Do as I say … not as I do

Do as I say … not as I do

April 19, 2021

By Francis Lee who looks at the politics of development and under-development for the Saker Blog.

I think it was Sir Ian Gilmour (now deceased) who, as one time member of Mrs Thatcher’s first Cabinet in 1979, referred to her economic policy as ‘Clause 4 dogmatism in reverse.’ (1) This was an apt description from a thinking Tory. The notion that there existed a magic panacea which would banish all the problems associated with Britain’s (and the world’s) economic ills, formed the basis of Thatcherism, Reaganism, and the Third-wayism of Clinton and Blair. The so-called ‘supply-side’ revolution consisted of removing all the controls from capitalism which had been painstakingly put in place over the centuries, and simply letting the system rip – and rip it did. The 1970s was the beginning of the interregnum to the new order of the 1980s and beyond, which had ushered in policies of privatisation, deregulation, liberalisation which were the key components of this policy paradigm.

In international terms free-trade and free-markets were of course at the heart of the system – a system which was to become known as ‘globalization’ and/or neoliberalism packaged and sold as an irresistible force of nature. It was considered, by all the people that mattered, that free-trade was always and everywhere the best policy. This view was codified in what was to become known as the ‘Washington Consensus.’ The new conventional wisdom was conceived of and given a legitimating cachet by political, business, MSM and academic elites around the world.

However, many of the elements – if not all – of the Washington Consensus were hardly new, and indeed many date back to the 18th and 19th centuries and perhaps beyond. It could be said that the newly emergent mainstream orthodoxy represented a caricature of an outdated and somewhat dubious political economy.

The theory that free trade between nations would maximise output and welfare was first mooted by Adam Smith, but its final elaboration was conducted by David Ricardo in his famous work The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation first published in 1817. Briefly, he argued that nations should specialise in what they do best and in that way world output would be maximised. This policy was called ‘comparative advantage’. The hypothetical example he used was England and Portugal and the production of wine and cloth, where he calculated that England should produce cloth and Portugal should produce wine. It was asserted, though no evidence was ever presented, that all would gain from this international division of labour. The theory is in fact full of unsubstantiated and seductive notions, but its practical application is limited. Because it is based upon so many rigid and static assumptions, it is especially appealing to those of a status quo disposition, including most present- day globalist thinkers.

However, even a cursory glance at economic history, and particularly the transition from agrarian to industrial societies, demonstrates the weaknesses, and indeed, serves to falsify the whole Ricardian trade paradigm. The brute historical fact is that every nation which has successfully embarked on this transition – including the UK – has done so adopting policies which were the exact opposite of those advocated by the free-trade school. In the world of actually existing capitalism, free-trade is the exception rather than the rule. Contemporary world trade is mainly a matter of intra-firm trading, that is, global companies trading with their own affiliates and subsidiaries in different countries, mainly for tax avoidance purposes (see below). Next there are regional trading blocs like the EU or US which erect tariff barriers to non-members. Thirdly there is barter trade where goods and services are exchanged for other goods and services rather than money. Finally, only about 20% at most, can be considered to be free trade, and even here there are exceptions involving bilateral specifications and agreements.

Modernisation and industrialisation, wherever it took place, involved tariffs, infant industry protection, export subsidies, import quotas, grants for R&D, patents, currency manipulation, mass education and so forth … a smorgasboard of interventionist policies whereby the economy was directed from above by the state. For example during its period of industrialisation the United States erected tariff walls to keep out foreign (mainly British) goods with the intention of nurturing nascent US industries. US tariffs (in percentages of value) ranged from 35 to almost 50% during the period 1820-1931, and the US itself only became in any sense a free-trading nation after World War II, that is once its financial and industrial hegemony had been established. In Europe laissez-faire was also eschewed. In Germany in particular tariffs were lower in the US, but the involvement of the German state in the development of the economy was decidedly hands-on. Again there was the by now standard policy of infant industry protection, and this was supplemented by an array of grants from the central government including scholarships to promising innovators, subsidies to competent entrepreneurs, and the organisation of exhibitions of new machinery and industrial processes. In addition, ‘’during this period Germany pioneered modern social policy, which was important in maintaining social peace – and thus promoting investment – in a newly unified country … ‘’(2)

It has been the same everywhere, yet the Ricardian legacy still prevails. But this legacy takes on the form of a free-floating ideology with little connexion to either practical policy prescriptions or the real world. It has been said in this respect that ‘’ … practical results have little to do with the persuasiveness of ideology.’’(3) This much is true, but it rather misses the point: the function of ideology is not to supply answers to problems in the real world, but simply to give a Panglossian justification to the prevalent order of things.

Turning to the real world it will be seen that ‘’ … history shows that symmetric free-trade, between nations of approximately the same level of development, benefits both parties.’’ However, ‘’asymmetric trade will lead to the poor nation specialising in being poor, while the rich nation will specialise in being rich. To benefit from free trade, the poor nation must rid itself of its international specialisation of being poor. For 500 years this has not happened anywhere without any market intervention.’’ (4)

This asymmetry in the global system is both cause and consequence of globalization. It should be borne in mind that the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are suppliers of cheap raw material inputs to the industrialised countries of North America, Western Europe, and East Asia. In technological terms the LDCs find themselves locked into low value-added, low-productivity, low-research intensive dead-end production, where no discernible development or technology transfer takes place. Thus under-development is a structural characteristic of globalization, not some unfortunate accident. Put another way:

‘’ … if rich nations (the North) as the result of historical forces, are relatively well endowed with the vital resources of capital, entrepreneurial ability, and skilled labour, their continued specialisation in products and processes that use the resources intensively can create the necessary conditions for their further growth. By contrast LDCs (the global-South) endowed with abundant supplies of cheap, unskilled labour, by intentionally specialising in products that use cheap, unskilled labour … will often find themselves locked into a stagnant situation that perpetuates their comparative advantage in unskilled, unproductive activities. This in turn inhibits the domestic growth of needed capital, entrepreneurship, and technical skills. Static efficiency becomes dynamic inefficiency, and a cumulative process is set in motion in which trade exacerbates already unequal trading relationships, distributes benefits largely to the people who are already well-off, and perpetuates the physical and human resource under-development that characterises most poor nations.’’ (5)

The cocoa-chocolate industry (hereafter CCI) of the West African nations, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria are a case in point. These countries produce the majority of the world’s raw cocoa beans. But of course the industry as a whole is controlled by western multinationals such as Hershey, Nestlé and Cadbury-Schweppes (now Kraft). The structure of this industry – vertically integrated – is very typical of the relationship between the LDCs and the developed world. The low value-added part of the industry – growing and harvesting the beans – is left to individual farmers in West Africa. Buying agencies, either very close to, or in fact subsidiaries of multinational companies (MNCs), then buy the raw material at prices usually dictated by the MNCs. This asymmetrical relationship between supplier and sole buyers (the African farmers) is termed ‘monopsony’ in the economics jargon. It should be understood that large companies not only over-price their products to the final consumer, but also under-price their purchases from their captive suppliers. From then on, the various stages of the processing supply chain are in the hands of the parent company. From raw beans, to roasting, milling, refining, manufacturing of chocolate or cocoa, shipping, and packaging, branding and advertising – all of these stages add value to the product, value which is garnered by the MNC. The exporting African nations are left with the low or no value-added end of the operation, a technological cul-de-sac.

Nor does it end there. MNCs can avoid much local taxation by shifting profits to subsidiaries in low-tax venues by artificially inflating the price which it pays for intermediate products purchased from these same subsidiaries so as to lower its stated profits. This phenomenon is known as transfer pricing and is a common practice of MNCs – one over which host governments can exert little control as long as corporate tax rates differ from one country to the next. Hypothetically it works as follows:

Take a company called World Inc. which produces a type of food in Africa; it then processes it and sells the finished product in the United States. World Inc. does this via three subsidiaries: Africa Inc. (in Africa Malawi ), Haven Inc. (in a tax haven, British Virgin Islands with zero taxes) and America Inc. (in the United States).

1. Now Africa Inc. sells the produce to Haven Inc. at an artificially low price, resulting in Africa Inc. having artificially low profits – and consequently an artificially low tax bill in Africa. 2. Then Haven Inc. sells the product to America Inc. at a very high price – almost as high as the final retail price at which 3. America Inc. sells the processed product. As a result, America Inc. also has artificially low profitability, and an artificially low tax bill in America. By contrast, however, Haven Inc. has bought at a very low price, and sold at a very high price, artificially creating very high profits. However, Haven Inc is located in a tax haven – so it pays no taxes on those profits. Easy Peasy, no?

Bear in mind also that although the IMF and World Bank enjoin LDCs to adopt market liberalisation policies, they apparently see – or conveniently ignore – the past and current mercantilist practices of developed nations. Agriculture for example is massively subsidised in both the US and the EU. But it really is a question of don’t do what I do – do as I say. This hypocrisy at the heart of the problem represents the elephant in the room. We know that countries which attempt to open their markets when they are not ready to do so usually pay a heavy price (in the 1990s with Russia and the free-market shock-therapy for example). The countries which protect their growing industries until they are ready to trade on world markets have been the successes – even in capitalist terms. The wave of development in the 19th century and the development of East Asian economies during the 20th century bears witness to this.

But the object of the free-trade rhetoric and finger wagging posture of the developed world is precisely to maintain the status quo. We should be aware that: ‘’… multinational corporations are not in the development business; their objective is to maximise their return on capital. MNCs seek out the best profit opportunities and are largely unconcerned with issues such as poverty, inequality, employment conditions, and environmental problems.’’ (6)

Given the regulatory capture of the political structures in the developed world by powerful business interests, it seems that this situation is likely to endure for the foreseeable future. Development will only come about when the LDCs take their fate into their own hands and emulate the nation-building strategies of East Asia and in the 19th century by Germany and the United States. These leaders and leading nations were not to sit back and let the British rule the roost. They acted and they overcame.

Germany: Georg Friedrich List (1789-1846).  He was a forefather of the German historical school of economics and ‘National System of Political Economy’. He argued for the German Customs Union from a Nationalist standpoint. He advocated imposing tariffs on imported goods while supporting free trade of domestic goods and stated the cost of a tariff should be seen as an investment in a nation’s future productivity.

The USA – Alexander Hamilton In the aftermath of ratification, Hamilton continued to expand on his interpretations of the Constitution to defend his proposed economic policies as Secretary of the Treasury. Credited today with creating the foundation for the U.S. financial system, Hamilton wrote three reports addressing public credit, banking, and raising revenue. In addition to the National Bank, Alexander Hamilton founded the U.S. Mint, created a system to levy taxes on luxury products (such as whiskey), and outlined an aggressive plan for the development of internal manufacturing.

The USA – President – Ulysses S 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.” (7)

Markets have a strong tendency to reinforce the status quo. The free market dictates that countries stick to what they are good at. Stated bluntly, this means that poor countries are supposed to continue with their current engagement in low productivity activities. But engagement in those activities is exactly what makes them poor. If they want to leave poverty behind, they have to defy the market and do the more difficult things that bring them higher incomes – it is as simple as that, and there are no two ways about it.


NOTES

(1Clause 4 was part of the British Labour Party’s early Constitution. But is no longer in any real sense part of the constitution of the contemporary UK Labour Party, setting out the aims and values of the party (New Labour) as it is now called. The original clause, adopted in 1918, called for common ownership of heavy industry, and proved controversial in later years; the then leader, Hugh Gaitskell, attempted to remove the clause after Labour’s loss in the 1959 general election.

In 1995, under the leadership of Tony Blair, a new (revisionist) Clause IV was adopted. This was seen as a significant moment in Blair’s redefinition of the party as New Labour, but has survived and become a centrist party along with sister parties in Europe and the Democratic party in the US beyond the New Labour branding.

(2) Kicking Away the Ladder – Ha-Joon Chang

(3) The Trillion Dollar Meltdown – Charles Morris

(4) How Rich Countries Got Rich and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor – Erik Reinert.

(5) Development Economics – Todaro and Smith

(6) Ibid – Todaro and Smith

(7) Collected Works

Does the US Still Have an Economy?

February 10, 2021

Image result for paul craig roberts

Paul Craig Roberts

People want to know where the economy is headed.  What they should be asking is does the US still have an economy?  My answer is no, it doesn’t.  I will explain why.

For a quarter century I have pointed out the destructive effect of moving American investment and jobs to China and other points abroad.  Offshoring served the interests of corporate executives and shareholders. The lower labor costs raised profits and, thereby, executive bonuses and the prices of the stocks, resulting in capital gains for shareholders.  

These benefits accrued to a small percentage of the population.  For everyone else these closely held benefits imposed huge external costs many times greater than the rise in profits.  The American manufacturing workforce was devastated, as was the tax base of cities, states, and the federal government. The middle class shrunk and the populations of St Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, South Bend and Gary Indiana, Flint Michigan and other cities declined as much as 20%. The hopes and aspirations of millions of Americans were crushed. Once thriving American cities became blighted. Supply chains and real estate values collapsed. (See Paul Craig Roberts, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, Clarity Press, 2013. https://www.claritypress.com/book-author/paul-craig-roberts/ )

As incomes fell for the bulk of the American population, incomes rose for the One Percent. Income and wealth gains have been concentrated at the top resulting in the United States today having one of the most unequal distributions of income and wealth in the world.

As the offshoring of high productivity, high value-added manufacturing jobs reduced American incomes, US aggregate domestic demand was impacted and economic growth fell.  The Federal Reserve expanded credit and substituted an increase in consumer debt for the missing growth in consumer income.  This aggravated the indebtedness that economist Michael Hudson correctly emphasizes is exhausting consumer income to pay debt service—mortgages, car payments, credit card and student loan debts—which leaves little or no discretionary income to drive economic growth. 

