Monday, May 9, 2016

Socialism, a US View

Sixty years after McCarthyism made socialism “un-American”, Bernie Sanders has placed it back on the agenda. “Back” because socialism has a long history in our country, with such prominent advocates as Helen Keller and Albert Einstein. In the Sanders era, advocates of socialism are challenged to think and talk about what socialism really is, its essential promise, how it fits the American experience, what it might look like for the US, and how it’s a goal every American can embrace and help make a reality. But first, here’s what Bernie Sanders had to say about socialism.

Bernie Sanders showed how socialism makes sense for America

Sanders made a powerful case for his vision of socialism in a speech at Georgetown University on 19 Nov. In the New Deal of the 1930s, Sanders said, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt acted “against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists”: “Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our country. He combatted cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country. And that is what we have to do today.”
Sanders noted both FDR and Lyndon Johnson, who enacted Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s, were assailed by the right wing as socialists in their day. He did not mention the enormous mass movements of the 1930s and 1960s that pushed both Roosevelt and Johnson to act. But he acknowledged it implicitly when he declared that today:
“We need to develop a political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. The billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent”.
“A ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation”, Sanders didn’t say it specifically, but that is the essence and logic of capitalism. Defeating this ruling class, according to Sanders, means bringing about “a culture which, as Pope Francis reminds us, cannot just be based on the worship of money”.
Sanders cited calls by Roosevelt in 1944 and Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960s for an economy that serves the people. In their view, he said, you cannot have freedom without economic security—as Sanders put it:
“The right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing, and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies. The right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent health care”.
Getting to that freedom means reshaping political power in our country, Sanders said, because “today in America we not only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power structure which protects that inequality”.
“Democratic socialism, to me, does not just mean that we must create a nation of economic and social justice. It also means that we must create a vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person one vote”.

How socialism can transform our society to serve the people

The connection between our economic and political structures is stronger than Sanders indicated. They are not two parallel systems. We have a political power structure that maintains, protects and preserves an economic system that fuels inequality and injustice. Our economic system based on greed drives (in many ways or in important ways) our political system. The right-wing-dominated Supreme Court’s notorious Citizens United ruling is just one illustration of the role of Big Money—Big Capital—in politics. This is why it’s called “capital”-ism.
Socialism is simply about rebuilding our society so that working people of all kinds, all colors, all languages, all faiths—the car worker, the nurse, the computer technician, the McDonald’s worker, the teacher, the gay family farmer and the farm laborer, the musician, the truck driver, the scientist, the customer service rep, the college student, the teenager trying to land a first job, the Muslim, the Jew, the Catholic, the Methodist, the Anglican, the Quaker, and so too many others. The people who make this country run, not a tiny group of super-rich corporate profiteers, are the deciders, the planners, the policymakers. The driving force is not the ruthless quest for ever-larger individual profit, as it is under our current capitalist system, but pursuit of the common good, equality, freedom from want and fear, expanding human knowledge, culture and potential, providing a chance for everyone to lead a fulfilling life on a healthy planet.
Sanders showed how socialism is rooted in American values. Socialism is about deep and wide democracy. It is not about an all-powerful central government taking over and controlling every aspect of life. It is not only about nationalizing this or that or especially every company. But it does mean that the public will have to take on and take over a few key “evil-doers”.

Taking on Big Oil and Big Finance

  1. The giant energy corporations, Big Oil, the coal companies, the frackers. This section of corporate America plays a central role in the US economy, but also in its politics—and it’s a dangerous and damaging one. People know that they not only ravage our environment and worker health and safety, and hold communities hostage with the threat of job loss if they are curbed, while at the same time blocking progress on a green economy, but they also back and fund far-right policies on a whole range of issues. (It’s not just the Koch brothers.) This sector of the economy will clearly have to be restructured in the public interest.
  2. The giant banking and financial companies—commonly known as “Wall Street” although they are sprinkled around the country. We’ve seen how they wrecked our economy and destroyed lives and livelihoods. For what? Simple greed. They will need to be returned to their socially needed function—to protect ordinary people’s savings and to fund investment in the social good, driving a thriving economy and society:
    • new technologies to save our planet from climate change disaster, flood protection for example
    • a 21st century public education system rich in resources to enable the next generations to flourish
    • expanded medical research and a national health system that serves every American with top quality, humane, state of the art care from one end of life to the other
    • exploration of space and our own planet to enrich human society
    • and so many more.
You may have a few others to add to the list of key evil-doers that will probably be on top of the list to be challenged and taken over. But aside from that, socialism can mean a mix of:
  • Worker and community-owned co-ops
  • Companies democratically owned and run by local or state entities. This is not new—we already have, for example, more than 2,000 community-owned electric utilities, serving more than 48 million people or about 14 percent of the nation’s electricity consumers. Then there’s the state-owned Bank of North Dakota
  • Privately run companies
  • Individually owned small businesses.
For socialism to work, public expression and participation will have to be mobilized and expanded, in the economy and in all other areas of life, for example, by measures like:
  • Strengthening and enlarging worker-employee representation and decision-making
  • Expanding the New England town hall meeting concept
  • Implementing proportional representation and other measures to enable a wide range of views to be represented in our government at every level.
  • Taking money out of political campaigns
  • Making voting easy.
Obviously there’s a lot more to think about and figure out—these are just a few suggestions.

