42.7 percent of the US population was obese in 2017/18, with the prevalence of obesity increasing 1999-2000 from 30.5 to 42.4 percent. The annual cost of treating obesity was $147 billion. Thus, while Africans and many others starve, many Americans are eating until they practically burst.

Extreme violence is another aspect of the American demographic. The viral nature of capitalism requires a police and a miitary to suppress discontent at home and open up new territories abroad. Profit-seeking can know no territorial limits. Like any virus, it will spread as fast and as far as it can. Eduardo Galeano’s ‘open veins’ of Latin America were veins opened up in every part of the non-European world. The prize was natural resources, the means were the cycles of invasion and occupation that have continued for centuries down to our time. When Donald Trump says of Syria’s oil that it is ours “and we will do with it what we want” he was only expressing the logic that has underlain imperialism all along, if rarely so crudely expressed.

Most wars have an economic motive, usually dressed up as what we are doing for you, not what we are doing to you. The wars on Iraq were not only about oil, as they were designed to pulverize a country regarded as threatening to ‘order’ and ‘stability’ as defined by the US and more generally ‘the West.’ The language was the same in the 19th century and between then and now, so were the consequences for the native population: mass destruction and death. By such means were ‘civilization’ and progress preserved. Only the principal actors (Britain and France in the 19th century, the US now) and the technology have changed, the latter allowing the invader to kill and crush more comprehensively.

American violence has a viral quality, intrinsic to the organism from the beginning of European settlement. Once the native Indian population had been suppressed, other threatening elements had to be contained and destroyed as they arose. As blackness threatened whiteness, Afro-American were enslaved, segregated, lynched and burnt alive until finally granted the rights and opportunities that came as the birth right of white Americans. Random killings by police, the massively disproportionate black prison population and the activism of white supremacists stand as the evidence even now that the virus of racism has not been suppressed.

Viruses always move on. Suppressed by a vaccine, they will mutate into a slightly different form and take root again in the host body. This is what the world is experiencing with the coronavirus, which surfaced just after the financial institutions began to plunge into a deeper abyss than 2007/8. According to the New York Times, the US administration is now contemplating “a vast financial bailout that would dwarf the federal government’s response to the 2008 crisis … the scale of the problem is unlike anything Washington has ever faced before.” This bailout “could” top $2 trillion and not the initial $18.3 billion approved by Congress. (‘Washington Weighs Big Bailout to Help US Economy Survive Coronavirus,’ New York Times, March 18, 2020. Note that the bailout is designed to rescue the ‘economy’ from the virus, not from the failures of a socio-economic system which has sent to the country to the wall time after time).

No questions as to where the money is going will be allowed despite the Freedom of Information Act: as the virus is allowing state governments to confine people to their homes, there can be no public protests. The police and national guard will be on hand to suppress those who defy the ban. Memories of outrage at the bilking of the public in 2008 will account for these precautions.

As one commentator has observed, in 2008 Wall Street was bailed out and Main Street landed with the bill. A repetition could ignite a public backlash with “potentially catastrophic consequences” (‘Washington Weighs Big Bailout,’ New York Times) so the bailout this time has to be handled with greater finesse, with more of the cash allocated to the hard-pressed citizenry. Even as the financial crisis broke, however, the familiar chicanery, insider trading and the timely selling-off of shares by corporations, was resurfacing.

Can this be mere coincidence, the appearance of one virus to hide the latest ravages of another? The corporate media dismisses the very notion as a “conspiracy theory,” as if governments do not scheme, plot and conspire all the time, against each other, against their mutual enemies and frequently against their own people. Within the realm of possibilities, the possibilities of an accidental release of the virus or of foul play by a government or rogue elements inside a government at least have to be allowed. We still don’t know who was behind the assassination of John Kennedy or the attacks of 9/11. How long will it be before we know the truth or, like these two other world historical events, will we ever know it?

The war on terror having run its course, the war on the virus has followed without a break, allowing governments to build on the ‘homeland security’ edifice constructed after 9/11. Outside fiction, police and the military everywhere are being handed unprecedented powers of arrest, surveillance, and control. In the US and elsewhere millions of people have been subjected to ‘lockdown,’ generally a term applied to a prison after a riot. Whatever a government decides to do, whatever measures it takes to bail out the financial institutions once again, the people will not be allowed into the street to protest.Panicked, fearful of the enemy they cannot see, terrorized by the media, confused by contradictory evidence, and baffled by statistics open to more than one reading, they are doing what they are being told. They have been too effectively frightened to go into the streets. Only the virus is in the headlines, allowing the bailout to proceed quietly behind the scenes.

We live in a world of viruses. Emptying the planet’s natural resources and preying on other species to feed ourselves, we behave no differently ourselves. Eventually, someone will come up with a cure for the coronavirus but who is going to cure us? We have to do it ourselves, but will we?

‘We’re Going Wrong’: The West’s middling, middle-class corona response

‘We’re Going Wrong’: The West’s middling, middle-class corona response

April 10, 2020

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

I found out today
We’re going wrong.
– Cream – We’re Going Wrong – 1967 album Disraeli Gears

Shortly after reading about the latest 7 million Americans who made unemployment claims this week that song shuffled on my iPod. It’s a haunting and even frightening song, and while that makes it sound like some lame emo band we must remember that it’s being played by the rock super-dupergroup of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.

The song is a psychedelic ode to the terrifying realisations caused by a middle-class freak-out, which were occurring regularly across the West back in 1967. Somebody’s mind has just been opened to the fact that the path they were on is not right. Why was it not right? Because they had failed to ever look inward – they had accepted the prevailing nonsense without questioning it.

Today it’s hard not to have this same feeling that the Western trajectory is veering out of control… but only because that is entirely the case: capitalist – i.e. growth-demanding – economies are hysterically yanking out the single-most important pillar of their economic culture (competitive demand) as if their house won’t collapse immediately.

Because there is none of the dependability provided by central planning, Western capitalism is flying blind because it has wilfully broken its fundamentals – how can any investor, CEO or supply clerk accurately foresee the economic future for at least several months (at a minimum)?

Thus a good comparison is Gorbachev’s “fatal error” in 1987, so-called “self-financing”: that yanked out the single-most important pillar of their economic culture – central planning – for enterprises which controlled 60% of all Soviet output. The immediate, radical reordering sparked economic chaos, then bread lines, then the undemocratic, top-down implosion of the USSR.

In my previous article I condensed the economic data and gave the undeniable conclusion: Who now needs a bailout in the West as a result of the poverty-inducing corona response? Wall Street, Main Street, the County Seat, State Capitol Plaza and Corporate Circle. Everybody.

Of course “bailout” is a euphemism for “loan”, meaning that the “lucky” in these sectors will simply get more and more indebted to a 1% which actually only gets smaller, smaller, richer and richer (as Marx proved).