Hudson, who has been on the job of analyzing America’s eroding economy for a long time, emphasizes that the US economy is no longer a productive or industrial economy but a financialized economy in which bank lending is not used for new plant and equipment but for the financing of takeovers of existing assets in pursuit of interest, fees, and capital gains– what the classical economists called unearned income or “economic rent.”  In short, Hudson demonstrates that the American economy is no longer a productive economy.  It is a rent-seeking economy.

Hudson points out that as the economy is increasingly financialized, looting shifts to the privatization of public assets.  The examples are endless. In the UK the post office was privatized at a fraction of its value, along with public housing, transportation and British Telephone, resulting in huge private gains. The French also privatized public holdings. In Greece the municipal ports and water companies were privatized along with Greek protected islands. In the US, segments of the armed forces are privatized, along with prisons. Chicago sold 75 years of its parking meter fees to a private entity for one lump sum payment. Everywhere public assets, including services, are being sold to private interests.  In Florida, for example, the issuance of the annual vehicle license tag is privately provided. When there is nothing left to privatize, what will banks finance?

Hudson notes that the real economists, the classical ones, focused on taxing unearned economic rent, not labor income and productive activity.  Today’s neoliberal economists are unable to differentiate between economic rent and productive activity. Consequently, GDP analysis fails to reveal the economy’s transformation from a productive to a rentier economy. Hudson terms neoliberal economists “junk economists,” and I concur.  Essentially, they are shills for the financial sector and for the offshoring corporations who paid them to conflate job and investment offshoring with free trade.

I am convinced that if the entirety of neoliberal economics were erased nothing of value would be lost.  Economists, particularly academic economists, are in the way of truth. They live in a make-believe world that they created with assumptions and models that do not bear on reality.

I am familiar with universities and academic economics. I graduated from an engineering and scientific institution—Georgia Tech—and then was a graduate student in economics at the University of Virginia, University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford University. I had four Nobel prize-winners as professors. I have a Ph.D. in Economics. I have made contributions to major journals of economics and to others outside the field, 30 published articles altogether before I left academia. I served for years as a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy with the power to decide publication of submitted research.  I have peer-reviewed books from Harvard University Press and Oxford University Press. I have debated Nobel prize winners before professional audiences. I served as a Wall Street Journal editor and as Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, and have had many university appointments.  Michael Hudson also has real world experience in major financial institutions, international organizations, and governments, as well as US and overseas professorships  and  contributions to academic publications in many languages.

In other words, we know what we are talking about. We have no interest to serve except truth. No one pays us to serve an agenda. 

But we are only two voices.

Two decades ago I was presented with the prospect of a large increase in amplification of my voice about the deleterious effects of offshoring.  In December 2003 I received a telephone call from US Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat, New York. Senator Schumer had been reading my columns in which I made the case that under the guise of free trade, jobs and investment were being moved offshore at the expense of US economic success. Senator Schumer shared my concern and asked if a Reagan Treasury official would agree to coauthor with a Democrat Senator an article for the New York Times raising the issue whether job offshoring was in America’s interest. 

Our article appeared on January 6, 2004.  Here it is:

Second Thoughts on Free Trade

By CHARLES SCHUMER and PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

New York Times, January 6, 2004

“I was brought up, like most Englishmen, to respect free trade not only as an economic doctrine which a rational and instructed person could not doubt but almost as a part of the moral law,” wrote John Maynard Keynes in 1933. And indeed, to this day, nothing gets an economist’s blood boiling more quickly than a challenge to the doctrine of free trade.

Yet in that essay of 70 years ago, Keynes himself was beginning to question some of the assumptions supporting free trade. The question today is whether the case for free trade made two centuries ago is undermined by the changes now evident in the modern global economy.

Two recent examples illustrate this concern. Over the next three years, a major New York securities firm plans to replace its team of 800 American software engineers, who each earns about $150,000 per year, with an equally competent team in India earning an average of only $20,000. Second, within five years the number of radiologists in this country is expected to decline significantly because M.R.I. data can be sent over the Internet to Asian radiologists capable of diagnosing the problem at a small fraction of the cost.

These anecdotes suggest a seismic shift in the world economy brought on by three major developments. First, new political stability is allowing capital and technology to flow far more freely around the world. Second, strong educational systems are producing tens of millions of intelligent, motivated workers in the developing world, particularly in India and China, who are as capable as the most highly educated workers in the developed world but available to work at a tiny fraction of the cost. Last, inexpensive, high-bandwidth communications make it feasible for large work forces to be located and effectively managed anywhere.

“We are concerned that the United States may be entering a new economic era in which American workers will face direct global competition at almost every job level — from the machinist to the software engineer to the Wall Street analyst. Any worker whose job does not require daily face-to-face interaction is now in jeopardy of being replaced by a lower-paid, equally skilled worker thousands of miles away. American jobs are being lost not to competition from foreign companies, but to multinational corporations, often with American roots, that are cutting costs by shifting operations to low-wage countries.

Most economists want to view these changes through the classic prism of “free trade,” and they label any challenge as protectionism. But these new developments call into question some of the key assumptions supporting the doctrine of free trade.

The case for free trade is based on the British economist David Ricardo’s principle of “comparative advantage” — the idea that each nation should specialize in what it does best and trade with others for other needs. If each country focused on its comparative advantage, productivity would be highest and every nation would share part of a bigger global economic pie.

However, when Ricardo said that free trade would produce shared gains for all nations, he assumed that the resources used to produce goods — what he called the “factors of production” — would not be easily moved over international borders. Comparative advantage is undermined if the factors of production can relocate to wherever they are most productive: in today’s case, to a relatively few countries with abundant cheap labor. In this situation, there are no longer shared gains — some countries win and others lose.

When Ricardo proposed his theory in the early 1800’s, major factors of production — soil, climate, geography and even most workers — could not be moved to other countries. But today’s vital factors of production — capital, technology and ideas — can be moved around the world at the push of a button. They are as easy to export as cars.

This is a very different world than Ricardo envisioned. When American companies replace domestic employees with lower-cost foreign workers in order to sell more cheaply in home markets, it seems hard to argue that this is the way free trade is supposed to work.

“To call this a “jobless recovery” is inaccurate: lots of new jobs are being created, just not here in the United States.

In the past, we have supported free trade policies. But if the case for free trade is undermined by changes in the global economy, our policies should reflect the new realities. While some economists and elected officials suggest that all we need is a robust retraining effort for laid-off workers, we do not believe retraining alone is an answer, because almost the entire range of “knowledge jobs” can be done overseas. Likewise, we do not believe that offering tax incentives to companies that keep American jobs at home can compensate for the enormous wage differentials driving jobs offshore.

America’s trade agreements need to to reflect the new reality. The first step is to begin an honest debate about where our economy really is and where we are headed as a nation. Old-fashioned protectionist measures are not the answer, but the new era will demand new thinking and new solutions. And one thing is certain: real and effective solutions will emerge only when economists and policymakers end the confusion between the free flow of goods and the free flow of factors of production.

Charles Schumer is the senior senator from New York. Paul Craig Roberts was assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy in the Reagan administration.”

Senator Schumer’s staff seemed to think that free trade was the problem because real world conditions had changed.  My position was that jobs offshoring was not free trade.  But I realized that any opening of the question was promising.

Our article in the New York Times had an extraordinary impact. The Brookings Institution, at that time an important liberal economic policy think tank that was home to former economic policy makers, called a Washington conference to hear us and examine our position. There was a panel with myself, Schumer, a former policymaker and the head of the US manufacturing lobby who could not figure out which side to be on.  C-Span gave the conference  live coverage and rebroadcast it a number of times.

Here is the video of the conference called in Washington to submit the argument by Schumer and myself to scrutiny: https://www.c-span.org/video/?179821-1/us-trade-policy-global-economy 

Schumer and I carried the day. Members of the audience came up afterwards, including World Bank economist Herman Daly, in support of my position that the destruction of the American manufacturing economy could not be reasoned away as a free trade result.

Senator Schumer had a sincere interest in what job offshoring was doing to his constituents.  He proposed that we continue our collaboration and write a second article for the New York Times. In those days the Times was still, partly, a newspaper rather than a total propaganda voice for the Establishment, and the Times assumed nevertheless that a Democrat Senator from New York and an Treasury Official who had been confirmed in office by the US Senate  were part of the establishment. 

The second column began and then suddenly went dead.  No response.  A telephone call revealed that the staffer with whom I was working was no longer there.  After discussing this with old Washington hands, I concluded that Schumer had not realized that he was threatening Wall Street’s interest in higher profits by opening the question of jobs offshoring and had received a good talking to.  

Wall Street Killed the Schumer/Roberts truth squad and protected the profits from job and investment offshoring.

This is what happens to elected officials when they attempt to represent the general interest rather than the special interests that finance political campaigns. The public interest is blocked off by a brick wall posted with a sign that says get compliant with the Establishment or get out of politics. Unless money is taken completely out of electoral politics, there will be no democracy.

Globalism serves to destroy sovereign and accountable government. In the US globalism destroyed the manufacturing middle class. Now Covid lockdowns are destroying the remainder of the middle class—family businesses.  Businesses have fixed costs.  When they cannot operate red ink mounts and the businesses fail.  The lockdowns together with jobs offshoring monopolize the economy in few hands.  This is not a theory.  It is what we are experiencing.  Feudalism is being resurrected.  A few lords and many serfs. The serfs will be dependent on the lords and will have no independence.

Who is Destroying Lebanon and Why?

December 27, 2020

By Thierry Meyssan
Source: Voltaire Network

Within a few months, Lebanon, often misrepresented as “the only Arab democratic state” or even as the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” has collapsed. Successively, popular demonstrations against the political class (October 2019), a banking crisis (November 2019), a health crisis (July 2020), an explosion at the port of Beirut (August 2020) caused a sudden disappearance of the middle classes and a general decline in living standards of around 200%.

From the Lebanese point of view, this horror would be due to the catastrophic management of the country by the political class, whose leaders would be corrupted except for the leader of the religious community to which the person being questioned belongs. This absurd prejudice reveals an intolerant population and masks the reality.

Since the Ottoman occupation [1], especially since independence in 1942, and even more so since the civil war (1975-90), the Lebanese population has not formed a nation [2], but an aggregate of confessional communities. The Constitution and the Taif Accords allocate all political functions and henceforth all public jobs, not according to the capacities of citizens, but according to community quotas. Each community has chosen its leaders, usually former civil warlords, who have been recognized by the international community. They managed in their own name the subsidies that the former colonial powers offered for their community. They have taken a huge amount of royalties, which they have long since transferred abroad, but they have also distributed very large sums of money to maintain their “clientele” in the image of the ancient Roman senators. It is therefore perfectly stupid to accuse them today of corruption when they have been celebrated for decades for the same work.

This system was maintained by the United States and the European Union. Thus the President of the Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salame, was celebrated as the best money manager in the Western world before being accused of hiding a hundred million dollars in personal accounts in the United Kingdom. Or, the European Union’s High Representative, Federica Mogherini, claimed to be helping Lebanon solve its waste crisis while helping the two former prime ministers, Saad Hariri and Najib Mikati, to embezzle a hundred million dollars of this sum. [3]

Only the Lebanese, who have been kept in a state of political unconsciousness for eighty years and still have not understood what they experienced during the civil war, do not realize this.

How can we fail to notice that the collapse of Lebanon follows those of Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan? How can we fail to notice that in 2001, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his advisor, Admiral Arthur Cebrowski, advocated adapting the mission of the US armed forces to emerging financial capitalism? According to them, it was necessary to destroy all the state structures of all the states of the “Broader Middle East” so that no one – enemy or friend – could prevent the exploitation of the region by US multinationals.

If we admit that this “Endless War” (sic), proclaimed by President George W. Bush, is indeed going on, we must note that the destruction of the state structures of Lebanon was achieved at a lower cost.

However, given the effectiveness of the Lebanese resistance, it was necessary to achieve this objective by non-military means that escaped the vigilance of Hezbollah. Everything had already been decided in April 2019, as attested by the US response to the Lebanese delegation visiting the US State Department [4].

Four coalition powers, the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and France, played a decisive role in this plan.

  • The Pentagon set the objective: to destroy Lebanon and exploit the gas and oil fields (plan of Ambassador Frederic C. Hof).
  • Whitehall set out the method [5]: manipulate the post-Civil War generation in order to liberate the current system without replacing it. Its propaganda specialists thus organized the so-called “October Revolution” which, contrary to what was sometimes believed, was not at all spontaneous. [6]
  • Israel destroyed the economy thanks to its control of all telephone communications (except Hezbollah’s private network) and its presence in the world banking system. It provoked the banking rout by convincing South American drug cartels that had placed their assets in Lebanon to brutally withdraw them. It deprived the country of its economic lung, the port, by bombarding it with a new weapon. [7]
  • France, for its part, proposed to privatize everything that could be privatized and put Saad Hariri back on stage to carry it out. It has applied itself to pouring out fine words while marginalizing Hezbollah [8].

Ultimately, the next twenty years should be devoted to plundering the country, especially its hydrocarbons, while the Lebanese will continue to blame scapegoats and ignore their real enemies. Already, the Israeli port of Haifa has partially replaced that of Beirut. Eventually, the country itself should be divided and the part south of the Litani River attached to Israel. [9]

It should be kept in mind, however, that the USA-UK-Israel-France coalition is not composed of equal states, but is commanded exclusively by the United States. In Libya, the USA alone pocketed the oil pact. Despite the promises made to them, their allies got only crumbs. The same scenario can be repeated in Lebanon. None of their allies could profit from their common crime.

Notes:

[1] Les Libanais ne reconnaissent pas l’Empire ottoman comme une puissance coloniale, ce qu’elle était pourtant. NdA.

