April 30, 2016

The Idea of May Day on the March: ROSA LUXEMBURG April 30th, 1914

The Idea of May Day on the March

 April 30th, 1914  

original material by Rosa Luxemburg on the origins and history of May Day. 

In the middle of the wildest orgies of imperialism, the world holiday of the proletariat is repeating itself for the twenty-fourth time. What has taken place in the quarter of a century since the epoch-making decision to celebrate May Day is an immense part of the historical path. When the May demonstration made its debut, the vanguard of the International, the German working class, was breaking the chains of a shameful law of exception and setting out on the path of a free, legal development.

The period of the long depression on the world market since the crash of the 1870s had been overcome, and the capitalist economy had just begun a phase of splendid growth which would last nearly a decade. At the same time, after twenty years of unbroken peace, the world breathed a sigh of relief, remembering the period of war in which the modern European state system had received its bloody baptism. The path seemed free for a peaceful cultural development; illusions, hopes of a reasonable, pacific discussion between labor and capital grew abundantly like green corn in the ranks of socialism. Propositions like “to hold out the open hand to the good will” marked the beginning of the 1890s; promises of an imperceptible “gradual move into socialism” marked its end. Crises, wars, and revolution were supposed to have been things of the past, the baby shoes of modern society; parliamentarism and unions, democracy in the state and democracy in the factory were supposed to open the doors of a new, better order.

At the end of the 1890s, in place of the promised, smooth, social-reforming cultural development, began a period of the most violent and acute sharpening of the capitalistic contradictions – a storm and stress, a crashing and colliding, a wavering and quaking in the foundations of the society.

The course of events has submitted all of these illusions to a fearful test. At the end of the 1890s, in place of the promised, smooth, social-reforming cultural development, began a period of the most violent and acute sharpening of the capitalistic contradictions – a storm and stress, a crashing and colliding, a wavering and quaking in the foundations of the society. In the following decade, the ten-year period of economic prosperity was paid for by two violent world crises. After two decades of world peace, in the last decade of the past century followed six bloody wars, and in the first decade of the new century four bloody revolutions. Instead of the social reforms – conspiracy laws, penal laws, and penal praxis; instead of industrial democracy – the powerful concentration of capital in cartels and business associations, and the international practice of gigantic lock-outs. And instead of the new growth of democracy in the state – a miserable breakdown of the last remnants of bourgeois liberalism and bourgeois democracy. Specifically in the case of Germany the fate of the bourgeois parties since the 1890s has brought: the rise and immediate, hopeless dissolution of the National Socialists; the split of the “radical” opposition and the reunification of its splinters in the morass of the reaction; and finally the transformation of the “center” from a radical peoples’ party to a conservative governmental party. The shifting in the development of the parties was similar in other capitalist countries. In general, the revolutionary working class sees itself today standing alone, opposed to a closed, hostile reaction of the ruling classes and their malicious tricks.

The sign under which this whole development, both economic and political, has been consummated, the formula back to which its results point, is imperialism. This is no new element, no unexpected turn in the general historical path of the capitalist society. Armaments and wars, international contradictions and colonial politics accompany the history of capitalism from its cradle. It is the most extreme intensification of these elements, a drawing together, a gigantic storming of these contradictions which has produced a new epoch in the course of modern society. In a dialectical interaction, both cause and effect of the immense accumulation of capital and the heightening and sharpening of the contradictions which go with it — internally, between capital and labor; externally, between the capitalist states — imperialism has opened the final phase, the division of the world by the assault of capital. A chain of unending, exorbitant armaments on land and on sea in all capitalist countries because of rivalries; a chain of bloody wars which have spread from Africa to Europe and which at any moment could light the spark which would become a world fire; moreover, for years the uncheckable specter of inflation, of mass hunger in the whole capitalist world — all of these are the signs under which the world holiday of labor, after nearly a quarter of a century, approaches. And each of these signs is a flaming testimony of the living truth and the power of the idea of May Day.

The brilliant basic idea of May Day is […] the political mass action of the millions of workers. […] In this moment of armament lunacy and war orgies, only the resolute will to struggle of the working masses, their capacity and readiness for powerful mass actions, can maintain world peace and push away the menacing world conflagration. 

The brilliant basic idea of May Day is the autonomous, immediate stepping forward of the proletarian masses, the political mass action of the millions of workers who otherwise are atomized by the barriers of the state in the day-to-day parliamentary affairs, who mostly can give expression to their own will only through the ballot, through the election of their representatives. The excellent proposal of the Frenchman Lavigne at the Paris Congress of the International added to this parliamentary, indirect manifestation of the will of the proletariat a direct, international mass manifestation: the strike as a demonstration and means of struggle for the eight-hour day, world peace, and socialism.
And in effect what an upswing this idea, this new form of struggle has taken on in the last decade! The mass strike has become an internationally recognized, indispensable weapon of the political struggle. As a demonstration, as a weapon in the struggle, it returns again in innumerable forms and gradations in all countries for nearly fifteen years. As a sign of the revolutionary reanimation of the proletariat in Russia, as a tenacious means of struggle in the hands of the Belgian proletariat, it has just now proved its living power. And the next, most burning question in Germany — the Prussian voting rights — obviously, because of its previous slipshod treatment, points to a rising mass action of the Prussian proletariat up to the mass strike as the only possible solution.

No wonder! The whole development, the whole tendency of imperialism in the last decade leads the international working class to see more clearly and more tangibly that only the personal stepping forward of the broadest masses, their personal political action, mass demonstrations, and mass strikes which must sooner or later open into a period of revolutionary struggles for the power in the state, can give the correct answer of the proletariat to the immense oppression of imperialistic policy. In this moment of armament lunacy and war orgies, only the resolute will to struggle of the working masses, their capacity and readiness for powerful mass actions, can maintain world peace and push away the menacing world conflagration. And the more the idea of May Day, the idea of resolute mass actions as a manifestation of international unity, and as a means of struggle for peace and for socialism, takes root in the strongest troops of the International, the German working class, the greater is our guarantee that out of the world war which, sooner or later, is unavoidable, will come forth a definite and victorious struggle between the world of labor and that of capital.

The Hell on Earth Paved by Samantha Power’s Good Intentions, Dan Sanchez

April 26, 2016 Dan Sanchez
The Scourge of Africa and Her Savior Complex
published at Antiwar.com and Medium.com

In Batman Vs. Superman, the intrepid reporter Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams), tries to expose a dastardly villain and gets herself into a deadly predicament from which Superman must save her. This has been the Lois Lane formula since 1938. But in this case, the rescue has blowback. The villain in question was an African warlord/terrorist. And the intervention of Superman (and the CIA) somehow precipitates a massacre of local civilians. Lois’s efforts end up leading to the very kind of atrocity she was crusading against.

This also aptly describes the Africa policy of Samantha Power, the most strident “humanitarian interventionist” in the Obama administration. Power’s career was encapsulated in a single awful moment last week. A New York Times story relates that:

“As the convoy barreled through a village in northern Cameroon on Monday, a 7-year-old boy darted to the road, excited to see the chain of white S.U.V.s carrying Samantha Power, the first cabinet-level American official to visit the country since 1991.