Want mediocrity? Turn to the middle-class

What was rather fascinating is that among all the articles I have read about our new corona-world I found only one single instance of a Mainstream Media relaying a complaint of how the corona response was a middling, “middle-class” solution.

The entire plan had the imagination of a middle-class person,” was the tough assessment of Harsh Mander, director of the New Delhi-based Centre for Equity Studies. “People were asked to maintain social distance, wash their hands and stay home assuming they have homes and salaries going into bank accounts.

It is interesting that open resentment towards the middle class seemingly surfaced only in India: It’s hard to imagine a middle-class with a more disagreeable sense of entitlement than the pudgy middle managers from the mighty continent of India. One need not be an untouchable Dalit to believe that while a college degree might be a marginally-impressive achievement, using it to work at a Western corporation’s call centre is really not proof of hot stuff; one need not question the reactionary caste system to point out that such a middling life is not sufficient justification for maintaining a system of alleged karmic supremacism. Thus, I would imagine that in India today the term “middle-class” carries as many condescending connotations as it did in the Anglophone world back in 1967.

“But the West is not India”, you will object. Indeed, nobody talks about class or caste in the former. But high-and-mighty Westerners must concede that it is also not 1967 for them, back when union membership was high and an 18-year old male could exit high school assured of not just a decent-paying job but even house and car loans from private banks. (LOL, Millennials think I am making this up, but ask your grandparents – this was actually the case!)

Let’s accept Harsh’s mild definition of “middle class”: somebody who has a nice home, savings and the resources to comfortably weather months of societal turmoil. Using that definition, how very few qualify as “middle class” in the West in 2020!

The 17 million Americans who have been added to unemployment ranks in the past 15 days now have not only no income but no health care and no pension (which had become nearly non-existent in their private sector, anyway). The number is not higher than 17 million in 15 days only because the USA’s antiquated 1980s computer infrastructure could not process more claims. These people are definitely not middle-class.

You could have a family of four and an income of $90,000 in the US but how can you call yourself “middle class” when you strain to afford middling versions of health insurance plans, college education, child care and elder care? And heaven forbid you have to pay for all four at once. These people lack the stability to be called middle-class.

What is middle-class in France? I rarely meet anybody taking home more than 2,000 euros per month. That sum was fine in 1980, but after a Lost Decade produced by austerity – with its increased taxes, steady price inflation and social services which are no longer paid for by the state – their middle-class now suffers from lower-class instability as well.

The reality is that “middle class” in the West in 2020 is actually what used to be called the “upper-middle class” – their entire society has been devalued by a standard deviation since 1980 due to neoliberal capitalism.

Across the West doctors are telling 64-year old Uber drivers to quit in order to avoid exposure to coronavirus, and their journalists are agreeing with this remedy, as if such a person is only Ubering because they have a passion for people-moving? Such advice is middling, middle-class nonsense.

Corona is forcing the West’s upper class to learn that the middle-class mentality has been blown apart, and not by Cream and loud bass but by inequality-provoking socioeconomic policies which fundamentally disregard the needs of the middle and lower classes. Contrarily, the needs of those classes are always and indisputably the primary policy focus of socialist-inspired nations, which is why the West declares Cold War on them.

The West’s upper-class is telling their lower classes to commit suicide

The US fake-left has practically deified Dr. Anthony Fauci mainly because he openly contradicts Trump, but also because middle-class Westerners slavishly worship at the altar of technocracy, which rests upon the false idol of their imaginary meritocracy.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson made the correct observation that not only is this lockdown economic “national suicide” but that Fauci had “bulletproof job security”; this meant that, “He has the luxury of looking at the world through the narrow lens of his professionHe doesn’t seem to think much outside that lens.

For anyone who thinks Carlson pegged him wrong, Fauci recently said: ‘I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.” That is the “cultural suicide” assessment and bizarre goal of the man who essentially has been given the power to guide US socio-economic policy.

Fauci is not middle-class, but his workaholic, narrow view certainly is stereotypically middle-class; his total disregard for life as it is lived by living, pulsating, hungry, unstable workers certainly is middle-class.

Instead of a vanguard party which is in touch with the lower classes, the US has promoted the singular view of this germ-obsessed technician (and I’m sure Fauci is considering the broader effects of a lockdown on the municipal bond market in his non-lab time/non-hand washing time).

In an interesting article by USA TodayThis is what China did to beat coronavirus. Experts say America couldn’t handle it, we can see a government which is invasive, or we can see a government which is actually touching and in-touch with the average person – which you see depends on your lens.

But have no doubt: testing, tracing, treating, quarantining – these are all things which require mass mobilisation of pulsating humans, and which were done under an unassailable Chinese government slogan of, “No one left behind”.

China demands the ill have “zero contact” with healthy people, and that is rigorous; Fauci seems to want everyone to have “zero contact”, period, permanently.

Fauci’s slogan is more like “I want to leave you behind”, and is that not the middle-class Western dream: To leave the sick, hungry and poor – including their White Trash – behind in their rear-view mirror?

Insist that socialist-inspired nations are totalitarian and unfeeling all you want, but nothing is more synonymous with “mediocrity” than the Western middle-class: “The approach we should be taking right now is one that most people would find to be too drastic because otherwise, it is not drastic enough,” Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health,” said to USA Today.

What a middling and mediocre statement. And what a middling and mediocre Western response to the corona crisis (which still could wind up as middling and mediocre, as far as pandemics go).

Expect many more freak-outs.

In a crisis mediocrity is not needed, but truly exceptional conduct and resolve. Unfortunately their most inspirational conceptual ideas – which could really help people through these tough times – go unreflected upon and not relayed by the Western corporate media.

***********************************

Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Capitalist-imperialist West stays home over corona – they grew a conscience? – March 22, 2020

Corona meds in every pot & a People’s QE: the Trumpian populism they hoped for? – March 23, 2020

A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020

MSNBC: Chicago price gouging up 9,000% & the sports-journalization of US media – March 25, 2020

Tough times need vanguard parties – are ‘social media users’ the West’s? – March 26, 2020

If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020

Landlord class: Waive or donate rent-profits now or fear the Cultural Revolution – March 31, 2020

Corona repeating 9/11 & Y2K hysterias? Both saw huge economic overreactions – April 1, 2020

(A Soviet?) Superman: Red Son – the new socialist film to watch on lockdown – April 2, 2020

Corona rewrites capitalist bust-chronology & proves: It’s the nation-state, stupid – April 3, 2020

Condensing the data leaves no doubt: Fear corona-economy more than the virus

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. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

PEPE ESCOBAR: Who Profits from the Pandemic?

April 08, 2020

Pepe Escobar looks at a frightening future that might follow the already terrifying Covid-19 global outbreak. 

By Pepe Escobar
in Bangkok
Special to Consortium News

You don’t need to read Michel Foucault’s work on biopolitics to understand that neoliberalism – in deep crisis since at least 2008 – is a control/governing technique in which surveillance capitalism is deeply embedded.