[2] Par définition, le Liban n’étant pas une nation ne peut être ni une démocratie, ni une république. NdA.

[3] “EU funds embezzled by Mogherini, Hariri and Mikati”, Voltaire Network, 24 January 2020.

[4] « L’administration Trump contre le Liban », Réseau Voltaire, 2 mai 2019.

[5] Une fuite de documents officiels britannique atteste de ce rôle. Lire Complete infiltrating Lebanon (65,11 Mo). Les résultats ambitionnés ont manifestement été tenus : les Libanais souffrent tellement qu’ils ne voient plus ni l’origine de leurs problèmes, ni les solutions à portée de main, cf. “Taking Lebanon’s Pulse after the Beirut Explosion”, Michael Robbins, Arab barometer, December 15, 2020.

[6] « Les Libanais, prisonniers de leur Constitution », par Thierry Meyssan, Réseau Voltaire, 21 octobre 2019.

[7] “Israel playing with Lebanese people’s nerves”, Voltaire Network, 30 September 2020.

[8] “President Macron’s bad play in Lebanon”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Roger Lagassé, Voltaire Network, 29 September 2020.

[9] “Towards a partition of Lebanon?”, Voltaire Network, 8 October 2020.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei

November 27, 2020

Source

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei

While this press conference contains a shorter Belarus update, it has a wider context and is posted to illustrate Foreign Minister Lavrov’s clear expression of irritation with the west, which he now covers in each of his routine press conferences.  In this one, he handles among other topics, protests across the world, Heiko Maas, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE), International agencies, including the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner being silent and not doing their jobs, as well as strategic stability.

Joint session of the collegiums of the Russian and Belarusian Foreign Ministries, November 26, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have held a joint session of the collegiums of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. By tradition, it took place in a confidential and truly friendly atmosphere.

Using this opportunity, I would like to thank again our Belarusian friends for their traditional hospitality and excellent organisation of work. We highly value these annual meetings in the format of members of the collegiums and other representatives of the two ministries’ top management. They allow us to discuss in detail the most urgent international issues that involve the interests of our countries and need to be addressed.

Despite the complicated epidemiological situation, we managed to meet offline and talk face to face. We had four items on our agenda: relations of our countries with the European Union, participation in UN peacekeeping missions (in part, in the context of the prospects of the CSTO’s involvement in the UN peacekeeping activities), cooperation in the EAEU on forming the Greater Eurasian Partnership and ways of ensuring international information security.

We achieved specific agreements on all of these issues. They are reflected in a resolution that we signed in addition to the plan of consultations between our foreign ministries in 2021. We also spoke about broader cooperation in international organisations, including the CIS, CSTO, EAEU, UN and OSCE.

We and our Belarusian colleagues had to state that unfortunately our US-led Western partners continue persistently promoting their narrow selfish interests in a bid to preserve their hegemony in the world arena. They are using the concept of the “rules-based” world order, setting it directly against universal, commonly recognised standards of international law, including the UN Charter.

We are concerned about the attempts by the Western countries to establish control over international organisations, up to and including privatisation of their secretariats. When this fails, they try to replace collective work in universal formats with private get-togethers where all those who agree with the Western policy make decisions that are later presented as multilateral and binding. It is hardly possible to make us follow these rules. The overwhelming majority of countries are firmly committed to the old, tried-and-tested principle – respect for international law, primarily the UN Charter.

We noted numerous facts of crude interference by the US and those who follow in its wake (I am referring to some European capitals) in the internal affairs of sovereign states. The dirty methods of colour revolutions continue to be used. These include manipulation of public opinion, instigation and support of overtly anti-government forces and contribution to their radicalisation. We are seeing how these methods are being applied to the Republic of Belarus. We spoke about this in detail today both with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who received us before this meeting.

We were informed in great detail about the current developments in Belarus. We are not indifferent to them. The Republic of Belarus is our ally and strategic partner and also a fraternal nation. We are interested in a calm and stable situation in that country. This will be facilitated by the Constitutional reform that was launched by the Belarusian leadership as a major transformation of the political, economic and legal systems.

We believe the Belarusian people are wise and always act in a balanced manner. They are capable of resolving their problems without any outside prompting or obtrusive proposals on unwanted mediation. It is obvious that attempts to jeopardise normalisation are being made. There are many examples of this: a desire to radicalise the protesters, encouraging people to engage in subversion and high treason, which are made, in part, from abroad.

Today we again reviewed in detail the entire range of our ties and ways of protecting the interests of each of our countries, as well as the interests of the Union State of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation.

I would like to emphasise again that we are content with our joint discussion. We will carry out everything we have agreed on today.

Question (addressed to both ministers): On November 18, 2020, your German counterpart Heiko Maas accused the authorities of Belarus of violently suppressing peaceful protests. Having said this, he urged the Council of Europe to use its instruments for monitoring the situation even in those European countries that do not want to join the organisation. Could you comment on this, please?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Vladimir Makei):  We took note of how Germany took over the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE). German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas first made a speech at a closed CMCE meeting and then held a news conference. His speech was unconventional for the presidency of this pan-European body because the main goal of the Council of Europe, which is recorded in its statute, is to promote greater unity of all European countries. By definition, the President, all the more so in the Council of Europe, must focus on enhancing unity in his future work rather than stir up confrontation.

It is no secret that at the CMCE meeting prior to that news conference, Heiko Maas presented his programme for the next sixth months in a politicised vein and unacceptable tone, in a crude, undiplomatic manner. He made a number of Russophobic statements. He had grievances not only as regards the Republic of Belarus but also made groundless Russophobic accusations in respect of Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and southeastern Ukraine. His opinion on the Nagorno-Karabakh agreement also sounded rather strange.

At the news conference Mr Maas urged everyone “to respect the rules-based order.” Our Western colleagues are not going to respect international law as a matter of principle. He did say that the principles of the Council of Europe must be imposed by using relevant instruments, including on those countries that are not members of the Council of Europe. I consider this absolutely unacceptable.

It is indeed strange that of all countries it is Germany that has recently decided to act as a driver of aggressive approaches to the countries that are not NATO or EU members.

Those who are objective and pay attention to double standards will note that neither Mr Maas, nor other Western representatives or UN human rights agencies have said a word about rather serious incidents in France and Germany. There were protests by yellow vests in France, demonstrations against COVID restrictions in Germany and some other countries, and protests against a ban on abortions in Poland. They were dispersed in a very tough manner.

International agencies, including the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, stayed silent. Human rights champions in France covered the yellow vests protests in a completely different manner than they cover events in Russia and Belarus. Only in the beginning did they cautiously urge the sides to overcome their differences. But later the yellow vests began to encounter a tough police response. In the estimate of French human rights activists, almost 15,000 rubber bullets were shot at the protesters; 2,500 people were wounded and 12,000 detained, including 2,000 who were sentenced, in part, to real prison terms. But nobody speaks about this. This is considered normal because these are their compatriots. It is necessary to get rid of this attitude, especially for those who head the Council of Europe.

About a month ago, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric asked us in Moscow about our assessments of the events in the Republic of Belarus. She received our answers and inquired whether the Council of Europe can contribute to normalisation there in some way. We promised do convey her wish to those concerned. She emphasised that this will be possible only if the Republic of Belarus makes this request itself. But as you can see, the German Presidency has different plans in this respect. This is regrettable.

We will try to compel the Council of Europe, all the more so under the German Presidency, not to forget about the issues that the West is trying to hush up in many different ways. This applies to discrimination against Russian speakers in the Baltic states, the disgraceful lack of citizenship, and the so-called reforms in the field of education and language in Ukraine that are aimed only against the Russian language, as distinct from the languages of other national minorities because they are EU languages. We will not accept the efforts of the Council of Europe (or some of its members) to hush up the facts of the purposeful harassment of the Russian media, not to mention the glorification of Nazism. The German Presidency must remember all this and must not divert the Council of Europe to the discussion of issues that are more comfortable for the West and justify its positions, while ignoring the problems that have become chronic for our Western colleagues.

Question: What are the prospects for concluding new strategic stability treaties with the United States once the new administration is in office? Last year, President Trump mentioned a new trilateral document involving Russia, the United States and China. What will happen now?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a long-standing matter. True, the Trump administration was consumed (I can’t come up with any other word) by a desire to involve the People’s Republic of China in disarmament talks. Initially, they talked about the need to include the PRC in the START Treaty which is still in force, although this is impossible by definition. Then, they proposed creating a new treaty and not renewing the current one, because it’s outdated and bilateral, whereas they would like to take a step towards multilateral disarmament and arms control. Their position was erratic. As a result, they came up with a proposal to extend the treaty for another year, but on the condition that we recount each other’s warheads and put in overseers at the defence plants’ checkpoints. Counting warheads and ignoring carriers and innovative technologies that directly affect strategic stability is a frivolous and unprofessional approach.

Earlier this year, we made proposals to our US colleagues about structuring our future dialogue on arms control and non-proliferation. They stood their ground and insisted on warheads alone. They have long been interested in Russian tactical nuclear weapons, hence their interest in warheads at the expense of everything else. We say we will be ready to discuss non-strategic nuclear weapons, including warheads, when the Americans withdraw their tactical weapons from other countries. In Europe, these weapons are deployed in five NATO countries. Also, NATO structures conduct training in handling nuclear weapons for military personnel from non-nuclear countries in flagrant violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

With regard to the People’s Republic of China, President Putin has repeatedly stated that we have nothing against it, but the decision is up to the PRC. China has officially and publicly stated on several occasions that it is not going to join the talks with Russia and the United States, since its nuclear arsenal is an order of magnitude smaller than the corresponding arsenals of Moscow and Washington. We respect this position. If and when the Americans persuade China to join multilateral talks, we will have no objection to that. We will be willing to participate in them if the PRC agrees to this of its own accord. But we are not going to persuade Beijing to do so just at the whim of the Americans. But if and when a multilateral format in disarmament and arms control talks is created, we will push for France and the United Kingdom to join it as well.

When we told the Americans about this, they told us that these counties are their allies and they vouch for them. Precisely because they are allies of the United States, we would like to see them at the negotiating table, if the talks become multilateral. Washington’s absolutely hostile doctrine towards Russia cannot but raise questions about the motives of the US allies, whether in Europe or Asia. When they enter into a military alliance with a country that declares us a hostile state, we must draw our own conclusions regarding these allies.

I don’t see how we can seriously discuss anything related to the continuation of the arms control process with the Trump administration. We do not know yet what kind of administration will move into the White House or what kind of policy it will conduct. The voting results have not yet been announced officially, but there’s already an understanding that the change-of-command process is underway. Let’s wait and see what kind of assessments will eventually form in the minds of those who will shape the US strategic stability policy after January 21, 2021.

Question (addressed to both ministers): Popular protests have been growing around the world for various reasons, including political ones. The law enforcement reaction is the same everywhere, going as far as the use of force and special equipment. At the same time, such events in Belarus are receiving heightened attention from foreign politicians. What do you think is the reason?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already cited examples of protests being suppressed in France. Those drastic figures are rarely revealed to the general public. Human rights agencies in the UN system, as well as numerous human rights rapporteurs are trying their best to avoid any topics that are uncomfortable for Western representatives.

Speaking of the protests in Paris, there is a huge wave of protest against the global security bill, which includes a ban on photographing, filming or otherwise identifying law enforcement officers. I can imagine the kind of racket a bill like that would have sparked if it were proposed in Russia or Belarus. The French public and human rights groups are concerned, yet we can see no reaction from international bodies. The police used water cannons and noise grenades during rallies against the bill. The protesters, too, provoked the police, using stones and sticks. One police officer was injured. And yet, I repeat, this does not prevent the West from lecturing anyone who is not their ally.

Voting processes in Russia and Belarus have been scrutinised through a magnifying glass. When a similar story happens in the United States, it is declared “normal, it’s democracy, and everything is just fine.” Though, even respected and influential think tanks in the United States openly write about “the problems with the US electoral system.” To put it mildly, that system does not fully comply with the principles of democracy or the rule of law. They write these things themselves, but our international partners prefer to ignore them and concentrate on the countries whose “regimes” they find undesirable.

When UN rapporteurs, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, describe violent clashes in Western capitals, they urge everyone to find a solution through dialogue. When they criticise us or Belarus, they demand a change of the system. This difference is visible to the naked eye. We have long lost any illusions about what kind of standards the West is promoting and how they use double standards. We will fight, and will defend our position at the UN bodies, where these issues should be considered. We will not allow the vices that the Western community is demonstrating to be forgotten.

Question (addressed to both ministers): How can you comment on Pavel Latushko’s last interview, where he spoke about the possibility of unofficial contacts with Moscow?

Sergey Lavrov: Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has just shown me part of that interview. Not only did he mention the possibility of unofficial contacts with Moscow – he said such contacts were underway and were coordinated. He shamelessly declared he could not cite any names, but mentioned “contacts at a sufficiently high level.” He speculated whether I will be allowed to tell my Belarusian friends about it. I will answer briefly: this is a blatant lie, and it once again says something about those trying to make some kind of career with foreign handouts.

Putin Expels the Families

November 19, 2020

Putin Expels the Families

by The Ister for The Saker Blog

The 1990s was a time of immense suffering for the Russian people. As the impending collapse of the USSR became discernable, insiders such as Nikolai Kruchina, Viktor Geraschenko, and Leonid Veselovsky created a planning group to ensure the continued influence of Soviet-era officials by transferring Russian state assets to offshore shell companies and thus stripping the country’s wealth. One such offshore company, FIMACO, was used to pilfer an estimated $50 billion from the nation. Viktor Gerashchenko, the head of the central bank of Russia, sent a memorandum demanding transfers from FIMACO be covered up. It was through this looting that liquid capital was generated and used by future oligarchs to build their fortunes. An early beneficiary of this arrangement was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who had started his career as a minor Soviet official and whose Yukos oil conglomerate was tied to FIMACO. In return for his help Viktor Gerashchenko was later given a position as the chairman of Yukos by Khodorkovsky.