Distracted by a thundering noise, the boy glanced up at the helicopter providing security from above. Suddenly, he was struck dead — killed by the same convoy that had brought officials to showcase American efforts to help protect West Africa’s women and children.”
Running over one of those children with a car may seem a botched “showcase.” However it quite accurately, if tragically, exemplified the sort of “protection” that the U.S. government, and Ms. Power in particular, has provided the people of the African continent. The Times continues:

“…Ms. Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, had come to West Africa to help raise awareness and win people over. It was planned as part of an effort to convince residents who are terrorized by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram — but who are also disenchanted by the heavy-handed tactics of their governments — that their paths lie with the American-backed state, not with the militants.”

While stumping for the region’s brutal and predatory presidents-for-life, Power probably failed to mention that Boko Haram was boosted by her own policy. As The New Yorker recalled in late 2014:

“Power was ‘the first and most decisive advocate for aggressive actions in Libya, and she was a consistent voice before anybody else was,” a senior official involved in the Libya actions told me. 
“She really put on the agenda the use of military power to respond to what was happening there, at a time when the President wasn’t sure.’ Dennis Ross, then Obama’s top Middle East expert, said…”
Power, then a National Security Council official, was quickly joined in her interventionist agitation by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, her predecessor at the UN. The Valkyries Three persuaded POTUS, and the Libyan ruler Moammar Gaddafi was soon overthrown. Following the intervention, jihadi groups conquered large swaths of territory, rebels committed massive anti-black pogroms, and a whole country was shattered, with a proliferation of militias warring over the fragments.

Gaddafi’s arsenals were looted by Islamists and other militants. The arms and fighters were then disseminated far and wide, destabilizing countries and fueling wars throughout north-west Africa (and Syria too). Many weapons ended up with the butchers of Boko Haram, who are famous for kidnapping little girls.

The Libyan intervention blanketed much of the continent with atrocity. Yet Power’s sold it as necessary to prevent atrocity. She lead the chorus that claimed a massacre in the rebel-held city of Benghazi was imminent. As it turned out, there was no substantial basis for this claim.
Atrocity prevention has been the defining cause of Power’s career from the very beginning. Shortly after graduating from college, she, like Amy Adams’s Lois Lane, was a fair-haired intrepid war correspondent. Instead of the Daily Planet, she wrote for the Boston Globe, as well as other outlets, covering the war in Bosnia from Sarajevo. There, she and her like-minded colleagues became known as the “Bomb the Bastards Bunch.” As the Globe related in 2013, “…she called the Clinton administration immoral for not using military strikes to halt ethnic cleansing.”
As The New Yorker tells it:

“In 1995, the same year Power enrolled at Harvard Law School, NATO bombed Serb forces, and she rejoiced. She told me, ‘These guys who had been terrorizing these people were going to be stopped!’ Until then, she had been dismayed that nothing she and her colleagues wrote about—Srebrenica, rape camps, torture—seemed to have much effect. ‘Then, suddenly, not only do we care but we’re prepared to put something very meaningful and difficult on the line!’ She added, ‘Your average journalists knew that they should not admit that was their longing. But you see that much terrorization of people and you’re just a human being in that context, and people were rooting for that outcome and that intervention.’”

A Serbian-perpetrated massacre in Srebrenica was a chief justification for subsequent US/NATO interventions, which only led to more death, suffering, and chaos. It is worth noting that many advocates for the Libya War warned of Benghazi otherwise becoming “another Srebrenica.”
The New Yorker tells the next step in her journey:

“In her second year of law school, Power took a class on the just use of force. ‘I began looking at the historical cases of genocide, looking at the Armenians, the Khmer Rouge, and Saddam Hussein’s Al Anfal campaign and Rwanda,’ she said.”

A paper she wrote for that course evolved into the book that would be her ticket to fame and power: “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, published in 2002. In the book, Power analyzed the deliberations within the Clinton administration that led to what she regarded as a failure to fulfill America’s “responsibility to protect” (R2P), especially in Rwanda. After the book won the Pulitzer Prize, she became a sought-after public intellectual.

One fan of the book who sought her out was a senator from Illinois named Barack Obama. From then on, she has been one of Obama’s closest advisors. Obama has been her vehicle for translating her obsession with humanitarian intervention from the world of ideas to the realm of policy. The power of his office turned a relatively harmless activist into what Isabel Peterson called “the humanitarian with the guillotine.” She is the Obama inner circle’s chief champion of hyper-paternalism in foreign policy. She also happens to be married to Cass Sunstein, the Obama inner circle’s chief champion of hyper-paternalism in domestic policy.

Besides the Libya intervention, Power has also pushed for military intervention in Syria, American support for French military intervention in the Central African Republic, and pervasive, if lower-grade, intervention throughout Africa.

After all this meddling, Africa has only descended deeper into chaos. As journalist Nick Turse wrote:
“…Washington is increasingly involved in the growing wars for West and Central Africa.  And just about every move it has made in the region thus far has helped spread conflict and chaos, while contributing to African destabilization.  Worse yet, no end to this process appears to be in sight.”

And yet Samantha Power presses on for more intervention.
H.L. Mencken wrote that, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” This may or may not be the case for Power herself. Yet, her careless crusading has certainly been useful for those in the war party who are primarily motivated by a lust for power and plunder.

Power’s savior complex has provided a patina of righteousness to obscure the cynical avarice driving the U.S. empire’s rapacious scramble for Africa. This new scramble has been effected through a stealth invasion of the continent. Saving African women and children from terrorists, warlords, ebola, and poverty is the cover story for the drone bases, troop deployments, and built-up proxy armies. But, as always, resource extraction and military dominance are the real motivations.
But Power is to blame for more than merely being a useful idealistic naif. To soldier on with her crusades in spite of so much disastrous failure indicates a staggering degree of self-absorption. To be so oblivious to the men, women, and children who have been run over (sometimes literally) by her do-gooder campaigns speaks of an overwhelming concern with her own “heroic story” at the expense of the actual impact she is having on the lives of others.

Satirists have lampooned “voluntourists” who join programs like the Peace Corps chiefly for the “experience” and the photo ops with Third World villagers, and not for actually doing any lasting good. See for example the piece in The Onion titled, “6-Day Visit To Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture.” Power is a case of this kind of narcissism gone to deadly extremes thanks to her access to state power. After she learned that her motorcade had crushed a child to death en route to photo ops with African refugees, she said:
“Oh, my God. I want to go see his family.”

She probably did, and I’m sure it was a memorable, poignant experience. Maybe the moment will be an emotionally complex scene in the movie of her life, starring Amy Adams or Jessica Chastain.
Power’s time in power is reminiscent of a quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Samantha Power has dedicated her life to combating genocide, to solving “a problem from hell.” Yet she has only succeeded in turning much of a continent into a hell on earth, paved with her good intentions.