Shedding stereotypes about socialism

Bernie Sanders and others take pains to call themselves democratic socialists. That’s because the concept of socialism—in essence, a society based on the “social” good—has been tainted by what happened in the Soviet Union, and some other countries, and its exploitation for propaganda purposes by the capitalist media. But there’s nothing in socialism that equates to dictatorship, political repression, bureaucracy, over-centralization, commandism, and so on.
Those features of Soviet society arose out of particular circumstances and personalities. But they were not “socialist”. As events have shown, in fact, socialism requires expanded democracy to grow and flourish.
Socialism does not mean a small group “seizing power”. It doesn’t mean radical slogans either. Red flags and images of Che or Lenin not required. Socialism means an energized, inspired, mobilized vast majority from all walks of life, from “red” state and “blue”, coming together to make changes, probably one step at a time.
Socialism is not a “thing” that will “happen” on one day, in one month, one year or even one decade. History shows that vast and lasting social change rarely happens that way. It will be a process of events, many small steps and some big ones—and elections will play a big and vital role—creating transformations that perhaps we won’t even recognize as “socialism”. Perhaps it will only be in hindsight that we will look back and say, “Oh yes, we’ve got something new”. And it’s not an end product. There is no “end of history”.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels became famous for analyzing capitalism and how it exploits and oppresses the 99 percent—OK they didn’t use that term, but that’s what they were talking about. Capitalism started out as a productive and creative force, they wrote, but it contained the seeds of its own decline. It has created a massive and ever-widening working class but most of the wealth this class produces and sustains goes into the pockets of an ever-smaller group of capitalists—that’s called exploitation. It creates so many problems that eventually it will have to be replaced. Change is on the agenda. Thank you Bernie Sanders.

Slightly Adapted from Susan Webb, People’s World

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Why Socialism is Effectively Impossible in the EU

It is because the EU Treaties not only contain procedural protections for capitalism, they also entrench substantive policies which correspond to the basic tenets of neoliberalism. 

The EU is based on two core functional treaties, the Treaty on European Union (TEU, originally signed in Maastricht in 1992) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU, originally signed in Rome in 1958 as the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community). These lay out how the EU operates, and there are a number of satellite treaties which are interconnected with them. Mostly they have been repeatedly amended by other treaties over the years since they were first signed, so a consolidated version of the two core treaties is regularly published by the European Commission. The EU can only act within the competences granted to it through these treaties and amendment to the treaties requires the agreement and ratification (according to their national procedures) of every single signatory.

Reforming the EU to make Socialism Possible

The methods of Treaty amendment are laid down in Article 48 TEU. Under the ordinary revision procedure, Member States must agree by common accord the amendments to be made to the Treaties. Under simplified revision procedures (used to revise Union policies), the European Council also must act unanimously. In each case, changes must be confirmed by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. Crucially, irrespective of which procedure is used, only one national government can veto treaty change. All 28 governments would have to want to give up capitalism simultaneously to change the Treaties such that socialism is possible. In other words, the treaties are designed to make socialist change impossible

Privatising Public Utilities

The socialist position would be that Member States should determine how big their own public sectors are. But EU liberalisation legislation consolidates privatisation. Nationalising sectors such as gas, electricity, telecommunications and postal services is prevented by giving corporations the right of accessing any market. The sort of extension of public ownership brought in by the 1945 Labour government could therefore be prohibited because the new public enterprises would have to compete with private firms in a capitalist market, and that is not socialism! It is the “competitive public ownership” sought by Labour right winger, Anthony Crosland, trying to undermine the efforts of the Attlee government and the welfare state it introduced after 1945. The EU makes publicly owned companies act like private companies--eg run for profit not for public benefit like the NHS--particular when the Treaty provisions on state aids are taken into account. Similar legislation on railways is presently going through the EU institutions.

All legislation in the EU has to come from the EU Commission and be submitted to  the Council and Parliament. Supposing that a socialistic national government sought to introduce EU legislation to allow all Member States a free choice over the public or private ownership of their energy, postal, telecommunications and rail sectors, it has to rely on the Commission to make and submit the proposal. Under Article 352 TFEU the Council must act unanimously, so a single national government can instruct its minister in the Council to veto the proposal, and ALL 28 must therefore agree from the outset their support. Once again it is impossible.

TTIP

Assuming TTIP is agreed before the next UK general election, the prospects of the EU discarding it are even less likely. Assuming withdrawal is permissible, the TEU and TFEU do not make provision for how the EU actually does it. On the face of it, Article 352 TFEU with its unanimity requirement would have to be used, again allowing a single government to stop withdrawal from the TTIP. Again it is easier to do for a single independent state.

Facing up to the Constitutional Obstacles to Socialist Advance

Campaigners claiming it is possible to make the EU more left-wing, have the duty to explain it can be done in the face of EU treaty requirements of unanimity and common accord. At present, these requirements make socialism within the EU nigh on impossible. Those pretending there is a way forwards within the EU like Yanis Varoufakis, the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM 2025), and “Another Europe is Possible”--have to show what the practical means are they propose to use to make progress against the EU constitution without tearing up the treaties which amounts to all 28 Member States rejecting the EU as it is.

Let us leave now, while we have a reasonable chance.

D. Nicol, ‘Is Another Europe Possible?’ U.K. Const. L. Blog (29th Feb 2016) (available at https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Banksters, Banking Gangsters

There has been a vast amount of propaganda directed at FIFA this year for corruption, said by the Americans to amounts to $150 million. Yet the media do not extend the same degree of opprobrium to the financial institutions that a few years ago walked off with the contents of the Exchequer and continue to purloin money from ordinary people in manifest acts of criminality. For example, British bank HSBC was caught running tax evasion, money-laundering for drug cartels and other illicit schemes estimated at $180 billion--more than a thousand-fold the level of criminality alleged at FIFA.

Wall Street banks, like JP Morgan, systematically rigged gold price markets a shady bid to shield the US dollar value, affecting the price of basic commodities and livelihoods for billions of people worldwide, and estimated to be of the order of trillions of dollars—a thousand thousand-fold the FIFA fraud.