In 1991 the Soviet Union finally collapsed. That August, state treasurer Nikolai Kruchina, responsible for Russia’s gold reserves, died by falling from his window. He had been a member of the planning group which originated the plot to steal state assets. His successor Georgy Pavlov fell to his death from a window two months later: the oligarchs were cleaning house.

In September, the Russian central bank announced the Kremlin’s gold reserves had inexplicably dropped from the estimated 1000-1500 tons to a mere 240 tons. Two months later, Victor Gerashchenko announced Russia’s gold reserves had actually entirely vanished. While the Russian public was horrified at the revelation, European bankers were less surprised. It was whispered frequently among those circles that Soviet transport planes had been flying to and from Switzerland for months and selling off large amounts of gold. Boris Yeltsin announced his plans to privatize the nation’s assets and the real looting began.

During the privatization period, international capital wasted no time in opportunistically swooping in to take over Russian industries. The Clinton administration sought to redesign the economic policies of the nascent Russian Federation according to the Washington Consensus: privatization, deregulation, austerity, and the opening up of Russia’s companies to purchase by ultra-wealthy Americans. They gave the role of economic planning in Russia to the Harvard Institute for International Development, which sent Harvard economists to meet with Anatoly Chubais, Boris Yeltsin’s head of privatization. The close relationship with Anatoly Chubais allowed a select group of American investors to be on an inside track of financial dealings in the new Russia. One Harvard grad involved in this scheme was Jonathan Hay, convicted inside trader. He became senior advisor to the GKI, Russia’s new state privatization committee.

Certain members of this network, which included Harvard graduates Hay, Jeffrey Sachs, Andrei Shleifer, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, David Lipton, and others, misused funds from USAID that were intended for Russian economic development and rigged deals for privatization to gain control of key Russian industries in backroom negotiations. In one 1995 off market deal, Anatoly Chubais created a closed bidding process for prime national properties in which the only approved bidders were Harvard Management Company and George Soros. This resulted in the acquisition of major stakes in Sidanko Oil, Novolipetsk Steel, and Sviazinvest.

Foreign investors flocked in and the level of greed among this fifth column of new Muscovites was truly astonishing. The 1999 RICO suit Avisma Titano Magnes v. Dart Management is particularly enlightening. RICO allows victims of a racketeering conspiracy to sue conspirators for damages caused by their illegal conduct, and the following defendants were named in the action:

Kenneth Dart; Dart Management Inc, address unknown
Jonathan Hay; Dart Management Inc, address unknown
Michael Haywood; Dart Management Inc, address unknown
Michael Hunter; Dart Management Inc
Francis E. Baker; Andersen Group Inc
William Browder, Hermitage Fund
Barclays Bank, PLC

The complaint document alleges the following: the defendants and a cooperating bank called Bank Menatep, owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, had a controlling interest in titanium producer Avisma. They forced Avisma to sell its titanium below market price to offshore companies which they secretly controlled. Next, these offshore companies sold the titanium at a correct price on international markets for profit, which was then funneled back from the offshore companies to the defendants and Bank Menatep. Money that should have been booked as profits for Avisma was siphoned away, and the majority shareholders who were in on the scam benefitted at the expense of minority shareholders, the company, and Russian tax authorities.

Defendant Francis E. Baker described the actions in a private letter as, “An immense Russian bank money laundering scheme, clearly a criminal matter.” According to the complaint, the actions were discovered when defendants attempted to swap Avisma shares for shares of mining company VSMPO and replicate the same scam at VSMPO. Baker and other defendants later excused their actions by claiming the suit was Russian targeting. Sound familiar?

The criminality was not limited to foreign speculators. During the early period of privatization in the 90s a secret society of seven Russian oligarchs entirely controlled Boris Yeltsin’s administration. This group called itself Semibankirschina, named after the Seven Boyars who controlled Russia during the 17th centuryThe secret society included the following oligarchs: Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, Vladimir Gusinsky, Vladimir Potanin, and Alexander Smolensky.

A Russian journalist named Andrey Fadin described their overwhelming power in an article, “they control the access to budget money and basically all investment opportunities inside the country. They own the gigantic information resource of the major TV channels. They form the President’s opinion. Those who didn’t want to walk along them were either strangled or left the circle.” Less than one year after publishing the article Andrey Fadin was killed. Through their front man Anatoly Chubais, Semibankirschina used control of television networks to prop up Boris Yeltsin’s low approval ratings. From the mid-90s to 1999 this clique had total authority over Russian policies and industries, judiciously using violence to enforce its monopoly. In one case Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his underling Leonid Nevzlin carried out the murder of the mayor Vladimir Petukhov, who was pursuing Yukos Oil Company’s evasion of taxes.

In late 1999, Vladimir Putin became president of Russia and the fortunes of these self-appointed rulers rapidly turned for the worse. A new group of Putin insiders such as Gennady Timchenko, Vladimir Yakunin, and Sergey Chemezov formed and began supplanting the previous access that the Semibankirschina had to the president. In 2001, a state takeover of media seized the television networks previously owned by oligarchs Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, and Badri Patarkatsishvili, prompting Patarkatsishvili to denounce Russia to the New York Times and flee the country. While exiled in the UK, Patarkatsishvili died suspiciously at the age of 48. The Georgian government has called his death an assassination. Boris Berezovsky also died suspiciously in the UK after having sold his Russian assets and denounced Putin. After his television networks were seized, Vladimir Gusinsky was criminally charged with money laundering and forced to flee the country as well.

The sweep continued as three other allies of the Semibankirschina were killed: Nikolai Glushkov, Alexander Litvinenko, and Boris Nemtsov. Bill Browder was deported in 2005, and later convicted in absentia for fraud. Fraudster Konstantin Ponomarev was also convicted, sentenced to 8 years in prison for crimes relating to his extortion of $1 billion from IKEA. Jamison Firestone, an associate of Ponomarev and Browder, was forced to flee Russia due to his involvement in the Magnitsky case, and his associate Alexander Peripilichny mysteriously died while jogging near London. George Soros was banned from Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Once the richest man in the country, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s fortunes turned for the worse as well. In the early 2000s, Putin pushed through a number of populist reforms for criminal, tax, and land law, which the oligarchs of the 90s had strongly opposed. As the most blatantly criminal member of the original Semibankirschina, Khodorkovsky’s Bank Menatep had been founded with funds stolen as part of the looting of state assets. The bank operated as a hub of money laundering and engaged in countless financial scams, even delaying government funds to Chernobyl victims while using their money to financially speculate. It was Bank Menatep through which American fraudsters had allegedly ripped off Avisma shareholders with the titanium dumping scam.

In 2003, Khodorkovsky was criminally prosecuted by Putin for tax evasion and fraud for which he ended up serving 10 years in prison. His protege Leonid Nevzlin was convicted of ordering multiple contract murders on Khodorkovsky’s behalf, and sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia. Associate Platon Lebedev was also convicted and imprisoned. This wave of prosecution sent a message and gave Putin a strong position, which was used to negotiate a “grand bargain” with the remaining oligarchs: they retained most of their existing assets in return for alignment with Putin’s vertical rule of Russia. The era of financial gangsterism from the 1990s was over.

Stolen Russian gold reserves have now been restored and are at the highest levels in history. Because of the lack of collaboration with other central banks it is certain that Russian gold is present in Moscow’s vaults: there are none of the surreptitious leasing or swap agreements which call into question the claimed size of Western bank holdings. So instead of buying US treasuries or dollars for its reserves, the Bank of Russia can demand physical gold delivery into Moscow vaults. This will continually strain the fraudulent COMEX and London Bullion Market systems with the pressure of physical shipments and threaten the dollar. Unlike China, Russia is in the position to attack the dollar as a net commodity exporter, meaning when its gold purchases bid up the price of metals it is simply increasing the receipts of its own domestic commodity producing companies like Norilsk Nickel and VSMPO-AVISMA.

The economic crisis of 1998 has heavily influenced the Kremlin’s financial policy, and the last twenty years have been spent creating a resilient system. One of Putin’s first agenda items was to pay off all debt to the IMF and holdover loans from the Soviet era. Russia is now positioned to attack the dollar, as the only powerful state not operating on a debt-based system. A decade of economic warfare in the form of sanctions has cut off access to international capital: the result is one of the lowest levels of external debt of any country in the world, with cash reserves large enough to pay off all debt at once. These low debt levels have tangible benefits, primarily that Russia is now able to withstand large economic fluctuations without crumbling as a result of internal defaults. By comparison, the financial system of America would disintegrate if it attempted to sustain the decline in GDP Russia incurred from 2013-2016.

The Bank of Russia actively enforces stringent lending standards in order to prevent the emergence of consumer credit bubbles, and forces banks to hold extra cash on their balance sheets (as a result, most applications for personal credit are declined). So sanctions have actually made the country stronger, as hubris of the McCain class of American politicians has created a competitor state with no stake in the survival of the existing debt-based financial order. Russia’s mission to create resiliency and restore sovereignty foreshadows a tumultuous future, while America bets everything that the world will remain the same. The concerted plot to loot Russia has been foiled.

In December of 1999, Edmond Safra was murdered at his fabulous mansion, the Villa Leopolda in Monaco. The Safras are one of the oldest and most secretive of the banking families, with a fortune dating back to the gold trading caravans of the Ottoman Empire. Coincidentally, Safra means yellow, or gold, in Arabic. It was Edmond Safra who served as Bill Browder’s mentor in Russia, providing him with an initial seed funding of $25 million to start his Hermitage Fund. When Browder needed protection during a business dispute with an oligarch, Safra sent his emissary four armored vehicles and fifteen bodyguards led by a former Mossad agent. While Edmond Safra spent much of his later life defending himself from drug trafficking and money laundering allegations, he was accomplished, nonetheless. He founded his first bank at 23 years old and had dreamed of creating a banking dynasty that would last 10,000 years.

Just after Putin’s takeover as president, Villa Leopolda was broken into. Safra’s nurse, a former Green Beret named Ted Maher, was stabbed by two masked intruders who entered the premises, after which Safra was killed. Under pressure from Monacan authorities, Ted Maher was forced to sign a nonsensical confession in which he claimed that he stabbed himself and admitted to setting the fire in order to attempt to gain his employer’s adoration. He has since recanted this confession, saying that his defense attorneys coerced him into signing and threatened he would never see his family again otherwise. Jean-Christophe Hullin, the chief judge in the case, revealed in 2007 that the guilty conviction was a predetermined outcome which had been planned in a secret meeting with himself, Maher’s attorneys, and the chief prosecutor of Monaco: in short, Ted Maher was a fall guy for the real murderers of Edmond Safra. Now free, he believes Safra was ordered killed by Putin, “in retaliation for a plot orchestrated by Safra and Russian oligarchs to take control of all of Russia’s assets.”

It was during the purge of oligarchs and vulture capitalists that the true power behind Mikhail Khodorkovsky emerged. When it became likely he would be arrested, he arranged to have all his shares from the Yukos Oil Company transferred to the ownership of Jacob Rothschild. The transfer took place in November of 2003, giving Lord Rothschild control of shares estimated by the Sunday Times to be worth $13.5 billion. Putin subsequently liquidated and nationalized Yukos by seizing and selling off its shares to state oil companies at much below market value.

So Putin has declared war on the most powerful people on the planet.

The Ister is a researcher of financial markets and geopolitics. Author of The Ister: Escape America

The ‘Third Way’ Scam

The ‘Third  Way’ Scam

October 27, 2020

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

Historically speaking “left” ‘’right,” and ‘centre” has been the political configuration dating from the French Revolution. In the 1789 French National Assembly, the nobility and high clergy sat to the right of the chair, while the third estate and lower-status clergy sat on the left. The benches in the middle became associated with political moderation.

Over the next century-plus, most European polities allowed for a “centrist” presence. Even the design of the European parliaments where the seating arrangements were horseshoe shaped and still are, except that is for the British parliament where the contending parties sit directly facing each other; initially Tories and Whigs but from the 20th century onwards Labour and Conservative. There were the cross-benches where the minor and generally ineffective parties sat. But Centrism will likely be distressed to learn that the first recorded appearance of the word “centrist,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was an 1872 insult from London’s Daily News correspondent in France, who assailed “that weak-kneed congregation who sit in the middle of the House, and call themselves centrists.’’

In the UK the centre was traditionally moderate, providing a seating space for a small Liberal party, until that is, the late Celtic arrivals of Irish, Welsh and Scottish militant nationalists – Sinn Fein, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party who began to make their presence felt.

But it was the European party structures and their Parliamentary expression that led invariably to coalition governments; this was the case even in Nazi Germany where Hitler had to form an alliance with the Zentrum Liberal party to get an absolute majority in the Reichstag. This was quite different from the Anglo-American two party systems where the Government could de facto be elected on a one-party vote.

Nonetheless, centrism had its more forthright defenders. In the US at the dawn of the Cold War, liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger celebrated political moderation as a vigorous “Third Force” in his 1949 book The Vital Centre. Rather than left or right, he wrote, the real conflict was “freedom vs. totalitarianism.” The United States’ goal presidential election — which saw the resounding defeat of George McGovern in 1972 — occasioned a rightward shift in centre-left parties. Smarting from defeat and the Nixon triumph Democratic elites moved to retake control for a new direction for the party. And it was this that set the tone, not merely for the United States but also in Europe. In 1992 the man of the moment William Jefferson Clinton had arrived. But there was much work to be done. The sabotage of the tools that had underpinned the prosperity of the Golden Age of Capitalism (1945-75) also created unprecedented challenges for the political parties of the ‘soft’ left. Infused with what were thought to be new ideas they now began to look for new paths forward less hostile to finance and big business.