April 29, 2016

Seymour Hersh Says Hillary Approved Sending Libya’s Sarin to Syrian Rebels

Seymour Hersh Says Hillary Approved Sending Libya’s Sarin to Syrian Rebels
ERIC ZUESSE | 28.04.2016 | WORLD

in Strategic Culture

In an interview with Alternet.org, the independent investigative reporter Seymour Hersh was asked about Hillary Clinton’s role in the Benghazi Libya consulate’s operation to collect sarin from Libyan stockpiles and send it through Turkey into Syria for a set-up sarin-gas attack, to be blamed on Assad in order to ‘justify’ the US invading Syria, as it had invaded Libya.
He said: «That ambassador who was killed, he was known as a guy, from what I understand, as somebody, who would not get in the way of the CIA. As I wrote, on the day of the mission he was meeting with the CIA base chief and the shipping company. He was certainly involved, aware and witting of everything that was going on. And there’s no way somebody in that sensitive of a position is not talking to the boss, by some channel».
This was, in fact, the Syrian part of the State Department’s Libyan operation, Obama’s operation to set up an excuse for the US doing in Syria what they had already done in Libya.
The interviewer then asked: «In the book [Hersh’s The Killing of Osama bin Laden, just out] you quote a former intelligence official as saying that the White House rejected 35 target sets [for the planned US invasion of Syria] provided by the Joint Chiefs as being insufficiently painful to the Assad regime. (You note that the original targets included military sites only – nothing by way of civilian infrastructure.) Later the White House proposed a target list that included civilian infrastructure. What would the toll to civilians have been if the White House’s proposed strike had been carried out?»
Hersh responded by saying that the US tradition in that regard has long been to ignore civilian casualties; i.e., collateral damage of US attacks is okay or even desired (so as to terrorize the population into surrender) – not an ‘issue’, except, perhaps, for the PR people.
The interviewer asked why Obama is so obsessed to replace Assad in Syria, since «The power vacuum that would ensue would open Syria up to all kinds of jihadi groups»; and Hersh replied that not only he, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, «nobody could figure out why». He said, «Our policy has always been against him [Assad]. Period». This has actually been the case not only since the Party that Assad leads, the Ba’ath Party, was the subject of a shelved CIA coup-plot in 1957 to overthrow and replace it; but, actually, the CIA’s first coup had been not just planned but was carried out in 1949 in Syria, overthrowing there a democratically elected leader, in order to enable a pipeline for the Sauds’ oil to become built through Syria into the largest oil market, Europe; and, construction of the pipeline started the following year.
But, there were then a succession of Syrian coups (domestic instead of by foreign powers – 195419631966, and, finally, in 1970), concluding in the accession to power of Hafez al-Assad during the 1970 coup. And, the Sauds' long-planned Trans-Arabia Pipeline has still not been built. The Saudi royal family, who own the world’s largest oil company, Aramco, don’t want to wait any longer. Obama is the first US President to have seriously tried to carry out their long-desired «regime change» in Syria, so as to enable not only the Sauds’ Trans-Arabian Pipeline to be built, but also to build through Syria the Qatar-Turkey Gas Pipeline that the Thani royal family (friends of the Sauds) who own Qatar want also to be built there. The US is allied with the Saud family (and with their friends, the royal families of Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, and Oman). Russia is allied with the leaders of Syria – as Russia had earlier been allied with Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Allende in Chile, Hussein in Iraq, Gaddafi in Libya, and Yanukovych in Ukraine (all of whom except Syria’s Ba’ath Party, the US has successfully overthrown).
Hersh was wrong to say that «nobody could figure out why» Obama is obsessed with overthrowing Assad and his Ba’ath Party, even if nobody that he spoke with was willing to say why. They have all been hired to do a job, which didn’t change even when the Soviet Union ended and the Warsaw Pact was disbanded; and, anyone who has been at this job for as long as those people have, can pretty well figure out what the job actually is – even if Hersh can’t.
Hersh then said that Obama wanted to fill Syria with foreign jihadists to serve as the necessary ground forces for his planned aerial bombardment there, and, «if you wanted to go there and fight there in 2011-2013, ‘Go, go, go… overthrow Bashar!’ So, they actually pushed a lot of people [jihadists] to go. I don’t think they were paying for them but they certainly gave visas».
However, it’s not actually part of America’s deal with its allies the fundamentalist-Sunni Arabic royal families and the fundamentalist Sunni Erdogan of Turkey, for the US to supply the salaries (to be «paying for them,» as Hersh put it there) to those fundamentalist Sunni jihadists – that’s instead the function of the Sauds and of their friends, the other Arab royals, and their friends, to do. (Those are the people who finance the terrorists to perpetrate attacks in the US, Europe, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, India, Nigeria, etc. – i.e., anywhere except in their own countries.) And, Erdogan in Turkey mainly gives their jihadists just safe passage into Syria, and he takes part of the proceeds from the jihadists’ sales of stolen Syrian and Iraqi oil. But, they all work together as a team (with the jihadists sometimes killing each other in the process – that’s even part of  the  plan) – though each national leader has PR problems at home in order to fool his respective public into thinking that they’re against terrorists, and that only the ‘enemy’ is to blame. (Meanwhile, the aristocrats who supply the «salaries» of the jihadists, walk off with all the money.)
This way, US oil and gas companies will refine, and pipeline into Europe, the Sauds’ oil and the Thanis' gas, and not only will Russia’s major oil-and-gas market become squeezed away by that, but Obama’s economic sanctions against Russia, plus the yet-further isolation of Russia (as well as of China and the rest of the BRICS countries) by excluding them from Obama’s three mega-trade-deals (TTIP, TPP & TISA), will place the US aristocracy firmly in control of the world, to dominate the 21st Century, as it has dominated ever since the end of WW II.
Then, came this question from Hersh: «Why does America do what it does? Why do we not say to the Russians, Let’s work together?» His interviewer immediately seconded that by repeating it, «So why don’t we work closer with Russia? It seems so rational». Hersh replied simply: «I don’t know». He didn’t venture so much as a guess – not even an educated one. But, when journalists who are as knowledgeable as he, don’t present some credible explanation, to challenge the obvious lies (which make no sense that accords with the blatantly contrary evidence those journalists know of against those lies) that come from people such as Barack Obama, aren’t they thereby – though passively – participating in the fraud, instead of contradicting and challenging it? Or, is the underlying assumption, there: The general public is going to be as deeply immersed in the background information here as I am, so that they don’t need me to bring it all together for them into a coherent (and fully documented) whole, which does make sense? Is that the underlying assumption? Because: if it is, it’s false.
Hersh’s journalism is among the best (after all: he went so far as to say, of Christopher Stephens, regarding Hillary Clinton, «there’s no way somebody in that sensitive of a position is not talking to the boss, by some channel»), but it’s certainly not good enough. However, it’s too good to be published any longer in places like the New Yorker. And the reporting by Christopher Lehmann was better, and it was issued even earlier than Hersh’s; and it is good enough, because it named names, and it explained motivations, in an honest and forthright way, which is why Lehmann’s piece was published only on a Montenegrin site, and only online, not in a Western print medium, such as the New Yorker. The sites that are owned by members of the Western aristocracy don’t issue reports like that – journalism that’s good enough. They won’t inform the public when a US Secretary of State, and her boss the US President, are the persons actually behind a sarin gas attack they’re blaming on a foreign leader the US aristocrats and their allied foreign aristocrats are determined to topple and replace.
Is this really a democracy?

Ukraine’s Rightists Return to Odessa, By Nicolai N. Petro, Apr 28, 2016

For two years, Ukraine’s U.S.-backed regime has balked at investigating dozens of arson deaths in Odessa and now is doing little as far-right nationalists rally for another confrontation, writes Nicolai N. Petro.