These banks, with Citibank, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Credit Agricole among many others, all promoted the toxic financial derivatives that made their executives multimillionaires but which led to the global financial and economic meltdown in 2008, and the robbing of the world national treasuries. Millions of lives have ruined from unemployment and the collapse of pensions and savings funds to feed the greed of the banking and financial executives and the ensuing austerity imposed on the public to pay for the financial catastrophe, deliberately and recklessly engineered by the major banks, hedge funds and other capitalist investment agencies.

The meltdown of financial markets in 2008-2009 was the result of institutionalised fraud and financial manipulation. The ‘bank bailouts’ were implemented on the instruction of Wall Street, leading to the largest transfer of money wealth in recorded history, while simultaneously creating an unsurmountable public debt.
Michel Chossudovsky, The Global Economic Crisis

Generations of children to come will be forced to pay for the trillions of dollars of debt created by the banks. Thousands of people have already died from the austerity governments imposed on their public to pay for the massive corporate fraud, tax evasion, fixing and embezzlement that has occurred.

Yet not one board member or executive from the major banks involved has been charged, let alone prosecuted or imprisoned, and the baks have rewarded their political puppets, Barack Obama and David Cameron by donating cash to help to re-elect them.

Source, Finian Cunningham, Strategic Culture Foundation

Monday, September 28, 2015

Jews Against Zionist "Israel"

Rare video must share!! Jews against Zionist State Israel!!!

Daughter of Mossad Chief:

"I Refuse to serve in the Israeli Military"

Read more at http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=630_1436465294#zOjdIzEWef1kumpa.99

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Recent History of Ukraine—Western Interference

Ukraine currently stands at the centre of a geo-political battle by the United States and the European Union to isolate and militarily surround Russia and China and minimise the wider influence of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Customs Union of Russian, Belarus and Kazakhstan. In this battle the United States and Germany have adopted somewhat different tactics and have somewhat divergent interests but were both deeply implicated in the February 2014 coup against the elected government of Ukraine and in the subsequent establishment of a regime in which openly fascist forces have a significant place. These notes seek to explain the background

In 1990 the Ukraine had the second biggest GDP in the SU after the Russia Federation. It specialised in metallurgy, coal, aircraft, motor production and space craft as well as agriculture. Its population grew from 38m in 1952 to 52m in 1991. In the ten years after the dismantling of the Soviet Union its GDP fell to 40 per cent of the previous level. Almost all sectors of the economy were privatised. The population has fallen sharply, to 45m in 2012. Living standards collapsed. Per capita income is now $6,700.

A multi-national country

The borders of Ukraine today were defined in 1945. Historically this geographical area had straddled the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russia empires and included Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, Slavic Ukrainians, Russians and Europe’s largest Jewish community. Kiev had been the historic base for Russian Orthodox Christianity and for the first Russian state.

In December 1917, a Soviet government was declared in Kiev. It was quickly driven east by pro-Axis forces of Germany and Austria and, after the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, into exile. After the defeat of the Axis powers in 1918 the revolutionary movement redeveloped and a Ukrainian Soviet Republic was formed in March 1919. In the wars of Western intervention that followed most of western Ukraine was absorbed into Poland and the south-west into Romania. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic became a member state of the USSR in 1922, although western, mainly British, intervention sustained right-wing nationalist resistance into the 1930s.

In the late 1930s the Ukrainian nationalists in both Polish occupied Ukraine and the Soviet Ukraine switched allegiance to Nazi Germany and were heavily financed to undertake subversive activities. In June 1941 their leader Stepan Bandera established a quisling state and adopted an “elimination” policy against the very large Jewish population. Bandera was removed by the Nazis in December 1941 but reinstated in November 1944 to mobilise resistance to the advancing Soviet army. Under the Nazis about 3m Ukrainians were killed, most of them Jewish but including many non-Jews involved in the resistance. The great bulk of the population in Soviet eastern Ukraine, industrialised in the 1920s and 30s, opposed the Nazi occupation and fought with Soviet forces.

Post-Soviet Ukraine

In 1991, after Yeltsin’s dissolution of the Soviet Union, the previous third Secretary of the Ukrainian party, Leonid Kravchuk, became President, took pro-Western positions and initiated a process of rapid privatisation, creating powerful clans of industrial oligarchs. He was replaced in 1994 by Leonid Kuchma, whose power base was in Eastern Ukraine, and who followed a policy of closer alignment with Yeltsin’s oligarch government in Russia. He left office in 2004. All the contenders for political power in the period since served as ministers under Kuchma: Julia Timoshenko, Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych. All head, or headed, oligarch clans. The Communist Party was re-formed in the 1990s. The party has a significant base in southern and eastern Ukraine, mainly among industrial workers. It has actively campaigned against privatisation and oligarch rule. In the 2012 parliamentary elections it secured 13.1 per cent of the vote.

The replacement of Yeltsin by Putin in 2000 saw the United States revising its policies in Eastern Europe and seeking to pull frontline states, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine, into alignment with NATO. It gave active backing to Viktor Yushchenko and Julia Timoshenko in their bid to prevent Viktor Yanukovych succeeding Kuchma in the 2004 presidential election. Yushenko, a leading oligarch, had previously been a member of Bandera’s OUN. His wife, a US citizen, had worked in the State department and White House under Reagan and was Vice Chair of the US-Ukraine Committee.

