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Paul Tioxon:Paul Tioxon:
If our society were nothing but apps for smart phones and tablets, maybe dissent could be crushed. There is a lot more to dissent than what is carried on fiber optic cables. Occupy showed that boots on the ground controlling territory sends a more powerful message than slogans on blogs, even a million blogs.
Equally of concern for America future is the Chinese towns and cities in open revolt. The future holds more than the jackboot smashing our faces over and over, if China is any indication or Russia for that matter, expect more open revolts of towns and cities.
Anti capitalist dissent did not just start in America in Zucotti park, it has gbF. Beard
Anti capitalist dissent goes back in the most relevant manner for decades in this country. Many people radicalized have created platforms for societal change, such as credit unions, which were extremely limited in scope for years, but have branched out into consumer and small business lending that are recreating the decentralized, extensive Savings and Loan system that worked for decades as the financial engine for building the middle class standard of living. There used to be over twenty five thousand such banks, most are gone in consolidation into the TBTF entities.Paul Tioxon
Credit unions are not truly radical; they just “share” the profits of counterfeiting and usury with their depositors.
“The few who understand the system will either be so interested in its profits or be so dependent upon its favours that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that capital derives from the system, will bear its burdens without complaint, and perhaps without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests.” The Rothschild brothers of London writing to associates in New York, 1863.
Everything that would revolutionize society does not have to be truly radical in some drastic dramatic sense, it would just have to be placed in the service of society, not capitalism. The credit union system is a not for profit enterprise. They pay no taxes, but operate in a less costly manner for the benefit of people not profits. They are regularly reviled by the bankers that you seem to hate. They are attacked as dead beats with an unfair competitive advantage, the lack of desire to make profit so strong, that the very structure of their enterprise is devoid of profit accumulation and capital formation.
They are so radical to the government, that when Reagan came to power it sought to destroy the National Consumer Coop Bank back in 1980. It stopped a national coop movement and Community Development Corporation movement dead in its tracks. It is unfortunate that little attention is given to simple solutions that have proved their validity to a solution of the problems of capitalism. That is of course, IF you think capitalism has only been corrupted and with a few tweaks here and a lot of honest people there, all will be well. That we just need to act on the correct theory, that there is just one correct theory and it is impossible that the future replacement of capitalism could exist with it side by side in the present.
I would draw your attention to radical solutions that are working in the here and now. That there can be several solutions, based on different theories, and they can work in concert as capitalism destroys itself. I would like to continue to eat, to be heated in the winter, and my standard of living would be nice to maintain, as simple as it is. But without taking the mechanism of state and of capitalism and putting them into service for the people, instead of profits, and worrying about the ontological implications of fictitious capital instead, I am afraid we will all starve and or freeze to death without operating institutions that we are even vaguely familiar with in order to survive into the future.
Here is a model for an economy that exists now, side by side with the much larger global capitalist system, but can grow over time.
Neither Revolution Nor Reform: A New Strategy for the Left
By Gar Alperovitz
“For over a century, liberals and radicals have seen the possibility of change in capitalist systems from one of two perspectives: the reform tradition assumes that corporate institutions remain central to the system but believes that regulatory policies can contain, modify, and control corporations and their political allies. The revolutionary tradition assumes that change can come about only if corporate institutions are eliminated or transcended during an acute crisis, usually but not always by violence.
But what happens if a system neither reforms nor collapses in crisis?”
Given that … the U.S. economy has turned socialist (at least for friends of those with control of the money spigot)
I really, really, really with people would stop calling the government being owned by large companies “socialism”. It is socialism if the government owns the companies (and not even then if the goal is not to achieve greater equality, it could be argued). Please make an effort here, this is not rocket science.
I would contest that argument. ‘Socialism’ is aiming at greater equality, yes, but without reference to ‘company ownership’. If the government owns the companies (or the companies own the government, that distinction is superficial), you either have fascism or communism. Fascism is when the companies decide where to loot (oops, ‘invest’), communism is where the state directs the investment.
In that sense, China is still communist, while the USA is now a fascist state. France, germany, and most of Europe were ‘socialist’ countries, in a sense that huge sums of public money were spent on the population to protect from the worst excesses of the current crisis. Luckily we have Merkozy trying to put an end to all that.falun bong
Think of three threads of socialism.
- The first is group ownership of assets. This is traditional ownership of resources by tribes, clans, families, villages, etc. Often called the commons. Under attack everywhere by legal systems run by insiders.
- The next is Marxist socialism, which is the government ownership of means of production. Think Sweden, Russia, Nebraska, North Dakota, etc.
- The last is Nationalist Socialism, also known as Fascism or Corporatism. The government and business are one. Of course, we know the senior partner, don’t we?
The current power constellation is undoubtedly corporatism, that is, nationalist socialism. We have the business lords served by the government lackeys, including cleaning up their messes.kievite:
December 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm
What an interesting debate. I’d just broaden it a bit to encompass the overarching concept of “freedom”. America was the world’s shining beacon in this regard, and the received wisdom among Americans is that the country still stands for “freedom” and is the “free-est country”. We bomb people across the globe apparently because they don’t yet have our “freedom”.
I wonder how much longer it will be before this outdated myth and utter falsehood dies out. Patriot Act, Guantanamo, NDAA, TSA, “if you see something, say something”, and now SOPA should serve as coffin nails. Today’s America is about global corporate, government, and military dominance and control in ways that would make Founding Fathers and WWII veterans vomit, All that’s left is the daily Orwellian re-education of the sheeple, “war is peace”, “ignorance is strength” etc.
That’s the real definition of “fascism” cited above: an unholy alliance of corporations, the government and the military. In America today the only thing missing is the brown shirts. Think about it next time you see Newt Gingrich on your telescreen…
As for Russia dealing with NGO I think George Washington can benefit from reading STRATFOR analysis (free from their site: http://www.stratfor.com) Russian Protests Alone Pose Little Threat to Putin (December 12, 2011).
There has been public confirmation that Washington has increased its financial aid to groups inside Russia, by $9 million in the past few weeks alone. These groups include one of the most prevalent watchdogs to denounce the elections as well as a number of media outlets that have devoted heavy coverage to the protests. Putin has accused Washington of stirring up resentment against the Kremlin and Putin.
This is not a new tactic by the United States, which has a multi-billion-dollar budget to fund and support non-governmental organizations, media outlets and other groups operating in Russia. However, the move at this time is critical, because Washington has an immediate vested interest in depicting Putin as weak.
Mar 01, 2019 | en.people.cn
A popular narrative in the West is that the world would be a much better place if all countries just look and act more like the Western world. Indeed, the West has enjoyed great wealth and growth over the years. But growing instability in the Western world has also raised doubts about the Western-style of democratic governance.
In fact, there is a tendency to put Western-style democracy on a pedestal; but by doing so, we overlook its faults and even potential dangers. From the never-ending gridlock in Washington, to chaos in the House of Commons of United Kingdom over the Brexit mess, to people rioting on the streets of Paris, more and more people are calling into question the effectiveness of Western-style democracy.
Brexit, for some at least, encapsulates the perils and pitfalls of this style of democracy. In June 2016, the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union and, for now at least, the UK will leave the EU by March 29 this year, with or without a plan in place. The irrational jump into the unknown and the chaos that followed has created a troubling situation for the country, as well as other parts of the world, raising serious questions about the effectiveness and legitimacy of UK-style democracy.
Whether to leave or stay in the EU is a complicated issue that requires careful study and rational decisions from knowledgeable, well-informed people. It is irresponsible to just drag people off the streets for a vote on a major policy issue like Brexit. For example, days after the UK voted to leave the EU, a commentary on TIME's website wrote that the referendum was not a triumph of democracy, but an ugly populist fiasco.
Thus, there is good reason why more and more people feel like Western-style democracy has become a big joke. In the UK, the people voted to "take back control" of their country -- but without a plan. In the United States, politics has become a soap opera and the system is pitting Americans against Americans, splitting the country further apart. In fact, the US government has become so divided and dysfunctional that it recently broke the record for the longest shutdown in US history, which forced many government employees to turn to food banks to feed their families.
Yet, a very different story is unfolding in Asia. During the more than month-long government shutdown in the United States, China made history, too -- by landing the Chang'e-4 spacecraft on the far side of the moon. As a US senator pointed out during the shutdown, China has quadrupled its GDP since 2001, but the United States cannot even keep the government up and running. He called the situation in the United States "ludicrous."
Clearly, Western-style democracy is not "the end of history," as some have predicted and hoped for. This is not to say that the Western system is a failure or that China's system is superior to Western-style democracy, but it is fair to say that China's own system is a good fit for the country and it achieves the best results for the Chinese people.
For example, China has built the largest, most advanced high-speed train network in the world. It is the envy for many in the world, even for many Americans, including former President Barack Obama, who, nearly a decade ago, unveiled a plan for a national network of high-speed passenger rail lines that was envisioned to transform travel in America. The plan, like many others, turned out to be an American Dream that never came true. Just recently in California, for example, the state's new governor killed the high-speed rail program that would link Los Angeles to San Francisco -- a project beloved by the just-retired four-term Governor Jerry Brown.
And then there is US President Donald Trump's ambitious plan to "Rebuild America," which he has been unable to deliver. Stuck in an endless battle with Democrats over funding for the border wall, Trump declared a national emergency to fulfill his pledge to construct a wall along the US-Mexico border. His decision reflects a difference between the two countries' models. Whereas the Chinese model is people-centered, the American model is vote-centered. With regard to the "security and humanitarian crisis" on the country's southern border, the people are asking, "where is the crisis?" And herein lies the dilemma: Decisions, like Trump's decision to declare a national emergency, are essentially political stunts for votes. The Western model reduces people to a source of votes, essentially turning democracy into a game of likes.
This kind of decision-making is in stark contrast to the decision-making process in China, which makes annual, five-year, and long-term plans to guide the country forward and conducts extensive consultations to reach a broad consensus on major issues. A clear advantage of the Chinese system is that it is constantly exploring ways to adapt to the changing times, including large-scale reform of Party and government institutions to adapt to internal and external changes.
Perhaps there was a time when one could argue that the Western model produced the best results, but that is no longer the case. What we are seeing now is that it is increasingly difficult for Western countries to reach a consensus on major issues and to form a strategic plan. Western-style of democracy has become too rigid and Western democratic institutions are in a state of degradation, making it next to impossible to carry out any substantial reform. This can be seen in the fact that democracy in the Western world has increasingly become a fight for money and a game of manipulating people for votes.
In China's socialist democracy, there is a strong and stable political force that represents the interests of the great majority of the Chinese people. The Chinese government takes a people-centered approach to politics and good governance ensures that results can be delivered. It should be no wonder, then, that the Western model is barreling toward a cliff, while China is making great progress in various aspects, including the nation's ambitious plan to eradicate poverty by 2020. In a world of turmoil, there is reason for China and the Chinese people to be confident in its path.
Javed Mir • 5 days ago ,LarryD Javed Mir • 5 days ago ,
--it is fair to say that China's own system is a good fit for the country and it achieves the best results for the Chinese people--
Putting it broadly 'One Size does not fit All' - as such values of the society, history of the society and potential of the society are different everywhere - as such state management be different. Moroever governance methods be flexible enough so that the decisions be adopted according to the national and international requirements.
.LarryD LarryD • 5 days ago ,
In some Western countries it's not the political system itself that is necessarily bad. In the case of the present "sole superpower", for example, refusal to change policies based on the extermination of over 95% of its indigenous population and centuries of inhuman slavery of black people have perpetuated the present war against oppressed minorities. Further, the continuation of aggressive wars overseas, a habit that prompted Martin Luther King Jr to call his country "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world" has ensured the neglect of infrastructure, healthcare, and quality of disenfranchised minorities, especially the Afro-Americans. It's not surprising that in poll after poll, the US have garnered the most votes for being the most dangerous country in the world. The much-maligned North Korea was second.Raymond Hughes LarryD • a day ago ,
Typo: "quality of disenfranchised minorities, especially the Afro-Americans."
Should be "quality of education for disenfranchised minorities, especially that of Afro-Americans"
Millions of poor people of all colours. The Africans used slaves long before the Arabs/ Europeans went to Africa and bought them from Africans, who used them for centuries, rounded them up, for sale to anyone with trinkets. The A-rabs were real big slavers, real big. Russia used Swedish slaves as did all nations use their fellow humans as slaves, only the US Negros get all the publicity.
Jun 09, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org
A final matter concerns the problem of imperial chickens coming home to roost. Liberals don't like to hear it, but the ugly, richly documented historical fact of the matter is that their party of binary and tribal choice has long joined Republicans in backing and indeed crafting a U.S. foreign policy that has imposed authoritarian regimes (and profoundly undemocratic interventions including invasions and occupations) the world over . The roster of authoritarian and often-mass murderous governments the U.S. military and CIA and allied transnational business interests have backed, sometimes even helped create, with richly bipartisan support, is long indeed.
Last fall, Illinois Green Party leader Mike Whitney ran some fascinating numbers on the 49 nation-states that the right-wing "human rights" organization Freedom House identified as "dictatorships" in 2016. Leaving aside Freedom House's problematic inclusion of Russia, Cuba, and Iran on its list, the most remarkable thing about Whitney's research was his finding that the U.S. offered military assistance to 76 percent of these governments. (The only exceptions were Belarus, China, Central African Republic, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria.). "Most politically aware people," Whitney wrote:
"know of some of the more highly publicized instances examples of [U.S. support for foreign dictatorships], such as the tens of billions of dollars' worth of US military assistance provided to the beheading capital of the world, the misogynistic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and the repressive military dictatorship now in power in Egypt apologists for our nation's imperialistic foreign policy try to rationalize such support, arguing that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are exceptions to the rule. But my survey demonstrates that our government's support for Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not exceptions to the rule at all. They are the rule ."
The Pentagon and State Department data Whitney used came from Fiscal Year 2015. It dated from the next-to-last year of the Obama administration, for which so many liberals recall with misplaced nostalgia. Freedom House's list should have included Honduras, ruled by a vicious right-wing government that Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped install in a June 2009 military coup .
The problem here isn't just liberal hypocrisy and double standards. The deeper issue is that, as the great American iconoclast Mark Twain knew, you cannot maintain democracy at home while conducting an authoritarian empire abroad. During the United States' blood-soaked invasion and occupation of the Philippines, Twain penned an imaginary history of the twentieth-century United States. "It was impossible," Twain wrote, "to save the Great Republic. She was rotten to the heart. Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home."
"Just a decade after Twain wrote those prophetic words," the historian Alfred W. McCoy has observed , "colonial police methods came home to serve as a template for the creation of an American internal security apparatus in wartime." The nation's first Red Scare, which crushed left and labor movements during and after World War One, drew heavily on the lessons and practices of colonial suppression in the Philippines and Cuba. As McCoy shows in his latest book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power , the same basic process -- internal U.S. repression informed and shaped by authoritarian and imperial practices abroad and justified by alleged external threats to the "homeland" -- has recurred ever since. Today, the rise of an unprecedented global surveillance state overseen by the National Security Agency has cost the US the trust of many of its top global allies (under Bush43 and Obama44, not just under Trump45) while undermining civil liberties and democracy within as beyond the U.S.
"The fetters imposed on liberty at home," James Madison wrote in 1799 , "have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers abroad." Those are wise words well worth revisiting amidst the current endless Russiagate madness, calculated among other things to tell us that the FBI, the CIA, and the rest of the nation's vast and ever more ubiquitous intelligence and surveillance state are on our side.
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Aug 13, 2017 | ronpaulinstitute.org
The Trump administration's foreign policy often resembles a Mad Hatter's Tea Party or a loose cannon on a ship deck. But every now and then, a good idea emerges from the fracas. Such is the case with a reform that could sharply reduce America's piety exports.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is revising the State Department mission statement to focus on promoting "the security, prosperity and interests of the American people globally." Washington pundits are aghast that "democracy promotion" is no longer trumpeted as a top US foreign policy goal. Elliott Abrams, George W. Bush's "democracy czar," complained, "We used to want a just and democratic world, and now apparently we don't the message being sent will be a great comfort to every dictator in the world."
But this is like presuming that any preacher who fails to promise to eradicate sin is a tool of the devil. Instead, it is time to recognize the carnage the US has sown abroad in the name of democracy.
The US has periodically pledged to spread democracy ever since President Woodrow Wilson announced in 1913: "I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men!" Democracy is so important that the US government refuses to stand idly by when foreign voters go astray. Since 1946, the US has intervened -- usually covertly -- in more than 80 foreign elections to assist its preferred candidate or party.
In his 2005 inaugural address, President George W. Bush proclaimed that the US would "seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." While Bush's invocation thrilled Washington, the rest of the world paid more attention to his support for any tyrant who joined his War on Terror.
President Barack Obama was supposed to redeem the honor of US foreign policy. In 2011, Obama portrayed the US bombing of Libya as a triumph of democratic values. After Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi was killed, Obama speedily announced that Libyans "now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya." But violence spiraled out of control and claimed thousands of victims (including four Americans killed in Benghazi in 2012). Similarly, Obama administration officials invoked democracy to justify arming quasi-terrorist groups in Syria's civil war, worsening a conflict that killed hundreds of thousands and created millions of refuges.
But the Obama team, like prior administrations, did not permit its democratic pretensions to impede business as usual. After Egyptian protestors toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak, Obama pledged to assist that nation "pursue a credible transition to a democracy ." But the US government disapproved of that nation's first elected leader, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. After the Egyptian military deposed Morsi in 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry bizarrely praised Egypt's generals for " restoring democracy ." Similarly, many Ethiopians were horrified when Obama visited their country in 2015 and praised its regime as " democratically elected " -- despite a sham election and its brutal suppression of journalists, bloggers and other critics.
Democracy promotion gives US policymakers a license to meddle almost anywhere on Earth. The National Endowment for Democracy , created in 1983, has been caught interfering in elections in France, Panama , Costa Rica , Ukraine , Venezuela, Nicaragua, Russia, Czechoslovakia , Poland , Haiti and many other nations. The State Department has a long list of similar pratfalls, including pouring vast amounts of money in vain efforts to beget democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan .
Democracy at its best is a wonderful form of government but many so-called democracies nowadays are simply elective despotisms. Elections abroad are often herd counts to determine who gets to fleece the herd. Many democracies have become kleptocracies where governing is indistinguishable from looting.
In some nations, election victories legitimize destroying voters en masse. This is exemplified by the Philippines, where the government has killed 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers , including several mayors . After President Rodrigo Duterte publicly declared that he would be " happy to slaughter " three million drug users, Trump phoned him and, according to a leaked transcript, said, "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job [you're doing] on the drug problem." Similarly, Trump congratulated Turkish president Recep Erdogan after he won a referendum that awarded him quasi-dictatorial powers.
It is time to admit that America lacks a Midas touch for spreading democracy. Freedom House reported that, even prior to Trump's election, more than 100 nations have seen declines in democracy since 2005.
Rather than abandoning all moral goals in foreign policy, Washington could instead embrace a strict policy of "honesty in democracy promotion." Under this standard, the US government would cease trying to covertly influence foreign elections, cease glorifying tinhorn dictators who rigged elections to capture power, and cease bankrolling authoritarian regimes that blight democratic reforms in the bud. But the odds of Washington policymakers abiding by those restraints is akin to the chances that all of Trump's tweets will henceforth be edifying.
Rather than delivering political salvation, US interventions abroad more often produce "no-fault carnage" (no one in Washington is ever held liable). At a minimum, we should get our own constitutional house in order before seeking to rescue benighted foreigners. Ironically, many of the same people who equate Trump with Hitler still insist that the US government should continue its political missionary work during his reign.
James Bovard, author of Public Policy Hooligan , is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors . Follow him on Twitter @JimBovard
Reprinted with author's permission from USA TODAY .
William Blum's "Cri de Coeur",
February 9, 2013
William Blum's Cri de Coeur
A review of "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy" by William Blum (Zed Books, London/New York, 2013.)
(As it has appeared at DissidentVoice, OpEdNews, etc.):
In activist-author-publisher William Blum's new book, America's Deadliest Export: Democracy, he tells the story of how he got his 15 minutes of fame back in 2006. Osama bin Laden had released an audiotape, declaring:
"If you [Americans] are sincere in your desire for peace and security... and if Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book Rogue State."
Bin Laden then quoted from the Foreword of Blum's 2000 book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, in which he had mused:
"If I were... president, I could stop terrorist attacks [on us] in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize... to all the widows and the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America's global interventions... have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but... a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims. ... That's what I'd do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I'd be assassinated."