‘’We have moved past the sterile debates between those who say that government is the enemy, and those who say that government is the answer, said Clinton who, along with his wife Hilary had studied at Yale school during the 1970s, and Bill had an unfinished stint at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar in the late 60s (1) ‘My fellow Americans we have found a ‘Third Way’

THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF THE THIRD WAY

The ‘Third Way’ was a rather slippery and nebulous concept. In purely policy terms, however, the Clinton reforms were a mixed bag and differed from the postulates laid down by the former Reagan administration. In his 1992 presidential campaign Clinton promised that, if elected, he would bring about the “end of welfare as we know it.” This catchy election pledge aimed to address middle class concerns about so–called welfare dependency while also arguing that the government had an important role to play in fighting poverty and unemployment. Clinton’s Third Way position, at best, offered a way out of the liberal/conservative impasse on how to effectively reform America’s welfare system. At worst, Clinton’s position undermined the concept of welfare entitlements that the Democratic Party had established in America at an earlier period. In 1996 during the lead up to that year’s presidential election, President Clinton signed into law the most significant federal welfare Act since the 1960s. However, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) that Clinton signed had largely been drafted by congressional Republicans. Then came NAFTA, the bitterly contested policy which still rankles.

But possibly the most politically significant piece of legislation authorised by the Clinton administration was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. This Act had prevented ordinary commercial banks owning excess of certain types of dubious and dangerous financial companies, which had been considered so useful that it had survived until it was repealed in 1999 under Clinton and his Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, the former Goldman Sachs banker.

Of course this was manna from Heaven for the banking and financial fraternity, and it indicated the President’s choice of policies which had little in common with his professed ‘Third Way’ beliefs. In conclusion the failure of Clinton’s Third Way welfare agenda opened the way for more conservative reforms. This experience is illustrative of the pitfalls of Third Way politics with its mix of post–entitlement welfare policies and hard–nosed electoral positioning.

That being said the US economy began to move into high-gear during the 1990s and even managed a budgetary surplus. Alas, however, as with all upturns comes the downturns and the long-run, dot.com blow-out of 1999/2000, the US boom of the roaring 90s turned into a secular decline, and this was followed by even deeper economic crises in 2008 and now in 2020.

It could be argued in terms of cyclical political movements that there exists a rough correspondence between political and economic phases. In political terms this is usually a cyclical period between progress and reaction, movement, and order, conservative or radical, revolution and restoration. The great German social and political theorist, Max Weber, (1864-1920) would have argued that the Clinton restoration being based upon the Reagan/Thatcher ascendency was an example of charismatic authority that was superseded by legal-rational authority. In broad illustrative terms the MaoZedong period in China was followed by Chou En Lai, Trotsky was followed by Stalin, Napoleon by Louis XVIII, Cromwell was followed by the reinstallation of Charles II. As day follows night Revolution is followed by Restoration. But the restoration is never complete, and there can be no turning back to the status quo ante. But the strange thing was that during the second half of the 20th century a reactionary right-wing movement, best illustrated by Reagan and Thatcher was replaced by a milder ‘Third Way’ version of the same theory. The ‘Third-Way’ was beginning to take on rather familiar social and political forms, although its proponents would argue otherwise.

THE THIRD WAY CROSSES THE BIG POND

By 1997 the Clinton ascendancy – the Third-Way – had come to the attention of an ambitious young man who was trying to find an occupational niche for himself in the London milieu. Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, who preferred to be called ‘Tony’ (of course) and described himself as a ‘regular kind of guy’ (goes without saying) was the son of a barrister, Blair attended Fettes College in Edinburgh (a school often viewed as ‘‘Scotland’s Eton’’) and Saint John’s College of the University of Oxford, where he combined the study of law with interest in religious ideas and popular music. But he displayed little enthusiasm for politics until he met his future wife, Cherie Booth. He graduated from Oxford in 1975 and was called to the bar* the following year. While specializing in employment and commercial law, he became increasingly involved in Labour Party politics and in 1983 was elected to the House of Commons to the safe Labour parliamentary seat of Sedgefield, a tight-knit former mining district in north-eastern England. His entry into politics coincided with a long political ascendancy of the Conservative Party (from 1979) and Labour’s loss of four consecutive general elections (from 1979 through 1992). He stood as leader of the Labour party and won an overwhelming victory (1997) over a divided, dispirited and out-of-ideas, Conservative party.

Blair was one of those archetypal politicians – unfortunately one of many – who didn’t have a political notion in their heads; and as a complete opportunist he was, as was the case with Clinton, able to latch on to some of the fashionable threadbare and dubious political and economic ideas current at that time. One of those fashionable notions was the ‘Third Way’ in politics.

In fact the ‘Third Way’ was a pretty simple idea.

‘’It was an attempt by the parties of the left to stake out a new middle-ground in politics. Fuddy-duddy socialist ideas were considered distinctly de trop. Globalization as its proponents would argue, was considered inevitable, so countries should embrace it and adapt to it, hitching a ride on the growth of global financial markets, then shaving off globalizations rough edges with progressive social policies and dollops of good old-fashioned redistribution. As Blair and Germany’s Gerhard Schröder summarised it in a joint declaration in 1998, the Third Way stands out not only for social justice but also for economic dynamism and the unleashing of creativity and innovation.

But this third way was always an offshore model, a recipe for countries effectively to turn themselves into tax havens in order to prosper in rough, globalizing seas. The model was, in turn, driven by the competitiveness agenda, the notion or ideology, that states must be ‘open for business’ constantly dangling enticements to large multinationals and banks and to rootless global money – for fear that they will decamp to more hospitable or ‘competitive’ places like Dubai, Singapore or Geneva. (2)

THE IDEOLOGICAL ASSIMILATION OF THE OLD LEFT

But behind the rhetoric of a new golden age which awaited the electorates on both sides of the pond was the familiar sound of disappointment among the loyal supporters and believers who were somewhat sceptical about the new order – with good reason. The newly entrenched and consolidated Third-Way involved strict de-regulation of labour markets and only light-touch regulation – if at all – of financial markets. In the meantime financiers, were still relatively untouched by the pseudo-rhetoric of globalization. The whole dreary neo-classical credo was trotted out namely that that if left alone, financial markets would reward efficient firms and punish inefficient ones which would go out of business. Meanwhile financiers could help with mergers and transfers of ownership of the more efficient. This reasoning also bolstered demand for the privatisation of state enterprises, which was soon embraced with almost as much enthusiasm by social democratic parties as by their right-wing opponents – witness the French socialist government of Lionel Jospin and the renamed ‘New Labour’ government of Tony Blair.

The period of debt-financed growth got into gear in the early 80s during which it was sustained up until the start of the 21st century. That time bore witness not only to economic issues but also to political and ideological questions and concepts; a reactionary milieu established itself where decadence had become de rigueur. The presence of rampant individualism, obsession with self, contempt for failure was contained in Ayn Rand’s view of life. Doyenne of the new age Ms Rand’s rise in popularity coincided with the widest gap between rich and poor in the history of the US. Her books are today actually more popular than when she lived, and attempts are being made by very wealthy parties to sell her ideology as the philosophy of our era.

Ms Rand has been accused of Vulcanism, that is of exhibiting an attitude of pure logic unbalanced by empathy and humanity like the character Spock from Star Trek, who is from planet Vulcan. When people of high intelligence lack human empathy, they can be intellectually arrogant, even narcissistic.

One of the major criticisms of Ayn Rand is that all her heroes are self-centred sociopaths, as she is: they are concerned only with themselves, with their own purpose and ambition, and they are entirely unconcerned with others.

Rand also ignores context in her assessment of reality: the persistence of her logic leads to places where philosophy gets utterly divorced from common sense and reality. Philosophical materialists must contend with the facticity that we are woven into in its entirety, even with those aspects of our facticity that are what she would view as not heroic, like the hunger of the masses.

Okay it can be generally agreed that the idiosyncratic Ms Rand is a little bit over the top, but her generalisations roughly ring true with today’s ailing social and moral societal collapse.

But as Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) once noted:

‘If, in activities that almost completely fill all of our days, we follow no rule save that of our own self-interest, as we understand it, how then can we acquire a taste for altruism, for forgetfulness of self and sacrifice? Thus the lack of any economic discipline cannot fail to produce damaging social effects that spill over beyond the economic sphere, bringing with it a decline in morality.’’(3)

One wonders whether or not Ms Rand actually believes in her virulent anti-social messages, or, what I rather suspect, she is simply out to shock the more gullible by voicing what are in essence simply crackpot outpourings.

That being said she certainly has a following particularly among those well-heeled denizens who seem intoxicated with these rantings.

IT’S THE ECONOMY STUPID

Turning to economics the situation goes from bad to worse. This is hardly surprising since the attempt to abolish the trade cycle, a rather eccentric and fashionable notion since the early 1980s, was bound to result in an economic nemesis. It has been argued that:

‘’Whilst all capitalist systems are premised on the monopolisation on the gains of growth by the people who own the assets, under finance led growth these dynamics become more extreme. Rising private debt might conceal this fact during the upswing of the economic cycle, but when the downturn hits 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. This is because financialization involves the extraction of economic rents from the production process – income derived from the ownership of existing assets that does not create any new value. (4)

Paper currency is not value, it is a claim on value, a promissory note. Value is produced in the production process, whereas economic rent – rent on land, titles of future ownership claims (stocks, shares, bonds) monopolistic pricing, patents – is produced in the extractive process. It is fictitious capital. The financial economy is essentially parasitic on the productive economy.

When corporations generate ‘growth’ it should be understood that the Central Bank enables this ‘growth’ when it showers the same corporations with QE monies who simply buy-back their own shares/stocks and become richer! In the same manner when large corporations buy other smaller businesses – through mergers and acquisitions M&A, they also become ‘richer’ but in fact no new wealth has been created, what has occurred is a shift of wealth from one sector of the economy to another, this is a zero-sum game where the central bank determines the winners and losers in this rigged fixture: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Another side of this process is the increasing market concentration with the growth of monopolies/oligopolies and the monopoly rents that go with it.

Having painted itself into a corner the economics institutions, both public and private, seem unable to extricate themselves from an ever-tightening process of slow economic and political strangulation.

In summation we may say without reservation that the ‘Third-Way’ was a rather transparent con-trick reminiscent of the second-rate magician in Thomas Mann’s allegorical novel Mario and the Magician. In this particular work the sorcerer, Cipolla, is analogous to the fascist dictators of the era with their fiery speeches and rhetoric designed to hoodwink his political audience into believing that what appears to be real is in fact not real. In our own time this simulacrum is the product of modern advertising techniques designed to mask the reality behind a stream of psychological manipulation and conditioning of the audience. How long this process and phenomenon will last is problematic. Western civilization seems standing at the crossroads without a plan B.

It’s rather like Gerald Celente always says: ‘‘When everything else fails, they take you to war.’’

NOTES

(1) As the 2016 presidential campaign closed in on the finish line, the Washington Post published  an eleven-year-old tape of Republican nominee Donald Trump’s making controversial remarks about women. The inevitable partisan rancour that ensued largely targeted the behaviour Bill Clinton, husband of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, including the repetition of rumours that he had been expelled from Oxford University in 1969 for raping English classmate Eileen Wellstone.

The allegations weren’t new — Republican opposition research strategist Roger Stone had tweeted about them a year earlier:

The backdrop for these rumours was that just prior to his graduation from Georgetown University, Bill Clinton won a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at University College, Oxford, for two years and headed off to England for the 1968-69 academic term — but he returned to the United States (under a pall?) before finishing out the full two-year course of study.

There was additionally the Lewinsky affair. Yes, Mr Clinton certainly had a penchant for the ladies.

(2) Nicholas Shaxson – The Finance Curse – Chapter 5 fn 10 – p.97) In the words of Peter Mandelson, Blair’s Svengali and his co-author Roger Liddle in their book – The Blair Revolution – the main aim of the Third Way project was to ‘… overcome Britain’s continued slide into international competitiveness … based upon partnership or private and public sectors and create a more equal and cohesive society.

(3) Emile Durkheim – The Division of Labour in Society – p.xxxiv.

(4) Grace Blakeley – Stolen – p.14.

* ‘Called to the Bar’ This has nothing to do with going for a drink in a licensed establishment! It is a term used by the legal profession signifiying the entrance of the candidate into the legal profession and practising of law thereof.

Economic Pressure Won’t Force Hezbollah to Make Concessions – Deputy SG

Economic Pressure Won’t Force Hezbollah to Make Concessions - Deputy SG

Translated by Staff

Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General His Eminence Sheikh Naim Qassem blamed the crises plaguing Lebanon on successive policies of previous governments.

“The current government is working to address files in various ways to reach the best result, so it must be given a chance,” he said.

In an interview with Al-Nour radio station, Sheikh Qassem explained that “Lebanon’s Central Bank governor bears responsibility for the crisis we are in now. But he is not the only one responsible.”

“Hezbollah’s position regarding the issue of the governor is clear. It is a necessity to discuss the issue of the Central Bank within the government and not in the media so that an appropriate decision is made in this context based on placing the country’s interest above anything else,” Sheikh Qassem stressed.

His Eminence pointed out that “the dollar reaching record levels means that there are accumulated errors and a negative performance from Lebanon’s Central Bank that led us to this result. The follow-up must be to diagnose the cause and try to correct it to put an end to this chaos, and this is what the government is working on.”

The Hezbollah official noted that “the government’s economic plan is both broad and detailed. If it is approved with additional integrated plans, we will witness the beginning of solutions to the current crises.”

“The problem lies within those who reject this,” Sheikh Qassem warned.