The Orange Revolution was the result, with major mobilisations in the nationalist west forcing the annulment of the election and the holding of new elections which returned Yushchenko as president and Timoshenko as prime minister. In 2010 Yushenko awarded Bandera the title of “Hero of the Ukraine”. Ukrainian troops were sent to assist NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two oligarch clans of Yushenko and Timoshenko subsequently fell out, and this, combined with the impact of the 2008 economic crisis, allowed Yanukovych to return as president in the 2010 election on a policy of non-alignment. Yanukovych represented oligarch interests principally oriented towards trading with Russia but has pursued highly opportunist policies, playing off the EU and Russia for the best results. In October 2013, he won a vote in parliament allowing him to negotiate for associate membership of the EU. Only the Communist MPs voted against. Then in December he reversed his position to seek a closer relationship with the proposed Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. This resulted in mass protests and the occupation the central square and adjacent public buildings in Kiev, the Maidan. By January 2015 the occupation was dominated by right-wing nationalists and fascists.

The Communist Party of Ukraine

The party had approaching 100,000 members in 2014. In 2012 it secured 32 seats in the parliament. The party characterised the February events at the time as a coup which threatened civil war and the disintegration of the Ukrainian state. Since the February coup it has been the main target of right-wing and fascist violence. Its offices have been burnt, members killed and its deputies repeatedly excluded from the parliament. On 22 July, President Poroshenko signed into law a decree giving parliament the power to ban political parties from the Rada. On 24 July, the speaker of the Rada, Fatherland Party member, Turchynov, successfully moved a motion banning the party from Rada. The public prosecutor was ordered to set in motion court action to proscribe membership of the party. The court hearings began in July 2014. In February 2015 the judges collectively resigned claiming that they had been subjected to undue pressure to ban the party.

Although the CP Ukraine opposes any alignment with the EU, it had called in 2013 for a referendum on the issue. It also called for an end to the presidential system and the establishment of a parliamentary republic with a significant measure of federalism and elections based on proportional representation.

It points out that any free trade treaty with the EU would wipe out the Ukraine’s shipbuilding, motor and aircraft industries and only benefit those oligarch clans trading in raw materials and those who have seized control of Ukraine’s land resources.

In December 2013, it condemned the Yanukovych government’s handling of the protests but highlighted the level of US, German and NATO intervention and the degree to which there has been active support for extreme right-wing politicians. Senator John McCain shared a platform in December with the leader of the fascist Svoboda party, Oleh Tyahnybok, who shortly before had led a 15,000 march through Kiev in honour of the Nazi, Stepan Bandera. The Secretary General of NATO, Anders Rasmusen, described the proposed EU pact as “a major boost to Euro-Atlantic security”.

In the October 2014 elections the CP Ukraine secured just under 4 per cent of the vote, and failed to secure a place in the Rada after losing its main voting bases in the East of the country and Crimea.

The pro-coup forces

The main pro-coup forces were:

  • Timoschenko’s Fatherland Party, based in the west and with 25 per cent of the vote in the 2012 election, historically looking back to Bandera and with strong US links.
  • the pro-EU German-funded Democratic Alliance of “the boxer” Klychkov (13 per cent in 2012).
  • the fascist Svoboda (9 per cent in 2012). The Fatherland Party and Svoboda fought the 2012 election in an electoral pact. Svoboda controlled several cities in Western Ukraine and had been erecting statues to Bandera and destroying Soviet war memorials.
  • However, much of the street mobilisation was organised by even harder line neo-Nazi elements, Spilna Sprava (Common Cause), Trizub (Trident) and Right Sector.

US involvement

The US state department was closely involved in mobilising support for the Maidan protests and subsequent events. The official with primary responsibility is Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia. Previously foreign policy adviser to Cheney, she is married to Robert Kagan, co-founder of the Project for a New American Century. On 13 December 2013, she told an International Business Conference on Ukraine that the US was committed to defending democratic forces in Ukraine and had spent $5bn over the previous decade inside Ukraine to support them.

On 5 February, two weeks before the coup, she was recorded talking on the phone to the US Ambassador in Kiev. She described the need for urgent intervention to pull together a replacement government, and her discussions with Ban Ki-Moon, UN Sec Gen, to send an envoy to Kiev, the previous Dutch ambassador, to do so, and openly said “F..k the EU” which she accused of failing to act. She named Yatseniuk as the man the US backed as the new prime minister.

On 19 February , five days before the coup, the Wall Street Journal carried a feature quoting State Department sources calling for action. “Ceding Ukraine to Moscow could turn into a broader undermining of Western credibility”. The feature reminded readers of the active policy previously pursued by the Bush administration in containing Russia and expanding the sphere of Western influence in Eurasia. Support had been given to the Rose Revolution in Georgia, trade and military agreements made with the central Asian republics and backing accorded to the Orange revolution in the Ukraine in 2004. The Obama administration, it argued, had squandered these gains by concentrating on the domestic agenda, shifting its foreign policy focus to Asia and believing it could secure a detente with Russia.

Recently, however, perceptions had started to change. Outwitted over Syria, the State Department had hardened its position on Putin’s Russia and what it saw as the attempt to build a counterweight to the US in world affairs. More specifically the State Department saw the possibility of exploiting a “policy asymmetry” in Eastern Europe.

For the West the Ukraine was not itself of great economic significance. For Putin, by contrast, it was central. Any attempt to redevelop an economic and political bloc in Eastern Europe and Asia, depended for its credibility on the involvement of Ukraine. Belarus and Kazakhstan by themselves would not be enough. By intervening here, the West could land a major strategic blow on Russia at only limited economic cost. The US had therefore given full backing to the initiative of the European Union last year to offer “associate status” to the Ukraine in return for internal “economic and political reform”.

Poroshenko, War, NATO

In 1989-1992, Poroshenko used his position in the Kiev State University International Economic Relations Department to start international trading in cocoa beans. By the 1990s he had developed a monopoly control over Ukraine’s confectionary industry. Politically he supported Kuchma and added the auto-industry, shipyards and a major TV channel (Channel 5) to his holdings in the 2000s. He was associated with Yushchenko in the Orange revolution and became a member of subsequent governments. He faced a number of accusations of corruption and it was mutual accusations of corruption between Poroshenko and Yulia Timoshenko that led to the fall of her government. He became Foreign Minister under Yushchenko in 2009-2010 when he supported closer links with the EU and NATO. He gave financial support to the Maidan protest in December 2013 and used his TV Channel 5 to mobilise support. He represents a “centrist” or opportunist position in Ukrainian politics, not the ideologically nationalist right, and has close links with the EU.

The military action by the Kiev regime against the Eastern regions had by early 2015 resulted in over 5,000 deaths, many of them civilians, and the displacement of over 300,000 people as refugees. Some estimates put the number at closer to one million, if those moving to relatives in Russia are included. The spearhead of the Kiev forces was composed of “volunteer battalions” made of extreme right wing elements. The biggest, the Azoz battalion, uses the same emblems and flags as the Nazi SS in the last war.

In the final year of the Soviet Union, the US and the Soviet Union announced an agreement that the former SU territories would remain neutral and never become part of NATO—Baker Gorbachov agreement, 9 February 1990. Under GW Bush’s presidency the US adopted an aggressive strategy of NATO expansion in violation of this agreement. Russia has maintained its position that Ukraine should remain non-aligned.

On 29 August 2014, the prime minister Yatseniuk asked the Rada to annul Ukraine’s non-aligned status ahead of the NATO summit to enable a request for NATO membership. The NATO summit, in September 2014, announced the intent to take Ukraine into membership.

The US has taken the lead in introducing sanctions and pressurising the EU to follow. The US introduced sanctions against senior Russian political figures in March 2014. In August, EU/US discussions resulted in an agreement for joint economic sanctions. These mainly targetted financial institutions and became operative from 12 September. Russian gas, on which most EU countries rely, was excluded. In response, Russia has announced sanctions against imports from EU countries. The economic impact is likely to be far more severe for the EU than the US.

The ceasefire 12 point proposals agreed at Minsk, on 5 September, were pushed through by Poroshenko, an ally of Merkel, and opposed by Yatseniuk, closely aligned with the US and the far-right.

If adhered to, the Poroskenko 12 points offer most of what the Russian speaking districts want: federalism, local economy autonomy, amnesty, prisoner exchange. On 16 September, the Rada passed a law ratifying autonomy despite opposition from the Fatherland party and Yatsenyuk. However, the October 2014 election results, in which, in a very low poll, right-wing revanchist parties outperformed Poroshenko, could well presage further military action. (CPB Notes)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Resisting the Financial Oligarchy and Globalisation

Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, concluded that the rich on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of—or even against—the will of most voters. America has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy—power is wielded by wealthy elites.

It takes big money just to put on the mass media campaigns required to win an election involving 240 million people of voting age. The stages of the capture of democracy by big money are traced in a paper called The Collapse of Democratic Nation States by Dr John Cobb.

He points to the rise of private banks, several centuries back, when they usurped the power to create money from governments. Banks are able to create money and so to lend amounts far in excess of their actual wealth. That tradition goes back to the 17th century, when the privately-owned Bank of England, the mother of all central banks, negotiated the right to print England's money after Parliament stripped that power from the Crown.

Similarly, the US colonies won their revolution but lost the power to create their own money supply when they opted for gold rather than paper money as their official means of exchange. Gold was in limited supply and was controlled by the bankers, who surreptitiously expanded the money supply by issuing multiple banknotes against a limited supply of gold. This was the system euphemistically called “fractional reserve” banking, meaning only a fraction of the gold necessary to back the banks' privately-issued notes was actually held in their vaults.

President Abraham Lincoln revived the colonists' paper money system when he issued the Treasury notes called “Greenbacks” that helped the Union win the Civil War. When Lincoln was assassinated, Greenback issues were discontinued. Presidential elections from 1872 to 1896 always had a third national party running on a platform of financial reform. Organized by labour or farmer organizations, they were parties of the people not bankers like the Populist Party, the Labor Reform Party, and the Union Labor Party. They advocated expanding the national currency to meet the needs of trade, reforming the banking system, and democratically controlling the financial system. Financial historian, Murray Rothbard, says politics after the turn of the century was a struggle between competing banking giants, the Morgans and the Rockefellers. Parties sometimes changed hands, but always pulling the strings was one of these two bankers.

The US Populist movement of the 1890s was the last serious challenge to the bankers' monopoly over the right to create the nation's money. No popular third party candidates have a real chance of prevailing, because they have to compete with two entrenched parties funded by these massively powerful Wall Street banks. Control of the media and financial leverage over elected officials then allowed the other curbs on democracy we know today, including high barriers to ballot placement for third parties and their elimination from presidential debates, vote suppression, registration restrictions, identification laws, voter roll purges, gerrymandering, computer voting, and secrecy in government. Dr Cobb says globalization is the final blow to democracy by overriding national interests:

Today’s global economy is fully transnational. The money power is not much interested in boundaries between states and generally works to reduce their influence on markets and investments… Thus transnational corporations inherently work to undermine nation states, whether they are democratic or not. The money power is not much interested in boundaries between states and generally works to reduce their influence on markets and investments.

The awful TTIP and its accompanying legal structure, the ISDS, show exactly how serious this threat is.

So, if people wish to re-establish their sovereign powers, they should start by reclaiming the power to create money, usurped by private interests while people were gloating over their achievements so far! State and local governments cannot print their own currencies, but they can own banks, and all depository banks create money when they make loans, as the Bank of England has acknowledged.

A people's government could take back the power to create the national money supply by issuing its own treasury notes, as Abraham Lincoln did. Or it could nationalize the central bank and use quantitative easing to fund infrastructure, education, job creation, and social services, responding to the needs of the people rather than the banks.

The left has always known that freedom to vote carries little weight without economic freedom—the freedom to work and to have food, housing, education, medical care and a decent retirement.


Abbreviated from How America Became an Oligarchy by Ellen Brown in Counterpunch.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Social Psychology of Making Enemies, Propaganda and War

Short Summary


Contrary to common belief, war and the creation of enemies is not coded in our genes.

  • The symbolic enemy of primitive-ritualistic warfare, where the enemy in is quite different from the modern notion of an enemy.
  • The withholding enemy of the greedy-colonial warfare who is part of the imperialist, capital grabbing culture.
  • The worthy enemy, a fighter of heroic wars is a fighter of heroic wars, what Bertolt Brecht calls "the beloved enemy”.
  • The enemy of God in a holy war has to be destroyed to ensure the safety of the holy group.
  • The threatening enemy in defensive wars that aim to protect one's country or homeland.
  • The oppressive, dictatorial enemy opposing liberation or revolutionary wars.

A classic study in the US in the midst of the cold war revealed that young students viewed the Soviets as “the enemy”, not because they posed a physical threat to the US but due to their different ideology and competitive stand as a super power. Most adults over age fifty who have gone through some personal experience with war define “the enemy” in the traditional way, meaning the country with which we are at war.

An enemy image is a representation of the enemy. The double standard dynamic is the most powerful in distorting perceptions of enemy images. This is a process whereby people use a different yardstick to judge the enemy’s actions or to assess enemy motivations than they use for themselves or for allies.

The tendencies to judge the enemy’s actions negatively, to remember mainly negative information and to attribute peaceful acts to situational factors are frequently accompanied by hostile predictions of the enemy’s intentions far exceeding what can be determined by the facts. As most people are likely to perceive an enemy as more dangerous and more hostile than they really are, they are also more likely to expect the enemy to act more aggressively and violently than can be assumed from the available facts. The ability to present and perceive the enemy in such paradoxical ways enables people to justify their attitudes and behavior towards the enemy.

Four of the unwritten rules of enmity are:

  1. The enemy of my friend is my enemy
  2. The friend of my enemy is my enemy
  3. The enemy of my enemy is my friend
  4. My enemies are friends with each other

While during the cold war it was the split between the USSR and the US, more recently it has been between the Arab-Muslim world and the US This dynamic of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is also responsible for the awkward situations where the US found itself simultaneously supporting two sides of a conflict with arms during the lengthy Iran-Iraqi war in the 1970s and 1980s. During the 1991 and 2002 wars in Iraq the US found itself again in the awkward position of supporting Syria, who was opposing Iraq (the enemy of my enemy is my friend) and at the same time labeling Syria as a terrorist nation due its hostile position towards Israel, the US’ ally (the enemy of my friend is my enemy). During the cold war research has shown that the US’s enemy, at that time, the USSR, was closely associated in people’s minds with terrorism and drug trafficking. As predicted by the statement, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, as soon as he gained enough political and military power in Iran, the late Shah of Iran opposed the Kurdish minority who were fighting for their independence.

Accordingly, one of the primary goals of war propaganda is its creation of enemy images that strip the enemy of their human, domestic and individual characteristics. Analysis of enemy images and war propaganda reveals that there are nine levels to describing or perceiving the enemy. On the other hand in an era when television can show the enemy, their children and families right in our living rooms, it is no longer easy to dehumanize the enemy. To see the enemy as a full person, like us experiencing joy, pain, fear and hope, will change our relationships to our enemies. Far from justifying all of our enemy’s actions, understanding will give us an historical, political and emotional context for our enemy’s actions.




The Social Psychology of Making Enemies, Propaganda and War

Abridged Article

Contrary to common belief, war and the creation of enemies is not coded in our genes. The first humans who could organize and train an army, plan and conduct a war against an enemy, appeared in the Neolithic period, only about 11,000 to 13,000 years ago. Psychological elements predispose us towards propaganda and war. We can act in evil ways and make enemies. By understanding how prejudice and propaganda moves people, enemy making and war might be stopped. The US cartoon character, Pogo, wisely says, “We have met the enemy and it is us”.

Ofer Zur tells us that, since the Neolithic Period, people have fought seven types of warfare, each represented by a specific type of enemy:

  1. The symbolic enemy of primitive-ritualistic warfare, where the enemy in is quite different from the modern notion of an enemy.
  2. The withholding enemy of the greedy-colonial warfare who is part of the imperialist, capital grabbing culture. The greedy, dominating and colonial enemy in these wars was one who deprived the dominated people of their physical and psychological needs. From the view of the dominant party, the enemy was not to be destroyed but to be exploited, enslaved and used to fulfil the greedy needs of the elite group of people. The enemy in this war is to be exploited, nowadays not necessarily militarily or wholly militarily but economically exploited.
  3. The worthy enemy, a fighter of heroic wars is a fighter of heroic wars, what Bertolt Brecht calls “the beloved enemy”.
  4. The enemy of God in a holy war has to be destroyed to ensure the safety of the holy group. The Arabs, and many in the US, view the Middle Eastern wars as a holy war between Islam and Christianity. The Cold War too from the US viewpoint had the elements of a holy war against the “atheist communists”, and the recent war on terrorism has an underpinning of holy war on radical Muslim terrorists, both being depicted as the “good guys”, the US and its allies, versus the “bad guys”, anyone who contested the US view of the world.
  5. The threatening enemy in defensive wars that aim to protect one’s country or homeland. The US fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam to defend an ally, allegedly to “defend the free world”, or to defend itself from Communist or other believed threats. Troops and civilians alike are conditioned to believe that their country’s cause is just, their leaders are blameless, and that God is on their side against the vile and evil enemy “over there”.
  6. The oppressive, dictatorial enemy in opposing liberation or revolutionary wars.
  7. The recently conceived notion of a war on terrorism, although, beyond agreement that terrorism aims at inducing terror, no one has yet found a commonly agreed definition. After all, warfare generally induces terror. Consequently, terrorism is ften simply “name calling” against any “enemy of the state”. It is the term used by powerful governments when their enemy threaten the dominance of those governments in war albeit with far more primitive weapons. In the war on terrorism there are desperate attempts to identify and destroy the enemy by traditional means of bombing, but traditional warfare tactics are not effective with non-traditional warfare. The Israelis and other military and police forces in Mediterranean countries, the US in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, the British Army in Ireland, and others have all learned that you can’t use WMD to fight an enemy “out there” when the enemy is “right here”, within, all around or among us.