But now, with the world-system collapsing at breathtaking speed, neoliberalism is at a loss to deal with the next stage of dystopia, ever present in our hyper-connected angst: global mass unemployment.

Henry Kissinger, anointed oracle/gatekeeper of the ruling class, is predictably scared. He claims that, “sustaining the public trust is crucial to social solidarity.” He’s convinced the Hegemon should “safeguard the principles of the liberal world order.” Otherwise, “failure could set the world on fire.”

That’s so quaint. Public trust is dead across the spectrum. The liberal world “order” is now social Darwinist chaos. Just wait for the fire to rage.

The numbers are staggering. The Japan-based Asian Development Bank (ADB), in its annual economic report, may not have been exactly original. But it did note that the impact of the “worst pandemic in a century” will be as high as $4.1 trillion, or 4.8 percent of global GDP.

This an underestimation, as “supply disruptions, interrupted remittances, possible social and financial crises, and long-term effects on health care and education are excluded from the analysis.”

We cannot even start to imagine the cataclysmic social consequences of the crash. Entire sub-sectors of the global economy may not be recomposed at all.  

The International Labor Organization (ILO) forecasts global unemployment at a conservative, additonal 24.7 million people – especially in aviation, tourism and hospitality.

The global aviation industry is a humongous $2.7 trillion business. That’s 3.6 percent of global GDP. It employs 2.7 million people. When you add air transport and tourism —everything from hotels and restaurants to theme parks and museums — it accounts for a minimum of 65.5 million jobs around the world.

According to the ILO, income losses for workers may range from $860 billion to an astonishing $3.4 trillion. “Working poverty” will be the new normal – especially across the Global South.

“Working poor,” in ILO terminology, means employed people living in households with a per capita income below the poverty line of $2 a day. As many as an additional 35 million people worldwide will become working poor in 2020. 

Switching to feasible perspectives for global trade, it’s enlightening to examine that this report about how the economy may rebound is centered on the notorious hyperactive merchants and traders of Yiwu in eastern China – the world’s busiest small-commodity, business hub.

Their experience spells out a long and difficult recovery. As the rest of the world is in a coma, Lu Ting, chief China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong stresses that China faces a 30 percent decline in external demand at least until next Fall.

Neoliberalism in Reverse?

San Miguel, Bulacan, Philippines, 2016. (Judgefloro, CC0, Wikimedia Commons)

In the next stage, the strategic competition between the U.S. and China will be no-holds-barred, as emerging narratives of China’s new, multifaceted global role – on trade, technology, cyberspace, climate change – will set in, even more far-reaching than the New Silk Roads. That will also be the case in global public health policies. Get ready for an accelerated Hybrid War between the “Chinese virus” narrative and the Health Silk Road.

The latest report by the China Institute of International Studies would be quite helpful for the West — hubris permitting — to understand how Beijing adopted key measures putting the health and safety of the general population first. 

Now, as the Chinese economy slowly picks up, hordes of fund managers from across Asia are tracking everything from trips on the metro to noodle consumption to preview what kind of economy may emerge post-lockdown.

In contrast, across the West, the prevailing doom and gloom elicited a priceless editorial from The Financial Times. Like James Brown in the 1980s Blues Brothers pop epic, the City of London seems to have seen the light, or at least giving the impression it really means it. Neoliberalism in reverse. New social contract. “Secure” labor markets. Redistribution.

Cynics won’t be fooled. The cryogenic state of the global economy spells out a vicious Great Depression 2.0 and an unemployment tsunami. The plebs eventually reaching for the pitchforks and the AR-15s en masse is now a distinct possibility. Might as well start throwing a few breadcrumbs to the beggars’ banquet. 

That may apply to European latitudes. But the American story is in a class by itself.

Mural, Seattle, February 2017. (Mitchell Haindfield, Flickr)

For decades, we were led to believe that the world-system put in place after WWII provided the U.S. with unrivalled structural power. Now, all that’s left is structural fragility, grotesque inequalities, unpayable Himalayas of debt, and a rolling crisis.

No one is fooled anymore by the Fed’s magic quantitative easing powers, or the acronym salad – TALF, ESF, SPV – built into the Fed/U.S. Treasury exclusive obsession with big banks, corporations and the Goddess of the Market, to the detriment of the average American.   

It was only a few months ago that a serious discussion evolved around the $2.5 quadrillion derivatives market imploding and collapsing the global economy, based on the price of oil skyrocketing, in case the Strait of Hormuz – for whatever reason – was shut down. 

Now it’s about Great Depression 2.0: the whole system crashing as a result of the shutdown of the global economy. The questions are absolutely legitimate: is the political and social cataclysm of the global economic crisis arguably a larger catastrophe than Covid-19 itself?  And will it provide an opportunity to end neoliberalism and usher in a more equitable system, or something even worse?

 ‘Transparent’ BlackRock

Wall Street, of course, lives in an alternative universe. In a nutshell, Wall Street turned the Fed into a hedge fund. The Fed is going to own at least two thirds of all U.S. Treasury bills in the market before the end of 2020.

The U.S. Treasury will be buying every security and loan in sight while the Fed will be the banker – financing the whole scheme.

So essentially this is a Fed/Treasury merger. A behemoth dispensing loads of helicopter money.

And the winner is BlackRock—the biggest money manager on the planet, with tentacles everywhere, managing the assets of over 170 pension funds, banks, foundations, insurance companies, in fact a great deal of the money in private equity and hedge funds. BlackRock — promising to be fully  “transparent” — will buy these securities and manage those dodgy SPVs on behalf of the Treasury.

BlackRock, founded in 1988 by Larry Fink, may not be as big as Vanguard, but it’s the top investor in Goldman Sachs, along with Vanguard and State Street, and with $6.5 trillion in assets, bigger than Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank combined. 

Now, BlackRock is the new operating system (OS) of the Fed and the Treasury. The world’s biggest shadow bank – and no, it’s not Chinese.

Compared to this high-stakes game, mini-scandals such as the one around Georgia Senator Kelly Loffler are peanuts. Loffler allegedly profited from inside information on Covid-19 by the CDC to make a stock market killing. Loffler is married to Jeffrey Sprecher – who happens to be the chairman of the NYSE, installed by Goldman Sachs. 

While corporate media followed this story like headless chickens, post-Covid-19 plans, in Pentagon parlance, “move forward” by stealth. 

The price? A meager $1,200 check per person for a month. Anyone knows that, based on median salary income, a typical American family would need $12,000 to survive for two months. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in an act of supreme effrontry, allows them a mere 10 percent of that. So American taxpayers will be left with a tsunami of debt while selected Wall Street players grab the whole loot, part of an unparalleled transfer of wealth upwards, complete with bankruptcies en masse of small and medium businesses.

Fink’s letter to his shareholders almost gives the game away: “I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”

And right on cue, he forecasted that, “in the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

He was referring, then, to climate change. Now that refers to Covid-19.

Implant Our Nanochip, Or Else?

West Virginia National Guard members reporting to a Charleston nursing home to assist with Covid-19 testing. April 6, 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard, Edwin L. Wriston)

The game ahead for the elites, taking advantage of the crisis, might well contain these four elements: a social credit system, mandatory vaccination, a digital currency and a Universal Basic Income (UBI). This is what used to be called, according to the decades-old, time-tested CIA playbook, a “conspiracy theory.” Well, it might actually happen.

A social credit system is something that China set up already in 2014. Before the end of 2020, every Chinese citizen will be assigned his/her own credit score – a de facto “dynamic profile”, elaborated with extensive use of AI and the internet of things (IoT), including ubiquitous facial recognition technology. This implies, of course, 24/7 surveillance, complete with Blade Runner-style roving robotic birds.

The U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Russia and India may not be far behind. Germany, for instance, is tweaking its universal credit rating system, SCHUFA. France has an ID app very similar to the Chinese model, verified by facial recognition.

Mandatory vaccination is Bill Gates’s dream, working in conjunction with the WHO, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Big Pharma. He wants “billions of doses” to be enforced over the Global South. And it could be a cover to everyone getting a digital implant.

Here it is, in his own words. At 34:15: “Eventually what we’ll have to have is certificates of who’s a recovered person, who’s a vaccinated person…Because you don’t want people moving around the world where you’ll have some countries that won’t have it under control, sadly. You don’t want to completely block off the ability for people to go there and come back and move around.”

Then comes the last sentence which was erased from the official TED video. This was noted by Rosemary Frei, who has a master on molecular biology and is an independent investigative journalist in Canada. Gates says: “So eventually there will be this digital immunity proof that will help facilitate the global reopening up.”

This “digital immunity proof” is crucial to keep in mind, something that could be misused by the state for nefarious purposes.

The three top candidates to produce a coronavirus vaccine are American biotech firm Moderna, as well as Germans CureVac and BioNTech.

Digital cash might then become an offspring of blockchain. Not only the U.S., but China and Russia are also interested in a national crypto-currency. A global currency – of course controlled by central bankers – may soon be adopted in the form of a basket of currencies, and would circulate virtually. Endless permutations of the toxic cocktail of IoT, blockchain technology and the social credit system could loom ahead.

Already Spain has announced that it is introducing UBI, and wants it to be permanent. It’s a form insurance for the elite against social uprisings, especially if millions of jobs never come back.

So the key working hypothesis is that Covid-19 could be used as cover for the usual suspects to bring in a new digital financial system and a mandatory vaccine with a “digital identity” nanochip with dissent not tolerated: what Slavoj Zizek calls the “erotic dream” of every totalitarian government.

Yet underneath it all, amid so much anxiety, a pent-up rage seems to be gathering strength, to eventually explode in unforeseeable ways. As much as the system may be changing at breakneck speed, there’s no guarantee even the 0.1 percent will be safe. 

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is “2030.” Follow him on Facebook.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

The Bigger Picture Is Hiding Behind a Virus

By Jonathan Cook

Source

Things often look the way they do because someone claiming authority tells us they look that way. If that sounds too cynical, pause for a moment and reflect on what seemed most important to you just a year ago, or even a few weeks ago. 

Then, you may have been thinking that Russian interference in western politics was a vitally important issue, and something that we needed to invest much of our emotional and political energy in countering. Or maybe a few weeks ago you felt that everything would be fine if we could just get Donald Trump out of the White House. Or maybe you imagined that Brexit was the panacea to Britain’s problems – or, conversely, that it would bring about the UK’s downfall.

Still feel that way?

After all, much as we might want to (and doubtless some will try), we can’t really blame Vladimir Putin, or Russian troll farms spending a few thousand dollars on Facebook advertising, for the coronavirus pandemic. Much as we might want to, we can’t really blame Trump for the catastrophic condition of the privatised American health care system, totally ill-equipped and unprepared for a nationwide health emergency. And as tempting as it is for some of us, we can’t really blame Europe’s soft borders and immigrants for the rising death toll in the UK. It was the global economy and cheap travel that brought the virus into Britain, and it was the Brexit-loving prime minister Boris Johnson who dithered as the epidemic took hold.

The bigger picture

Is it possible that only a few weeks ago our priorities were just a little divorced from a bigger reality? That what appeared to be the big picture was not actually big enough? That maybe we should have been thinking about even more important, pressing matters – systemic ones like the threat of a pandemic of the very kind we are currently enduring.

Because while we were all thinking about Russiagate or Trump or Brexit, there were lots of experts – even the Pentagon, it seems – warning of just such a terrible calamity and urging that preparations be made to avoid it. We are in the current mess precisely because those warnings were ignored or given no attention – not because the science was doubted, but because there was no will to do something to avert the threat.

If we reflect, it is possible to get a sense of two things. First, that our attention rarely belongs to us; it is the plaything of others. And second, that the “real world”, as it is presented to us, rarely reflects anything we might usefully be able to label as objective reality. It is a set of political, economic and social priorities that have been manufactured for us.

Agents outside our control with their own vested interests – politicians, the media, business – construct reality, much as a film-maker designs a movie. They guide our gaze in certain directions and not others.

A critical perspective 

At a moment like this of real crisis, one that overshadows all else, we have a chance – though only a chance – to recognise this truth and develop our own critical perspective. A perspective that truly belongs to us, and not to others.

Think back to the old you, the pre-coronavirus you. Were your priorities the same as your current ones?

This is not to say that the things you prioritise now – in this crisis – are necessarily any more “yours” than the old set of priorities.

If you’re watching the TV or reading newspapers – and who isn’t – you’re probably feeling scared, either for yourself or for your loved ones. All you can think about is the coronavirus. Nothing else really seems that important by comparison. And all you can hope for is the moment when the lockdowns are over and life returns to normal.

But that’s not objectively the “real world” either. Terrible as the coronavirus is, and as right as anyone is to be afraid of the threat it poses, those “agents of authority” are again directing and controlling our gaze, though at least this time those in authority include doctors and scientists. And they are guiding our attention in ways that serve their interests – for good or bad.

Endless tallies of infections and deaths, rocketing graphs, stories of young people, along with the elderly, battling for survival serve a purpose: to make sure we stick to the lockdown, that we maintain social distancing, that we don’t get complacent and spread the disease.

Here our interests – survival, preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed – coincide with those of the establishment, the “agents of authority”. We want to live and prosper, and they need to maintain order, to demonstrate their competence, to prevent dissatisfaction bubbling up into anger or open revolt.

Crowded out by detail 

But again the object of our attention is not as much ours as we may believe. While we focus on graphs, while we twitch the curtains to see if neighbours are going for a second run or whether families are out in the garden celebrating a birthday distant from an elderly parent, we are much less likely to be thinking about how well the crisis is being handled. The detail, the mundane is again crowding out the important, the big picture.

Our current fear is an enemy to our developing and maintaining a critical perspective. The more we are frightened by graphs, by deaths, the more we are likely to submit to whatever we are told will keep us safe.

Under cover of the public’s fear, and of justified concerns about the state of the economy and future employment, countries like the US are transferring huge sums of public money to the biggest corporations. Politicians controlled by big business and media owned by big business are pushing through this corporate robbery without scrutiny – and for reasons that should be self-explanatory. They know our attention is too overwhelmed by the virus for us to assess intentionally mystifying arguments about the supposed economic benefits, about yet more illusory trickle-down.

There are many other dramatic changes being introduced, almost too many and too rapidly for us to follow them properly. Bans on movementIntensified surveillanceCensorship. The transfer of draconian powers to the police, and preparations for the deployment of soldiers on streets. Detention without trialMartial law. Measures that might have terrified us when Trump was our main worry, or Brexit, or Russia, may now seem a price worth paying for a “return to normality”.

Paradoxically, a craving for the old-normal may mean we are prepared to submit to a new-normal that could permanently deny us any chance of returning to the old-normal.

The point is not just that things are far more provisional than most of us are ready to contemplate; it’s that our window on what we think of as “the real world”, as “normal”, is almost entirely manufactured for us.

Distracted by the virus 

Strange as this may sound right now, in the midst of our fear and suffering, the pandemic is not really the big picture either. Our attention is consumed by the virus, but it is, in a truly awful sense, a distraction too.

In a few more years, maybe sooner than we imagine, we will look back on the virus – with the benefit of distance and hindsight – and feel the same way about it we do now about Putin, or Trump, or Brexit.

It will feel part of our old selves, our old priorities, a small part of a much bigger picture, a clue to where we were heading, a portent we did not pay attention to when it mattered most.

The virus is one small warning – one among many – that we have been living out of sync with the natural world we share with other life. Our need to control and dominate, our need to acquire, our need for security, our need to conquer death – they have crowded out all else. We have followed those who promised quick, easy solutions, those who refused to compromise, those who conveyed authority, those who spread fear, those who hated.

If only we could redirect our gaze, if we could seize back control of our attention for a moment, we might understand that we are being plagued not just by a virus but by our fear, our hate, our hunger, our selfishness. The evidence is there in the fires, the floods and the disease, in the insects that have disappeared, in the polluted seas, in the stripping of the planet’s ancient lungs, its forests, in the melting ice-caps.

The big picture is hiding in plain sight, no longer obscured by issues like Russia and Brexit but now only by the most microscopic germ, marking the thin boundary between life and death.

COVID-19: The Capitalist Emperor Has No Clothes

By Alamu Baraka

Source

The systemic failure of the capitalist order triggered by the coronavirus has reinforced the growing awareness that extreme wealth inequality is a fundamental characteristic of the system.

“Billions of dollars were allocated to business while millions of people are facing an increasingly desperate situation.”

As the capitalist emperor strolls down the avenue of U.S. public opinion butt-naked but for the first time since the 1930s, more and more people are starting to realize that they were not crazy. The brutal failures of the capitalist system that they saw were not a figment of their imagination or a diversion from their own personal failures. Instead, they were the awful reality of degradation, dehumanization and social insecurity embedded in the system. Many could see that reality but wouldn’t allow themselves to believe their own eyes and experiences. They couldn’t call it out like the kid in the fable – until now.

The claim that the U.S. was an exceptional nation and that the capitalist order represented the highest expression of human development has been shattered by the second global collapse of the capitalist order within twelve years. Millions thrown out of work, global supply chains disrupted, trillions disappeared in the capitalist casino euphemistically called the stock market… The state’s feeble and class biased response to COVID-19 has resulted in a costly lesson in class politics for the U.S. public.

The dictatorship of the capitalist class has survived because the class reality of the dictatorship has been obscured. Limited democracy, social democracy, white nationalism in the form of patriotism, the corruption of unions, the post-war compromise between capital and labor, state subsidies for the expansion of the white middle-class, debt-driven consumption and cross-class white suppression of the democratic and human rights of African Americans provided the material and ideological basis for the perpetuation of the dictatorship throughout most of the 20th century and into the 21st.

“The claim that the U.S. was an exceptional nation has been shattered by the second global collapse of the capitalist order within twelve years.”

Howeverthe systemic failure of the capitalist order triggered by the coronavirus has reinforced the growing awareness among the population that extreme wealth inequality is not just a temporary quirk that can be remedied with tax and some redistributive policies but a fundamental characteristic of the system.

For example, the debate that took place leading up to the passing of the legislation by Congress to address COVID-19’s impact dramatically exposed a capitalist class agenda that was objectively opposed to the interest of the entire working class, the poor, and the declining middle-class.

The people saw that billions of dollars were allocated to business while millions of people are facing an increasingly desperate situation.They are facing their second pay period without a full check and they are weeks away from receiving any kind of meaningful relief. But the peoples’ bills continue to mount up while the multinational corporations get bailed out. April rent and mortgage payments are due and with everyone home and eating more but with less money for food, thousands are being forced to go without or rely on food pantries. The $1,200 payoff is an insult.

And with the tragic reality of the shamefully inadequate public healthcare system in the U.S. and the rumors that private insurance healthcare premiums might increase 40% next yearthe capitalists want to shut down any discussion around Medicare for All along with any discussion on nationalizing the healthcare industry.

“The $1,200 payoff is an insult.”

While millions are losing their employer-based healthcare coverage, Biden says that nothing has changed his opposition to Medicare for All. Another neoliberal Democrat.

This is not being missed by many people.

The demystification of capitalism and a realistic understanding of the role of the U.S. in the global order is a good thing and that will be the silver lining coming out of this current crisis.

The precipitous decline of U.S. power and prestige is visible for all to see. The world sees that it is the Chinese who are sending ventilators to Europe. The world also sees that several states and U.S. federal agencies like FEMA are being forced to buy ventilators and face masks from China.

The world also recognizes that the U.S. lost its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite its enormous war machine and the failed attempt to effect regime change in Syria.

The public outside of the U.S. know that there is absolutely nothing exceptional about this nation, except for its inability, up until now, to see itself the way that millions see it – as a declining power that is morally corrupt and a danger to itself and the world.

“The world sees that it is the Chinese who are sending ventilators to Europe.”

The ability to see the emperor and all his nakedness and know they are seeing the truth, reflects the loss of what Danny Haiphong and Robert Sirvent  call the ideology of “American exceptionalism and American innocence.”

That shift in consciousness is occurring slowly and unevenly. But let there be no doubt what this change in consciousness will result in. It will not mean that the rulers will surrender power to the aroused masses without a fight. No, it only means that the subjective factor – a revolutionary consciousness – will catch up with the objective factor of the ongoing crisis of the Pan-European white supremacist colonial/capitalist patriarchy. These are the conditions for a revolutionary advance.

That moment is on the horizon. Can you see it?

Corona rewrites capitalist bust-chronology & proves: It’s the nation-state, stupid

April 03, 2020

Corona rewrites capitalist bust-chronology & proves: It’s the nation-state, stupid

By Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

It’s an unusual prediction, but the coronavirus may kill the “neoliberal Trotskyist” projects of the Eurozone and the European Union because the pan-European project has, sadly, always cared more for itself than for the well-being of its constituents.

Briefly: the major theoretical contribution of “Daddy Stalin” (to quote Che) to socialism was to insist that nations can indeed go their own way and implement “socialism in one country”; Trotskyism insists that socialism must sweep universally in a perfectly-coordinated movement. It’s clear who has prevailed – the Trotskyists remain winless. While Stalinists just roll their eyes at the bitter Trotskyist refusal to cooperate with them, the latter attempt to denigrate everyone else’s socialist victories as a victory of “Stalinism”… which is no denigration at all, but it does give fodder to socialism-ignorant capitalist-imperialists. Anyway….

The EU and Eurozone run on both the secular, earthly fervor of Trotskyism as well as the religious fanaticism that neoliberalism actually does work (despite all the lack of factual proof).

Both projects also run on capitalism of course, but the corona shutdown has destroyed modern capitalist ideology: there is no demand-side economics possible (how can there be normal demand in a shutdown?), and there is no supply-side economic solution (deregulation and tax cuts are going to work, LOL?). There is now – as socialists already knew – only the government.

This reality is what the corona crisis is laying bare (and does not logically automatically translate into totalitarianism), and this is also why “capitalism with Western characteristics” is recklessly charging towards Great Depression 2 – their ideology is fundamentally incapable of addressing such a situation.

Europe’s safety net means that they won’t be charging into astronomical unemployment, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t already a hot mess: The Eurozone is into an underreported second Lost Decade; the Yellow Vests were proving weekly that anti-European sentiment is not proof of a far-right ideology; the European Union’s handling of Brexit was showing – as they openly intended – that it was more vengeful and punitive than a wronged woman.

The mega-bailouts which will be required due to the corona economic shutdown: once these are finished the only logical fiscal remedy, per neoliberalism, will be “mega-austerity”, right? But that’s another column….

When a crisis hits and nobody can help, a nation-state can only reap what it has sown; nobody is coming to your lockdowned house to help… except if you are in a socialist-inspired nation. Thus, the corona crisis is going to not just end messianic neoliberal projects but also reveal the dignity, and superior performance of the existing socialist-inspired projects.

However, the West will continue to do all they can to obfuscate this via their propaganda. The New York Times just published Australia Says Goodbye to the World’s Longest Boom, but that is inaccurate: socialist Vietnam has had the world’s best economic growth rate since 1981. Not only has their growth rate been double that of Australia’s, but Vietnam has never had a year of negative growth whereas Australia has had three. Knowing this about Vietnam is about as basic a global, objective economic fact as it gets, but since when did capitalists and their shills ever report honestly about economics?

If the Great Recession does become the Great Depression 2 then government isn’t going to disappear nor became hyper-localised – it will become even more prevalent: it will force the return of the nation-state.

Why on earth should we suppose that Europeans will accept “more Europe” when their big, (neoliberal empire) pan-European government has been so inequality-inducing? Socialists, however, are all on board with this, but with a key twist – big government, not big neoliberal capital.

My upcoming book is called Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism and I explained why it is first Iranian, second Islamic, third socialist and in that precise order. After much public debate, and signed off on by then-Supreme Leader Khomeini, Iran decided that the needs of the nation must come before the dictates of Islam. Don’t like it? Move to Saudi Arabia. Iran’s government controls, according to many estimates, about 90% of the non-Black Market economy – more than Cuba’s government. Don’t like it? Move to the US. I am not being aggressive nor xenophobic – I am pointing out that none of this is going to change without a huge fight from the majority of Iranians.

Maybe the West won’t veer from neoliberalism and capitalism-imperialism without a huge fight either?

If so, that will only ensure ever-deepening inequality: the West’s post-corona economic future looks too bleak to put into words yet, but history shows Westerners should expect years of economic hardship for those nations who continue to sacrifice their well-being at the altar of the free market.

How many busts will it take before capitalists are as market-disillusioned as socialists?

Marx proved that capitalism is an endless cycle of boom to bust; central planning, central ownership of key industries, a vanguard party and repression of fascist speech is what socialist-inspired nations use to provide stability during the tough times and to increase mass prosperity during good times.

The corona economic hysteria – which I recently paralleled with the Y2K and 9/11 panics – is only giving us even more data about “capitalism with Western characteristics”. In short: because inflating Everything Bubble 2 was the West’s solution to Everything Bubble 1 (which popped during the 2008 crisis), we can bookend a new Western economic era without accusations of being overly premature.

Boom 1: 1865-1914 – The formative years of modern capitalism, which included covered-up, denied, and unknown holocausts of famine, epidemics and poverty in non-Western countries/colonial subjects. These were all wilfully created: historians know that “we must allow the rules of the free-market to reign no matter how many die in a famine or epidemic” was the open official justification time after time by ruling colonialists. Socialism had difficulties during its formative years, as well; however, the Late Victorian Holocausts and the Making of the Third World were not provoked by Cold War, and its highest ideal was “the White rich should have the freedoms required to rule unopposed”. Booms for the West during this era, but busts for everyone else that were so terrible that many nations have still not recovered.

Bust 1: 1914-1921 – WWI and aftermath: A war started by Western bankers & imperialists to forestall anti-banker socialism.

Boom 2: 1921-1929 – the “Roaring Twenties”

Bust 2: 1929-1945 – the Great Depression and WWII

Boom 3: 1945 – 1975 -The “30 glorious years” for the West, but not for their imperial-turned-neo-imperial (ending direct rule to replace with local puppets) subjects.

Bust 3: 1976-1991 – Widespread recession: blame the Arabs for finally exerting some control over their natural resources; blame the Japanese for increasing expectations of better quality.

Boom 4: 1991-2001 – Dot.com boom; banker entrapment of Eastern Bloc boom; stupid actions/investments caused by alleged “death of socialism”/TINA; Iranian Islamic Socialists defeat Western puppet Iraq and say, “Hey, where did everyone go?”

Bust 4 – 2001-2008 – War on Terror good for Pentagon’s contractors, not for anyone else. For the 99% this Bust era has continued until 2020.

Boom 5 – 2009-2019 – This boom was limited to the Western 1%. They got “socialising the losses” bailouts, QE Infinity and ZIRP; the 99% got minijobs, austerity and stagnant wages.

Bust 5 – 2020-? – Corona crisis and incredible overreaction by countries which believe in “Capitalism with Western characteristics” launches Great Depression 2. 1% and 99% now on same cycle together. News flash: there will be no quick ‘V’ recovery (see “Boom 5”).

Pretty, pretty bad record for the 99%, eh?

Now compare this with socialist-inspired countries:

China: “Century of Humiliation” ends in 1949: Seventy years later they are the undisputed #2 superpower.

Vietnam: Since the end of the French & American Wars and the victory of socialism: Says Hello to the World’s Longest Boom.

Iran: Since end of Western-forced war with Iraq: second-highest increase in UN Human Development Index from 1990-2014. Inhuman triple sanctions in 2012 (UN, US, EU) go unopposed by fake Western leftists; Washington’s attempt at “$0 in oil sales” force Iran to rely on 25 years of gains as Great Depression 2 starts (although that war-era command economy experience will surely come in handy now).

Cuba: Since 1994 (the “Special Period” – caused by the Soviet elite’s wilful, undemocratic implosion of global socialism) Cuba’s annual growth rate has never been negative and almost always superior to that of US ally Mexico. Cuba is perhaps the most solidly-united socialist nation despite a decades-long, genocidal Western blockade.

North Korea: No nation was more decimated by the West, so they had nowhere to go but up. And they did – up until the late 1960s the West was embarrassed by how much smaller North Korea outshined their southern brothers and sisters. Solid growth continued until the Special Period disaster, which lasted a full decade. Despite the endless and enormous war games, (semi-)genocidal blockade, efforts at provoking starvation (North Korea isn’t Cuba, with its well-organised, lush agricultural fields outside of Havana — it’s 80% mountains and only 17% arable land) North Korea has almost always posted solid economic growth prior to ruthless Trump.

The data couldn’t be clearer: the faith-based system of neoliberalism has obviously been led by false messiahs, whereas despite disasters both natural (corona) and unnatural (sanctions, blockades, Cold War, Hot War) socialism has provided more stable economic growth.

Want stability and progress? It’s the socialist-inspired nation-state, stupid.

Trotskyists, of course, are not a huge problem like neoliberal-neoimperial capitalists but a minor part of the obvious solutions.

China was blockaded for decades, but they are a continent – just imagine what the smaller nations could do if the West called off their Cold Wars and didn’t need so spend so much preparing/cleaning up Hot Wars? The answer is obvious: widespread emulation would ensue, spelling the end of Western capitalism-imperialism.

Many smart (semi-)dissidents in the West just can’t break free to get to that point above, sadly – they insist that reformism of capitalism-imperialism is all that is necessary. Nonsense, and unproven.

Similarly: In my lifetime I will wait for the revealing of the Mahdi before I wait for the arrival of Trotskyism’s universal victory – the needs of the nation-state simply cannot wait.

What socialist-inspired politics has always concluded is that a drastic change to the perpetually-busted system I briefly outlined is needed, not yet another bailout for that system’s rich profiteers.

The West’s corona panic led to an immediate rush to bail out their parasitic class with the money of the victims of economic parasitism, yet again. Will the corona bailouts permanently bust the Western system?

Or will the West actually sufficiently bail out their debt-slave citizenry this time? To use a lazy journalistic phrase which I detest: it remains to be seen.

Socialists (of all the different varieties) however, have seen enough.

***********************************

Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Capitalist-imperialist West stays home over corona – they grew a conscience?

Corona meds in every pot & a People’s QE: the Trumpian populism they hoped for?

A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire)

MSNBC: Chicago price gouging up 9,000% & the sports-journalization of US media

Tough times need vanguard parties – are ‘social media users’ the West’s?

If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone

Landlord class: Waive or donate rent-profits now or fear the Cultural Revolution

Corona repeating 9/11 & Y2K hysterias? Both saw huge economic overreactions

(A Soviet?) Superman: Red Son – the new socialist film to watch on lockdown


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. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

Corona meds in every pot & a People’s QE: the Trumpian populism they hoped for?

March 23, 2020

by Ramin Mazaheri exclusive for the Saker Blog

In any sane, modern nation a financial crisis combined with a (due to sub-standard) health care crisis would almost certainly produce election victories for progressive, big-government candidates.

Few call the US sane, and many say it’s not even modern. Iranian relatives of mine visit they US and say: that place is a falling-down dump – and it’s not like the TV show “Friends”, neither. The problem is that they had already seen places like South Korea, China and other modern nations.

Of course South Korea has the technological ability to smart-test and smart-track, and probably smart-cure, the Corona virus into remission: when I was there in 2013, covering the Korean nuclear war hysteria/diversion (version 14.0), I realised Korea had passed a major human threshold when I found that they had done away with physical keys – doors locks are digitised. That is like building a better mousetrap; the door key must be one of the oldest, least-improved upon inventions in human history, but young Seoulians only see them in history books.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating: millions are going to be unemployed in the US as a result of a hugely, hugely drastic shutdown of the West’s two native continents. It defies all Marxist logic that neo-imperial Rome would do this, so I’m quite at a loss. Either it’s mass hysteria, or the 1%ers believe all must be sacrificed to protect the health of the Hamptons, or the West’s leaders don’t know what they hell are doing (as I recently discussed here). The Corona conspiracy thing – sure, nothing is impossible… just give me proof I can print, first.

The reality is that my focus on the economic impact of Corona is just not shared by my many of my journalistic colleagues – they just don’t care about economics, period. Trying to talk economics with them is how they must feel trying to talk Kardashian with me – my thoughts are entirely superficial (as well as unprintable).

So none of them can likely concentrate enough to comprehend this brief paragraph: the West has decided to add an “Everything-Is-Tanking Bubble” on top of the “Everything Bubble”. For those who have followed economic trends since way back in 2008, “Everything Bubble” is really “Everything Bubble 2”, of course. Quantitative Easing and Zero Interest Rate Policies – a.k.a. “helicopter money” and “no-strings attached central bank loans, because the loans will surely trickle-down” – have only re-inflated the 1%er dominated asset classes like stocks and real estate to new record-dangerous levels.

The markets are tanking – and by that I mean every market (although crypto has held on – S. Koreans are big fans). Safe havens like gold are also tanking, so even The New York Times knows that this phenomenon is “weird”. “Weird” is a word that adolescents love to use because it is so vague and can cover anything – it is thus nearly useless,, and one would think that the world’s greatest journalistic enterprise could find better writers than that… but no. It’s a “weird” time precisely because the rich, investor class knows that central banks have since 2008 foolishly wasted all their ammo and can now only print paper.

And what’s wrong with massive money printing? Nothing, sometimes.

It has taken 12 years but we are finally seeing a “People’s QE” possibly being passed in the US. (No MSM is using that phrase, of course – that would be “weird”.) Surely it’s going to be well-written: it is being cobbled together and slammed through Congress as fast as possible in order to prevent more “rich people” markets from tanking. Anyway, giving some $1,000 per American might actually see QE invested into the “real” economy, and thus improve it far more than using it for stock buybacks ever did.

This is good news. I’m all for the downfall of neo-imperial Rome… but I do hate to see the lower classes suffer, and suffer they already are. The stay-at-home orders in the helicopter Mom-dominated Northeast, Chicago and West Coast are being met with a universal cry: “So how do I pay my rent?”

A People’s QE… finally. If, and that’s a big “if”, it is actually passed. Newspaper editorial boards across the country are already screaming that it will be wasted by 99%-er peons, or that it will be uselessly saved, or that we will anger the vengeful one true god – the markets – with such an intervention. How dare we blaspheme? WWHD – What Would (Alexander) Hamilton Do?

Well, does Trump want to get re-elected?

If so, he better jump all over this Huey Long moment.

Huey Long was the Depression Era governor of Louisiana who famously promised “a chicken in every pot”, and was assassinated for it of course.

He was rather character assassinated in the tremendously fine classic novel, All The King’s Men by poet Robert Penn Warren, whose main flaw was that he likely was – like most poets – totally disinterested by economics, that most un-metaphorical of disciplines. The 2006 movie version was an artistic assassination of the novel, but who in 2006 Hollywood was pushing economic populism? Who in Hollywood ever pushed economic populism?

Despite rejecting race-baiting Long is synonymous with the evils of populism in the US. Go watch some of his speeches on youtube: it is incredible to see the type of body language he used, as well as other politicians did back then. If he’s not pounding the lectern he is theatrically twirling an upraised fist over and over before smashing it into his palm. Nobody can do stuff like that in 21st century America – soccer Moms would cower, and hipsters too.

But the Depression Era was not about niceties. And neither is Trump, of course. The screen shot of him crossing out “Corona” virus on a speech and replacing it with “Chinese” virus exemplifies this. Trump is terrible – a neo-fascist – and we all knew this going in. Another Long slogan was “Every man a king”, but Trump always viewed only himself as the one true king.

Well, I can report that in France many fellow Muslims have told me that they have seen the light: many will vote for Marine Le Pen in the 2nd round of the 2022 presidential election IF Macron is the other option (ugh!). Why? Because economics is more important that racism; identity politics is for fake-leftists – class warfare for real ones. Nobody, Muslim or not, wants to vote for Le Pen in 2022, but more Macronism? Nobody in the 99% should vote for that twice.

Maybe Trumpism can be different? He’s certainly running out of time, but maybe Corona is when Trump becomes the not-neo-fascist populist which many had initially hoped for?

Maybe Trump becomes the 21st century Huey Long, which is what the overwhelming majority of America wanted in 2016, given that: no, you stupid MSM journalist, the average Trump voter is not a rabid White supremacist, merely “White Trash” (To use seemingly the only ethnic slur which has not been “reclaimed” in the PC era – it is, of course, a class slur more than an ethnic slur).

“Ramin, why are you writing books about socialism but pushing Trump, then Le Pen, now Trump again and then probably Le Pen again! You are too complicated – no wonder you are unmarried!”

Well that’s not holding back on me, LOL! I can take the tough criticisms, though – can’t dish ‘em out, otherwise. And, fool that I am, I chose to be a journalist so….

I am “pushing” Trump because it seems certain that the Democratic candidate this November will be the senator from America’s tax haven state; the right-hand man of guy who said to Latino media (here),“The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had said the same policies back in the 1980s I’d be considered a moderate republican,” Barry Obama; and a guy whom in me evokes no sense of warm, sentimental, safe, elderly, youth-fearing nostalgia – Joe Biden.

Biden is terrible. Biden has been a corporate tool his whole career, and that’s why he was placed on the dais next to Obama in 2008, as we all know. Hell, Biden is now senile – that doesn’t get better, you know?

Biden in office means People’s QE remains the same-old Corporate QE. Biden in office means nothing changes – status quo-ism reigns. How can we advance socialism if – out of fear of big, bad, racist Trump – we keep cowering in status-quoism?

So I reject that I am “playing devil’s advocate” – I am not an adolescent (nor French), and I know the devil doesn’t need any more help than he already has. (Or “she” already has – I don’t want to micro-trigger someone here.)

Can Trump become Baby Huey? Well, for those who really want to know: Listen to me – hear what I say: No, I don’t think Trump can.

Trump has never been a neo-populist but a neo-fascist. He is a race-baiter and totally in bed with corporate domination of the lower classes. The MSM can’t talk about neo-fascism and the reality of it in America – because they support it of course – thus they have focused exclusively on the race-baiting part; that allows the soccer moms, hipsters and snowflakes a chance to virtue-signal about how terrible racism is while doing nothing about it structurally other than posting a yard sign about how “Hate doesn’t live here”.

But one can’t blame my imagination for getting fired up when – after a decade of covering QE from Paris – I read about a QE which may not totally go directly into the pockets of private bankers, stockholders, landlords and luxury goods owners. Full disclosure: I, too, am currently rather desperate for $1,000.

Trump is going to have to be some sort of a leftist populist to get re-elected because millions are going to be unemployed in the US. The lower classes will demand it, even in America.

Hell, the custodial class – whom nobody in the US writes about it – is seemingly going to be decimated by corona, right? Why are there no political cartoons lauding them as heroes – only for doctors? Nobody cares about the custodial worker class in the West – not only are they poor, they are also non-White. Such an unheard of view can only be thought of by someone who has embraced socialism in their heart, and one who views no worker as disposable Trash.

But Western capitalism-imperialism certainly does view workers of all colors as disposable. Something drastic has to be done about it – I doubt Trump cares, but he does seem to prefer being president to going back to starring in a reality show.

The Deep State undoubtedly and immediately attacked Trump for his effort to rejigger US foreign policy and free trade policy, but he does appear so very, very ethically malleable; he certainly can connect with the average American. Could he be a new Huey?

Watch some Huey Long, railing here against “the 4%” and you’ll see that the answer is no, of course. Why? because Trump’s huge ego would be tremendously insulted if anyone said he was part of “the 4%” and not the 1%; not part of the .1%; not the .01%!

Unlike Huey Long: “How many men ever been to a barbecue and would let one man take off the table what they intended for nine tenths of the people to eat? The only way you’d ever be able to feed the balance of the people is to make that man come back and bring back some of dat grub he ain’t got no ‘bidness with!”

Huge applause indeed! That’s hilarious and awesome American politics! No wonder they shot him.

The US cannot do better than that, they have proven – America is not even close to socialist revolution. Yes, there are socialists in the US of course, but a Baby Huey is surely the best they can do this November. Hell, they ran to Biden even before the Corona crisis and they probably will stone the “rabble rouser” “socialist” Sanders now.

And it’s not like race-baiting isn’t still ruining the American psyche. But we have the MSM to thank for that, along with doing everything they could have done to inflame – rather than calm – the Corona crisis.

And $1,000 isn’t going to cut it. Not by a long shot.

So no matter how you look at it 2020 is looking tough for America – somebody might even have to pound a lectern?

PS – I am not complicated, LOL! It is Western politics which are unnecessarily complicated! And contradictory! Don’t blame me for trying to bring some sense to it all.

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. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

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