“We have seen the draft, and we have notes on some of its provisions. The cabinet will discuss it and make a decision on it. In principle, we are against privatization. However, there is a partnership that may be useful in some matters that we can discuss separately. We might reject or agree when the time comes,” he added.

“Hezbollah has an integrated socio-economic plan that it won’t be putting forward, so it does not become the focus of discussion. It will be a point of reference for us through which we show our viewpoint in the government.”

Sheikh Qassem also stressed that “there are parties who want to overthrow the government, but their capabilities and the objective conditions do not allow them to do so.”

“The government is strong, stable, and coherent. It made practical steps to put the country on the right course.”

The senior Hezbollah official urged people not to downplay the government’s progress in combating coronavirus pandemic.

“Hezbollah supports a strong and effective state in Lebanon. It supports drawing up comprehensive reform and salvation plans. And this is what the party is exercising in the parliament and government,” Sheikh Qassem said.

“Holding Hezbollah responsible for what is going on in Lebanon is unrealistic. Hezbollah will not respond to campaigns launched against it because it is interested in working for the country and not in political wrangling.”

“All attempts to bring about sedition at home have failed,” he added.

Regarding the fight against corruption, Sheikh Qassem asserted that “this battle has its tools, while reform has practical steps.”

“Hezbollah is not the only responsible side in this field, and it is doing the best it can within the Lebanese structure.”

Sheikh Qassem said he believes that “the 2000 liberation resulted in Lebanon regaining its freedom, independence, and well-being.”

He also underscored the readiness of the resistance “to defend Lebanon and respond to any aggression decided by any Zionist government.”

“The liberation’s great results also impacted those who refused to recognize them. We now feel that we are a country that is not under the guillotine of the ‘Israeli’ enemy.”

“‘Israel’ knows exactly what happened on the border and who was behind it. It is enough that the enemy understood the message behind what happened. That is sufficient.”

“The US and ‘Israel’ will utilize all weapons against their enemies and opponents, and I do not absolve them from tampering with the Lebanese home front,” Sheikh Qassem concluded.

“Hezbollah does not make concessions through economic pressure. It is in their [‘Israel’ and the US] interest that matters do not reach the abyss.”

Towards A New World Order? The Global Debt Crisis and the Privatization of the State

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, April 17, 2020

There is a serious health crisis which must be duly resolved. And this is a number one priority.

But there is another important dimension which has to be addressed. 

Millions of people have lost their jobs, and their lifelong savings. In developing countries, poverty and despair prevail. 

While the lockdown is presented to public opinion as  the sole means to resolving a global public health crisis,  its devastating economic and social impacts are casually ignored.  

The unspoken truth is that the novel coronavirus provides a pretext to powerful financial interests and corrupt politicians to precipitate the entire World into a spiral of  mass unemployment, bankruptcy and extreme poverty. 

This is the true picture of what is happening.  Poverty is Worldwide. While famines are erupting in Third World countries, closer to home,  in the richest country on earth,

millions of desperate Americans wait in long crowded lines for handouts”

“Miles-long lines formed at food banks and unemployment offices across the US over the past week”   

In India:

food is disappearing, ….  in shanty towns, too scared to go out, walking home or trapped in the street crackdowns,

In India there have been 106 coronavirus deaths as of today, to put things in perspective 3,000 Indian children starve to death each day” 

From Mumbai to New York City. It’s the “Globalization of Poverty”.

Production is at a standstill. 

Starvation in Asia and Africa. Famine in the U.S. 

All countries are now Third World countries. It’s the “Thirdworldisation” of the so-called high income “developed countries”.  

And what is happening in Italy?

People are running out of food. Reports confirm that the Mafia rather than the government “is gaining local support by distributing free food to poor families in quarantine who have run out of cash”. (The Guardian)

This crisis combines fear and panic concerning the COVID-19 together with a sophisticated process of economic manipulation.

Let us first examine the impacts pertaining to the developing countries.

Developing Countries. The IMF’s “Economic Medicine” and the Globalization of Poverty

Is the coronavirus crisis part of a broader macro-economic agenda?

First some historical background.

I spent more than ten years undertaking field research on the impacts of IMF-World Bank economic reforms in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Since the early 1980s, “strong economic medicine” was imposed on indebted developing countries under what was called the “structural adjustment program” (SAP).

From 1992 to 1995, I undertook field research in India, Bangladesh and Vietnam and returned to Latin America to complete my study on Brazil. In all the countries I visited, including Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco and The Philippines, I observed the same pattern of economic manipulation and political interference by the Washington-based institutions. In India, directly resulting from the IMF reforms, millions of people had been driven into starvation. In Vietnam – which constitutes among the world’s most prosperous rice producing economies – local-level famines had erupted resulting directly from the lifting of price controls and the deregulation of the grain market. (Preface to the Second Edition of the Globalization of Poverty, 2003)

 The hegemony of the dollar was imposed. With mounting dollar denominated debt, eventually in most developing countries the entire national monetary system was “dollarized”.

Massive austerity measures were conducive to the collapse in real wages. Sweeping privatization programs were imposed. These deadly economic reforms -applied on behalf the creditors- invariably triggered economic collapse, poverty and mass unemployment.

In Nigeria starting in the 1980s, the entire public health system had been dismantled. Public hospitals were driven into bankruptcy. The medical doctors with whom I spoke described the infamous structural adjustment program (SAP) with a touch of humor:

“we’ve been sapped by the SAP”, they said, our hospitals have literally been destroyed courtesy of the IMF-World Bank.

From Structural Adjustment to Global Adjustment

Today, the mechanism for triggering poverty and economic collapse is fundamentally different and increasingly sophisticated.

The ongoing 2020 Economic Crisis is tied into the logic of the COVID-19 pandemic: No need for the IMF-World Bank to negotiate a structural adjustment loan with national governments.

What has occurred under the COVID-19 crisis is a “Global Adjustment” in the structure of the World economy. In one fell swoop this Global Adjustment (GA) triggers a Worldwide process of bankruptcy, unemployment, poverty and total despair.

How is it implemented? The lockdown is presented to national governments as the sole solution to resolve the COVID-19 pandemic. It becomes a political consensus, irrespective of the devastating economic and social consequences.A Global People’s Bailout for the Coming Financial Crash

No need to reflect or analyze the likely impacts. Corrupt national governments are pressured to comply.

The partial or complete closing down of a national economy is triggered through the enforcement of  so-called “WHO guidelines” pertaining to the lockdown, as well as to trade, immigration and transportation restrictions, etc.

Powerful financial institutions and lobby groups including Wall Street, Big Pharma, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were involved in shaping the actions of the WHO pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lockdown together with the curtailment of trade and air travel had set the stage. This closing down of national economies was undertaken Worldwide starting in the month of  March,  affecting simultaneously a large of number of countries in all major regions of the World.  It is unprecedented in World history.

Why did leaders in high office let it happen? The consequences were obvious.

This closing down operation affects production and supply lines of goods and services, investment activities, exports and imports, wholesale and retail trade, consumer spending, the closing down of schools, colleges and universities, research institutions, etc.

In turn it leads almost immediately to mass unemployment, bankruptcies of small and medium sized enterprises, a collapse in purchasing power, widespread poverty and famine.

What is the underlying objective of this restructuring of the global economy?  What are the consequences? Cui Bono? 

  • A massive concentration of wealth,
  • the destabilization of small and middle sized enterprises in all major areas of economic activity including the services economy, agriculture and manufacturing.
  • It derogates the rights of workers. It destabilizes labor markets.
  • It compresses wages (and labor costs) in the so-called high income “developed countries” as well as in the impoverished developing countries.

Needless to say this Global Adjustment (GA) operation is far more detrimental than the country-level IMF-WB structural adjustment program (SAP).

It is neoliberalism to the nth degree.

In one fell swoop (in the course of the last months) the COVID-19 crisis has contributed to impoverishing a large sector of the World population.

And Guess who comes to the rescue? The IMF and the World Bank:

The IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has casually acknowledged that the World economy has come to a standstill, without addressing the causes of economic collapse.

“The WHO is there to protect the Health of the People, The IMF is there to protect the health of the World economy” says Georgieva.

 How does she intend to “protect the World economy”?

At the expense of the national economy?

What’s her “magic solution”?

 “We rely on $1 trillion in overall lending capacity.” (IMF M-D Georgieva, Press Conference in early March)

At first sight this appears to be “generous”, a lot money. But ultimately it’s what we might call “fictitious money”, what it means is:

“We will lend you the money and with the money we lend you, you will pay us back”.(paraphrase).

The ultimate objective is to make the external (dollar denominated) debt go fly high.

The IMF is explicit. In one of its lending windows, the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, which applies to pandemics, generously,

“provides grants for debt relief to our poorest and most vulnerable members.”

Nonsensical statement: it is there to replenish the coffers of the creditors, the money is allocated to debt servicing.

“For low-income countries and for emerging middle-income countries we have … up to $50 billion that does not require a full-fledged IMF program.”

No conditions on how you spend the money. But this money increases the debt stock and requires reimbursement.

The countries are already in a straight-jacket. And the objective is that they comply with the demands of the creditors.

That’s the neoliberal solution applied at a global level: No real economic recovery, more poverty and unemployment Worldwide. The “solution” becomes the “cause”. It initiates a new process of indebtedness. It contributes to an escalation of the debt.

The more you lend, the more you squeeze the developing countries into political compliance. And ultimately that is the objective of the failing American Empire.

The unspoken truth is that this one trillion dollars ++ of the Bretton Woods institutions is intended to drive up the external debt.

In recent developments, the G20 Finance ministers decided to “put on hold”,  the repayment of debt servicing obligations of the World’s poorest countries.

The cancellation of debt has not been envisaged. Quite the opposite. The strategy consists in building up the debt.

It is important that the governments of developing countries take a firm stance against the IMF-World Bank “rescue operation”. 

The Global Debt Crisis in the Developed Countries

An unprecedented fiscal crisis is unfolding at all levels of government. With high levels of unemployment, incoming tax revenues in developed countries are almost at a standstill.  In the course of the last 2 months, national governments have become increasingly indebted.

In turn, Western governments as well as political parties are increasingly under the control of  the creditors, who ultimately call the shots.

All levels of governments have been precipitated into a debt stranglehold. The debt cannot be repaid. In the US, the federal deficit “has increased by 26% to $984 billion for fiscal 2019, highest in 7 years”.  And that is just the beginning.

In Western countries, a colossal expansion of the public debt has occurred. It is being used to finance the “bailouts”, the “handouts” to corporations as well as “the social safety nets” to the unemployed.

The logic of the bailouts is in some regards similar to that of the 2008 economic crisis, but on a much larger scale. Ironically, in 2008, US banks were both the creditors of the US federal government as well as the lucky recipients: the rescue operation was funded by the banks with a view to  “bailing out the banks”. Sounds contradictory?

The Privatization of the State

This crisis will  eventually precipitate the privatization of the state. Increasingly, national governments will be under the stranglehold of Big Money.

Crippled by mounting debts, what is at stake is the eventual de facto privatization of the entire state structure, in different countries, at all levels of government, under the surveillance of powerful financial interests. The fiction of  “sovereign governments” serving the interests of the electors will nonetheless be maintained.

The first level of government up for privatization will be the municipalities (many of which are already partially or fully privatized, e.g. Detroit in 2013). America’s billionaires will be enticed to buy up an entire city.

Several major cities are already on the verge of bankruptcy. (This is nothing new).

Is the city of Vancouver up for privatization?: “the mayor of Vancouver has already indicated that he feared the bankruptcy of his city.” (Le Devoir, April 15, 2020)

In America’s largest cities, people are simply unable to pay their taxes: The debt of New York City for fiscal 2019 is a staggering $91.56 billion (FY 2019) an increase of 132% since FY 2000. In turn personal debts across America have skyrocketed.

“U.S. households collectively carry about $1 trillion in credit card debt”. No measures are being taken in the US to reduce the interest rates on credit card debt.

The New World Order?

The lockdown impoverishes both the developed and developing countries and literally destroys national economies.

It destabilizes the entire economic landscape. It undermines social institutions including schools and universities. It spearheads small and medium sized enterprises into bankruptcy.

What kind of World awaits us?

A diabolical “New World Order” in the making as suggested by Henry Kissinger? (WSJ Opinion, April 3, 2020):

“The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Forever Alter the World Order”

Recall Kissinger’s historic 1974 statement: “Depopulation should be the highest priority of US foreign policy towards the Third World.” (1974 National Security Council Memorandum)

The political implications are far-reaching.

 What kind of government will we have in the wake of the crisis?

Concluding Remarks

There is a lot of misunderstanding regarding the nature of this crisis.

Several progressive intellectuals are now saying that this crisis constitutues a defeat of neoliberalism. “It opens up a new beginning”.

Some people see it as a “potential turning point”, which opens up an opportunity to “build socialism” or “restore social democracy” in the wake of the lockdown.

The evidence amply confirms that neoliberalism has not been defeated. Quite the opposite.

Global capitalism has consolidated its clutch. Fear and panic prevail. The State is being privatized. The tendency is towards authoritarian forms of government.

These are the issues which we must address.

That historical opportunity to confront the power structures of global capitalism, –including the US-NATO military apparatus– remains to be firmly established in wake of the lockdown.


The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order

In this expanded edition of Prof. Michel Chossudovsky’s international best-seller, the author outlines the contours of a New World Order which feeds on human poverty and the destruction of the environment, generates social apartheid, encourages racism and ethnic strife and undermines the rights of women. The result as his detailed examples from all parts of the world show so convincingly, is a globalization of poverty.

This book is a skillful combination of lucid explanation and cogently argued critique of the fundamental directions in which our world is moving financially and economically.