By Nicolai N. Petro

May 2 will mark the second anniversary of one of the most horrific, politically inspired tragedies in modern European history — the fire in the Odessa trade union building that killed 48 people and wounded another 200.
Numerous pleas by the United Nations and the European Union for an objective investigation into the causes of this tragedy have gone unanswered. Multiple government commissions, both local and national, have been unable to move the case forward, partly because some of the evidence has been marked secret.

Screen shot of the fatal fire in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2, 2014. (From RT video)

Last November, the International Consulting Group, set up by the Council of Europe, issued a scathing report about this lack of progress, and the government’s apparent disinterest in bringing those responsible to trial.
Now, as we approach the second anniversary of these tragic deaths, and the commemoration of Soviet victory in the Second World War on May 9, some of the same groups involved in the first tragedy are openly preparing for a second round.

To this end, the leading nationalist spokesman, Dmitro Yarosh, the former leader of the Right Sector, was recently invited to Odessa. There he explained his credo to his followers: “I am just not a democrat. My worldview is that of a Ukrainian nationalist. I believe that popular national government is very good, but only when democracy does not threaten the very existence of the state. We sometimes play at democracy with the likes of Kivalov [a member of parliament from Odessa — NP], with [Odessa’s mayor] Trukhanov . . . but in war time this is never good” he said, adding “the enemy needs to be dealt with as he is always deal with in wartime–neutralized.”

Later, local Euromaidan activist Arsen Grigoryan gave authorities just one week to prevent any commemorative gatherings from taking place on May 2, especially ones that might include government officials, or “fake parliamentarians from Europe.” If the authorities refuse to heed these warnings, he said, the consequences will be on the head of Odessa’s mayor, Gennady Trukhanov.

The event that has inspired this sudden concern among radical nationalists seems to have been the groundswell of participation during this year’s commemoration of the liberation of Odessa from Nazi occupation on April 10. Traditionally, this is a rather low-key event, that concludes with a ceremonial wreath-laying at the monument to the Unknown Sailor in Shevchenko Park.

This year, however, several thousand people joined the wreath-laying ceremony, some of whom even added Russian colors to the wreaths. This outrage caught the attention of vigilant nationalists, who then moved to disrupt the ceremony. In an unexpected twist, however, local police intervened to defend the participants against the now customary assault by radicals.

The nationalists blamed state prosecutor, Georgy Stoyanov, for this debacle and proceeded to block entry to the state procuracy building until he was removed. After succeeding in this effort, they promptly moved their protest to Odessa’s City Hall, where they are now seeking the resignation of the popularly elected mayor, Gennady Trukhanov.

Uncharacteristically, the region’s appointed governor, Mikheil Saakashvili, (the former president of Georgia) has yet to voice his opinion on this confrontation. On the one hand, he stands to gain considerable political clout if he can shift the blame for these disturbances to Mayor Trukhanov, whom he bitterly resents for ostensibly thwarting his reform efforts.
On the other hand, however, he surely knows that the radical nationalists view him as just another by-product of the corrupt and treacherous Poroshenko regime; moreover, one whose only loyalty is to his own political ambitions. Perhaps most unforgivably, for radical nationalists, he is also a foreigner.

President Barack Obama and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine talk after statements to the press following their bilateral meeting at the Warsaw Marriott Hotel in Warsaw, Poland, June 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

All sides are now mobilizing in what is shaping up to be a decisive test of wills between government authority and the radical nationalists. The city is being flooded by radical activists, while the Ministry of Internal Affairs is telling Odessans to prepare for “hot May holidays.” The stage is nearly set for the next bloody confrontation between the “patriots” and the “fascists.”

This time, however, the West need not stand by helplessly and watch. There is still a chance of averting another tragedy, if the Western media draws timely attention to the current preparations for it. A significant Western media presence on the ground during the critical week from May 2 to May 9, could conceivably lead the radical nationalists to reconsider their violent strategy.
Turning a blind eye to the gathering storm, however, will only embolden the most radical elements in society and further erode respect for law and order in Ukraine.

Nicolai Petro is an academic specializing in Russian and Ukrainian affairs, currently professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He spent 2013-2014 as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine.

April 28, 2016

Winston Churchill 'ordered assassination of Mussolini to protect his letters praising Italian Fascism

Winston Churchill 'ordered assassination of Mussolini to protect compromising letters’

Winston Churchill ordered the assassination of Benito Mussolini as part of a plot to destroy potentially compromising secret letters he had sent the Italian dictator, a leading French historian has suggested.

Churchill once wrote Mussolini saying: 'Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world... If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely’.

Churchill chose to holiday under a false name only a few miles from the spot Mussolini was seized Photo: GETTY

By Henry Samuel, Paris
02 Sep 2010

Pierre Milza, an expert on fascist Italy, theorizes that the wartime prime minister may have wanted Mussolini dead to prevent the letters, in which Churchill expressed his admiration for his Italian counterpart before the outbreak of the Second World War, coming to light.

“There is no doubt, judging by his public declarations back in the 1920s and early 1930s, that Churchill was a fan of Mussolini. Roosevelt too,” Mr Milza said.

“Churchill even once said: 'Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world... If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely’.

“But that was understandable in 1927, as then a fascist did not mean a friend of Hitler and accomplice to genocide. But when you are head of state and legitimate war hero of the British people, you don’t really want all that put up in lights.”

Officially, Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci, were seized by Italian Communist partisans near Dongo on Lake Como as they tried to flee to Switzerland in April 1945.

Despite disguising himself as a drunk German officer in a mixed Italian and SS convoy, he was spotted. Both he and Petacci were shot and their bodies subsequently trussed up in a square in Milan the following day.

Writing in his book, The Last Days of Mussolini, Mr Milza says that this may explain why Churchill chose to holiday under a false name only a few miles from the spot where Mussolini was seized.

“Perhaps he went there just to paint. It is credible, however that he was there for other reasons, as one now knows a certain number of trunks were thrown into the lake with documents and booty and perhaps the services had a look for them. We cannot completely eliminate this theory,” he said.

An Italian documentary released in 2004 included an account by former Italian partisan Bruno Lonati, who says he was part of a two-man team tasked with getting rid of the couple.

Mr Lonati claimed that he acted with a British Special Operations Executive agent codenamed Captain John, real name Robert Maccarone, who had been sent to Italy to eliminate Mussolini and retrieve “very important” documents. The documents have never been found.

April 27, 2016

PM Trudeau: Canada doesn't have "the baggage that so many other Western countries have — either colonial pasts or perceptions of American imperialism"

Did Prime Minister Justin Trudeau say that Canada has no history of colonialism? Yes and no

In an article on the National Observer website about Trudeau's visit to New York University in New York City on Thursday, he was quoted talking about Canada's ability to offer support for UN peacekeeping missions "without some of the baggage that so many other Western countries have — either colonial pasts or perceptions of American imperialism."

The quote raised a lot of eyebrows online — especially among Indigenous peoples — who took to social media to express their outrage.

However, during that same Q&A session with NYU students, Trudeau also spoke critically of Canada's relationship with Indigenous people — and specifically mentioned "colonial behaviours" — in comments that were not in the National Observer article.

"We have consistently marginalized, engaged in colonial behaviours, in destructive behaviours, in assimilationist behaviours, that have left a legacy of challenges to a large portion of the people who live in Canada who are Indigenous peoples," Trudeau said, in answering a question from a student.

MP raises comment in House

NDP MP Niki Ashton raised Trudeau's first comment in question period in the House of Commons on Friday.

"The prime minister yesterday in New York told a group of American students that Canada doesn't have the 'baggage' of colonialism.

"Maybe that explains why, six days after taking office, this government signed a deal to let the Catholic Church off the hook in terms of their financial obligations to residential school survivors," Ashton said.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett seemed to be about to address the PM's comments, but ran out of time after first addressing Ashton's reference to the federal government's agreement with the Catholic Church. Bennett said that agreement was signed on Oct. 30, five days before the Liberals took office, and said the church has a moral obligation to "pay the money that it promised to pay."

Cameron Ahmad, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office, told CBC News on Friday that Trudeau's comments referred to Canada's history outside its borders, and was in reference to diplomacy and Canada's role as a peacekeeping nation.

"He was talking about two different things," Ahmad said, adding that the Liberals have committed to implementing the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to building a "nation-to-nation" relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada.

In 2009, then-prime minister Stephen Harper also sparked controversy with comments about this country's history, saying that "Canada has no history of colonialism" while he was speaking at the G20.

Why Solidarity in the 21st Century Means Understanding Race and Class as One Entity, not Two, by Danny Haiphong on Tue, 04/26/2016

by Danny Haiphong
Capitalism is the scourge of the planet. “The basis of solidarity, then, should ultimately derive from an internationalist perspective. It means mutually working together with the peoples of the world in the struggle against the common enemy of imperialism.” Malcolm X understood that Vietnamese and Algerian freedom fighters provided “a great service to Black people in the US by weakening the international influence of the US capitalist state.”

Why Solidarity in the 21st Century Means Understanding Race and Class as One Entity, not Two

by Danny Haiphong

“White supremacy justifies such oppression through the dehumanization of ‘non-white’ life and the humanization of ‘white’ life.”
White supremacy and capitalism were constructed for the same purpose: to exploit humans, turn them into commodities, and enrich private owners of capital. This remains true in the 21st century. The Black working class of this era's post-industrial, crisis-ridden US capitalism has been made disposable by a system that once required its free, slave labor to develop and thrive. Endless neo-colonial wars rage throughout the planet. These wars are justified by the same white supremacist ideology that preconditions Black life to the economic margins. On this basis, solidarity between oppressed peoples can only be achieved when a movement strikes against race and class as one entity, not two.
The question of solidarity must be approached from an objective analysis of present day society. The US is a class society. It is ruled by dictates of capitalist profit and private property. Large US monopoly corporations and banks accumulate exorbitant profits from the labor of workers all over the world. At the same time, the majority of people in US society suffer from impoverishment due to capitalist exploitation. This cuts across racial lines. 
However, the US is also a racist society. Black Americans, indigenous Americans, and self-identified Latinos are the most impoverished communities in the country. These communities also face levels of repression, segregation, and state violence that White Americans do not experience. White supremacy, as the ruling ideology of US capitalism, justifies such oppression through the dehumanization of "non-white" life and the humanization of "white" life. This permeates throughout every social, political, and economic institution in US society.
“All forms of exploitation are ultimately ruled by the class that controls the dominant political economy of this period: capitalism.”
So while it is important to understand the layers of US society, it is just as important to possess consciousness of the source of the oppression. All forms of exploitation are ultimately ruled by the class that controls the dominant political economy of this period: capitalism. The extreme concentration of wealth, where 62 individuals alone own more capital than half of the planet's population combined, lays bare just what is responsible for the disease of capitalism. And the capitalist class that owns all of this wealth has built a global system of Empire to facilitate large-scale theft.
What unites all oppressed people, then, is their relationship to the capitalist state. The state mitigates and manages the affairs of the US capitalist class. For example, it is Washington that ultimately enforces "free trade" deals such as NAFTA to create a more friendly "investment" environment for multinational corporations. Washington also facilitates arms deal contracts with countries like Saudi Arabia to ensure that its allies continue to fund terrorism and repress independent development throughout the world to the benefit of oil and arms corporations. Everything the capitalist state does thus revolves around enriching the capitalist class at the expense of oppressed and working class people.
This does not mean that Black workers in the US have the same experience as workers in Bangladesh or Somali workers fending off starvation from US-sponsored sanctions. There are variations to how workers experience exploitation based on their social and economic relationship to capital in a given moment of history. However, all of them face the same enemy in one degree or another. This is what Malcolm X realized after his travels throughout the African continent just prior to his assassination in 1965. Malcolm X identified with the national liberation struggle in Algeria because he saw the Algerians (and Chinese, Vietnamese, Cubans among others) as providing a great service to Black people in the US by weakening the international influence of the US capitalist state.
“There are variations to how workers experience exploitation based on their social and economic relationship to capital in a given moment of history.”
The basis of solidarity, then, should ultimately derive from an internationalist perspective. It means mutually working together with the peoples of the world in the struggle against the common enemy of imperialism. This will take work and much education. While much of the world is no stranger to white supremacy and colonialism, some may not completely understand the intricacies of racism against Black people in the US. At the same time, many Black Americans and oppressed peoples of color may not fully understand the importance of standing with Libyans, Cubans, and all oppressed people against US-backed imperial warfare. Eight years of the Obama era and nearly a generation of counterinsurgency does have its negative consequences, after all.
But this should not deter us from upholding a banner of internationalism and solidarity in our day to day work. Reactionary conditions should harden and strengthen our orientation to these important principles. Millions of people continue to perish or starve because of the US and its imperial allies. And the system of capitalism that dictates what this alliance does abroad continues the assault on Black people and peoples of color within its artificial borders. Solidarity will make us stronger in the quest for political power. The question shouldn't be whether people around the world elevate the struggle of Black Americans, but how we can organize on an internationalist basis to confront our common enemy.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990@gmail.com.

April 26, 2016

Russian Canadian Congress Statement on Dismantling of World War II Soviet Army memorials in Poland

The following  letter from the Russian speaking community in Canada was  forwarded to Andrzej Duda, the President of the Republic of Poland, and the National Assembly of Poland.
Toronto, April 19th, 2016

Andrzej Duda
President of the Republic of Poland

Dear President Duda,

The Russian Congress of Canada is deeply concerned about the Polish authorities’ initiative to dismantle more than five hundred monuments to Soviet soldiers who lost their lives during the liberation of Poland from the Nazi troops during World War II.
With deep regret, we have witnessed the continued efforts by Polish authorities to rewrite history in favour of a fleeting, present-day political moment. A campaign has been unleashed against the memory of the people who fulfilled their sacred duty and gave all they had – their lives – for the liberation of the Polish people from the Nazi invaders. We would like to remind you that about 600,000 Soviet soldiers perished during the liberation of Poland. These 600,000 Soviet people, representatives of all of the nations that comprised the Soviet Union, did not return home from this brutal war. They were survived by their families, their loved ones, and by their orphaned children. The war was a great tragedy for our people, touching every Soviet family, and still affects each and every one of us. We still mourn our losses, in every corner of the world we live in today.
The Russian-speaking community of Canada, representing all peoples that historically inhabited Russia, including the period of the Soviet Union, is deeply shocked by such callous and short-sighted acts by the Polish Government. This will cause irreparable damage to the complicated history of Polish-Russian relations. We see it as a deliberate attempt to distort history, to erase from Polish people’s memory the common heroic past in which Soviet and Polish soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder against Nazism and defeated it.
It should be noted that actions such as the dismantling of historical monuments of World War II (which Russian and other former Soviet people call The Great Patriotic War) encourage radical elements to vandalize and desecrate monuments from the Soviet era. Regrettably, the dismantling of monuments to the Red Army soldiers are occurring throughout Poland. It is very unfortunate that in 2015 alone, there were more than 30 incidents of desecration and demolition. For example, the monument to Army General Ivan Chernyakhovsky has been dismantled in the town of Pieniężno, north of Warsaw. General Chernyakhovsky was twice awarded Hero of the Soviet Union and was mortally wounded during the liberation of the city of Mehlsack (now Pieniężno). We want to remind you that the monument was included in the register of the 1994 Polish-Russian intergovernmental agreement on preserving graves and other important sites of remembrance.
Such provocative actions are offensive to the historical memory of all peoples from former Soviet Union both at home and around the world. First and foremost though, they are offensive to the tragic and heroic pages of the history of Poland, when her people, her soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder with the Soviet troops for the liberation of their homeland. For the sake of the future generations of both our nations, we will do our best to appeal to the Polish people to condemn these reckless actions and calls for the destruction of our shared history and ask them to help support the preservation of the monuments to fallen Soviet soldiers.
We fully support the statement made by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the matter: “Such intentions indicate that Warsaw refuses to listen to repeatedly addressed pleas to be reasonable, demonstrate civilized thinking and common human decency and stop the ‘war on monuments’, which only aims to erase from the Polish people’s memory the fact that they were rescued by the Red Army from the total annihilation by Hitler’s Nazis.”
The governments of Poland and Russia should seek rapprochement and cooperation in respecting and honoring their fallen warriors in the common struggle against Nazism. We are certain that is what the majority of Polish society wants as well. Canadians of Polish and Russian origin and other nationalities from former Soviet Union, living side by side in our new country, find more ways of cooperating rather than disagreeing. We would like to see the same friendship and cooperation between our historical homelands.
The Russian Congress of Canada calls upon the Polish Government to exercise common sense and make efforts to end the policy of dismantling monuments and memorials to fallen Soviet soldiers, which is “contrary to all conceivable ideas of modern civilization” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 2016).

Alla Suvorova
President of the Russian Congress of Canada

The Lies of Neoliberal Economics (or How America Became a Nation of Sharecroppers) by MICHAEL HUDSON – CHRIS HEDGES

CHRIS HEDGES: So, we spoke in previously about the parasitic quality of the banks, hedge funds and the speculative class that has in essence cannibalized the country – including, interestingly, industry itself, and forced down the throats of the American public an unsustainable debt peonage, whether that’s through student loans, predatory credit card interest rates where it’s that bait and switch – where you get zero percent interest and next thing you know, you’re paying as high as 26 percent, 23 percent …
MICHAEL HUDSON: If you miss a payment.
HEDGES: If you miss a payment. Mortgages, with many houses now underwater because of 2008. I want to look first at the self-identified liberal class within the Democratic Party, including Barack Obama. It often uses the language of economic justice, and will even chastise Wall Street rhetorically, but has been as committed to this neoliberal project as the Republicans.
HUDSON: The key of demagogic politics is to realize that the people who are really backing you are your campaign funders. Your job as a politician is to say, “I can deliver this constituency to your backers.” Obama was a genius at doing what Donald Trump is trying to do today: taking a constituency. That’s his column A: a focus group listing everything the constituency wants. They want debt relief. They want better jobs. They want higher minimum wage.
HEDGES: And not trade agreements like NAFTA and …
HUDSON: Right. And then column B, that he didn’t tell them, was what the campaign backers on Wall Street want. Obama was picked essentially by Robert Rubin, who then became head of Citibank after having come out of the Goldman Sachs. Obama was picked by Rubin of Wall Street to promise was he was going to really do. It was what any president today is going to do: A politician’s job is to deliver whoever voted for you to your backers, who are on Wall Street. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, but especially if you are a Democrat – that’s really the Wall Street wing of the American political system. The Republicans are for the corporate monopoly, oil and gas wing of it.
As soon as Obama got in, Hank Paulson – the Republican Treasury Secretary – was talking to Barney Frank and said, you know, we were supposed to, under TARP, have some of the money to go for debt writedown.
HUDSON: TARP was Troubled Asset Relief Program. It was supposed to treat banks as if they were troubled. If you’re a criminal and you’re stealing from people, that was called “troubled.” There’s a lawsuit recently in in the news about a rich boy drove his car and killed four people. His defense was, “It’s not my fault, I have affluenza. I’m so rich that I don’t have a social sense. So of course I drove away. But I’m innocent, because I’m rich. What do you expect?”
Essentially that’s the Goldman Sachs view of the economy. You cause collateral damage all over, but that’s what Wall Street does. You can’t punish them for it. They’re just doing what a predatory financial institution does. So Obama said “No, , I’m not going to do that,” [meaning write down the mortgage debts as he had promised voters in Column A]. He came in and appointed Wall Street’s main lobbyist, Tim Geithner, as Treasury Secretary.
HEDGES: You spend a lot of time in your book, Killing the Host, on him.
HUDSON: That’s right. Geithner appears in almost every dirty dealing episode of the book. He was the bagman. He was the person who [Sheila Baoir] accused of blocking the FDIC when it wanted to take over Citibank, which not only was broke but was a criminalized organization.
HEDGES: Explain just quickly why it was criminalized.
HUDSON: Citibank, along with Countrywide Financial, was making junk mortgages. These were mortgages called NINJA. They were called liars’ loans, to people with no income, no jobs and no assets. You had this movie, The Big Short, as if some genius on Wall Street discovered that the mortgages were all going to go down. And you have the stories of Queen Elizabeth going to the economist …
HEDGES: “How come none of you knew?”
HUDSON: Right. The fact is, if everybody on Wall Street called these mortgages liars’ loans, if they knew that they’re made for NINJAs, for people who can’t pay, all of Wall Street knew that it was fraud.
The key is that if you’re a really smart criminal, you have to plan to get caught. The plan is how to beat the rap. On Wall Street, if you buy garbage assets, how do you make the government bail you out? That was what the president of the United States is for, whether it was Obama or whether it would have been John McCain …
HEDGES: Or Bush.
HUDSON: Or whether it would be Hillary today, or Trump. Their job is to bail out Wall Street and make the people pay, not Wall Street. Because Wall Street is “the people” who select the politicians – who know where their money is coming from. If you have a campaign contributor, no matter whether it’s Wall Street, or locally if it’s a real estate developer, you all know who your backers are.
The talent you need to have as a politician is to make the voters think that you’re going to be supporting their interests …
HEDGES: And what’s that great Groucho Marx quote?
HUDSON: The secret of success is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
HEDGES: Well, and that’s kind of it. You know, there’s Ron Suskind in his book, what’s it called? 
HUDSON: Confidence Men.
HEDGES: Confidence Men. He interviews someone on Wall Street, and asks why they’re so hostile to Obama when he’s so protective of Wall Street. And the answer is, because if we keep being publicly hostile, he can always do what we want.
HUDSON: This is like Uncle Remus and the Briar Patch, when Br’er Rabbit keeps saying, don’t throw me into the briar patch. And finally the fox throws him into the briar patch, and the rabbit runs away, singing “Born and bred in the briar patch.” He runs away and is happy. The moral is that there’s a pretense that if a politician talks against Wall Street and can vocalize people’s resentment, that he must understand them and thus will support them.
HEDGES: Well, that’s what Hillary Clinton’s doing in spades.
HUDSON: That’s exactly it. There’s a movie, La dolce vita, by Fellini, with Anita Ekberg. You
2KillingTheHost_Cover_rulehave the Italian reporter Marcello go after Ekberg, and then her boyfriend comes up to him and says, “I can understand you.” Then whomp, he hits him right in the face. That basically is what we have here. The politician says to the voters, “I feel your pain. I can understand you.” And they think oh, he understands it. Then the politician hits them in the face and backs Wall Street, and tries to privatize pension funds, privatize Social Security. And doesn’t send a single banker to jail, by appointing Justice Department people who are vetted by Wall Street and treat them simply a “troubled” rich.
So essentially Wall Street campaign contributors have a veto over who you’re going to appoint as Secretary of the Treasury. They want the …
HEDGES: Attorney General.
HUDSON: Yeah, Attorney General, to make sure that nobody has to pay the price for financial crime. Then the Council of Economic Advisors comes to assure people that Wall Street really is adding to the economy, and if you can only do what the Federal Reserve is doing. So Janet Yellen says, let’s give the banks more money, and the economy can borrow its way out of debt … if only we can have enough quantitative easing.
So the Federal Reserve has given Wall Street $4.5 trillion. That $4.5 trillion could have been used to write down the debt. And then we wouldn’t have a problem. Then everybody would have a lower costs of living. The $4.5 trillion could have been spent into the economy.
HEDGES: We could have saved people from being foreclosed and driven from their homes.
HUDSON: Yes. But that wasn’t what Obama did.
HEDGES: Even though he promised that he would. And then he turned around, he earmarked some money to save people who were being pushed out of their homes. And then he never spent it.
HUDSON: That’s right. It wasn’t spent. That’s what Niel Barofsky, the SIGTARP head – Special Inspector General for TARP – found out. He said, wait a minute, they’re not spending any of it. It’s a fraud. And he wrote a whole book, Bailout, describing the lies Geithner told. Then, when Geithner came out with his own autobiography, Barofsky reviewed it and exposed him as a liar who should go to jail.
Geithner was suitably rewarded by getting a rich job on Wall Street. The Japanese call that “descent from heaven.” When you take your rewards, having sold out the economy to your backers, you get a nice job and end up rich for life.
HEDGES: So, let’s talk a bit about what this means for the future, because there’s been no brakes put on this kind of criminal and fraudulent behavior on the part of the speculative class. Bubbles have been re-inflated with public funds. I think you had written an article in Harper’s magazine before 2008 saying this – we’re all going to have a big car wreck. Since we’re playing the game again, what’s going to happen? Are they going to be able to go back and loot the U.S. Treasury the way they did before?
HUDSON: What’s ahead first of all is that the economy hasn’t recovered since 2008. People talk about that there’s been a recovery, but the recovery has only been for the One Percent. The 99 Percent know they haven’t recovered. That’s why they’re voting for Trump, and that’s why they’re voting for Sanders. But they’re blaming themselves. There’s a tendency of victims to blame themselves. And the other part of that …
HEDGES: But let’s be clear: The media doesn’t explain the economic reality at all. They’re always talking about the recovery.
HUDSON: That’s the point. The result of the media telling people that is to create a Stockholm syndrome: The victim, the kidnap victim, identifies with the victimizer. The thinking is that if only we can give more money to Wall Street, it will save us. So if the Federal Reserve can only pump more money into the economy …
They talk about the Federal Reserve creating money with a helicopter. But the Federal Reserve’s helicopter only drops money over Wall Street. It doesn’t drop money over the economy. People don’t get it. The Fed doesn’t say, “We’re going to add $200 to everybody’s checking account so they can have more money and pay their debts.” It’s only lending money to Wall Street.
And what does Wall Street do? It lends out money. So the solution to the debt problem that we’re in – debt deflation – is to lend even more money.
That’s what makes the economy a Ponzi scheme, as you mentioned at the beginning of the first half of this interview. In a Ponzi scheme, people seem to make a lot of money, but that’s because you’re really not making profits. You’re just getting more and more people convinced that you’re making money. And you’re paying the early entrants out of the money from new subscribers. That’s what Bernie Madoff did. The whole economy has become a Madoff scheme.
HEDGES: And largely through real estate, right?
HUDSON: Largely through real estate, because that’s the largest asset.
HEDGES: So the worth of your house ostensibly rises and rises and rises, and you believe that you have created it – that this is a form of wealth creation.
HUDSON: Here’s the problem that existed in 2008. Either Obama could have saved the economy, or he could have saved Wall Street. He chose to save Wall Street. And the only way to save Wall Street, if banks have made a lot of bad loans, is to help them not go bankrupt. So what do you do? You give them more money.
The theory, the pretense in the media, is that banks will make money by lending to industry to build more factories and hire people.
HEDGES: And credit dried up for small businesses and consumers.
HUDSON: That’s right. Wall Street knew that the real estate market was already loaned up. In other words, the game was over. Nobody could pay any more of their income for rent or for mortgages. Banks couldn’t even make more credit card loans. So they began to cancel their credit card exposure. What they did was they gamble on foreign currency.
HEDGES: And student debt.
HUDSON: And student debt.
HEDGES: Because it’s guaranteed.
HUDSON: That’s right. They make, the government …
HEDGES: I mean, the government guaranteed them.
HUDSON: Since the 2008 crash the government has guaranteed almost all new mortgage loans. Up to 43% of the borrower’s income, that was guaranteed. Student loans, all guaranteed. But basically the banks made money abroad. If you could borrow at one-tenth of a percent from the Federal Reserve, you could buy Brazilian loans, bonds paying 9% or more. You could gamble on writing default swaps in Greece.
And when Greece had real problems, the fact that the German and French banks had made too many loans to it, the IMF was going to write down the Greek debt. But then Geithner got on the phone with Europe, and Obama went to the G20 meetings and said, “Look, you can’t write off the Greek debt, because the American banks have essentially turned into horse race betters. We have casino capitalism. They have bet and promised to guarantee, the Greek bonds. If the Greek bonds are written down, the American banks will go under. And if we go under, we promise we’re going to bring you down too. We’re going to bring down the European banks. Do you really want that to happen?”
So the gambles made by Wall Street ended up almost driving Greece out of the European Union. Wall Street was willing to tear Europe apart politically just for the Wall Street investment banks – basically four banks – to make gains by insuring the Greek debt, by treating the financial market like a horse race.
That’s where we are now. It’s not really about imperialism draining foreign economies. It’s Wall Street making bets. And essentially it’s by Wall Street running the European Central Bank. Just like Europe has to do burden sharing in NATO, the financial ministries have to do burden sharing with the U.S. Treasury.
HEDGES: So let’s talk a bit about what this means, where we’re headed.
HUDSON: It means that markets are not growing, because the American consumer has to spend so much money paying the banks and paying taxes that they don’t have enough money to buy more goods and services.
HEDGES: One of the things you pointed out in your book, which I didn’t know, is that when we measure the economy we actually count the paying off of debt, credit card debt, whatever it is, as a form of savings.
HUDSON: That’s right. After 2008 the savings rate jumped way up. But the saving isn’t available. But to an accountant, if you owe less money, then actually you’ve done the same as paying it out of saving. So we’re in a savings economy. The savings rate in 2008 was zero. Actually, it was minus 2% when you take into account borrowing from foreigners. The whole economy was essentially consumers maintaining their living standards by running up their credit card debt, and by taking out what Alan Greenspan called cashing out on your house’s rising value, by taking out an equity mortgage loan. But that’s not really cash. That’s taking on more debt.
So you had an inside-out vocabulary. America was going into debt thinking it would get rich, and all of a sudden it finds, it’s in a state of what you said, debt peonage, where the wage workers and others have to pay any increase in wages they get; it goes to pay down …
HEDGES: Because you’re spending all of your income to service the interest rather than paying off the principal. And that’s why wages have been suppressed since the ‘70s. The speculative class on Wall Street does not want people to be able to pay off their debt.
HUDSON: This was the one thing that Alan Greenspan contributed to economic theory: the Traumatized Worker Syndrome. He said, the reason you’ve had this huge productivity gain without any wage increase is workers are afraid to go on strike, or even to complain about working conditions, because they’re just one paycheck away from homelessness.
HEDGES: Which is true.
HUDSON: And if they miss a credit card payment, all of a sudden their credit card fee escalates to 29%. Even if they’re late on a utility bill, the bank will raise the fee.
HEDGES: So what does this mean? I mean, what’s going to happen?
HUDSON: It means a slow crash. It means what was …
HEDGES: Which we’ve already begun, haven’t we?
HUDSON: Yes. we’re in a slow crash now. All this was analyzed in the 1930s when it was called debt deflation by Irving Fisher. But debt doesn’t appear in the textbooks. They talk about saving, but not debt. The fact is, all money is debt of one form or another. The cash in your pocket is a government debt, technically. It’s on the liabilities side of the balance sheet. What people thought was an asset turns out to kept afloat by debt. But rather than the rising tide of debt raising all boats, it raises the yachts, but the rest of the economy is underwater, to make a metaphor.
HEDGES: So, spell it out for people. What’s going to – I mean, we’ve lost control of this predatory or parasitic force.
HUDSON: Well, you can look at the future as what’s happening in Greece, what happened in Russia after their traumatic shock therapy. America’s in for shock therapy, no matter who wins the presidential …
HEDGES: So play it out for me. What’s it going to look like?
HUDSON: Well, more people are going to have higher and higher charges for what they spend for medical care. More for schooling. More just to break even. And they’re going to have to draw down their existing savings, or they’re going to have to downsize, or they’re going to have to default. The rate of default is still rising very sharply on student loans. And these are loans you can’t wipe out in bankruptcy.
HEDGES: Not unless you’re dead. And it’ll go to your parents, if they’re still around.
HUDSON: That’s the point. The parents have countersigned. Meanwhile, the students who have taken out these loans are having to live at home with the parents. They can’t afford to buy a house. And if you can’t buy a house it’s really hard to get married. I was in China recently, and my translator there said that women in China are looking for a husband who can get his own house, because you need a house to have children. All that has stopped here.
When you have this phenomenon in Greece, Russia or other places, you have shrinking birth rates, rising mortality rates and disease rates, shorter life spans. Latvia followed this policy and lost 20% of its population since the late 1990s. You have a huge emigration from Iceland, from Greece. There’s nowhere for Americans to emigrate to.
HEDGES: Right. And you say in the book that really, the only option left is a form of debt slavery or revolt.
HUDSON: That’s exactly it. But the enzymes that the parasite have inculcated via the control of the media tell people it’s not Wall Street’s fault, it’s not the parasite’s fault, it’s your fault. The victims haven’t been able to make enough money to pay the One Percent, the victimizers. That’s financial affluenza after kills an economy.
HEDGES: But is it working? I don’t think the lie of neoliberal economics is being swallowed by larger segments of the population, including the people gathered around Trump.
HUDSON: That’s right. They know that something’s wrong, but they don’t know what it is, because nobody’s spelling out how the economy actually works. That’s why I wrote my book, to say here’s what’s happening. The reason I was able to warn about the crisis a year before it happened was that I had the charts that were published in Harper’s. My charts were cited in the Financial Times as the only charts by those who did foresee the crisis and said just how and why it would happen.
Anyone who does Wall Street charts about the ability to pay sees that this is what happened in the 1920s. Anybody who did charts like that can tell that there’s an intersection, a breaking point, and there’s a crisis. America now is having the same crisis that Argentina had, that Greece had, that Latvia had, that Russia had. These economies are our future. And it’s going to go down and down in a slow crash.
HEDGES: But could it go down and down, and what we end up with is a form of neofeudalism, a rapaciously wealthy, oligarchic elite with a kind of horrifying police state to keep us all in order?
HUDSON: This is exactly what happened in the Roman Empire.
HEDGES: Yes, it did.
HUDSON: You had the great Roman historians, Livy and Plutarch – all blamed the decline of the Roman empire on the creditor class being predatory, and the latifundia. The creditors took all money, and would just buy more and more land, displacing the other people. The result in Rome was a Dark Age, and that can last a very long time. The Dark Age is what happens when the rentiers take over.
If you look back in the 1930s, Leon Trotsky said that fascism was the inability of the socialist parties to come forth with an alternative. If the socialist parties and media don’t come forth with an alternative to this neofeudalism, you’re going to have a rollback to feudalism. But instead of the military taking over the land, as occurred with the Norman conquest, you take over the land financially. Finance has become the new mode of warfare. Not militarily – except in Europe, of course – but simply financially. You can achieve the takeover of land and the takeover of companies by corporate raids.
The Wall Street vocabulary is one of conquest and wiping out. You’re having a replay in the financial sphere of what feudalism was in the military sphere.
HEDGES: And in essence, we become a kind of nation of sharecroppers.
HUDSON: That’s exactly right, having to shop at the company store.
HEDGES: At the company store.
HEDGES: Well, that lays it out. I think it illustrates the point that we need a vision to counter the vision of predatory, parasitic capitalism. If we don’t get a vision very soon, we’re in for a dark age.
HUDSON: And the job of the politician is to promise the nice vision, and then double-cross the constituents.
HEDGES: Well, so far, unfortunately, they’ve done it very well.
This is an edited transcript of part two of Chris Hedge’s Days of Revolt interview with Michael Hudson. Click here to read part one:The Great Ponzi Scheme of the Global Economy.
Michael Hudson’s new book, Killing the Host is published in e-format by CounterPunch Books and in print by Islet. He can be reached via his website, mh@michael-hudson.com. Chris Hedges’s latest book is Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, illustrated by Joe Sacco.  

Featured Story

American spies: "Those sneaky Russians want to get their grubby asiatic fingers on our patriotic COVID cure!" by Yasha Levine, July 16 2020

American spies: "Those sneaky Russians want to get their grubby asiatic fingers on our patriotic COVID cure!" Nothing actually...