Unfortunately, Blum never made it to the White House! But, fortunately, for those who have read his books or follow his "Anti-Empire Reports" on the Web, he was not assassinated! And now he has collected his reports and essays of the last dozen years or so into a 352-page volume that will not only stand the test of time, but will help to define this disillusioned, morose, violent and unraveling Age.
America's Deadliest... is divided into 21 chapters and an introduction--and there's something to underline or memorize on every page! Sometimes it's just one of Blum's irrepressible quips, and sometimes it's a matter of searing American foreign or domestic policiy that clarifies that Bushwhackian question of yore: "Why do they hate us?"
Reading this scrupulously documented book, I lost count of the times I uttered, "unbelievable!" concerning some nefarious act committed by the US Empire in the name of freedom, democracy and fighting communism or terrorism. Reading Blum's book with an open mind, weighing the evidence, will bleach out any pride in the flag we have planted in so many corpses around the world. The book is a diuretic and emetic!
Blum's style is common sense raised to its highest level. The wonder of America's Deadliest ... is that it covers so much of the sodden, bloody ground of America's march across our post-Second-World-War world, yet tells the story with such deftness and grace-under-fire that the reader is enticed--not moralized, not disquisitionally badgered--, but enticed to consider our globe from a promontory of higher understanding.
Some of the themes Blum covers (and often eviscerates) include:
- Why they hate us;
- America means well;
- We cannot permit a successful alternative to the capitalist model to develop anywhere in the world;
- We will use whatever means necessary--including, lies, deception, sabotage, bribery, torture and war--to achieve the above idea.
Along the way, we get glimpses of Blum's experientially rich life. A note "About the Author" tells us that, "He left the State Department in 1967, abandoning his aspiration of becoming a Foreign Service Officer because of his opposition to what the US was doing in Vietnam. He then became a founder and editor of the Washington Free Press, the first "alternative" newspaper in the capital."
In his chapter on "Patriotism," Blum relates how, after a talk, he was asked: "Do you love America?" He responded with what we may take for his credo: "I don't love any country. I'm a citizen of the world. I love certain principles, like human rights, civil liberties, meaningful democracy, an economy which puts people before profits."
America's Deadliest... is a book of wisdom and wit that ponders "how this world became so unbearably cruel, corrupt, unjust, and stupid?" In a pointillistic approach, sowing aphoristic seeds for thought, Blum enumerates instances of that cruelty, often with wry, pained commentary. "War can be seen as America's religion," he tells us. Reflecting on Obama's octupling Bush's number of drones used to assassinate, collaterally kill and terrorize, he affirms:
"Obama is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the American left." And, he avers, "Capitalism is the theory that the worst people, acting from their worst motives, will somehow produce the most good." And then turns around and reminds us--lest we forget--how the mass media have invaded our lives, with memes about patriotism, democracy, God, the "good life": "Can it be imagined that an American president would openly implore America's young people to fight a foreign war to defend `capitalism'?" he wonders.
"The word itself has largely gone out of fashion. The approved references now are to the market economy, free market, free enterprise, or private enterprise."
Cynthia McKinney writes that the book is "corruscating, eye-opening, and essential." Oliver Stone calls it a "fireball of terse information."
Like Howard Zinn, Ralph Nader, Paul Craig Roberts, Cindy Sheehan and Bradley Manning, Blum is committed to setting the historical record straight. His book is dangerous. Steadfast, immutable "truths" one has taken for granted--often since childhood--are exposed as hollow baubles to entertain the un/mis/and dis-informed. One such Blumism recollects Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez's account of a videotape with a very undiplomatic Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and cowboy George Bush: "`We've got to smash somebody's ass quickly,'" Powell said. "`We must have a brute demonstration of power.'
Then Bush spoke: `Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! ... Stay strong! ... Kill them! ... We are going to wipe them out!'"
Blum's intellectual resources are as keen as anyone's writing today. He also adds an ample measure of humanity to his trenchant critiques. He juxtaposes the noble rhetoric of our professed values with the mordant facts of our deeds. The cognitive dissonance makes for a memorable, very unpretty picture of how an immensely privileged people lost themselves, while gorging on junk food, junk politics, junk economics, junk education, junk media. Like an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, he lambastes his own--us!--flaying layers of hypocrisy and betrayals while seeking to reveal the core values of human dignity, empathy and moral rectitude.
Gary Corseri has published and posted prose, poetry and dramas at hundreds of periodicals and websites worldwide, including CommonDreams, Countercurrents, BraveNewWorld.in, OpEdNews, CounterPunch, Outlook India, The New York Times, Dissident Voice. He has published novels, poetry collections and a literary anthology (edited). His dramas have been presented on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. He has taught in US public schools and prisons, and at American and Japanese universities. Contact: email@example.com.
Aug 02, 2014 | CounterPunch
A specter is haunting Europe and Western world - it is this time, the specter of fascism. It came quietly, without great fanfare and parades, without raised hands and loud shouts. But it came, or it returned, as it has always been present in this culture, one that has, for centuries, been enslaving our entire planet.
As was in Nazi Germany, resistance to the fascist empire is again given an unsavory name: terrorism. Partisans and patriots, resistance fighters – all of them were and have always been defined by fascist bigots as terrorists.
By the logic of Empire, to murder millions of men, women and children in all corners of the world abroad is considered legitimate and patriotic, but to defend one's motherland was and is a sign of extremism.
German Nazis and Italian Fascists defined their rule as 'democratic', and so does this Empire. The British and French empires that exterminated tens of millions of people all over the world, always promoted themselves as 'democracies'.
And now, once again, we are witnessing a tremendous onslaught by the business-political-imperialist Western apparatus, destabilizing or directly destroying entire nations, overthrowing governments and bombing 'rebellious' states into the ground. All this is done in the name of democracy, in the name of freedom.
An unelected monster, as it has done for centuries, is playing with the world, torturing some, and plundering others, or both.
The West, in a final act of arrogance, has somehow confused itself with its own concept of God. It has decided that it has the full right to shape the planet, to punish and to reward, to destroy and rebuild as it wishes.
This horrible wave of terror unleashed against our planet, is justified by an increasingly meaningless but fanatically defended dogma, symbolized by a box (made of card or wood, usually), and masses of people sticking pieces of paper into the opening on the top of that box.
This is the altar of Western ideological fundamentalism. This is a supreme idiocy that cannot be questioned, as it guarantees the status quo for ruling elites and business interests, an absurdity that justifies all crimes, all lies and all madness.
This sacrificial altar is called, Democracy, in direct mockery to what the term symbolizes in its original, Greek, language.
In our latest book, "On Western Terrorism – from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare", Noam Chomsky commented on the 'democratic' process in the Western world:
"The goal of elections now is to undermine democracy. They are run by the public relations industry and they're certainly not trying to create informed voters who'll make rational choices. They are trying to delude people into making irrational choices. The same techniques that are used to undermine markets are used to undermine democracy. It's one of the major industries in the country and its basic workings are invisible."
But what is it that really signifies this 'sacred' word, this almost religious term, and this pinnacle of Western demagogy? We hear it everywhere. We are ready to sacrifice millions of lives (not ours of course, at least not yet, but definitely lives of the others) in the name of it.
All those grand slogans and propaganda! Last year I visited Pyongyang, but I have to testify that North Koreans are not as good at slogans as the Western propagandists are.
"In the name of freedom and democracy!" Hundreds of millions tons of bombs fell from the sky on the Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese countryside bodies were burned by napalm, mutilated by spectacular explosions.
"Defending democracy!" Children were raped in front of their parents in Central America, men and women machine-gunned down by death squads that had been trained in military bases in the United States of America.
"Civilizing the world and spreading democracy!" That has always been a European slogan, their 'stuff to do', and a way of showing their great civilization to others. Amputating hands of Congolese people, murdering around ten million of them, and many more in Namibia, East Africa, West Africa and Algiers; gassing people of the Middle East ( "I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes", to borrow from the colorful lexicon of (Sir) Winston Churchill).
So what is it really? Who is it, that strange lady with an axe in her hand and with a covered face – the lady whose name is Democracy?
It is all very simple, actually. The term originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) "rule of the people". Then and now, it was supposed to be in direct contrast to ἀριστοκρατία (aristokratia), that means "rule of an elite".
'Rule of the people' Let us just visit a few examples of the 'rule of the people'.
People spoke, they ruled, they voted 'democratically' in Chile, bringing in the mild and socialist government of 'Popular Unity' of Salvador Allende.
Sure, the Chilean education system was so brilliant, its political and social system so wonderful, that it inspired not only many countries in Latin America, but also those in far away Mediterranean Europe.
That could not be tolerated, because, as we all know, it is only white Europe and North America that can be allowed to supply the world with the blueprint for any society, anywhere on this planet. It was decided that "Chile has to scream", that its economy had to be ruined and the "Popular Unity" government kicked out of power.
Henry Kissinger, belonging, obviously, to a much higher race and country of a much higher grade, made a straightforward and in a way very 'honest' statement, clearly defining the North American stand towards global democracy: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its people."
And so Chile was ravaged. Thousands of people were murdered and 'our son-of-a-bitch' was brought to power. General Pinochet was not elected: he bombed the Presidential palace in Santiago, he savagely tortured the men and women who were elected by the Chilean people, and he "disappeared" thousands.
But that was fine, because democracy, as it is seen from Washington, London or Paris, is nothing more and nothing less than what the white man needs in order to control this planet, unopposed and preferably never criticized.
Of course Chile was not the only place where 'democracy' was 'redefined'. And it was not the most brutal scenario either, although it was brutal enough. But it was a very symbolic 'case', because here, there could be absolutely no dispute: an extremely well educated, middle class country, voted in transparent elections, just to have its government murdered, tortured and exiled, simply because it was too democratic and too involved in improving the lives of its people.
There were countless instances of open spite coming from the North, towards the 'rule of the people' in Latin America. For centuries, there have been limitless examples. Every country 'south of the border' in the Western Hemisphere, became a victim.
After all, the self-imposed Monroe Doctrine gave North Americans 'unquestionable rights' to intervene and 'correct' any 'irresponsible' democratic moves made by the lower races inhabiting Central and South America as well as the Caribbean Islands.
There were many different scenarios of real ingenuity, in how to torture countries that embarked on building decent homes for their people, although soon there was evidence of repetitiveness and predictability.
The US has been either sponsoring extremely brutal coups (like the one in Guatemala in 1954), or simply occupying the countries in order to overthrow their democratically elected governments. Justifications for such interventions have varied: it was done in order to 'restore order', to 'restore freedom and democracy', or to prevent the emergence of 'another Cuba'.
From the Dominican Republic in 1965 to Grenada in 1983, countries were 'saved from themselves' through the introduction (by orders from mainly the Protestant North American elites with clearly pathological superiority complexes) of death squads that administered torture, rape and extrajudicial executions. People were killed because their democratic decisions were seen as 'irresponsible' and therefore unacceptable.
While there has been open racism in every aspect of how the Empire controlled its colonies, 'political correctness' was skillfully introduced, effectively reducing to a bare minimum any serious critiques of the societies that were forced into submission.
In Indonesia, between 1 and 3 million people were murdered in the years1965/66, in a US -sponsored coup, because there too, was a 'great danger' that the people would rule and decide to vote 'irresponsibly', bringing the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), at that time the third most numerous Communist Party anywhere in the world, to power.
The democratically elected President of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, was murdered in 1961, by the joint efforts of the United States and Europe, simply because he was determined to use the vast natural resources of his country to feed his own people; and because he dared to criticize Western colonialism and imperialism openly and passionately.
East Timor lost a third of its population simply because its people, after gaining independence from Portugal, dared to vote the left-leaning FRETILIN into power. "We are not going to tolerate another Cuba next to our shores", protested the Indonesian fascist dictator Suharto, and the US and Australia strongly agreed. The torture, and extermination of East Timorese people by the Indonesian military, was considered irrelevant and not even worth reporting in the mass media.
The people of Iran could of course not be trusted with 'democracy'. Iran is one of the oldest and greatest cultures on earth, but its people wanted to use the revenues from its oil to improve their lives, not to feed foreign multi-nationals. That has always been considered a crime by Western powers – a crime punishable by death.
The people of Iran decided to rule; they voted, they said that they want to have all their oil industry nationalized. Mohammad Mosaddeq, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953, was ready to implement what his people demanded. But his government was overthrown in a coup d'état, orchestrated by the British MI6 and North American CIA, and what followed was the murderous dictatorship of the deranged Western puppet – Reza Pahlavi. As in Latin America and Indonesia, instead of schools, hospitals and housing projects, people got death squads, torture chambers and fear. Is that what they wanted? Is that what they voted for?
There were literally dozens of countries, all over the world, which had to be 'saved', by the West, from their own 'irresponsible citizens and voters'. Brazil recently 'celebrated' the 50th anniversary of the US-backed military coup d'état, which began a horrendous 20 year long military dictatorship. The US supported two coups in Iraq, in 1963 and 1968 that brought Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party to power. The list is endless. These are only some random examples.
On closer examination, the West has overthrown, or made attempts to overthrow, almost any democratically elected governments, on all continents attempting to serve their own people, by providing them with decent standards of living and social services. That is quite an achievement, and some stamina!
Could it be then that the West only respects 'Democracy' when 'people are forced to rule' against their own interests? And when they are 'defending' what they are ordered to defend by local elites that are subservient to North American and European interests? and also when they are defending the interests of foreign multi-national companies and Western governments that are dependent on those companies?
Can anything be done? If a country is too weak to defend itself by military means, against some mighty Western aggressor, could it approach any international democratic institutions, hoping for protection?
A good example is Nicaragua, which had been literally terrorized by the United States, for no other reason than for being socialist. Its government went to court.
The case was called: The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America.
It was a 1986 case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in which the ICJ ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States and awarded reparations to Nicaragua.
The judgment was long, consisting of 291 points. Among them that the United States had been involved in the "unlawful use of force." The alleged violations included attacks on Nicaraguan facilities and naval vessels, the mining of Nicaraguan ports, the invasion of Nicaraguan air space, and the training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying of forces (the "Contras") and seeking to overthrow Nicaragua's Sandinista government.
Judgment was passed, and so were UN votes and resolutions. The UN resolution from 1986 called for the full and immediate compliance with the Judgment. Only Thailand, France and the UK abstained. The US showed total spite towards the court, and it vetoed all UN resolutions.
It continued its terror campaign against Nicaragua. In the end, the ruined and exhausted country voted in 1990. It was soon clear that it was not voting for or against Sandinista government, but whether to endure more violence from the North, or to simply accept depressing defeat. The Sandinista government lost. It lost because the voters had a North American gun pointing at their heads.
This is how 'democracy' works.
I covered the Nicaraguan elections of 1996 and I was told by voters, by a great majority of them, that they were going to vote for the right-wing candidate (Aleman), only because the US was threatening to unleash another wave of terror in case the Sandinista government came back to power, democratically.
The Sandinistas are now back. But only because most of Latin America has changed, and there is unity and determination to fight, if necessary.
While the Europeans are clearly benefiting from neo-colonialism and the plunder that goes on all over the world, it would be ridiculous to claim that they themselves are 'enjoying the fruits of democracy'.
In a dazzling novel "Seeing", written by Jose Saramago, a laureate for the Nobel Prize for literature, some 83% of voters in an unidentified country (most likely Saramago's native Portugal), decide to cast blank ballots, expressing clear spite towards the Western representative election system.
This state, which prided itself as a 'democratic one', responded by unleashing an orgy of terror against its own citizens. It soon became obvious that people are allowed to make democratic choices only when the result serves the interests of the regime.
Ursula K Le Guin, reviewing the novel in the pages of The Guardian, on 15 April 2006, admitted:
Turning in a blank ballot is a signal unfamiliar to most Britons and Americans, who aren't yet used to living under a government that has made voting meaningless. In a functioning democracy, one can consider not voting a lazy protest liable to play into the hands of the party in power (as when low Labour turn-out allowed Margaret Thatcher's re-elections, and Democratic apathy secured both elections of George W Bush). It comes hard to me to admit that a vote is not in itself an act of power, and I was at first blind to the point Saramago's non-voting voters are making.
She should not have been. Even in Europe itself, terror had been unleashed, on many occasions, against the people who decided to vote 'incorrectly'.
Perhaps the most brutal instance was in the post WWII period, when the Communist Parties were clearly heading for spectacular victories in France, Italy and West Germany. Such 'irresponsible behavior' had to be, of course, stopped. Both US and UK intelligence forces made a tremendous effort to 'save democracy' in Europe, employing Nazis to break, intimidate, even murder members of progressive movements and parties.
These Nazi cadres were later allowed, even encouraged, to leave Europe for South America, some carrying huge booty from the victims who vanished in concentration camps. This booty included gold teeth.
Later on, in the 1990's, I spoke to some of them, and also to their children, in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. They were proud of their deeds, unrepentant, and as Nazi as ever.
Many of those European Nazis later actively participated in Operation Condor, so enthusiastically supported by the Paraguayan fascist and pro-Western dictator, Alfredo Strössner. Mr Strössner was a dear friend and asylum-giver to many WWII war criminals, including people like Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor known as the "Angel of Death", who performed genetic experiments on children during the WWII.
So, after destroying that 'irresponsible democratic process' in Europe (the post-war Western Empire), many European Nazis that were now loyally serving their new master, were asked to continue with what they knew how to do best. Therefore they helped to assassinate some 60,000 left-wing South American men, women and their children, who were guilty of building egalitarian and just societies in their home countries. Many of these Nazis took part, directly, in Operacion Condor, under the direct supervision of the United States and Europe.
As Naomi Klein writes in her book, Shock Doctrine:
"Operación Cóndor, also known as Plan Cóndor, Portuguese: Operação Condor) was a campaign of political repression and terror involving intelligence operations and assassination of opponents, officially implemented in 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America. The program was intended to eradicate communist or Soviet influence and ideas, and to suppress active or potential opposition movements against the participating governments."
In Chile, German Nazis rolled up their sleeves and went to work directly: by interrogating, liquidating and savagely torturing members of the democratically elected government and its supporters. They also performed countless medical experiments on people, at the so-called Colonia Dirnidad, during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, whose rule was manufactured and sustained by Dr. Kissinger and his clique.
But back to Europe: in Greece, after WWII, both the UK and US got heavily involved in the civil war between the Communists and the extreme right-wing forces.
In 1967, just one month before the elections in which the Greek left-wing was expected to win democratically (the Indonesian scenario of 1965), the US and its 'Greek colonels' staged a coup, which marked the beginning of a 7 year savage dictatorship.
What happened in Yugoslavia, some 30 years later is, of course clear. A successful Communist country could not be allowed to survive, and definitely not in Europe. As bombs fell on Belgrade, many of those inquisitive and critically thinking people that had any illusions left about the Western regime and its 'democratic principles', lost them rapidly.
But by then, the majority of Europe already consisted of indoctrinated masses, some of the worst informed and most monolithic (in their thinking) on earth.
Europe and its voters It is that constantly complaining multitude, which wants more and more money, and delivers the same and extremely predictable electoral results every four, five or six years. It lives and votes mechanically. It has totally lost its ability to imagine a different world, to fight for humanist principles, and even to dream.
It is turning into an extremely scary place, a museum at best, and a cemetery of human vision at the worst.
As Noam Chomsky pointed out:
Americans may be encouraged to vote, but not to participate more meaningfully in the political arena. Essentially the election is a method of marginalizing the population. A huge propaganda campaign is mounted to get people to focus on these personalized quadrennial extravaganzas and to think, "That's politics." But it isn't. It's only a small part of politics.
The population has been carefully excluded from political activity, and not by accident. An enormous amount of work has gone into that disenfranchisement. During the 1960s the outburst of popular participation in democracy terrified the forces of convention, which mounted a fierce counter-campaign. Manifestations show up today on the left as well as the right in the effort to drive democracy back into the hole where it belongs.
Arundhati Roy, commented in her "Is there life after democracy?"
The question here, really, is what have we done to democracy? What have we turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasized into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the Free Market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximizing profit? Is it possible to reverse this process? Can something that has mutated go back to being what it used to be?
After all that brutality, and spite for people all over the world, the West is now teaching the planet about democracy. It is lecturing Asians and Africans, people from Middle East and Sub-Continent, on how to make their countries more 'democratic'. It is actually hard to believe, it should be one of the most hilarious things on earth, but it is happening, and everyone is silent about it.
Those who are listening without bursting into laughter are actually well paid.
There are seminars; even foreign aid projects related to 'good governance', sponsored by the European Union, and the United States. The EU is actually much more active in this field. Like the Italian mafia, it sends covert but unmistakable messages to the world: "You do as we say, or we break your legs But if you obey, come to us and we will teach you how to be a good aide to Cosa Nostra! And we will give you some pasta and wine while you are learning."
Because there is plenty of money, so called 'funding' members of the elite, the academia, media and non-government organizations, from countries that have been plundered by the West – countries like Indonesia, Philippines, DR Congo, Honduras, or Colombia –send armies of people to get voluntarily indoctrinated, (sorry, to be 'enlightened') to learn about democracy from the greatest assassins of genuine 'people's power'; from the West.
Violating democracy is an enormous business. To hush it up is part of that business. To learn how to be idle and not to intervene against the external forces destroying democracy in your own country, while pretending to be 'engaged and active', is actually the best business, much better than building bridges or educating children (from a mercantilist point of view).
Once, at the University of Indonesia where I was invited to speak, a student asked me 'what is the way forward', to make his country more democratic? I replied, looking at several members of the professorial staff:
"Demand that your teachers stop going to Europe on fully funded trips. Demand that they stop being trained in how to brainwash you. Do not go there yourself, to study. Go there to see, to understand and to learn, but not to study Europe had robbed you of everything. They are still looting your country. What do you think you will learn there? Do you really think they will teach you how to save your nation?"
Students began laughing. The professors were fuming. I was never invited back. I am sure that the professors knew exactly what I was talking about. The students did not. They were thinking that I made a very good joke. But I was not trying to be funny.
As I write these words, the Thai military junta has taken over the country. The West is silent: the Thai military is an extremely close ally. Democracy at work
And as I write these words, the fascist government in Kiev is chasing, kidnapping and "disappearing" people in the east and south of Ukraine. By some insane twist of logic, the Western corporate media is managing to blame Russia. And only a few people are rolling around on the floor, laughing.
As I write these words, a big part of Africa is in flames, totally destroyed by the US, UK, France and other colonial powers.
Client states like the Philippines are now literally being paid to get antagonistic with China.
Japanese neo-fascist adventurism fully supported by the Unites States can easily trigger WWIII. So can Western greed and fascist practices in Ukraine.
Democracy! People's power!
If the West had sat on its ass, where it belongs, in Europe and in North America, after WWII, the world would have hardly any problems now. People like Lumumba, Allende, Sukarno, Mosaddeq, would have led their nations and continents. They would have communicated with their own people, interacted with them. They would have built their own styles of 'democracy'.
But all that came from the Bandung Conference of 1955, from the ideals of the Non-Aligned movement, was ruined and bathed in blood. The true hopes of the people of the world cut to pieces, urinated on, and then thrown into gutter.
But no more time should be wasted by just analyzing, and by crying over spilt milk. Time to move on!
The world has been tortured by Europe and the United States, for decades and centuries. It has been tortured in the name of democracy but it has all been one great lie. The world has been tortured simply because of greed, and because of racism. Just look back at history. Europe and the United States have only stopped calling people "niggers", but they do not have any more respect for them than before. And they are willing, same as before, to sacrifice millions of human lives.
Let us stop worshiping their box, and those meaningless pieces of paper that they want us to stick in there. There is no power of people in this. Look at the United States itself – where is our democracy? It is a one-party regime fully controlled by market fundamentalists. Look at our press, and propaganda
Rule of the people by the people, true democracy, can be achieved. We the people had been derailed, intellectually, so we have not been thinking how, for so many decades.
Now we, many of us, know what is wrong, but we are still not sure what is right.
Let us think and let us search, let us experiment. And also, let us reject their fascism first. Let them stick their papers wherever they want! Let them pretend that they are not slaves to some vendors and swindlers. Let them do whatever they want – there, where they belong.
Democracy is more than a box. It is more than a multitude of political parties. It is when people can truly choose, decide and build a society that they dream about. Democracy is the lack of fear of having napalm and bombs murdering our dreams. Democracy is when people speak and from those words grow their own nation. Democracy is when millions of hands join together and from that brilliant union, new trains begin to run, new schools begin to teach, and new hospitals begin to heal. All this by the people, for the people! All this created by proud and free humans as gift to all – to their nation.
Yes, let the slave masters stick their pieces of paper into a box, or somewhere else. They can call it democracy. Let us call democracy something else – rule of the people, a great exchange of ideas, of hopes and dreams. Let our taking control over our lives and over our nations be called 'democracy'!
Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called "Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear". He has just completed the feature documentary, "Rwanda Gambit" about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.
Jul 28, 2015 | Antiwar.com
Cold wars freeze despotism in place, and thaws in foreign relations melt it away
The recent Iran nuclear deal represents a thaw in the American cold war against that country. It is a welcome sequel to the Obama administration's partial normalization with Cuba announced late last year.
Hardliners denounce these policies as "going soft" on theocracy and communism. Yet, it is such critics' own hardline, hawkish policies that have done the most to ossify and strengthen such regimes.
That is because war, including cold war, is the health of the state. Antagonistic imperial policies - economic warfare, saber-rattling, clandestine interventions, and full-blown attacks - make the citizens of targeted "rogue states" feel under siege.
This activates what Randolph Bourne called their "herd mind," inducing them to rally around their governments in a militaristic stampede so as to create the national unity of purpose deemed necessary to defend the homeland against the foreign menace. When you lay siege to an entire country, don't be surprised when it starts to look and act like a barracks.
Rogue state governments eagerly amplify and exploit this siege effect through propaganda, taking on the mantle of foremost defender of the nation against the "Yankee Imperialist" or "Great Satan." Amid the atmosphere of crisis, public resistance against domestic oppression by the now indispensable "guardian class" goes by the board. "Quit your complaining. Don't you know there's a cold war on? Don't you know we're under siege?"
Moreover, cold wars make it easy for rogue state governments to shift the blame for domestic troubles away from their own misrule, and onto the foreign bogeyman/scapegoat ("bogeygoat?") instead. This is especially easy for being to some extent correct, especially with regard to economic blockades and other crippling sanctions, like those Washington has imposed on Cuba, Iran, etc.
Imperial governments like to pretend that affairs are quite the reverse, adopting the essentially terrorist rationale that waging war against the civilian populace of a rogue state will pressure them to blame and turn against their governments. In reality, it only tends to bolster public support for the regime.
The imperial "bogeygoat" is an essential prop for the power of petty tyrants, just as rogue state bogeymen are essential props for the power of grand tyrants like our own. Thus, it should be no surprise that the staunchest opponents to the Iran nuclear deal include both American and Iranian hardliners. Just as there is a "symbiosis of savagery" between imperial hawks and anti-imperial terrorists (as I explain here), there is a similar symbiotic relationship between imperial and rogue state hardliners.
The last thing hardliners want is the loss of their cherished bogeygoat. Once an emergency foreign threat recedes, and the fog of war hysteria lifts, people are then more capable of clearly seeing their "guardians" as the domestic threat that they are, and more likely to feel that they can afford to address that threat without exposing themselves to foreign danger. This tends to impel governments to become less oppressive, and may even lead to their loss of power.
Thus after Nixon normalized with communist China and belatedly ended the war on communist Vietnam, both of those countries greatly liberalized and became more prosperous. Even Soviet reforms and the ultimate dissolution of the Soviet Union only arose following American detente.
Simultaneously, as the American cold wars against communist Cuba and communist North Korea continued without stint for decades, providing the Castros and Kims the ultimate bogeygoat to feature in their propaganda, the impoverishing authoritarian grip of those regimes on their besieged people only strengthened.
Similarly, ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the puppet dictator that the CIA had installed over Iran in a 1953 coup, the Ayatollahs have been able to exploit ongoing hostility from the American "Great Satan" to retain and consolidate their repressive theocratic power.
All this is an object lesson for US relations with Putin's Russia, Chavista Venezuela, and beyond. Disastrously, it is being unheeded.
Even while thawing relations with Iran, the Obama administration has triggered a new cold war with Russia over Ukraine. This has only made Russian President Vladimir Putin more domestically popular than ever.
And even while normalizing relations with Cuba, Obama recently declared Venezuela a national security threat, imposing new sanctions. As journalist Alexandra Ulmer argued, these sanctions "may be godsend for struggling Venezuelan leader," President Nicolas Maduro. As Ulmer wrote in Reuters:
"Suddenly, the unpopular leader has an excuse to crank up the revolutionary rhetoric and try to fire up supporters, copying a tactic used skillfully for more than a decade by his mentor and predecessor, the late socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez.
A new fight with the enemy to the north may also help unite disparate ruling Socialist Party factions and distract Venezuelans from relentless and depressing talk about their day-to-day economic problems."
If intellectuals replace the current professional politicians as the leaders of society the situation would become much worse. Because they have neither the sense of reality, nor common sense. For them, the words and speeches are more important than the actual social laws and the dominant trends, the dominant social dynamics of the society. The psychological principle of the intellectuals is that we could organize everything much better, but we are not allowed to do it.
But the actual situation is as following: they could organize the life of society as they wish and plan, in the way they view is the best only if under conditions that are not present now are not feasible in the future. Therefore they are not able to act even at the level of current leaders of the society, which they despise. The actual leaders are influenced by social pressures, by the current social situation, but at least they doing something. Intellectuals are unhappy that the real stream of life they are living in. They consider it wrong. that makes them very dangerous, because they look really smart, while in reality being sophisticated professional idiots.
September 29, 2015
In his Orwellian September 28, 2015 speech to the United Nations, President Obama said that if democracy had existed in Syria, there never would have been a revolt against Assad. By that, he meant ISIL. Where there is democracy, he said, there is no violence of revolution.
This was his threat to promote revolution, coups and violence against any country not deemed a "democracy." In making this hardly veiled threat, he redefined the word in the international political vocabulary. Democracy is the CIA's overthrow of Mossedegh in Iran to install the Shah. Democracy is the overthrow of Afghanistan's secular government by the Taliban against Russia. Democracy is the Ukrainian coup behind Yats and Poroshenko. Democracy is Pinochet. It is "our bastards," as Lyndon Johnson said with regard to the Latin American dictators installed by U.S. foreign policy.
A century ago the word "democracy" referred to a nation whose policies were formed by elected representatives. Ever since ancient Athens, democracy was contrasted to oligarchy and aristocracy. But since the Cold War and its aftermath, that is not how U.S. politicians have used the term. When an American president uses the word "democracy," he means a pro-American country following U.S. neoliberal policies. No matter if a country is a military dictatorship or the government was brought in by a coup (euphemized as a Color Revolution) as in Georgia or Ukraine. A "democratic" government has been re-defined simply as one supporting the Washington Consensus, NATO and the IMF. It is a government that shifts policy-making out of the hands of elected representatives to an "independent" central bank, whose policies are dictated by the oligarchy centered in Wall Street, the City of London and Frankfurt.
Given this American re-definition of the political vocabulary, when President Obama says that such countries will not suffer coups, violent revolution or terrorism, he means that countries safely within the U.S. diplomatic orbit will be free of destabilization sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Defense Department and Treasury. Countries whose voters democratically elect a government or regime that acts independently (or even that simply seeks the power to act independently of U.S. directives) will be destabilized, Syria style, Ukraine style or Chile style under General Pinochet. As Henry Kissinger said, just because a country votes in communists doesn't mean that we have to accept it. It is the style of "color revolutions" sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy.
In his United Nations reply, Russian President Putin warned against the "export of democratic revolution," meaning by the United States in support of its local factotums. ISIL is armed with U.S. weapons and its soldiers were trained by U.S. armed forces. In case there was any doubt, President Obama reiterated before the United Nations that until Syrian President Assad was removed in favor of one more submissive to U.S. oil and military policy, Assad was the major enemy, not ISIL.
"It is impossible to tolerate the present situation any longer," President Putin responded. Likewise in Ukraine. "What I believe is absolutely unacceptable," he said in his CBS interview on 60 Minutes, "is the resolution of internal political issues in the former USSR Republics, through "color revolutions," through coup d'états, through unconstitutional removal of power. That is totally unacceptable. Our partners in the United States have supported those who ousted Yanukovych. … We know who and where, when, who exactly met with someone and worked with those who ousted Yanukovych, how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which countries, and who those instructors were. We know everything."
Where does this leave U.S.-Russian relations? I hoped for a moment that perhaps Obama's harsh anti-Russian talk was to provide protective coloration for an agreement with Putin in their 5 o'clock meeting. Speak one way so as to enable oneself to act in another has always been his modus operandi, as it is for many politicians. But Obama remains in the hands of the neocons.
Where will this lead? There are many ways to think outside the box. What if Putin proposes to air-lift or ship Syrian refugees – up to a third of the population – to Europe, landing them in Holland and England, obliged under the Shengen rules to accept them?
Or what if he brings the best computer specialists and other skilled labor for which Syria is renowned to Russia, supplementing the flood of immigration from "democratic" Ukraine?
What if the joint plans announced on Sunday between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Russia to jointly fight ISIS – a coalition that US/NATO has refrained from joining – comes up against U.S. troops or even the main funder of ISIL, Saudi Arabia?
The game is out of America's hands now. All it is able to do is wield the threat of "democracy" as a weapon of coups to turn recalcitrant countries into Libyas, Iraqs and Syrias.
By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is "KILLING THE HOST: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy."
nippersdad, September 29, 2015 at 10:22 am
"We know who and where, when, who exactly met with someone and worked with those who ousted Yanukovich, how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which countries, and who those instructors were. We know everything."
That sounds like a pretty clear threat to the Democratic front runner for the Presidency to come to terms, or else. While it is good to see someone threatening accountability, it would be nice if it didn't have to come from Russia.
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©nippersdad, September 29, 2015 at 1:41 pm
September 29, 2015 at 11:49 am
Accountability will not come from an Administration that made Victoria Nuland an Assistant Secretary of State in the first place.
No doubt, but I was kind of hoping that the progressive caucuses might make more of a fuss than they did over our "the king is dead, long live the king", foreign policy. That is, after all, what got many of them elected. It never ceases to amaze me how fast candidates become coopted by the establishment once elected.
Synoia, September 29, 2015 at 2:03 pm
The establishment has files on them. Hudson's piece reads as a prelude to war.
Nick, September 29, 2015 at 10:38 am
This post is nothing but tinfoil-hattery. I can assure you, the US is shedding no tears for the pain Russia is about to inflict on itself by putting Russian boots on the ground in Damascus.
OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 11:10 am
Did a latter-day Charlie Wilson tell you that? I have no doubt that the stuck-in-the-past meatheads in DC have a wet dream over just such a scenario. I also have no doubt that Russia (as well as China and Iran) have no intention of falling into such a trap. The ongoing peeling-off of Euro/NATO lemmings is as clear indication as any that the US will end up either backing off or try to go it alone. The latter is a recipe for disaster, as even Obama realizes. So right now it's all posturing for domestic consumption, behind the scenes things are a bit different as certain recent incidents would seem to indicate. But hey, we can dream the Russophobic/Slavophobic dreams, amiright?
lylo, September 29, 2015 at 12:05 pm
Yeah, my reading too.
I also have to point out how ironic it is that a country stuck in several unresolved conflicts that continue to drain resources and produce instability years later is hoping that, somehow, their opponents get suckered into a quagmire in a country they are already stuck in.
So, sure, I guess that's what they're hoping for. Makes about as much sense as anything else they've come up with recently (including direct confrontation with Russia just to enrich a few ME and corporate pals.)
And "tinfoil hattery" is generally used as things not accepted and proven. Which part of this isn't proven? US toppling democracies and installing dictators who we then call democratic? That we have less pull on the international stage than anytime in our lives? That the other bloc has a serious advantage in this conflict, and going forward? These are all facts…
washunate, September 30, 2015 at 12:10 pm
Give Nick a little credit now; there is a shred of cleverness to the comment(!). He's trying to plant a big lie inside of the framing – namely, that the rise of IS is a legitimate rebellion within Syria.
When of course the truth is the opposite. It's IS that is the foreign invader; Russian boots on the ground would be working with the recognized government, not against it. Indeed, the comparison might inadvertently be quite apt. Syria looks more and more like a marker on the road from Pax Americana to a multipolar world. Just like the Soviet-Afghan war was a marker on the road from the Cold War to Pax Americana.
Perhaps another incident is a better comparison. Maybe Syria is our Suez moment.
Thure Meyer, September 29, 2015 at 11:15 am
Tinfoil-hattery, interesting choice of words. So who's conspiracy are you talking about?
As to your assurance; well it would be a bit more convincing if you were to unveil your identity so that I know who speaks for all of us (US)...
readerOfTeaLeaves, September 29, 2015 at 2:32 pm
Oh, crikey Nick.
As near as I can tell, the US Foreign Policy establishment is driven by think tanks that are funded by oil companies, Saudis, Israelis, and others for whom 'putting America first' means covering their own asses and letting the US military (and well-compensated military contractors) do all the heavy lifting.
As if that weren't bad enough, we also have the R2Pers ("responsibility to protect"), whose hypocrisy could gag a maggot - the R2Pers seem to think it is urgent to solve every other nation's (and corporations) problems - indeed, so very urgent that kids from Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Idaho, etc should all be sent into harm's way in distant lands, whose languages the R2Pers don't happen to speak, whose histories the R2Pers are ignorant about, and whose cultural nuances are unknown to the R2Pers.
IOW, Washington DC appears to be awash in egoism and careerism.
I think that Russians have managed to figure that out.
washunate, September 30, 2015 at 11:54 am
I find it rather amusing that this is the best the Democratic establishment can throw at posts pointing out the idiocy of imperialism. How the Obots have fallen.
steelhead23, September 29, 2015 at 10:56 am
It isn't just the lies and abject stupidity that keeps the U.S. constantly at war, it is our alliances with repressive dictators, like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that is leading the U.S. toward confrontation with civilization, and Russia. Not so much a leader, the U.S. has become the militant vassal of KSA. The undying irony is that it was wealthy Saudis who started the most recent mess on 9/11/01. This will not end until the U.S. turns its back on the KSA.
Sufferin' Succotash, September 29, 2015 at 11:15 am
Or KSA self-destructs.
Ranger Rick, September 29, 2015 at 11:00 am
Russia has always maintained that the Ukrainian revolution was CIA-backed if not -instigated. It's a shrewd move given the US's track record with regime change. No one will ever be sure if the new Ukrainian government is entirely legitimate or not.
What really gets terrifying is when you take a step back and realize that the 1800s imperialist regime never really changed. When you start talking about "superpower" or "regional power" you are no longer talking about power in the military or economic sense. These countries regularly meddle in, if not directly control, the politics in other countries. It honestly does not matter to the United States or Russia or any other country what your government chooses to do as long as it does what the other country wants.
NotTimothyGeithner, September 29, 2015 at 11:48 am
The Kiev rump failed to meet constitutional standards for impeachment even with the threats of the mob, and with elections just three or four months away in September following the Maidan event, there was no practical reason for a forceful removal of the government. Third party or not, the Kiev rump government has the same legality as the Confederacy. The "separatists" and the Crimeans saw their country dissolved by a mob, not an election with a regularly scheduled one on the horizon. The Ukraine was not a case where they would be waiting four years under a tyrant. If they had made it to September with electioneering issues, then the situation would be different, but as the current cabal didn't do that, they are akin to Jefferson Davis just with a better hand.
Americans as celebrators of the Declaration of Independence should note it is not legitimate to change established governing customs because your side might lose there has to be a litany of grievances with no possibility of redress. By Mr. Jefferson's standards, this country should have nothing to do with the Kiev government until the concerns of the separatists have been addressed. Unfortunately the use of law doesn't exist in this country.
Eureka Springs, September 29, 2015 at 11:11 am
Obamacrats rhetoric and behavior (policy) are both reminiscent and escalation of Bushco in so many ways.
Wasn't it Bush Jr. who said something along the line of "Democracies don't attack each other"?
NotTimothyGeithner, September 29, 2015 at 12:03 pm
It's just the old Democratic peace theory. It's utter garbage. I'm sure 43 said it because he repeated the last thing he heard anyway. World War I is pitched as a battle between old world tyrannical such as Germany (with universal male suffrage for its power base) versus shining beacons of democracy such as the UK and France which weren't quite democracies yet. Hitler sort of won a national election. Churchill was selected in a secret meeting when Chamberlain had to step down. So where is the democratic line? It's always been subjective test.
Of course, all governments rule by the consent of the governed.
JerseyJeffersonian, September 29, 2015 at 5:37 pm
Actually, Leander, the vaunted "independence" of the central banks of the US, Great Britain, and Deutschland is largely a fiction. And this very fiction has the effect of hyper-empowering both the financial sector and the oligarchs with whom the financial sector exists in a symbiotic relationship; in point of fact, these "independent" central banks are largely mere creatures of the financial sector and the symbiont oligarchs. The carefully cultivated appearance of independence is a sham under whose cover the truth about how central bank policies cater slavishly to the interests of the financial sector and oligarchs remains unrecognized.
Careerist movement back and forth between the central banks and the financial sector (along with the academic and think tank communities in which neo-liberalism reigns supreme as the only accepted school of economics) facilitates the group-think that culminates in the intellectual capture of the "independent" central banks. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Welcome to Naked Capitalism; our hosts provide us with a rich spread of knowledge and analysis, rather as Col. Lang does at his blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis, at which I have also read your posts.
MaroonBulldog, September 29, 2015 at 11:13 pm
In United States administrative law, the word "independent" has an interesting meaning: it refers to an executive regulatory agency that is "independent of the president," in the sense that the president cannot easily remove the head of the agency. The Fed is independent in this sense: the president cannot easily fire Chair Yellen or any other member of the Fed's board of governors.
An agency can be "independent" in this sense and still completely captured by the industry it purports to regulate.
Yves Smith, September 30, 2015 at 3:42 am
The Fed is NOT owned by banks.
Banks hold shares of non-voting preferred stock in regional Feds. The Board of Governors, which approves the hiring of all regional Fed presidents, is most assuredly part of the Federal government. The regional Feds are more like a nasty public-private partnership with a bad governance structure (as in the regional Fed boards on which banks have some, and I stress some, director seats, cannot hire or fire ANYONE at a regional Fed, they do not approve budgets or other policy actions. Their role is strictly advisory, although the regional Feds, being more than a little captured cognitively, give that advice a fair bit of weight.
To give an idea how much power those banks you incorrectly deem to be owners have: Congress is looking at passing a bill to cut the dividends of the all but small banks how hold shares in the Fed by 75%. Pray tell, can Congress tell a private company to cut its dividends?
TedWa, September 30, 2015 at 10:21 am
Hi Yves : I don't see any Fed "independence" in action and haven't for quite some time.
Max, September 29, 2015 at 11:40 am
Ah yes, the notoriously secular and definitely legitimate PDPA government of Afghanistan 'overthrown' by the US. Is that a joke? Has Michael Hudson ever read a book about the Afghan civil war, a highly complex, decade-plus asymmetrical conflict with constantly shifting actors and allegiances? Reducing it to a narrative about US imperialism is intellectually dishonest on its own (there is no evidence that the US ever provided material support to the Taliban – everything from HRW to internal US documents to the academic consensus to journalistic accounts such as Ahmed Rashid's Taliban (2001?) contradicts that claim), nevermind that the Khalqi-Parcham government was a Soviet puppet government and an imperial construct in its own right. Check out any works by Barnett Rubin (U Nebraska?) or Thomas Barfield (B.U.)
The Mujahideen debacle (Which is both a separable and conjoined issue to the rise of the Taliban depending on time frame) was a result of poor US oversight of Pakistan, an internal US policy failure (no accountability or human intelligence on the ground) and of course intimately tied to the USSR's campaign of genocide in Afghanistan. Yes, the CIA gave the ISI $2-3bil in loose change to funnel into the Mujahideen (which were not united in any meaningful sense at any point in time, and frequently factionalized over pork-barrel / ethnic / tribal issues), however, the US policy at the time was hands-off with regard to how that money was spent, and if you read Peter Tomsen's book about his time as HW's special envoy it becomes quite clear that the blinders were on in Washington with regard to what was actually happening there on the ground.
Here's a quick and outdated overview for anyone who would like to educate themselves about this conflict: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/afghan2/Afghan0701-02.htm
I understand that the Russophilia on this blog runs strongly but the inhumane destruction visited upon the Afghan people by the USSR's geopolitics is and was sickening, imperialistic and functionally a genocide. How am I supposed to take any of this polemic seriously when the author can't even be bothered to read about a conflict? This is a prime example of ideology driving discourse. There are plenty of fair-game examples to call out the US's short-sighted and globally destructive foreign policy. I do not see the point in allowing ideology to cover for misinformation and misrepresentation of historical facts – that's the playbook of neoliberal hustlers.
Faroukh Bulsara, September 29, 2015 at 2:53 pm
"…the notoriously secular and definitely legitimate PDPA government of Afghanistan 'overthrown' by the US. Is that a joke?"
Umm, Max buddy, where in this article did Hudson say such a thing? Right, he didn't. But thanks for the Afghan history lesson anyway.
Max, September 29, 2015 at 3:13 pm
"Democracy is the overthrow of Afghanistan's secular government by the Taliban against Russia."
It's right there in the opening paragraph, and the accusation is rather explicit.
juliania, September 29, 2015 at 8:53 pm
That's an awkward sentence to be sure, Max – I puzzled over that one myself. I'm more in favor of this extract from Putin's speech at the UN:
". . .We should all remember the lessons of the past. For example, we remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic consequences and caused degradation instead of progress. . ."
Sort of 'puts paid' to trying to equate the Russian Federation with the Soviet Union, doesn't it?
OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 3:15 pm
Is that the same HRW that can't find evidence of Kiev purposefully targeting and killing civilians? The same HRW that has never said a thing about the US support for murderous regimes in Latin America? Or about US war crimes? Yeah OK, I will take their word on how Afghanistan went down, over the US' proven track record of destroying any and all left-leaning Third World governments from 1950 onward.
Max, September 29, 2015 at 3:38 pm
Attack one of my sources, fine – the others still exist in far greater numbers. Barnett Rubin is my favorite, his book "Blood on the Doorstep" is excellent.
Is everything part of the US capitalist plot or is there some verifiable source that you will accept without dismissing out of hand? You didn't even attempt to read the source.
The Afghan government was left leaning in the sense that it was more socially progressive than the population living outside of Kabul, all 80% of the country that the government did not control in fact; and their authoritarian approach to instituting gender equality and abolishing Islam had a disastrous effect on the government's popularity and tribal credit, which was and is necessary to gain the support of the rural population. Other than that it was your typical post-Stalinist tankie failed experiment in land redistribution and Party education apparatus that only served to create a new class of insular elites & alienating/disenfranchising the majority of the population while hamstringing developmental progress made by actual Afghans in the decades before the Soviets (and eventually Pakistan and the US) got their hands in the pot.
OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 3:55 pm
IOW, the Soviets and the US were like peas in a pod. Funny that the "accomplishments" cited by Empire apologists also used to include gender equality and the creation of insular elites. So what's your point, that the Soviets tried to prop-up their flunkies by force? Pot calling the kettle black, much like 0bama's speech yesterday. And HRW has often acted in concert with the US to cover up its crimes while hypocritically calling out those who weren't "our sonzofbiatches."
likbez, September 30, 2015 at 9:23 pm
The Afghan government was left leaning in the sense that it was more socially progressive than the population living outside of Kabul, all 80% of the country that the government did not control in fact; and their authoritarian approach to instituting gender equality and abolishing Islam had a disastrous effect on the government's popularity and tribal credit, which was and is necessary to gain the support of the rural population. Other than that it was your typical post-Stalinist tankie failed experiment in land redistribution and Party education apparatus that only served to create a new class of insular elites & alienating/disenfranchising the majority of the population while hamstringing developmental progress made by actual Afghans in the decades before the Soviets (and eventually Pakistan and the US) got their hands in the pot.
That's plain vanilla propaganda. Or more charitably you are oversimplifying the issue and try to embellish the USA behavior. Which was a horrible crime. Soviets were not that simplistic and attempts to abolish Islam were not supported by Soviets. They tried to create a secular country that's right but with Islam as a dominant religion.
And how many years Afghan government survived after the USSR dissolved and financial and technical aid disappeared. You need to shred your post and eat it with borsch. It's a shame.
fajensen, September 30, 2015 at 5:35 am
Ah, but: "A man is known by the company he keeps".
Whatever Putin is besides, he is *not* a friend, ally and global protector of Saudi Arabic Wahhabism!
With friends like that, it is clear o everyone else that you people are circling pretty close to the drain already and we non-USA-nian un-people prefer to not be sucked into your decline via TTIP et cetera.
Michael Hudson, September 29, 2015 at 11:17 pm
Max, your comment does not make sense.
All I can say is that this blog is NOT Russiaphilia. That's name calling. It is not Russiaphilia to note the effect of U.S. foreign policy on bolstering the most right-wing fundamentalist Islamic groups, Latin American right-wing kleptocracies or other dictatorships.
Whatever Soviet oppression was in Afghanistan, it did not back religious extremism. Just the opposite.
OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 11:38 pm
Nick was probably one of those who screamed about cheese-eating surrender monkeys while stuffing themselves with supersized freedom fries orders.
September 29, 2015 at 3:47 pm
Ahem. Egypt. Egypt had a brief democracy.
Iran had a very real and true democracy (1955) but it was wiped out by the US.
Lot's of countries actually have democratic elections but when the people elect someone the US disapproves of, that democracy has to go and is ALWAYS replaced by a dictatorship.
Obama's a corrupt idiot. Syria is a mess only because the US made it that way, NOT because Assad is a meanie.
September 30, 2015 at 2:50 am
It's possible that Assad is a meanie AND that Syria is a mess because as usual we half assed support people who are just as horrible as him. It isn't like Saddam wasn't our great friend before we declared him horrible, terrible awful leader.
OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL, September 29, 2015 at 5:39 pm
The words in their respective UN speeches were very clear. Obomba: "I believe that what is true for America is true for virtually all mature democracies". Putin: "No one is obliged to conform to a single development model that is considered by someone else as the right one".
Ask yourself which statement the Founding Fathers of the U.S. would agree with. Yankee go home.
bh2, September 29, 2015 at 10:40 pm
"Hope and change", baby! The long arc of history bends toward despotism.
Knute Rife, September 29, 2015 at 11:25 pm
This has been a favorite US tactic since the Marines hit Tripoli (anti-piracy myths notwithstanding), took off with the Spanish-American War, went through the roof when the Latin American interventions started in earnest in the 20s, and became our peculiar and cherished institution with the Cold War. Obama is just continuing the tradition.
cwaltz , September 30, 2015 at 2:37 am
I'll give him this- it's as close to being transparent on our foreign policy as I've seen any of his predecessors come.
At least, he's admitting that our end game has always been first and foremost about our own interests. Now if he'll only admit that THIS is why the world really hates us. Being selfish and protecting only your own interests at the cost of others is never going to be a winning plan to encourage people to like you or trust you(particularly when you collude behind closed doors to carry out those interests.)
*Sigh* We're America. We set the bar low when it comes to caring about how others wish to govern themselves, our only criteria is that your leader always consider US interests first(nevermind that they aren't actually a US leader and should be putting their own inhabitants first.)
The Washington Post
I can't believe I'm saying this...but Putin is right. You want to talk about a system that should cease to exist, it's this one.
And before you point to the Constitution and say "not gonna happen," there are plans out there that would render it a moot point, like states pledging to award electors to whoever wins the popular vote nationwide. And they'd easily pass constitutional muster.
Actually, Putin is right. After all these years, it is high the time a constitutional amendment changes this system for the straight voting method used in the entire world by democracies and even by dictatorships.
And while we are at it, maybe it is also high the time U.S. abandons the imperial system (it inherited from Britain - a country that already abandoned it many years ago) and finally adopts the metric system thus joining the civilized world - so to say.
And while we are at it, U.S. should get rid of the Senate. It serves no useful purpose apart from representing a unacceptable drain of public funds.
And while we are at it, .....
A constitutional amendment could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.
Instead, by state laws, without changing anything in the Constitution, The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency, to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by replacing state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes.
Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions.
The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes-that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states.
The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founders. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.
The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.
Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc
cartman, October 6, 2011 at 12:51 am
Slavic untermensch – especially Orthodox Christian ones – must be destroyed. Catholic Slavs are much easier to control. Witness that Poland has the presidency of the EU at the same time Merkel is giving ultimatums to the Serbs and German soldier are once again shooting Serbs at the border checkpoints (which are illegal under UNSC 1244). No matter what they say, it is totally irrelevant as a power.
kievite,October 5, 2011 at 11:23 pm
IMHO you are going a little bit too far both in regard of the value of Russian independence and existence of democracy.
As for independence. nobody cares too much about Russian independence as long as most oligarchs have London real estate, keep money in Western banks, teach children abroad in best colleges, etc.
As for democracy it does exists, but only for a tiny fraction of population - the elite and upper middle class. And this is nothing new. Historically democracy always existed mostly for the members of ruling class. For Greece that was class of slave-owners. Nothing essentially changed. This dream of "perfect democracy" is just a propaganda trick. And here you are right: "perfect democracy", "mass democracy" or "democracy for everybody" does not exist and never existed. Some strata of population and first of all low income strata historically were always excluded and marginalized. A simple question is: Does democracy exists if a party accepts $100K contributions?
But situation is more subtle. If the people's ability to vote candidates in and out of office has no meaningful influence on the decisions they make while in office, does democracy exist? The second important question is: "How much civil liberty and protection against government abuse remains in the system?"
In view of those arguments I think it is more correct to say that what in most cases what is sold under the marketing brand of "democracy" should be more properly be called "inverted totalitarism". Like with totalitarism the net effect is marginalization of citizens to control the direction of the nation through the political process. But unlike classic totalitarian states which rely on mobilization around charismatic leader, here a passive populace is preferred (famous "Go shopping" recommendation by Bush II after 9/11).
Barriers to participation like "management" of elections using two party system and by preselection of candidates by party machine are used as more subtle and effective means of control. Formally officials purport to honor electoral politics, freedom and the Constitution. In reality manipulation the levers of power excludes everybody but a tiny percentage of the population (oligarchy).
Like in classic totalitarism propaganda dispensed by schools and the media, not to mention the entertainment. The stress is on eliminating the audience for anybody who does not support the regime. Ideology is supported by powerful research institutions (aka "think tanks") and is adapted to modern realities by well paid "intellectual agents". Milton Friedman is a classic example. The goal is the same as in classic totalitarism: the dominance of official ideology, especially in schools and universities. But this is achieved without violent suppression of opposing views, mainly by bribing and ostracizing instead of the key ingredient of classical totalitarism - violence toward opponents.
AK (@sublimeoblivion),October 6, 2011 at 2:17 am
The part about media self-censorship is at least every bit as prevalent in "free" societies such as the US as in Russia. Noam Chomsky's concept of the propaganda mode cannot be mentioned enough. The latest example is how The Guardian and NYT – and remember, print newspapers everywhere are more sophisticated than TV – colluded in with-holding from publication many Wikileaks cables that cast a bad light on the power elites.
Another question is ask is, which of these countries has the most democracy – one where many policy decisions are based on the wishes of corporate lobbyists; and one where many policy decisions are made as per opinion polls and the interests of the "overwhelming majority." Much of the "free" West is in the former category; Russia and China are in the latter.Reply
kievite,October 6, 2011 at 2:45 am
AK: "Noam Chomsky's concept of the propaganda mode cannot be mentioned enough"
I think the right term is "Manufactured Consent". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent:_The_Political_Economy_of_the_Mass_Media
It describes five editorially-distorting filters applied to news reporting in mass media:
1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large firms which are run for profit. Therefore they must cater to the financial interest of their owners – often corporations or particular controlling investors. The size of the firms is a necessary consequence of the capital requirements for the technology to reach a mass audience.
2. The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a "de-facto licensing authority". Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers. This has weakened the working-class press, for example, and also helps explain the attrition in the number of newspapers.
3. Sourcing Mass Media News: Herman and Chomsky argue that "the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access [to the news], by their contribution to reducing the media's costs of acquiring [...] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become 'routine' news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers."
4. Flak and the Enforcers: "Flak" refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defense or defense of the media outlet's public image. Flak can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.
5. Anti-Communism: This was included as a filter in the original 1988 edition of the book, but Chomsky argues that since the end of the Cold War (1945–91), anticommunism was replaced by the "War on Terror", as the major social control mechanism.[4
kovane,October 6, 2011 at 7:25 am
I agree, Anatoly. Western media networks have a wide variety of opinions on a limited number of issues only, and sing in startling unison on the some other extremely important matters. Wikileaks is a great example, the policy on Israel in the US is another.
The real difficulty of politics is making weighted decisions that would be beneficial for the future of the country, listening both to lobbyist and the popular opinion. And mistakes can be made on both extremes. In retrospection, few would argue that the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act in the US was made under significant pressure of financial lobby and it seriously contributed to the 2008 meltdown. But populism is equally dangerous, as it is evidenced by Greece. Adopting policies only because they are popular, without considering the long term effect, can be a ruin of any country. Keeping a right balance between these two approaches is the key.Reply
grafomanka,October 6, 2011 at 9:57 am
'Managed democracy' is a front, and I would say it's kind of refreshing that we can stop living this hypocrisy now. And it's not because of Prokhorov and Kudrin, but because of bizzaro way in which Putin and Medvedev announced that they decided 'years ago'(!) about the job swap. And not even United Russia knew what was going on. What does it make United Russia then?
kovane,October 6, 2011 at 11:19 am
Democracy, first and foremost, is about the wishes of the voters. Putin can run all he wants, but if he doesn't get elected, their decision will be worth as much as my decision to run, for instance. And that's democracy and all that matters. By the way, why do you conclude that since Putin and Medvedev simply announced their decision, there were no consultations, etc?
yalensis,October 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm
@grafomanka: I don't think the main problem is what goes on within United Russia and how they internally pick their candidate. It is the job of any political party to nominate their best candidate who, in this case is obviously Putin. The real problem is that they are the ONLY viable political party. So, Russia is effectively a one-party system now. True democracy requires multi-party system.
grafomanka,October 6, 2011 at 12:41 pm
kievite, October 6, 2011 at 7:33 pm
"True democracy requires multi-party system."
You are mixing apples and oranges. Democracy requires that citizens are equal before the law and have equal voting rights. By extension it leads to such thing as "tyranny of majority" which is inevitable (that's why Hegel prefer monarchy). Democracy also presuppose that alternative parties are not banned.
But representation is completely another thing. If you are representing 3% of population and to get to Parliament requires 5% you are f*cked absolutely legitimately within this framework and can do nothing without undermining the notion of democracy as expressed.
Also you can have an illusory alternative parties system like the USA two party system with "winner takes all" provisions in each state which make success of the third party extremely unlikely. My impression is that the existing two party system in the USA is just an improved version of one party system that existed in the USSR with the only difference that that two wings of the same party (let's say that one that represents mainly Wall Street but is friendly to military-industrial and Energy complex and that other the represents mainly Military-industrial and Energy complex but also is quite friendly to Wall Street) are staging the theatrical battles to amuse the electorate.
I hope you are not proposing special anti-democratic regime of affirmative action to change that situation (as you might remember from Okudzhva song "A pryanikov sladkih vsegda ne hvataet na vseh").
grafomanka,October 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm
Two party system is just like 'upgraded' one party system. Right. But in one political change is possible, in the other it isn't.
yalensis,October 7, 2011 at 12:36 am
Ha ha! No, I do not believe USA 2-party system is true democracy. How can there be any democracy when 1% of the population owns 99% of all the wealth? Is ridiculous situation.
grafomanka, October 6, 2011 at 11:49 am
They certainly pretended that there were consultations for the last 4 years, with Medvedev not ruling out that he's going to run, with the talk about some kind of modernizing fraction in the Kremlin.
Now it turned out that none of this was for real. I have more respect for Putin, at least he chose not to violate Russian constitution.
And about wishes of the votes, please. I read that opposition ads in some Russian regions were banned from state TV. Let's not pretend this is a democracy.
kovane,October 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm
So you suppose that if "elites" (that's a very democratic term, straight from the Constitution) were unanimously opposed to Putin's nomination, he would be running anyway? Just because he and Medvedev allegedly made the decision 4 years ago?
Yes, if Nemtsov's talking head was on every channel 24/7 then the opposition would have every chance to win the election. The Muslim Brothers in Egypt were banned altogether, let alone the access to media, but that didn't stop them from being the most popular movement. So let's not pretend that isn't a democracy, having own TV network is not one of the God-given rights last time I checked.Reply
grafomanka,October 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm
If you didn't mean consultations within the elites then what consultations did you have in mind?
TV coverage is crucially important, because as Kremlin PR masters know right TV coverage can add as much as 15-20% support to a party/candidate. And they have no competition. TV is used for black PR all the time. I don't think Egypt is the fair example, for many reasons, religious etc.
Putin is popular and quite probably Putin is what Russia needs now. It doesn't make Russia a democracy. Democracy is run on institutions, fair competition, public discussion….Reply
kovane,October 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm
I meant exactly consultations within elites, though "consultations" is a very unsuitable term. Maneuvering and falling behind the right candidate, that's how I would put it.
TV coverage is crucially important
That's what I wrote in the piece. And that's why the Kremlin controls TV so zealously.
Democracy is run on institutions, fair competition, public discussion
That's not democracy, that's a spherical model of democracy. Let's talk about two countries that are usually presented as model democracies, the UK and US. Does anybody discuss the policy on Israel in the US media? Did they discuss if the US should get into the war on Iraq? Bailout of the big banks in 2008? Or any major problem for that matter. And by being discussed I mean not presenting 1001 reason why it should be done. The UK mass media is even more pitiable in that regard. So, please, get off your high horse and stop gluing labels.
grafomanka,October 6, 2011 at 10:14 pm
I don't want to go into 'In America they…' If Russia is a democracy then where are the mechanisms for political change? They are technically there but in reality the Kremlin makes sure that they are useless. I certainly don't see anything democratic about how politics is handled.Reply
kovane,October 7, 2011 at 8:49 am
Oh, no, you're not going to reduce it to lynching Negroes. The mechanism for political change is present in Russia, and you know it. When the citizens become dissatisfied with the government UR will be forced to make some changes. In many respect the Russian system is more responsive to negative tendencies in public sentiment, because UR can't shift blame on Democrats or Republicans or the Labour party. Whatever happens, everyone knows that's UR's fault.
yalensis,October 7, 2011 at 11:01 am
Well, this is how it is with artists, they experience everything in a vivid emotional manner and are not always rational thinkers. The good news is: Bondarchuk DID show up for work the following day (ergo, he was not whisked away to death star for torture by Putin). I like his rant, I like the way he talks. But I am still scratching my head: what specific policy changes is he asking for? If he decides to build his own faction within United Russia, then he will need a platform of proposed policies. Is not enough to show: "Look how brilliantly I am expressing my emotions! I should be the next Hamlet!"
apc27,October 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm
That desire for a "public discussion" is a common criticism of the way Putin makes decisions, as he seems to prefer to keep his cards close to his chest. Some "discussion" is necessary, but all too often there is that annoying Russian delusion that "any housewife can run a country", that dictates peoples' desire to discuss things, rather than any practical considerations.
The decision as to who will run for a president may have huge implications, but at the end of the day, it is a deeply personal one. What good would our uninformed discussions could have done, besides rocking the boat and setting the power elites on the course for a direct confrontation? Plus, its not as if people's opinions are not considered. There plenty of polls and, of course, the elections themselves where Russians can have their say.
People often use US as an example of the way democracy should work, but what they themselves do not appreciate is that only in US can such polarising and all encompassing "discussions" NOT lead to chaos and ruin.
marknesop,October 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm
The impression that running a country is little more complicated than baking a cake or changing a tire is common to a great deal wider group than Russians. Please don't think I'm endorsing politicians, but politics and government are their business and they typically have some educational background that suits them to the purpose. The notion that a farmer who spends 70% of his waking hours running a farm and doesn't have time to watch more than the local news can engage at an international level and make decisions that will affect complicated relationships of which he is not even aware is beyond silly. But people insist on the right to be involved with the political process without exercising their own due diligence of informing themselves on the issues, and persist with the fiction that anyone could do the job just as well. Anyone who thinks mistakes in that respect are of little consequence, and any damages caused by a foolish choice based on sloganeering and jingoism are easily repaired should review the G.W. Bush and Yeltsin presidencies.
Putin is largely respected and trusted by the Russian people because his policies have generally brought Russia success, and under his guidance Russia has prospered while avoiding most of the stumbling-blocks placed in its path. They believe he can continue this record of success, and they believe it more than they believe Boris Nemtsov could achieve a similar level of success. Nemtsov was a Deputy Prime Minister – it is unrealistic to imagine there is a significant group of voters who do not know who he is and his name on the ballot would be instantly recognizable to nearly all voters. Voting in Boris Nemtsov, or Kasyanov or Kasparov just to prove the validity of the multiparty system would have consequences far beyond the immediate.
Just once, I wish the government would not mess with Nemtsov – would allow him all the free advertising time he wanted and access to the voters as he pleased. Of course the government could not let him just blather and make shit up the way he does in his egregious "white papers", but rebuttal should be confined to calm, reasoned ripostes that do not attempt to overpower his message, rather offering citizens the opportunity to fact-check his claims. When Nemtsov still lost by a wide margin, as I'm sure he would, he would have to confront the fact that he has nothing to offer Russians but a big ego, a big aggreived pout and an inflated sense of self-worth.
yalensis,October 7, 2011 at 11:07 am
Why cannot a housewife run the country? Was Katherine the Great not a housewife before she became Emperess? Most historians agree she was pretty good ruler, except for that unpleasant business surrounding Pugachev uprising.
marknesop,October 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm
I assume you were joking, but ruling – as a member of the nobility – in days gone by is quite a bit different than ruling in the superpower age when all is comprised of alliances, "what have you done for me lately?" expectations and constant jockeying for advantage. Resolving international conflicts is unlikely to be brought about by challenging the enemy to a pie-making contest, winner take all. The more you don't possess any background knowledge in – political science, international affairs, foreign policy, trade….the more you must rely on advisors: and then, not only is the resulting policy not your own, you don't even understand it well enough to know if you've been sold a bag of shit that will have serious negative effects on the country.
George W. Bush is an excellent example of the radical pursuit of a narrow ideology that can result when someone is elected on his folksy charm and his devoutness, and not much else. He relied on a tight, like-minded circle of advisors to coalesce his opinions for him, decided things based on "gut feeling" rather than analysis and was not well-read in any subject except baseball despite having had the benefits of an excellent education. And he was a member of the political class!
While some modest, ordinary citizens might make excellent leaders on a community scale or with a simple problem in a subject with which they are acquainted, international politics are generally beyond them and they are not prepared for the infighting among their own political system that will make it difficult to get anything constructive done. I'm not suggesting ordinary citizens are too stupid to be politicians – merely that their life experiences have not prepared them for the political arena and I don't understand why anyone would invest their formative years in preparing for such a career (except that you can make quite a lot of money for doing little but talking and voting).
marknesop,October 7, 2011 at 5:56 pm
Sorry if I sound a little disillusioned with politics and politicians right now, but I'm still steaming after watching this video from Leos Tomicek's Austere Insomniac, which shows members of the European Parliament showing up at 7:00 AM just to enregister for the day – and pocket their 284-Euro allowance for doing so – and then buggering off for the weekend: many of them have their suitcases with them. I'm not sure what the language is, but it sounds like German and the film takes pains to point out EU Parliamentarians can earn more than Chancellor Merkel for basically doing dick-all. The reporter who is filming this gets kicked out by EU Parliament security.
marknesop,October 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm
"Democracy is run on institutions, fair competition, public discussion…."
Please provide an example of somewhere that occurs absent influence or interference by the party currently in power.
yalensis,October 7, 2011 at 12:42 am
…or absent influence of big money interests…
marknesop,October 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm
This is the crux of the argument for me – let's not pretend this is a democracy, but while we're caught up in the tide of refreshing honesty, let's stop pretending there is real democracy anywhere. In that light, Russia is no better and no worse than anywhere else, so let's stop with the finger-pointing and the self-righteous pontificating. I'm not opposed to criticism of Russia, provided it is not hypocritical or unfair.
The Italian papers wouldn't run a toothpaste ad without consulting their guidelines, because Berlusconi owns the media – but nobody suggests Italy isn't a democracy or is a managed democracy. In every country that exercises a simple vote and is not a monarchy, the leaders maneuver behind the scenes to gather more power for themselves and reduce or eliminate the possibility of successful challenge by opposition – by control of media outlets, by manufactured scandal and by inflation or fabrication of their own accomplishments. When everyone drops the pretense that they're a real democracy, the accusation that this country or that country oppresses its citizens by unduly and unfairly influencing their exercise of a free vote will lose its sting altogether. Hey, you, you're a crook – say, fellow crook; like to get together for a drink after work, and compare notes?
On the opposite pole of the argument are the voters, who don't know shit about governance or running a country, much less the nuances of international relationships and alliances, but are ready to vote for the leader with the best hair or the most affable public-speaking style. Let's not pretend that's democracy, either.
marknesop,October 7, 2011 at 12:04 am
There is no democracy anywhere – and hasn't been for a long time – like the idealized model you describe. I know you don't want to get involved in a Russia-vs-the USA discussion, but the USA sets itself up for just such a comparison by regularly expounding that American-style democracy is so wonderful they simply must export it to others, and by virtue of the fact that most of Russia's harshest critics are Americans or products of American agencies.
Russia is not an ideal democracy, as kovane already pointed out, in that not all parties have equal access to media and the ruling party has extensive control over both voting mechanisms and the rulebook for viability of new parties. However, the USA is similarly deficient in democratic values in that it uses gerrymandering, redistricting and voter disenfranchisement to manipulate the popular vote, and the current opposition seems perfectly willing to use the filibuster to crash the economy so that its chances of regaining power are improved. That's manifestly not what the electorate wants, since polls regularly reveal jobs and the economy as its biggest concerns.
Granted, that's the opposite problem to Russia – in that the opposition has too much power and can highjack every economic initiative by misusing the supermajority rule – but it ushers in what some analysts describe as "the normalization of extortion politics", and is plainly not democracy because party discipline supersedes loyalty to the constituent.
"Tame" media outlets like Fox News regularly report outright falsehoods, misstate the qualifications of their guests and frequently push made-up narratives as if they were real news – is that democracy?
grafomanka,October 7, 2011 at 9:22 am
Mark, in America Democrats and Republicans are locked in constant battle, and of course it has negative effects like extortion policies and Fox News. Maybe It's even too extreme and bad for the country. Quite probably Chinese with their 5-year plans will turn out to be more effective in governing because they're not locked in constant competition battle. But America is democracy and China isn't. Americans don't have it ideal, half of the country alienated when Bush became president. But it is democracy, power shifts, you can watch the daily show which takes a piss out of Fox News.
Foppe,October 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm
However nice TDS may be, it still behaves as though there are important differences between the two parties when, when it comes to (all-important) economic policy, there really isn't.
Both parties encourage outsourcing, both give huge subsidies to industries while cutting back on redistributive programs, neither party is willing to regulate and prosecute corrupt businesses/behavior (Cheney).. Certainly they differ a bit in the area of abortion/gay rights/etc., but they're doing as little as possible while still seeming distinct.Reply
grafomanka,October 8, 2011 at 10:31 pm
They differ economically too, but both pander to big businesses, yes. I think if Russia had more diversified economy and more different big businesses maybe politics would be a different story. But when big business in the country are oil and gas, why wouldn't the elites collude instead of competing? Collusion makes more sense to them.
About 'made-up narratives' I think Americans arrived at the conclusion that it doesn't matter what you say as long as it evokes emotional response. In the end it's emotions that win elections, not rational thinking. That's why Sarah Palin, Fox News, etc feel that they can spawn any bullshit.
Hardly surprising that the number one priority of the ECB, EU, France, and Germany was to bail out their banks, regardless of what happened to the feckless Greeks."
From laissez-faire economics in 18th-century India to neoliberalism in today's Europe the subordination of human welfare to power is a brutal tradition
Greece may be financially bankrupt, but the troika is politically bankrupt. Those who persecute this nation wield illegitimate, undemocratic powers, powers of the kind now afflicting us all. Consider the International Monetary Fund. The distribution of power here was perfectly stitched up: IMF decisions require an 85% majority, and the US holds 17% of the votes.
The IMF is controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It's now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and all the means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives.
The same programme is imposed regardless of circumstance: every country the IMF colonises must place the control of inflation ahead of other economic objectives; immediately remove barriers to trade and the flow of capital; liberalise its banking system; reduce government spending on everything bar debt repayments; and privatise assets that can be sold to foreign investors.
Using the threat of its self-fulfilling prophecy (it warns the financial markets that countries that don't submit to its demands are doomed), it has forced governments to abandon progressive policies. Almost single-handedly, it engineered the 1997 Asian financial crisis: by forcing governments to remove capital controls, it opened currencies to attack by financial speculators. Only countries such as Malaysia and China, which refused to cave in, escaped.
Consider the European Central Bank. Like most other central banks, it enjoys "political independence". This does not mean that it is free from politics, only that it is free from democracy. It is ruled instead by the financial sector, whose interests it is constitutionally obliged to champion through its inflation target of around 2%. Ever mindful of where power lies, it has exceeded this mandate, inflicting deflation and epic unemployment on poorer members of the eurozone.
The Maastricht treaty, establishing the European Union and the euro, was built on a lethal delusion: a belief that the ECB could provide the only common economic governance that monetary union required. It arose from an extreme version of market fundamentalism: if inflation were kept low, its authors imagined, the magic of the markets would resolve all other social and economic problems, making politics redundant. Those sober, suited, serious people, who now pronounce themselves the only adults in the room, turn out to be demented utopian fantasists, votaries of a fanatical economic cult.
All this is but a recent chapter in the long tradition of subordinating human welfare to financial power. The brutal austerity imposed on Greece is mild compared with earlier versions. Take the 19th century Irish and Indian famines, both exacerbated (in the second case caused) by the doctrine of laissez-faire, which we now know as market fundamentalism or neoliberalism.
In Ireland's case, one eighth of the population was killed – one could almost say murdered– in the late 1840s, partly by the British refusal to distribute food, to prohibit the export of grain or provide effective poor relief. Such policies offended the holy doctrine of laissez-faire economics that nothing should stay the market's invisible hand.
When drought struck India in 1877 and 1878, the British imperial government insisted on exporting record amounts of grain, precipitating a famine that killed millions. The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited "at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices". The only relief permitted was forced work in labour camps, in which less food was provided than to the inmates of Buchenwald. Monthly mortality in these camps in 1877 was equivalent to an annual rate of 94%.
As Karl Polanyi argued in The Great Transformation, the gold standard – the self-regulating system at the heart of laissez-faire economics – prevented governments in the 19th and early 20th centuries from raising public spending or stimulating employment. It obliged them to keep the majority poor while the rich enjoyed a gilded age. Few means of containing public discontent were available, other than sucking wealth from the colonies and promoting aggressive nationalism. This was one of the factors that contributed to the first world war. The resumption of the gold standard by many nations after the war exacerbated the Great Depression, preventing central banks from increasing the money supply and funding deficits. You might have hoped that European governments would remember the results.
Today equivalents to the gold standard – inflexible commitments to austerity – abound. In December 2011 the European Council agreed a new fiscal compact, imposing on all members of the eurozone a rule that "government budgets shall be balanced or in surplus". This rule, which had to be transcribed into national law, would "contain an automatic correction mechanism that shall be triggered in the event of deviation." This helps to explain the seigneurial horror with which the troika's unelected technocrats have greeted the resurgence of democracy in Greece. Hadn't they ensured that choice was illegal? Such diktats mean the only possible democratic outcome in Europe is now the collapse of the euro: like it or not, all else is slow-burning tyranny.
It is hard for those of us on the left to admit, but Margaret Thatcher saved the UK from this despotism. European monetary union, she predicted, would ensure that the poorer countries must not be bailed out, "which would devastate their inefficient economies."
But only, it seems, for her party to supplant it with a homegrown tyranny. George Osborne's proposed legal commitment to a budgetary surplus exceeds that of the eurozone rule. Labour's promised budget responsibility lock, though milder, had a similar intent. In all cases governments deny themselves the possibility of change. In other words, they pledge to thwart democracy. So it has been for the past two centuries, with the exception of the 30-year Keynesian respite.
The crushing of political choice is not a side-effect of this utopian belief system but a necessary component. Neoliberalism is inherently incompatible with democracy, as people will always rebel against the austerity and fiscal tyranny it prescribes. Something has to give, and it must be the people. This is the true road to serfdom: disinventing democracy on behalf of the elite.
• Twitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found at Monbiot.com
SaguaroRex 9 Jul 2015 22:30
It really is a religion. It's fun sometimes to imagine certain twinings-- compare and contrast. So one day I was sitting around thinking: US...and IS... what do they have in common?
1) they both pursue really totalitarian ideologies with every conviction of the religious fanatic.
2) Meaning they will subordinate their very humanity to the propagation, nay: perfection! of this brand of 'Utopianism'.
3)They each of them want to completely wipe something out and feel they must do so in order for their Creed to survive. The IS wants to destroy the Past ...as is evidenced by their historical monuments destructions. But the US, they want to destroy the Future... Or, specifically: any future where they are not practicing their own very self-interested brand of money-power religion and are not on top of the world lording it over everyone else.
Both of these visions are so deranged as to be impossible to achieve, but like any ardent Totalitarians-- they will damn sure try and over the dead bodies Of Others, regardless of how many or how much suffering need be inflicted to serve their 'God'...
Remco van Santen 9 Jul 2015 21:36
Conspiracist twaddle to argue the problem is external. Greece was corruptly managed for decades with the less wealthy bearing the burden disguised by an on-going devaluation of the drachma that devalued seven-fold in the two decades to joining the euro (http://www.economagic.com/em-cgi/data.exe/fedstl/exgrus).
The Europeans were naïve to expect the internal corruption to cease and the fixed exchange rate, presented by the adopted euro, simply brought it out to the surface. Greece is the home of democracy, but it is also became the home of those saying we might all be equal, but some are more entitled than others. Adopting the euro exposed the rot and so this is an opportunity for Greece to get its own house in order.
The Eurozone might like to think of helping the more vulnerable like the pensioners are protected and not used by the Greek government for grandstanding. Greece, the sheep, is parasite-infested and to be held just long enough under the sheep-dip pesticide to kill the parasites but not too long to kill the sheep.
Go Tsipras, show you are a leader of a true democracy.
motram 9 Jul 2015 20:50
Looks like the Tsyriza government has surrendered to Eurozone and IMF austerity demand. The game is over. The Rothsyz and the bilderbergys have carried the day in the end.
zolotoy -> peeptalk 9 Jul 2015 20:38
Only the little people pay taxes, as Mrs. Helmsley so trenchantly observed. That holds for all countries, not just Greece.
Allykate mikebain 9 Jul 2015 17:38
Interesting comment Mike Bain, thank you. Only a couple of points the "hoi polloi" are the lower classes not the elite (a common error!) and I dispute the notion that all humans are exploiters and takers. History proves otherwise. The early banks and building societies in England were created by non-conformists, Unitarians and Quakers etc, who did not spend their wealth on themselves but lived sparingly, ploughed their money back into their businesses, and ultimately achieved amazing reforms for the ordinary people here. If the rich, modern Greeks had the same selfless Christian philosophy, the corrupt tax system and greedy loans may not have destroyed their economy.
Allykate 9 Jul 2015 17:20
The "true road to serfdom" or revolution. Don't blame me..... I made speeches in support of the Referendum Party to oppose the signing of The Maastricht Treaty. John Major just would not listen to the people.
Boghaunter mikebain 9 Jul 2015 17:00
Governments are not the people. Germans were not Hitler. He was elected but then assumed dictatorial power. Look at the US - our government is made up of politicians bought by the 0.1%. The 0.1% do a great job controlling what the average American is told.
As for Germany reaping the benefit of no military, we'd be A LOT better off if we made the choice to invest in our country instead of in our ridiculously large military budget. We could choose that benefit. General Butler famously said, "War is a racket," and he was right.
The Marshall Plan was enlightened self interest as the US feared the spread of communism in devastated Europe. The UK received the most $. It also was disbursed with tight control over German politics/administration/economy and required dismantling of much of Germany's remaining industry. It was not a simple handout.
NYbill13 9 Jul 2015 15:45
Why Did They Lend Mega-Billions to Greece?
I still can't figure out what 'Greece' needed so badly that a handful of men who ran its government a decade ago took on these loans.
Was the money invested in public infrastructure? Does Greece now have a fabulous highway, airport and rail systems?
Did the previous Greek government ('conservative,' perhaps?) build a dozen new public hospitals, renovate the nation's schools or build networks of water and sewer treatment plants or desalination stations?
If so, then the Greek people may indeed owe a great debt to European financiers.
If not, who spent all this money and on what? Did those who signed the loan agreements receive any sort of commission for doing so?
Do those signatories now work for the IMF or perhaps Deutsche Bank?
All the press says is 'the Greeks' owe the Germans a ton of money. After 11,789 headlines and articles, I definitely understand that much.
After that, it's just pompous quotes and dire speculation about the future of the damn euro.
How about some background information, fellas? I'll bet you could even find out who signed the loan papers on both sides and talk to them.
Oh, but that would take, you know, research.
syenka CaptainGrey 9 Jul 2015 14:22
The point cap'n, is that the money isn't actually going to the Greeks. It's going to Greece's creditors (the ECB et al) who made incredibly irresponsible loans to a tiny slice of the Greek population. That irresponsibility should NOT be rewarded. The way out, of course -- oh horrors! -- is to just let the creditors take a bath, i.e. wipe the debt off the books. Then, put some money into the pockets of regular Greeks who will, of course, proceed to spend it and thereby relaunch the economy. Would you or I or any European be hurt by such a move? If your answer is yes, tell us how. And, the suffering of millions of Greeks would come to an end.
alpine1994 CaptainGrey 9 Jul 2015 13:22
It's true, the Greek government took the money. We all know about the Legarde List and the rampant corruption of the previous government administrations. They've all got off scot free and instead it's the Greek people who suffer through aggressive austerity. One might be so callous to blame them too, but if the government decreed citizens could retire young with a fat pension, most people would excitedly take up the offer. If the EU had any balls, it would authorize INTERPOL or what ever agency to crack down on corrupt current and former Greek politicians and other financial criminals to help recover money to satiate the debt. These fat cats get away with sinking whole countries!
CollisColumbulus Patrick Moore 9 Jul 2015 09:43
The greatest landholders in Ireland were almost to a man absentees, living in comfortable houses in Britain with wealth extracted from Irish peasants by their middlemen. Furthermore, they were alien in religion, often language, and nationality (the landholders may have considered themselves Irish - in some cases - by they were certainly 'British' in identity also, which cannot be said of the mass of the population) from the peasantry who provided their wealth. The ethno-religious land settlement in Ireland and the stranglehold on the Irish peasantry that resulted were the direct result of British policy in Ireland from the sixteenth and especially the seventeenth century onward and were maintained by the power of the British military. While the situation is too often reduced to 'Irish good, English bad' - note the heroic relief efforts of many private British individuals, especially the Quakers - it is impossible to excuse the British state from a large dose of culpability for the Famine without resorting to historical dishonesty of the highest level.
Giannis Kalogeropoulos athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 09:40
you are not well informed. please read http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntharvey/2015/07/07/five-reasons-greeks-were-right/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sectoral_balances
and remember: "the ones who have no knowledge, should not express opinion" Plato 460bc
CollisColumbulus -> Patrick Moore 9 Jul 2015 09:37
"The potato famine was a tragedy, but it is a little reported fact that the only crop that was blighted. During the time of the famine Ireland was an exporter of meat and grain. There was no shortage of food in Ireland - but there was a shortage of potatoes, which was the staple of the poor".
I am astonished that you use this to argue against British culpability in the Irish famine. The actions of the British state and Anglo-Irish colonial landholding society both created the conditions of dreadful rural poverty (and potato dependency) that were a sine qua non of the Famine and directly exacerbated the situation through their adherence to laissez-faire economics. It might be noted that many starving Irish farm labourer families emigrated to Britain to enter the workhouses there, rather than the workhouses in Ireland, because they knew the poor would not be allowed to starve to death in Britain.
Giannis Kalogeropoulos -> athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 09:33
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt-to-GDP_ratio see that map. Debt for countries is not like debt for people ... get informed before you blame ....
nottrue -> CitizenCarrier 9 Jul 2015 08:45
Something brought down Greece.
Its called the GFC. To refresh your memory financial institutions had manufactured schemes that made them lots of money from money that did not exist. When they eventually got caught out the tower of cards collapsed and the world was left short of cash and economies everywhere shrank. The financial institutions that caused the problem were bailed out by taxpayers because they were too big to fail. This meant that a few thousand very wealthy kept there wealth and the institutions could continue to play their game and make more money. The next collapse is not far away. The Greek loans (and other bad and risky loans) were bought by the taxpayer as part of their bail out package. It is shameful that governments refuse a similar bailout deal to the Greeks which involves the misery of millions of people. It is even sicker that the condition they imposed have been known and shown repeated not to work since the 1930 depression.
mikebain 9 Jul 2015 08:30
A great essay with a sad but true take-away point-humans are exploiters, takers. Humans can see no other way forward than to take from the weak - it's the easiest thing to do. Wealth must be protected at all costs. History is replete and is an unyielding witness to human exploitation of anything exploitable, especially the defenseless.
There is one exception to this-the aftermath of WWII. It is interesting that Germany never repaid its WWII debits (or those from WWI) and was the beneficiary of the Marshall Plan and U.S. military protection during the Cold War. So as Germany had no real debt-after murdering millions-and did not have the expense of maintaining a military, it was able to focus on growing it's economy at the cost of the U.S. taxpayer, some who had family members killed by Germans in WWII.
Of course this does not enter into the reporting of the credit crisis in Greece, where Germany is demanding austerity.
And so it goes: money talks, hoi polloi walks. True democracy will always be threatened by the human exploiters, the takers of this world, many who we call "Leaders"-and unfortunately they are legion and reborn on our planet every second; entering life with a mind fully open to and waiting to be filled with Free Market, Libertarian hubris, avarice, and the right to self-righteous exploitation of any and everything.
Glorieta, New Mexico
Celtiberico 9 Jul 2015 08:27
the gold standard – the self-regulating system at the heart of laissez-faire economics – prevented governments in the 19th and early 20th centuries from raising public spending or stimulating employment. It obliged them to keep the majority poor while the rich enjoyed a gilded age. Few means of containing public discontent were available, other than sucking wealth from the colonies and promoting aggressive nationalism. This was one of the factors that contributed to the first world war. The resumption of the gold standard by many nations after the war exacerbated the Great Depression, preventing central banks from increasing the money supply and funding deficits. You might have hoped that European governments would remember the results.
The worrying part is that a repeat performance today would quite possibly result in the destruction of human civilisation, or even life on earth.
Cecelia O'brien 9 Jul 2015 05:22
there may be a few errors here but fundamentally this article is spot on! Good for you!
I'd add though we let this happen - we too were greedy and the managerial middle class stood by as the unions were destroyed - we all took this 15% returns on dicey investments and did not question how such high rates could be possible - we celebrated globalism while and we supported elected officials who promised us deregulation was going to bring more prosperity.
Take your government back while you can.
JimGC athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 04:58
And what were the boards, and risk and compliance committees of the lending banks, and the regulators of Germany, France and the EU doing while the banks were lending hand over fist to a country which plainly was over extended?
Hardly surprising that the number one priority of the ECB, EU, France, and Germany was to bail out their banks, regardless of what happened to the feckless Greeks.
Cafael Skeffo 9 Jul 2015 04:34
Appeal to authority.
Capitalism destroyed feudalism? No, historical cataclysms and technological advances destroyed feudalism, but after a period of flux which you call capitalism, power and wealth is again concentrated at the top and new aristocracies emerge who move to guard their position and make it permanent; we are seeing this now with the increase in inequality and the end of post-industrial revolution/post-war social mobility in Western nations.
And you appear to subscribe to survival of the fittest approach of the extreme right wing: 'destroying the inefficient'. Heard that before.
Skeffo Cafael 9 Jul 2015 03:51
Your thinking so extraordinarily confused that it almost impossible to confront all the contradictions and inanities. You really need to do some philosophy courses, and focus on logic please.
Then start to learn some economic history: capitalism does not lead to feudalism, it destroyed feudalism. (I mean, even a simple time line could help you there.)
Capitalism, through its creative destruction, is continuous revolution. Try to get your head around it. It may take a few decades, or even the rest of your life, but you will understand if you work at it seriously.
ThanksNeolibZombies athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 03:48
"Has Monbiot lost it?" No, his article looks spot on to me. Forcing a country to adopt austerity / structural adjustement policies that have a long, proven track record of causing economic devastation everywhere they have been tried is a form of persecution...and of course these policies have caused economic devastation in Greece.
"Why should [Greece] be allowed to walk away from a debt of its own making?"
(Sigh.) I got tired of hearing this in the 1980s and 90s and the 2000s, the same argument was used to justify beating African economies to a pulp.
Interesting that the rich people who made trillions out of throwing us all into unsustainable debt in the decades leading up to the financial crash have been bailed out and have been "allowed to walk away" with trillions of pounds, leaving us with the bill. It's one rule for the rich and another rule for everyone else, so Greeks have to suffer big cuts in living standards.
Debt is a big stick with which the rich continually beat the poor, and it's always the fault of the poor for some reason.
Benjamin Raivid Giannis Kalogeropoulos 9 Jul 2015 03:45
You don't need to be 'bailed out' - the money you own is fake - made from thin air by banks who never had the money, but were allowed to metamorphosis it (i.e. just type the numbers they wanted, but didn't have) onto a screen. This fake money is then charged at interest. The audacity! It's 'legalised' counterfeiting and totally corrupt. Why should anyone have to pay back fake money, let alone at interest?
The EU waged war against the Greeks - calling them lazy and saying they are in debt because they don't pay their taxes (lol! Forget about being insulted, it reveals a total ignorance of the nature of taxes: even buying clothes at a store, or fuel from a petrol station is taxed! We are always paying taxes!). Brits seriously believe that Greeks are in debt because they don't pay taxes....(while, of course, Britain itself is great at paying taxes, just ask Vodafone and Amazon and Boots and Specsavers...)
Forget the bailout; do an Iceland. Or use the resources you have, land, fields, food - the basic necessities of life, and live.
merlin2 pdre 9 Jul 2015 03:05
Agree with others here. The vast majority of the money (240B or so) went to servicing the debt owed to German banks, laundered through the ECB agent). Another 40B went to Greek banks to stave off bankruptcy and most of the rest was spent (by necessity and EU dictats) on various private/public equities and entities. Much less than 10% of the original actually went towards internal social programs, infrastructure and/or any stimulus activities that could help the country actually regrow its economy.
With no funds for growth and a substantial reduction in tax receipts and economic activities due to mandated austerity, a catch 22 was created as sure as night follows day. This result is so obvious that one is left wondering - could the EU financial elitocrats be that clueless or did they know and caused the Greek collapse deliberately? I see no other possibility. Not when every economist worth their salt, from Krugman to de Long to Piketty and just about everyone (even a few Austrians!) saw ihe crisi coming from miles away and issued warnings by the bushel for some time now.
That leaves a major question unanswered - if the economic wizards of Europe are not entirely incompetent/clueless - what does the alternative mean? if they knew what's going to happen, and let it roll, what purpose did/does it serve?
athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 02:46
Has Monbiot lost it? Those who persecute Greece he says....
Greece has been incompetent, corrupt and profligate and now owes more than it can pay. Why should it be allowed to walk away from a debt of its own making?
An individual cannot. Did the Greek economists not read the fine print? Why did they not act when the debt got to $100billion? Why wait until you have added another $270billion?
Sure the EU has played a part but the biggest part was played by Greece. The sooner it is out of the EU the better.
athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 02:44
One may well argue that there were flaws in the EU from the beginning, however, as an exercise and experiment, sourced in a deep desire to unite Europe and perhaps avoid a third disastrous war, it is to be commended and has offered much of value.
Given the Greek propensity for corruption and default it was perhaps singularly unwise for the EU to ever admit Greece into their ranks. However, what was done is done. The Greeks may well be better off outside of the EU or at least back to the drachma, but anyone who thinks that there will be anything 'better' without Greece dealing with its endemic corruption and incompetence is deluded.
You can lay perhaps 30% of the blame for this situation at the door of the EU and banks but the rest is surely on the shoulders of Greece.
The Greek Government should have acted when the debt got to $100billion. It did not. It did not when it got to $200billion or $300billion and it now sits at $370billion. And that is supposed to be someone else's fault??
Tsipras has been playing childish games. Calling a referendum and then encouraging a no vote, which he got, and then sacrificing his finance minister in the name of it, as was correct given his appalling use of the term 'terrorism' applied to the EU, and then returning supposedly to negotiate with the EU with nothing concrete in his hands.
The manipulative, cavalier, incompetent, childish and corrupt behaviour of the Greeks should have them thrown out and the sooner, the better. Let them create their utopia themselves and put their money where their very large mouth is.
ID7678903 Giannis Kalogeropoulos 9 Jul 2015 02:13
A great description of their actions and the pain they cause. The reason they cut the army is to ensure there could not be a popular uprising that it would support . Also a large number of Greeks have done their military service. A popular uprising led by such a knowledgeable group would preserve democracy and they don't want that.
AnonForNowThanks corstopitum 8 Jul 2015 23:25
But WHO really got the "haircut?"
Who got the commissions? Who set up the insurance products? Who is actually holding the note, and what stream of income did they expect to get and what are they getting instead?
I don't think you understand modern "risk shifting," or how much money is made on such deals, and I don't think that anyone does, frankly.
But like Socrates, at least I realize that I don't know -- because these are not regulated markets, their actions are hidden from scrutiny yet have massive, global ramifications, and all we have been fed are ridiculous, home-spun metaphors designed to stoke mindless rage. I'm sorry, but you've fallen for it.
AnonForNowThanks BeastNeedsMoreTorque 8 Jul 2015 23:13
As John Lanchester pointed out in IOU: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay, there were a lot of things that "could" be done when the US and its sphere of influence had to "compete" with the Soviets in a "beauty contest."
Thanks to Sputnik, little American children learned physical science and calculus in public schools, thanks to the Cuban system of medicine the elderly got Medicare, thanks to the Red Army Germany got debts forgiven, and thanks to the whole lot of them major appliances ran trouble-free for 20 years.
Don't dismiss it. Read what he has to say.
In any event, that was then. This is now.
AnonForNowThanks iOpenerLo114Lat51 8 Jul 2015 22:52
So you believe investment bankers have to be FORCED to set up bond auctions that will result in commissions so large that they and their children and their children's children will be set up for life?
They were screaming, "no, NO!" and trying to push the money back out of their pockets, but they were forced.
In the case of Greece, the bonds were engineered by a right-wing government acting in collusion with Goldman Sachs. And there will be complete idiots who will believe your tale, that the "leftists" forced loans to be made to Greece.
The sad part is that although you do have to count on mass idiocy, a two-minute memory and an even shorter attention span, you can.
Giannis Kalogeropoulos 8 Jul 2015 22:44
if they only could give us some time to breath ... Greece from 1994 till 2008 have pay for loans 540 billions and everything was fine to the country and the loaners. we can pay 320 billion we owe now (that was 190bn before EU run to "save" us) but they don't want to get the money! they have made a trap! they turn the Goldman Sachs loans to EU loans, so ordinary EU people will have to pay it! why? ask your governments ... who did it! (so it seems we are not the only ones with corrupted governments) ... then, they come to tell us how to run the country (and sell all the valuable to German France etc. private companies for a penny ) ... HOW WOLD YOU FEEL, if you get a loan to buy a house and someone from the bank comes every day to your house, to tell you what to eat, how to dress, how to use water and electricity ... to don't pay to educate your kids, to sell your favorite leather chair, so he can make sure he will get his money back???? and all that, while you were paying the debt on time!!!!!!!! how would you feel??? ... that's how we feel ... they did it to us, they will try it on you all too, sooner or later ... its harvest time and banks don't know what is civil rights or democracy. they need assets, houses cars gold land for to turn their worthless paper in to real value!!!! keep in mind that in Greece at 1998 it was discovered one of the biggest oil reserves in Europe .... coincidence that after that Goldman sachs "bomb" us with loans???? think again. ordinary people are in danger of loosing our freedom today in Europe from banks who we owe some paper they type and tell us it has value ... but it cost to them, some ink and paper ... Greek referendum scared them. they are afraid of little people come together and form groups of common interests. cause that gives us power. we have power to change our faith, as we Greeks are trying to do. we stopped them from stealing the valuable of our country and to drink our blood just by choosing the right government and say no to fear! they try to scare us by saying we become Zimbabwe (no offence to that country) that we die from hunger with out money, they close our banks, they said we ll become fail state etc. still we vote no! one and only reason. ENOUGHT IS ENOUGHT and when someone feed a desperate man to the wolfs, he will return leading the wolfs!!! I think banks will not stop so we must all be suspicious and supportive to each other. together we won the Huns, we won the Turks, we won the Nazis, we won dark ages, we can win banks ... we want and we will pay back every penny of what we owe (even if its with tricky interests) as we always did. but they have to let us to do so. how on earth, they make us to close our factories and productive companies and they expect us to pay back?? they ask to double costs on touristic businesses. but if so Greece will become expensive for tourists and they will go elsewhere! tourist industry produces 7% of Greek economy!!!! hmmm wait! German companies last 10 years have bought great deal of hotels in turkey!!!! ... and they say they want to save us... 5 years they did the worst they could to save us and the best they could for to buy all the valuable assets here. so that is what its all about ... fortunately we have a strong army (one of the best trained in world, and that because we have near war events with turkey all time around), cause else they will threaten us even with army force. how accidental that 5 years now, they cut 60% of money for the army, and they want to cut even more ... Germany France and others last 20 years sold us weapons worth over 90bn euro. now they say we have very big army. but we don't have neighbors Luxemburg or Belgium! we have aggressors like turkey (2 biggest army in NATO), Syria's crisis Libya Albania's uck etc. why now they discover that we have to cut 50% of our army??? they used it to all crisis but now is a danger ... also because we are the last neighboring battle grounds like Syria etc we receive refugees and emigrants from all poor countries. estimates say they are now over 30% of Greek population!!!! over 3million!!! EU offers advise their respect but nothing else!!!
WE HAVE CRISIS! we have 1,5 million unemployed! how can we feed the poor emigrants who want to go to England Germany France etc and we are forced by EU rools to keep them here??? why EU acts like nothing is wrong? ... I hope you are wiser now about what is happening to a small but proud country called Greece, last borders of EU with the "dangerous" out world ...
Naseer Ahmad 8 Jul 2015 20:40
The Bengal famines were engineered by the East India Company http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/04/east-india-company-original-corporate-raiders
Tsipras should tell the latter day East India Companies to take a hike. Sadly, I think he'll back down because socialists are just as bound by economic orthodoxy as Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus and their descendants.
As Alfred Marshall argued, "man should be equally important as money, services are as important as goods, and that there must be an emphasis on human welfare, instead of just wealth".
LostintheUS 8 Jul 2015 19:49
Excellent essay. Hear, hear!
I was just reading exactly this last night, that the famine was caused "partly by the British refusal to distribute food, to prohibit the export of grain" in the "Chronicles of the Macedonian". A ship that was the second ship captured by the American navy during the War of 1812. In the 1840s, the "Macedonian" was borrowed by a private citizen/sea captain to take food to Ireland. He made the observation that none of the other crops had failed and that people were starving by the hundreds of thousands because the British government would not distribute these other crops that had been extremely successful.
seaspan 8 Jul 2015 19:47
Predatory international finance is killing capitalism. Where austerity simply means shrinking the private economy and making more and more working age people to be dependent on government, but receiving less and less money driving them to poverty and penury, which kills capitalism even more. This will surely lead to socialism (massive govt intervention and investment) or fascism (economic slavery under authoritarian rule).
Rozina DavidRees 8 Jul 2015 19:45
Unfortunately, people didn't like the results of communism and it depended in the assumption that humans like sharing and aren't greedy. We don't and we are.
That last sentence itself could also be an assumption. How much of the self-interest and greed, that we are taught is innate, is actually inculcated into us by culture and becomes ingrained habit hard to overcome and easy to indulge in an environment where we are constantly pushed to acquire more possessions and pile up more debt?
There are other alternatives to capitalism and communism: you could try investigating social credit as one alternative.
According to Douglas, the true purpose of production is consumption, and production must serve the genuine, freely expressed interests of consumers. In order to accomplish this objective, he believed that each citizen should have a beneficial, not direct, inheritance in the communal capital conferred by complete access to consumer goods assured by the National Dividend and Compensated Price. Douglas thought that consumers, fully provided with adequate purchasing power, will establish the policy of production through exercise of their monetary vote. In this view, the term economic democracy does not mean worker control of industry, but democratic control of credit. Removing the policy of production from banking institutions, government, and industry, Social Credit envisages an "aristocracy of producers, serving and accredited by a democracy of consumers."
CodePink 8 Jul 2015 19:38
And yet, when the private banks (financial elite) needed bailing out to the tune of TRILLIONS of dollars due to their own greedy practices, the taxpayer was forced into it.
Given most of Greece's debt was originally owed to private banks like Goldman Sachs who continued to loan them money despite the fact they knew they couldn't pay it back, and they then somehow managed to convince the ECB to take on the debt - the old socialise the losses, privatise the profits scheme - perhaps the IMF should be looking to GS and the likes to contribute significantly to paying down Greece's debt.
lifeloveroverall 8 Jul 2015 19:26
The order from and to the Brussels Donkeycrats : Attack and no mercy to Greece. Regardless: we are the chosen, on a holy mission to keep safe our beloved money power. But here is my wish to all Donkeycrats, may you all burn in Hell.
PS: my apologies to the poor donkeys
estragon11 8 Jul 2015 19:09
as far as that goes, who cares about the planet as long as there is money to be made?
blacksox666 8 Jul 2015 18:58
Austerity, Merkel style, is just a modern version of Le droit du Seigneur, but writ large. it's time for another version of 1932 when the Republicans were thrown out and men and women who cared about the middle and lower classes took the reigns of government. Time for the Greeks to start printing Drachmas and go forward. it has been said "better a horrible end than horrors with no end"
goldstars 8 Jul 2015 18:25
More people need to know about the IMF's actions in the world, and how that affects all of us. It won't get better unless people realise they can stand up to it. The Guardian is still vaguely leftwing enough (or has that history) that it attracts those who already have sympathy or understanding. We need to see Monbiot's articles, and similar information, spread far and wide in all mainstream media.
RealWavelengths 8 Jul 2015 18:15
"The IMF is controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It's now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and all the means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives."
Best synopsis of the IMF. However, I disagree that returning to the gold standard during the interwar period was a factor in the Great Depression. Creative credit policy was the main culprit.
seaspan 8 Jul 2015 17:30
The Greek pension system has four aspects that should be considered. 1) demographics,,, 20% of the population is aged 65 and over, 2) Govt layoffs by attrition (early retirement options), 3) no clear distinction between social security and welfare, 4) disability pensions. Officially, the retirement age is 66 years old climbing from 57 in 2009. Where people get manipulated is the malicious citing of individual cases as being the rule rather than the exception. Demand context when reading these false statistics...
oldamericanlady YouDidntBuildThat 8 Jul 2015 16:57
The notion that public spending didn't make a dent in the poverty rate is simply absurd, but it's one of those invented facts repeated endlessly by right-wingers because it sounds like it might be true.
In fact, there was a sharp decline in various indicators of poverty from the late 1960s until the early 1980s, when the launch of Reaganomics took the American economy into a long, slow, steady decline; and even in the three subsequent decades, by measurements like housing, medical care and nutrition poor Americans are unquestionably better off than they were before the war on poverty.
Moreover, look at social spending over a greater span of time: the long-term success of Social Security and Medicare at lifting America's elderly out of the direst ranks of poverty is just unquestionable--except, of course, by reactionary propagandists who insist it can't possibly be true because it's such an inconvenient truth.
Before Social Security, nearly half of America's elderly lived in poverty, many of them in dire poverty. It was not unheard of for old people to starve to death in this country, and many were forced out of their homes and into wretched existences in county homes and poor farms.
Today, thanks to social spending, the poverty rate among the elderly is down to about 10%--still far too many, with income inequality worsened by Reaganism in this age cohort as in all others, but an incredible improvement over the rate just a few generations ago nevertheless.
Public spending works.
Unfortunately, so do incessant right-wing mantras and lies.
Arjen Bootsma 8 Jul 2015 16:55
The world we live in values property rights over human rights.
AuntieMame Ykuos1 8 Jul 2015 16:53
73% of Greece's exports are mineral fuels, followed by salt, sulphur, stone and cement. And don't forget Virgin Olive oil, the best in the world, since it is not mixed with inferior oils the way Italian produce theirs mixed with normal imported oils.
Tourism is a large sector of the service industry in that absolutely stunningly beautiful country, but by far not the largest.
Do a little research before spewing platitudes her about Greece, a country that you obviously know nothing about.
seaspan shout_at_me 8 Jul 2015 16:35
Greece has the highest self employed sector in all of Europe. In any country that sector is the most difficult for tax collection. It is a libertarian paradise...
AuntieMame shout_at_me 8 Jul 2015 16:06
Actually the Greek crisis was caused by prior conservative government, not the lefty coalition of Tsipras which only became the majority five short month ago.
But I guess that you are one of those calling all of Europe as socialist haven, including the conservative government with universal healthcare, free higher education, and strong safety nets for the less fortunate among their citizens.
easterman FenlandBuddha 8 Jul 2015 15:15
Don't borrow from the IMF and none of this applies. Run a sensible economy and you never need the IMF
Sounds logical - until you factor in the fact that the market's-know -best IMF was a cheerleader for the de-regulation of the banks which led to the credit boom which led to the credit crunch which led to taxpayer bailouts of the banks (and counter-cyclical fiscal policy by the G7 in order to head of a global depression) which led to quadrupling of budget deficits in many countries which led the weaker ones into the clutches of ...the IMF who then set about deflating them using a dodgy estimate of the fiscal multiplier which grossly underestimated the damage this would do to output and tax revenue which left them needing more bailouts to pay the interest on the loans ( created at the push of a button) and subject to even more deflation ...
Your point is valid if you believe the drug-pusher has no responsibility for the state of the addict. A sensible economy is one where you keep the banksters on a leash - the free market agenda beloved of the IMF put paid to that.
Henforthe SteB1 8 Jul 2015 14:48
The whole modern system is a gigantic Ponzi Scheme, I mean it literally.
I certainly get what you mean- I've always suspected it's more to do with our banking system though. Interest rates are routinely manipulated specifically in order to encourage growth, and fractional reserve systems can mean that this growth isn't based in anything of real value. Sure, growth creates jobs and can lift communities out of poverty, but can it be sustained indefinitely? And once a society becomes developed, does it really need further growth, at least enough to continue to manipulate currencies to encourage it?
It's presumably possible for economic growth to decouple from physical resource use, although it's not really happened yet. But I suspect there are still 'Limits to Growth' within the pure economic realm. Growth seems to inevitably slow to a crawl as a society becomes developed and its population stabilises: see Japan and much of Europe, and perhaps also look at China where this week the government is desperately trying to keep markets rising in the face of a gradual realisation that the actual demand just isn't there. Perhaps if we learnt to accept this, things might be more stable in the long term.
I agree that we should look back at the Enclosures as a heinous crime perpetrated by the landed elites. The Enclosures are doubly relevant here: in the event of market uncertainty, one can fall back on savings or assets. But government economic policy makes that more difficult: interest manipulation and capital controls mean savings become diminished or inaccessible. But also, in some parts of the world people can still weather hard economic times by going 'back to the land'.
But in the West this is no longer possible, because the common land was stolen.
SocratesTheGooner -> Colin Chaplain 8 Jul 2015 14:17
Take the 19th century Irish and Indian famines, both exacerbated (in the second case caused) by the doctrine of laissez-faire, which we now know as market fundamentalism or neoliberalism.
Not a straw man. Monbiot is saying that 21st century neoliberalism is the same as 19th century laissez-faire. How much more explicitly could he put it?
shaheeniqbal 8 Jul 2015 13:33
This Greek Tragedy highlights the interferences of IMF and World Bank into the democratic processes of a country. From the collapse of Greek economy it is quite clear that "Confessions of a Hitman" was not a conspiracy theory. Every day the third world is constantly suffering the IMF excesses... Greece is lucky that it is in Europe otherwise it would have suffered the same fate as the African and other third world countries indebted to IMF and World Bank and had their arms and legs twisted. It is not only that IMF dictates the prices of Electricity and Gas and imposition of taxes ie general sales taxes but they also interfere in the Democratic processes by backing their favorite chosen corrupt and criminal political leaders who loot these countries with both hands and shift the assets of the impoverished countries to foreign shores.
One hopes that with the establishment of Brics Bank the poor and deprived third world will be able to shop around for cheaper loans and suffer less interference in the internal politics.
The events in Greece highlight the misery and suffering of the impoverished third world countries at the hands of the unscrupulous lenders who once allowed into the country will keep thrusting the indebted economies into further debt and ultimate ruination.
Piotr Szafrański -> hankwilliams 8 Jul 2015 12:51
Hank, you think that "40% [of enterprises] wouldn't have been lost and many Poles would not have left if the austerity programme wasn't inflicted on the Poles.". You might be right, you might be not right. The only way to decide was to check the other way.
Well, at least 51% of Poles did not want to check the other way. Our choice.
Of some interest here is that there WERE countries which tried "the other way" (no austerity). Did not work so well for them. So this alternative might not had worked. But you are free to have your opinion.
"get their rich to pay their share"??? Always those mystical "rich"... Used to be "rich Jews", but after WWII this is somehow awkward, isn't it? But well, the Bolshevik revolution definitely made the rich pay, didn't it? How well did it work for Russia? Wanna recommend this to the Greeks?
But sorry, this time we have "rich Germans". It is politically correct to call to take their money, of course. Social justice and international justice in one package. They are all Nazi, I forgot.
Piotr Szafrański -> hankwilliams 8 Jul 2015 11:59
Hank, our "austerity programme" had started in 1989. And continues. Back then the country was in such dire straights that even the ruling elite ("communists") had problems with buying basic appliances. People's wages were below 100$/month.
Since then, supported by the international community (massive debt relief, massive investments) we GRADUALLY progressed. But the said debt relief was ONLY at the very beginning of the reforms (1989/90). We pay our dues on time since then.
Meanwhile, the price of reform was high. Whole cities had found over 50% of jobs disappearing. Factories employing tens of thousands were being closed. Some of those jobs/enterprises maybe could be saved (we estimate say 40% of the closed ones), but there were no lenders willing to experiment. Axes were in full swing. Many people remember this today with revulsion, and in many cases they are right. About 10% of population (i.e. over 3mln people) emigrated or are shuttling between jobs elsewhere and families in Poland. Unemployment remains high (about 10%). Poles work, on average, supposedly the longest hours worldwide, except for the Koreans.
But since 1991/92, Poland had an uninterrupted growth. Most Poles today earn money they would not believe back in 1989. We slowly grow enterprises and industries competitive or even dominant in their markets worldwide. And obviously, the more you eat, the bigger the appetite grows. Ask average Pole - we are grumbling. Which is not bad - we still have way to go.
But maybe were we were "lucky" it was that 1989 was a clear break - we got suddenly full freedom and responsibility, after 50 years. So it was obvious to most that we start low and we have to keep belts tight for a long time. That precious 51% of people feeling less of entitlement and more of duty was there.
sassafrasdog Gerbetticus 8 Jul 2015 11:57
Yes, I have the Shock Doctrine, and my professor of Latin American history required that we view the documentary version of Shock Doctrine on a day when he was out of town at a conference or something.
I sat there with my jaw dropped. Other students in the room, all much younger, were muttering curses. As an older adult student, I remembered the day when Salvador Allende fell, and could still picture the TV in my mother's kitchen where we had watched the coverage.
Shock Doctrine explained all, like the other shoe dropping.
To me, what the Europeans are doing to Greece is so transparent, if one knows a little about the history of other parts of the world. But other parts of the world are periphery, in Europe's view, and they are the center. Now they are treating even parts of the Eurozone as periphery. At some point the center gets smaller and smaller and everything is periphery, the other, out there, those people, and the European identity becomes a black hole rather than a beacon of light.
It is hard to look at oneself sometimes, but a wise teacher once told me that the characteristics that we dislike in others, are the same characteristics that we ourselves contain. That is the fear. The answer is that by facing the truth of that, we are able to attend to our own faults, and become, humbly, more tolerant of the things that make us all human.
I hope that Europe can acquire some wisdom before it is too late.
BritCol 8 Jul 2015 11:27
A very succinct article that hits some of the historical notes that explains how the elites have controlled the masses to their advantage. All the financial laws, regulations that have been put in place such as compound interest, the corporation as a 'person', and the takeover of the IMF and World Bank by US and European elites are geared to keep the wealth in those few hands.
What has been so worrying is how few people seem to realize that, and cheer on the status quo. Have they such little self-respect that they believe these elites are better, smarter than them? All they have is all the advantages of being born rich. Although certainly some entrepreneurs, like artists, have natural advantages.
Gerbetticus 8 Jul 2015 11:06
Dr Karen Adler states in a letter to The Guardian today:
"The debt that the Greek government is attempting to negotiate on is around £237billion. Compare that with the British government bailout which, at its peak, guaranteed £1,162 billion to the banks. One bank alone (Deutsche Bank) got £226 billion......
So Dr Adler, , if you're on here, can you explain how, in the face of EU prohibition of State Aid to private companies , a , no , The German bank, was bailed out by the British taxpayer to a total sum only £11 billion less than the total owed by the entire Greek state? Forgive me, Im not a practitioner of the dismal science!
bridgefergal -> BeTrueForAll 8 Jul 2015 11:05
Agreed. The general ignorance extant about how money is created - it's created from thin air, for free and is essentially an unlimited resource - is truly breathtaking. The Bank of England had a circular on money creation a short while back, which should have been required reading for the usual "there's no money left" Tory trolls who infest CiF. But who needs the truth when comforting untruths are far more reassuring viz. Labour spent all the money; benefits and welfare caused the crash and the deficit; tax cuts for business and the wealthy trickle down to everyone; only Labour raises taxes (it can't be said often enough that Tories hiked VAT by a third in 2010). Etc. Etc.
Maria Pospotiki -> Extremophile 8 Jul 2015 11:01
Tsipras right after his election, was the first to open Lagarde's list, he asked Swiss bank's collaboration to impose taxes on those who had sent their money abroad, he even dealt with media corruption even though this could do harm to his party. And all these in five months. Us Greeks are not proud about the corruption of our system, but this corruption was reinforced by foreign forces all these years. Even recently, the ex minister of health has signed under much suspicion a contract with a German company offering technical support which hasn't yet been delivered. All these years this was exactly what was happening in Greece with the consistent opinion of the european countries. Solidarity and democracy seem to be a utopia in our days.
Chenoa mickstephenson 8 Jul 2015 10:50
I said before and I'll say it one more time:
Syriza aren't playing ball so they must be dealt with and used as an example in case Spain, Portugal, Italy et al get any similar ideas.
A good question that many people ask is this: why does the current illegal and fascist government in Ukraine get loans from the IMF straight away & 'no questions asked' yet the democratically-elected government in Greece will only be allowed to receive loans if they meet with the harsh, inhumane conditions attached? Double standards due to ineptitude etc etc or planned tactics by neoliberal & neoconservative ideologues? I think I'll go with the latter. This is all about economic warfare and the asset-stripping of countries (read books like 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein and 'Confessions of an Economic Hitman' by John Perkins for more info) it's all been done before in so-called 'developing countries' and they are currently doing it to the 'developed countries'.
Also, research shows that the US/Israel/Europe/NATO and allies (the actual planners are linked to the BIS, CFR, Committee of 300, Trilateral Commission aka the corporatocracy) want global hegemony and won't stand for any competition. The neocons/neolibs/zionists have even written books and documents about these things themselves:
- 'The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives' by Zbigniew Brzezinski
- Project for a New American Century
- 'Crisis of Democracy' by the Trilateral Commission
- The Wolfowitz Doctrine:
"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power."
Brollachain 8 Jul 2015 10:31
The Maastricht treaty, establishing the European Union and the euro, was built on a lethal delusion: a belief that the ECB could provide the only common economic governance that monetary union required. Those sober, suited, serious people...turn out to be demented utopian fantasists, votaries of a fanatical economic cult.
Well, quite, because in Guardianland the basic delusion is to believe in a market system in the ifrst place.
If, on the other hand, you do subscribe to the market - as just about everybody on the planet outside the Guardian does - then one of the things you could do would be to link up with other people of the same mind, and set some rules for the market. But then , as part of the price for joining the club, you also have to keep to the rules.
Monbiot is quite right; ECB is not democratic in this sense. It's a game manager - in its way, not unlike a moderator on CiF, for example. Democracy doesn't really come into it. As a participant, you may like the rules, or not, but nobody forced you to join the club in the first place - the joining part is where democracy comes in, and everyone gets to decide whether to join or not.
Now, Monbiot doesn't like this; but then, he doesn't believe in the system to start with. Like many Guardian writers, he believes in a system where there is an inexhaustible pot of Scott Trust money to support everyone's way of life, and no accountability whatsoever to produce a product that anyone is actually prepared to pay for. Not unlike the Greeks, in fact, until about two days ago.
So what exactly happened recently? In the first place, the Greeks were so keen to get into the game that they lied their way in. Since then, Greek governments have lied repeatedly to stay in. The last Greek Finance Minister was so contemptuous of the system that he openly declared his determination to 'game the system' - to take it for all it was worth, and give nothing in return. From his point of view, there was literally nothing to lose. If the system gave in, he could claim victory. If the system failed, this would simply be an interesting academic demonstration of the correctness of his own convictions. If Greece left, or was ejected from the system for ignoring its rules, then there would always be the Monbiots of this world, with their Scott Trust mentalities, to put the blame on everyone else.
Let's once and for all do away with the myth that all this is somehow to do with 'austerity'. Were Monbiot's ecological pretensions ever to be realised, life in the West would be infinitely more austere than anything the ECB has proposed. Monbiot is not against austerity, in fact he is all for it, provided it is on his own terms; he is against 'the system'.
The system is the market system, which in its current incarnation defers to the not-so-invisible hand of organisations such as the ECB. That is the way the game works , as played nowadays. Monboit needs to be honest with himself. Democracy and markets are two sides of the same coin. If you have a planned economy, democracy makes no sense, since the State invariably knows what is best for the people anyway.
So, as a non-believer in democracy, why is he concerned about 'undemocratic powers' in the first place? In his ideal, market-free State, democracy would not exist. Let the Greeks starve, should be his war-cry - just as it seems to have been Varoufakis's. Let the whole of Europe starve, as long as it brings 'the system' down! Who cares, as long as the game ends with the withering away of democracy and the market he so heartily detests.
BeTrueForAll Rusty Richards 8 Jul 2015 10:29
The EU were as much a part of the lie to help Greece gain membership of the EU as the Greeks were and must be held equally liable. An all round con job by the EU and the IMF.
Correct! The motive was the wealthy wanted the Greeks to join because they could "rent" out their wealth to the Greek government in the form of Greek government bonds and at a higher interest rate to boot than other Eurozone countries particularly Germany. Where there's greed there's always miscalculation of risk!
JustsayNO1954 MightyDrunken 8 Jul 2015 10:28
"The UK doesn't need the IMF. We have Gideon Osborne."
That's just as well, because we have nothing left to sell!
Unlike the Greeks, we gave ours away without a fight, the only thing left are Public Services and they go in the TTIP!
TTIP is the NWO next move, which will give Corporations control of each nations Sovereignty, it's also a Slave Charter, which is why EU insist on Free Movement!
BeTrueForAll cambridgefergal 8 Jul 2015 10:20
Great article. Particularly nails the canard that right wing IMF policies are "natural", "objective" and "correct." All economics is politics in disguise, especially neo-liberal economics."
Your comment really hits the nail on the head in regard to the Greek debt fiasco and indeed all the Austerity War-Mongering politicians around the planet. The "politics" is really about a few trying to get away with "dominating" the many!
Geoffrey Ingham, the Cambridge University Professor of Sociology, in the concluding remarks of his truly excellent book "The Nature of Money" states the following:-
"...... the two sides of the economy - entrepreneurial (and consumer) debtors - struggle with creditor capitalists over the real rate of interest."
I would add to this that in reality creditor capitalists prowl the planet like savage beasts always looking to force societies to be as utterly dependent upon privately created money for sale as possible and ignorant of sovereign governments ability to create public money debt and interest free.
The Eurozone is a classic example of the war going on between public interest and private greed. Likewise the war in the UK with the austerity promoting Conservative and Labour Parties trying to pull the wool over individual's eyes that there is no such thing as a sovereign society being able to create public money.
roninwarrior 8 Jul 2015 10:17
Nothing here many haven`t worked out long ago, but still good to see the truth being written.
This should lead people to the current trade agreements being negotiated secretly. TPP and TTIP are completely nefarious items of legislation that will further destroy democracy, and people need to enlighten themselves and start leaning on their local representatives to be the will of the people.
I watched this recently, and although it`s not directly on topic of these trade agreements, what`s said within it has extremely pertinent echoes to how these processes are being carried out, and generally the entitlement attitude of these corrupted plutocrats.
Greece has once again taught the world a lesson in democracy, and the world needs to take careful heed. It`s also worth revisiting the words of Joseph Stiglitz, , recently published in these very pages. Stiglitz said,
It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on 5 July. Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika's terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks. A yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shrivelled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that.
By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.
I know how I would vote.
Youmadbrah 8 Jul 2015 10:14
Corruption at all levels and dysfunctional financial and legal systems are at the heart of any developing economy crisis. Spending less on more vulnerable people in the society will do nothing fix it. Governments usually go this route because the old and the children are less likely to revolt, well they did in Greece so at the democracy works there. The way to fix the country is by radical reform and debt relief. Austerity is just a patch on a dysfunctional system.
skinnywheels feliciafarrel 8 Jul 2015 10:09
This idea that the Greeks went and blew all the money on women, cars and drink is a convenient argument for insisting that a nation of people are made to pay for reckless actions of others that were largely out of their control.
The Greek people did not know that Goldman Sachs had cooked the books to allow them entry into the Euro. They didn't know that Goldman Sachs was betting against them providing the final nail in the coffin of their economy. They didn't know that sub prime mortgages were being re-packaged as mortgage backed securities causing a GLOBAL financial crisis. Only the most informed would have been able to see through their previous governments lies about spending levels.
There was asymmetric information, so when the huge amount of spin and marketing was used to get people to take on these loans people were not aware of all the facts. These loans should not have been made and there are far more factors involved then just Greeks partying all their money away. So why should it just be the Greek people who pay? Why not the banks who were offering out loans at a time when they must have known there was a high likelihood of default?
TruthseekerD 8 Jul 2015 09:54
It beggars belief that anyone with a conscience and an open mind can defend the Troika/IMF. They did this to African countries throughout the latter half of the 20th century, hence the problems and instabilities that have continued to unfold there. People in the west didn't give a damn then and stayed asleep, believing the victim-blaming propaganda that gets put about to create a perception that 'the poor did this to themselves'.
Now, having run out of developing countries to pillage and plunder, they have turned their parasitic gaze towards Southern Europe. Again, disingenuous bullshit is sold through their complicit media wing of the vampire banking elites that buys into the right-wing nationalism and isolationist mood that has been carefully cultivated, sowing seeds in the minds of the unquestioning that 'they were profligate, it's their own fault and they should take their medicine'.
It's only when the shit hits the fan (and it will) in a major western economy that enough people will suddenly wake up and smell the coffee, and realise that the banking elites are the ones controlling bought and paid for puppet governments, leading the majority to hell in a handcart.
The much-vaunted sham of western democracy has been exposed - if a people elect a government that doesn't fit in with the agenda of the parasitic banking elites, it is discredited and destabilised so as to punish them for their temerity in not bending over for more virtual slavery. That's what this is really about..........
PixieFrouFrou SocalAlex 8 Jul 2015 09:51
'And to think a decade and a half ago, Monbiot was one of the reasons why I paid for the (paper) Graun every day. I am DONE with this paper!'
George has done sterling work in his reportage on environmental matters. I salute and support him for this. Just don't read any of his articles on finance or economics.
Albert_Jacka_VC 8 Jul 2015 09:37
It should never be forgotten that economics of the Austrian School, as re-baptised by Friedman & Co as economic rationalism, or neo-liberalism, was born of religious impulses -- by fat Calvinists for whom Hell was for others, not for their own class.
And class warfare is what neo-liberalism is. Guilt and shame over sinful debt are the propaganda weapons. But they grow blunt, when the fraud becomes exposed.
The Euro phase is war by the banker class, on everyone else. Only the One Percent are supposed to benefit.
The Irish fell for the trap, Spain's Indignados appear to have been infiltrated by Soros shills, but in Greece, they have run into a problem. SYRIZA is in touch with a desperatre people, whose backs are against the wall, and who have nothing to lose.
The Eurogarchs had better beware. SYRIZA owns printing presses, and is perfectly able to begin running off tewenty-euro notes. The next phase, now that the Troika has bared its bloody fangs, is open and guerilla war against these vicious parasites. Harrying the Germans is not novel to Greeks. They did it before, during the war. And Greece is not alone.
BeTrueForAll Bob adda 8 Jul 2015 09:44
It is hard for those of us on the left to admit, but Margaret Thatcher saved the UK from this despotism.
I was never a fan of Margaret Thatcher's but on this issue she was spot on. I am so glad that Britain is not part of the eurozone. It is an extremely destructive force that I think will end up destroying the EU.
Unfortunately this is myth making due to a shallow understanding of money mechanics. Here is Margaret Thatcher declaring there is no such thing as "public money":-
"One of the great debates of our time is about how much of your money should be spent by the State and how much you should keep to spend on your family. Let us never forget this fundamental truth: the State has no source of money other than money which people earn themselves. If the State wishes to spend more it can do so only by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more. It is no good thinking that someone else will pay-that "someone else" is you. There is no such thing as public money; there is only taxpayers' money."
Now see my above comment why free "public money" has to be created before "private money" for sale can exist and why public money is essential to deal with crises and in particular crises caused by the misuse of private money creation.
dedalus77uk 8 Jul 2015 09:16
Agreed: the IMF is politicised and has operated as a means of enforcing market capitalism on countries which were not in a position to make it work. Agreed: the EU project and the single currency in particular were extremely ambitious projects which in some respects were based on a degree of utopia and some pretty fundamental fallacies. None of which excuses successive Greek governments for being complacently corrupt, economically incompetent and, in Syriza's case, deliberately inflammatory, of course. Not that Greece is entirely alone in this, even within the EU, though as shambles go it takes some beating.
Two things strike me, though.
- One is that, if the IMF's policies and strings are so obviously bad, severeign governments can choose to not avail themselves of its funding and not enter into a Faustian pact. It's not as easy as getting a big load of money upfront, of course, but if the implication is destroying your economy and putting your country at the mercy of faceless international institutions and its capitalist purse-strong holders, then that would seem to be the right choice, no? No-one is being forced at gun-point to drink from the poisoned well, though I appreciate that much pressure can be brought to bear, and it takes a strong government to resist that. But everyone's still responsible for their own choices, at the end of the day: it's not IMF or bust.
- Secondly, the concept of allowing countries access to money in return for certain reforms is not in itself a bad thing, if those reforms are in fact the "right" ones. That doesn't mean only economic reforms - in fact perhaps it shouldn't mean economic reforms at all. Perhaps what these reforms should be more focused on is human rights: ie, ensure that there is a proper and independent judiciary and a transparent legal process; ensure that national assets are distributed equitably; ensure that there is proper participation in the democratic process, etc - all things which are in the UDHR and which actually serve to make a country more stable, more prosperous and - importantly - more attractive for investment. Is this perhaps the future of international money-lending?
If so we need someone to either reform the IMF, or set up the "ethical" alternative to the IMF - any takers?
MightyDrunken Stilts 8 Jul 2015 09:16
It is the obvious problem with the IMF, some countries contribute and other borrow. The ones who contribute gets the votes which means the power is in the hands of the creditors.
Therefore if a country is unlucky enough to need an IMF loan they have to sign a deal which is in the creditors interest and not their own. However the purported purpose of the IMF is not to further the interest of the developed nations but to;
foster global growth and economic stability by providing policy, advice and financing to members, by working with developing nations to help them achieve macroeconomic stability, and by reducing poverty.
Terence Skill rathbaner 8 Jul 2015 08:57
As a German, I want to tell you two things. 1st: I totally agree with your point. 2nd: But Wolfgang Schauble is everything but blind. He is one eager globalist using his power to the fullest to reach his goals. To me, it all depends on the assault on his life in 1989 - he should never had become the interior minister of Germany after that (set up several surveillance laws "to protect the public from terrorism", but only achieved one thing: surveillance) nor the financial minister of this country.
His view on the world and how things should be is just another one than ours might be - his vision has always been a European super-state. unfortunately he is a psych, oder "damaged goods" as I believe to call him. A politically motived criminal who shouldn´t be in disposal of more than his own, barrier-free house.
onoway 8 Jul 2015 08:52
The thing is that the politicians who get in do not practice what they promise.
Nobody gets into power promising to make things worse for people, they spin things so that what they say will do has the shiny promise of a better future. Politicians and businesses have learned very well how to push the emotional buttons hard wired into humanity. Witness the way women were brought to the idea that smoking was a symbol of independence and the implication that women who did not smoke were dependent and servile. Nothing is said at the time about cancers and other issues directly related.
Also, people have a very limited choice as to who they vote for, the only option to protest the choices is to abstain, which accomplishes nothing but make it easier for the government to push through things they would never otherwise be able to do.
Nobody rational would vote for total control of the world's food supply by 4 or 5 chemical companies, possibly the most powerful being one for which the basis of their business is the development and manufacturing of poisons, but that's now what we have, mandated and promoted by governments. Perhaps a suggestion made on QI is the answer, instead of career politicians, all of whom are in it for the power it gives them, governments should be run like jury duty, your turn comes up you are part of the government for however long. Or as the Inuit and others did; nothing can become law unless ALL the politicians agree, if they don't, then it simply doesn't happen. Then we might get back to some form of democracy.
At the very least, it would take longer to get to the totalitarian state we are rapidly approaching if not indeed already in. All we have now is the (very expensive) veneer, not democracy at all.
MrBlueberry DrChris 8 Jul 2015 08:41
The wealth of this world is owned by the Corporate companies not governments and the gap keeps growing each year. For example Corporates take 900$ billion annually in tax avoidance from poor countries while the poorest countries pay 600$ billion in debt each year to the rich corporations. In all 2$ trillion goes from the poorest countries to bolster the wealth of the riches corporations. The total wealth of the world is 223$ trillion.
8 out 6 people are poor. The richest 300 people (not governments) have the same wealth as the poorest 3 billion. It's worth pondering over.
rathbaner 8 Jul 2015 08:40
I'v been struck many times by the similarity in attitude - and the blindness - shown by Wolfgang Schauble and by Lord John Russell.
Russell to Parliament at the height of the famine: "Sir, I am obliged to say, therefore, that while we attempt all that we think practicable, we must, in the first place, refuse to make promises of that which is out of our power; and in the next place, we must call upon and expect those who have local duties to perform in Ireland, to perform those duties, and to assist the Government and Parliament in their arduous duty: and when I say that I expect this, I am quite sure that many will perform it, because I know that in many, very many instances, the resident proprietors in Ireland have been most ready with their money, with their time, and with their attendance, in endeavouring to provide for the relief of their destitute countrymen."
Just like Schauble saying we've done everything we can and it is now up to the Greek govt to rescue themselves and their country.
Both seem utterly blinded to the - utterly obvious - reality by their ideological beliefs. And all this while Ireland was a net exporter of food (to the Empire) and German banks and the ECB are making profits on the €bn from interest on the Greek loans.
halfdan Rahere2015 8 Jul 2015 08:39
Indeed. When one looks at the money lent to bail out a number of banks, e.g. $868 billion to Barclays, why can it not be done to bailout a national economy. There could be conditions attached, such as a caretaker financial advisory team to make sure it was spent correctly, the aim being to get the Greek economy back into a position from which it could grow rather than fail. This may have been done, but Greeks being Greeks, they won't look a gift horse in the mouth for fear that it is a wooden one.
September 22, 2014 | consortiumnews.com
By driving a wedge between President Obama and President Putin over Ukraine, America's neocons and the mainstream media can hope for more "shock and awe" in the Mideast, but the U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill, including $1 trillion more on nuclear weapons, writes Robert Parry.
The costs of the mainstream U.S. media's wildly anti-Moscow bias in the Ukraine crisis are adding up, as the Obama administration has decided to react to alleged "Russian aggression" by investing as much as $1 trillion in modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.
On Monday, a typically slanted New York Times article justified these modernization plans by describing "Russia on the warpath" and adding: "Congress has expressed less interest in atomic reductions than looking tough in Washington's escalating confrontation with Moscow."
But the Ukraine crisis has been a textbook case of the U.S. mainstream media misreporting the facts of a foreign confrontation and then misinterpreting the meaning of the events, a classic case of "garbage in, garbage out." The core of the false mainstream narrative is that Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated the crisis as an excuse to reclaim territory for the Russian Empire.
While that interpretation of events has been the cornerstone of Official Washington's "group think," the reality always was that Putin favored maintaining the status quo in Ukraine. He had no plans to "invade" Ukraine and was satisfied with the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Indeed, when the crisis heated up last February, Putin was distracted by the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Rather than Putin's "warmongering" – as the Times said in the lead-in to another Monday article – the evidence is clear that it was the United States and the European Union that initiated this confrontation in a bid to pull Ukraine out of Russia's sphere of influence and into the West's orbit.
This was a scheme long in the making, but the immediate framework for the crisis took shape a year ago when influential U.S. neocons set their sights on Ukraine and Putin after Putin helped defuse a crisis in Syria by persuading President Barack Obama to set aside plans to bomb Syrian government targets over a disputed Sarin gas attack and instead accept Syria's willingness to surrender its entire chemical weapons arsenal.
But the neocons and their "liberal interventionist" allies had their hearts set on another "shock and awe" campaign with the goal of precipitating another "regime change" against a Middle East government disfavored by Israel. Putin also worked with Obama to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, averting another neocon dream to "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."
The Despised Putin
So, Putin suddenly rose to the top of the neocons' "enemies list" and some prominent neocons quickly detected his vulnerability in Ukraine, a historical route for western invasions of Russia and the scene of extraordinarily bloody fighting during World War II.
National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, one of the top neocon paymasters spreading around $100 million a year in U.S. taxpayers' money, declared in late September 2013 that Ukraine represented "the biggest prize" but beyond that was an opportunity to put Putin "on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself."
The context for Gershman's excitement was a European Union offer of an association agreement to Ukraine's elected President Viktor Yanukovych, but it came with some nasty strings attached, an austerity plan demanded by the International Monetary Fund that would have made the hard lives of the average Ukrainian even harder.
That prompted Yanukovych to seek a better deal from Putin who offered $15 billion in aid without the IMF's harsh terms. Yet, once Yanukovych rebuffed the EU plan, his government was targeted by a destabilization campaign that involved scores of political and media projects funded by Gershman's NED and other U.S. agencies.
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover who had been an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, reminded a group of Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their "European aspirations." Nuland, wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, also showed up at the Maidan square in Kiev passing out cookies to protesters.
The Maidan protests, reflecting western Ukraine's desire for closer ties to Europe, also were cheered on by neocon Sen. John McCain, who appeared on a podium with leaders of the far-right Svoboda party under a banner honoring Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. A year earlier, the European Parliament had identified Svoboda as professing "racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views [that] go against the EU's fundamental values and principles."
Yet, militants from Svoboda and the even more extreme Right Sektor were emerging as the muscle of the Maidan protests, seizing government buildings and hurling firebombs at police. A well-known Ukrainian neo-Nazi leader, Andriy Parubiy, became the commandant of the Maidan's "self-defense" forces.
Behind the scenes, Assistant Secretary Nuland was deciding who would take over the Ukrainian government once Yanukovych was ousted. In an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland crossed off some potential leaders and announced that "Yats" – or Arseniy Yatsenyuk – was her guy.
On Feb. 20, as the neo-Nazi militias stepped up their attacks on police, a mysterious sniper opened fire on both protesters and police killing scores and bringing the political crisis to a boil. The U.S. news media blamed Yanukovych for the killings though he denied giving such an order and some evidence pointed toward a provocation from the far-right extremists.
As Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said in another intercepted phone call with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Asthon, "there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition."
But the sniper shootings led Yanukovych to agree on Feb. 21 to a deal guaranteed by three European countries – France, Germany and Poland – that he would surrender much of his power and move up elections so he could be voted out of office. He also assented to U.S. demands that he pull back his police.
That last move, however, prompted the neo-Nazi militias to overrun the presidential buildings on Feb. 22 and force Yanukovych's officials to flee for their lives. Then, rather than seeking to enforce the Feb. 21 agreement, the U.S. State Department promptly declared the coup regime "legitimate" and blamed everything on Yanukovych and Putin.
Nuland's choice, Yatsenyuk, was made prime minister and the neo-Nazis were rewarded for their crucial role by receiving several ministries, including national security headed by Parubiy. The parliament also voted to ban Russian as an official language (though that was later rescinded), and the IMF austerity demands were pushed through by Yatsenyuk. Not surprisingly, ethnic Russians in the south and east, the base of Yanukovych's support, began resisting what they regarded as the illegitimate coup regime.
To blame this crisis on Putin simply ignores the facts and defies logic. To presume that Putin instigated the ouster of Yanukovych in some convoluted scheme to seize territory requires you to believe that Putin got the EU to make its reckless association offer, organized the mass protests at the Maidan, convinced neo-Nazis from western Ukraine to throw firebombs at police, and manipulated Gershman, Nuland and McCain to coordinate with the coup-makers – all while appearing to support Yanukovych's idea for new elections within Ukraine's constitutional structure.
Though such a crazy conspiracy theory would make people in tinfoil hats blush, this certainty is at the heart of what every "smart" person in Official Washington believes. If you dared to suggest that Putin was actually distracted by the Sochi Olympics last February, was caught off guard by the events in Ukraine, and reacted to a Western-inspired crisis on his border (including his acceptance of Crimea's request to be readmitted to Russia), you would be immediately dismissed as "a stooge of Moscow."
Such is how mindless "group think" works in Washington. All the people who matter jump on the bandwagon and smirk at anyone who questions how wise it is to be rolling downhill in some disastrous direction.
But the pols and pundits who appear on U.S. television spouting the conventional wisdom are always the winners in this scenario. They get to look tough, standing up to villains like Yanukovych and Putin and siding with the saintly Maidan protesters. The neo-Nazi brown shirts are whited out of the picture and any Ukrainian who objected to the U.S.-backed coup regime finds a black hat firmly glued on his or her head.
For the neocons, there are both financial and ideological benefits. By shattering the fragile alliance that had evolved between Putin and Obama over Syria and Iran, the neocons seized greater control over U.S. policies in the Middle East and revived the prospects for violent "regime change."
On a more mundane level – by stirring up a new Cold War – the neocons generate more U.S. government money for military contractors who bestow a portion on Washington think tanks that provide cushy jobs for neocons when they are out of government.
The worst losers are the people of Ukraine, most tragically the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, thousands of whom have died from a combination of heavy artillery fire by the Ukrainian army on residential areas followed by street fighting led by brutal neo-Nazi militias who were incorporated into Kiev's battle plans. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Ukraine's 'Romantic' Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers."]
The devastation of eastern Ukraine, which has driven an estimated one million Ukrainians out of their homes, has left parts of this industrial region in ruins. Of course, in the U.S. media version, it's all Putin's fault for deceiving these ethnic Russians with "propaganda" about neo-Nazis and then inducing these deluded individuals to resist the "legitimate" authorities in Kiev.
Notably, America's righteous "responsibility to protect" crowd, which demanded that Obama begin airstrikes in Syria a year ago, swallowed its moral whistles when it came to the U.S.-backed Kiev regime butchering ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine (or for that matter, when Israeli forces slaughtered Palestinians in Gaza).
However, beyond the death and destruction in eastern Ukraine, the meddling by Nuland, Gershman and others has pushed all of Ukraine toward financial catastrophe. As "The Business Insider" reported on Sept. 21, "Ukraine Is on the Brink of Total Economic Collapse."
Author Walter Kurtz wrote:
"Those who have spent any time in Ukraine during the winter know how harsh the weather can get. And at these [current] valuations, hryvnia [Ukraine's currency] isn't going to buy much heating fuel from abroad. …
"Inflation rate is running above 14% and will spike sharply from here in the next few months if the currency weakness persists. Real wages are collapsing. … Finally, Ukraine's fiscal situation is unraveling."
In other words, the already suffering Ukrainians from the west, east and center of the country can expect to suffer a great deal more. They have been made expendable pawns in a geopolitical chess game played by neocon masters and serving interests far from Lviv, Donetsk and Kiev.
But other victims from these latest machinations by the U.S. political/media elite will include the American taxpayers who will be expected to foot the bill for the new Cold War launched in reaction to Putin's imaginary scheme to instigate the Ukraine crisis so he could reclaim territory of the Russian Empire.
As nutty as that conspiracy theory is, it is now one of the key reasons why the American people have to spend $1 trillion to modernize the nation's nuclear arsenal, rather than scaling back the thousands of U.S. atomic weapons to around 900, as had been planned.
Or as one supposed expert, Gary Samore at Harvard, explained to the New York Times: "The most fundamental game changer is Putin's invasion of Ukraine. That has made any measure to reduce the stockpile unilaterally politically impossible."
Thus, you can see how hyperbolic journalism and self-interested punditry can end up costing the American taxpayers vast sums of money and contributing to a more dangerous world.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry's trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America's Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.
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