In this updated and enlarged edition – which includes ten additional chapters and a new introduction – the author reviews the causes and consequences of famine in Sub-Saharan Africa, the dramatic meltdown of financial markets, the demise of State social programs and the devastation resulting from corporate downsizing and trade liberalization.

“This concise, provocative book reveals the negative effects of imposed economic structural reform, privatization, deregulation and competition. It deserves to be read carefully and widely.”
– Choice, American Library Association (ALA)

“The current system, Chossudovsky argues, is one of capital creation through destruction. The author confronts head on the links between civil violence, social and environmental stress, with the modalities of market expansion.”
– Michele Stoddard, Covert Action Quarterly

Global Research Price: $19.00
CLICK TO BUY

PDF Version: $9.50
Sent directly to your email – cut on mailing expenses!
CLICK TO BUY
The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2020


Pilots break strike unity as Macron’s ‘Thatcher moment’ is right now

December 31, 2019

By Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

But nobody is making a sound about it, and not even Macron.

Maybe they will now: The first union has selfishly broken ranks – French pilots and cabin crews. It’s a “universal” pension system, sure… except for the groups who Macron has to buy off to break the strike.

French President Emmanuel Macron has barely said two words about the general strike, even though it has lasted four weeks and will soon become the longest general strike ever in French history.

And many French don’t even mind. It’s a quirk of the French system I cannot yet explain: they view it as normal that Macron has not commented on the general strike because that is the domain of the prime minister.

French contradictions abound, and they think the mystery makes them appear deep: France’s president is well-known to be closest thing to a constitutional dictator the West has, and yet the PM is supposed to be given much latitude on domestic policy?

I have heard this often, but never seen it action: the idea that Macron’s PM is not beholden to the ideas and orders of his boss on the pension plan is absurd. To me it has always seen like a way for the president to have someone to blame his unpopular policies on.

But Macron has given one press conference in 2.5 years, and he didn’t say the words “Yellow Vest” in public until after 23 Saturdays, and no one seems up in arms about it (besides the Yellow Vests), so… c’est la France.

Macron will probably make a rote plea for unity at his annual New Year’s Eve wishes – the guy is speaking at 8pm, so if all you have going is watching Macron’s press conference then take heart: 2020 can only get better than 2019 for you.

The coverage of the general strike from non-French media reminds me of France’s recent coverage of the resolution (one step below a law) which equates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism: there was a decent amount of coverage AFTER the resolution became a fact.

This was obvious to predict, but there is an omertà regarding France’s general strike from Anglophone media – it’s almost as if they don’t want to ruin a good thing. If there was any room for leftism in the West’s “free speech means corporate media own all speech” now would be the time to be up in arms with keyboards in hands. But people repeatedly tell me they can’t find anything about it in non-French sources.

Honestly: This can’t go on in France any longer

Without any exaggeration, the French (and certainly the “French model”, aka “Capitalism with French characteristics) simply cannot sustain more austerity attacks which “re(de)form” it into an Anglo-Saxon model and here’s why: If you take home €2,500 a month in France you have a really good job (especially in 2019). If you take home $2,500 per month in the US (making about $20 per hour) your job is desirable but not really good.

Yes, 42% of Americans don’t even make $15 hour but the point is: the French model is based on low wages. The Swiss, Germans, UK, etc. – they all make much more than rich France.

The reason France accepts lousy wages was their Nordic-level social safety net: so they had guaranteed work contracts (“CDIs”), 2-3 years of decent unemployment, 5 weeks paid vacation legal minimum, cheap schools from 3 months old to PhD, cheap medical care and a good pension. Make no mistake because I know you right wingers will: This is a system which is paid for by the French worker giving up 40% of their pay check every month, and then 10% annually in an income tax. I.e., low wages.

That concept is crucial to understand. A whopping 80% of the pension system is funded by taxes on individuals and bosses, and not the state. The French pension isn’t “unsustainable” at all: if it is “underfunded” it is only on the state side, and only because the state has purposely starved it of funds via funding cuts. With the stroke of a budget pen its minor deficit could be resolved. Baby Boomers will be dropping like flies by the 2030s reducing fiscal stress- the system works, and it can last.

This explains why all neoliberals can really come with to justify junking the ENTIRE system is that it is too “complex”. Why is complexity automatically a negative thing? I’m glad these guys didn’t take up physics. The other reason they deploy is that some people – like manual laborers, those who work in hard and/or dangerous conditions – retire early to avoid death/maiming on the job due to “you’re too old for this” syndrome. They have seized upon the “injustice” of these “special regimes”. All of a sudden neoliberals care about injustice….. Of course the one-size-fits-all, universal system is as regressive (not progressive) as a flat tax, and that’s why no nation does it.

But back to how this onslaught of “reforms” is just unsustainable: reduced services which used to be covered by the state, increased prices on everything, Housing Bubble II, new jobs are all one-month renewable contracts (CDDs), you have to work until 64 instead of 60 in 2009, your pension is going to leave you barely at poverty level – you cannot have this AND low wages in France.

It is just impossible, logically. Something has to give on one of the ends.

If they are going to make it so that all the state is provides is health care and education and then citizens are on their own – the glorious Apache-killing Arizona libertarian model (with a touch of European class) – then they have to vastly inflate wages.

But nobody is talking in France about raising wages to compensate for the worse pensions, nor for any of the austerity measures.

So this can’t go on.

And yet it will – Macron is tackling the unemployment system next, i.e. later this year. Is there going to be a General Strike Act 2?

If the US and UK are any example – no there won’t be. So this may be the end of “France”. Remember the US and UK prior to Reagan and Thatcher – sure was better back then, or at least far less unequal and unstable.

Can Macron get his wish? To be the youngest (despised) leader in Western capitalist history?

One can picture Macron just white-knuckling it right now – if he can just get break this strike… the dude will go down in right-wing history. Or is it “centrist” history for Macron?

When Thatcher died there was UK police brutality at the street parties celebrating her death. That sounded about right to me. The New York Times scolded us with superstition and expressed their fake shock in their pathetic Taboo on Speaking Ill of the Dead Widely Ignored Online After Thatcher’s Death.” This is a taboo in the West – since when? The West cares about taboos – since when? I know they don’t care about taboos because they need a loan word for this rather crucial social concept – the word itself is Tongan, and the English didn’t get to Polynesia until 1773.

As I led with, French pilots and cabin crews have called off a strike they had planned for January 3 – they got a sweetheart deal from Macron, and you can all go kick rocks for calling them “stewardesses”. The Macron administration has only negotiated en masse with unions for three days out of 26 consecutive strike days – they never wanted to make a broad deal but only a few small deals in order to “divide and conquer” and break the strike.

This has worked every time during the age of austerity. I have written this many times but I will say it again, cuz some of y’all think the Western system is the apex of everything political: This is what “independent” labor unions get you – sold out. The socialist model of “we’re all in one big union” means the workers are truly in the government, not against the government… and against the good of the People, and against their fellow workers, and against their fellow unions and against, against, against it’s called “capitalism” people.

But the West is “freer” than China, Iran, Cuba, etc. Sure, free to be unequal.

Back to France: it’s getting hard, having a commute 2-3 times longer for four weeks. I’m not breaking rocks all day, but it’s grating on people.

That’s really what the “general strike” has amounted to – public transport shutdowns. The burden of the national good is basically all on the backs of rail workers. The unions have only called 3 days of nationwide protest and strikes – this means that even politically-active people have probably only taken 3 strike days of lost wages, whereas “good” rail workers have lost a month. What a stupid system they have here? Plenty of protest marches and big talk but when it’s general strike time (finally!) it’s: “I can’t afford it – let the rail workers do it.”

Truly, before we had the Yellow Vests we only had the rail workers: in the age of austerity they were always the ones (along with some of us journalists) at the front lines getting gassed and beating back cops. They have led every major anti-austerity movement. Nobody really joined them when they tried to prevent the EU-forced privatisation of French rails (Same thing back then in the media: “The rail system is bankrupt!” No it’s not, it was purposely starved of state funding.) They led the huge 1995 strike as well.

Not the stewardesses and their Top Gun flyboys. They have left France in the lurch.

I guarantee that tonight many will have a few glasses of wine and say, “Zees solidarité ees all phony!”, just to appear smart and courageous (the French are always wishing each other “good courage”), and the strike will fall apart.

That’s the France I know – Windbag France, aka Faithless France.

But we have the Yellow Vests now. Maybe General Strike 2 is République Française VI? Tides turn, the moon waxes and wane, the meek inherit a decent pension.

General striking is hard, but just don’t be a stewardess. Excuse me, Airplane Cabin Executive. Gotta love that Western model….


Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism.’

الحريري: طلبات أميركا… أوامر!

Image result for ‫سعد الحريري مع الدب الدتشر‬‎

هل هو فعلاً مختطف، لكنه محتجز هذه المرة في بيته في بيروت؟ ام هو يحسن لعب الدور، فيتحول الى خاطف لرئاسة الحكومة، يحملها معه في تنقلاته بين الغرف والطوابق ويحضنها في سريره كأعز من ألف عشيقة؟

 

ابراهيم الأمين

الأربعاء 4 كانون الأول 2019

واجه سعد الحريري أصعب الاستحقاقات في حياته. فلا هو قادر على عدم تأليف حكومة جديدة. وفي الوقت نفسه يواجه ضغطاً كبيراً من الداخل والخارج للسير بتسوية ما. المسألة هنا تتعلق في كون الحريري لا يمكنه الخروج من السلطة الآن. واذا اجبر على هذه الخطوة، فهو سيبدأ بزرع الالغام على طول الطريق التي يفترض ان تسلكها من التكليف الى التأليف الى جلسة الثقة.

عدم رغبة الحريري بأن يشكل غيره الحكومة ترتبط بمصيره. الحديث، هنا، عن بطالة كاملة. عن تقاعد مبكر غير مضمون النتائج. عن اعتزال مبكر لكل أنواع الأعمال السياسية والتجارية. عن اعتكاف يقود صاحبه الى الابتعاد تدريجياً عن الأنظار حتى يصبح منسياً. عن مغادرة تعني الهروب الى أقاصي الارض بحثاً عن ملاذ آمن.

رئاسة الحكومة، بالنسبة إلى الحريري، تعني كل مستقبله. تعني مستقبله السياسي كواحد من زعماء لبنان، لا يمكنه، من دون السلطة والمال، قيادة تياره ولا كتلته النيابية في مواجهة صقور يريدون انتزاع الزعامة منه احتجاجاً على قلة دراية أو نقص في الوضوح أو تردّد في المواجهة. تعني مستقبل علاقته مع الناس في المناطق والقطاعات حيث انفرط عقد التيار ليعود الى جمعيات، النفوذ فيها لمن يملك القدرة على الدفع أو رفع الصوت. تعني فتح أفق الاعمال التجارية الجانبية بعد توقف المصدر الاول للرزق في السعودية والعالم. والعزوف عن الرئاسة يعني تعرضه لعزل من العائلة نفسها، في مواجهة زوجة والد لم تعد تطيق كل تصرفاته، وإخوة يتوزعون بين من يقاطعه ومن يحاربه مباشرة وعلناً، ومن لم يعودوا يرون في لبنان حتى مكاناً للعيش.

رئاسة الحكومة تعني لسعد الحريري الحصانة الفعلية في مواجهة مئات المعارك القانونية في لبنان والسعودية والامارات وغيرها. تعني حصانة تحول دون اعتقاله على باب طائرته الخاصة في عاصمة ما والتحقيق معه ومصادرة طائرته وما معه من حلي وثياب. تعني حصانة لا تزال تفتح له أبواب قادة وحكومات وأجهزة وشركات في العالم بصفته لا بشخصه.

Image result for ‫الدب الداشر‬‎

حصانة تقيه شر العزلة التامة التي تحوله الى رقم منسيّ إذا ما قرّر خصومه ذلك. حصانة تحول دون اعتقال وسجن أكيدين في ما لو زار السعودية كحامل لجنسيتها فقط. عندها، لن يقيه أحد في العالم شر «الدب الداشر».

رئاسة الحكومة تعني للحريري مركز نفوذ متنوع في لبنان وقابل للاستخدام في المحيط القريب والبعيد. تعني بقاءه في ظل حماية أمنية محلية وإقليمية ودولية، وهو هاجس صار يسكنه كما حال العائلات الحاكمة في بلادنا والعالم. تعني البقاء على التواصل مع جهات قوية في لبنان يمكنها أن تمحو رقم هاتفه من ذاكرة هواتفها لو استقال. وهي تحول دون سقوط ما تبقّى من هيبة له بين رجال أعمال وسماسرة وشركات تخشى قدرته على تعطيل أعمالها أو عرقلتها. وتعني، أيضاً، قدرة على استمالة ناس من هنا وهناك باسم الطائفة والموقع والبلاد.

كل ذلك يعني، ببساطة، أن الحريري لن يترك رئاسة الحكومة من دون قرار كبير يتخذه من يملك القدرة على تقرير مصيره السياسي. تجربة الاحتجاز في السعودية لم تمنحه قوة مقاومة لعدم تكرار التجربة، بل يبدو أن الايام القليلة التي أمضاها في معتقل مرفّه، أصابته بمتلازمة استوكهولم التي تجعل الرهينة أسير دونية غير مفسّرة أمام خاطفه. وهو الذي ضعف وارتبك وخاف من مصارحة الناس بحقيقة ما حصل معه، وتراجع عن محاسبة من خانه وتآمر عليه من أبناء بيته، وأبناء تياره، وأبناء جلدته ايضاً. وأصابته عوارض إطلاق السراح المشروط، فلا هو قادر على شكر من ساعده على الخروج من أزمته، ولا على الجهر بحقيقة من أعانه وأخرجه من سجنه بالقوة لا بالدبلوماسية. وهو الذي لم يقدر حتى على بقّ البحصة التي تحولت كتلاً خرسانية تعطل كامل جسده.

الذين يعرفون سعد الحريري جيداً يتحدثون عن مفاجآت في شخصه هذه الايام. عصبيّته وطريقة أكله للسيجار، لا تدخينه، وعلاقته مع طعامه أو نبيذه الفاخر، وطريقة جلوسه داخل الدار وخارجها، كل ذلك لا يعكس ارتياحاً، بل ضيقاً شديداً يرفع من منسوب توتره الشخصي.

واللافت أن الرجل الذي عُرف ببساطته السياسية وقلة حنكته في إدارة التحالفات والملفات، «أصيب» فجأة بنوبة من دهاء غير مسبوق. وما يقوم به في سياق ملف تشكيل الحكومة الجديدة، يعيد الى الأذهان حكايات بيروت عن مفاوضات صائب سلام ورشيد كرامي وآل الصلح. حتى والده لم يكن يهتم بالطرق الملتوية. وربما كان الحضور السوري في القرار النهائي مانعاً للمناورات. لكن، رغم ذلك، لم يكن رفيق الحريري يحتاج الى ألاعيب جانبية.

هل هو فعلاً محتجز هذه المرة لكن في بيروت، أم خاطف لرئاسة الحكومة، لا يريد تركها لحظة ويحضنها في سريره كأعزّ من ألف عشيقة؟

وحتى لا يبدو أن في الامر إهانة شخصية، لنقل إن سعد يحيط نفسه، أو إن هناك من يحيطه، بمن هم قادرون على التلاعب بالحقائق بطريقة افضل، وعلى درجة من الحنكة غير المسبوقة في بيت الوسط: من إبعاده المتعِبين من حوله، المعروفين بكثرة الكلام وقلة الافعال، الى إدارة شارعه الغاضب لألف سبب غير ملف رئاسة الحكومة، الى تعامله مع الازمات الهائلة التي تمر بها البلاد، الى طريقة إدارته مرحلة تصريف الاعمال، إذ يهمل ما يتعبه في الاقتصاد والادارة ويمسك بما يفيده في الامن والمال. والاهم طريقة إدارته النقاش مع المرشحين لخلافته في رئاسة الحكومة. فيظهر في غالب الاحيان كزاهد في الحكم، وغير مهتم بتفاصيل تشكيل الحكومة، وراغب في الابتعاد للاستراحة، لكن، سرعان ما يصبح شيخاً في السياسة، له باعه في النصح والمشورة. وما يخرج من فمه ليقع مباشرة في أذن من يطمح لخلافته، يتحول رصاصاً يجعل منافسه صريعاً فاقداً لأهلية الدور.

أما ملاحظاته، أو وصاياه، فهي، ببساطة شديدة، ليست سوى المطالب الواضحة لتحالف السعودية – أميركا الذي يدرج لبنان ساحة مركزية في معركته المفتوحة مع إيران ومحور المقاومة. وهي معركة لها أبعادها السياسية والعسكرية والاقتصادية. لذلك، يكون الحريري واضحاً في مطالبه:

أولاً: لا تراجع عن السياسات المالية والاقتصادية ولا خيارات سوى الإقرار ببرامج الخصخصة الكاملة، وضرورة تأبيد وجود رياض سلامة في حاكمية مصرف لبنان.

ثانيا: إضعاف التيار الوطني الحر من خلال منع رئيسه جبران باسيل من الدور الوزاري المباشر، وحرمانه من حقائب اساسية تجعله قليل القوة في مواجهة خصمه الرئيسي سمير جعجع.

ثالثاً: تعزيز استقلالية الجيش وقيادته عن سلطة رئيس الجمهورية ووزارة الدفاع، ومنع التعرض لقائد الجيش العماد جوزيف عون ومدير الاستخبارات العميد طوني منصور، والإقرار بهامش خاص لعمل الجيش على طول حدود لبنان الجنوبية والشرقية والشمالية والغربية.

رابعاً: إفساح المجال أمام بقاء حالة «غليان الشارع» لكن في وجهته ضد عون وحزب الله، والسعي الى انتخابات نيابية مبكرة تعدل ميزان القوى داخل المجلس، وتفتح الباب أمام طرح انتخابات رئاسية مبكرة.

Image result for ‫سعد الحريري مع محمد بن سلمان‬‎

هنا، يصبح السؤال حول واقعه أمراً حتمياً: هل هو فعلاً مختطف، لكنه محتجز هذه المرة في بيته في بيروت؟ ام هو يحسن لعب الدور، فيتحول الى خاطف لرئاسة الحكومة، يحملها معه في تنقلاته بين الغرف والطوابق ويحضنها في سريره كأعز من ألف عشيقة؟

Image result for ‫سعد الحريري‬‎

Related Videos

Related Articles

Yellow Vests get 1st game-changing win: A vote to stop denationalisation of airports

April 11, 2019

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker BlogYellow Vests get 1st game-changing win: A vote to stop denationalisation of airports

You never read the word “denationalisation” in Western media anymore, only “privatisation”.

That makes sense… “denationalisation” is so obviously negative; it’s lack of patriotism and concern for the public welfare isn’t being covered up.

The New York Times seemed to stop using the word around the mid-1980s – which makes sense, because that’s when the propaganda of neoliberalism fully took hold. In 2019, a generation later, journalists don’t even question that “privatisation” is a bad thing: for them “nationalisation” is probably a pejorative term, smacking of “nationalism”, which has become essentially synonymous with “racism” in the Western vocabulary.

But “denationalisation” is totally accurate: the selling off businesses which were undoubtedly paid for by the People of the nation, and then operated for the good of the nation.

We cannot say that all neoliberals hate their nation – being “anti-nation” is the ideology of globalists, a subset of neoliberalism. We can say that neoliberals hate “the state”, and the distinction is important.

Listen to the talk radio in the United States and you invariably find Protestant religious radio, and they love to equate “the Beast” of the Bible with the federal government; this satisfies both neoliberal and libertarian listeners. This explains why neoliberals push “privatisation”. When they discover that the 1% to whom the denationalisation was made was to foreign 1%ers… they might get upset at that – they won’t if they are globalisation neoliberals.

Accurate political-economic terminology aside, the Yellow Vests can now tell everyone, “Ta gueule!” (shut your face)

They undoubtedly won their first real victory against Emmanuel Macron this week, as opposition parliamentarians surprisingly banded together to vote in favor of holding a referendum on the sell-off of all three airports in the Paris area. Swiss-style RICs – citizens’ initiative referendums – is the primary democratic-structural demand of the Vesters; the fact that one might now take place is undoubtedly due to their agitation.

A begrudging French media, which hates the Yellow Vests for daring to question the agenda leadership of the 4thestate, of course did not celebrate what is an obvious victory for everyone living on French soil or just flying through Paris. However, their skepticism is justified: France’s last referendum was in 2005 for the Maastricht Treaty, and that was immediately ignored… much like the Brexit vote appears to be .Today was supposed to the day the UK left the EU and regained their sovereignty, and now we’ll have a 24-7 media onslaught for a 2nd vote. Personally, I think the first vote should not be respected – everybody knows votes don’t really count until the 4th or 5th one….

I was quite surprised at France’s revival of economic patriotism/good sense. The day prior to the decision I did this report for PressTV – there were only perhaps 150 Yellow Vest protesters in front of the Senate, which appeared certain to vote their approval for Macron’s sell off. It’s still not sure a referendum will actually take place – it would be a first – but it could be in the headlines for months, emboldening more to join the Yellow Vests all the while.

Did Macron’s incredibly dirty tactics turn the tide?

The idea of selling off state assets to rich people is already shameful to anyone who isn’t rabidly against Socialist Democracy, but Macron’s tactics went beyond the pale.

Firstly, he pushed the totally-compliant, neophyte, business executives-turned-politicians (or, to places like The Economist – “civil society”) in the National Assembly to rewrite laws allowing the denationalisation of the airport. It’s always fun to read France’s Orwellian names for their “deforms” – this one was the Action Plan for the Growth and Transformation of Companies (Loi PACTE).

Then, to avoid media coverage and a possible defeat, at 6:15am on Saturday March 16, he called a vote on the sell-off. French PMs work really late hours – I have no idea why, this isn’t Spain – but I’ve never seen that. Only 45 deputies voted out of the lower house’s total 577. The mainstream media had to go into overdrive to explain why the vote was actually legal. Nobody covered that – we all missed it, including me. Hey, I’m a daily hack journalist – I can’t do a story 2 days after the fact. Ya can’t cover them all, and there’s always another one around the corner.

Then, in something no media appears to be connecting, Macron pushed back the end date of his phony PR-campaign known as the “National Debate” in order to draw attention away from this week’s planned Senate vote. Yellow Vesters did not care, they – as planned – engaged in massive civil disobedience on the Champs-Elysées the day after the National Debate was supposed to end, March 16, even burning down a bank, though I was truly the only one to properly explain why (and at the bank!). So this week Macron unveiled his “conclusions” of the 2.5-month talk-fest, which were, essentially: “It’s good to know that I’ve been right all along!” He was clearly hoping the media would focus on his technocratic rightness, instead of giving column inches and air time to the airport sell-off.

But he didn’t count on non-Macron party deputies joining together for the good of the nation. Or, for many, the good of their re-election campaign: after all, denationalisation is so unpopular its name cannot even be uttered anymore – opposing the 10 billon euro windfall from the sale is a sure winner with the voters.

Briefly: it is totally absurd to believe Macron’s claim that the state can only find 10 billion euros for an “industrial innovation fund” via selling off Paris airports (as well as the National Lottery and France’s stake in energy giant Engie). France has given scores upon scores of billions in tax cuts to corporations and businesses during the Age of Austerity, repeatedly telling us that the 1% will invest in industrial innovations funds of their own making and all without state strings attached to the cuts. Then you have tax evasion which is in the hundreds of billions in lost money for state coffers… which will be hard to find, considering that Macron wants to cut thousands of jobs in the Finance ministry, the ministry whose job it is to collect taxes (must kill the Beast… it’s what Jesus would do!).

In short, it’s a very bad week for Macron: just 6% of France said his National Watch Macron Outdo Fidel Castro In Speechifying was a success, and then it didn’t even provide cover for the privatisation his neoliberal globalist ilk loves more than absolutely anything. Why is it better to them than even oh-so-profitable wars – you axe tens of thousands of Beast/government jobs, and you get an already-made cash cow which has a customer base which is obviously guaranteed / an outright monopoly.

Iran knows what everyone in France hasn’t learned (except the Yellow Vests)

So in the mid-80s the neoliberal mindset had spent about 5 years ripening like bad French cheese; in 1991 the USSR’s leaders ignored the referendum which saw 78% of Soviets vote to remain Soviets; and by 2002 those “lefty” Frenchies had initiated denationalising the highways – the historical arc is clear, if slow-moving to some.

I was really surprised when I moved to “socialist” France that they had sold off the nation’s roads. Today, when a driver pays 60 euros in tolls to drive from Paris to Marseille – and that’s just the one-way – you feel like setting the toll booths on fire. Which is what the Yellow Vests did – it was a public service….

Denationalising the airport would have the same costly effect for the average Frenchman. It will have the same effect the UK experienced after denationalising their railways: a season ticket is now 5 times higher than on the Continent, with time-keeping, safety and comfort all worse, too. In the US you have headlines like this one last year from St. Louis: Lambert (airport) privatisation looks like Chicago’s parking meter disaster.

(Anyone recall the fringes of a scene in Godfather II of Cuban-style socialism’s victory night – they were smashing the parking meters? I can report that in 2019 the People’s land is still free for the Cuban People to park on. Many probably thought they were just looting….)

Macron should take heart that I will not be allowed to park my car – which I bought entirely with change – for free in Paris anytime soon: the West European / Liberal Democratic system is geared in his favor. Want more proof? Yellow Vests demonstrations have been totally banned in Lyon, the third-largest city, after a complaint from what is honestly (no kidding!) the real power in Western societies: the local chamber of commerce.

So we have “privatisation” and “denationalisation”… and then we have Iranian “privatisation”, which we hear about all the time. Rouhani has gone “neoliberal”, right? Ahmadinejad did, too, uh huh?

LOL, I swear, I truly am always laughing when I write about this subject! Iran is not selling off 51% of state assets to the Rothschilds, or the Swiss, or… the Turks?! LOL, the Turks running Iran? Do we want our nice things to be ruined?!

Iran’s “privatisation” aren’t “privatisations” because they “sold” the state-owned assets to state-controlled groups like the Revolutionary Guards, bonyads (religious charity co-operatives) and the Basij. So it wasn’t even “denationalisation”. It certainly wasn’t “neoliberal privatisation” – because the state nearly always retains more than just a controlling interest (20%) but a 51% share – and if you say Iran has gone “neoliberal globalization” I am truly going to be in hysterics!

So it’s not that Iranian media is obscuring what is going on by excising previously popular terms, it’s that Iran has revolutionary (unique) concepts of governance for which there simply are no words for it in foreign languages… yet.

But we can agree on this: such unique changes are the opposite of what Macron wanted for France; and such unique changes are so reviled by the capitalist-imperialist West that – as of this week – everyone in the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij is now considered a terrorist by the US.

There are 10-25 million Basiji, almost none of whom are armed, and the majority of whom are women and children, but… ok, they’re all terrorists. Whatever it takes to not pay 60 euros in tolls one-way.

That sounds like a very effective revolutionary cry for the Yellow Vests!

France should thank them – they have stopped (for now) the French People’s loss of one of the world’s busiest airports. Certainly, it’s a tangible victory which shuts up their detractors, which forcibly changes the mainstream media’s Liberal Democratic agenda, and which prods their fellow citizens to become more politically enlightened.

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 I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

%d bloggers like this: