The Great Interregnum

The Great Interregnum

February 01, 2021

by Francis Lee for The Saker Blog

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

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

THE RISE OF NEOLIBERALISM AND THE NWO

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

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seemingly immovable policies of an earlier period – Progress through Parliamentary Reform – were found to be wanting, out of date and out of time, running out of steam with their economies plagued by stagflation and declining growth.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

THE EFFECTIVE DEMISE OF THE LEFT

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

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

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

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

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

TAKE A KNEE TO THEM NOW

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

THE ROAD TO NEMESIS

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

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

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

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

La Lotte Continua.

NOTES

(1) Wolfgang Streeck – New Left Review – 104

(2) Der Spiegel 1996

(3)Wolfgang Streeck – New Left Review 104

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

(5) Prison Notebooks – Antonio Gramsci.

President Assad Slaughtered Neoliberalism’s Four Sacred Cows

By Andrew Korybko

Source

President Assad Slaughtered Neoliberalism

Syrian President Assad just slaughtered neoliberalism’s four sacred cows of gay marriage, radical secularism, marijuana legalization, and gender theory in a short video of his latest speech that recently went viral on social media where he condemned these examples of “total moral degeneracy” that he very passionately believes “target our humanity”.

The “Great Social/Civilizational Reset”

The increasingly sharp contrast between the West’s extreme neoliberal social values and most of the rest of the world’s embrace of conservative traditionalism was brought to the fore of global attention after October’s terrorist beheading of a French schoolteacher for sharing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The author published an analysis at the time asking “Is A ‘Great Social/Civilizational Reset Upon Us?”, which predicted that each value system’s proponents will become more vocal in the future but that this doesn’t necessarily imply that the fearmongered “Clash of Civilizations” scenario is inevitable. Rather, what’s likely to unfold is that each side more proudly reasserts their identity as time goes on, defending that which they hold dearest against what they regard as the threat represented by the other system. This is precisely what recently happened after a short video of Syrian President Assad’s latest speech went viral on social media where he slaughtered the four sacred cows of neoliberalism.

Syrian Girl Made The Syrian Leader Go Viral

Mimi Al Laham, also known as Syrian Girl on Twitter, translated the most important part into English. Her work was then shared by Infowars as part of their article titled “Bashar Al-Assad: Neoliberalism is Based on ‘Total Moral Degeneracy’”, which in turn brought it to the attention of countless people across the world. President Assad is known for his solid support of secularism in the face of fundamentalist religious threats to his country’s society, yet casual observers would have been mistaken if they assumed that this means that he’s sympathetic to neoliberalism. The reality couldn’t be more different since the Syrian leader showed that it’s possible to be a secular anti-liberal unlike what many people might have naively thought. Some of his own supporters abroad might even be a bit surprised by what he said since they probably didn’t expect him to group gay marriage, radical secularism, marijuana legalization, and gender theory together as examples of “total moral degeneracy” which he very passionately believes “target our humanity.”

Slaughtering The Four Sacred Cows

For the reader’s convenience, the author is sharing Syrian Girl’s translation of President Assad’s speech below:

Neoliberalism is based on promoting a total moral degeneracy and separating individuals from any principles or values and affiliations and beliefs in order to reach this moral degeneracy. Neoliberalism promoted gay marriage. They started in the 1970s and now gay marriage is legal. And now they have children but it’s different from adopting because how can they have children?

Neoliberalism promoted that a child does not choose his own religion and this is against the child’s freedom of expression. A child is born without any religion and later choose his own religion when he’s grown up. This is against human nature. Ever since human made their own idols and Gods, a child would instinctively belong to his family’s religion. They contradict humanity itself.

It has recently promoted that marijuana is not harmful and now it’s sold in shops legally. They started claiming that drugs are not harmful, and later they will find something more harmful. Now in some places you can buy marijuana-flavored bread. This is neoliberalism. It (neoliberalism) now claims that a child is born and does not have a gender, that the child chooses later to be a male or a female. Very strange indeed!

So what do we understand from this? Neoliberalism targets our humanity, and by doing so, it collides with religions because religions serve humanity while neoliberalism separates individuals from their values.”

From the above, there’s no doubt that President Assad slaughtered all four of neoliberalism’s sacred cows.

Reviewing President Assad’s Principled Views

Gay marriage, as he noted, has been pushed by neoliberals onto society for nearly the past half-century, after which it finally succeeded to such a wild extent that sex change surgeries can now even lead to so-called “male pregnancies”. According to President Assad, the radical neoliberal ideology of forcibly secularizing children “contradicts humanity itself”. Legalizing drugs, and especially Western society’s normalization of marijuana, is harmful in his eyes, and he also regards gender theory as “very strange indeed”. Taken together, it can unambiguously be said that President Assad sees little difference between “impregnating” sex-changed males, forcing children to accept secularism despite their parents’ wishes, eating a marijuana “brownie”, and convincing children that gender is a choice. These are all similar expressions of neoliberalism’s “moral degeneracy” and “targeting of humanity”, hence why they’re equally condemned. All four of these are like a cancer eating Western society from within, something that he wants to avoid having happen in Syria.

The Syrian Model Stands To Inspire The World

President Assad’s very principled defense of traditional values despite his vehement support for secularism challenges the assumption that the only ones who support the former are religious fundamentalists. As proven by none other than himself and his millions of supporters across the world, it’s entirely possible to simultaneously support secularism and traditional values while being strongly against both neoliberalism and religious fundamentalism. It’s not an either-or choice like those who want to provoke a so-called “Clash of Civilizations” dishonestly try to make everyone think. The world is so complex that not every society neatly falls into one or the other category as Syria shows. For this reason, the Syrian model might eventually be replicated by other countries that are striving to strike a balance between those two social extremes. In hindsight, the nearly decade-long Hybrid War of Terror that was launched against his country in 2011 might have even been partially predicated on erasing Syria’s unique social system from the face of the earth in order to prevent that.

A Hard Look at Rent and Rent Seeking with Michael Hudson & Pepe Escobar

Source

A Hard Look at Rent and Rent Seeking with Michael Hudson & Pepe Escobar

December 23, 2020

Michael Hudson and Pepe Escobar discuss rent and rent-seeking, i.e., unproductive economic activity, in the US and China mainly but including the Russian, Iranian and Brazilian economies.

In the first 15 minutes, an overview from Michael Hudson explains what happened in the US economy once jobs and manufacturing were offshored to mainly China.  He proposes that even if China did not exist, the US economy has been changed to the extent that it is almost impossible to change back to a productive economy without material changes in the economic model.

Pepe keeps the conversation flowing quickly with incisive questions.  The two esteemed gentlemen take a look at the Chinese view on a possible Biden administration and how the military hawks in Washington could be countered.   Outlining the ‘conflict of systems’ between the US and China, Michael Hudson explains the thinking of the Pentagon and paying ‘protection money’ historically to fund oligarchies.  It is a ‘war between systems’, Hudson explains with the thinking being:  “If only China did not export to us, we could reindustrialize.”

“It’s over”: says Hudson, because “we’ve painted ourselves into such a debt corner.  So much money flows to the top 5% that there is no money for investment, no money for growth.”

Hudson explains the concept of capitalism, how it was conceived to work against neo-liberalism, and how it has changed to systemic support for rentier economics.

A wealth of detail follows, around fictitious debt and wealth creation.   Michael discusses the ‘brainwashing’ of Russia vis a vis economic policy and central bank to end up in a position where Russia was paying 100% interest for years under American advisors and privatized rentiers, “a bunch of gangsters.”   Very interesting is the discussion on how the perpetrators, the leading university of the US in the destruction and looting of Russia, could not be brought to a court.

“You don’t need an army to destroy a country any longer.  All you need to do is to teach it American economics.”  Michael Hudson

A question from Pepe regarding the economies of North East Asia, South East Asia, the Asia Crisis and currently further integration with Russia, resulted in this very cogent quote from Michael Hudson.

“The current mode of warfare is to conquer the brains of a country, to shape how people think.  If you can twist their view into unreality economics, to make them think you are there to help them and not to take money out of them, then you’ve got them hooked.  You need to lend them money, and then crash it.”  Michael Hudson.

The conversation ends with an extensive question from Pepe regarding the biggest myth regarding Belt and Road, the supposed ‘debt trap’.  The difference in systems, non-rentier, and rentier, debt, and neo-liberalism again is illustrated in a crystal clear fashion.

Corporations, States, and the neo-liberal symbiosis

Corporations, States, and the neo-liberal symbiosis

December 16, 2020

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

The men and women who run global corporations are the first in history with the organization, technology, money, and ideology who are attempting to structure the world as an integrated economic unit. (1)

THE RISE OF CORPORATE POWER.

Scroll down another six decades (or thereabouts) and this statement has hardened into an objective fact – and moreover has turned out worse than the above authors had ever imagined. In effect what has taken place, and is still taking place, is the massive shift of power, out of the hands of nation states and democratic governments and into the hands of Transnational Corporations (TNCs) banks, Investment banks, Commercial banks, and Central banks. It is now the coalition that effectively governs the lives of the vast majority of the people on earth; yet these new world realities are seldom reflected in the strategies of citizen movements for democratic change. All too often, strategies are aimed primarily at changing government policies, whilst the real power being exercised by TNCs behind the scenes is rarely challenged, let alone dismantled. When the operations of TNCs do become a prime target for citizen action campaigns, there is a tendency to employ a rather piecemeal and foot-dragging approach to such popular struggles to what is a deeply systemic problem – a problem for the lower orders that is.

Regardless of their nominal home bases these globe-trotting corporate Leviathans have become essentially ‘stateless’ (I use this term advisedly) juggling multiple national identities and loyalties in order to achieve their global competitive interests. Regardless of where they operate in the world these conglomerates can use their overseas subsidiaries, joint ventures, licensing agreements, and assume foreign identities and tax evasion on a huge scale – as for example in the practise of ‘transfer pricing’ – whenever it suits their purposes. In so doing, they develop chameleon-like abilities to change their identities to resemble insiders wherever they are operating. As one nameless CEO put it, When we go to Brussels, we are member states of the EU, when we go to Washington, we become an American Company. Whenever the need arises these gentlemen will wrap themselves up in the national flag of choice (or flags of convenience as in the shipping industry) to get support for tax breaks, research subsidies, or governmental representation in negotiations affecting corporate profit and marketing plans. Through this process stateless corporations are effectively transforming what were independent nation states to suit their interests.

CORPORATIONS AND STATES – PARTNERS IN CRIME

Having said this, however, I would add a qualifying disclaimer:

Namely, that nation states do not necessarily choose to prostrate themselves before their lords and masters of Finance and Industry, this was never – mirabile dictu – meant to be a one-way arrangement or an alternative to the liberal market economy. I have argued elsewhere that states and corporations are both conjoint and symmetrical. Both need each other. The state unquestionably remains the most significant force in shaping the national and world economies, despite the rhetoric of the state-denialist lobby. The state has played a fundamental role in the economic development of all countries, from the 19th century onwards, and my hunch is that it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

However, given the universality of the state-economy dualism it should be understood that a system of variegated capitalism is a feature of the contemporary state-economy partnership. In general terms this fragmentation breaks down into basic models of actually existing capitalism.

1. The liberal-market capitalism (LMC). This is generally understood to be associated with the Anglo-American economies. Rampant individualism has become the dominant characteristic, short-termist and based upon a weak industrial and a strong financial sector. Shareholder value has assumed a quasi-religious status. The banking system is oligopolistic and averse to industrial investment and fixated on the property sector. Financialization is the dominant economic form.

2. Social-market capitalism. (SMC) A premium is placed on collaboration between different actors in the economy with a broader definition of ‘stakeholders’ beyond that of solely the owners of capital. The concept of ‘social partnership’ is more prominent than the Anglo-American model, but somewhat weaker more recently. Capital markets – unlike the LMC – tend to be bank-centred and the banking industry tends to be more diffuse as instanced in the existence of the German Sparkassen. This model is characteristic of the German, Scandinavian, western European bloc.

3. Developmental Capitalism. This is a highly activist state-driven system (although not necessarily through public ownership of productive assets). The state sets substantial policies contained within an explicit industrial strategy. Capital markets tend also to be bank-centred and there is a strong emphasis on tight business networks – e.g., the Chaebol and Keiretsu. The model is exemplified by Japan, (south) Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and more recently by China.

4. Russian Capitalism. This is difficult to categorize since it is given an unbelievably bad press – for geopolitical reasons – in the western media and academia.

It is also under the cosh of western sanctions which makes development even more difficult. Moreover much of what is going on is conducted in the Russian language which makes reporting and analysis even more difficult. Both political and economic structures were liberalized after 1991 but the Russian state still exerts strong control over the economy. The jury is still out on Russia’s system and development.

Given a choice of which system works best it would seem to be the highly state-activist developmental model.

‘’We can safely predict that the Anglo-American model will become less influential … whilst … virtually all of the Asian models of capitalism involve a more active role for government. And the rise of these models is taking place as the US approach is discredited by abuse, shrivelling opportunities and a shrinking middle-class. Among listed alternatives, the US model is now the outlier.’’ (2)

Alexander Hamilton 1755-1804

These views on industrialisation and state-building could legitimately be described as a protectionist and strategic policy, this to the extent that his theories made a positive impression, and these were not lost on US President and ex-commander-in-chief of the Army of the Potomac, Ulysses S Grant. (1822-1885).

According to Grant:

‘’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.’’

Interestingly enough the United States did not become a great trading power and not recognisably be a free-trade nation until after WW2.

Similarly In Germany, Friedrich List (1789-1846) who also had scant regard for any ‘free-market’ nonsense along with the Ricardian corollary of comparative advantage, was instrumental in promoting a guided political economy; a system of political supervision from above as a policy for economic development. He argued that,

‘’…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 home and foreign markets.’’ (3)

As with Hamilton’s economic theories and their influence on Grant, so with List’s theories, on the leading figure in Germany at the time, the ‘Iron Chancellor’ and leading statesman of the day – Otto Von Bismarck (1771-1845).

These strategic, nation-building, and planned approaches were to give rise to the considerable success of the ‘mixed economies’ during the Bretton Woods era – 1944-1971 – and particularly so in the west. But this historical phase ended abruptly with the rise of the Thatcher-Reagan axis circa 1980, to the tune of TINA – there is no alternative, although such policies continued to be the chosen road to development in East Asia. If the TNC-State paradigm operates globally they do so only because the state allows and facilitates this. But the relationship between the two varies from one state’s political economy to another.

The present actually existing state-market archetype – which in its essence is neo-liberal – is such that business enterprises now seem fit to expect/demand more from their governments in order to secure markets for their products (these enterprises certainly have some chutzpah in this respect!)Trade follows the flag. This special pleading notwithstanding, the fashionable nostrums extolling the economic virtues of neo-liberalism – nostrums of an entirely theoretical nature, based upon a type of reasoning associated with the medieval schoolmen, or rolled out as if it were Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative. In this respect also such economic theory, as postulated by the marginalist school (see below) takes place before any engagement with the material world, the theory precedes practice when it should be the other way around. I believe that it was Goethe who once said “All theory is grey, my friend. But forever green is the tree of life.”

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTAL DESIDERATA

However, in spite of the neo-classical economics theological school founded in 1870 (4) the fact of the matter is that the private sector requires at least 4 principles of support and services from governments.

1. Infrastructure support. That is to say state funding of high-risk and basic research. This involves funding of universities and of vocational training systems. Subsidizing of mechanisms for the dissemination of scientific and technological transfers.

2. Providing tax breaks. Incentives, necessary for investment in industrial R&D

3. Guarantees. That national enterprises from the given country have a sufficiently stable Home Base and privileged access to the home market via public contracts (defence, telecommunications, health, transport, education, social services). Industrial policy, particularly for those in the high technology strategic sector (defence, telecommunications, and data processing), also guarantee of a certain basic scientific and technical competence, as well as protecting designated sectors of the internal market on which local enterprises may depend.

4. Provision: that is the necessary support and assistance (regulatory and/or commercial, diplomatic, and political) to local enterprises in their activities and in their fight to better survive in international markets.

The above prescriptions would constitute the absolute sine qua non for economic growth and development. But it is no longer necessarily the case that these expectations will be met. Instead of the assessment (and presence) of past economic developmental strategies with measurable outcomes we have a religious, inflexible dogma of ‘market forces’ which is not to be gainsaid, gibberish in theory, but not even workable in practice. Herewith the record.

1. Capital/Labour relations.

Promise: Deregulation will allow for full employment.

Outcome: No clear impact.

2. Forms of Competition.

Promise: Deregulation will erode oligopolistic market power and will restore free competition

Outcome: Re-regulation, less producers, increased market concentration, from one oligopolistic form of competition to another.

3. Monetary Regime

Promise: Control of Monetary Base is possible.

Outcome: Monetary Innovation prevents this control and the rise of the shadow banking system.

4. State.

Promise: Minimal state will enhance growth and productivity

Outcome: Poor levels of productivity due to lack of educational infrastructures. Finance is put before industry.

5. International Regime

Promise: Smooth currency adjustments.

Outcome: Large movements up and down of exchange rates

And so on and so forth. The state – if it so chooses – remains the most formidable institution to channel and tame the power of the markets. In the absence of powerful countervailing regulation any economic analysis shows that persisting unemployment, recurring financial crises, rising inequality, underinvestment in productive activities such as education and research, a cumulative asymmetry of information and power and overinvestment in financial activities are the outcomes of a complete reliance on market forces. This we already know, but the suffocating global impact of Anglo-American liberal globalism – in both theory and practice, and in its sphere of influence – has served to erect a seemingly insurmountable barrier, both political and ideological, to any exit from the dead-end of TINA.

DECLINE AND FALL

Sad to say, however, that the public authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have defaulted on their obligations to their electorates and to a large extent have merged with the corporate and banking sector. The US and EU remain in thrall to neo-liberal doctrine, the only ‘growth’ policy considered worthy of the name consists of eliminating organizations or institutions of any kind that are regarded as obstructing markets and competition, be they cartels, chambers of commerce and industry, trades unions or tax guilds, or minimum wages or employment protection. This is all that is meant when todays creditors expect debtor states to implement the dreaded ‘structural reforms’. The collapse of the Keynesian economics establishment and its political manifestation in both social-democratic theory and practice was unable (and even unwilling) to prevent the counter-revolutionary onrush of the neoliberal forces who now command the political and economic agenda.

‘’The historical significance of the transition from a Keynesian to a Hayekian political economy, which has been taking place since the 1970s, becomes clearer if we recall the situation at the beginning of the neoliberal turn. Whereas today with open borders, formerly sovereign states with independent central banks must pursue a rule-bound economic policy in accordance with a prescriptions of efficiency theory, the Keynesian mixed economy of the post-war decades had at its disposal a wide range of instruments for discretionary government intervention, especially in the distribution of the national product and the life-chances of national citizens … The neoliberal counter-revolution has left nothing of this. It’s objective was to trim the states of post-war capitalism as much as possible reducing them to providing for the functioning and expansion of markets and making them institutionally incapable of corrective intervention in the self-regulating enforcement of market justice.’’(5)

Returning to the global perspective of the opening passage the problems of under-development in the periphery is now being felt in the imperial centre as the centre becomes more and more like the periphery. A state cannot be emerging or developed if it is not inward rather than outward looking to the goal of creating a domestic market and thus reasserting a national economic sovereignty. This complex objective requires over all aspects of economic life. In particular, it demands policies that protects food security and sovereignty, and equally sovereignty over ones natural resources and access to others outside one’s territory. These multiple and complementary objectives are contrasted with those objectives of the internal comprador class, who are content to adapt to growth models that meet the requirements of the dominant global system (liberal globalization) and the possibilities that these latter alternatives offer. (6)

At the present time, the historical requirement for the establishment of an entirely new social and economic order based upon sound principles and respecting the environment with a goal of the fulfilment of human rights has become imperative. It hardly needs stating that this is a monumental task and the possibilities between success and failure are evenly balanced. Nonetheless it remains the greatest challenge in today’s world – moreover it is a challenge which spans both the developed and developing world and for tackling the issue of the survival of the human species and the Earth itself. Whether mankind is up for this challenge remains to be seen, but the world is running out of time and positive action needs to start very soon indeed. We shall wait and we shall see.

La Lotta Continua.

NOTES

(1) Richard Barnet & Robert Mueller -Global Reach – 1974

(2) Rothkopf – Financial Times – 01/02/2012)

(3) Freidrich List. – National System of Political Economy. P.15

(4)The Marginalist ‘Revolution’ of 1870. The term ‘marginalist revolution’ is commonly utilised to indicate the abandonment of the classical liberalism – of Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill – and posited a theoretical shift to a subjective theory of value and the analytical notion of marginal utility. The years between 1871 and 1874 saw publication of the major writings of the leaders of the Austrian marginalist school, Carl Menger (1840-1921); of the British school, William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882); and of the French (Lausanne) school, Leon Walras (1834-1910). For better or worse – pretty much the worse FL – this is the basis of the contemporary economics taught in schools and universities today. It is a toxic legacy.

(5) Wolfgang Streeck – Buying Time – pp.111/112

(6)Samir Amin – The Implosion of Capitalism – p.44

THE STORMTROOPS OF REGIME CHANGE AND COUNTER-REVOLUTION

South Front

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

The West is facing an unprecedented threat to its hegemony, as more agile, innovative, and cohesive non-Western powers are growing by leaps and bounds, to the point of making a transition to a global non-Western hegemony for the first time in history. During the last five centuries, the baton had passed from one European power to the next, and ultimately to the United States. Should the United States falter under the double weight of its global imperial overstretch and domestic oligarchy plundering even its own society, there will not be another Western state there to pick up where it left off. European Union, once touted as a likely successor or possible candidate for US-EU co-hegemony, is showing few signs of consolidating into a federation. Thus America’s decline would in all likelihood lead to the People’s Republic of China becoming the global hegemonic power.

Russia certainly has problems with oligarchy as well, but at least there the oligarchs are essentially treated as a “necessary evil” of capitalist economy and kept in check by the national security wing of the Russian state that is directly answerable to the President. Likewise China’s billionaires are kept at arms length from political power, lest they use In the West, on the other hand, the oligarchs run the show and the national security state is kept under close ideological surveillance to ensure that it will come to the defense of the oligarchy “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. US service academies, which admit on the basis of recommendations by elected US officials, who themselves are creatures of special interests and Big Money, are an example of that ideological oversight. And ultimately the US political system’s apparent inability to reform itself, to make itself more fair and meritocratic, means that it’s bound to lose the great power competition to those who are simply marginally less corrupt.

But that simply won’t do, which means the more effective competitors have to be brought down by other means, up to and including open warfare for which the United States is actually preparing. The current US modernization programs appear to be intended to give the US the ability to wage offensive warfare even against nuclear weapons states by not later than 2030. In the meantime other tactics will be used, such as economic warfare, information warfare, and of course the use of various proxy forces.

Since in an oligarchy property of the elites becomes of paramount importance, right-wing militants have long been used as a means to suppress socialists and communists. Very often these right-wing paramilitaries operate jointly with the official law enforcement and security forces. Examples here include the SA stormtroopers operating as Hilfspolizei in support of German police forces combating left-wing parties in Weimar Germany, the autodefensas in Colombia, even the drug cartels whose own politics tend toward the reactionary end of the spectrum. We are seeing exactly the same process emerge in the United States, in the form of right-wing, white supremacist militias who are allowed to openly flaunt laws of the United States and are invariably, without exception, treated as allies by US police departments, though not at the federal level just yet. The situation is only marginally better in the EU, but even there right-wing militants are treated with kid gloves and, like their Islamist brethren, are allowed to travel to Ukraine and obtain combat training and experience in the Azov Regiment. Considering that, in the view of European leaders, “there is no alternative” to economic neoliberalism, there is little doubt Europe’s far right will be weaponized in support of the regime should pro-democracy protests in European countries rise above the level of the Yellow Vest ones we have seen so far.

But that is only the defensive aspect of weaponizing right-wing nationalists. It keeps the ruling classes secure against threats from below, but does not contribute anything to the struggle against China, Russia, other “emerging threats” to Western hegemony.

Thus whereas extremists are the stormtroopers of counter-revolution waiting in the wings in case there is an actual threat of revolution or even substantial reform in countries of the West, in non-Western countries they are used as the spearhead of regime change. These extremists come in two flavors. The first prong is Islamic extremism, and so far to the extent that Western governments cultivate such individuals (as seems to be the case in Europe), it’s done exclusively for foreign consumption, as it were. For the most part, Western intelligence services displayed remarkable equanimity as French, Belgian, even German islamists traveled back and forth between their home countries and various MENA war zones. Invariably in cases of “blowback” in the form of terror incidents, the perpetrators were described as “known to the security services”. CIA’s investment in Al Qaeda in the 1980s, in particular, did result in fair amount of “blowback” in the form of 9/11, but even that has not dissuaded Western powers from promoting this type of proxy fighter.

The second prong are the ethnic nationalists of Russia and other CIS states. Before Ukraine, not having a war on which to sharpen their claws, they adopted the guise of “soccer hooligans” and, courtesy of UEFA, quickly developed international links. There is little known on Western services’ efforts to utilize these contacts, but it is evident Western countries actually keep track of their “hooligans” in order to occasionally prevent them from international travel if there is danger of excessive violence. Kiev’s ‘hooligans” were in force on the Maidan and formed the lion’s share of Parubiy’s “Maidan security force”. There is also a lot of overlap between these “hooligans” and various right-wing organizations like Right Sector, Azov, C14, and others. But in order to be fully effective, these right-wing militants must be mobilized by someone with big money, usually an oligarch disaffected with the system who enjoys the secret blessing of the US and EU.

In Kiev that scenario worked to perfection. Yes, there were right-wing nationalists, and yes, there were disaffected oligarchs willing to bankroll their organizations and mobilize them to achieve their purposes, which was beforehand blessed by Western powers that be. In Hong-Kong this approach faltered, apparently largely because Beijing was able to reach a behind-the-scenes agreement with the island enclave’s oligarchy which then abandoned its militants to their own devices. Consequently that uprising has all but flared out. In Belarus neither of these conditions were satisfactorily met. The country does not really have oligarchs capable of raising a de-facto army of street-fighters, and the street-fighters themselves are none too numerous. While there is evidence Ukrainian entities participated in grooming Belarusian shock troops, including in the trenches of the Donbass, in the end their numbers and/or enthusiasm was not what the Western curators of Belarus’ coup anticipated. After a few nights of violence, that segment of the protest movement vanished out of sight due to effective Belarusian counter-intelligence efforts. Atlantic Council practically disclosed a state secret when it bemoaned the absence of “robust young men” capable of going toe-to-toe with the security forces. It is evident Lukashenko’s survival took them by surprise, and it is probable someone over-promised their ability to deliver said “robust young men” onto Minsk streets.

Could this work in Russia? Probably not, due to both Russia’s own preparations and the West characteristically shooting itself in the foot. Preparations include formations like Rosgvardia which are meant to combat the low-to-middle intensity scenarios like the Maidan. But the Western economic warfare against Russia, the freezing of assets of Russian firms and individuals, have encountered a consolidation of the Russian oligarchs around the country’s political center. The West overplayed its hand there: expecting a quick, Maidan-like resolution in Moscow, it sent a signal it does not respect Russian individuals’ property rights, and which oligarch wants to have their property rights disrespected?

The tragic irony of it all is that while the strategy of destabilization using the disaffected oligarch—young extremist combination has been progressively less effective with coming years, as governments worldwide have drawn appropriate lessons from colour revolutions and are determined not to be undone in a similar manner. Is United States experiencing a genuine, home-grown, grass-roots pro-democracy movement that is not bank-rolled by oligarchs or spearheaded by racial extremists? To be sure, elements in the Democratic Party think it can be used as a “get out the vote” device against Donald Trump, but on the other hand there is mounting evidence it is having an opposite effect. America’s middle bourgeois, being easily frightened and anxious to protect what little property it still has, just might decide Trump’s the guy to keep them safe going forward. But even, or perhaps especially, if Biden is elected one should expect more use of various paramilitaries to maintain order. Unfortunately America’s internal instability will mean even more erratic and reckless international behavior.

Can Progressives Save Biden From Disastrous Economic Policies?

Photograph Source: stingrayschuller – CC BY 2.0

BY RICHARD D. WOLFF

Since the 1970s, U.S. real wages have largely stagnated. After a century of real wages rising every decade, that stagnation changed the lives of the U.S. working class in traumatic ways. Likewise, since the 1970s, labor productivity grew steadily, aided sequentially by computers, robots, and artificial intelligence. The combination of stagnant real wages and rising productivity lowered labor’s share of national income in favor of capital’s. Profits consequently soared and took the stock markets with them. Income and wealth were redistributed sharply upward.

The post-1970 trauma of the working class was worsened, as traumas often are, by being minimally recognized and even less discussed in the media, among politicians, or in the academy. Workers thus encountered the end of the century of rising real wages individually as a mysterious evaporation of the American Dream or loss of an earlier American Greatness. They also reacted individually. More members of households (especially adult women) undertook more hours of paid labor outside the home to compensate for stagnant real hourly wages. Households also compensated by borrowing more heavily than any working class anywhere had ever done. Workers wanted so desperately to hold on to that American Dream.

Capital obliged: mortgage and auto debts spread more widely and deeply throughout the U.S. population. Credit cards were newly promoted to consumers who filled millions of wallets with many of them. Toward the end of the 20th century, capital added massive student lending that now exceeds total U.S. credit card debt. Capital thereby supplemented its profits from production (boosted by stagnant wages) by adding interest on consumer and student debts (undertaken because of stagnant wages). No wonder the U.S. stock market boomed in the 1980s and 1990s. No wonder that the Clintons and other centrist Democrats celebrated that debt boom for their political advantage instead of attending to its immense risks and disruptive social costs.

Late 20th-century U.S. capitalism boomed until it could no longer support rising debt levels. Households stressed, families dissolved, and individuals exhausted by ever more hours of labor added severe anxieties to their burdens as rising debts exceeded capacities to service them. Deepening loneliness, divorce, opioid and other addictions, and suicides were among the social costs. Three crashes of U.S. capitalism in the 21st century (2000, 2008, and 2020), each far worse than its predecessor, brought home to the U.S. working class how far its social situation had deteriorated. Individual responses no longer sufficed for millions. They were ready to participate in social movements to express their accumulated anger, bitterness, and rage. They needed such populist movements to do something—or at least to support politicians—to reverse the downward economic and social spiral so many felt trapped in and by.

Donald Trump opportunistically tapped enough of the U.S. working class’s bitterness to swing the votes needed to win the presidency in 2016. However, the interconnected finances and ideologies of the centrist Democrats who had taken over the party after the 1970s shared with Republicans the responsibility for that bitterness. They led the Democratic Party into increasing dependence on donations from the capitalist class. They likewise drifted ever further from the working-class base that had rallied for the Democrats during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The neoliberal turn in U.S. capitalism under Ronald Reagan had two key impacts on the U.S. working class. First, neoliberalism endorsed capitalist globalization and the export of jobs—especially the better-paying, more-unionized jobs—after the 1970s. Second, by accelerating the deregulation of industries and markets, neoliberalism facilitated automation and weakened or removed various labor protections. In short, the neoliberal turn was and remains a major cause of the U.S. working class’s decline and its resulting bitterness and anger.

With progressive leaders, Democrats might have shown the working class that its distress followed from how capitalism functions. Capital flows to where the profits are greatest (where wages are far lower and regulations far fewer than in the United States, for example). Capitalists fund politicians like Reagan to turn policies toward neoliberalism. However, centrists in the Democratic Party shied away from such explanations. The centrist leaders of the Democratic Party were those closest to the party’s capitalist donors (and vice versa). Centrist control of the party blocked it from offering a powerful voice to mobilize working-class opposition to neoliberal job exports, deregulations, attacks on unions, etc. The centrists wanted and depended on capitalists’ donations; that dependence only increased as the party’s working-class support ebbed.

Workers turned away first from activity in and for the Democratic Party; eventually many stopped voting for its candidates. For them, the Democratic Party had failed to advance beyond the New Deal’s achievements. Worse, the party had failed even to protect workers against the multiple ways that neoliberalism undid the New Deal. Many workers felt betrayed. In protest, often unspoken, some began to cross over to vote Republican. Unions increasingly had to downplay or reduce their traditional links to the Democratic Party because growing portions of their members had shifted toward the GOP.

The Republicans, traditionally the employers’ party, had long tried to counter the Democratic Party’s appeal to workers as the traditional employees’ party. Republicans dared not use economic issues, and so they used religion, regionalism, and racism. They could pry portions of the working class away from the Democratic Party by appealing to such noneconomic concerns among workers. Their prime targets included evangelical Christian and other religious fundamentalists portrayed as victims of secularists, the South’s and other regions’ sense of unfair treatment by Washington and coastal elites, and white supremacists portrayed as threatened by rising Black and Brown populations including immigrants.

The centrist Democrats countered by trying to carve out other portions of the working class: women, Black and Brown people, immigrants, and various other minorities. Trump went further than previous Republicans in prying workers away from the Democrats. Joe Biden went further than previous Democrats (including Barack Obama) in focusing his campaign and his new administration on those portions of the working class Democrats prioritized. In these ways, each party’s strategy provoked more extreme versions of the other party’s strategy. Hence the increasingly harsh and rageful tones of major party discourse and behavior generally.

Both major parties, following the dictates of the Cold War, together eviscerated the class-based politics stressed from the 1930s to 1945. An integral part of the undoing of the New Deal was canceling a politics where Republicans confronted Democrats as representatives of employers versus employees. Instead, class conflict quickly faded from both parties’ statements and thinking. They focused instead on carving up the same working class into different, competing portions. Employers are chief funders of both parties, who then limit themselves to minimal references to class issues except for occasional, fleeting campaign rhetoric.

However, the class silence of the major parties created the need and the opportunity for a revival of what they had repressed. Progressives such as Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a growing number of others across U.S. politics are riding the wave of protest against all that was lost when centrists took over the Democratic Party. That takeover presumed the undoing of the New Deal, the repression of the strong communist and socialist parties built in the 1930s and early 1940s, and the neoliberal turn that came to dominate public policy. Many (not all) of today’s progressives—inside and outside the Democratic Party—want to reconstruct U.S. politics as once again a class politics.

Both major parties are now stuck with their commitments to a system that has failed spectacularly. Private and public sectors were unprepared for and could not contain a deadly virus handled far more successfully in many other countries. U.S. capitalism likewise failed to prepare for or contain the social damage from the latest in its regularly recurring cyclical crashes. These new failures compounded earlier, ongoing failures to overcome global warming and the crisis of U.S. race relations. These and other systemic failures are eroding mass support for those parties just as the mounting sufferings of the working class seek political expression and solutions.

Trump’s right-wing Republicanism solved none of the United States’ basic economic problems; it did worsen income and wealth inequalities. Yet it spoke to millions of working-class people who feel betrayed by the Democrats and attracted by the usual Republican references to religion, region, and race. Obama’s regime had likewise solved nothing in the United States’ basic economic problems while worsening income and wealth inequalities and barely overcoming the 2008 capitalist crash in ways that set up the next one. Obama did speak to millions of working-class people gathered around issues of gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Biden gives every sign—in conditions of even worse economic and political decline—of repeating these oscillating failures. In so doing, he prepares the way for the next Trump.

The key question then revolves around progressives inside and outside the Democratic Party. Do enough of them have the needed clarity of understanding, courage to act, and wisdom to see their deficit in terms of strong organization? Can those who do seize the opportunity to ride a return of class politics into U.S. society? Will they effectively resist both major parties’ efforts to silence and destroy them? Meanwhile, the establishment Democrats and Republicans will continue their oscillating failures as the U.S. system’s mode of decline.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Richard Wolff is the author of Capitalism Hits the Fan and Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens. He is founder of Democracy at Work.

Why Muslims in the US face a crisis of leadership

Hafsa Kanjwal

8 December 2020 12:12 UTC | 

Last update: 11 hours 18 mins ago

Some Muslim American groups have turned into agents of oppression, providing cover for harmful and destructive policies towards our communities

The King Fahad Mosque in Culver City, California, is pictured on 23 May (AFP)237Shares

For many Muslims in the US, the news that we will not be plunged into fascism with a second term for President Trump has been met with relief.

However, as Muslim Americans begin to reconfigure their political advocacy, we cannot be complicit under a Biden presidency that remains true to the core principles of American neoliberalism and empire. Most importantly, we cannot go back to the Muslim American political subservience that we witnessed during the Obama years.Joe Biden, Emgage and the muzzling of Muslim America

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Muslim communities around the world – whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Palestine, Kashmir, Yemen, China or Myanmar – face many injustices today. And it is an unfortunate reality that the US is either directly responsible for, or has aided or prolonged, many of these injustices. 

There has been a push in recent decades – and especially during the Obama years – to make Muslim Americans feel a sense of exceptionalism, and to view issues from “back home” as removed from our reality in the US. This is despite the interconnected nature of how Muslims around the world are treated – and how that structural violence also impacts us here. 

From Obama to Trump

The Obama years were defined by the rise of a professional Muslim class that was made into agents of empire and oppression, providing cover or tacit approval to some of the most harmful and destructive policies towards our communities, including the ramping up of counter-violent extremism (CVE) policies using Muslim leaders and institutions. Many of these individuals or organisations positioned themselves as the “resistance” under Trump: we know they will, and already have, gone back to being the native informants for the neoliberal establishment.

The Muslim community in the US faces a crisis in terms of having a principled leadership that speaks truth to power

This means that Muslim Americans have a lot of work cut out for them. We have reached a crucial stage, in which a critical mass of fellow Muslims are pushing to sacrifice Muslims around the world and in the US in order to gain mainstream acceptance and access to certain corridors of power here.

Nowhere is this more evident than in how so many Muslim-American institutions and leaders are normalising Zionism, even as opposition to Zionism is gaining traction within the Jewish-American community. Muslim Americans may not be able to bring about a complete transformation in how the US conducts its affairs in the Muslim world – though they should at least try – but at the very least, they should not contribute to injustice. 

Trump’s presidency was devastating for many people of colour and Muslims in the US. But it also provided political clarity about the US that was not possible under the veneer of the Obama-led liberal establishment. It spurred important, long-awaited conversations about the role of imperialism, neoliberalism and white supremacy in the US that had previously been obscured.

A new generation of Muslim Americans has become politically mature and much more critical than older generations, which are still reeling from the kind of respectability politics in which we have been forced to engage post-9/11. They are building their own institutions. 

Nonetheless, there is a danger that the veering to the far right has left Obama and Biden appear to Muslims as more progressive than they actually are. While the Trump era has ignited more imaginative conversations elsewhere about reducing the military-industrial complex, ending wars, and defunding the police, it has also given establishment Muslims a portal to exercise restraint over developing these wants. 

Going forward

The Muslim community in the US faces a crisis in terms of having a principled leadership that speaks truth to power.

Far too many organisations and leaders are more interested in having access to power than in representing our agenda. Consequently, we need to hold these leaders accountable.

Muslim Americans must advise those who claim to speak on their behalf, and hold them to account if they continue to cause harm to our causes. Lives are at stake when individuals or organisations enable the state’s violence against Black or brown bodies. Silence, or a desire not to “rock the boat” or alienate anyone, makes us complicit. There is no point to “unity” if our goals are not the same. 

Former US President Barack Obama hosts an iftar dinner at the White House in 2014 (AFP)
Former US President Barack Obama hosts an iftar dinner at the White House in 2014 (AFP)

The community must also put a check on American exceptionalism. Our lives here are not more important or more valuable than those of the victims of American imperialism. Furthermore, Muslims living amid some of the most disheartening conditions around the world have a great deal to teach us – we cannot simply adopt a colonial attitude and think we know best.

In addition, Muslim Americans need to understand that Islamophobia is not just restricted to a Muslim travel ban, or someone saying negative things about Muslims. Anti-Muslim racism is built into the fabric of a number of institutions in this country, and very much part of the neoliberal establishment.

The Muslim community must move beyond symbolism, and recognise when that is weaponised. What is the point, for example, of us getting excited over a political leader saying “inshallah” if he was actively campaigning for the immoral and illegal Iraq war and was bombing Muslim communities around the world? 

The heart of Islam

Most importantly, we need to push our institutions towards meaningful representation and to hold the government accountable.

Muslim Americans need to ask themselves where they, their leaders and their institutions are standing

How many mainstream, national Muslim American organisations are talking about surveillance, entrapment, Guantanamo Bay, the military-industrial complex, or the ravages of capitalism? Are these not issues where Muslims should be at the forefront, providing leadership based on our religious values?

Situating ourselves with the most vulnerable and the oppressed has been the core of our faith and its teachings: it is the heart of Islam. 

Muslim Americans need to ask themselves where they, their leaders and their institutions are standing. Are they looking up, trying to protect their interests, serving as tokens, or maintaining the pretence of influence – or are they with the people?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Hafsa Kanjwal is an assistant professor in South Asian history at Lafayette College. Her PhD, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, was on the social history of modern Kashmir.

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
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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.

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