Enmity, Enemy Images And Paranoia

Recent dictionary definitions of “enemy” are on the lines of “a hostile force or power”, “a member or unit of such a force”, or “something having destructive effect”. US Federal law defines “enemy” as “the government of any nation with which the US is at war”. More personally, “enemy” can be defined as a person or a group of persons perceived to represent a threat to or hostile towards the perceiver. In the cold war, students we found to see the Soviets as “the enemy” not because they posed any actual threat to the US, but due to their different and competitive ideology as a super power. Most adults over age fifty who have gone through some personal experience with war define “the enemy” in the traditional way, meaning the country with which we are at war. However, most young people in Europe and the US, having not directly experienced war in their adult lives, consistently define “enemy” in terms involving different ideologies, religions, values or competition for world domination.

While enemy traditionally has been defined as some type of perceived or real threat, “enmity” puts more emphasis on mutuality. Hypothetically, nation [A] can be an enemy of nation [B], while nation [B] does not consider [A] its enemy. An enemy image is a representation of the enemy. So, an image of “the enemy” can be accurate or biased, imaginary or real. More often than not, it is both. The role of war propaganda is to propagate a stereotypical bad, evil or demonic image of the enemy. Riitta Wahlstrom defines “enemy image” as “the commonly-held, stereotyped, dehumanized image of the outgroup”:

The enemy image provides a focus for externalization of fears and threats… a lot of undesirable cognitions and emotions are projected on to the enemy.

There is an emphasis on the processes of dehumanization (which legitimizes violence against the enemy), externalization, projection and several cognitive biases.

The pathology of the normal person who is a member of a war-justifying society forms the template from which all the images of the enemy are created.

In publicing enemy images and war, propaganda exploits people’s sense of insecurity, their loyalty and clinks with the group, and their predisposition to paranoia. Seeing the world as divided into us and them, undesirable negative qualities are projected on to the enemy. Social psychologists have documented the importance of the outgroup and enmity in the formation of group identity and group cohesion. These social instincts, or their lack, and the relative strength of one’s sense of self contribute to the individual’s vulnerability to war propaganda and establish an individual’s inclination towards making enemies. Enemies are suitable targets for unacceptable negative feelings or guilt by individuals or groups, as they attempt to rid themselves of these emotions. In the US, some people made Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld, or the military-industrial complex, with some justification, into their enemies. Internal group cohesion and group identity was promoted to counter the aggressive war campaign against international enemies led by these leading politicians.

Young children adopt attitudes, including enemy images, without really understanding them. But, at adolescence, they can think more abstractly and can draw more accurate conclusions from their personal experiences. In this way, children learn about enmity from their surroundings and internalize prejudices and enemy images as part of the process of becoming members of their culture. Thereby, people may use a different yardstick to judge the enemy than they use for themselves or friends and allies. During a conflict this double standard allows each side to regard its own deeds as defensive while denouncing the enemy’s as offensive. The double standard bias leads not only to misconceptions about the enemy and to an exaggerated perception of danger, it may also force the escalation of conflict to a point where mistrust and bad feeling renders negotiation no longer viable, then war may be inevitable.

The enemy’s hostile actions are commonly attributed to natural characteristics, while conciliatory or peaceful actions are attributed to the circumstances. In other words, when the enemy is acting peacefully, the external circumstances force it to. It is not voluntary. Americans, in tests, chose negative motives when bad acts were fictitiously ascribed to the enemy, but positive ones when the same acts were ascribed to the US.

The tendency to judge the enemy’s actions as malign, to remember mainly negative information, and to attribute peaceful acts to the situation rather than free will are frequently accompanied by hostile predictions of the enemy’s intentions far exceeding what the facts support. As people mainly see an enemy as more dangerous and more hostile than they really are, they also mainly expect the enemy to act more aggressively and violently than objective evidence suggests. The enemy will be seen as unwarrantedly hostile when we misread its intentions. The projection of hostile intent onto the enemy, can be provocative, and cause an escalation of the conflict, thereby becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Mirror Image

A close analysis of the images of the enemy as perceived by opposing parties reveals that they often see each other in a similar light, as Uri Bronfenbrenner showed in the cold war, and which remains true. The mirror image has manifested clearly in the way both sides of the Iraq war of 2002 depicted themselves and the other. The United State’s narrative of the war has been:

Altruistic Americans risk their lives to topple an evil dictator and establish democracy and human rights.

Psychology shows that people pay attention to, and recall more negative adjectives and stories about people they consider “the enemy”, than with people they consider friends. Terrorism and the external enemy have preoccupied the attention of Americans. Incredible statements about the USSR and then by Muslims are readily accepted in the US and the West generally because they describe “the enemy”. Evidence suggests this gullibility is shared with the other side. The bias in credibility assessment maintains a person’s inner mental consistency by ignoring, tuning-out, disregarding or denying any information that is inconsistent with their attitudes towards the enemy. It is a process which culminates with hostile and very often wrong predictions of the enemy’s intentions. It mobilizes people through fear and hate to feel justified in going to war and killing the enemy without guilt.

Someone seen as an evil enemy today can be an ally and a trusted friend tomorrow. War propaganda often focuses on historical differences between “us” and “them, the enemy”. Propaganda distorts truth and skews historical actuality with the goal of perpetuating present enmity towards a contemporary enemy. The fascists who effected the putsch in Kiev spread the lie that the Russians invaded the Ukraine when it was the German Nazi armies, The Ukraine being already within the Societ Union. Equally, after 9/11, the Taliban had to be depicted as the world’s most threatening enemy who were also hiding Bin Ladin to spread unreasonable terror worldwide but especially in western homes. There are modern nations, such as Finland, Costa Rica and Switzerland, without enemies and there have been peaceful societies throughout human evolution. But most groups, nations, tribes or countries have an enemy. Each in group often has an out group. Enmity with some other is important to maintain group cohesion and group identity, explaining the prevalence of the idea of the enemy. Even so, no one has shown that groups necessarily require enemies, or that there are no other ways to maintain group cohesion and identity.

The dynamic of enmity is complex and often has significant inconsistencies and paradoxes. Four of the unwritten rules of enmity state that:

  1. The enemy of my friend is my enemy
  2. The friend of my enemy is my enemy
  3. The enemy of my enemy is my friend
  4. My enemies are friends with each other.

While during the cold war it was the split between the Soviet Union and the US, more recently it has been that between the Arab-Muslim world and the US. The notion of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is responsible for the embarrassment of the US finding itself simultaneously on both sides of a conflict in its Middle eastern machinations since the 1970s. Thus the US is simultaneously bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria while supporting ISIS as a weapon against Syria, allegedly a terrorist nation (the enemy of my enemy is my friend--at least to some degree!). Syria is also hostile to Israel, the US’s ally (the enemy of my friend is my enemy). People assume that their enemies are friends with each other. During the cold war the US’s enemy, the USSR, was blamed by Americans for all kinds of terrorism and drug trafficking. Our enemies of the day are therefore typically regarded as allies of each other, and with other threats whether communism, terrorism, or human rights violations in general. Our side don’t do things like that, not because it is true, but because no one propagates the evidence for it that exists, and because no one likes to think that our side is ever beastly!

Ignorance and Dehumanization


The above biases and distorted perceptions are to do with ignorance of the world beyond national borders and the enemy in particular, often fostered deliberately. Twenty-eight percent of US citizens believe that the USSR fought against, and not with, the US in World War II. Ignorance also perpetuates personal attribution of barbaric actions to the enemy. To fight our own kind we have to dehumanize the enemy, to see other human beings as less than human. So, the main goal of war propaganda is to paint an enemy stripped of their human characteristics, to paint them as monstrous!

Broadly there are nine ways of characterising the enemy. Least likely is as being recognizably human, but is possible and even likely in primitive ritualistic and heroic, romanticised warfare. Otherwise, the enemy is depicted as increasingly less human, becoming merely a representation of death, destruction and evil. Caricatures and cartoons in the press, on the Internet and TV depict Bin Ladin, Saddam Hussein or Muslim opponents as a “demonic enemy”. The war on terrorism depicts the enemy as an animal and the US soldier as a hunter. Pictures of American service men and women sexually humiliating prisoners held in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004 mocked the pious aim of Muslims of “submitting” to God by putting them in subservient, dehumanizing positions that sub-feminized the enemy before their dominating female guards.

The west also depicts and dehumanizes the enemy on the computer or videogame screen, and through the selling of “shoot-em-up” videogames largely played by children and unsophisticated young men. On the other hand in an era when television can show the enemy, their children and families right in our living rooms, it is not as easy to dehumanize them as it once was. In the summer 2014 assault by the IDF on Gaza, it was the Israelis who came out on TV as the least human by their murdering thousands of largely helpless Gazans in their homes. More and more sophisticated techniques must be developed to continue denying the enemy’s humanity. Although the US has the largest store of war instruments on the planet, domestically they have to protect themselves at airports against the Pimpernel terrorists by checking soft drink bottles, tennis shoes and threatening weapons like nail clippers.

Today it is imperative to seek ways of reducing enmity among groups and discover if nations can exist without enemies. Every war runs the risk of escalating to a nuclear level, so by failing to settle disputes amicably we risk destroying ourselves. We must stop dehumanizing the enemy and view them as human beings whose grievances mau be legitimate. To see the enemy, like us, experiencing joy, pain, fear and hope, will help us to empathize with our enemies, giving us an historical, political and emotional context to understand our enemy’s actions, to recognize the enemies’ needs, hopes and fears, and the catalysts that motivate them. We will be less likely to make hostile predictions, to have selective negative attention, and we will apply fewer double standards in assessing the enemy’s actions.

The central need in doing this is to develop a healthy skepticism about what the media tell us about our supposed enemies, and why anyone should want us to believe the lies they propagate. The answer is the need of the ruling elite to capture absolute power and greed for wealth that anables them to do it. But while true, that is another story. Meanwhile, relatively few US citizens have a passport to travel abroad, and consequently they have a narrow view of the human race. Those who do travel broaden their awareness of the common humanity of all people. Grassroots citizen diplomacy, sister-cities, pen pals and other networking activities between the members of warring groups can drastically reduce enmity by rehumanizing the enemy.

Enmity might once have promoted group cohesion and enhanced group identity, we have moved far from the situation of small bands of wandering humans when this was so. Now there is ample evidence to show that groups can develop cohesion and identity without enemies. The danger in the current US war against terrorism is that it will descend to the level of the terrorist-enemy it fights and by that destroy the very values that the US is fighting to preserve. Fighting the enemy on its own terms can destroy the country itself.

Reference

The un-abridged article can be read at this address: