The 4-year (neoliberal) radicalisation of US media & Bidenites’ ‘unradical radicalism’

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)
In this file photo, Joe Biden speaks during a press conference at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020. (AFP photo)
The 4-year (neoliberal) radicalisation of US media & Bidenites’ ‘unradical radicalism’
(Ramin Mazaheri is currently covering the US elections. 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.)

Monday, 23 November 2020 6:50 AM  [ Last Update: Monday, 23 November 2020 7:01 AM ]

By Ramin Mazaheri

For four years The New York Times editorial page has been unreadable because into every column – no matter the subject – an anti-Trump diatribe was inserted. For the world’s many billions who think there actually are issues other than the president of the United States, their obsession was incredibly tedious.

It reminded me of how the World Socialist Web Site ends every column with a reminder that the only solution – no matter the subject – is Trotskyist revolution. At least they keep that at the bottom, so you can avoid it if you want.

The difference between the two is that one is openly opposed to neoliberalism and neo-imperialism, while the other censors any discussion of these enormously crucial and socially-devastating concepts.

Joe Biden recently made waves for snapping at a reporter asking a difficult question, and it reminded us of how very coddled he was during the presidential campaign. But a possible change from Sleepy Joe to Cranky Joe may or may not be a problem – that depends on if his apparent election win survives the judicial oversight of the vote, something which is supported by 46% of America (per a poll by The Economist) but 0% of their mainstream media.

The bigger potential issue – and it’s a global one, because foreign journalists often ape the US, in what Iranians have called for 75 years “Westoxification” (being intoxicated by Westernism) – is what the US media actually evolves into post-Trump (if he loses).

In one of the many positive unintended consequences of Donald Trump, the US media went from the slavish sucking up to power during the Dubya Bush era of “wars without bodybags”, to “everybody loves Obama (even though in 2012 he beat Mitt Romney just 51% to 47%), to rediscovering that the press is not actually merely the public relations team of the government.

If Biden wins, will the US mainstream media quickly revert to sucking up to power? Will it be still only softball questions for President Biden?

Or does four years of decent reporting – sadly combined with a concurrent journalistic era of hysterical fear-mongering, Russophobia, urging hatred of one’s differently-voting neighbour and a moral outrage which rested upon a wilful ignorance regarding what Trump supporters really believe – actually have an impact?

The question reminded of an ancient Chinese aphorism: “The murder of a ruler by his minister, or of a father by his son, is not the result of events of one morning or one evening.”

The radicalisation of fake-leftists into faker fake-leftists? Or will the US truly reform its imperialist ways?

The larger point of that aphorism is that actions have consequences, and that if we allow things to go too far down the wrong road an unjust ruler gets murdered, or a country becomes as incredibly internally divided as the US now is.

Journalists are supposed to be combative and even provocative, but the problem here is entirely with the never-stated ideology of Bidenism. (Please note that is entirely different from me writing: the problem is with the rabidity of the never-Trumper ideology.)

Because actions have consequences, we should grasp that Bidenism is not just a “return to (the 2015) normal” but also includes a vindictive, ever-more flaming evangelical insistence that US-led Westernism (neoliberalism and neo-imperialism) is the one true religion, which Donald Trump was heretically and treasonously wrong to even partially call into question.

Who are these unreadable new and old columnists of The New York Times? I can tell you what they are not: they are not journalists who openly denounce imperialism, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the oppression of the Wall Street high finance class or the other key ideas which differentiate leftism from centrism and rightism.

No, the loudest Bidenites are people who are upset that Trump is now trying to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq; are upset that Trump did not bomb Syria; could not care less about the famine in Yemen; and who would not have expressed outrage at all for the assassination of Iranian anti-terror hero Qasem Soleimani if Barack Obama had killed him.

The idea that Biden’s foreign policy is going to be less belligerent than Trump’s is something based only on hope and not on the past four years (nor Biden’s 47 years in public service). Just look at how Bidenites are preparing to deal with Trumpers and ask yourself: is the neo-imperial hegemon really going to treat foreigners – especially Muslims in oil-rich areas – better than their very own neighbors?

Bidenites essentially want to criminalise working for Trumpism, censor Trumpist analyses, and make Trump the very first president to ever be prosecuted (what happened to the outrage of Trump’s calls to prosecute “crooked Hillary”?). These are all “radical” in the very worst sense of the word. The obstacle in implementing such radical policies is that Trumpism won at every level on November 3rd except the presidency, in a total concretisation and not repudiation of Trumpism, whether one likes that or not; the problem is that Bidenites at this time in 2016 were, incredibly, already talking publicly about impeaching the then-president-elect Trump, gutting their credibility.

These do not seem like the people who are going to herald a new era of tolerance for non-American ideas because they can’t even tolerate half of America’s ideas. Bidenism may turn out to be “Western universal values” on steroids because Bidenites realise there truly is a threat to the 2015 status quo, which they are obviously hell-bent on suppressing.

These do not seem like the people who are going to become more tolerant of those who do not accept America’s fake-leftist and divisive identity politics, which are entirely based around one thing: distracting from opposition to and the discussion of both neo-imperialism and neoliberalism.

Like Obama, will Biden get a Nobel Peace Prize for his election campaign?

Many of us are old enough to have seen the failure of this idea, currently held by many non-Americans, that the switching from a Republican to a Democrat will herald an entirely new era free from American belligerence.

The younger class may not remember the intense hatred Democrats had for George W. Bush, but the proof of it is in that shocking, totally unmerited Nobel. In 2013 Obama would be credibly quoted as saying, “Turns out I’m really good at killing people. Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.”

If things really do change for the better if Biden wins, journalists will have to have changed as well. Of course, we cannot expect their publishers and editors to allow them to be towards Biden but a fraction of how oppositional they were with Trump, but the younger generation of reporters have now been weaned on journalistic ideas which may prove hard for neoliberal and neo-imperialist forces to rein in.

However, the problem of their essential fake-leftism – of Bidenism – remains, no?

And this is a problem for journalists worldwide, who often read the US mainstream media and are so proud that they can understand a foreign language so well that they may fail to realise they are also imbibing Biden’s latent, never-stated neoliberalism and neo-imperialism; they are so happy Trump is gone they forget the corruption and anti-“universal values” stances which got him elected in the first place. 

The worry is that instead of a genuine move away from American rightism, journalists in the US and abroad only imbibe a key hallmark of Bidenism: intolerance for dissent and the refusal to engage in dispassionate conversation about vital societal issues. The worry is that they become accepting of Bidenism’s flaming insistence that Western liberalism is the only acceptable form of human society worldwide – this is all adds up to the “unradical radicalism” of Bidenism.

Journalists must be skeptical, but they must be accurate – refusing to report on the reality of American Trumpism is as bad as those Americans whose family relations who have become frozen because of their inability to tolerate their relative’s right to vote as they wish.

That’s an American problem, but the idea that Bidenism is actually an anti-imperial and anti-neoliberal movement, or that it will continue Trump’s relative drawdown of American forces worldwide – that’s something you’ve never actually heard from Bidenites.

Think you will (if Biden wins)?


The Long Goodbye of Social-Democracy

The Long Goodbye of  Social-Democracy

November 17, 2020

by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

The ongoing process of political degeneration which has been happening in the UK Labour Party is basically part of a deep-going movement which has been taking place in all left-of-centre parties in Europe. In political/ideological terms, they have been swept away by the rampaging neo-liberal globalist forces – circa 1980 onwards and have, like good little boys and girls, trimmed their sails to the globalist agenda. This, straight betrayal has been justified by the usual TINA cliche. The roll-call of the sell-outs has included the SPD (Germany) the PS (France) Pasok/Syriza (Greece) the old ex-communist party of Italy, (now rebranded as the Democratic Party) PSOE (Spain) not forgetting the Democratic Party in the US. This historical betrayal has given the militant right a chance to attack the very real sell-out of the centre-left parties and publications which includes the Guardian, New York Times, Economist, Washington Post, . L’Express, La Figaro, Der Spiegel – the list is extensive.

THE BRITISH LABOUR PARTY

The Guardian newspaper had long been a supporter of the Labour Party but more recently has been the trend-setter in this ‘liberal turn’ if we may call it such. There has taken place an unseemly metamorphosis from centre-left to the Blairite right. Going back to earlier days the Manchester Guardian, as it was then called, steered an honest social-democratic course under the leadership of C.P.Scott famous for his catchphrase, ‘’Comment is free but facts are sacred.’’ was the ultimate statement of values for a free press and continued to under-pin the traditions of good newspapers throughout the western world, (but sadly of course this is no longer the case, not by a long shot).  Looking back, Scott and the then Manchester Guardian resolutely opposed the British war against the Dutch settlers (Boers) in South Africa (1899-1902). For his pains Scott’s home was physically attacked by jingoistic mobs and he required police protection, as did the property of the Manchester Guardian which was also attacked.

That was then, this is now.

The rot in the current Guardian newspaper began with the conversion of what was once a campaigning left-of-centre political publication into a straightforward business journal with a centre-right political orientation; this happened earlier in this century when the Scott Trust was rebranded as the Scott Trust Limited, along with the Guardian Media Group – GMG – both of whom became registered as a commercial company by decamping to the tax haven of the Cayman Islands British Overseas Territory, for tax reasons – i.e. tax avoidance.

THE CORBYN AFFAIR

As for the whole ‘anti-semitic’ brouhaha surrounding ex-leader of the Party, Jeremy Corbyn, and the Labour Party itself, this was engineered from both internal and external sources. It should be understood that anyone who is anyone in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and who entertains political and occupational preferment in the PLP is a member of the ‘Labour Friends of Israel’ – this is mandatory. The same is true of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats. So we have here a situation where an ostensibly sovereign state, the UK, has been penetrated by another sovereign state, Israel which in effect is selecting who and who shall not be members of the Labour Party’s policy and decision-making processes. This blatant process was caught by a mole planted by the Kuwaiti TV Station Al Jazeera and televised under the name of ‘The Lobby’ where the mole in question interviewed a member of the London Israeli embassy – Shai Masot – about the ‘taking down’ of pro-Palestinian politicians and spreading Zionist influence inside independent political groups active in the UK. This TV interview showed Mr Masot – who was blissfully unaware of being televised – discussing with his interlocutor how to cause embarrassment to pro-Palestinian politicians deemed to be detrimental to Israeli interests.

Students and campaigners told a reporter posing as a pro-Israel activist they had been given funding and support from Israel’s embassy in London to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. When asked whether he had ever “built a group”, Mr Masot replied: “Yeah, I did several things like that, yeah…in Israel and here. Nothing I can share but yeah.’’

“It’s good to leave those organisations independent, but we help them actually.”

The UK National Union of Students said it was investigating alleged attempts to influence last year’s leadership election, which saw its first black, Muslim, female president Malia Bouattia voted in.

Following claims that opposing NUS members held “secret meetings” with activists supported by the Israeli embassy, a spokesperson for the union said: “The NUS takes these allegations seriously. We are looking into them and, when we have all the information available, the behaviour of NUS officers will be reviewed, and appropriate action taken.” (1)

This seemed outrageous, but such is the influence of extra-national political configurations in British politics. This was instanced in the manner in which the now ex-leader of the Labour party – Jeremy Corbyn – was subject to a relentless but bogus assault internally from the Blairites, the media and also Britain’s Jewish opponents on the basis of his ongoing support for Palestinian rights. Of course anyone who in Zionist terms is a supporter of Palestinian rights is ipso facto an anti-Semite. On absolutely no evidence Corbyn was suspended from the leadership of the party which was now under the leadership of one (Sir) Keir Starmer QC, who doesn’t seem to have any political views at all, apart from his unconditional support of Israel, which of course befits yet another political carpet bagger on the make. ‘What are my politics?’ What would you like them to be?’

Of course the same scenario also applies to the United States – a fortiori. This latter case of organized Jewish influence both internal and from outside (Israel) is so open, widespread and obvious that it barely needs mentioning. (2) Moreover, socialism in the United States, or even social-democracy, has, never, since the days of Eugene Debs been anything other than a minor curiosity and led by a leadership so venal that it collapses at the first serious challenge. Such was the fate of Bernie Sanders, who managed to capitulate to the DNC powers-that-be not once but twice.

But to return to the Labour Party, this political hollowing-out of what was once a mass and proud reformist party has by now been pretty much neutered and in keeping with centre-left conditions just about everywhere. The list does not make pretty reading. Currently there is no centre-left party, in western Europe at least, worthy of the name, the capitulation seems complete. As follows:

GREECE. THE RISE AND FALL OF SYRIZA

On its accession to power Syriza laid great emphasis on trying to convince their opponents that their proposals were financially sound and of benefit to all in the long-run. This is one of the characteristics of social-democracy. It is an approach based upon ‘the truth’, as they understood it, and rationality of their approach and compared favourably to the mistaken beliefs of their political opponents. What Syriza did not understand, however, was that the social virtues and heritage of social democratic reform was now history, buried deep under the refuse pile of new neoliberal values.

The political imperatives of SYRIZA’s position consisted of an adamantly committed policy to stay in the eurozone and the euro regime; but this was a regime of structural flaws which only benefitted the elites rather than ordinary folk. Concurrent with this the Greek people were consistently indicating in various polls taken that they did not want to leave the eurozone either. Like Syriza they wanted to end austerity and stay in Europe and keep the euro. Neither thus understood that the root of austerity lay in the neoliberal euro regime that they wanted to keep. One would have thought that following the crowd in this instance was a dereliction of duty on the part of the Syriza leadership who should have known better, but it is so much easier to take the easy way out than actually lead.

Syriza wanted a European version of the US 1930’s New Deal, but there was no FDR on the horizon, and, moreover, this was 70 years later, and history was not about to repeat itself.

The upshot of this sad historical nemesis was when Syriza took the road of least resistance. The European base of neoliberalism required the arrangement of goods and services and free movement of labour and capital which had indebted Greece (and other peripheral economies) and ensured some form of perpetual austerity. But this was precisely how the system was designed to work.

‘’Over the course of the third debt restructuring negotiations in 2015, Syriza would at first deny and then resist this reality, then concede in steps as it retreated from its positions and its Thessaloniki programme. In August 2015, it capitulated. Like its political predecessors, New Democracy in 2012, and PASOK in 2010, Syriza would also eventually settle into the ‘caretaker’ role for the neoliberal Troika.’’ (3)

FRANCE – LE PARTI SOCIALISTE – ABJECT FAILURE.

In late 2016, French President Francois Hollande became the first leader of the 5th Republic to announce that he would not seek re-election leaving his Parti Socialiste to find another candidate for the April 2017 presidential election. The five years of Hollande’s presidency had not been kind to the ruling party. Terrorist attacks, a shift to the right on domestic matters, persistent unemployment, internal party divisions, and even an illicit love affair, eroded confidence in Hollande’s government and left the Socialists with little in their playbook that remained popular with voters.

Hollande’s choice for economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, created new problems for the president right from the start. Just 36 when he was appointed in 2014, Macron was a former investment banker at a firm owned by the Rothschild family – an unusual choice for a president who once declared that the world of finance was his “enemy”.

Macron soon angered the Socialist’s left wing with his criticism  of the 35-hour work-week and by calling for the deregulation of the French economy. Socialist deputy Yann Galut spoke for many in his party when he accused Macron of “disowning all the values of the left”. But then what else from an investment banker did the party expect?

The pro-business reforms, known as the “Macron laws”, included allowing stores to remain open  on Sundays and late in the evenings. A more wide-ranging labour code 5, made it easier for firms to hire or fire and to extend employee working hours, soon followed suit. The proposed reforms prompted months of sometimes violent protests  over the summer from students and unions who were angry over diminished labour protections. Yes it was all straight from the neoliberal policy manual. Hollande’s government controversially pushed the bill  through parliament in June 2016 without holding a vote, igniting a new burst of outrage.

Macron was not the only member of Hollande’s cabinet to anger the party’s leftist base. Manuel Valls, 54 – the French Tony Blair – who served as interior minister and then prime minister before resigning to announce his own presidential run, has proved that even a Socialist Party can have a right wing.

As protests against labour reforms spread across France last summer, Valls once again took a hard line, moving to ban further demonstrations in Paris after sporadic outbreaks of violence. It was the first time since the 1960s that union demonstrations had been banned in France and it sparked outrage across the political spectrum, including within the already divided Socialist Party. After a weeklong stand-off, the unions were eventually allowed to hold a protest march via a different route.

Valls has said he wanted to ‘modernise’ the Socialist Party, even suggesting that it rename itself because the term “Socialist” is too “old-fashioned”. He says that a revitalised party could unite all of the country’s “progressive forces” into one movement. Valls’ brand of ‘right-wing Socialism’ (i.e., a neoliberal party) highlighted the quandary the party faced. If Hollande is seen as representing the traditional yet ineffectual left, its more dynamic members now look like the centre-right.

As unemployment continued to hit record highs, Valls infuriated many by saying more needed to be done to encourage the unemployed to get back to work. Macron, for his part, had said that the costly system of unemployment benefits needed to be revised, blaming the unions for deadlocking negotiations.

Statements such as these, coming as record numbers of French citizens struggled with a lack of job opportunities, have heightened resentment among much of the public and divided those within the Socialist party. And they seem more like admonishments that would come from the right-wing Les Républicains party than from the fresh new faces of France’s left. But after the erratic Hollande years, the party now faced the task of reinventing itself as a movement that combines traditional leftist values with a fresh dynamism that is ready to meet the challenges of the future. In short, the PS had to change into a neoliberal outfit. After all – TINA!

Humiliated, unloved, and threatened to be plundered by Macron’s movement, the French socialists stood shivering at a crossroad. Hardly unexpected of course. France was, after all, being corralled into the neoliberal sheep-pen.

France has predictably followed the universal neoliberal economic prescriptions and rewarded with the wholly expected failed outcomes. After growing at an estimated rate of 1.7% in 2018, GDP grew by an abysmal estimated 1.3% in 2019. Minimal growth rates needed to overcome this economic standstill needed to be at least 2% to make any impact on what has become a secular stagnation. This has had political ramifications.

The European elections of May 2019 saw the victory of the National Rally of Marine Le Pen (far right), gathering 23% of the vote, compared to 22% for the Republic in March of Emmanuel Macron. On the international scene, the president intends to strengthen the integration of the euro zone by revitalizing the Franco-German partnership. But Macron’s delusions of grandeur are simply swimming against the stream here with unemployment at 10%, trade figures all negative, private debt to GDP at 227% and Sovereign debt at 98%. Unquestionably France is in a deep structural political/economic crisis.

From Gaullism in 1945 consisting of independence and distrust of the Anglo-Saxon bloc, to the current force feeding of neoliberalism and an unquestioning loyalty to NATO. Mission accomplished? Not quite. And then comes the emergence of the Gilet Jaunes. What next for France?

GERMANY: THE SPD

The oldest, Social Democratic Party in Europe, the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, can be traced back to the 1860s, and for much of the 20th and 21st centuries it has represented the centre-left in German politics, although not the far left politics of the pre-war KPD (Communists) and SAP (Socialist Workers’ Party’ where Willie Brandt was once a member). Nevertheless from 1891 to 1959 the Party at least theoretically espoused Marxism. Of course this all changed in the main due to Cold War but more importantly for the need for political deals and coalition governments which were made the sine qua non for the formation of governments in Germany. At the present time, the SPD is in a fragile coalition government together with the conservative CDU/CSU and the SPD, the Grand Coalition as it is called.

THE EUROPEAN POWER-HOUSE:

In economic terms Germany had always been the economic powerhouse of Europe and possibly even the world. It’s dynamism came from a globally competitive industrial base, pivoting on automobiles, chemicals, and machine tools. Its exports enabled it to command vast surpluses on current account thus providing the wherewithal to lend globally.

Whether this Teutonic pre-eminence was a conscious policy choice on the part of Germany, or merely a policy-drift due to the internal structure of Germany’s post-war policy configuration seems debatable. Germany had certainly bucked the Anglo-American trend of de-industrialisation and financialization which had become de rigueur internationally as a result of the putative ‘efficiency’ of the Anglo-American model. Germany had not deindustrialised, had a smallish stock market compared with other developed states, eschewed as far as possible a system of equity funding and maintained a traditional reliance on bank funding for industry since long term relations were easier to develop among corporations and banks and the internal structure of corporations is not driven by the desire to placate stock markets. Moreover, the German banking system had a multitiered and competitively structured organization which included a raft of smaller and medium sized banks, the Sparkassen, which operated with a local focus. This stood in stark opposition to the oligopolistic banking monoliths of the Atlantic world.

Additionally, there were further reasons why Germany emerged as the EU hegemon. Primarily, Germany did not sacrifice its world class industrial-export sector on the altar of deindustrialisation. But instead adopted and adapted its own variant of financialization while at the same time protected its industrial sector by manipulating its exchange rate to protect exports. The German manufacturing sector is highly productive, export-oriented and has maintained relatively strong union representation in the wage formation process compared to the rest of the private (domestic) sector which has modest productivity and relatively weak unions in comparison with other EU countries.

In the domestic economy, however, Germany was able to restructure (i.e., lower) wage costs and working conditions with the imposition of the Hartz reforms – a set of policies arrayed against German labour which pushed down costs through the implementation of ‘flexible’ labour markets. This gave Germany a competitive first-mover, edge in intra-European trade resulting in an ongoing surplus on its current account. And when one state achieves a (recurring) surplus on current account other states must record a deficit on current account. In this instance this was the southern periphery. If this smacked of neoliberalism –that’s because it was.

In sharp contrast to the southern periphery the eastern periphery of central Europe was not part of the eurozone which means that they were not ensnared in the Iron Cage of EMU and enabled to keep their own currencies. But heavy German investment in this area produced a core-periphery relationship where low-wage, semi-skilled assembly work was farmed out to Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. That is the usual pattern of FDI supply chains. High-end production, including R&D was kept at Home Base.

Additionally, Central European peripheries have come to depend heavily on Germany for technology and markets. If Germany faced a severe recession so would probably be the whole of Central Europe.

Thus, Germany was to become the overseer of an increasingly neo-liberal order precisely at the time when the 2008 blow-out was to cross the Atlantic and usher in a quasi-permanent period of instability for the whole EU project. The main actors in the future development of the EU were the ECB the EC and the IMF, the infamous Troika. The ECB in particular was the paragon of Banking, monetary and fiscal rectitude. This was underlined insofar as it was domiciled in Frankfurt as was the Bundesbank and was heavily influenced in policy terms by this particular institution.

Then came the 2020 derailment. Prior to this, however, growth rates had been zero to miniscule at less than 1% per quarter since 2018. Then came the yo-yo bounce in 2020. Ten Year Bunds Yields were at -0.53 (that’s a minus sign BTW), unemployment was beginning to rise, inflation was at -0.2% which means that it was actually deflation, interest rates were at zero, consumer confidence was at -3.1, retail sales at -2.2%, Sovereign Debt-to-GDP 68%, Private Debt-to-GDP at 154% (but these latter private figures were based upon 2018 statistics).

THE SPD VANISHING TRICK:

And where was the SPD during all this time? It was following the trend of course. The then party leader and Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, defended his counter-reformist ‘Agenda 2010’ and praised Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ as a successful example of ‘modern’ social democracy. At the same time, up and down the country, some 90,000 workers responded to a call by the Trade Union Federation, the DGB, and demonstrated against attempts to dismantle the welfare state. In East Germany, 84% of all steel workers organised in the IG Metall voted in favour of industrial action for the 35-hour week which had been introduced in the West back in the 1990s.

Horrified by high unemployment (4) and fear of recession and even depression, Schroder and his think tanks were doing what they had always accused the previous Helmut Kohl government of doing: they were attacking the unemployed and not unemployment. They claimed that dismantling the welfare state and massive tax reductions were to the benefit of the employers and the rich but in general would open the path towards economic growth and a new jobs miracle. In doing this, they could count on the applause of the bourgeois media and politicians who kept pushing them further and further down that road.

But later developments in 2019 have led to a new inward turn of the SPD which will give the already rapidly changing party system a further push. Both the CDU and SPD have lost dramatically during recent European and regional elections. The winners have been the ‘woke’ Green party and the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD). The Green party, also led by a new team since January 2018, has been a clear beneficiary of the rise of the urban middle-class and the weakness of the two governing parties. The Green party is now solidly number two in the party system and highly likely to join the next government, either with the CDU or the two parties on the ‘left’, the SPD left centrist and Der Linke the old East German Communist Party.

CONCLUSION

Throughout Europe the Social-Democratic tradition has been in crisis since the 1980s onwards and is heading rapidly toward marginalization and oblivion. Having prostrated itself before the deities of neo-liberalism and globalization, and swallowed the holy dogmas whole there seems no way back. And if anything the situation in the southern and eastern peripheries are even more dire than those in Western Europe. The political structures in Europe now range from outright fascist, right and centre right, and an allegedly centre-left that acts like a centre-right, a Guardian-style liberal woke party. That’s it folks. Europe seems to be heading to a turbulent and ugly future

NOTES

(1) The Lobby – Al Jazeera – The Independent newspaper – London 12-January-2017

(2) The Israel Lobby – John J Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt – passim.

(3) Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges – Jack Rasmus – passim.

(4) The story of the German jobs miracle is misleading. It is true that the number of people in employment increased by more than 10 percent between 2003 and the end of 2016 from 39 to 43 million. But this was achieved mainly by replacing full-time jobs by part-time and mini jobs. In fact, actual working time did not increase at all up to 2010; the work was just spread over more people.” And also since the economic climate improved in 2011, the volume of work has been growing much more slowly than employment and is still below the levels of the early 1990s. And that is why in 2016, 4.8 million people in Germany were living entirely from mini jobs. A further 1.5 million are working against their will in part-time jobs. And then there are around 1 million contract workers and more than 2 million self-employed without employees, and most of them do not have enough work.

The “industrial reserve army“ of the unemployed, as Karl Marx once called them, “was reduced in size at the price of a growth in the reserve army of the under-employed in part-time work and the over-employed who have to do several jobs to get by.”

The Death of the Nation State has been somewhat exaggerated (Part 2)

The Death of the Nation State has been somewhat exaggerated (Part 2)

October 12, 2020

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

Globalization – i.e., neo-liberalism writ large – is essentially a negative phenomenon destroying the sovereignty and cohesion of nation states and thereby depriving markets of the social and political guidance without which they cannot function effectively…The result will be a socially divisive, politically destructive, ethically abhorrent and even economically inefficient structure.(1)

JOINED AT THE HIP

Transnational Corporations (TNCs) can be compared to a tree: they have extensive branches everywhere, but their roots are firmly based at National HQ. Of late this has become a disputed view. One of the contemporary clichés in the current discussion of global political economy is the rather dubious concept of the end of the nation state and the subsequent breaking of the shackles which had hitherto tied TNCs to specific geographical and legal locations. It has been argued that these organizations have moved beyond the control of nation states who can no longer exercise effective jurisdiction over their activities.

This ‘state-denial’ thesis has been articulated by the influential hyper-globalist faction ensconced in the financial press, academic economics departments and political parties. In a ‘borderless’ world the state apparently no longer matters; economic power has shifted from sovereign states to global markets. In the words of the German political and social theorist, Wolfgang Streeck, ‘Markets were once fitted into states; now states are fitted into markets.’(2)This change has involved a global transmutation which reputedly has been brought about by the invention of revolutionary technologies in transport and communications. Such is the thesis put forward by the spokespersons of globalization.

True to say that in general terms all states have to choose a global strategy; they have to look at the full range of choices, then they have to decide what is in their best interests. In the current era of global competition, trade liberalization via the market remains the riskiest choice of all. It demands that trade barriers of all kinds be dismantled – the EU model being the archetype. With this policy governments have to let international competitive pressures restructure industries without recourse to state aids or other protectionist methods. This requires states to open their borders regardless of the costs and consequences in industries and vulnerable workers. Russia in the 1990s was a textbook example of what would happen if a state opened its economy too early, namely, a massive economic contraction. In the official textbooks among the neo-classical scribblers in academe and the media, markets are seen to be self-organizing social and economic space responding to universal demand and supply signals.

For countries which accept this view of the world economy, state power to make policy independent of a country’s major trading partner is being progressively eroded as countries find themselves trapped in a seamless web of interdependency. Larger markets do not come without a cost. This much is axiomatic.

Since the 2008 crisis, however, and now the 2020 blowout the state-denialist view has been more difficult if not actually impossible to sustain. It was after all the allegedly redundant state (or states) which pulled capitalism’s chestnuts out of the fire with the bail-out of insolvent American banks in 2008. As the story goes, during the meeting between Obama and the Wall Street elite at the height of the 2008 crisis the President apparently remarked that it was only himself who stood between the assembled financial movers and shakers of Wall Street and ‘the pitchforks’. The US government also ponied up some US$50 billion to bail out distressed auto manufacturers General Motors and Ford who were based in ‘Motor City’ (Detroit). Detroit itself was also bankrupt but the Federal government was unable to find an additional US$13 billion to bail out the city itself. Maybe – just a thought – because the population of Motor City was largely African-American.

However, the received wisdom emanating from the neoliberal elite has been challenged with a more critical assessment coming from heterodox economic theorists.

As follows.

‘’Contrary to the globalist supposition and as a matter of fact, the (sovereign) state always has, and continues to be the mobilizing force in shaping and guiding national economic development, including globalization itself. Given that an increased capability to overcome geographical distance made possible by technological innovations in transport and communication technologies is of little use if there are political barriers to such movements. Thus, policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatisation were necessary to overcome non-technical barriers to the free flow of labour, capital, and commodities. Therefore, the enabling force of globalization was the state. In fact, the bigger and more powerful states have used globalization as a means of increasing their own power and interests.

States actively construct globalization and use it as soft geo-politics and to acquire greater power over, and autonomy from, their national economies and societies respectively … E.g. … The US and G7s other dominant members design and establish the international trade agreements, organizations, and legislation that support and govern trans-border investments, production networks, and market penetration constitutive of contemporary globalization. Advanced capitalist states, particularly, use these political instruments to shape international economic decision making and policy making in their interests.’’ (3)

In addition, nation-states protect, subsidize, manipulate currencies, impose quotas, sanctions, give tax breaks and exemptions to export industries, R&D, and grant patents, use procurement policies and intellectual property rights to their indigenous corporations to both protect their home markets and help them penetrate overseas markets. This is laughingly described as ‘free trade’. States and corporations are not antipodes they are twins, and arguably the state is the senior partner in this arrangement.

For example, in 1934 the Roosevelt administration passed the Glass-Steagall Act. This involved a forced separation of investment banking from commercial banking which stopped banks speculating with depositors’ monies. In 1999, however, Bill Clinton signed the Financial Services Modernization Act, commonly known as Gramm-Leach-Bliley, repealing the key components of Glass-Steagall whose articles became largely toothless. This was what Wall Street had been angling for and which gave an additional push to the eventual debacle in 2008.

The state giveth, and the state taketh away.

Thus, the notion that powerful trends of internationalization and interdependence have ended national sovereignty is vastly overstated. States remain in charge of the essential part of their national sovereignty: monetary policy, (except in the Eurozone of course) law-making, macroeconomic policy, finance and taxation, environment, education, labour markets, industrial relations, pensions, health and welfare, social policy, science and technology and so forth. Arguably no supra-national entity has yet been designed to replace what has been an effective system of national government. Unimpeded global flows of capital in search of lucrative investment opportunities, are hardly conducive for countries wishing to plan and stabilize their future free from the vagaries of uncontrolled markets

TENSIONS

Power to shape/control the global system is concentrated in the hands of states and/or the newly emergent TNCs. Of course, there is not going to be a simple description of this development as the relationship between these two pillars of modern imperialism is both fractious and permanently mutating. The received wisdom, as put forward by the various spokespersons for globalization, ranging from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) OECD, WTO, World Bank and IMF, and through the globalist house journals of the global Transnational Uberklasse – The Financial Times, The Economist and Wall Street Journal – is predictable enough. Namely that the state is always in a subservient position vis-à-vis the dominant TNCs.

This perhaps would qualify as a procrustean effort to make the facts fit the theory. Contrary to the image of the all-powerful TNC demanding fealty and obedience from prostrate states, the relationship is somewhat more symmetrical; corporations and states are always to a certain degree joined at the hip.

They are both competitive and competing, both supportive and conflictual. They operate in a fully dialectical relationship, locked into unified but contradictory roles and positions, neither one nor the other partner completely able to dominate.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Additionally, the widespread notion that a TNC can simply up sticks and move lock, stock, and barrel to a more compatible venue if its home base no longer suits its purposes, is fanciful in the extreme. All TNCs have home bases, national HQs. Here is where global strategy is determined; here is where top-end R&D is carried out; here is where design and marketing strategies take place; here is where the domestic market is situated and where long-term domestic suppliers are located; here is where overseas operations are conceived planned and carried through; here is where AGMs of the Corporations takes place with published accounts circulated to all shareholders; here is where the local workforce, at all levels, is recruited; here is where the political bureaucracy and the above mentioned institutions are situated and amenable to lobbying. Picking an obvious example, the US defence industries, Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, General Dynamics, Boeing, are all based domestically and are not, even if they could, going to jump ship anytime soon.

It is unquestionably true that TNCs and states often have divergent goals: TNCs’ primary function is to maximise profits and enhance shareholder value, whereas the economic role of the state should be to maximise the economic welfare of its society. But although this conflictual relationship exists, states and TNCs need and lean on each other in a variety of ways. States might wish that TNCs are bound by allegiance to national borders – and in many ways they are (see above) – but total allegiance is not an option in a liberal capitalist economy. Indeed, it would be true to say that some states regard TNC (activities) as being complementary to their foreign policy. Here economic issues merge with geopolitical imperatives. For example, American political leaders have believed that the national interest has also been served by the foreign expansion of US corporations in manufacturing and services. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has been considered a major instrument through which the US could maintain its relative position in world markets – as is of course the US$ acting as the world’s reserve currency – with the overseas expansion of TNCs being regarded as a means to maintain America’s dominant world position. As it was succinctly stated. ’What’s good for General Motors is Good for America’.

THE EU: SUPRANATIONAL OR NATIONAL STATES.

Which brings me to the EU. The state-declinist thesis seems to have gained a considerable traction in Europe among the orthodox left. No less a personage than Yanis Varoufakis – the initiator of DiEM2025 (Democracy in Europe) – has been reading the last rites of state democracy and sovereignty in Europe. Apparently, the model of politics based on the nation state is ‘finished’. The sovereignty of national parliaments has been dissolved. Today, national electoral mandates are impossible to fulfil. Hence, reform of the European institutions (specifically the Euro Parliament), is the only remaining option.

Essentially this is the latest version of the TINA ‘argument’, (there is no alternative), pioneered by Mrs Thatcher and rolled out with monotonous regularity ever since by every cornered establishment politician, both left and right. As has been noted elsewhere. ‘’Tell the population that the nation-state is ‘finished,’ that it is unable to guarantee full employment (or to work towards it) and you free yourself of the responsibility of even trying.’’ The same goes for austerity or anything else. If the nation state is ‘kaput’ it is futile to oppose it.’’(4)

Globalization, however, is far from being the all-powerful and all- encompassing Leviathan postulated by the declinists. ’There are major cultural and linguistic differences that preclude a full mobilisation of resources across national borders. There is ‘home bias in investment portfolios. There is a high correlation between national investment rates and national saving rates. Capital flows between rich and poor nations fall considerably short of what theoretical models predict. There are still severe restrictions to the international mobility of labour. The truth is that we do not live in a completely globalised world, far from it. Ergo, nation-states can pursue their own fiscal and monetary policies.

Ex-leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn’s (quite moderate) policy proposals, during the 2017 and 2019 UK elections, namely, peoples’ QE, renationalisation of the Railways, taking into public ownership the energy and water industries together with the Royal Mail were not beyond the scope of the UK qua sovereign and democratic state. Additionally, these policies found considerable support among the UK’s population at large. (5) Unfortunately Corbyn’s programme was derailed by pro-EU elements in the Parliamentary Labour Party, the MSM and a vicious and mendacious ‘antisemitic’ smear campaign aimed at Corbyn. But this doesn’t alter the fact that a sovereign country can issue its own currency and formulate its own fiscal and monetary policy that can override the EU neo-liberal package of free movement of labour, capital, and commodities. This in addition to blocking the drive to deregulate labour markets (euphemistically, ‘flexibilization’). The sovereign state is perfectly capable of a policy for growth rather than for continued austerity which has become the hallmark of the EU area. But to carry out such growth policies would require an exit from the EU. There’s the rub. Social-democratic policies are incompatible to the EU’s liberal orientation, which is a structurally, neo-liberal capitalist institution.

The euro has in fact simply been designed to ensure that Germany runs a permanent trade surplus whilst the southern periphery runs continuing trade deficits – a simple accounting identity. Eventually something will have to give. It is also noticeable that Germany seems to be harbouring increasingly regional hegemonic ambitions regarding the rest of Europe. It seems to be positioning itself as the EUs anti-Russian key front-line probably with US backing. Euro state Socialism or even tepid social democracy can never truly thrive within such a hostile and increasingly militarised political environment. But that’s another explosive can of worms.

The position of the globalist left as outlined in the DiEM2025 manifesto, however, seems like a back-to-front attempt to by-pass national institutions and to attempt through a supra-national democracy to make fundamental reforms, through a democratised and strengthened EU. But even Varoufakis regards this as being ‘utopian.’ But he continues, it is ‘a lot more realistic than trying to maintain the system as it is’ or ‘trying to leave.’ (6)

More realistic, really? But this begs the obvious question of why such an entity is going to be any different from the present dispensation; will be any less neo-liberal and undemocratic if it is given greater powers and is integrated further? It seems to make more sense to work from the national to the supra-national level than the other way around – particularly given that most states in the EU are governed by centre right coalitions with social-democrats in tow (but acting like centre right liberals). Moreover, the transfer of local democracy – which we are told is now obsolete – to supranational democracy contributes to a weakening of popular control. This leapfrogging of national democracy to supranational democracy perforce requires a supranational electorate. This is problematic however since for the great majority of ordinary European citizens linguistic barriers and cultural differences impair the opportunity for political participation at a supra-national level. And so the dialogue, such as it is, goes on – ad nauseam.

This should not be considered a mere academic nit-picking issue for Socratic Senior Common Room dialogue. It is the key geopolitical issue of the day, as to whether sovereign nation states can determine their own future and political structures and policies, against the globalist project to turn the world into a borderless playground for international finance, corporate hegemony and the corollary of extinguishing democracy.

IDEOLOGICAL INTEGRATION OF STATES INTO NEOLIBERAL MARKET THEORY

But perhaps a more disturbing feature of the state/economy relationship has been the ongoing and gradual privatisation of the state itself. The role of the state has traditionally been a provider of public goods – education, healthcare, culture, parks, libraries, museums, transport infrastructure, including water, energy, forests and national parks, defence, law and order and judiciary, telecommunications, egalitarian social policies and so forth. The role of the market qua economy is to produce private goods and services for sale on a market. There has always been a tension between ‘the commons’- i.e., that which is public and open for everyone to use – and ‘commodification’ which turns things into commodities for private ownership and money-making. To use Marxist terminology, the commons has use-value, not an exchange-value (a market price) simply because it is not – and by definition cannot be – a commodity that can be bought, sold, or commercialised. The elevation of use-value over exchange-value is integral to the commons.

Throughout history, powerful interests have sought to privatise, close, and commodify the commons whether land, other spaces, amenities, or even intellectual ideas – to contrive scarcity and create income-earning assets. To the extent to which the succeeding enclosure and privatisation drives up rental income and proliferate its sources, increasing private riches while eroding public wealth. Such asset-stripping, rent-seeking behaviour by private companies intent on rent-extraction is not only tolerated by public authorities but actually encouraged.

Other examples of this have been the government/private sector liaison whereby private companies are now employed by the government to perform the role which was once the prerogative of governments. These government/private financial arrangements were called Private Financial Initiatives PFIs or Public Private Partnerships PPPs and were operationalised in both the UK and Australia. These predatory organizations were simply looking for public authority institutions to milk. Their incompetence – and outright looting – was legendary. The privatisation of British Rail, for example, led to increased accidents, higher costs, monopolistic rents (in terms of ticket prices), overcrowded trains, and failure to meet the timetable criteria.

In Australia, a report by the New South Wales Auditor General in 2002 warned of the considerable risks associated with the outsourcing of information technology and of the need to ensure that agencies are clear why they should do so. The previously inconceivable opportunities for the security of private information, collected and held by governments to be compromised, opening the way for identity fraud and held by governments was dramatically exposed in November 2007, when the British Department of Revenue and Customs was unable to account for two compact disks which had been sent through the mail at the National Audit Office. These disks contained highly detailed personal information concerning the 25 million citizens who received child benefits, information which included their addresses and bank account numbers, along with details of their children.

This was not an unusual occurrence it was simply another example – among many – of the ongoing rip-off of the public taxpayer by rent-seeking marauders. The market is always right, always works best, and always delivers the goods, or so it is ordained. Such is the categorical imperative of neoliberalism.

Coming full circle, the point of arrival involves a recognition that the relationship between (usually capitalist) states and markets has been a permanent and alternating process which started with the industrial revolutions in western Europe and North America. On the one side there are the permanent state bureaucracies and organizations which function as the basis for the production of public goods, and the national interest as they define it. This is complemented by the free-wheeling, cosmopolitan, financial and corporate interests whose outlook and policies are global as well as national and whose objectives are both practical and ideological. Practical in the sense that their motives are commercial and predicated on the imperative of growth and development not necessarily restricted to their national base. Ideological in terms of their neo-liberal Weltanschauung.

It was the great American social and political theorist C. Wright Mills who postulated the existence of what he called, The Power Elite as early as 1956. The American elite groups were composed of most importantly The Corporate Rich, The Warlords and The Political Directorate which together with various lower ranking sub-elite groups controlled the United States. State and Economy have to an extent always coexisted, their positions and influence moving back and forth, but in recent years (circa 1980) there has been – to put it mildly – a marked tendency of power and influence to tilt away from the state and toward the corporate/commercial configurations. Whether this trend will continue is an open question; but it would not be amiss to assert that nothing goes on forever.

NOTES

(1)Manfred Bienefeld – Is a Strong National Economy a Utopian Goal at the end of the 20th Century? – States Against Markets – pp. 434,435

(2) Wolfgang Streeck – ‘Buying Time’ – The Democratic Crisis Of Democratic Capitalism. ‘

(3) M. Gritsch – (2005: 2-3) (Nye 2002) Quoted in – The State Really Does Matter, Global Shift 2012 – p.223

(4) Picciotto, S. 1991 The Internationalisation of the State – Capital and Class 43.43-63 – quoted in Global Shift 2012– Peter Dicken)

(5) Although it should be said that the 2019 – the Brexit election – was very much watered down to the policies of the electoral manifesto of 2017.

(6) The IndependentUK Newspaper

(7) In Government We Trust – Market Failure and the Delusions of Privatisation. pp.90

Bipartisan effort to oust the outsider Trump makes 2nd US stimulus unlikely

September 07, 2020

Bipartisan effort to oust the outsider Trump makes 2nd US stimulus unlikely

By Ramin Mazaheri and by author permission crossposted with Sputniknews.

We are currently experiencing the biggest era of American division in 50 years, but one thing Americans are united in is that they want additional coronavirus stimulus: a poll last week showed 70% of respondents demand a re-routing of taxes back their way.

The reasons for that are too numerous to list here, but it’s not hyperbole to summarise that national economic indicators suggest either “Great Depression II” or “Great Recession-er.”

Yet for months Congress has remained deadlocked on concluding a relief plan which would get scores of millions of Americans to back away from the ledge, the bottle, the prescription pill and the daily conversations they are having with each other about their very serious economic desperation and hopelessness.

The coronavirus seems likely to deal a death blow to the neoliberal form of capitalism, which has always been a faith-based ideology with a terrible track record, anyway: in a major crisis a central government simply must provide services and aid, and simply cannot continue to slash itself into neoliberal-ordered nothingness.

While rational American conservatives are slowly coming around on this, the nation’s top Republican lawmakers are not.

A comparison of the $3.4 trillion Democrat and the $1.1 trillion Republican stimulus plans shows that the biggest disagreement comes on the core neoliberal and libertarian tenet of eliminating government as much as possible: Democrats want $1.1 trillion earmarked for state and local governments, while Republicans propose just $100 billion. More than a few fiscally-reactionary Republicans think the original $2.2 trillion CARES Act overstepped the absurd limits they set on government, but the vast majority of conservatives in Congress are simply not going to allow the coronavirus to roll back their four decades of efforts to reduce government at all levels.

It should be remembered that in the American federal system local government plays – or used to – a much larger role than in most other countries. The coronavirus also seems likely to deal another death blow – to those who insist on a weak central government: the fragmented and chaotic US response to the pandemic is a direct result of their insistence on “states’ rights” over national well-being, which makes a unified response to any type of crisis fundamentally impossible.

So when truly half of the disputed difference between the two plans is over this radical and unusually-American neoliberal issue, we should not expect Republicans to capitulate anytime soon. Yet as the grassroots support for more stimulus reminds us – the Republican elite in Washington are obviously totally out of touch with the economic fears of the average Republican elsewhere.

On the other side of the aisle, one should not assume that Democrats are totally genuine in their desire to extend greater help to American citizens.

After all, if they wanted to re-inflate local and state governments so badly, why didn’t they include greater redistribution in the CARES Act? Every political operator knew that their chances were better at the start of the coronavirus hysteria, and also that the chances for bipartisan agreement (obviously necessary in a Republican-controlled Senate) would decrease closer to election day.

The $1.1 trillion for state and local government looks more like a phony “poison pill” designed to inflame Republican ideological morals when combined with the fact that the Democrat plan contains exactly zero additional aid for small businesses, who have always provided the backbone of the Republican Party. Small-business aid is the second-largest component of the Republican’s second stimulus plan, at $200 billion. Zero for small businesses – which provide over 40% of national economic output – is not only idiotic and guaranteed to perpetuate economic misery, but can easily be perceived by Republicans as an ideological slap in the face.

Many wonder if the plan of the Democratic elite all along was to drag their feet on what they wanted at the start of the coronavirus panic in order to put themselves in a position to accuse Republicans of dragging their feet on a deal closer to November. Allowing an already-festering country to rot for months in order to win an election sounds like bad governance bordering on treason, but the anti-Trump faction among the US 1% is surely willing to do anything to get the rogue politician out of office.

Last month Trump smartly circumvented Congress to extend desperately-needed jobless benefits to tens of millions of Americans – what’s perplexing is why Trump isn’t already talking about doing that again? Aiding suffering constituents shouldn’t be denigrated as corrupt “patronage” or “vote-buying” – it’s good governance. Unfortunately, elite Republicans ideologically insist that “good governance” is an oxymoron.

Trump was elected in 2016 precisely because he defied Republican leadership and ideology – the best way for him to get re-elected would be to revert to that form, and to send another round of direct stimulus to voters.

That may require bypassing Congress again, which seems unlikely to agree on a significant compromise. This allows both sides to blame each other for economic woes all the way up until November 3, but it crucially allows “the swamp” to do something which they emphatically agree on: blaming Trump for every problem in order to get the unprecedented outsider out of office.


Ramin Mazaheri is currently in the US covering their elections. He is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV 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 Socialisms Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

In Defence of Sovereignty

August 18, 2020

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

In Defence of Sovereignty

For the benefit of Frau Merkel & Nordstream-2

No sovereignty = No democracy: If a State is subordinate to another State or group of states it is no longer sovereign. That is to say if it ceases to exercise control over its vital policies, economic, political, social and cultural. Moreover it follows that if it is not sovereign it cannot be democratic since the key policies it might wish to enact and carry out are decided elsewhere.

The increasingly unbalanced assessment regarding the UK’s eventual exit from membership of the EU (if indeed it ever really happens) seems predicated on a series of fixed, cliché-ridden political positions which haven’t changed since the whole issue became live. The great national ‘debate’ seems to be an emotionally charged affair with little attention to facts and more focused upon personalities and taken-for-granted assumptions of the ‘everybody knows’ type. This presumably is post-modern politics I suppose. But at the heart of the debate is the issue of sovereignty.

Let us firstly consider the international economic issues involved according to the conventional wisdom of the hyper-globalists. It is argued that both nation states and the whole concept of national sovereignty is now defunct. Their reasoning is based upon the following premises. 1. Most products have developed a very complex geography – with parts made in different countries and then assembled somewhere else, in which case labels of origin begin to lose their meaning. 2. Markets when left unfettered will arrive at optimal price, allocative, and productive efficiency. 3.This means that capital, commodities and labour should be free to move around the globe without let or hindrance to achieve these goals. 4. Any barriers to this process – capital controls, trade unions, exchange rate controls, welfare expenditures, minimum wage legislation, wages and even public goods – will give rise to price and allocative distortions. Q.E.D. Apart from point 1., the rest of these claims are in fact highly contestable and could easily be shredded by reference to historical experience and empirical testing, but hey, if the theoretical paradigm is sound who cares about historical experience and empirical testing.

Such globalization has come to be seen and defined by its proponents as the ‘natural order’ of things, almost a force of nature. This, it is further argued, will be an inexorable process of increasing geographical spread and functional integration between economic and political activities. This current orthodoxy goes by various names, Washington Consensus, Market Liberalisation, Neo-liberalism, Globalism and so on and so forth. In fact, there is nothing ‘natural’ about this stage of historical development since the whole phenomenon has been politically driven. From the outset there has been a coalition of globalist oligarchs, technocrats and heads of state et.al working through global institutions the IMF, World Bank, BIS, WTO, NATO, the EU, CIA – the list is extensive. They control the economic, political and military superstructures which form the ruling global system and constitute the vanguard of the whole process.

Turning to the EU as the regional prototype for the globalization, anti-state project, it was Patrick Buchanan, an American conservative who once correctly stated in ‘The American Conservative’ that the US Congress ‘‘is an Israeli occupied zone’’ by which he meant of course that Israel and the Israeli Lobby, both external and internal, has had a huge input into the framing and operation of US foreign policy. In a similar vein the EU is also occupied territory under the occupation and control of US imperialism. (This process of blatant meddling in European affairs by the US-CIA started with Operation Gladio in the late 1940s at about the same time as Operation Mockingbird and Operation Paperclip.) However, the perceived enemy was not merely Soviet communism, but also sotto voce, European social and political theory and practice, namely, Gaullism and social-democracy. These latter political groupings have long since been politically cleansed with the EU being reconfigured as neo-liberal, and, since the alignment of the EU security structures with NATO, as neo-conservative vassal states overseen and represented by odious little Petainist/Quisling occupation regimes. This is only too apparent when the fawning behaviours of Johnson, Macron and Merkel vis-à-vis the US are observed. Whenever the US master says jump, the Europeans will reply ‘how high’ And this is even more pronounced by the newly arrived Eastern European states. A group which Dick Cheney once described as the ‘new Europe.’ By which he meant the political force which was operationalised to fundamentally change the political direction of the EU in the late 20th century. Euro-widening was meant to prevent euro-deepening, and it worked a treat.

Perhaps the most salient (and bogus) claim deployed by the pro-Globalization camp is the use of the time-honoured TINA ‘there-is-no-alternative’ Varoufakis approach. This is invariably deployed to shut-down any genuine discussion. Of course it was Mrs Thatcher who pioneered this method of political discourse, with, it should be added, considerable success. Reading the editorials in the ‘leftist’ publications, I couldn’t help being reminded of those little Thatcherite homilies trotted out by the Tory press during the Thatcher ascendency.

But now, not to be outdone, the centre-left has taken upon itself the mantle of ‘progress’ and ‘modernity’ providing the ideological rationale for the globalist tendency. This has involved a 180 degree turn and is apparently using the same language and political orientation as the Globalists. Try this one on: ‘’Nations are increasingly irrelevant when it comes to effective action on the environment and social and immigration policies …’’ This was taken from a centre-left publication. Yep, distilled, undiluted globalization – TINA. That could have been George Soros speaking. As if sovereign nations could not pool their resources, enter into bi-lateral agreements, engage in trade and diplomacy, enter into negotiations with others precisely to confront common issues such as the aforementioned environmental, immigration and social issues.

But in this ‘stateless’ or seemingly becoming ‘stateless’ world I do feel obliged to point out that the United States as a nation is sovereign and has every intention of remaining so. Contrary to the globalist patter, however, this super-state shapes and formulates both economic and foreign policy for itself and its vassal states in Europe and East Asia, but of course these vassal states are not fully sovereign and are subject to the rule of the one that is – the USA. The reality we have in the EU consists not of a unified assemblage of sovereign states but a de facto occupied zone of a political, economic and military empire, under both US aegis and control.

As the late Egyptian Marxist, Samir Amin, put it:

‘’Conceived of at the end of WW2 the ‘European Project’ was born as the European part of the Atlanticist project of the United States, much in the spirit of the first Cold War initiated by Washington and given voice by Churchill’s speech in Fulton Missouri in 1946 in which he intoned. “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”  This has been a project which the European bourgeoisies – at that time weak and afraid of their own working classes – adhered to practically without conditions. This is still largely true, as seen in the choices put into effect by the ruling classes and political forces of the right and majority left, at least in certain European countries, above all in Great Britain, where it has been done clearly and ostentatiously. In other countries there is perhaps a small piece of hesitation, whilst in Eastern Europe the process is managed by political classes formed in the culture of servility … There is no longer, at present, a European project … A North Atlantic project under American command has replaced it

Thus the European ‘project’ is not moving – or not moving fast enough, or not moving at all – in the direction that is needed to bring Washington to its senses. Indeed it remains a basically ‘non-European’ project, scarcely more than a European part of the American project. The European’s Constitution is for a Europe which is settling – has settled ? – its dual and Atlanticist option. Hence the potential contained in the clash of political cultures, which could theoretically lead to an end of Atlanticism which remains mortgaged to social-liberalism of the majority sections of the left (electorally speaking, the European socialist parties). But social-liberalism is a contradiction in terms, since liberalism is by its nature non-social or even anti-social … a stable and generally multipolar world will be socialist or it will not exist at all. (2)

Inter-governmental policy is perfectly possible, however, without the surrender of national sovereignty to an imperial hegemon. However, If the European Vichy regimes choose to accept the imposition of US policy imperatives that is their choice – a political choice, not an iron law of political development.

The fact is that nation states unquestionably remain the most significant force in shaping the world economy – this in spite of the hyper-globalist rhetoric coming from the Bilderbergers and neo-liberal/Washington consensus proponents. The nation state has always played a fundamental role in the economic development of all countries and indeed in the process of globalization itself. In fact, the more powerful states have used globalization as a means of increasing their power vis-à-vis the weaker states. The US and the G7 design and establish, international trade agreements, organizations, and legislations that support and govern trans-border investments, production networks, and market penetration, constitutive of contemporary economic globalization. Advanced capitalist states, in particular, use these political instruments to shape international decision making and policy in their own interests.(3)

A contemporary example of this is the US – qua sovereign hegemon – forcing policies, such as membership of NATO, down the throats of their (apparently willing) ‘allies’ (read vassals) and ‘partners’ in order to carry out the US’s geopolitical policies by mobilizing their Quisling regimes in both Europe (particularly Eastern Europe) for possible conflict with Russia, China and Iran (which are de facto sovereign states). It can be seen that the sovereignty of Europe is limited by the Transatlantic hegemon to the extent that Europe lacks both military, political and key areas of economic decision making to individual European G7 states. The fact that these semi-sovereign euro states are forced – as is everyone else – to use the US$ as the global currency means they do not really control their own economies. Let us assume for the sake of argument that Sweden has a trading surplus with the US; this means that it is exporting more than it is importing in terms of US goods. This means that the Swedish currency – the Krona – will appreciate against the US$. But the Swedish government may not want its currency to appreciate by being palmed off with US Treasuries which will never be redeemed. In order therefore to stop its own currency appreciating against the dollar it will have to buy US dollars or dollar denominated assets, (usually Treasury Bills) to keep its own currency at a lower exchange rate to the dollar. This results in an appreciating dollar which means the US can buy more stuff on world markets without producing any additional goods and services! Great deal if you can get it! Moreover by accepting the US$ and Treasuries as a means of payment for goods produced in Europe these semi-peripheral states are on the wrong end of what the French politician Valery Giscard D’Estaing once termed an ‘exorbitant privilege’. Such is the position of sovereign states, semi-sovereign states, and non-sovereign states.

In geopolitical terms it should be understood that the abasement of Europe to American interests is frankly abject. Europe has become a forward base for the Pentagon, military industrial complex, and neo-con infested State Department to play their war games against Russia and latterly against China. If there is a war with Russia, please note it is intended to be carried out on European soil not American.

In terms of present and future membership not only was the admission of the Eastern European periphery a massive error for individual European states, but future membership bodes even worse for the EU ‘project’. Turkey is not only authoritarian, a US proxy and a member of NATO, which is bad enough, but it also funds and arms our most inveterate enemies, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Jabhat Al Nusra, and various other jihadist alphabet soup grouplets. This same state was at that time mooted for membership of the EU by both the UK and Germany. Moreover, future candidates for EU/NATO status include Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. None of these states could be considered to be even remotely sovereign and/or democratic and generally are totally and openly corrupt. It is all part of the long march toward Russia’s western frontier by NATO/EU, a process begun by Clinton (Mr) in the 1990s. But apparently this is of no consequence to the contemporary ‘left’ which doesn’t seem unduly worried by these developments.

As for the EU/NATO, do we really want to belong to an organization who has these people as members/applicants? It’s a bit like Groucho Marx’s famous witticism – ‘’I wouldn’t want to belong to a club which would have me as a member.’’ More important in this respect does the EU/NATO even allow us a choice in the matter?

One final point. Okay it is argued that if we – the UK – leave the EU the roof falls in, of course that is a complete non sequitur, but let’s run with it for a moment. Membership is therefore imperative! Really?

Well in 1946 due to costs of the WW2 the UK was flat broke. Lord Keynes was despatched to Washington and negotiated a loan from the Americans. Of course there were strings, or in IMF/World Bankspeak, ‘conditionalities.’ 1. Britain had to end the system of imperial preference of intra-empire trading, mainly because the Americans wanted to get into this lucrative market. 2. The British empire had to be wound up, and the Americans would then carry the baton for the Anglo-Zionist empire, with all the costs but mostly advantages that accrued from this position. The UK’s long retreat from East of Suez began with Indian independence in 1947 and continued well into the 1960s.

The roof did not fall in, however, Britain, in spite of continuing imperial delusions of grandeur, adjusted to its new position in the world. There was, after all, an alternative to imperial nostalgia, maybe it never quite worked out as planned, but it happened, nonetheless.

Thus the TINA hypothesis is basically invalid. There are – pace the globalist dogma – always alternatives, you may not like them, but to deny their existence is neither a serious nor honest position to take.

NOTES

(1) Samir Amin – The Liberal Virus – p.86 p.89.

(2) Samir Amin – Beyond US Hegemony – p.148.

(3) Peter Dicken – Global Shift – The State Really Does Matter, Chapter 6

Battleground Beirut: Western colony or back to the East?

Battleground Beirut: Western colony or back to the East?

August 12, 2020

By Pepe Escobar – republished from Asia Times by permission of author

As much as Covid-19 has been instrumentalized by the 0.001% to social engineer a Great Reset, the Beirut tragedy is already being instrumentalized by the usual suspects to keep Lebanon enslaved.

Facing oh so timely color revolution-style “protests”, the current Lebanese government led by Prime Minister Diab has already resigned. Even before the port tragedy, Beirut had requested a $10 billion line of credit from the IMF – denied as long as trademark, neoliberal Washington consensus “reforms” were not implemented: radical slashing of public expenses, mass layoffs, across the board privatization.

Post-tragedy, President Emmanuel Macron – who’s not even capable of establishing a dialogue with the Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests in France – has opportunistically jumped in full neocolonial mode to pose as “savior” of Lebanon, as long as the same “reforms”, of course, are implemented.

On Sunday, France and the UN organized a videoconference to coordinate donor response – in conjunction with the European Commission (EC), the IMF and the World Bank. The result was not exactly brilliant: a paltry 252 million euros were pledged – once again conditioned by “institutional reforms”.

France came up with 30 million euros, Kuwait with 40 million, Qatar with 50 million and the EC with 68 million. Crucially, neither Russia nor Iran were among the donors. The US – which is harshly sanctioning Lebanon – and GCC allies Saudi Arabia and UAE pledged nothing. China had just a pro forma presence.

In parallel, Maronite Christians in Brazil – a very powerful community – are sending funds for the color revolution protests. Former President Michel Temer and industrialist tycoon Paulo Skaf even flew to Beirut. Former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel (1982-1988) maintained a lot of businesses in Brazil with funds he skimmed when in power.

All of the above points to neoliberalism taking no prisoners when it comes to keeping its deadly grip on Lebanon.

The Hariri model

Lebanon’s profound economic crisis, now aggravated by the Beirut port blast, has nothing to do with Covid-19 or the US proxy war on Syria – which brought a million refugees to the nation. It’s all about proverbial neoliberal shock and awe, conducted non-stop by the Hariri clan: former Prime Ministers Rafiq, assassinated in 2011, and Saad, chased out of power last January.

The Hariri model was focused on real estate speculation and financialization. The Solidere group, controlled by Arab investors and a few Lebanese, Hariri included, destroyed Beirut’s historical downtown and rebuilt it with luxury real estate. That’s the classical rentier neoliberalism model that always profits a tiny elite.

In parallel, the Bank of Lebanon was attracting funds from the tony Lebanese diaspora and assorted Arab investors by practicing very generous interest rates. Lebanon suddenly had an artificially strong currency.

A small middle class sort of flourished throughout the 2000s, comprising import-export traders, the tourism sector and financial market operators. Yet, overall, inequality was the name of the game. According to the World Inequality Database, half of Lebanon’s population now holds less wealth that the top 0.1%.

The bubble finally burst in September last year, when I happened to be in Beirut. With no US dollars in circulation, the Lebanese pound started to collapse in the black market. The Bank of Lebanon went berserk. When the Hariri racket imposed a “Whatsapp tax” over calls, that led to massive protests in October. Capital embarked on free flight and the currency collapsed for good.

There’s absolutely no evidence the IMF, the World Bank and assorted Western/Arab “donors” will extricate a now devastated Lebanon from the neoliberal logic that plunged it into a systemic crisis in the first place.

The way out would be to focus in productive investments, away from finance and geared towards the practical necessities of an austerity-battered and completely impoverished population.

Yet Macron, the IMF and their “partners” are only interested in keeping monetary “stability”; seduce speculative foreign capital; make sure that the rapacious, Western-connected Lebanese oligarchy will get away with murder; and on top of it buy scores of Lebanese assets for peanuts.

BRI or bust

In stark contrast with the exploitative perpetuation of the Western neoliberal model, China is offering Lebanon the chance to Go East, and be part of the New Silk Roads.

In 2017, Lebanon signed to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In 2018, Lebanon became the 87th member of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Over the past few years, Lebanon was already taking part in the internationalization of the yuan, offering bank accounts in yuan and increasing bilateral trade in yuan.

Beijing was already engaged in discussions revolving around the upgrading of Lebanese infrastructure – including the expansion of Beirut harbor.

This means that now Beijing may be in the position of offering a renewed, joint rebuilding/security deal for Beirut port – just as it was about to clinch a smaller agreement with Diab’s government, focused only on expansion and renovation.

The bottom line is that China has an actual Plan A to extricate Lebanon from its current financial dead end.

And that’s exactly what was, and remains, total anathema to US, NATO and Israel’s interests.

The Trump administration recently went no holds barred to prevent Israel from having China develop the port of Haifa.

The same “offer you can’t refuse” tactics will be applied with full force on whoever leads the new Lebanese government.

Beirut is an absolutely key node in BRI’s geopolitical/geoeconomic connectivity of the Eastern Mediterranean. With Haifa temporarily out of the picture, Beirut grows in importance as a gateway to the EU, complementing the role of Pireus and Italian ports in the Adriatic.

It’s crucial to note that the port itself was not destroyed. The enormous crater on site replaces only a section quayside – and the rest is on water. The buildings destroyed can be rebuilt in record time. Reconstruction of the port is estimated at $15 billion – pocket money for an experienced company such as China Harbor.

Meanwhile, naval traffic is being redirected to Tripoli port, 80 km north of Beirut and only 30 km away from the Lebanon-Syria border. Its director, Ahmed Tamer, confirms “the port has witnessed during the past years the expansion work by Chinese companies, and it has received the largest ships from China, carrying a big number of containers”.

Add to it the fact that Tripoli port will also be essential in the process of Syria reconstruction – to which China is totally committed.

BRI’s Southwest Asia connectivity network is a maze including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

China is already planning to invest in highway and railroads, further to be developed into high-speed rail. That will connect BRI’s central China-Iran corridor – fresh from the $400 billion, 25-year strategic partnership deal soon to be signed – with the Eastern Mediterranean.

Add to it the role of the port of Tartus in Syria – bearing a strong Russian naval presence. Beijing will inevitably invest in the expansion of Tartus – which is crucially linked by highway to Lebanon. The Russia-China strategic partnership will be involved in the protection of Tartus with S-300 and S-400 missile systems.

Historically, in a larger axis that went from Samarkand to Cordoba, with strong nodes such as Baghdad and Damascus, what slowly evolved in this part of Eurasia was a syncretic civilization superimposed over an ancestral regional, rural and nomad background. The internal cohesion of the Muslim world was forged from the 7th century to the 11th century: that was the key factor that shaped the lineaments of a coherent Eurasia.

Apart from Islam, Arabic – the language of religion, administration, trade and culture – was an essential unifying factor. This evolving Muslim world was configured as a vast economic and cultural domain whose roots connected to Greek, Semitic, Persian, Indian and Arab thought. It was a marvelous synthesis that formed a unique civilization out of elements of different origin – Persian, Mesopotamian, Byzantine.

The Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean were of course part of it, totally open towards the Indian Ocean, the Caspian routes, Central Asia and China.

Now, centuries later, Lebanon should have everything to gain by ditching the “Paris of the Orient” mythology and looking East – again, thus positioning itself on the right side of History.

Covid Candide: Isn’t this the best of all possible worlds… and pandemic responses?

Covid Candide: Isn’t this the best of all possible worlds… and pandemic responses?

August 08, 2020

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

Eight months into the modern, digitised world’s first-ever global pandemic the results are in: Every government has failed miserably.

Despite the vast differences between socialist-inspired nations and capitalist nations every single government in 2020 has forfeited the chance at the possibility of maybe perhaps having something like a little bit of a rightly-guided mandate of heaven.

Our 2019 taxes must be refunded everywhere. What a waste voting has been, to say nothing of those few countries which have sustained modern revolutions.

Those in the know are hunkering down and bunkering up because the pandemic is proving that “government” (social organisation and collective unity) is an outdated concept in our modern, digitised, disease-ridden world.

Thus, the way you certainly are – wherever you are – being egged into hating your local, rather-poorly paid bureaucrat is something of a major propaganda coup for government-slashing neoliberalism, is it not?

Neoliberalism, per its tenets, cannot congratulate any government for anything other than self-immolation, so how can Western corporate media – owned by a handful of neoliberals – publicly congratulate any government for their handling of this unprecedented corona crisis? They cannot, so neoliberals are publicly shining in glorious vindication that all government is bad, unless and inept, period: the pandemic has decisively proven There Is No Alternative to neoliberalism.

Who knew a virus had enough innate intelligence to contain a political ideology, and despite not even being a life form with a cellular structure? This only proves that God – in His wisdom – is an American neoliberal.

Preposterous, faith-based radicalism, of course….

But firstly: Call me contrarian if you must, but don’t call this “Leibnizian optimism”: I think every nation has done spectacularly well in dealing with Covid, regardless of their guiding ideology.

The West got what they hysterically demanded, yet government is still a Satanic beast?

I think countries like China, Iran, Cuba and Vietnam had a fantastic response to Covid. People died, but not anywhere as many as we initially feared. Tons of radical measures were taken designed to protect the public good, armies of volunteers answered the call, hardships were attempted to be standardised, their peoples showed huge amounts of bravery, self-sacrifice and patience.

However, I see nearly all of these same virtues in the peoples of Western nations as well – don’t you?

Sweden succeeded without a Great Lockdown because their people – who also compose their government – acted so correctly and courageously. The idea that the exact same self-sacrificing virtues aren’t evident all over the place in the US as well is contradicted by countless individual testimonies. The first article I wrote on corona was a backhanded compliment to the West, after all: Capitalist-imperialist West stays home over corona – they grew a conscience? The West FINALLY issued some “People’s QE” – that was a huge improvement over the West’s previous decade of fiscal policies, certainly.

Indeed, the global pandemic response was the best of all possible worlds, worldwide: incredible concern for public health, a rollback to rabidly right-wing economic policies, and not anywhere close to the number of deaths we all had wild-eyed fears about.

Some systems had more limitations than others – be they cultural, political, financial or whatever – but every government tried to limit the pandemic amid these differing limitations. And they did it democratically, in the broadest sense of that term: Which government truly defied the will of their own majority? I can’t think of any.

The West got exactly what they wanted according to all the polls back then – a Great Lockdown – amid total hysteria, and in total disregard for the political and socio-economic laws which govern their societies and… they are still not happy with their government?!

Clearly, those in their media are shaping public perceptions in order to foment unrest and dissatisfaction instead of urging clarity and stoic realism – this article praising governments should not be such an outlier, but it certainly is.

To be clear, the problem was not necessarily the Great Lockdown but what will come after such a drastic move in certain countries. The West has capitalist-imperialist ideologies which ensure that a Great Lockdowning cannot be coped with – in the US the Republican Party, which is refusing to extend unemployment insurance, is currently insisting this be proven emphatically.

I insisted from the start that when a natural disaster hits – you have no choice but to dance with the girl that brung ya. Mid-crisis is not at all the time to reinvent the wheel, but the time to trust the defences you have been building (or in the case of neoliberalism: not building). The West, of course, has very poor political defences thanks to four decades of anti-government neoliberalism and an even longer history of deranged frontier libertarianism. All the West can do is throw their tons of money at the problem – too bad that can’t buy a modern political infrastructure, culture, perspective, etc.

Building that modern, post-1917 political infrastructure is what the West now has to do, or collapse. Thus, covid is going to drag the West kicking and screaming into political modernity.

Voltaire never lived in the digitised world, much less a truly democratic one

I wouldn’t take down his statue but I would reject the bitter and individualistic (and thus very French) outlook he presented in Candide, where optimism is only for fools. For Voltaire the mantra of the character Pangloss – that “this is the best of all possible worlds”, despite his encountering one misfortune after another – is something to be derided: Pangloss is an idiot for not giving in to black resentfulness.

Well, that’s one view – a mighty cynical one. For those of us lucky to still be alive and fully healthy in August 2020 – that seems like a rather ungrateful perspective, no?

Voltaire’s final moral of “tend your own garden” sounds like Taoist individualism from a guy who was supposed to admire Confucianism, which is active, social and judgemental. We are all stuck at home tending our garden and, guess what: a monkish existence is a lonely, self-centered, unsatisfying and even unproductive life – it is unsurprising that the extremely social and active religion of Islam forbids monasticism and demands charitable social works.

I don’t know what people expected from our modern digitised world in our first-ever response to a pandemic, but judging from the criticism of civil servants it’s clear that many people were expecting way too much. No state worker could make unfat all the Americans who have perished prematurely; no state worker had a fountain of youth for the over-80s who compose the bulk of Sweden’s dearly departed. The Western “Karen’s” babyish “war on dying” was always setting up governments to fail and for faith in political institutions – any institution – to be incorrectly lessened.

Those who read the paper regularly know that the world was not paradise back in December 2019. When we consider how badly things were supposed to get back in spring, pondering the possibility that this is the best of all possible worlds is truly worth more than a moment’s reflection.

And then you can explain to me how this pandemic could have possibly been better handled with less government? This is the impossible task of the deranged American libertarian, the European technocrat, and the neoliberal aristocrat/comprador around the world.

If there is one thing I know for certain it’s this: Covid has definitively proved that big government is our ONLY defense against an often-cruel natural world.

Duh…. Countries who have endured an actual war – not a pandemic war – already knew this.

The US and Eurozone governments have done well in spite of the limitations presented by their elitist and reckless neoliberalism, but the “anti-all government crowd” will eventually be forced to admit that – when compared with socialist-style governments, with their central planning and authority to lead in a crisis – their neoliberal ideals have failed everyone, will continue to fail everyone, and are expressly designed to fail everyone and leave people at the mercy of that often-cruel natural world.

Honest critics of neoliberal capitalism saw all that long ago.

Covid will ultimately be seen as the killer of neoliberalism, not its vindicator.

That’s why it’s not surprising to see so many anti-socialist commentators trying to declare the opposite: they are the ones saying 2+2=5, not any “Big Brother” central government. Again, this pro-government article shouldn’t be so rare – this went pretty well for the first modern, digitised global pandemic. But what do we do now?

Answer: no way we go back to anti-government neoliberalism. This exact light is being switched on in minds around the world.

So, for socialists: it came at a very heavy cost, but this is the best of all possible worlds!

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

Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis.

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 – 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

May 17: The date the Great Lockdown must end or Everything Bubble 2 pops – May 6, 2020

Reading Piketty: Does corona delay the Greens’ fake-leftist, sure-to-fail victory? – May 8, 2020

Picturing the media campaign needed to get the US back to work – May 11, 2020

Scarce jobs + revenue desperation = sure Western stagflation post-corona – May 13, 2020

France’s nurses march – are they now deplorable Michiganders to fake-leftists? – May 15, 2020

Why haven’t we called it ‘QE 5’ yet? And why we must call it ‘QE 2.1’ instead – May 16, 2020

‘Take your stinking paws off me, you damned, dirty public servant!’ That’s Orwell? – May 17, 2021

The Great Lockdown: The political apex of US single Moms & Western matriarchy? May 21, 2021

I was wrong on corona – by not pushing for a US Cultural Revolution immediately – May 25, 2021

August 1: when the unemployment runs out and a new era of US labor battles begin – May 28, 2021

Corona proving the loser of the Cold War was both the USSR & the USA – May 30, 2021

Rebellions across the US: Why worry? Just ask Dr. Fauci to tell us what to do – June 2, 2021

Protesting, corona-conscience, a good dole: the US is doing things it can’t & it’s chaos – June 3, 2021

Why do Westerners assume all African-Americans are leftists? – June 5, 2020

The US as Sal’s Pizzeria: When to ‘Do The Right Thing’ is looting – June 6, 2020

The problem with the various ‘Fiat is all the problem!’ (FIATP) crowds – June 9, 2020

Politicisation of Great Lockdown result of ‘TINA’ economic ignorance & censorship – June 14, 2020

Trump’s only hope: buying re-election with populist jobless benefits – June, 16 2020

US national media is useless – so tell me the good local news sources? – July 4, 2020

Hamilton movie: central banker worship & proof the US has no left – July 8, 2020

News flash: Capitalism has no answer for 50 million jobless people – July 11, 2020

Naive Millennials: it’s the man (Trump) & not ‘The Man’ (the US system) – July 18, 2020

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV 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 NEW Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism.

The Twilight of Neo-liberalism?

The Twilight of Neo-liberalism?

by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

It speaks volumes about the gravity of the current political and economic situation that the leading US investment bank Goldman-Sachs has seen fit to issue a sombre warning.

‘’Goldman Sachs Group Inc. put a spotlight on the suddenly growing concern over inflation in the U.S. by issuing a bold warning on Tuesday that the dollar is in danger of losing its status as the world’s reserve currency. With Congress closing in on another round of fiscal stimulus to shore up the pandemic-ravaged economy, and the Federal Reserve having already swelled its balance sheet by about $2.8 trillion this year, Goldman strategists cautioned that U.S. policy is triggering currency “debasement fears” that could end the dollar’s reign as the dominant force in global foreign-exchange markets …

There are many factors pushing the gold price higher, including fear of increasing political uncertainty, rising concerns involving another spike in COVID-19 infections in the country, increasing government debt, rising inflation, and concerns that the US dollar is seeing a new downtrend to the Chinese Yuan.’’ (1)

The fact that gold is being spoken about by the financial cognoscenti is in itself significant. Gold bugs (like me!) have long been regarded by orthodox academic economists and business financiers as being beyond the pale in terms of their relevance to current economic and financial issues. But, as with everything, times change, fashion changes, paradigm shifts take place – such is the way of the world.

At the time of writing gold has, after the 2012 engineered smackdown, been ascending remorselessly toward its present gold price of $1972,00.00 a whisker away from $2000.00 per oz. This latter price has an important psychological significance – a tipping point for both investors and owners of this particular asset. The new economic order established paper assets – representations of wealth, which replaced real wealth – i.e., gold. This was the beginning of the new epoch, a turbulent period now reaching what appears to be a climax. The increasing economic disorder has become chaotic since that date as fundamental and seemingly intractable problems began to manifest themselves.

The Nonage

In order to maintain a semblance of vitality, western capitalism entered into a period of steroid-enforced growth based upon increasingly unorthodox methods. This inflexion point took place in 1971 when in a televised broadcast Richard Nixon took the US off the gold standard and introduced a fiat standard based purely upon the US dollar. This was a little later supplemented by the US-Saudi agreement whereby oil would be fixed to a dollar price. At a stroke, these two events destroyed the Bretton Woods system of a dollar-gold standard with the $ convertible with gold at $35 per oz. The old order was finished; a new ideological economic regimen was rolled out. When and how long it might last is a matter of speculation.

In this Brave New World and following the lead of the US most of the rest of the world economies followed suit. This was a pivotal moment in economic history. But, whisper it softly, there were deep-going structural weaknesses initially hidden from view in the new economy which would eventually become increasingly problematic. The global economy had become increasingly dependent on expanding debt levels and on the expansion of fictitious capital. This was all part of what was to become known as neoliberalism, globalization or increasing financialization, call it what you will, it amounts to the same thing. [2]

Fictitious capital, consists of layers of financial paper assets – but it should be understood that these ‘assets’ are only symbols of value, not real values. For example, company shares which are traded like goods and services do not, in the same way, embody value. They are tokens which represent part ownership of a company and the potential distribution of future profits in the form of dividends. The paper or electronic certificate itself is not a genuine value it is only a claim on value. Real value is the production of goods and services such as cars, haircuts, IPhones, hotels and eating out, aroma therapy, shoes, books … and so forth, in a productive economy. This as opposed to rising share/stock prices which are often presented as a healthy economy, but the amount of money a share/stock changes hand for says nothing definitive about the value of a company’s assets or about its productive capacity.

John Stuart Mill once commented in this respect.

‘’The ordinary progress of a society which increases in wealth, is at all times tending to augment the incomes of landlords; to give them both a greater amount and a greater proportion of the wealth of the community, independently of any trouble or outlay incurred by themselves. They grow richer, as it were in their sleep, without working, risking, or economizing. What claim have they, on the general principle of social justice, to this accession of riches? In what would they have been wronged if society had, from the beginning, reserved the right of taxing the spontaneous increase of rent, to the highest amount required by financial exigencies’’ (3)

Capital movements into and out of existing assets was not necessarily productive investment but mainly pure speculation. And speculation itself was driven by increasing levels of cheap debt, both sovereign and private. This process may be observed in the Fed’s force-feeding new monies into the economy at which corporations use this largesse to buy-back their own stock thus enhancing their market price. Insofar as it might be produced it becomes clear that finance led growth is based upon trickle-up economics in which the gains of the wealthy come directly at the expense of ordinary people. Financialization involves the extraction of economic rent from the circulation (of capital) process, as well as patents, copyrights and land/property.

The United States demonstrates these tendencies very clearly and its interest rates remain the dominant influence across the mature economies. This is due to the dollar’s role as a reserve status, i.e., the world money. But there has been a long trajectory of decline in real commercial bank interest rates which averaged 7% during the 1980s, 5.5% during the 1990s 4% during the 2000s for the period leading up to the financial crash of 2008 and have been below 2% and even lower ever since. They are now being held down to zero or even minus interest levels and functioning as free monies for the speculating community or corporations who wish to avail themselves to this monetary largesse to increase their market capitalisation. Demonstrably the US and the rest of the mature economies have been undergoing a secular decline since the 1970s which has eventuated in what seems to be a policy of demented money printing.

Moreover, financialisation has not to any extent been adept at creating more wealth for all, but instead has channelled this wealth to particular favoured groups. This is evidenced with the GDP metric which is only measured in terms of output and not the distribution of and ownership of wealth produced. The result is, in short, that the rich have got considerably richer and the rest have either stagnated or declined. And this has not been an accident.

Maturity and Decline

The present crisis in the global economy has been brought about by the culmination of a number of variables which taken as a whole have been responsible for the present impasse. All the early promises of a new world order of stability, prosperity and peace which were touted in the 80s 90s and 00s never lived up to their billing. The then UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, boasted that under ‘New Labour’s’ stewardship the boom-bust cycles of both the domestic and world economies had been banished. University of Chicago’s Professor Robert Lucas claimed that macro-economics had ‘’solved for all practical purposes’’ the problem of economic depressions. In the real world, however, the entire period from 1971 and well into the 21st century was punctuated by a series of rolling bubbles and crises: the 1987 stock market crash, 1990, the collapse of the junk bond market, the 1994 great bond market massacre together with the Tequila crisis in Mexico, the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 1998 collapse of Long Term Capital Management, the 1998 default in Russia, and the 2000-02 dot-com bubble crash and finally the 2008 blowout. These once in a lifetime events seem to occur every year or so.

But the economic/financial powers that be (PTB) ensconced in the ivory towers of University Economics departments and Editorials in the Washington Post, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and Economist were having none of it. As these esteemed ladies and gentlemen saw it the new paradigm was going through a ’tricky’ teething stage and all would be well in the fullness of time, or so we were persuaded. It is difficult to know whether or not these people actually believed what they were articulating or were just plain stupid. But their theories at times actually verged upon a timeless circulation of axioms which are true by definition. It has been noted that,

‘’Academic economics has become a disaster and disgrace … Not only did the academic economists fail to see the great 2008 implosion coming, they weren’t even looking in the right direction. And having been surprised by its arrival, they had little to say about its implications – the greatest event to have befallen the capitalist system since WW2 … although there are shining exceptions, most academic economists, whilst clinging to the idea that their subject is relevant and of interest to the wider world, in fact practice a modern form of medieval scholasticism – of no use to man or beast. The output of this activity consists of articles entombed in ‘scholarly’ journals usually about questions of startling irrelevance, badly thought out and appallingly badly written, littered with jargon and liberally dosed with mathematics, destined to be read by no-one outside of a narrow coterie, and increasingly, not even by them.’’ (5) Agreed!

The Interregnum 2008-2020

The Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 has shown that perpetual growth and progress is an illusion. Moreover this was the first leg of the mega-crisis of which the second leg is now looming. Recent indicators include structural unemployment which is around 15% in the US – but this figure is almost always understated: See John Williams’ excellent repudiations in Shadow Government Statistics. Additionally there has been the growth of semi-employment in the ‘gig’ economy, short-term contracts, non-unionized labour, and illegal (often foreign) presence in itinerant employment and workers from the EU’s southern and eastern peripheries who are temporarily employed on farms during the summer for lack of UK workers. Many of these workers have no insurance or medical cover and live hand-to-mouth on a daily basis.

Unprecedented debt levels, chronic levels of debt-driven consumption are now common-place and the modern workforce is increasingly stratified. There are well-paid jobs for a small portion of those with requisite skills, but the vast majority of new employment is in the low paid service sector, such as retail, leisure, hospitality, security, aged care, and health care … youth unemployment remains high, even where work can be found starting incomes are around 10 to 12 percent lower than they were in 2007.

This situation was not only present in the UK but on the European continent also.

Millions of Europeans in temporary, part-time or bogus self-employed contracts can only find insecure and badly paid jobs, despite the healthy economic climate. That is the price of deregulating labour markets, Investigate Europe reports. This precarious set of labour conditions was created intentionally.

‘’The misery of bad jobs has many faces. It can take the form of work contracts without health or social insurance; it can be part-time jobs, which don’t pay enough to live on. Or those affected are kept dangling from one temporary contract to the next, or they have to eke out a living as bogus self-employed and contract workers. The methods vary from one country’s national legislation to that of another, but the outcome is always the same: millions of EU citizens have to get by with insecure and badly paid jobs, offering them no prospects.’’ (6)

2020 – the Debacle

Thus the world enters the second decade of the 21st century totally unprepared for what’s coming and with a leadership bereft of any plans or ideas of how to handle the situation. GDP growth is in unprecedented negative territory pretty much everywhere. In the United States, the birthplace of the Washington Consensus, GDP growth rate fell by no less than -32.9% and GDP annual growth rate by -9.5%. In Germany GDP growth rate fell by -10.1% and annual GDP growth rate by -11.7%. In China GDP growth rate was positive 11.5% and annual GDP growth rate was 3.2%. In the euro area GDP growth rate was -12.1% and annual growth rate was -15%. These are quite extraordinary figures which will need to sink in before any reasoned judgements are made. One look at the US situation is hardly comforting however.

‘’On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that 1.43 million new claims for unemployment benefits were filed last week, the 19th straight week that new claims have exceeded one million. After declining for months, new claims have risen over the last two weeks.

The number of workers claiming continuing unemployment benefits also rose from 16.1 million to 17 million for the week ending July 18. In addition, 830,000 new claims were filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers self-employed, gig workers and others who do not qualify for traditional jobless benefits.

Under these conditions, the $600-a-week federal supplement to state unemployment benefits is running out today for an estimated 20 million workers. Overnight, millions will see their incomes cut by two-thirds, from an average of $921 a week in May to about $321 a week. In some states, the theft of this lifeline will be even worse. In Oklahoma, jobless aid will be cut by 93 percent to $44 a week.

It is a measure of the precarious situation American workers faced even before the pandemic that the weekly supplemental assistance and the paying out of a one-time $1,200-per-person “stimulus” check led to a 45 percent increase in US personal income in the second quarter. Seventy percent of those who returned to work in June suffered an income loss by doing so.

Last week, the moratorium on evictions expired for about 18 million renters—more than a third of the 44 million total US renter households—who live in buildings with mortgages backed by the federal government. With rent bills accumulated over the last four months now due, housing advocates predict a “tsunami” of evictions, with half a million households in Los Angeles alone threatened.

Millions in the US are also going hungry. According to a US Census Bureau survey, food insecurity last week reached its highest reported level since May, with almost 30 million Americans reporting they had not had enough to eat at some point in the seven days through July 21.’’ (7)

Mindful of the impact of the Corona Virus and not wishing to rush to any rash judgement, the fact still remains that the world economy was already in a parlous and brittle condition, long over-due for a big correction which was going to happen with or without the complication of the Corona Virus. All the sugar-coated promises made at the turn of the century by various politicians, journalists, and world leaders regarding the new economy, a world-wide system of prosperity peace, harmony and growth turned out to be fairy-tales best suited to infants – and infants are precisely what our leaders seem to think we are.

Speculating about future developments is difficult since we are in the early phases of the downturn. What we do know is that it is like most previous downturns but beyond bad and seemingly unprecedented. Events can only be assessed retrospectively. It is now also clear that hegemonic turbo-capitalism and its tendency toward imperialism and war is not congruent for further human development and even perhaps life on this planet. This seems patently obvious to anyone who actually thinks about these issues. We (humanity) is now at a critical juncture in history. But the world has postponed, indefinitely, dealing decisively with the challenges. Anyone who questions the present course is held up to ridicule as a professional permanent pessimist, or worse. Nothing is done, and we ignore reality. Unfortunately as the Russian/American writer Ayn Rand – who is not one of my favourite writers – declared. “We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

Enough said. Francis Lee

NOTES

(1)Bloomburg – 27-July-2020

(2) Phillip Mullan – Creative Destruction – pp57/5 – ’In addition to the direct contribution of the fire sector to raising GDP artificially, the explosive growth in debt and other features of financialization a major, probably a bigger role.

(3) The notion of economic rent – made famous by David Ricardo and his theory of ground-rent – is based upon the extraction of rent from particular income streams or other assets, including land. Monopolistic rents are those which contain price levels which are over and above the costs of production.

(4) J.S.Mill – The Principles of Political Economy – 1848

(5) Roger Bootle – The Trouble with Markets – pp.232-233

(6) Tagesspiegel – Berlin – 25-10-2017

(7) World-Wide Socialist Website – 31-July-2020

How Geopolitical Economy Crossed the Atlantic – West to East

How Geopolitical Economy Crossed the Atlantic – West to East

by Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

Europe is tending to bring the society and culture of the continent into harmony with those of the United States, exulting the characteristics of the latter into models and objects of an uncritical and overwhelming admiration … There is no longer at present a European project. A North American project … under American command has replaced it … The hegemonism of the United States is clearly visible behind the disappearance of the European project in favour of a return to Atlanticism – political, economic, cultural, and militaristic.

Samir Amin (The Liberal Virus 2004)

According to current orthodox economic trade theory – see the works of David Ricardo (1772-1823) and his theory of comparative advantage – this is a hypothesis which in policy terms is predicated upon the free movement of labour, capital and commodities, which it is argued will result in flows into the most optimal investment and growth areas. This process will be seen to maximise social welfare in terms of income and output. Like many economic theories which have come and gone this particular addition to the collection may seem disarmingly plausible; in practise, however, the theory begs a number of key questions.

The current conventional wisdom as applicable to the free-trade paradigm rests on a one-size fits all prescriptive model; that is to say that always and everywhere it is regarded as the policy of choice. Free-up the dead hand of state controlled, interventionist policies, and the markets will deliver the goods, so it is argued. This is, it should be understood, not an empirical assessment but a purely theoretical paradigm, which is to say the least, questionable. The quasi-religious belief in the efficacy of free trade/markets and factor input movement is the cornerstone of trade agreements such as free-trade areas like NAFTA, on the Mexican/American border and trading blocs like the EU in Europe and MERCOSUR in Latin America.

This theory, which was effectively mobilized and globalized by the Anglo-American economic establishment (the Reagan-Thatcher axis) continues to be taught in schools and university courses so that generation after generation of students are infected by what has become known as the Washington Consensus, Neo-liberalism, Globalization call it what you will. However, in the cold and unforgiving world of actually-existing capitalism free-trade and free-markets have never to any great extent really existed. It cannot be emphasised enough that orthodox economic theory is, as Amin states elsewhere, a purely ideological construct bearing only a tenuous connection with the real world.

At the outset it should be made clear that capitalist development was and is a function of the market and state relationship. Public authority has always actively intervened in shaping and promoting the economic policies of the domestic and international economy contrary to hyper-globalist assertions which we might call ‘state-denial’. It should be stated unequivocally that the state and its role is and remains the most significant force in shaping both the national and world economy. This was evident as far back as Tudor England and beyond when the English monarchs banned the importation of woollen cloth in an early version of infant industry protection transforming England from an importing wool country into the most formidable wool and later manufacturing country in the world.

Mercantilism and its influence*

The same mercantilist policies initially carried out in England (as it then was) were then also in time operationalised in both the United States and Germany who played catch-up with the UK in the late 19th century. The architect of US mercantilism was Alexander Hamilton (born 1755 or thereabouts – died 1804) who overcame the free-trade preferences of Thomas Jefferson in the early stages of US economic development; but it was the civil war – 1861-65 – essentially a conflict between the protectionist north and the free-trading south, which settled the issue. Ex Commander-in-Chief of the Union Army of the Potomac, Ulysses Simpson Grant, later to become US President argued that:

“For centuries England has relied on protection, has carried it to extremes and has obtained satisfactory results from it. There is no doubt that it is to this system that it owes its present strength. After two centuries, England has found it convenient to adopt free trade because it thinks that protection can no longer offer it anything. Very well then, gentlemen, my knowledge of our country leads me to believe that within 200 years, when America has gotten out of protection all that it can offer, it too will adopt free trade.”(1)

In Germany, Friedrich List (1789-1846) who also had scant regard for any ‘free-market’ nonsense and the Ricardian corollary of comparative advantage was instrumental in promoting a system of political guidance from above as a policy for economic development.

‘’ … the first stage (of such a long-term policy) is one of adopting free-trade with more advanced nations as a means of raising themselves from a state of barbarism, and of making advances in agriculture; in the second stage, promoting the growth of manufactures, fisheries, navigation and foreign trade by means of commercial restrictions; and in the last stage, on after reaching the highest degree of wealth and power by gradually reverting to the principle of free-trade and of unrestricted competition in the home and in foreign markets’’. (2)

This was the policy instrumentalised by Bismarck during the middle and late 19th century which enabled Germany to outperform its European rivals, principally the UK. And still today in many ways German nationalist mercantilism which it rests upon has dominated the EU and is even now still much in evidence.

The peculiarities of financialised capitalism in Germany stands in marked contrast to that of the Anglo-American world. During the last 4 decades the German service sector has become proportionately larger, as should be expected from a financialised economy, but Germany has also systematically defended its industrial sector, not least by manipulating the exchange rate to protect its export industries. The distinctive feature of German financialization is a maintenance of a strong industrial base, in spite of weak aggregate investment. Additionally, the German financial system has retained much of its historic character as ‘bank-based’ in contrast to the ‘market-based’ system of the US/UK. Germany has a small stock-market in comparison to the Anglo-American model and a larger more diffused and competitive banking model – the Sparkassen which stands in sharp contrast to the liberalised and oligopolistic banking systems in the US/UK.

Generally speaking the reversion to free-trade from protectionism has been fraught with difficulties. The mutual benefits of free-trade only exists between highly developed nations, or between nations of roughly equal levels of development. There is no question that free trade can ever become a source of growth and development between nations of unequal economic status; such development has never worked for the less developed party in the trade relationship and in all probability never will. (See the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis.) The advantages will accrue to the more productive economy.

It is easy enough to cite examples of this phenomenon: Why for example do Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Latvia, Italy, run chronic negative trade figures on their respective current accounts? The answer is that their productivity levels are lower and therefore their costs are higher than Germany’s. This means that there is a structural problem of trade relations between Germany together with the core states (Holland, Scandinavia, Austria, and so forth) and the EU’s less developed peripheral states (See above). Moreover, given that they use the same currency free markets only work for the core of the EU. Germany and the core states run surpluses on their current account whilst the periphery runs chronic trade deficits. One nation’s surplus is another’s deficit. Hence given the policy prescriptions stipulated by the ruling institutions of global capitalism, and their applications, the increasing divergence between developed, semi-developed and under-developed states becomes apparent and understandable.

Furthermore, simply opening up a developing economy to global market forces will almost certainly lead to further disaster. There is always the danger of local businesses being wiped out by more efficient foreign competition before they can get a toehold into the wider world. This was certainly the case in Russia during the Yeltsin years. The imposition of the economic ‘shock therapy’, turned out to be all shock and no therapy. ‘Experts’ from the west in the shape of neo-liberal economists such as Jeffrey Sachs and Andrei Shleifer, and the lawyer Jonathan Hay, had a degree of influence over Russia’s economic policy that was unprecedented for a sovereign independent state. Together with Yagor Gaidar and Anatoli Chubais they formulated decisions that were inserted directly into Presidential decrees. The lesson learnt was that a prerequisite for positive and beneficial engagement with the global economy is the development of robust internal structures; the development of a national economy starts with internal integration and then moves on to external integration.

Strange as it may seem the development strategies employed in the East Asian states and economies were in flat contradiction to the IMF/World Bank prescriptions and met – mirabile dictu – with considerable success. These policies carried out by South Korea and Japan were in fact based on the exclusion of inward investment of western capital inflows particularly those of a short-term speculative nature (i.e. ’’Hot Money’’). The strategy was supplemented by an extensive programme of export driven development and gradually opening up the domestic economy for trade. A policy which is still extant with China now included.

What Price Comparative Advantage?

Yet the Ricardian ideology still holds sway in the textbooks and institutions seemingly unaware of the negative outcome of such policies. This is perhaps a classical example of the dissociation of theory from empirical reality; a hidebound and utterly incapable of reform of the institutions of global capitalism and their spokespersons are aptly personified in the words of one of Samuel Becket’s characters in one of his plays ‘’I must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.’’ Neo-liberalism, in fact, proved extremely difficult to implement technically but then practical results have little to do with the persuasiveness of ideologies.

Suffice it to say that this ideological paradigm both permeates and is pretty much obligatory in the ruling institutions of global capitalism – the IMF, World Bank and WTO and in addition to other auguste bodies such as the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) the OECD and G7. Any questioning of the holy script is treated as blasphemy and relegated to mocking footnotes or treated as being non-existent.

With an unchanging policy consensus the EU defenders of the faith are completely sold on the putative beneficial outcomes to be derived from the holy trinity of free-movement of labour, capital, and commodities. And of course, this sacred trinity is crucial to an understanding of the results of these policies which have had extremely deleterious effects in practice, both in the developing world but more recently particularly in Europe. This meant that in Euroland the deficit countries could not devalue their currencies in order to rectify their trade deficits and would be forced into what became known as ‘internal devaluation’, more commonly understood as austerity.

In addition to this has been the lack of fiscal transfers from the more developed to the less developed or one state to another. Fiscal transfers within sovereign states, from Vermont to Louisiana or Surrey to Merseyside, or the North to the South of Italy, is quite normal, but fiscal transfers between sovereign states, for example, Finland and Greece, is more problematic. In the same spirit this lack of mutualization of public debt, i.e., allowing the debt of one-member state to be considered as an obligation of another and proposed to correct it through the issue of Eurobonds. However the members of the EU have neither the legitimacy nor the desire to carry the costs and burdens of each other’s actions. Nation states are not, after all, registered charities and charity stops at their borders.

‘’So long as a country is a member of the EU – even if it is not bound by a specific programme imposing austerity measures because of its huge debt, and so forth – it will still be bound by the catastrophic neoliberal rules imposed by the various EU treaties. That is to say the EU treaties that followed the Treaty of Maastricht, which institutionalised the opening and liberalisation of the markets for commodities, capital, and labour, and which, indirectly, also imply privatisations and the phasing out of the welfare state. (my emphasis – FL). This on top of the severe restrictions imposed on fiscal policy through the stringent rules and upon budget deficits and debt-to-GDP ratios (through the Stability and Growth Pact) which indirectly impose austerity.’’(3)

We should be by now also familiar with the imposition of the holy trinity of privatisation-liberalisation-deregulation policies and the effects which these policies have visited upon the world courtesy of the so-called ‘Washington Consensus’.

The problem is that there seems to be an invincible barrier of learnt ignorance nurtured within the governing institutions which direct and administer the global economy and its policies, and the shutting down or even the possibility of transcending what amounts to a religious dogma the consequences of which are manifest.

‘’We are now being asked to believe that these policies which have further impoverished people and are devastating the planet will in fact lead to diametrically different and highly beneficial outcomes, if only they can be accelerated and applied everywhere, freely and without restrictions; that is when they are globalized.’’ (4)

You see, the problem is easily solved by a more radical implementation of the existing – failed!- policies. Words fail one!

Predictably the result of the above guiding principles have reduced annual GDP growth figures for the Euro area which have been uniformly poor. These indicators were already baked in the cake and there were serious reservations regarding the sustainability of the global system as far back as 2019 which were bound to give rise to weak levels of investment and growth with the corollary of increasing unemployment – and so it turned out. From January 2018 Euro growth had slowed down to an average of 0.3% and then with the onset of the pandemic collapsed to a negative -3.6. As follows all are the latest figures for the 4 major EU countries: the UK -1.7%, France -5.0% Germany -2.2% and Italy -5.4% as of March 2020. GDP growth in the EU had been on a downward trajectory from 2.7% in 2017 to 1.3% in early 2020 and since the Covid-19 has plummeted to minus -3.6% (5)

IMF/WB Shock Therapy – Eastern Europe

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Latvia. Soup de Jour: Russophobia. Enjoy.

Looking back and having witnessed the great Soviet meltdown with its attendant economic cataclysm the ex-Soviet satellites and republics have more recently received less attention in the business and financial media. What attention they have received paints a rosy picture of full-employment and runaway growth which have been a function of the rapid shock therapy which caused such mayhem in Russia in the 1990s. So much for the hype. What did in fact happen was rather different.

If anything the implantation of the neo-liberal virus and shock-therapy in the newly emerged post-communist states of Eastern Europe, together with an additional virulent and counter-productive Russophobic hostility should stand as a model for a botched and bungled attempt at social and economic development. The subsequent economic and social ravages has reduced these states to an almost Latin-American relationship with Western Europe.

The bald fact is that in economic terms there is little comparison to be made between Eastern and even Central Europe to Western Europe. This gap has not significantly changed and the only ex-soviet satellite comparable is Czechia reputed to be the success story. Czechia just squeezes into the bottom of the income hierarchy of the west as measured in GDP per capita of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). The only western states which fall below the Czechia are Portugal $30,622.00 and Greece $27,812.00. (6)

These states, the ex-soviet Republics and satellites, having thrown off the yoke of communism wanted to taste the joys of western consumerism and national self-determination, apparently, and as subsequent events turned out, also for the imposition of the yoke of US imperialism, which for bizarre reasons they found liberating. Suffice it to say that their geopolitical outlook was unashamedly Atlanticist, and their economics were neo-liberal; this much to the dismay of the European Gaullists and socialists.

But this really was manna from heaven for the British and German Atlanticists. Their object all along had been to smash the Delors’ vision of Euro-deepening with the policy tool of Euro-widening. German big business in particular saw juicy opportunities to outsource its operations to a new low-wage, East European hinterland thereby lowering its costs, as well as opening up new markets in which to sell their products. European banks also saw opportunities to extend credit – a move that they would later regret bitterly – to these newly emerging states. From the British viewpoint Euro-widening effectively meant political and institutional dilution as well as economic and financial deregulation. The cheap armies of labour in the East would provide the perfect instrument for downward harmonisation of wage levels and workers’ rights and benefits in the West.

This was indeed a deep-going change in both the economic configuration and geopolitics of the EU. But I cannot recall any discussion prior to the event. Such big policy decisions, taken behind closed doors with minimal consultation (if any) to all those who would be affected only served to distance the electorates of the west further from the EU political and bureaucratic elites. Pretty much par for the EU.

A case study by Michael Hudson (7) is illustrative of the whole process which happened, and is still happening in Eastern Europe, he writes with reference to Latvia:

‘’Post-soviet economies were free of public debt, real estate and personal debt or other bank loans obtained with their political independence in 1991 … like other post-soviet economies Latvians wanted to achieve the type of prosperity they saw in Western Europe. If Latvia had actually followed the policies that had built up the western industrial nations, the state would have taxed wealth and income progressively to invest in public infrastructure. Instead Latvia’s ‘miracle’ assumed largely predatory forms of rent-seeking and insider privatisations. (My emphasis – FL).

Accepting US and Swedish advice to impose the world’s lopsided and set of neoliberal tax and financial policies, Latvia imposed the heaviest taxes on labour. Employers must pay a flat 25% tax on wages plus a 25% social service tax, whilst wage earners pay another 11% service tax … Persons who advocated taxing real estate and financial wealth, or even supported public spending, protecting consumers and other regulation were accused of threatening a return to communism. A black and white contrast is drawn either soviet style socialism, or neoliberal ideology denying that there is any such thing as a viable mixed economy (Op.cit. pp.286/287)

There followed a period of phony, debt-fuelled growth which inevitably popped in 2008 when in Warren Buffet’s amusing little quip ‘’You only see who’s been swimming naked when the tide’s gone out.’’ And in the fullness of time the tide went out for Latvia. By 2008 it had become common knowledge that the post-soviet economies had not really grown at all but had simply been financialised and indebted.

Eastern Europe – A Demographic Disaster Zone

If the economic problems of Eastern Europe were not bad enough there was the second wave of bad news. To wit, an unmitigated fall in population levels which have already have now resulted from a massive exodus of young and talented migrants from the Baltics and others to the more salubrious climes of Western Europe, mainly Germany and the Scandinavian states. The depopulation phenomenon was not a policy as such, but it emerged as the unanticipated corollary to other parts of the neoliberal policy baggage.

In addition to mass migration there has been a fall in the fertility rate (8) and a rise in the death rate as well as the exodus of skilled and ambitious young workers looking for a better life in Western Europe. For population growth to stabilise a fertility rate minimum of 2.1 babies for every one child-bearing woman per annum is needed. Suffice it to say that even Western Europe has not managed to hit this target let alone the Eastern periphery.

Post-independence from the Soviet bloc in 1991, the population of Latvia has been diminishing annually at the rate of 23,000 people a year. These frightening figures were unveiled last March by a professor at the University of Latvia, demographer Peteris Zvidriņš who would note that the sad reality is that Latvia loses a small town every two weeks. In raw figures, that is 55 people a day, or 1,650 people a month. Another Latvian demographer, who heads a local office of the International Organization for Migration of the United Nations, Ilmar Mezhs, has recently told Skaties.lv that most of those who are leaving Latvia are not planning to go back. Referring to the forecasts of Eurostat, Mezhs suggested that in sixty years in the place of 2.7 million people who had previously resided in Latvia, one would find less than a million people still dwelling in this country. According to preliminary reports, the country’s population has already been reduced to 1.946 million people. Latvia has been plagued by high mortality rates along with the massive exodus of its people since 1991. According to LTV7, a local media station, the situation in maternity wards across Latvia is critical: low salaries often go hand-in-hand with a shortage of medical personnel, especially young professionals. If the situation is not addressed urgently, as various Latvian media sources report, there will be no qualified doctors left in hospitals.

The latest Eurostat report on the situation in Lithuania shows that up to 29% of the inhabitants are living on the verge of poverty, with the situation remaining unchanged for eight consecutive years. At the same time, Lithuania is among the top five states of the EU where people are being employed for meagre salaries. The sad reality of this trend is evident in historical records showing an unprecedented drop in the population of this Baltic country, falling from 3.7 million back in 1990 to 2.8 million in 2016 – a 25% decline. Income inequality and the striking poverty of some Lithuanian residents is only getting worse over time, putting Lithuania on the list of the poorest EU states. A typical resident would pay a third of his monthly salary in a bid to get access to healthcare services.

It’s not surprising that for many years Lithuania has had the largest number of suicide cases in the EU. Therefore, it is quite understandable why Lithuania remains a country that consumes more alcohol than any other, as it’s been stated by the World Health Organization (WHO). A similar situation can be seen in other Eastern European countries, that are being described, according to Der Spiegel, as so-called “second speed EU states … Apart from migration additional factors exacerbate the problem namely: low birth and increasing death rates.

The long list of domestic social problems in the Baltic states has been largely ignored by media engaged in a massive Russophobia campaign promoted by Washington. Rolandas Paksas, the former president of Lithuania summed up the results of the post-Soviet period in the history of the republic in March. In his opinion, nothing has been done in the past twenty-seven years of independence nor has anything been built. Therefore, as Paksas points out, every year there are fewer and fewer people in Lithuania, and the life of those who remain is only becoming more difficult.

In general terms Eastern Europe’s population is shrinking like no other regional population in modern history. The population has declined dramatically in war ridden countries like Syria as well as in some advanced economies in peacetime, like Japan. But a population drop throughout a whole region and over decades has never been observed in the world since the 1950s with the exception of Southern Europe in the last five years and Eastern Europe over the last 25 consecutive years. The UN estimated that there were about 292 million people in Eastern Europe last year, 18 million less than in the early 1990s, that’s more than the population of the Netherlands disappearing from the region. The fall corresponds to a drop of six per cent – moreover, the trend continues

  • Lithuania 12%
  • Latvia 12%
  • Ukraine 9%
  • Hungary 8.5%
  • Romania 7%
  • Bulgaria 6%
  • Estonia 1.5%
  • Poland 0.5%
  • Russia, slight increase
  • Slovakia, slight increase
  • Czech Republic, slight increase.

But the most drastic consequences of the “post-communist breakdown” have been experienced by Ukraine – once one of the most developed republics of the USSR. If in the early 1990s there were 52 million people in the republic, now the population does not exceed 42 million. So much for the revolution of dignity and prospect of freedom democracy and abundance promised by the EU. The Kiev Institute of Demography estimates a population of 32 million by 2050 or perhaps sooner. According to recent polls, 35% of Ukrainians declared their readiness to emigrate usually to other Eastern European states; particularly Russia and Poland. The process accelerated after Ukraine received a visa-free regime with the EU: about 100,000 people leave the country every month. Ukraine is not so much a failing state, it is more a dying state.

In geopolitical terms a recognisable global configuration has since the 1990s come into being. This consists of a top down US-Zionist structure resting upon a West European layer of semi-comprador states, which in turns rests upon completely comprador regimes in Eastern Europe as was the case during their years of Soviet domination.

Unfortunately for them neo-liberalism and Russophobia didn’t put food on the table. The peoples of Eastern Europe have been subjected to a three-card confidence trick of ‘find the lady’ a card game practised by petty thieves on dumb overseas tourists in the streets of central London during the tourist season. It may work for a time, but ultimately the deteriorating conditions of life are and will be such that there will be a search for alternatives. But given their abject servility ‘will be’ should be perhaps be less likely than ‘may be’.

NOTES

*Mercantilism: economic theory and practice common in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century that promoted governmental regulation of a nation’s economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. It was the economic counterpart of political absolutism. Its 17th-century publicists—most notably Thomas Mun in England, Jean-Baptiste Colbert in France, and Antonio Serra in Italy.

  1. Monthly Review Press – 1967
  2. National System of Political Economy – Friedrich List – p.141 – 1841
  3. The New World Order in Action – Takis Fotopolous – pp.156/157
  4. The Case Against the Global Economy – Jerry Mander, et al.
  5. Source: – Trading Economics.
  6. Source: – Pocket World in Figures – The Economist 2020 edition.
  7. Killing the Host – Michael Hudson -2015
  8. The total fertility rate in a specific year is defined as the total number of children that would be born to each woman if she were to live to the end of her child-bearing years and give birth to children in alignment with the prevailing age-specific fertility rates. It is calculated by totalling the age-specific fertility rates as defined over five-year intervals. Assuming no net migration and unchanged mortality, a total fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman ensures a broadly stable population.

Politicisation of Great Lockdown result of ‘TINA’ economic ignorance & censorship

Politicisation of Great Lockdown result of ‘TINA’ economic ignorance & censorship

June 14, 2020

by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

In the United States questioning liberal economic ideology is not tolerated, so when the latest inevitable economic bust in capitalism occurs it is little wonder that their society talks about everything except economic ideology. They spend their time inventing and discussing non-economic solutions to economic catastrophes, which is precisely how their fundamental weaknesses and inequalities only get worse and worse.

Now we are talking about the murder of George Floyd, police brutality and White supremacy – these are old but still important issues, but they are also certainly issues which will not lead to systematically redistributing one cent towards governmentally-abandoned African-American areas.

The fall of the USSR and the triumphant parades led by banners bearing TINA – There Is No Alternative (to neoliberalism and neo-imperialism) – encouraged Americans to throw away their textbooks on the “dismal science” of economics. “Yeah,” they said, “Marx might have been interesting in his day, but it’s all over now – get with the times: it’s the economy, stupid! (whisper) But seriously – don’t openly question liberal economic ideology.”

For those of us following the data it has become quite clear: “Everything Bubble 2” is a great pica-saving handle to describe the 2020 Western economy, but it gives the wrong impression that what’s going on is just a repeat of 2008 (when Everything Bubble 1 popped) – it’s actually much worse. Nobody expected Everything Bubble 2 to be popped by something as economically-suicidal as a Great Lockdown, but we now have no choice but to add the effects of the two together, so… wow… we just cannot say that this is like 2008, or 2001, or 1929, or any other era.

But in the US you can’t say anything about ideological economic direction, of course. This leads us to two realisations about their society which are now obvious to all:

1) By abandoning economic ideological debate for three decades Americans can only politically snipe each other to death in 2020 because they simply cannot intelligently discuss economics, much to the glee of the 1%. 2) By censoring ideological debate the US is unable to devise new solutions to the latest capitalist bust, so in order to end this very atypical capitalist bust they are vainly reapplying previous solutions: hyper-partisanship, militarism and economic ideological totalitarianism.

Combine these two realisations and it’s clear that the American solution to their 2020 economic crisis is militarist in nature: Militarism against those who disagree with the Mainstream, militarism to guide the economic way out, and militarism towards the Covid-19 germ as well. As a result of the George Floyd murder we may even add a fourth militarism – though one which will surely end after the November presidential election – militarism against anti-Black racism.

Why would this “solution” of militarism be a surprise to anyone?

Removing economics from politics creates stupid politics, but also hyper-partisanship

Americans today have only one solution for domestic or international failure – declare war on the other guy, even if he is a fellow citizen.

This economic crisis is so bad for the already-weakened West that one would think the economic debate for its solutions would have never become partisan. (Considering that both mainstream parties agree on TINA – what was there to argue about economically, anyway?) Georgia, Florida and Texas have cities just as dense as Illinois, Michigan, California, New York and New Jersey, but it can’t be a coincidence that this latter camp of blue-states remain economically closed with a severity and duration seemingly unparalleled in the world.

It is as if working with the other side – even for the good of the nation – implies risking a deadly (moral) contagion? It’s as if doing a single thing Trump did, suggested or supported makes one an irredeemable “deplorable”? It’s as if losing an election this November is a bigger catastrophe in the minds of politically-involved Republican and Democrat citizens than the unprecedented capitalist catastrophe of having over 40 million unemployed people?

All I can say is: LOL you can’t possibly run a nation that way. I am as political as anybody, but if unemployment was 25% my primary motivation would not be getting credit at the polling booth!

So it’s an amazing proof of how undesirable the American cultural-political-economic model truly is when we observe how the re-opening of their economy has become such a politically-polarised issue.

That may or may not be old news to many, but here is something which is never discussed: This seeming “militarisation of political partisanship” is predicted on confining mainstream political discussion solely to exactly that – the alleged importance of political partisanship. Western culture’s proclamation of TINA, the chucking out of economic textbooks and censoring “time-wasting” economic debate has thus given two-party political affiliations an entirely outsized place in US culture.

And TINA was always going to be especially fatal for heterogenous Western societies: In a country like Iran, which is 90% Shia, or homogenous & self-segregated Japan it’s perhaps not necessarily economics which can hold the title of “champion of societal unification”, but in the very heterogeneous West economic class clearly provides the broadest basis for life-saving and nation-saving unity. (The West’s White supremacists will sputter that, “It didn’t used to be this way here!” Who cares? It is this way now for your children, and it was only ever not “this way” because of massive segregation.) National unification may be rejected by Trotskyists, but not everyone wants to see the nation founder in response to every serious crisis.

But by rejecting discussion of economic unity (a.k.a. class warfare against the 1%) the West could only logically choose to emphasise other factors in its place, i.e. political, cultural, ethnic, sexual, gender and religious factors, all of which (for their heterogeneous societies) are inherently less unifying and even quite controversial. In a crisis this disunity is not just readily apparent but leads to tangible disaster – certainly the West is currently burning in crisis.

The problem goes deeper than their facile blaming of only the political and media classes: there are many everyday American citizens who clearly want to increase the stranglehold of this economic crisis in order to oust Trump or just their local incumbent. In 2020, because they are not in power, it’s logical to agree that Democrats are acting the most desperately and power-hungrily. However, it’s not as if Republicans are promoting consensus, unity and high ideals – of course they are using the economic crisis to achieve the neoliberal tenet of slashing government ranks down to just cops and fire departments.

It is not an exaggeration to say that by removing economics from the discussion US political culture has become not “militant” – which has positive connotations of ideological purity – but “militarist”: Democrats and Republicans are going on the war path to stoke problems instead of focusing on societal unity amid this unprecedented crisis.

You couldn’t honestly talk about imperialism with an American in 2019, and it’s not like they want to hear about it now; nor can you honestly talk about capitalism with an American despite its current epic fail; in June 2020 they want to talk only about how their political party is superior, and how corona is the new Black Plague, and now they’ve added a new problem they’ve recently discovered: police brutality against Blacks.

The problem of this faux-militancy, which has such a gaping intellectual void (the lack of an economic component), is similarly and glaring obvious in the centuries-old militarisation of imperialist US culture: War on Indians, war for/against slavery, war on socialism, war on Soviet-led communism, war on poverty, war on drugs, war on Muslims – the US solution of “war on corona” is thus not at all unique for them.

The new – and probably temporary – “war on police brutality” is certainly necessary but cannot possibly reach the halls of power nor the ears of the US vanguard party of bankers.

The solution in US corporate fascism is always war, but conquering corona yields no booty

The real economic ideology of the US is – of course – corporate fascism, which is why their military-industrial complex had a ready solution to the 2001 Y2K/dot.com bust via declaring war on the Muslim world. Very profitable indeed, and it allowed their Pentagon-planned economy (the Pentagon is the world’s largest employer) to continue organising the very unequal US economic redistribution.

There was no new war to be had in 2008 – Obama could only double down on the existing wars (after accepting his Nobel Peace Prize) and double down on the status quo economic ideology as well: QE dropped helicopter money at the problem and hoped the problem was resolved. It was resolved very satisfactorily indeed, but only for the 1% and their asset classes.

In 2020 Everything Bubble 2 was popped by the Great Lockdown and a new war was declared: against corona. As if Red men with tomahawks had amassed just outside the picket-topped fort, Americans threw themselves wholeheartedly into this battle for self-survival. Now, as the stock market has been boosted with taxpayer QE money back to pre-crisis levels, Americans are (kind of) throwing themselves into a battle against police brutality as well.

Declaring war is what American culture does, period.

What does war do? It rallies around the flag – for countries who were not inspired by 1917 it is truly the “champion of societal unification” – but there is no booty to be had this time: no new frontiers to provide cheap land; no new resources to allow Western manufactures to be made more cheaply; no oil; not even any way to use US taxpayer money to pay mercenaries in order to boost the stock prices of Pentagon-linked corporations.

Americans need to realise that “keep-capitalism-alive-through-jingoism” is a primary pillar of imperialism, and that true patriotism is never allowed in neoliberal capitalism – thus their hyper-partisanship today. War also provides a useful distraction from endemic economic inequality, which is why this “endless war” ruse has been going on across the anti-socialist West ever since WWI.

The West has thrown themselves into the war on the corona germ, but their lower classes are screaming that this war is economic suicide. Once the war on corona is over – even if the West extends past the “surge” this fall or even into 2021 – economic ideology will finally have to be discussed.

But the West doesn’t ever have to do that intelligently – they were the economic ideological winners, right?

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

Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis.

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

May 17: The date the Great Lockdown must end or Everything Bubble 2 pops – May 6, 2020

Reading Piketty: Does corona delay the Greens’ fake-leftist, sure-to-fail victory? – May 8, 2020

Picturing the media campaign needed to get the US back to work – May 11, 2020

Scarce jobs + revenue desperation = sure Western stagflation post-corona – May 13, 2020

France’s nurses march – are they now deplorable Michiganders to fake-leftists? – May 15, 2020

Why haven’t we called it ‘QE 5’ yet? And why we must call it ‘QE 2.1’ instead – May 16, 2020

‘Take your stinking paws off me, you damned, dirty public servant!’ That’s Orwell? – May 17, 2021

The Great Lockdown: The political apex of US single Moms & Western matriarchy? May 21, 2021

I was wrong on corona – by not pushing for a US Cultural Revolution immediately – May 25, 2021

August 1: when the unemployment runs out and a new era of US labor battles begin – May 28, 2021

Corona proving the loser of the Cold War was both the USSR & the USA – May 30, 2021

Rebellions across the US: Why worry? Just ask Dr. Fauci to tell us what to do – June 2, 2021

Protesting, corona-conscience, a good dole: the US is doing things it can’t & it’s chaos – June 3, 2021

Why do Westerners assume all African-Americans are leftists? – June 5, 2020

The US as Sal’s Pizzeria: When to ‘Do The Right Thing’ is looting – June 6, 2020

The problem with the various ‘Fiat is all the problem!’ (FIATP) crowds – June 9, 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 Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the NEW Socialisms Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism.

Our Grim Future: Restored Neoliberalism or Hybrid Neofascism?

June 01, 2020

Our Grim Future: Restored Neoliberalism or Hybrid Neofascism?

by Pepe Escobar – crossposted with Strategic Culture Foundation

With the specter of a New Great Depression hovering over most of the planet, realpolitik perspectives for a radical change of the political economy framework we live in are not exactly encouraging.

Western ruling elites will be deploying myriad tactics to perpetuate the passivity of populations barely emerging from de facto house arrest, including a massive disciplinary – in a Foucault sense – drive by states and business/finance circles.

In his latest book, La Desaparicion de los Rituales, Byung-Chul Han shows how total communication, especially in a time of pandemic, now coincides with total vigilance: “Domination impersonates freedom. Big Data generates a domineering knowledge that allows the possibility of intervening in the human psyche, and manipulating it. Considering it this way, the data-ist imperative of transparency is not a continuation of the Enlightenment, but its ending.”

This revamping of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish coincides with reports about the demise of the neoliberal era being vastly overstated. Instead of a simplistic plunge into populist nationalism, what is on the horizon points mostly to a Neoliberalism Restoration – massively spun as a novelty, and incorporating some Keynesian elements: after all, in the post-Lockdown era, to “save” the markets and private initiative the state must not only intervene but also facilitate a possible ecological transition.

The bottom line: we may be facing a mere cosmetic approach, in which the deep structural crisis of zombie capitalism – barely moving under unpopular “reforms” and infinite debt – still is not addressed.

Meanwhile, what is going to happen to assorted fascisms? Eric Hobsbawm showed us in Age of Extremes how the key to the fascist right was always mass mobilization: “Fascists were the revolutionaries of the counter-revolution”.

We may be heading further than mere, crude neofascism. Call it Hybrid Neofascism. Their political stars bow to global market imperatives while switching political competition to the cultural arena.

That’s what true “illiberalism” is all about: the mix between neoliberalism – unrestricted capital mobility, Central Bank diktats – and political authoritarianism. Here’s where we find Trump, Modi and Bolsonaro.

From Anthropocene to Capitalocene

To counterpunch zombie neoliberalism, those believing another world is possible dream of a social-democratic revival; wealth redistribution; or at least neoliberalism with a human face.

That’s where eco-socialism jumps in: a radical rupture with the diktats of the Goddess of the Market, the product of a healthy rebellion against ultra-authoritarian neoliberalism and illiberalism.

In sum, that could be seen as a soft adaptation of Thomas Piketty’s analyses: to break the domination of capital by economic democracy, in the spirit of mid-19th century social democracy.

It’s quite interesting, in this aspect, to consider Fully Automated Luxury Communism, by Aaron Bastani, a refreshing utopian manifesto where we see that once society is stripped off everything superfluous linked to alienation, it’s still possible for everyone to find all the necessary technical means to live “in luxury” without recourse to infinity growth imposed by Capital.

And that brings us to the direct link between the Anthropocene and what has been conceptualized by French economist Benjamin Coriat as the Capitalocene.

Capitalocene means that our current state of appalling planetary degradation should not be linked to an undefined “humanity” but “to a very defined humanity organized by a predatory economic system.”

The state of the planet under the Anthropocene must be imperatively linked to the hegemonic economic system of the past two centuries: the way we developed our system of production and legitimized indiscriminate predatory practices.

The bottom line: to go beyond it, the economy must be reoriented and rebuilt, part of a “big bang in public and economic policies.”

In the Anthropocene, Promethean humanity must be contained so the rape of Mother Earth can be properly tackled.

Capitalocene for its part describes Capital as the crucial root and conditioner of the current world-system. The result of the struggle against the ravaging effects of Capital will determine the possible future of eco-socialism.

And that refocuses the importance of the commons – way beyond the opposition between private property and public property.

Coriat has shown how Covid-19 laid bare the necessity of the commons and the incapacity of neoliberalism to address it.

But how to build eco-socialism? Should it start as eco-socialism in one country (somewhere in Scandinavia)? How to coordinate it across Europe? How to fight ossified EU structures from the inside?

After all both Restored Neoliberalism and illiberalism already count on powerful states and networks. A good example is Hungary and Poland continuing to function as cogs of the German industrial supply chain.

How to prevent someone like Bill Gates to take control of a UN organization, the WHO, thus forcing it to invest in programs that fit his own personal agenda?

How to change the WTO’s free market rules, according to which buying palm oil and transgenic soya contributes to the de facto deforestation of large tracts of Africa, Asia and South America? This is a state of affairs that allows wealthy nations to actually buy the destruction of ecosystems.

Revolution, not reform

Even if neoliberalism was dead, and it’s not, the world is still encumbered with its corpse – to paraphrase Nietzsche a propos of God.

And even as a triple catastrophe – sanitary, social and climatic – is now unequivocal, the ruling matrix – starring the Masters of the Universe managing the financial casino – won’t stop resisting any drive towards change.

Diversionist tactics supporting an “ecological transition” fool no one.

Financial capitalism is an expert in adapting to – and profiting from – the serial crises it provokes or unleashes.

To update May 1968, what’s needed is L’Imagination au Pouvoir. Yet it’s idle to expect imagination from mere puppets such as Trump, Merkel, Macron or BoJo.

Realpolitik once again points to a post-Lockdown turbo-capitalist framework, where the illiberalism of the 1% – with fascistic elements – and naked turbo-financialization are boosted by reinforced exploitation of an exhausted and now largely unemployed workforce.

Post-Lockdown turbo-capitalism is once again reasserting itself after four decades of Thatcherization, or – to be polite – hardcore neoliberalism. Progressive forces still don’t have the ammunition to revert the logic of extremely high profits for the ruling classes – EU governance included – and for large global corporations as well.

Economist and philosopher Frederic Lordon, a researcher at the French CNRS, cuts to the inevitable chase: the only solution would be a revolutionary insurrection. And he knows exactly how the financial markets-corporate media combo would never allow it. Big Capital is capable of co-opting and sabotaging anything.

So this is our choice: it’s either Neoliberal Restoration or a revolutionary rupture. And nothing in between. It takes someone of Marx’s caliber to build a full-fledged, 21st century eco-socialist ideology, and capable of long-term, sustained mobilization. Aux armes, citoyens.

RUSSIA’S COVID GAME OF ELITES

South Front

Russia's Covid Game Of Elites
ILLUSTRATIVE IMAGE

An indepth look at the recent coronavirus-related political and social developments in Russia by a regular SouthFront reader from Moscow.

Implementing President Putin’s directives, Russian federal authorities intensified their efforts to contain both the economic and social impact of the nation-wide coronavirus lockdown, and also some local authorities’ overzealous efforts. This move was impatiently awaited by the Russian society for a month.

It became clear in May that something went wrong in Russia. While in March one could still speak of insufficient medical statistics, of contradictory scientific findings, by now the SARS-COV-v2 situation has become clear.

Due to a variety of reasons, in March and April the world had to cope not so much with the spread of the virus, but rather a pandemic of fear and other processes which might collectively be called “coronacrisis”. One can thus identify three main challenges for humanity today:

  1. The coronavirus epidemic as such;
  2. The global socio-economic crisis;
  3. The pandemic of fear and mass psychosis which complicated professional assessments of the first two problems and, therefore, the development of effective anti-crisis measures.

Separately, one should note that many political forces and financial circles have used the situation for profit. This includes deal-makers of all kinds, from petty speculators and local officials to global elites and corporations. No, they did not “create coronavirus”, at least there is no credible data to this effect, but they nevertheless used it to their advantage.

Russia was not bypassed by these processes. What is more, Russia experienced them to a greater extent than others. It turned out that Russian bureaucracy is unable to deal with new threats and challenges. It uncovered the clannish character of a sizable portion of Russian elites. It revealed problems with executive competence of many regional and federal officials. Especially when it comes to the economy, health care, and social security.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin apparently found himself in informational vacuum, which was particularly evident in the first half of April. It seems that the negative socio-economic developments were triggered by Vladimir Putin’s seemingly correct decision, made in late March, to give regions extraordinary powers. It meant decentralizing authority in order to give regional officials authority to act according to the situation in their region. That’s how many other countries have done, including Germany where the outcome was a positive one.

However, Russian bureaucracy and “liberal” clans that have fused with official institutions and which view themselves as a “new aristocracy” are not the same thing as German regional officials. The gap between Russian elite clans and the population is huge. This is the reason for the clumsy and in some cases even criminal, profit-motivated actions by elite clans after they were granted extraordinary powers.

Modern liberalism, sometimes referred to as “neo-liberalism”, is an ideology promoting serving global monopolies and market speculators. These “liberals” top priority is increasing personal consumption with minimal intellectual or physical effort, using the margin simplification of modern technologies in order to satisfy selfish desires under the guise of post-modern sophistry. Thus they consume public resources while giving nothing in return. Rather, they stand in the way of humanity’s progress.

President Putin and his closest administration members realized by mid-April that unless action is taken at federal level, the situation could quickly transform from critical to catastrophic. It was necessary to reassert control.

On April 23, President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to mitigate the socio-economic crisis being provoked by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The coronavirus epidemic, challenging the whole world, threatens the lives and health of people first and foremost, but it also impacts the economy, and the condition of entire industries, which is no less dangerous,” Putin said. “Our common crucial task is to mitigate such adverse effects and reduce inevitable socioeconomic losses.”

The president noted that this is exactly why the government made a number of decisions to support families, employment and households’ revenues, individual entrepreneurs, small and medium enterprises, and industry-forming companies, along with measures for disease prevention and bolstering healthcare capabilities.

“Nobody needs abstract promises that don’t affect people’s lives, and the effect of such decisions and allocated resources will be low,” Putin said, adding that the government and the Central Bank should promptly make the necessary changes to the regulatory framework.

“It’s not enough to announce that decisions have been made, dear colleagues. We need to work through all the stages of their implementation so that the help arrives on time so that those who really need it can take advantage of it.”

Earlier, on April 15, the Russian president announced a first package of measures to support the country’ economy hit by consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak and the following lockdown. The measures included:

  • Monthly state payments to small and medium-sized businesses for every employee in April and May, provided firms maintain 90% of their workforce. The payment is 12,130 rubles ($160) for an employee per month;
  • The federal government allocates a package of 200 billion rubles ($2.6 billion) of support for regional budgets;
  • At least 23 billion rubles ($307 million) of government support for airlines.
  • The federal government will reform the government-backed system of interest-free salary loans for firms. The reform is aimed at providing an easier access to loans by businesses.

As of April 24, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) estimated economic losses at 4-6% of annual GDP. This was the first recorded outcome of actions undertaken by regional authorities and the economic bloc of the federal government, thanks to whom the economy had ground to a halt even in regions where the number of cases was in single or double digits. Even the RCB team of economic liberals was forced to acknowledge that fact, even as they opposed direct economic support of enterprises and the population.

“The Bank of Russia has substantially reviewed its baseline scenario parameters. GDP is forecast to decrease by 4-6% in 2020. The Russian economy is thereafter expected to follow a recovery path with growth predicted to total 2.8-4.8% in 2021 and 1.5-3.5% in 2022,” the press release says.

“The spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Russia and the restrictive measures in place to address it have combined with a drop in external demand and a further decline in the prices of oil and other export goods to make a substantial negative impact on economic activity. In this environment, Q2 GDP is set to decline.”

According to the press release, the deficit of the payment balance in 2020 will be $35 billion in 2020 and $20 billion in 2021, and a return to surplus is expected in 2022. The negative payment balance is forecasted for the first time since 1997.

The complicated socio-economic situation caused by the coronavirus crisis and its economic consequences of the national-wide lockdown revealed a conflict between the representatives of the formally “patriotic” part of the elites and the so-called “liberals” affiliated with the West and the global financial capital.

For example, the head of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina publicly opposes initiatives to introduce additional measures to stabilize the Russian currency market and prevent currency speculations amid the developing economic and social crisis.

On April 23, it became publicly known that the office of Elvira Nabiullina has sent the Ministry of Economic Development a letter in which it asked to silence ex-presidential adviser and the current Integration and Macroeconomics Minister of the Eurasian Economic Commission Sergei Glazyev. The letter claimed that Glazyev’s statements “carry reputational risks for joint government and Bank of Russia”.

A few days earlier, Glaziev proposed to levy a tax (0.01%) on purchase of foreign currency, as well as to fix the currency position of commercial banks and introduce a time lag between the application for purchase and delivery of currency. These measures (employed in multiple countries around the world) should help to stabilize the financial market and limit the impact of currency speculations (the tax of 0.01% will affect only actors that make hundreds of thousands speculative purchases).

Glazyev alongside other prominent economists that can afford the luxury of having own independent opinion describe the current economic crisis “a consequence of profound structural changes in the global economy due to a change in technological and world economic structures”. He emphasizes the need to implement stabilization measures and consistently accuses the Central Bank of giving control of the ruble exchange rate to financial speculators.

It was during this time that the public rift between so-called “globalists” and national-oriented forces was growing not only in the economic sphere. The Federal Government and the Parliament started to demonstrate that they do not support actions of the team led by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and forces which it represents. The bone of contention are the draconian lockdown measures, mass surveillance, and illegal fees for violations of the ‘self-isolation regime’ pushed by the Moscow city managers.

While many European countries started to ease coronavirus restrictions in the second half of April, the Sobyanin team was seeking to increase pressure and limitations under the pretext of the crisis. These attempts were being conducted under the cover of unprecedented propaganda campaign that included even threats to deploy troops on the streets of the city, tighten the ‘self-isolation’ regime (in fact the home arrest regime) and further, and statements blaming Moscow residents for failures of the regional authorities.

The threat to deploy troops on the streets of Moscow was made by Sobyanin in an interview with Rossiya 24 TV channel on April 23.

“In many other large cities, the situation is somewhat different, first they introduce very soft, very democratic measures, and then they are forced to send troops into the streets. We don’t want this scenario, so we have the optimal mode of self-isolation installed in Moscow ,” Sobyanin said hinting that if Moscow residents continue demonstrating their dissatisfaction with the city managers’ actions, troops will be deployed.

As later events have shown, these actions had no impact on Moscow’s actual epidemiological situation, though the fines did enrich the city budget and organizations close to the mayor. Moscow government also tried to shift blame onto the inhabitants. For example, on April 24 , Deputy Mayor of Moscow Anastasia Rakova blamed Moscow residents for the regional authorities’ move to harden the imposed regime of ‘self-isolation’.

“Of course, what can I say, Moscow residents are tired. And they really became less responsible towards the compliance with the regime of self-isolation. More and more people go out on the street, use their personal or public transport. We were forced to take measures aimed at tightening the regime of self-isolation,” Rakova said.

Rakova added that there are more and more hospitalized and severely ill patients with COVID-19 in the capital.

“If last week the average daily level of hospitalization was 1,300-1,400 people, today it is 1,900,” Rakova said.

The numbers provided by Rakova originated from the Moscow COVID-19 HQ that on April 23 noted the increase of COVID-19 cases in the city and said that the situation was worsening.

Let’s take a look what happen in Moscow a week earlier that caused the increase of COVID-19 cases. For everyone, excluding Russian mainstream media and the Moscow COVID-19 HQ, the answer is clear.

On April 15, the Sobyanin team introduced a mandatory digital pass system triggering mass traffic jams and throngs of people waiting at metro stations while their digital passes (QR codes) to be checked by authorities. Hundreds of thousands of people (some sources say that over 1 million) struck in crowds.

Znak.com @znak_com На входе в московское метро — тотальная проверка пропусков. Скапливаются большие очереди, в которых явно не удается соблюдать социальную дистанцию.

Фото: Sergey Elkin, Jazzverok, The Insider, Fredegonda1

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Fredegonda@Fredegonda1 Первый день с пропусками в метро. Кто еще не заболел, точно заболеет.

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Note: The pass for movement is a set of letters and numbers. The first four characters indicate the expiration date of the document, and the remaining 12 will identify its owner and the purpose of the trip.

Electronic passes are divided into three categories:

  • for trips to work or business trips – issued once valid through to the end of the month;
  • for trips to medical institutions – issued for trips to a specific hospital, the number of such passes per week is not limited;
  • one-time for trips for personal purposes that do not violate the rules of the self-isolation regime – issued for one day no more than twice a week.

Contrary to the public declarations of the city managers, the very first day of the usage of the digital pass system in fact contributed to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia and derailed the previous weeks of the ‘self-isolation regime’ and sacrifices of the country’s  economy.

The reason of the traffic collapse and the new wave of the COVID-19 outbreak spread was the demand of Sobyanin to conduct mass checks of digital passes. The Moscow authorities through its channels immediately laid blame for the consequences of their own actions on Police, in particular on the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs branch in the Moscow Metro Colonel Shamil Sibanov.

It is hard to imagine that Sobyanin that has a wide and long experience of management of the social systems and his team of ‘effective managers’ did not foresee how the digital pass system introduction would end.

As a result of the April 15 incident and similar developments of smaller scale in the next days, tens of thousands people (the estimated number is 30,000-50,000) were likely infected.

The average incubation period of the COVID-19 disease is 5.1 days. In the case of a severe progress of the disease, the exacerbation occurs after 2nd-3rd day from the onset of symptoms of the disease. If the course is moderate, then exacerbation could occur on the 7-8th day. Accordingly, the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Moscow was expected to begin on April 21-22 and, according to an official data by the Moscow COVID-19 HQ, this happened.

In spite of the tragedy, the Moscow authorities continued to push their ‘digital pass system’ idea and even further expanded the digital surveillance and control measures over Moscow residents.

On April 22, they imposed an automated control of digital passes for personal, government and commercial transport moving around the city. Cameras for photo and video recording of traffic violations monitor whether license plate numbers are included in the lists of such passes. If the number is not entered in the digital pass, the car owner is being recognized as a violator of the ‘self-isolation regime’ and gets a fine of 5,000 rubles (~66 USD).

This applies to everyone, including military service members, special service officers and federal officials. Therefore, Moscow authorities insist that officers (including intelligence officers) and officials should provide their personal data to the united database managed by the regional authorities to avoid fines. This poses a direct threat to the interest of the state and creates conditions for leaks of sensitive data to Western special and intelligence services. There is no secret that a major part of the Sobyanin team, including Sobyanin himself, are directly or indirectly affiliated with the West. For example, the main consultants of Moscow mayor’s office, including the health departments, social welfare, and IT is Boston Consulting Group and people from openly pro-Western Higher School of Economics.

The positions of the federal government, security services and the federal legislative system were ignored. This measure also went contrary to the recommendations of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

All of these measures were adopted additionally to the already existing fees for ‘self-isolation’ regime violations.

Note: On April 2, Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced administrative fines for violations of the regime of ‘self-isolation’ in the city. The  document (a Moscow city law) was published on the mayor’s official website. The law provides for a fine for violators of up to 5,000 rubles (~ 65 USD), and for organizations – up to 500,000 rubles (6,410 USD).

This situation created an additional administrative pressure on city residents, especially socially disadvantaged groups of the population that had little resources to pay new fines, but still had an essential need to go to work, travel to the hospital, help relatives with the purchase of products and had other urgent matters to leave home.

The financial explanation of the current situation is that the Moscow city managers are just creating an additional instrument to solidify their own power and compensate economic losses from traffic rules violations fine and paid parking.

On April 22, Moscow authorities reported that the created digital pass tracking system already detected 230,000 cars without digital passes. This is 230,000*5,000=1,150,000,000 rubles (~15,333,333 USD) of revenue in fines for a single day.

The Sobyanin team tried to expand these flawed policies to other regions. The Moscow mayor was a mastermind behind idea to expand the Moscow style system into the entire country. For sure under his control and based on a smartphone app developed for the Moscow region.

Russia needs digital passes “so that we could see the traffic, its volume and the travelers,” he claimed.

“I believe [the system] can be extended… to control the movement of air, rail and intercity and inter-regional bus transport.”

It’s worth reminding these events unfolded between April 6 and 24. In other words, when Moscow’s mayor practically usurped power in the socio-economic realm in the whole country. The Coronavirus HQ headed by Sobyanin duplicated the functions of Prime Minister Mishustin’s government agencies. His influence on regional elites greatly exceeded that of Mishustin who took up his post only 3 months earlier. Moreover, Mishustin was not perceived as a political player but merely as an effective technocrat. Many governors copied Moscow mayor’s actions, viewing him as, at a minimum, the future Prime Minister.

President V.V. Putin only began to overcome the cloud of disinformation at that time. It apparently became possible after Putin was forced to adopt self-isolation and remote work after visiting the Kommunarka infection ward.

Путин в Коммунарке: Костюм и респиратор для президента


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On March 24, President Putin visited a hospital for coronavirus patients on Kommunarka. It was the first repurposed Moscow clinic. During his visit, Putin was accompanied by the chief physician Denis Protsenko.

On March 28, Putin’s visible activity dropped off. It did not return to normal on March 30. At the same time, it was announced that Protsenko contracted COVID-19 (he recovered by April 15). Putin self-isolates. After that, in late March and early April, changes were made in federal laws which further allowed Moscow mayor Sobyanin revamp municipal legislation and de-facto take it out of the federal power structure.

It’s not clear whether the decline in Putin’s political activity in the first two weeks of April was connected to his health or whether it was a political maneuver. It’s hard not to notice that after April 15, and especially after April 23, Putin began to operate more actively. There were clear signals given that Putin was not pleased with Putin’s activity. In spite of draconian measures, the number of COVID-19 cases in Moscow grew. There was information about the catastrophic situation in a number of Moscow clinics, and that Moscow health care officials want as many fatalities attributed to COVID-19 as possible.

The situation reached the point of absurdity. Sobyanin and his team claim that tests supposedly don’t work, and therefore COVID-19 diagnosis ought to be given in accordance with symptoms. Deputy Mayor Rakova stated that all Moscow inhabitants with signs of respiratory illness would be considered as potentially coronavirus-infected.

The motivation to categorize all individuals with respiratory symptoms as COVID-19 cases became more clear after it became known that several large sites in Moscow and Moscow region would be reconstructed as hangar-style hospitals.

Such hospitals are being built, for example, in Pavilion No. 75 of VDNKh. With a  surface area of 53 thousand square meters, it can accommodate 1,779 beds. This is an hangar with a single ventilation system where the beds are not separated by hard partitions. In addition to VDNKh, similar temporary hospitals for patients supposedly suffering from COVID-19 will be deployed in the Krasnaya Presnya Expo-Center, the Sokolniki Convention and Exhibition Center, Krylatskoye Ice Palace, and Moskva Mall on the Kashirka Road. They would have a total of 10 thousand beds, not counting 5 thousand additional beds being added to existing city hospitals. These hangar hospitals would collect all patients with signs of respiratory illness, including flu, pneumonia, bacterial bronchitis, allergies, etc., in other words everyone who was suspected of COVID-19.

It’s obvious that there is high danger of intra-hospital mutual infections. Considering the high contagiousness of SARS-COV-v2, one can assume that soon every patient in such hangar hospital would be COVID-19-positive. Billions of rubles were disbursed without proper evaluation of competing offers. The average cost of a single bed, according to open sources, would be about 650 thousand rubles (8,666 USD). In turn, a single COVID-19 course of treatment costs about 205 thousand rubles (2,733 USD), according to mandatory health insurance price tables. It’s more expensive than, for example, a chemotherapy round of treatments in Russia.

In accordance with the decision by Moscow government, these funds ought to be allocated for every patient admitted to a COVID-19 hangar hospital. This in a situation where tests supposedly “don’t work”, diagnoses are issued according to symptoms. As a result, there are massive opportunities for personal enrichment for a small circle of people.

One might object on the basis that lives are more important than money. Nevertheless, Moscow has dozens of empty hospitals. Many of them were closed only recently. Mayor Sobyanin closed 460 municipal medical facilities and reduced the number of ambulances and physicians by 37% during the last five years.

What is more, many existing hospitals repurposed as COVID-19 infection centers are using only 30% of their capacity. For example, the Voronovskoye Moscow Infectious Disease Clinical Center is operating at only 25% capacity. The Center, which has 800 beds, admitted only 233 patients as of May 12. A similar situation can be observed in the Kommunarka hospital where, as of May 13, there were only 317 patients as compared to its capacity of 1300 beds, not counting the 1000 beds that were additionally set up. The 15th Filatovo Hospital which was one of the first to take in COVID-19 patients, had 1340 patients as of May 12, while the capacity was 1740 beds.

Ordinary hospitals in the meantime greatly reduced or stopped planned operations and patient visits. It particularly concerns the cancer patients, heart surgeries, transplants, planned surgeries on children, etc. One can find a video on the Internet with a multi-kilometer chain of ambulances, caused not by a huge number of respiratory patients but criminally incompetent logistical organization.

Death rate is increasing not so much from COVID-19 complications but rather from poorly organized Moscow health care system, and also a decrease in Moscow inhabitants’ immunity who were forbidden to leave homes, participate in any form of physical activity in open air, and were subjected to massive informational stress.

Economic problems are becoming critical, with a sharp increase in unemployment.

None of these facts went unnoticed in the Kremlin. On April 30, 2020, there was unexpected information on how Prime Minister Mishustin allegedly became infected and is leaving for hospital treatment. His place was temporarily occupied by the First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov, a Soviet-school economist. Moreover, he was appointed as the acting Prime Minister by Vladimir Putin’s decree. In earlier such cases of illness or absence, no such decrees followed. Belousov is not only a widely acknowledged professional but also a political heavyweight. He may be compared, with qualifications, to such major figures as Maslyukov and Gerashchenko who led Russia out of the 1998 crisis.

Events continued to unfold. On May 6, there was another meeting that included President Putin and Acting Prime Minister Belousov. Following the meeting, the coronavirus control authority was de-facto returned to the government of the Russian Federation from Sobyanin’s working group. Moreover, the Moscow mayor was not able to force the government to extent quarantine until the end of May for the whole country. Deliberately promoted media hysteria concerning coronavirus dangers did not help either, nor did playing around with statistics. For example, during the meeting Sobyanin claimed that Moscow supposedly had 300,000 infections. Furthermore, he claimed that the number of hospitalizations in Moscow has not changed. Sobyanin’s motives are unclear. They may be based in political ambitions, but also on economic calculations.

Not having achieved his goal, Sobyanin de-facto ignored the president’s position and announced that Moscow’s self-isolation would be extended to May 31 with the regime being further strengthened through the addition of the requirement to wear masks and gloves under the penalty of fines.

Several regions immediately followed suit, apparently by inertia. They included the Moscow region, St. Petersburg, and Crimea. Which makes it all the more surprising to hear that the admissions of patients into hospitals was reduced by, for example in Kommunarka, a factor of three.

Masks and gloves are not provided for free, but rather are being sold by businesses affiliated with the Moscow mayor’s office. For example, the Moscow metro 50 rubles, or 70 cents, will buy you ONE very simple mask and gloves. The Rospotrebnadzor recommended term of wearing such mask does not exceed 2 hours.

On May 14, it was revealed that Moscow authorities bought the largest producer of masks in Russia. According to the available data, before the start of the crisis the cost of a single mask was 1 ruble (0.013 USD). After the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the cost grew up to 7 rubles (0.093 USD). At the same time, the cost of a single mask, which is being sold in the Moscow Metro (controlled by the local authorities), is 30 rubles (0.4 USD). The revenue from this business goes to persons and organizations affiliated with the city’s mayor.

On top of this, the Sobyanin team undertook additional steps to increase an administrative pressure on Moscow residents. In April, local authorities obliged people that receive administrative protocols imposing on them a forceful regime of quarantine (ironically described as the self-isolation) imposed on them because they may be suspected of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 to install a special application on their phones and tablets. The application monitors the activity and location (via GPS) of the user and demands him to make selfies (sent to the dedicated server) to confirm his location several times per day (in fact almost every hour). This move put Moscow a one step closer to becoming a real-life digital concentration camp.

On April 16, Moscow authorities officially announced a decision to label all people with respiratory symptoms will be diagnosed with “suspected coronavirus infection”. All of these people, whom the mayor team was able to locate and detect, became a target of forceful monitoring and administrative limitations. In fact, administrative decisions of these kind are imposed widely towards a variety of people, including children with sinusitis, rhinitis, otits, people with allergy or some chronic illness. The Sobyanin team did not stop on this and on May 10 introduced an update to the monitoring application. This update allowed it to impose fines on residents that fail to make a selfie within an hour after the request. Other reasons for fines are changes of the location, the shut off of application or the phone with the installed application (due to any reasons). The fine of 4,000 rubles (53 USD) is imposed for every such incident.

It’s hard to justify this measures by the need to contain the coronavirus outbreak or care about people. The two main possible reasons are vested interest of the local authorities that pump money into the budget and affiliated structures by this way or political games, in which the Sobyanin team is playing to damage actions and policies of President Putin and the federal government.

Reports appeared in Russian social media that Google proposed the Moscow authorities at least 0.5 million USD to promote information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak; in fact, to fuel the hysteria over the situation.

The next big event took place on May 11. President Vladimir Putin announced the work holiday would come to an end. As of May 12, the regime of limitations would gradually be shut down. Vladimir Putin announced this in his address to the Russian citizens at the beginning of meeting with governors. Then he announced a new and unprecedented, for contemporary Russia, packet of measures of support for ordinary citizens and businesses. These decisions were diametrically opposed to the ideas supported by the liberal clan that includes Nabiulina, Sobyanin, Siluanov, and others.

The new support measures include:

  • All families with children aged 3-15 may receive one-time payments of 10 thousand rubles (133 USD) per child, starting on June 1.
  • Individual entrepreneurs, small and mid-sized businesses in hard-hit industries as well as socially-oriented non-commercial organizations will have all tax and insurance payments canceled for the second quarter, with the exception of value-added tax.
  • Self-employed will have their income taxes paid in 2019 refunded. They will also receive “tax capital” at the rate of one minimum-wage annual salary to fulfill tax payments.

At the same time, Putin’s address left the impression of half-measures. It included announcements that governors’ additional coronavirus-related powers were being extended, giving them the ability to raise and reduce restrictions depending on the situation.

However, even that format had the effect of an exploding bomb.

Since May 11, when Putin announced the decision to ease coronavirus restrictions, Russia has become a target of a large-scale international media campaign designed to fuel the coronavirus panic in the country. Western mainstream media and Russian-language media organizations funded by the West or affiliated with it structures and persons released a coordinated series of articles arguing and speculating (with no evidence) that Russia is hiding the real COVID-19 death toll. An overwhelming majority of these articles refers to ‘anonymous sources’ or representatives of the ‘non-system’ Russian opposition (like Alexei Navalny) that seek to gain some hype without any real evidence.

An example:

The Russian Foreign Ministry descried these reports as fake news. Nonetheless, the interesting fact is that no article released in the framework of this new anti-Russian campaign criticizes actions of Sobyanin or members of the liberal part of the Russian elites. All of them are aimed against President Putin and the federal government. This campaign goes fully in the framework of the efforts of the Russia-based liberal clans to keep the coronavirus-related restrictions and further. In fact, Russian social media and news media are full of reports revealing that in many cases local authorities insist to add any person with a positive (and in some cases even supposedly positive) SARS-CoV-2 test to the coronavirus death toll.

Right after the president’s meeting with the governors, Tatarstan announced removing the pass regime and destroying all personal data collected.

The government of one of Russia’s key regions also signaled immediate removal of all the main limitations starting on May 12. One should note that the Moscow pass regime was based on Kazan’s experience, with Sobyanin himself closely collaborating with Kazan financial and economic elites. Tatarstan was followed by Bashkiriya and many other regions. The Federal Ministry of Health signaled that 33 regions were ready to remove the restrictions.

Moscow Region Governor Vorobyov, who closely followed the example of Moscow mayor also announced and earlier also announced the quarantine would be НКО extended until May 31, delayed his announcement by four hours. But by 21:20 Moscow time he announced that “due to new demands of the epidemiological legislation the planned construction and production starts are delayed until May 18.” He did not mention the end of May.

It seems that Sobyanin and the liberal team needed a whole day to decide how to proceed. It seems they decided not to change the course of action and instead decided on a collision course with the president, possibly also with the intent of increasing social instability in Moscow. It is difficult to interpret these facts differently.

Interestingly, several unofficial media sources which are nevertheless seen as linked to the presidential administration began to openly accuse Sobyanin of an attempted coup d’etat. Thus the popular Kremlyovskiy Bezbashennik Telegram channel (reportedly linked with former adviser to President Putin -Vladislav Surkov) writes:

“it is entirely correct to write about the consequences of scandalous decisions made by Sobyanin which raise social tensions and which may lead to unrest in Moscow. But these are not mistakes by the mayor and no, he has not lost his mind. It’s all part of the plan being implemented step by step by the Party of Troubles which “Stag” described already at the start of this whole coronavirus bacchanalia. The HQ of the Covid-19 party and its frontman Sobyanin should be happy with the results of the investigation. The battle for Moscow has seen the use of the stratagem of seizure of power through destabilizing the situation an using the “street factor” in order to nullify the Constitution (in other words, the State) and obtain extraordinary powers during social unrest. Therefore as far as Sobyanin is concerned, the worse, the better. They’ll never get another chance to get power”.

If events continue to develop in this way, the last doubts that coronavirus is being deliberately used by certain elite factions in order to achieve certain political and economic objectives will scatter. It looks like that the initial plan of Sobyanin and his colleagues from the liberal clan was to de-facto conduct a creeping seizure of power in the country through the system of digital totalitarianism created under a pretext of the combating coronavirus outbreak. They achieved some successes, but the recent developments demonstrate that apparently this plan has not been 100% effective. The federal government and the Kremlin have realized the threat of the uncontrolled ‘lockdowns’ imposed by the regional authorities and working to compensate the social, administrative and economic damage of these actions.

Furthermore, actions of the Moscow authorities already significantly undermined the trust the Sobyanin team had among Moscow residents and caused a major negative reaction in the social media all across the country. The negative economic, social and medical impact of their actions are an open secret.

Moscow government and allied liberal clans are not about to give up or change their plans. Even modest attempts of the Sobyanin team to turn off the already set course met with a wave of criticism in the media controlled by the so-called liberal bloc. This week, a new media campaign was launched. It claims that Moscow authorities allegedly underestimate mortality from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Moscow risks becoming a center of socio-economic tension and political instability due to Mayor’s Office actions in delaying the gradual removal or weakening of administrative, social, and economic restrictions. Even when they are forced to remove them, Sobyanin’s team will do everything possible to preserve as many powers as possible during the pandemic. This may include the ability to limit the movement of citizens in the capital. In any event, one may confidently predict that the political tension between Moscow and federal authorities will grow. It may enable external forces which are interested in social instability in Russia to further destabilize the situation.

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Scarce jobs + revenue desperation = sure Western stagflation post-corona

Scarce jobs + revenue desperation = sure Western stagflation post-corona

May 13, 2020

Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

Among capitalist economists stagflation is the worst possible outcome, excepting a Great Depression.

They even admit they cannot explain it (especially Keynesians), or rather they choose not to – this is why the word has barely been broached during this very depressing coronavirus era. In exactly the same vein, the West’s intellectuals claim they cannot explain the causes of World War I (as I discussed last week here).

There is clearly something in stagflation which, like the banker collusion which orchestrated World War I, strikes at the moral heart of the Western liberal project.

They don’t know what caused the 1970s stagflation, but what’s certain is that the solution – the highest prime interest rates (20% in 1981) in US history, which provoked two recessions and a disaster for the housing market – is not available today in this age of Western ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policies) and Quantitative Easing. A total reversal to that type of a contractionary monetary policy would lead to bankers starting World War III; negative interest rates could reach the US as soon as this winter.

The West wants to ignore stagflation because fixing it is so very, very hard. If Weimar Germany represents the most dynamic pole of Western capitalist-imperialist socio-economic breakdown, then stagflation is its equally destructive passive pole. Stagflation was indeed put to music via the punk movement, with its trumpeting of what everyone knows: the Western capitalist dream does not work without imperialist wars, the liberal democratic neo-aristocrats are phony hypocrites, and anarchy in the UK (and the rest of the West) is needed in order to overthrow the status-quo loving “keep calm and carry on-ers”.

Cover your ears – the West is about to get punk again.

“Stagflation” is a portmanteau of “stagnation” and “inflation”: it is the combination of slow economic growth, high unemployment and price inflation. Stagnant wages is a fourth component but it is often left out because the capitalist West doesn’t want to talk about lifting wages at home, in their factories in Haiti, or even on Mars.

Astute readers should be re-reading that sentence and thinking: “Well, since the Great Lockdown started the West certainly now has all four.”

Indeed, but let’s quickly recap:

Slow economic growth – YES: This existed pre-corona in the West’s “Great Recession”: a Lost Decade for the Eurozone, while US economic growth was only in the asset classes of the 1%. As a result of their hysterical overreaction to corona Western GDP growth is going to drop probably around 5%, which is a total catastrophe for a Western system that relies on constant growth and wage-earning instead of central planning and government intervention to prevent economic catastrophe for their lower classes.

We know there will be a corona-related demand shock: the expectation of continued economic chaos will increase the desire to save and not spend. There is also the demand shock caused by their generalised consumer terror – i.e., people who remain too scared of corona to even shop or travel, which will affect businesses from luxury goods to tourism to restaurants to the mall.

High unemployment – YESThis is just as obviously another catastrophic but entirely foreseeable consequence of the Great Lockdown. Estimates range from 25-42% of all lost jobs in the US are never, ever coming back. The Eurozone already had persistently high unemployment since 2008, whereas Germany and the US falsified/degraded their unemployment rate with part-time work/minijobs/gig economy jobs.

Price inflation: YES – Just talk to any small businessman: their first goal upon reopening will be to recoup months of zero revenue – they are desperate to do so because they still had to pay costs like rent, debt servicing, utilities, wages and more during the Great Lockdown. Thus, they will raise prices and cut costs (i.e. fire workers) to not be a part of the mass bankruptcies which will arrive once the West actually gets back to work and sees how bad things are now.

Consider the effects on prices of these new Great Lockdown-inspired obstacles for business such as social distancing: If restaurants, for example, are only allowed to run at half-capacity, they have to either sell twice as much food or raise prices. Talk of supply chains moving back to the US are far-fetched, given that US corporate law requires that stockholders not lose a penny just to aid the nation, but supply chain disruptions will raise prices.

How can the price of the few remaining Western government social services go down when government tax revenue has plummeted?

This is all why nobody is expecting prices to go down in 2020, but many are predicting crashes in asset classes like homes, stocks, bonds, luxury goods, etc.

Low wages: YES – This is never discussed in the West because the outlook is so perpetually depressing in a neoliberal-capitalist system which both refuses wage controls and guts stable civil service jobs in order to hand them to the unstable, profit-oriented private sector in the name of so-called “efficiency”: When the Great Lockdown ends there will be an enormous oversupply in the labor market, thus driving down wages – the Western MSM dares not discuss this inevitability. For those who kept their job: if you thought you didn’t ask for a raise from 2008-2020 because you were too shy, fear of joining the jobless ranks will keep you even quieter in 2020.

So we see that all the components are there – were already there – for Western stagflation.

A solution to stagflation would be either increased wages or increased “People’s QE”. Given that wages represent a long-term drain on the bosses’ profits, we should thus expect the Western 1% to prefer another round of direct, but one-time, government payments to individuals and households – but this would be only a temporary staving off of stagflation. However, the preference of this band-aid solution will be resolutely opposed by anti-socialist neoliberals who view government intervention as the work of Satan, as well as the existence of Austrian/Chicago/“immoral competition is normal”-capitalists who are licking their chops at the prospect of buying up the bankrupted at low prices.

From the outset I warned that the West was fooling themselves into thinking they had the same strengths and capabilities as socialist-inspired nations like China, Iran, Vietnam and others – they employed quarantining, control methods and collective-over-individualist concepts used by Asian nations, but without having similar cultures of government economic intervention nor widespread trust in their governments, and amid their economic Great Recession on top of it all.

But you hear that analysis about as often as you have heard about stagflation.

The West will continue to avoid stagflation discussions by continuing to distort the data

The West won’t discuss what it can’t explain or what threatens their cultural chauvinism, whether that is World War I, or stagflation, or how Trump doing the exact same thing Obama did is somehow only evil when Trump does it.

Slow economic growth – the excuse of Western liberal exceptionalism: “2021 economic growth rates can only go up from 2020, thus the definition of stagflation is not met.” This is a purely technical and pedantic reply – there will be both stagnation and inflation, but by taking as narrow and as uncritical a view as possible of what stagflation truly is, then Western journalists can say “claiming stagflation is wrong”. But this response can’t endlessly hold up any more than the “confidence fairy” justification for Eurozone austerity did.

High unemployment – the excuse of Western liberal exceptionalism: This will be the toughest to hide, so they will likely do something similar to what Emmanuel Macron did: stop reporting the embarrassing unemployment data every month and only give it quarterly. Perhaps they will do what the US and Germany do – pretend as if “underemployment” does not exist (even though it is the defining feature of their young adult class for over a decade) and act as if working one hour per week makes one “employed”.

Price inflation – the excuse of Western liberal exceptionalismTheir inflation gauges already exclude the biggest expenses for the average person: food & energy (too volatile to include, they say), housing, health care and education costs. Ask a German politician and they will tell you that they are watching inflation like a hawk and that it is certainly staying in their “acceptable 2% range”. But ask a normal worker – who keeps paying more for the metro, beef, fruit, housing and all those other crucial things which inflation gauges exclude – and you’ll understand why “decreased purchasing power” has been the number one French voter concern for the 11 years I’ve lived here.

Low wages – the excuse of Western liberal exceptionalismHistory is clear: It took a pandemic for Americans to finally get a barely liveable wage of $15/hour… but only via government welfare and only until July 31. What many Republicans have already ruled out is extending these benefits – which are better than the low wages their lower classes get – because that would increase unemployment and thus only worsen stagflation. Permanently increasing wages should not be expected, as that would represent a sea-change in Western economics in favor of the bottom 90%, and that hasn’t been seen in 40 years.

Increased wages would, however, increase demand for goods and thus raise revenue and demand, and thus increase employment. It would also theoretically causes prices to rise, but the more worrying near-term reason for the price rises are the hysterical restrictions imposed by new social distancing rules and corona fears which have been overblown to bits across the West.

The West can write off 2020 as a recession or a depression, but stagflation will occur after that

Among the West’s Mainstream Media the general editorial line is denialism: “How can there ever be a catastrophe in the West when There Is No Alternative?” Among the West’s fringe/alternative websites the general editorial line is, “Armageddon/a Brave New World starts tomorrow due to the Mainstream Media’s cover-ups of catastrophe!”

However, the post-Great Lockdown truth is likely a very un-Confucian middle path: 1970s-style stagnation, which is Chinese water torture for the bottom 90%, certainly, but not revolution. They say that revolutions can never be predicted and certainly nothing at all can truly be predicted until their Great Lockdown ends – but if the West’s 1% and their toadies successfully resist the call for change from capitalism-imperialism, then stagflation is the West’s future.

The Western 1% profited from the stagflation era, of course: it proved to be a perfect antidote to their political involvement of the 1960s – creating mass precariousness is a very easy way to shut workers and citizens up. The 1970s were a “long national nightmare” for the US and their Western allies – how could their 1%-controlled Mainstream Media demand a Great Lockdown so very strenuously if they honestly warned that a return of that degraded era would be the result?

The causes of the West’s stagflation era (the “Nixon shock”, going off the gold standard, colluding with the House of Saud to create the Petrodollar system, the lack of imperialist war to keep factories from Detroit to Gary, Indiana, humming, the desire to break the record-level power of organised labor, the increased capitalist fanaticism resulting from the continued refusal of peaceful coexistence with socialist-inspired nations which oppose capitalism-imperialism) and its solutions (the breaking of the housing market in order to gut the primary asset of the bottom 90%, a vast anti-union campaign, purposeful governmental ineptitude in order to provoke the rabid anti-government component of neoliberalism, the hyper-financialisation of the economy, the demand for neoliberal “free markets” in order to send good manufacturing jobs out and weaken labor further, the promotion in the US of Reaganesque jingoism in order to give lower class Whites a feeling of pride to replace their socioeconomic degradation) will require much more analysis in the coming months and years because that lousy past is the capitalist-imperialist West’s post-corona future.

See why they don’t want to talk about stagflation?

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

Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis.

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

May 17: The date the Great Lockdown must end or Everything Bubble 2 pops – May 6, 2020

Reading Piketty: Does corona delay the Greens’ fake-leftist, sure-to-fail victory? – May 8, 2020

Picturing the media campaign needed to get the US back to work – May 11, 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 Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming Socialisms Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism.

Picturing the media campaign needed to get the US back to work

May 11, 2020

Picturing the media campaign needed to get the US back to work

Ramin Mazaheri and Jeff J Brown – for The Saker Blog

We can’t always find it but there is always a tipping point. Last week I crunched the data and suggested it’s May 17: The date the Great Lockdown must end or Everything Bubble 2 pops.

Maybe I’m a few days off, but not many more: This bubble-popping is precisely why Trump is not wearing a mask, planned to end the corona task force and keeps talking about reopening; this is why 300 US CEOs and the Department of Defense sent Mexico’s president a letter threatening that they better reopen now and not screw up corporate supply chains.

But what is absolutely certain is that getting the West back to work requires some sort of propaganda campaign to do so – what will that media effort look like?

When I recently asked What would it take for proponents to say: ‘The Great Lockdown was wrong’? readers pointed that many politicians are dug in way too deep to climb out. Yet, whether they claim to be “wrong” or “right” – climb out they must:

There has never been a vaccine for a coronavirus; neoliberalism is predicated on constant growth and wage-earning; The New York Times’ irresponsible rebroadcasting of 1.1 million US deaths in “a best-case scenario wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on – the West has to end the Great Lockdown.

But Americans aren’t going to go back to work until their media stops scaremongering, as their scaremongering line is slavishly followed by European and Western media: polls show more Americans fear getting sick from the virus than economic hardship, and despite all the data showing only the elderly and medically-vulnerable are at risk (thus they are the healthy ones who should be quarantined).

The New York Times now despises Sweden for their corona-sovereignty, but even they can’t help but admit Sweden shows the only way out of the Great Lockdown: “But what about the economy? The choice is not between indefinite shutdown and Russian roulette. A transition needs to occur that balances the risks at play. From that perspective, Sweden is the future.”

The first step is talking about it – how will the West do that?

I have said from the beginning that the West’s arrogance is that whatever China can do, they can surely do: The West is employing quarantining, control methods and collective-over-individualist concepts used by Asian nations, but without having similar cultures of government economic intervention nor widespread trust in their governments, and amid their economic Great Recession on top of it all.

But can the West use the same media persuasion techniques as China?

To find out what worked for China I posed the question to Jeff J. Brown, author of the most important book on China in decades, China is Communist, Dammit! Brown lived in China for many years and realised he had to refute with data and analysis the Western absurdity that China’s rise has come via capitalist methods.

“There is always lots of debate in China, especially facilitated today with all the electronic social media platforms. There was a lot of discussion in China about citizens having more say in the mainstream media, to increase the flow of useful information during the lockdown. There were forums of every stripe, airing grievances about rules being too strict to measures being too lax, to forums on using TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and old fashioned remedies to prevent/treat Covid.”

This is quite a contrast from what I dubbed The West’s middling, middle-class corona response, which inherently assumed that everyone has a comfortable home, job and savings, even though since 1980 the West’s middle-class has been blown apart. This response was designed by well-paid doctors, professors and epidemiologists, and trumpeted by well-paid Mainstream Media mouthpieces.

In Brown’s book he relates how the Chinese Communist Party is essentially the world’s largest polling agency, constantly querying public opinion on matters big and small. Frankly, if I was forced to select a single trait which separates China’s government from the West’s it would be this one, as it explains their government’s success & efficiency, the obvious & justified basis for the CCP’s popular support, and the bottom-up nature of socialist democracy as opposed to the top-down, technocratic & aristocratic model of Western liberalism.

“There were lots of differing opinions aired in neighborhood, village and town meetings. The red line to not cross is suggesting the overthrow of China’s communist-socialist system of governance, which is no different than the West, where it is verboten to demand an end to capitalism.

(FYI, when I asked Why does the UK have an ‘army’ of volunteers but the US has a shortage? I related how right up there with Iran’s “Down with England, America and Israel” chants is, “Down with those who oppose (the political principle of) the guardianship of the Islamic jurist.” Socialist-inspired revolutionary nations make it crystal clear that a return to capitalism-imperialism or a tolerance of Western-style fascist speech will never be permitted.)

Mao’s mass line continues to this day in the form of millions of surveys conducted among the people, to air concerns and catch the popular zeitgeist. It is all about learning from the bottom up. Then and now, you grab a banner and protest publicly, when all these other avenues of communication have failed. There are an estimated 300-500 public protests a day in this country of 1.4 billion citizens. China haters take this as a sign of weakness. Baba (Father) Beijing sees it as a source of strength.”

The 21st century Western reality is that taking to the streets usually makes one a far-right neo-fascist or an irresponsible anarchist: we see that in the treatment of the Yellow Vests or the recent anti-Lockdown protests in Michigan, which I immediately supported – of course, as I support democracy – in, We’re giving up our civil liberties. Fine, but to which type of state? Brown relates how China’s state is far superior in perhaps the most important thing in politics: incorporating public opinion into public policy.

If anything will be an argument for centralisation over federalism – and central planning over neoliberalism’s “invisible hand… guiding us all towards corporate fascism & neo-imperialism” – it will be the corona-return: it’s clear that the US is wasting a tremendous amount of time, energy and efficiency by having a central government whose suggestions can be and are being totally ignored at the state level.

“Public campaigns like this are done at the neighborhood and private/public employer level. These entities would get their instructions from city/town/village government units, which in turn, working up the hierarchy, got theirs from county, provincial and national level bodies. As is true in socialist countries, the national government may set the tone, but democracy devolves down to the local level, allowing for reasonable adaptation, according to needs on the ground.”

Imagine the amount of discussion – which could have gone to relating the needs of the lower classes and the Mom and Pop shopkeeper/proletariat – which the US wastes daily in political sniping and Trump Derangement Syndrome? The Eurozone common currency will be similarly hindered by disunity, which is the last thing needed in a crisis.

China was stunningly running at 75% economic capacity around February 10 because they are coordinated and united. Some US governors may even, unthinkably, play politics and delay their reopening with November election goals in mind. Americans haven’t had a war on their soil for 150 years – they just don’t know what a crisis is, and that helps explain their lack of unity in this crisis. They think that their preferred politician not taking office in November constitutes a crisis – the building historic economic catastrophe should recalibrate their realities.

Socialist-inspired nations already made the necessary changes, but the Western liberal & economic model cannot

So Brown has surprisingly shown how – as a result of their model of socialist democracy, and not liberal democracy – China really didn’t need a multi-week media campaign like I envision the West needing because there is so much communication between the people and their pubic officials, as well as such an awareness of what is going on, what is needed and what is to be done.

That makes perfect sense when we realise that socialist democracy is based around discussion-based consensus and not the unilateral decree of Western “liberal strongmen” like Emmanuel Macron nor the individualist “great man-ism” personified by Ayn Rand’s blowhard protagonists. In places like Iran and China everything is done by committee (and the CCP and Basij are essentially two huge committees, after all) because these are not only two new systems, but also systems which have inspired massive Western sabotage campaigns: these bureaucrats know that they cannot be high-handed and aloof, but instead must be receptive, responsive and always trying to keep as large a proportion of the population on the side of their socialist-inspired revolution as possible. In short: they cannot risk wasteful mistakes, but why would they even want the system the West has, especially in a few more months?

Of course, there will still be huge health concerns on May 17, especially in the US, but Condensing the data leaves no doubt: Fear corona-economy more than the virus. Of course, the “Western economy” is not at all synonymous with “global economy”, a rather vital point to Iranians, Chinese, Cubans, etc.

Western politicians, none more than state of emergency-loving France, keep reminding us that this is a war: a war necessarily needs heroes, and the West now needs ones other than nurses and rich doctors. A media campaign of, “Go back to work to save grandma’s social security (and our consumer, unplanned economy)”, is thus logical but would obviously be a complete 180 from the editorial policies and public stances of countless Western media and politicians. Such a campaign is probably only feasible for socialist-inspired nations, where collective and not individual action is lauded.

Trump says he views Americans as ‘warriors’ amid coronavirus and he got roundly mocked for it… but I don’t know what the top US public servant can do otherwise, really? America’s bureaucrats thus know the obvious truth of this article – Westerners will need some sort of inspirational campaign to get them back to work. Westerners are culturally prone to fearing others and wanting to stay at home alone even in good times: Given Western history, is it the ‘Great Segregation’ and not the ‘Great Lockdown’?

Westerners will thus likely stay hunkered down, as for months their private media has been ravenously gobbling up the higher ratings they have gotten via pounding fear into their viewers.

You can say I am underestimating the virulence of corona, but about this I am sure: in the Western Mainstream Media there has been basically zero space given to objectively giving so-called “contrarian” views which could possibly calm people’s fears. It as if I am a bad journalist because I am not scaring people?!

I am a bad journalist for immediately waving the red flag that a Great Lockdown is actually a forced suicide march for the West’s abandoned lower classes? It is not my fault that the neoliberal & neo-imperial system of the West refuses to take care of their elder class, and Pity post-corona Millennials… if they don’t openly push socialism actually contains an immediate answer to the economic chaos caused by the Great Lockdown.

Only time will tell if the Great Segregation/Lockdown was necessary, but we definitely know much more about how to handle coronavirus than on January 1 or even March 1: protect the vulnerable, isolate the sick, take personal responsibility actions in public, population-dense regions need extra precautions, and… get back to normal before the Western double-bubble economy pops.

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

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

May 17: The date the Great Lockdown must end or Everything Bubble 2 pops – May 6, 2020

Reading Piketty: Does corona delay the Greens’ fake-leftist, sure-to-fail victory? – May 8, 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’.

عــوايــنــيــــــــة

بثينة شعبان

المصدر

بثينة شعبان

مسلسل “أم هارون” اضطهاد للفلسطينيين

حين تتكرر كلمة “عواينية” في مسلسل “حارس القدس” نستجمع ونستعيد في الذاكرة كل المآسي التي تعرضت لها هذه الأمة من محيطها إلى خليجها.. اليوم على كلّ الأحزاب والفعاليات العربية أن تعلن أنها حرس للقدس، وأنها ضد مسيرة الذلّ والهوان والارتهان لأعداء الأمة والحق والمستقبل.

هل فوجئتم بمسلسل أمّ هارون وغيره من مسلسلات الخنوع التطبيعية في الموسم الرمضاني، وهل صعقتم أن تسمعوا من خائن يتكلم العربية يشتم فلسطين ويتهمها بأنها السبب بما حلّ بهم من ضعف وهوان؟ وكأنه لم يسمع تصريحات الأعداء يؤكدون أن الهدف ليس فلسطين فقط وإنما البلدان العربية كلها؟ أوَ لم يدرك هو وأمثاله أن فلسطين أعطتهم الفرصة لاستعادة مكانتهم، ولكنهم أداروا ظهورهم لفلسطين، فوصل العدوّ إلى عقر دارهم. وبتصريحاتهم وأعمالهم التطبيعية قد حكموا على أنفسهم بالارتهان لإرادة عدو يعرف ما يريد ويدرك السبل لتحقيقه، وقد تسلل إلى قرارهم السياسي وأصبح في قبضته، وما زعيقهم المعادي لحقوق أمتهم إلاّ حشرجات هزيمتهم.

هل عجزت المناهج التربوية في الوطن العربي بكل أقطاره أن تعالج نقطة الارتهان للخصوم  والأعداء وأن تربيّ جيلاً مخلصاً لوطنه لا يمكن  شراؤه بأي ثمن ضد مصلحة الأوطان ؟ أم أننا لم نتوصل إلى مرحلة الأوطان بعد ومازال البعض يعيش ويتصرف كقبائل وعشائر حتى وإن استوردوا نماذج من أساليب الحياة الغربية أم أن هذا التمظهر بمظهر من نعتقد أنهم أكثر حضارة منا كان على حساب تجذير وتثبيت الأسس والعادات والتقاليد العربية الأصيلة التي نفخر بها في بلداننا وحضارتنا؛ فلم نحدّث على أساس تطوير ما ثبتت إيجابيته في حياتنا بل تملكتنا عقدة المستعمر وعقدة تفوق الأجنبي وعقدة الشعور بالنقص تجاههم فتركنا ما هو إيجابي ومنطقي من حضارتنا ومناسب لطريقة عيشنا وبيئتنا وتركيبة عائلتنا ومجتمعنا وقيمنا وأخذنا بالقشور من مجتمعات وحضارة عدوانية قائمة على حروب النهب والاستعمار وتدعي الإنسانية والحضارة.

حين تتكرر كلمة “عواينية” في مسلسل “حارس القدس” نستجمع ونستعيد في الذاكرة كل المآسي التي تعرضت لها هذه الأمة من محيطها إلى خليجها، وفي البحث والتدقيق والتمحيص نكتشف أن عقدة النقص تجاه الآخر والارتهان له أو لأسلوب عيشه أو لماله أو لمغرياته كانت سبباً أساسياً في عدم تمكن هذه الأمة من أن تخلق على الأقل علاقات إيجابية بين بلدانها تخدم مصلحة الجميع؛ ففي كل مفصل انكسار أو هزيمة نكتشف أن الخيانة كانت سبباً أساسياً في وقوعه.

هل فشلنا حتى اليوم بتحديد من نحن وما هو جوهر هويتنا التي نعتز بها وما هي آليات العمل التي تخدمنا جميعا وتضعنا في الموقع الرابح؟

إحدى أهم المشكلات التي صادفتنا في كتابة تاريخنا هي عدم الصدق وعدم الشفافية والمبالغة في مراعاة المشاعر الشخصية على حساب القضايا الوطنية؛ إذ إن عدداً من الذين عرفتهم شخصياً رفضوا أن أسجّل مذكراتهم لأنهم قالوا إن رواية التاريخ الحقيقي الذي عاشوه سوف تُري أن التاريخ الذي ندرّسه لأجيالنا غير حقيقيّ، وكان سؤالي هل نستمر بدراسة وتدريس تاريخ مزيّف أم نواجهه من خلال كتابة التاريخ الحقيقي؟ وكان جواب كل واحد منهم : وهم أسماء كبيرة وقامات يُعتدَّ بها، “دعي غيري يواجه هذه المعضلة ولست مضطراً لأن أواجهها الآن”. وهنا تكمن مشكلة أكبر، من هم أصحاب القضية الذين يعتقدون أن مهمتهم ومسؤوليتهم هي أن يواجهوا الزيف وأن يضعوا الأسس السليمة لتاريخ حقيقي تقرأه الأجيال وتتعلم منه وتأخذ منه العبر وتتربع على أرضية صلبة لا تسمح لأحد أن يجنّد “عواينية” من بينهم.

في القرن الحادي والعشرين نراقب حال أمتنا فنجد أنها في العمق مازالت قبائل وعشائر وأن مفهوم الدولة ومفهوم الوطن لم يأخذ أبعاده المستحقة في وجدان وضمائر الجميع. اليوم حيث برهنت أحداث هذا القرن وخاصة أحداث العام 2020 أن أهم حق إنساني للشعوب هو الحق بوجود دولة قوية قادرة على مواجهة الأزمات والصعاب. العالم برمته اليوم يدرك أن أهم ما يحتاجه المجتمع البشري في كل مكان هو الدولة الحصينة القادرة على حماية أبنائها وأن كل طروحات العولمة والادعاءات الديمقراطية وحقوق الإنسان التي روجوا لها على مدى عقود كغطاء من أجل استعمار الدول ونهب ثرواتها لم تصمد أمام فايروس لا يرى بالعين المجردة ، لذلك نحن نشهد اليوم انحسار عصر العولمة والليبرالية الجديدة  اللتين تبنّاهما مفكرون عربٌ كثرٌ بدلاً من أن يعودوا إلى ابن رشد وابن خلدون وإلى كنوزنا التاريخية ذات العراقة الأصيلة مع الوجود العربي والحياة العربية؛ ففي الوقت الذي يُدرّس فيه ابن رشد ومحي الدين بن عربي في جامعات العالم الغربية قلما نرى كتاباتهما وكتابات مفكرين آخرين في المناهج التربوية في البلدان العربية.

لقد اعترف أدونيس وزملاؤه الذين عملوا على الحداثة في النصف الثاني من القرن العشرين أنهم أخذوا بالحداثة الغربية بدلاً من أن يعيدوا تسليط الأضواء على المحدّثين العرب ويبنوا على محاولاتهم.

هل تأخرنا كثيراً في إعادة الاعتبار لما تضمنه تاريخنا من فكر ومعارف منسجمة مع بيئتنا وتكويننا ومجتمعنا ؟ أي هل فات الأوان كي نقوم بهذا الأمر؟ لا بد أن أقول “أن تصل متأخراً خير من ألا تصل على الإطلاق”. وقد برهنت الأحداث بما لا يقبل الشك أن الولاء للأوطان هو ضرورة جوهرية لعزّة هذه الأوطان وأن التعاون والتنسيق بين الدول العربية على أسس التاريخ والجغرافيا والثقافة الواحدة هو المخرج الوحيد لجميع هذه الدول من حالة الضعف والانحسار الذي تشهده وأن أي دولة عربية لن تستطيع أن تبني مجداً أو تحتل مكانة إقليمية أو تحقق مشروعها الإصلاحي أو الازدهار دون التعاون مع الدول العربية الأخرى بصيغة أو بأخرى. أما هؤلاء الذين ما زالوا يراهنون على الأعداء فليتمعّنوا في تجارب الدول العربية التي عقدت سلاماً مع العدوّ، واتفاقيات على أمل أنّ هذه العلاقة سوف تحقق لها النموّ والمكانة الإقليمية والعالمية، فهل حقّقت ذلك بالفعل، أم أنها ازدادت وهناً وقيداً وعجزاً عن اتخاذ القرار داخل البلاد وعلى المستويات الإقليمية والدولية؟ لن تحقق لهم الأفكار المطروحة في أم هارون سوى المزيد من الذل والهوان. أما عين الحقيقة فقد قالها حارس القدس لأم عطا “حين تدافعين عن بيتك في القدس فأنت تدافعين عن بيتي في حلب”.

لا شك أن العروبة هي الحل وأن الذين شوّهوا مفهوم القومية العربية هم الذين وضعوا مشروعهم كبديل لهذه القومية يعملون اليوم على نشره وتأسيسه على أرض ليست أرضهم وفي بلاد ليست بلادهم وبدأوا في هذا العام بإنتاج المسلسلات الدرامية التي تحاول أن تظهر أحقيتهم في هذه الأرض على حساب أصحاب الأرض الأصليين وهم العرب.

إن الأحداث من اليمن إلى الخليج برمته إلى العراق إلى ليبيا إلى سورية إلى السودان تستدعي مراجعة صادقة جريئة وشاملة لأساليب العمل التي اتبعتها هذه البلدان في القرن الماضي، وتستدعي اجتراح أساليب جديدة وأدوات جديدة كي نتمكن من بناء ما فات، وكي نستدرك مكانتنا بين الأمم في عالم ما بعد كورونا، حيث نشهد اليوم صراع الإرادات، والأعين شاخصة إلى شكل المستقبل وهويته وقادته الأساسيين. من أجل إنجاح أيّ خطة أو رؤية أو خارطة طريق مستقبلية لا بدّ أولاً من تحديد أماكن الخلل، والتي قادت بلداننا من وهن إلى وهن في وجه عدوّ لا يقاربنا عدداً أو عديداً أو أحقية في أيّ مشروع إقليمي، بل انتعش على نقاط ضعفنا وثغراتنا، وكرّس جهوده لتفكيك صفوفنا دون أن نضع استراتيجية بديلة تجعل من المستحيل عليه بلوغ أهدافه. لقد عمل العدوّ على تعزيز نقاط قوته من خلال تفكيك صفوفنا وضمان عدم وحدتنا واختراق أجيالنا كي نصل إلى مكان العزة والكرامة يجب أن نكون جميعاً حراساً للقدس قولاً وفعلاً وفداء وتضحية.

أهي مصادفة فعلاً ان تُستهدف المدارس في العراق وفي سورية وليبيا واليمن وفي أي مكان وفي أي بلد يُستهدف من قوى غازية أو قوى الاحتلال؟ تستهدف المدارس والتعليم، ذلك لأن العلم والمعرفة هما الضمانة الحقيقية للسير على الطريق السليم وهما الضمانة الحقيقية لتحقيق الهدف وهما الضمانة الحقيقية لتقدّم البلدان وازدهارها ولا شك أن التعليم والمعرفة قد تراجعا بشكل غير مقبول في العالم العربي ولأسباب مختلفة من أهمها انتشار ثقافة البترودولار الكارثية على هذه الأمة، ولن نتمكن من أن نسد الثغرات التي أدت إلى وجود “العواينية” والمخترقين والعملاء والجهل والتقصير إلا من خلال إعادة النظر بالمناهج التربوية ووضعها بطريقة تخدم الأهداف المرجو تحقيقها في المستقبل.

ما نحتاجه اليوم هو مراجعة عميقة جريئة شاملة وأن نبني على أساس نتائج هذه المراجعة. نحن لا نمتلك الوقت وليس لدينا ترف الانتظار كان يجب أن نبدأ في القرن الماضي وليس فقط البارحة ولعلّ التهديد الوجودي لحضارتنا وأمّتنا يشكل حافزاً لنا كي نرى النور ونعمل بما يتوجب عمله كي نستعيد مكانتنا كعرب في الإقليم والعالم. ولا شك أن الخطوة الأولى تتمثّل في التعبير عن كل أشكال الرفض الحقيقي “لأم هارون” و”مخرج 7″ وكلّ الذلّ والارتهان الذي أدى لهما والذي حاول من قبل تغيير ثقافتنا الأصيلة من خلال إغراءات البترودولار واليوم يحاول تشويه هذه الثقافة مستعيناً بألدّ الأعداء والخصوم. اليوم على كلّ الأحزاب والفعاليات العربية أن تعلن أنها حرس للقدس وأنها ضد مسيرة الذلّ والهوان والارتهان لأعداء الأمة والحق والمستقبل.

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ZeroHedge, a response to Mr. Littlejohn & the future of dollar dominance

April 30, 2020

ZeroHedge, a response to Mr. Littlejohn & the future of dollar dominance

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

It was very pleasant and informative to read Mr. Gary Littlejohn’s April 19 article, Strengthening the US Dollar: Comments on Ramin Mazaheri. I am very happy that he agreed with my article No, the dollar will only strengthen post-corona, as usual: it’s a crisis, after all, which sought to temper the eager glee of those whom I call the “dollar demisers” with some historical facts and socialist-based analysis.

What it seems Mr. Littlejohn essentially did was combine my analysis with a very popular article from “high finance dissident” site ZeroHedge, “Down The Rabbit Hole” – The Eurodollar Market Is The Matrix Behind It All, penned by Michael Every of the Netherlands’ Rabobank, and then add his own considerable insights and commentary.

Mr. Littlejohn wrote such a fine article that I am happy to respond to both his and ZeroHedge’s articles.

He began, ”This supportive response aims to provide recent relevant evidence that many of the likely changes Mazaheri describes are already happening very quickly.”

Things are indeed happening very quickly, but they could also be arrested quicker than people think. My article was a counterweight to the idea that the US (and their Western allies, and their client/puppets) is somehow entirely out of control of this process – it is not. I hope that I have overestimated a prediction of 20-30 years more of dollar dominance, but my article demonstrated how from 2008-20 they have more than just weathered a Great Recession they primarily caused. There will be a true anti-dollar revolution, but nobody can accurately predict any revolution – who could have even predicted this Great Lockdown hysteria?

I’m very glad Mr. Littlejohn agrees with the class-based analysis that the 1% is indeed international – it is not some tinfoil-hat conspiracy claim. This fundamental tenet of socialist analysis seems odd in the West only because it is so rarely said – after all, hedge funds, billionaires and wannabe-billionaires decide the editorial policy of Western media.

But, above all, this remains a competition between two ideologies: capitalist-imperialist cultures (and their repressed client states) and socialist-inspired cultures. The latter culture acknowledges this openly – the former hide and denies it, famously declaring an ideological “end of history“. Both of these cultures remain supranational in scope and reach, even if capitalist-imperialists continue to falsely assume their global political dominance and persist with their “clash of civilisations” (which first came for the Muslims) with a book of self-flattering “universal values” at the tip of their spear.

What Westerners have started to realise – 2008 began this process and the looming 2020 crisis will accentuate it – is that the neoliberal empires they cheered on always intended to come for their 99% as well. For proof just look at Greece, the Yellow Vests and the decade-long austerity self-cannibalisation of the Eurozone. There are those who believe the upcoming explosion of this critical mass will cause the revolution implied by the fall of the dollar – this article will pose an alternative view; it’s a view which Westerners cannot even conceive of much less discuss because – of course – they have no enemies, There Is No Alternative, their ideology conquered even before their armies arrived, they are so willing to die for their own rightly-guided governments… right?

Mr. Littlejohn was right to marvel at the primacy of Western/international high finance in his discussion of the enormous consequences of the recent decisions by the Fed & ECB to purchase corporate bonds.

If we care about our nation, then we must ensure corporations and individuals (and in the US corporations are now legally treated as individuals, in a major 1%er victory) are legally and fiscally subservient to not only our nation’s laws but our nation’s moral values (i.e. the spirit of the law). Capitalist-imperialist ideologies do not have this type of patriotism: their patriotism, due to a system predicated on competition and not cooperation, cannot be displayed via this positive defense but only via a very negative attacking – be it Putin, Russia, Muslims, those on the other side of the political aisle, socialists, the Iraqis, the Vietnamese, the Algerians, etc.

Mr. Littlejohn writes of the corporate debt purchases: ”This seems to allow the development of a possible strategy that discriminates against foreign-owned companies (such as Chinese-owned Huawei) to be starved of Fed funds.

Indeed it does. But nations have a right to defend themselves (like with protectionism), after all; contrarily, national aggression (like with blockades) is the cardinal sin of international law. The new Fed-Treasury open alliance, with BlackRock as their bureaucratic arm, is a problem for the American citizen in that the priority is not the elevation of American corporations/individuals, but of Western/international high finance.

This lack of patriotism is rightly offensive to the many Tyler Durdens of ZeroHedge, but because they reject socialist analysis they don’t fully understand it nor can they proffer actual solutions instead of a useless, destructive Fight Club-esque rage.

ZeroHedge: the West does not rule the whole world, try as they might

It’s important to note the very fair criticism often made of “dissidents-but-not-really” like ZeroHedge: they have been wrong for years. They keep saying that capitalism is about to collapse because just look at this excellent data we culled and this fine analysis… and yet it has not collapsed. This doesn’t make ZeroHedge permanently wrong, necessarily – it could make them ahead of the curve. Mr. Littlejohn was quite right in relying on them as he did.

I also wonder if ZeroHedge would do any better if they were put in charge of the Western economy? ZeroHedge’s editorial line is resolutely Austrian/Chicago economics. They do not publish any articles advocating socialist reforms, but they do publish many anti-socialist diatribes which may or may not be reprinted from the 1930s. Indeed, I am always flattered when they do occasionally reprint some of my geopolitical articles, and I definitely find it very amusing because many of the comments are – and this is a direct quote: “This is the worst thing I have ever read on ZeroHedge!” LOL!!! Well, they are based around socialism, not Austrian/Chicago economic brutality, selfishness and egotism. But when it comes to economics ZeroHedge is not about providing balance and objectivity – they are trying to protect their investments.

But in most newspapers the best, objective hard news about foreign countries is actually found in the business section – they need some truth because they are trying to protect their investments. ZeroHedge is indeed indispensable during this economic crisis because of their excellent taste in culling key hard business news from around the world – we can never find such contrarian-yet-factual, everything-is-not-100%-rosy, up-to-the-minute hard news at any of the Mainstream Media business sections or websites. ZeroHedge knows what to look for regarding Western economic problems and it wants them fixed – they are trying to protect their investments.

One of the favourite sources of analysis for ZeroHedge is Rabobank. Perhaps it is because they are Dutch, and their “junior partner” status in the North European strangulation of Latin Europe gives them some pause regarding the ruthlessness of the Germanic-Austrian-Chicagoan mindset? Perhaps because it is a bank based not only around cooperatives but agriculture as well that they have a very un-New York City view on the desirability of empire? Or maybe not… anyway.

As Mr. Littlejohn wrote of their “Rabbit Hole” article: “It treats the global market for Dollars under a single label, namely Eurodollars, but if one adopts that approach then it tends to downplay the historical significance of the rise of the petrodollar….” Indeed to both assertions – calling the eurodollar the “matrix behind it all” is rather magical thinking – it would be nice if the flaws of capitalism-imperialism could be entirely sourced to this one issue but, alas…. I think Mr. Littlejohn may agree with me that Every overrates the exceptionalism and risk of eurodollars. It’s very name is misleading – “globodollars” would be more accurate than “westdollars”, as socialist countries have participated. Eurodollars are a key part of offshore banking money laundering – they are not some new development – and I will discuss later how they are still, in application and spirit, dollars.

Yet the Rabobank analysis of the future of dollar dominance by Every is useful and has great merit. Here is how Every sees the possible outcomes of this QE Infinity post-corona hysteria world:

“Indeed, look at the Eurodollar logically over the long term and there are only three ways such a system can ultimately resolve itself:

  1. The US walks away from the USD reserve currency burden, as Triffin said, or others lose faith in it to stand behind the deficits it needs to run to keep USD flowing appropriately;
  2. The US Federal Reserve takes over the global financial system little by little and/or in bursts; or
  3. The global financial system fragments as the US asserts primacy over parts of it, leaving the rest to make their own arrangements.”

Thus, the first possibility is for the US to abandon dollar dominance via essentially declaring bankruptcy/refusing to pay debts.

The third possibility is for the global financial system to collapse and for the US to assert primacy over parts of it. But this idea is inherently flawed: socialist-inspired systems would NOT fragment, due to the independent, anti-capitalist, anti-Western nature of their systems.

Argue all you want about how China, Iran, Cuba, Vietnam and others would be negatively impacted by the Great Depression II, but I will argue just as long about how all their laws, governmental economic control, and a culture of interventionism will allow socialist-inspired nations to weather this storm EXACTLY as they have weathered Hot War, Cold War and Western blockades. This report for PressTV I did from Havana on “How the Cuban blockade works” opens with a rare sight in Cuba: a billboard. It reads “The blockade: the longest-running genocide in human history.” What is Great Depression 2 compared to that, at least for Cubans?

So I would not be arguing small points, indeed: Cuba exists, Iran exists, China exists – all resist. Every fatally assumes that the West and the entire globe are synonymous – they absolutely are not!

Thus, option three’s critical mistake is seemingly caused by common Western arrogance: It is not “The global financial system fragments” but the “WESTERN financial system fragments”. Again, this is not a small difference between our analyses: the West does not run the entire globe, try as they might and as self-flattering as that has been for them to insist. Here is the new, corrected option #3:

The WESTERN financial system fragments as the US asserts primacy over parts of it, leaving the rest to make their own arrangements.

The West’s incestuous 1% will maintain their primacy over the West and their most-favoured puppets, i.e. no change, except for the obvious, looming degradation of THEIR financial system.

Yet Every seems to believe some clients will perhaps slip away from the US/West – really? When he writes “leaving the rest to make their own arrangements” he is completely vague, probably because he is used to equating “the West” with “the world”: how can a nation leave the world, after all? No wonder he is vague. What Every fails to see is that any nation making “arrangements” outside of the West’s orbit can only go over to a necessarily China-focused – which is to say, a socialist-inspired bloc-focused – arrangement which is indeed already in place.

How can it not be binary in this fashion?

Is Every saying that some nations will soon adopt the 1979 slogan of the Iranian Islamic Revolution – “Neither East nor West but the Islamic Republic of Iran”? That would be quite interesting and I would cheer very loudly… but I do not expect that many nations will reclaim their sovereignty in such an emphatic fashion in 2020. Every is predicting revolutions (and many of them), which is even riskier than predicting a date for a Covid-19 vaccine.

And why should we be optimistic, when all it takes is some bribes and just a couple thousand soldiers to hold a nation’s capital, transportation hubs and sources of natural wealth (as in all over West Africa with France) – why would the Western 1% just “leave the rest” alone? That would be terrible for the capitalist bottom line: if France stops getting African uranium for peanuts then the consumer costs of their nuclear-dependent energy system will skyrocket, to give a single example among many. Thus, any nation which says to the West that they want to “make their own arrangements” will either need strong patrons (i.e., the anti-Western socialist-inspired bloc), or 1979-Iran style determination for true independence.

Anyway, no nation is a (geopolitical) island – Iran’s turn away form the West necessarily implied a turn to the East, and today they are China’s most trusted non-Oriental ally. Every, in a historical nihilist fashion, negates the existence and reality that There Is An Alternative… sorry Westerners, this IS real and is not some mere fad.

While the US (which leads the Western 1%) may say, “You want your money? Come get it,” (option 1) they will definitely not abandon neo-colonialism (option 3), which is so very, very profitable.

Thus, we appear to be stuck with option 2 – “The US Federal Reserve takes over the global financial system little by little and/or in bursts;”.

But we are not: Every is entirely mistaken to present that as some sort of new development!

The Western central banker collusion which was the “solution” to the 2008 crisis was based around following the diktat of top US bankers regarding when to issue QE and when to enact ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policies). Discussing this evidence that the Fed has colluded with the central banks of their allies was the basis of my 10-part series on the Western “bankocracy” from last winter, but the idea that bankers collude is not at all a new development in socialist thought.

Therefore what will happen is his third option, but accurately modified: The global Western financial system fragments, as the West asserts primacy over as many puppets/clients as possible, but the persistent economic success of the socialist-inspired camp attracts fresh allies.”

Such a development is entirely in keeping with my original article’s thesis of continued, but not endless, dollar dominance. The competition between two ideologies has never ended: the fallout from the corona hysteria may indeed bust out capitalism-imperialism but it cannot & will not cause the socialist-inspired camp to suddenly quit just as their popularity and relative strength is about to peak; just as after 2008 China peaked so high that they were able to end the (allegedly) “unipolar” world.

So where do we go from here? Answer: a slow decline for the West, which – again – is NOT the entire globe

I will keep saying it because it is true: Even if we judge via their own capitalist metrics, China, Vietnam, Iran – these countries have soared over the past four decades while the real economy of the West has been trashed. Iran only began to have postwar hardship when the inhuman Western blockade ramped up with the EU, US, UN triple sanctions of 2011. Even Cuba has had more economic growth and stability since the end of the Special Period (the fall of the USSR) than the West! ZeroHedgers will protest, “But we said not THIS capitalism (the neoliberal form)”, but it’s not like they have remained anywhere but the powerless fringe and, anyway, that is not my problem.

So a “slow decline” is imprecise journalism – it is a continued decline. Maybe a drastic plummeting in dollar dominance is indeed around the corner, but anyone in April 2020 who says they can predict the future is lying.

So what was Every’s take on the most certain scenario? We should learn it because despite its flaws, caused by its unbalanced and blinkered pro-“capitalism with Western characteristics”, it’s a very fine article.

“In other words, the BIS (Bank for International Settlements) is making clear that somebody (i.e., the Fed) must ensure that Eurodollars are made available on [a] massive scale, not just to foreign central banks, but right down global USD supply chains. As they note, there are many practical issues associated with doing that – and huge downsides if we do not do so. Yet they overlook that there are huge geopolitical problems linked to this step too.

Notably, if the Fed does so then we move rapidly towards logical end-game #2 of the three possible Eurodollar outcomes we have listed previously, where the Fed de facto takes over the global financial system. Yet if the Fed does not do so then we move towards end-game #3, a partial Eurodollar collapse.”

Again it’s a fine analysis but hobbled by the same two flaws: Every does not realise that #2 (“where the Fed de facto takes over the global financial system Western financial system”) has already happened, although it certainly must increase in order to forestall #3; and he does not realise that the Fed will NOT take over the financial systems of the “socialist-inspired bloc” with any amount of QE due to the laws, culture and modern history of said bloc. I hope it’s clear where Every goes astray and why.

This is also not my problem, but: To preserve the Western system we should assume that the long, LONG-awaited downloaning of Western QE “right down global USD supply chains” has finally come. However, it has come too late, and it has only finally arrived on top of the economic disaster which is the suicidal (for the West’s lower classes) Great Lockdown, and it will be expressly designed to be just enough downloaning to forestall mass domestic revolt yet not enough to prohibit the endless increasing of the 1%’s market concentration.

QE Infinity (barring an absurd amount of downloaning, which is politically impossible and would amount to a debt jubilee) cannot forever forestall a dollar collapse, but the “dollar demisers” falsely believe that fiscal policy/money issuance is the only tool the Western elite has. The end-of-the-dollar-revolution will not occur after, as I wrote in my first article, rounds of QE are rotated among different allies, and – as needed – massive Western propaganda campaigns, very watered-down but socialist-inspired concessions to the 99%, debt moratoriums, military distractions and maybe even World War III. Maybe even World War IV, too, and this is why I don’t exaggerate against a culture which believes deeply in their “clash of civilisations”:

The Western 1% simply cannot get “in” the socialist-inspired bloc or the yuan – after all, the aristocratic class in Iran, Cuba, China and elsewhere was totally expelled (to the West) – think they won’t make the dollar their “last stand” and use all their tools? As always, the West underrates the totalitarian nature of their most successful sons and daughters, but Iranians, Cubans and others do not. Yes, the economic scale of the crisis in 2020 is (potentially) revolutionary, but anyone who says it has already gone beyond the capacity of the Western 1% to rein it in and keep profiting… all this accuracy-driven journalist can say is, “Maybe, it’s still early.”

At the heart of Every’s argument, ZeroHedge’s complaints, Austrian/Chicagoan indignation that a national economy is indeed the same as a household, and also the West’s many “dissidents but not really” is a common theme that capitalism will implode because they cannot keep “rolling the debt over”. This is essentially echoed by Trotskyism, which holds that capitalism will eventually crumble under the weight of its own contradictions. (It is also notable that all these Westerners also think that the West – which has no enemies, which has no competition, to which no credible alternative exists – can never be defeated, only implode. More arrogance, but I have digressed.)

But they can keep rolling it over.

Again, they can keep rolling it over.

Every believes that the “eurodollar” is so very risky and exceptional because, “They (are dollars which) are not under the US’ legal jurisdiction, nor are they subject to US rules and regulations.” What he has ignored is that the high-finance holders of these dollars and markers are still very, very much informal upholders of the US-led Western system: Every has ignored culture, psychology and history in favor of a purely legal view of these eurodollars, instead of how the owners of these eurodollars operate in practice.

The Caymans, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore (all in the top 13 for eurodollar-dependant nations) – we should be worried that these tax havens will disobey the US and jeopardise the system? We should believe that they are even being honest about their claimed dollar reserves? We should be worried that the 1% is going to start sending their dollars to the average person instead of into these tax havens, creating a liquidity crisis? Anyone who has their money in the Caymans is certainly a parasite on society – we should worry for them, or fear them creating a “moral hazard” reckoning-implosion of the Western financial system? If all these eurodollars in the Caymans disappeared the real global economy would be fine – some rich people would be forced to get by on what’s in their Swiss bank accounts. Eurodollars are a problem – they are often the imaginary credit used by the elite who manipulate the West’s imaginary FIRE/QE economy – but there are bigger fish to fry in April 2020.

However, at root the Eurodollar system is based on using the national currency of just one country, the US, as the global reserve currency. This means the world is beholden to a currency that it cannot create as needed,” – exactly: a large percentage of these tax-haven eurodollars are hoarded, immorally stolen dollars, but they are still dollars. Again, they are not being held by the types of people who can be called “revolutionaries” or “patriots” or “moralists”, LOL – they will not be used in international warfare against the West because they are part of a truly supranational 1% Western financial system. They are held by people who are very over-leveraged, true, but these are not people whom repo men visit, eh? Again – it’s still the dollar which is in charge, and the dollar is on the 1%’s side, not America’s side.

Every’s “nationalist” view – that the Caymans are about to make a geopolitical power play – lacks the wider, better perspective provided by the socialist lens: the Western 1% can indeed collude to create more dollars as they need, and they have since 2008. This group can, “keep USD flowing out or else a global Eurodollar liquidity crisis will inevitably occur”, which Every mistakenly fears. They can indeed keep “rolling it over” via QE Infinity – the fact that QE Infinity is a term which journalists finally devised came up after years of foolish waiting for QE to end shows that the Western 1% has a very sound, but immoral, grasp on reality.

Fundamental question: Why would the West stop rolling it over?

If you ask ZeroHedge they might say – with an oxymoronic “capitalist idealism”: because we can’t reward excessive greed nor failure. LOL….

But who among the West’s high-finance 0.01% will be the class traitor who calls in the marker which implodes the system? He or she would implode his or herself, as well. The West is so big it is not just one person who can implode it, anyway: there is no single marker with a “quadrillion” after the number.

And forget mass domestic protests (which will be banned for months and months in the few Western countries which actually have a protesting culture) because whoever heard of mass protests for “reformism” (which is all Western semi-dissidents propose)? That is nonsensical – mass protests either lead to revolution or they fizzle quickly in the “can’t we all just get along”, middle-class, political status quo-ism which defines the West’s eternally anti-socialist culture.

Thus there is no saviour – individual or national – to be had – there is only long, hard opposition via socialism, which is an entirely new system that has fixed the errors of the old capitalism-imperialism system. Therefore the only entity which could cause the system to explode – if we are being pragmatic – is a bloc led by China. Only they have they weight, combined with their allies, to ever break the dollar’s dominance. But they are not going to do that next Tuesday:

They are not economically strong enough, nor are their few allies, nor do they have enough allies, nor could they be aided within a Western society which has nearly no “5th columnists” but merely “semi-dissidents” whose greatest minor achievement is to not want more war/blockades with the socialist-inspired bloc (because it could blow up the planet, negatively affect the rainforest, trigger negative emotions, disrupt the avocado-toast supply chain, etc.). Look at where we are in April 2020: it is a radical, unheard of idea to be reading of any “socialist-inspired bloc” – how can we say that China today is anywhere as omnipresent and dominant as the USSR-led bloc was in, say, 1945, ’55, ’65, ’75 or ‘85? Many of you right now are denying this idea that in 2020 there is any possible “socialist-inspired bloc” – remember that your (likely) reactionary grandfathers and grandmothers had no such illusions of their total victory.

This relative weakness, this inability to provide an alternative to dollar dominance, is why Iranians will tell you: China is not going to “save” anyone except for China, because they are not strong enough. Iran was the first non-Oriental country to learn this fact, even if some in Iran haven’t learned it yet.

However, what China will do is work with you – they will create long-term plans with you (as China and Iran have done on the Belt and Road Initiative) if you prove your socialist and anti-imperialist bonafides. They will work with you even if you are imperialist-capitalists – it is the only way to gain strength and ultimately beat them.

Every, ZeroHedge, the countless Western Rabobanks – they believed the socialist-inspired bloc had been crushed; they are incredibly upset that the 2008 Great Recession and the phony QE “solution” has permitted China to rise and have the temerity to question their neoliberal, neo-imperial, greedy “universal values”. China is indeed now a threat to the West but it is not yet what the USSR was for decades – a concrete alternative which was willing to foot your bills (the USSR was the only empire where the centre bled for the periphery) while your national culture reforms itself away from imperialist ideals in order to (don’t you get this yet?) break the grip of international high finance on your people.

Thus, the dollar will not be beaten next Tuesday.

This is why corona hysteria will ultimately be manipulated by the Western 1% to strengthen the dollar, i.e. – their dollar and not America’s dollar. Barring reforms – and I have seen none which hyper-financialisation did not take advantage of since 2008 – 2008 will only largely repeat itself.

Indeed, it would take a revolution for a Western crisis to be unsuccessfully manipulated… but “semi-dissidents”, i.e. liberal reformists, hold out that mere false hope. They don’t see – like China, Iran, Cuba and others – that the Western 1% will do, like Mario Draghi of the ECB, whatever it takes to maintain their neoliberal empire.

The proof that this analysis is correct could not be more clearly illustrated than by World War I: a war started by international high finance to forestall the victory of socialism and to defend capitalism-imperialism despite its failure for their 99%.

Mr. Littlejohn grasps these historical concepts, and their political-moral implications, far more than the rabidly capitalist ZeroHedge and their preferred analysts.

Mr. Littlejohn and the dream of Eurasia, a concept which strikes down European exceptionalism

I disagree with Mr. Littlejohn where he gives his extension of Every’s three-outcome analysis:

Even a partial Eurodollar collapse would do serious damage to those countries (more than half) which have sought emergency IMF support, and so this new power gives the Fed enormous political leverage over most major economies and over multilateral agencies such as the IMF, the World Bank or even the European Union [EU]. Given that Trump sees the EU as a potential competitor to the USA, and given the low proportion of US Dollars that its major economies have in relation to their trading needs, the EU is very vulnerable to US economic pressure in the present circumstances.”

Indeed, the developing world who are Western clients and not socialist-inspired clients will have huge problems very shortly. The impact of the Great Lockdown hysteria on the developing world is another article I have been meaning to write, but it will be an extension of Part 3 from the “bankocracy” series: QE paid for a foreign buying spree: developing countries hurt the most.

However, while Trump (who looks even riskier post-corona to the 1% free-trade globalists than he did in November 2016, when they did all the could to prevent his election and his protectionist ideas) may personally see the EU as a competitor, the many people richer than him know that this is not the case – the US and EU will continue to collude. Ergo, not only does the Fed want that “enormous political leverage” but the European 1% wants the Fed to have it, too. The dollar needs to remain in charge for the Western financial system to profitably continue for Europe’s 1% – the structure of the Eurozone was penned by the US for precisely this reason, as was the Plaza Accord for the yen. (As I wrote in the final part of a 7-part series in 2017, which socialistically examined the QE crisis in the Eurozone, “With the Plaza Accord of 1985, Japan adopted the US-orchestrated neoliberal changes that were designed to suck the surpluses from Japan back into the United States.”)

Thus the Fed’s sidelining (outspending) of the IMF and World Bank (but not the ECB, as they can print money) should be viewed as what it is – increased market concentration which will profit the Western 1%, as predicted by Marx. Every’s analysis is so unblinkered-capitalist that he likely cannot see this Eurogroup-Fed alliance, but the fine analyst Alastair Crooke alludes to it; however, Crooke still fails to use the socialist class analysis lens and instead fundamentally looks at such global political changes via a slightly-wider but still outdated nationalist lens.

Europe’s 1% may publicly gripe against the Fed’s decisions but they cannot go against them without effectively declaring war on the dollar. The US, Eurozone, Japan, and Saudi economies, plus their clients, are all intertwined – happily, for their 1%. If they did declare war on the dollar they would only have two options:

  1. Join the socialist-inspired bloc – this means renouncing capitalist-imperialist culture, and that will never happen.
  2. Europe carves out a “Third Way”, in a drastic revolution to the binary ideological system which has raged for over a century. This revolution has been so very often discussed in Europe but it has never, ever happened precisely because Europeans are so very devoted to their capitalist-imperialist culture. They have proven that they don’t want a Third Way, should one even exist. Talk of a “Third Way” has proven to be merely a way for Europeans to arrogantly assert their alleged exceptionalism/chauvinism. At some point they will give up and embrace “Eurasia”, but that is a ways away.

I think Mr. Littlejohn need not worry about “if the Euro collapses as a currency in the coming depression” – the euro, the yen and the dollar will all strengthen in a crisis because that is when investors seek safe havens and these are three of the four biggest global economies in what is soon to be an increasingly economically-depressed global market. All three also collude to fix their currencies relative to each other, due to the interconnected nature of the Western 1%, so while they will jockey for position for export power it is only within agreed-upon limits as it is as a fundamentally-united trio, and also fundamentally (as of 2008) united against the yuan, the champion currency of the socialist-inspired bloc.

So, overall, I think perhaps Mr. Littlejohn underestimates the way the euro/EU can burst free of these bonds to become a sovereign counterweight to the dollar/US, and also that Europe will embrace a culturally-unwanted idea of Eurasia anytime soon. Crooke does a good job in his article of linking the actions of the Fed with what I wrote about in Part 3 of the 2017 series, The hopelessly corrupt structure of the Eurozone & the Eurogroup. I think we simply have to look at how then-Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron organised the takeover of national giant Alstom Energy for GE in 2015 to show that Europe’s leaders will prioritise the US 1% (who are richer and thus have more influence ) than the EU’s 1%. It’s not a “new” or “slow” decline for Europe, but a “continued” decline as well.

Europe does not want sovereignty, which is a modern concept; sovereignty has become “modern” because it has been wiped out by Western-led globalisation. The neoliberal (and thus also neo-imperial) empire which is the EU does not respect sovereignty but suppresses it, as Europe is obviously NOT modern.

It’s difficult to change the matrix which modern Western commentators place the world upon – nationalism, imperialism-as-inevitable, chauvinism against non-Western cultures, existentialism (the feeling of being trapped due to not perceiving any alternative) and the historical & political nihilism which is the legacy of WWII.

It’s thus a radical, unheard of concept which still easily upends Every’s analysis – the West is NOT the entire world. New York, London, Paris and Tokyo will grow even more powerful post-corona due to even-greater wealth/market concentration, but their Greeces, “Flyover Country” and their developing world clients will continue to be bled. And as Western inequality, dominance, militarism and market concentration re-doubles amid their supranational financial system chaos, a whole other bloc is poised to not just weather the storm but thrive amid the post-corona chaos precisely because they rejected the Western legal and cultural system.

It’s not that as if these entities didn’t all collude to try and stop China’s rise – WWII was only more murderous to the Soviets, after all – it’s that they could not. It’s not as if they didn’t beg the CCP to change their laws to allow foreign control of Chinese industries – it’s that China would not. The West finally gave up because the CCP made the Western 1% too much money while still retaining control and serving the Chinese people. It’s not as if the West hasn’t tried to get Iran to go “neoliberal” (LOL) and sell off the 90% of the non-Black Market, non-carpet economy which the Iranian government controls – it’s that they could not. It’s not as if the West hasn’t tried to break Cuba, North Korea and others – it’s that they could not.

You cannot stop an idea, especially a superior idea.

My original article was aimed at the hasty, gleeful “dollar demises” and sought to, as the French say, “put some water in your wine”. The West’s “double bubble economy + Great Lockdown hysteria” crisis now is indeed enormous, but it cannot possibly ruin the socialist-inspired bloc – only themselves because that is THEIR economy, not ours.

That is a very sober – and not immoderately gleeful – analysis from the socialist-inspired bloc.

Mr. Littlejohn is on the right track and hopeful that Europe will come around – who would argue with hope in right action? I would remind Mr. Every that there IS an alternative and that it is not new. I would remind ZeroHedge that socialism does not ban competition and that socialism WILL win the binary ideological struggle, as they have been doing since 1980 (as ZeroHedge keeps pointing out via their fine documenting of the West’s continued economic failures).

I thank Mr. Littlejohn for his time, consideration and efforts.

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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

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’.

What would it take for proponents to say: ‘The Great Lockdown was wrong’?

April 28, 2020

What would it take for proponents to say: ‘The Great Lockdown was wrong’?

By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

There must be SOME criteria where the proponents of the Great Lockdown could say, “In hindsight, this was wrong.”

It is obviously hysterical to insist that admitting a policy mistake is totally, completely impossible. German fascists are not wiping out Poland, after all.

I mean, what if a secret global doomsday machine in Poland gets triggered if global GNP falls below a certain threshold, wiping out humanity? Certainly then all would agree, “The Great Lockdown turned out to be a mistake,” right?

Absurd extremes aside, the coronavirus overreaction has turned into a major test case for today’s Western worship of both technocracy and scientific secularism. Since 1980 they have insisted that national cultures should not play any shaping role in public policy because Westerners have discovered a system of “universal values” which should guide all national governments.

(The Western system is – of course – actually based on aristocratic/bourgeois neoliberalism & neo-imperialism.)

A corollary is that a technocratic 10% should be implementing these values with zero lower-class input into public policy formation. A second corollary is that science is the one, true, rightly-guided, infallible way. In April 2020 the doctors and professors are always right, and US President Donald Trump is always wrong.

But… then how do we explain this written – not spoken – declaration from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, as reported by AP? This was published on April 24, during the truly fake-news controversy regarding Trump and injecting disinfectants.

“Given that countries currently in ‘summer’ climates, such as Australia and Iran, are experiencing rapid virus spread, a decrease in cases with increases in humidity and temperature elsewhere should not be assumed,” the researchers wrote earlier in April in response to questions from the White House Office of Science and Technology.”

But Iran is not in summer – they are in the northern hemisphere, so Iran is in spring.

Australia is in the southern hemisphere – it is in autumn.

In fact, due to the tilting of the earth, if the northern hemisphere is in spring then the southern hemisphere can only be in autumn, never in summer. Spring in the north and summer anywhere else is an impossibility.

Not only am I not a rightly-guided epidemiologist, I am not even a scientist and yet I know this. Heck, maybe even Trump knows this.

Associated Press, the largest news-gathering organisation in the world, obviously made the same elementary mistake as these scientists. It is very possible that in their rabid desire to discredit Trump the journalists cared more about over-exaggerating his clearly off-the-cuff science than fact-checking.

My point here is not to say “gotcha, you are dumb” – my point is to say that this is precisely why socialist democracy (which relies on consensus) is so much more valuable than Western technocratic individualism. You see: God, in His wisdom, made humans imperfect – and that includes epidemiologists and we journalists.

That is why the West’s choice to rely solely on epidemiologists, and also a mainstream media which is supposed to be always ever-skeptically vetting everyone’s declarations, is a fundamentally flawed approach to handling the corona response. Combine this with a Western system where politicians are forced to be always either in electioneering mode or fund-raising mode, and you get a system which uncritically bows to very mistake-prone earthly authorities.

I find it stunning that US polls have consistently pegged general support for the lockdowns to be at 80%, and that an unthinkable 95% of Democrats say the measures don’t go too far. Considering all the poverty, the refusals to loan to Main Street, the delays in government aid, the exponentially-increasing certainty of prolonged economic chaos – Americans are still not fed up? I can only theorise that the US people have been so propagandised by a lack of “contrarian voices” – contrarian because they dare to say that the needs of the lower classes must be voiced and implemented – that they have been terrified into submission by their media. Democrats are obviously the least open to different ideas – we see how fantastically total their groupthink is.

But back to my main point: what are the realistic criteria where people would say – as people must often do if we are to have a civilised society which progresses – “I was wrong”?

I can’t think of any which would be acceptable… and that shows the massive hysteria of the Western response

Please note that “I was misled” is certainly acceptable.

After all, just turn on your television and you are almost guaranteed to see a journalist nodding along to whatever an epidemiologist is saying – these two classes have been given the key to socioeconomic policy. In the corona hysteria these two have worked in tandem, and both must be judged according to the huge power they have been given.

As late as March 20th The New York Times fake-leftist bien-pensant Nicolas Kristof quoted “one of the best disease modellers in the world” declaring that the best-case scenario in the US was “about 1.1 million deaths”, with the worst-case being “2.2 million deaths”. They even put the latter in the sub-headline. Because he is such an awful, unreadable journalist Kristof does not make it clear if these two scenarios are the result of everyone doing absolutely nothing to combat coronavirus (an absurdity, which only an ivory tower academic would waste time studying) – I assume that is the case. However, many others may not make that assumption because Kristof leads the reader to believe (and maybe he believes this – he is not clear) that despite all the personal protective gear, ventilators, new hospital beds and everything else that US society could throw at corona, then we should still expect over 1 million deaths. Thus, both scientists and Kristof conclude: “If anything, we’re still underreacting.”

It turns out the epidemiologist’s numbers were indeed based on the idea that everyone did absolutely nothing. Well, thanks for getting dumb journalists all worked up over nothing! And I guess epidemiologists can’t write Kristof’s article for him but it’s certain that this power tandem failed at the top.

I’m not surprised, because I always doubted 2.2 million and here’s one reason why: MSM journalists seem to forget that recent history is not kind to US epidemiologists: In 2014 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted 1.4 million Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone. There were only 28,616 total cases. If this was Iran or China we could just accuse them of a cover-up, but alas…. And those are two countries with far, far less resources to throw at a virus. On April 3 satirical website The Onion re-ran Historians Politely Remind Nation To Check What’s Happened In Past Before Making Any Big Decisions – they are indeed more credible than The New York Times.

So what are the criteria for a fact-based backtracking?

Frankly, I don’t think the Great Lockdown supporters have thought about this at all, and that should cause them some worry.

This question has clearly been repeatedly shot down to the point where everyone self-censors, which is the most effective form of censorship. The question itself has been deemed to be proof of being a far-right neo-fascist: A Google search reveals What If the Pandemic Policymakers Are Wrong? Will health experts become the latest elite deemed “too big to fail”? That’s a great sub-headline – I’d nick it, but this article is almost completely written already. What’s too bad is that this article is from the website American Greatness, LOL.

So just asking “what if” puts me on the far-right? Well, I did just sign off on the cover to my latest book on socialism so, LOL, I could debate that rather at length. However, asking “but what if”, providing a modicum of contrarian views, being skeptical – this is what objective journalism is in any nation.

I am willing to question my faith: One article idea in my “to do” basket is, “What do socialists do if the bailouts actually work?” I am not so self-righteous, smug and smothering that I refuse to honestly ask and answer that question – it’s at least possible they will… because the question is not mathematical and because that history is not yet written.

Can Great Lockdown supporters question themselves? I doubt they can or even want to respond.

What I fear is this: that many Great Lockdown supporters are so self-righteous, out of touch and indoctrinated that they will genuinely believe that “even preventing one death made it worth it”. This is the view of a child, not an adult citizen who should know that any “War on Dying” is nothing but a joke. That is the exact view of a lowest-common denominator American politician – are REALLY trying to be like them? “Whatever you say” politicians are the third wheel on the tricycle which is steering Western, pro-upper-class corona policy.

To answer my own question: Because the virus was supposed to be so extraordinary, extraordinary measures have been taken. So it’s gone far beyond only total deaths – the accurate counting of which appears to be already hopelessly muddled.

If corona pricks the Western bubble economy (Condensing the data leaves no doubt: Fear corona-economy more than the virus) and “Great Depression 2” becomes a real thing – was it worth it?

If major aspects of the current drastic reduction in political rights get normalised – just as France prolonged a “temporary” state of emergency for two full years, and then Emmanuel Macron legalised it into common police practice – was it worth it?

If the US bows to Dr. Anthony Fauci, their nation’s leading technocrat on infectious diseases, and permanently “breaks that custom” of shaking hands to show warmth and friendship to strangers or if France ends the la bise hello kisses – was it worth it?

There are economic, political and cultural shockwaves stemming from the Great Lockdown – maybe their proponents didn’t foresee them, or maybe they were misled, but these things cannot be ignored because they, too, will cause death and pain.

You don’t want to talk about those things? No problem.

You don’t even have to answer the simple question the headline poses – too many people getting bossed around these days already.

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

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


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’.

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

Monday, 27 April 2020 5:46 AM  

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

By Ramin Mazaheri


Part 1 
discussed how the West’s coronavirus response totally ignored the needs of their lower classes, and also how Iran’s “Resistance Economy” rejects Western economic liberalism (and neoliberalism) which has always sought to relegate non-Westerners to second-class economic partners.

As I have written previously, the West’s corona response is not just murderously mediocre but middle-class – it assumes everyone has a comfortable home, savings and a stable job. The West is employing quarantining, control methods and collective-over-individualist concepts used by Asian nations, but without having similar cultures of government economic intervention nor widespread trust in their governments. It is not hysteria to suggest that this could prove fatal to their bubble-filled, high-finance dominated economies.

There is a lot of foolish talk from Westerners, who are effectively forbidden to learn about and discuss how capitalism-imperialism truly operates, regarding how corona will cause supply chains to move back home. This has produced a lot of soon-to-be-forgotten agreement from their politicians, who are desperate to show that – all of a sudden – they care about their lower classes. Recall that the “end of irony” was proclaimed after 9/11 – will we see the “end of globalisation” because of coronavirus?

That’s funny.

The state of Delaware is where most US corporations are located and buy their charters – if it is not the world’s biggest corporate tax haven, according to The New York Times and The Japan Times, the state is certainly among the world’s top five. (Indeed, it should now be no surprise why Delaware senator Joe Biden was chosen to be Barack Obama’s running mate amid the 2008 economic crisis.) It could not be more crystal clear, even though neoliberals in the US often try to sow confusion about this fact: “Delaware corporate law requires corporate directors to manage firms for the benefit of shareholders, and not for any other constituency.” So anyone thinking corporations will sacrifice a mere fraction of their stock price in order to move supply chains back home are absolutely deluded about the possibility of patriotism, much less humanity, in “Capitalism with American characteristics”: their laws explicitly forbid it.

The post-corona persistence of neoliberalism – an ideology predicated on reducing government programs and expenditures for the 99% with ruthless efficiency – means that Western governments both national and local will be so strapped for cash in a post-Lockdown climate that they will be forced to try and save every nickel they can to maximise ever-more inadequate tax revenues and income. They will forced to buy from China, Haiti or whoever can save them pennies, because this is exactly what neoliberalism demands – it fundamentally neuters economic patriotism.

Urban hipsters who perhaps previously would pay premiums to “eat local” (because it is tastier) will soon find that unemployment (or a worsening of the seemingly never-ending underemployment for the West’s youth class) drastically alters one’s menu options. They would like to “eat local”, but many will be forced to forego the local farmers’ market to buy their food as cheaply as possible, and regardless of provenance.

So such talk from Esquire magazine bout how corona will usher in a new economy based around “resilience preparedness” is totally absurd: the very basis of globalisation is hyper-specialisation (Adam Smith) and turning every nation into a single cash crop/cow (David Ricardo’s comparative advantage) writ large, and these two concepts are the very opposite pole of resilience. Hyper-specialisation is hyper-resistant… but in one single area; if classic liberalism or modern neoliberalism or the “free market” selected your country to produce hygienic masks, congratulations! According to them you should jack up the price and the rest of us should not try to domestically produce our own.

Contrarily, we can say that Iran has tried to create “specialisation” in the normal way – within a single national economy’s different regions instead of all over the world, messianically and arrogantly. This is why they have employed a “resistance economy” (with many egalitarian principles held over from the “command/war economy” era), which is based around self-sufficiency, protectionism, government intervention to stimulate innovation in vital sectors, and government ownership in essentially every sector with medium or large importance. This, even more than the insistence that Islam is compatible with democracy, is why the West wages war on Iran.

The good news for Iranians: these economic principles are what promote resilience and preparedness, they curtail the indebtedness/poverty of the lower classes, and they will make Iran far more capable of weathering the economic turmoil of the coming months.

It is amusing that some in the West are now clamouring for sensible, humane, patriotic, efficient measures which Iran has employed for decades. Is Iran’s economic idea more exportable to Esquire if we call it a “resilience economy”, perhaps?

The Iranian economy in opposition to the West’s seemingly certain post-Great Lockdown economic chaos

At the root of this economic program is not anti-capitalism but anti-the-type-of-capitalism which today’s Iranians are violently confronted by: neoliberalism and globalisation. This form of capitalism is the most-geared towards maximising the profits and market concentration of the 1%, whereas a “resistance economy” is fundamentally-geared towards satisfying the needs of the Iranian 99%. The Koran sanctions capitalism, after all, but it bans usury and has clear exhortations to equality and the economic redistribution of massively-ordered charity. (If the West would simply follow the ban on usury – exorbitant interest and debilitating compound interest – they would be so much better off….)

If the Iranian Revolution did not satisfy the needs of their 99%… how can we possibly explain its endurance amid all the growth-sabotaging Cold War from the West? The question never was growth, after all, but re-distribution. The same logical argument stands for anti-imperialist Cuba and North Korea – caricaturing these nations as totalitarian oligarchies will continue to lose its false power for as long as these countries continue to not just endure but thrive (considering Western blockades), and for as long as the West’s post-1980 inequality entrenchment continues. Despite the looming economic crisis, does anyone really believe the West is culturally capable of reversing these inequality trends?

Undoubtedly, the West’s corona overreaction will make their economies – which were already in a Great Recession – even weaker.

Yes, this will force more Western domestic criticism of neoliberalism and globalisation, but will it really? How can it when France’s Muslims, US so-called “White Trash” and their lower-class counterparts across the “West + client” world cannot even be seen on their televisions? We are logical to believe that open criticism of the ideology of globalisation will be muted very shortly, because all these nations have airwaves which are dominated by a handful of corporations; contrarily, the Iranian government owns all the radio and TV waves – to get the outlook of not-always-selfless private media one can turn to Iran’s extremely critical, thriving print press.

Yes, the West’s reduced economies will necessarily reduce the influence and local reach of governments, but this reduced reach can easily be counter-balanced by the drastic quasi-martial laws which have already been employed. France almost certainly has the most over-policed corona lockdown (800,000 citations already), mais bien sûr: they just had an Islamophobia-based two-year state of emergency, which President Emmanuel Macron legalised into normal police practice.

Yes, the gut-wrenching reduction in wealth for the West’s lower classes may provoke “Western-style populism”, but this ideology is intrinsically reformist and not revolutionary. Look at the Five-Star Movement in Italy – it took them eight years to win significant power, but they have not been able to make significant changes. In their last national election the superb Yellow Vests gained merely half the votes of the (ugh) Animal Rights Party.

Yes, Westerners can see that all the evidence points to the necessity that they must change, but we must recall how very culturally chauvinistic they are: The West is hysterically convinced that their system is supreme – even among their “dissidents”, who are usually just “semi-dissidents” at best – despite all the evidence of failure and their perennial disregard of their own lower classes.

So combine this inherent conservativeness (liberal reformism), with neoliberal cultural saturation, with laws that forbid leavening neoliberalism, with “it’s not totalitarian when the West does it”, and it’s hard to compute a conclusion where the Great Lockdown produces a drastic reform of the Western economy, no? They have to overcome all of these trends, laws and false beliefs simultaneously and in great measure.

That would be a revolution. The West, the great thwarter of progressive revolutions, is supposedly now on the cusp of having one?

The only thing more idiotic than such talk are the commentators who accuse Iranian Reformists of being “neoliberals”, which is as stupid as calling Biden-backing Bernie Sanders or the French “socialists”. The Iranians most associated with the “resistance economy” are indeed Ayatollah Khamenei, ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Principlist Party, but the idea that Reformists aren’t hugely, hugely on board with countless resistance economy principles is just eye-rollingly wrong.

The reality – well-known in Iran – is that there is absolutely no room in Iranian politics for any political group which pushes ending the pro-99%, government-interventionist, fundamentally anti-neoliberal direction of the economy for this simple fact: they would never get re-elected by the 99%, and thus such a movement is necessarily finished before it could ever even could get started in Iranian democracy. Capitalism is sanctioned by the Qur’an, so it will always have a place, but neoliberal capitalism (again, all capitalism is not “neoliberalism” just as all socialism is not “violently atheistic Russian Soviet socialism”)? Not hardly.

Smith and Ricardo’s liberal ideas that each region should produce only that which it was perfectly suited to producing had one fatal flaw: such perfect harmony cannot possibly ever exist in a capitalist-imperialist system, because such a system is predicated upon competition. This is not a small flaw in their ivory-tower thinking, nor am I resorting to a mere humbug attack on “human nature” – competition, instead of cooperation, is a poor foundation for human stability and peace.

Such harmony and mutually-beneficial arrangements (and on a global scale, no less!) could only possibly ever be achieved in a world that has a basis which is definitely not neoliberal, which is very wary of capitalism’s excesses and constant exhortations to battles both big and small, and which tacitly accepts resolutely anti-imperialist and thus essentially socialist economics as the foundation.

You may not want Iran’s culture – that’s natural, they don’t want yours.

But across the West their lower classes are clamouring for an economy with many of Iran’s motivations and practices – they will be ignored, sadly.

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’.

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

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.

Coronavirus – Macron’s savior. A ‘united Europe’ – France’s murderer

Source

April 22, 2020

Coronavirus – Macron’s savior. A ‘united Europe’ – France’s murderer

By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

Paris has been a terrible place to live for over five years now – even tourists can tell.

The Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015 (because they just had to draw pornographic pictures of Prophet Mohammad) kicked off a fear-based culture which has culminated in the world’s most over-policed coronavirus lockdown, with over 800,000 citations issued.

But it’s been an endless climb of “culminations” for Parisians:

Installing bulletproof glass around the Eiffel Tower (I used to walk under it going to work each day – impossible now). Did the Bataclan massacre have to result in a state of emergency two years long? Certainly President Emmanuel Macron did not have to legalise it into common police practice. From November 2018 through May 2019 huge swathes of Paris were already on lockdown as every Saturday was an undeclared National Poseur Day: pretending as if lower class protesters weren’t being provoked, gassed, beaten, water cannoned, fined, jailed, crippled and even killed. The marches continued through the failed, record-long General Strike, which collapsed in January.

Trust me when I say that the non-stop police sirens during the two-day manhunt of the Kouachi brothers after the Charlie Hebdo shootings never really ended. In the poor northern area of Paris where I live the sirens became constant – for years everyone complains of “cowboy” police who have been over-empowered, but we have no idea how they could be or if they will ever be rolled back.

And during the Great Lockdown, by everyone’s account, this has gotten even worse… but at least now the rich areas are finally getting a taste of la justice à le cow-boy – that’s the only they’ll ever be rolled back, after all.

It’s not poor-Los Angeles helicopters, but the sirens can be exhausting. As for the “it’s not there” indifference towards all those other culminations – I simply don’t have the acting/posing abilities the aesthetic-minded French have, I guess? But I also don’t have the personal stake in France which – try as they might – the French cannot possibly disguise from themselves? They simply must find it very tiring to live in a country where the government – indeed, the national trajectory – has essentially zero open backers outside the bubble occupied by Parisian elites.

It’s not just the Macron era: Francois Hollande was so unpopular he couldn’t even stand for re-election; when Nicolas Sarkozy left he bitterly said “nobody will hear of me again” because the French so deservedly enjoyed kicking him.

The reality is that – Islamophobia aside – nearly everything I’ve described has been caused by France’s historical insistence on a united Europe.

How long will it take Brussels – and its string of puppets/clients – to kill the ‘French model’?

Anti-Muslim attitude is a problem, sure, but only a class analysis provides a satisfying explanation to the undeniable 21st-century decay of French life: Muslims did not force France to stop being French – collusion among the French 1% did.

(Of course, to avoid regular class analysis discussion the French elite keep insisting: “No, it’s Muslims who are ruining France.” Typical Western fake politics.…)

Ever since Mitterrand made his infamous austerity-embracing U-turn in 1981- on what would have been Western Europe’s most-leftist policy platform ever – France has allowed itself to be fiscally leeched blood-dry over the pan-European principle to try and win over Germany to “more Europe”.

It’s an amazing martyrdom – we shouldn’t denigrate such things completely. And a large part of France’s motivation is also to end the constant German aggression that dates back to 1870.

Recent history is really quite simple: in order to woo Germany away from a neo-imperialist partnership with their Anglo-Saxon American first cousins (which has run from 1945 until today), France keeps fiscally flagellating itself and others in Europe to woo Germany into joining a pan-European project; crucially, this project initially was based on a Gaullist “mixed economy”, but that was jettisoned in favor of Anglosphere neoliberalism, globalisation and hyper-financialisation.

Maybe other Europeans want in on such a project, but Germany does not and should leave: Germany’s role has been entirely negative, their economics entirely Austrian (pro-1%, rabidly anti-socialist), and the groundwork which they have ordered is totally incapable of providing post-corona stability. Few seem to grasp this Washington-Berlin neo-fascist alliance, even though it satisfyingly explains Germany’s essentially 5th-columnist role in the EU.

However, only a blinkered nationalist analysis would stop here. France’s elite is just as 5th-columnist – they have joined Washington and Berlin because that is what neoliberal, globalist capitalism is: an international waging of class warfare.

Macron openly calls to end the French model – he is the new ‘EU patriot’

Because its basis is resolutely neoliberal and thus anti-patriotic (even within its new creation of a misguided “EU patriotism” – the accurate term is “patriotism for the EU’s 1%”), this version of the pan-European project is simply not worth it – all it has done is disregard democratic votes, empower bankers, produce Lost Decades and gut social safety nets. I personally don’t think a united, non-socialist Europe is good for the world, but I know this version of a united Europe is a catastrophe. And I know it is ruining France – I’ve not just lived it but documented it via daily hard news reporting for PressTV.

But Macron is of a new generation whose elite passionately believes that this pan-European project works – it has… but only for Europe’s elite. This unprecedented “neoliberal empire” is thus successfully perpetuating itself.

But it took a lot to get here: Hollande, Sarkozy, privatisation-puppet Chirac, Mitterrand – all of France’s elite kept sacrificing France’s 99% for an ideology of “more Europe”, which was first Gaullist-capitalist then neoliberal. Truly, the same can be said for the elite of all of Europe, but especially Latin Europe – just look at how Germany could afford a corona bailout 10 times the size of France’s bailout.

But since 2015 have no doubt: France’s Lockdown-pre-Great-Lockdown was entirely the result of widespread dissension for Brussels’ fiscal policies – this had to be repressed.

The modern French conviction that discussion-and-even-dissension is more than just tolerable but should be encouraged – this also had to be repressed.

The idea of French workers – foreign to the Anglosphere— that they should have economic stability and political-cultural influence also had to be repressed, thus the endless far-right economic reforms.

As I keep insisting, the global 1% insists that the bad example of the “French model” has to be destroyed and replaced with the US/UK/German model, with all its greater inequality, poverty and dull individual conformities and fears.

The “French model” cannot survive if the 1% is to preserve unaltered this version pan-European project which is resolutely neoliberal. This is proven by the recent diplomatic uproar caused by China’s ambassador to France, who criticised the inequality laid bare by France’s corona response:

You have a new brand of Chinese diplomats who seem to compete with each other to be more radical and eventually insulting to the country where they happen to be posted,” opined a French analyst, but I get it: a person (in this case a diplomat) comes to France and they hear so very much proud talk about liberty, equality and fraternity… but they see that the first has been so distorted by the privileged class so as to totally eradicate the second and third. The Chinese ambassador is both disappointed and fed-up with France. He has become something Westerners cannot be – politically honest and critical of Western policy – without being condemned as a “radical”.

The French 99% tries to incarnate their post-French Revolution values (within the factual context that their revolution did not stand very long), but their elite do not. Foreigners simply cannot see true French values in action because what they are seeing are 1%er, neoliberal, “EU empire” values in action. The French elites’ values are not French but “European empire”; one cannot ever become elite anymore without displaying total allegiance to this empire.

It’s dismaying, and that is exhausting as well.

But while the future now only looks worse for the 99% across France, I imagine Macron couldn’t be happier.

Corona preserves Macron’s re(de)formist gains & wipes his promise-slate clean

Maybe the coronavirus break was just what everybody needed, not only Macron?

Think about it: a historic two-month General Strike had just failed in late January. Now that the pension reform was passed unemployment reform was planned for this fall, because there is simply no constitutional way to stop Macron. The Yellow Vests certainly weren’t going to stop. How can Macron afford to keep generating such public ill will? Was there going to be another General Strike? How can workers afford to do that?

You simply can’t compute all those facts.

Thus, pre-corona France was truly at a breaking point and exhausted. France was like two wrestlers who had each other in a stranglehold, but instead of letting go both decided to suicidally and murderously maintain their grip.

The Great Lockdown preserves in amber Macron’s pension reforms – it’s over. When France goes back to work they will be rushed through Parliament, and likely amid a ban on groups (protests) of more than a few score. The Great Lockdown gives the public a chance to forget about that fight and the elite a “just move on” filibuster to questioning journalists.

But it also ends the possibility of Macron’s autumn plans for similar deforms to the unemployment system. There’s no way that can go on with the state socialistically-shouldering 60% of the Great Lockdown’s lost revenue. However, France’s 1% has been waiting decades for the pension reform – think they aren’t pleased? Think they can’t wait until autumn 2021, when Macron can make unemployment reform his farewell political legacy amid General Strike 2? You must think the 1% doesn’t play tactical class warfare, which is chess, and instead thinks in nationalisms, which is checkers.

The Great Lockdown is also the single-best thing to happen to Macron’s re-election chances.

How can he now be faulted for failing on his signature promise – to reduce unemployment to 7%? How can he be faulted by the right for any economic failure – France simply has to spend their way out of the corona overreaction? How can he be faulted on the left for any economic failure – France spent a lot on the corona overreaction (again, a pittance compared to Germany and also a bailout weighted to the 1%)? Any fiscal policy promise and failure is thus absolved with this corona overreaction-distraction.

Any social policy failure is also old hat – we must focus on a post-corona world. French PM says coronavirus outbreak ‘under control’ but warns ‘life won’t go back to normal after May 11th’ – of course Macron doesn’t want to go back to normal – his popularity was in the toilet for years; his policy, his style, his bizarre and salacious scandals (highlighted by the Benalla affair, which only French people understand) and his constant elitist gaffes ensured it could only worsen.

But election sniping is such a narrow view, even if it is the dominant Western mindset:

Macron’s entire presidency has been an open assault on the French idea of what is “normal”. Destroying the French model – to satisfy and propel the neoliberal & neo-imperial pan-European project he sincerely believes in – has always been his political raison d’être. Macron undoubtedly will view himself as leaving as a hero for all his “deforms”, whenever he departs in ignominy.

I’ve had offers to work in the US: “Why would I want to be a political journalist covering such an atrocious, atrocious political culture?” But France has become nearly identical – instead of righteous, easily-triggered emotionality the French political talk shows rely on an endless reserve of indifference and sang froid (cold blood) to reach the same neoliberal aims; instead of Trump-Putin hysteria they use Muslim-hysteria.

So what is France’s future? It is Macron versus Marine Le Pen in 2022 – they are just as intellectually and culturally exhausted, bitter and hostile as the US. They would rather repeat corporate fascism than be creative.

Must I work on behalf of Le Pen, claiming that she is a “victory via defeat”? I did that, marginally, for Trump, but I didn’t have to cover the guy everyday! More Macron would be an even bigger defeat than Biden – the Ferguson, Missouri, protests weren’t anything like the Yellow Vest repression.

The West may have all the money but they have no good answers anymore. How could corona have uncovered anything but the truth of their underlying morbidity?

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

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


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 Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming Socialisms Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism.

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