The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
Source: In Defence of Marxism
“There’s been a coup in Venezuela! Maduro has carried out a power-grab!” Just a few days before the 15th anniversary of the short lived coup against the democratically elected president Chavez (11-13 April, 2002), those who carried out that coup (the Venezuelan oligarchy, their masters in Washington and its lapdogs in Buenos Aires, Brasilia, Santiago de Chile and Lima, cheered on by the media wolf pack in Madrid and the US) are now shouting and screaming like hyenas against an alleged “self coup” by president Maduro.
What are the facts? The immediate cause of this hypocritical outcry is the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) on March 29 which said that since the National Assembly is in contempt of court, the TSJ will henceforth take over its powers for itself or another power it determines. Immediately, the president of the National Assembly, Julio Borges, declared this as a “coup d’Etat” and Organisation of American States general secretary Luis Almagro described it as a “self coup” and called for the urgent convening of the OAS Permanent Council in order to activate its Democratic Charter against Venezuela. The Peruvian government decided to withdraw its ambassador from Venezuela.
What are the roots of this ruling? Since the victory of the right wing opposition in the National Assembly elections in December 2015, there has been a sharp conflict between the different powers of the state. Already at the end of December 2015, the TSJ ruled that there had been irregularities in the election of deputies in the Amazonas state and declared the election null and void and ordered it to be re-run. Proof was presented that opposition politicians had been involved in vote-buying. This affected four deputies, two from the opposition, one from the PSUV and another one elected in the indigenous list (also a supporter of the opposition). However, these three opposition deputies were key as they would have given the opposition a two thirds majority and therefore much wider powers. The National Assembly refuse to obey the order of the TSJ and swore in the three opposition deputies for Amazonas in January 2016. Again the TSJ declared the act as null and void and in contravention of its earlier ruling. The National Assembly retreated. Then, in July, the National Assembly swore in the three deputies again. In August 2016, the TSJ declared that the National Assembly Presiding Council and the opposition deputies were in contempt of court for having broken two of its rulings.
In a further escalation of the institutional conflict, in October 2016, the National Assembly voted to initiate proceedings for a “political trial” of president Maduro and also proceedings to declare that Maduro had “abandoned his office”. Amongst the reasons given for these actions was the allegation that Maduro is not a Venezuelan citizen and therefore unable to be president (!!). Finally in January 2017, the National Assembly declared that president Maduro had indeed “abandoned his office”. How can he be accused of “abandoning his office” and of “carrying out a power grabbing coup” at the same time is anybody’s guess. The National Assembly furthermore called on the Organisation of American States to invoke its Democratic Charter against Venezuela, in effect calling on foreign powers to violate Venezuelan sovereignty, something which reveals clearly the character of the Venezuelan oligarchy. The attempt to use the Democratic Charter was defeated at the OAS, despite direct threats from Washington against a number of member countries.
Finally, the government enquired from the TSJ whether it needed to send its decision to create joint venture companies in the oil sector to be ratified by the National Assembly. The TSJ replied with its ruling on March 29, that, since the National Assembly was in contempt of court and had not taken any actions to rectify that, the government did not have to send its decisions to it and that the TSJ was taking over National Assembly legislative powers to exercise them directly or through any other organ of power it would determine. That ruling had been preceded by one a day earlier in which the TSJ ruled that since the National Assembly was in contempt of court, its members could not enjoy parliamentary immunity.
If the opposition National Assembly wanted to actually use its powers, it would be easy to abide by the TSJ ruling on the three Amazonas deputies and then start legislating. However, the opposition is not really interested in that, but rather wants to create an incident as big as possible, to justify the removal of Maduro from the presidency.
We must oppose the hypocritical campaign of those who actually did carry out a coup in Venezuela in 2002, who now want to remove Maduro from power and to invoke foreign intervention against Venezuela. If they were to achieve their aims, we know clearly what would be the consequences: all of the gains of the Bolivarian revolution would be destroyed, the social missions abolished, nationalised companies and landed estates returned to their former owners, the labour law would be abolished allowing for mass layoffs in state and private enterprises, old age pensions massively cut, health care and education slashed and a regime of assault on basic democratic rights instituted. If anyone doubts this, you just need to see the initial measures taken by right wing governments as they have come to power in Argentina and Brazil. In Venezuela it would be ten times worse.
I have been at pains to reconcile my ambivalent feelings on the happenings in our world, alas,I have come to the conclusion that they are a manifestation of what plagues us as human beings rather than a personal identity crisis to resolve. After all, we are talking of a post identity politics reality regardless of the fact that the masses in their pussy hats continue to be dictated about reality via the telly.
As a brown Pakistani Muslim born and raised in Saudi Arabia, it is absolutely surreal to see the world through the eyes of the “me” that once was. It is astonishing. I am the troubled one? I am the pitied one? Am i finally being recognised as the persecuted one? Has the consciousness of the west finally awoken? Really? Am I to rejoice now?
Surveying the flurry of emotions on display, I feel as if I my kin have been heard. Will they finally have a trial for the drone pilot that wiped out a whole wedding celebration in Pakistan? Or will the children maimed receive new prosthetics instead of the used ones from coalition countries? Yes, it is that cynical.
Will someone finally be accountable for the war crimes carried out by the US under Obama? Under Clinton? or Bush?
“No, no, silly boy, heavens be damned, no” a voice tells me in sarcastic laughter. “Have you really gone mad now? Have they finally convinced you that you matter?” it goes on in abject disregard for the “me” that once was.
Here “I” stand, though, having moved, shifted, transformed or rather travelled far afield from the “me” that once was. I do not pray anymore, I do not observe the religious holidays, I do not observe the rituals and I most certainly do not identify as a Muslim. So, am I to be afraid or not ? Once we stop identifying with ideologies the distance allows us to escape a lot of the emotional lures of the narrative being played. I see the truth of my reality; A pawn like the rest of you with your faiths,beliefs,identities and dream-like realities. Identity politics is a mindset that has locked in the participants into a perpetual loop of despair.
Trump or no Trump, US fascism has been alive and well since 1945, accelerated since 1989 and has never been stronger. Fascism permeates our daily lives, it is at our places of learning, our places of exercise, our places of residence, our entertainment spots and in our societal exchange. It is an invisible guest in our daily discourse. It is the alienation of ourselves from our kin, our fellow man and our environment. Everything must be calculated, it must be costed, must be accounted for and prescribed. It must be measured, it must be dictated and legislated.
Somehow the infinite possibility of how existence can manifest itself is not valid. It must be held accountable! We shall do things a certain way, in a certain fashion, with certain rules and consequences. I am talking of the rules in our lives that come from an unknown and manifest through the drones of people who will accept without question what is enforced from the halls of power.
Yet, Trump is the new fascist? Really? It just started 10 days ago apparently! Hallelujah!
These protests have nothing to do with freedom, liberty, recognition of Muslims or of values. When your spokespersons are George Soros and Madeline Albright, you have to look at what you are so upset about. You are being played like a violin.
My Pakistani friends are galvanised, the news papers are dishing out headline after headline. Is Pakistan next on the list is the question on everyone’s mind? The Empire and its mouthpieces are plenty and their blind adherents many. It was “Ok” for the smooth talking black Jesus to bomb 7 Muslim nations, have a global assassination program and arm terrorists. But it is an uproar with pussy hats to have an immigration vetting process from unstable – save Iran, probably on the list to appease some establishment elements – countries.
Do not get me wrong, I am not in anyway condoning anything. I am in no way endorsing Trump. But I am calling a spade a spade. This has nothing to do with values, freedom or respect. This fiasco of immigration has everything to do with the globalist establishment using every card up its sleeve to continue the Military Industrial Complex and its aim of global domination by hook or crook. The Saker has given a good recap on the stakes here, the Deep State is out for blood and it is not backing down. The Attorney General has now come out and challenged the President as well. Edit: Has been fired already. The headlines go too fast these days.
Decades of tyranny was apparently “A-Ok Double Thumbs Up” by the liberal left, as long as it was sugar coated with the right politically corrected vocabulary. And now we are to fear someone who has never held public office, has not been knee deep in the blood of innocents like the entire establishment.
A friend told me of “historic” protests at airports and how he probably should have gone. I replied by saying that they were only “historic” in how they are working towards a colour revolution at home after countless ones abroad and that it is better for him to not get involved. “Colour Revolution? What do you mean?” was the response. A discussion ensued and I did what we all do time to time for the ones we hold dear; Give them an ultra condensed recap of geopolitics, Soros, Deep State and so forth. “You must be listening to Alex Jones and his conspiracies” came back the reply.
Another Muslim friend told me how he cannot trust a president beholden to Putin – the dictator- under threat of sex tapes being released. Yes, he believes that.
There is a chasm of knowledge omitted from the discourse that the vast majority of Americans are being actively engaged in. Without knowing how politics, manipulation, propaganda and Deep State works, they are hopelessly lost. They are ripe for the picking. This is a grass roots movement for them and they are all the more willing to cheer on the “revolution” from their smartphones.
Muslims are an easy recruiting ground for the liberal fake left, they have been traumatised for decades, have been the victims of US aggression, have faced back clashes in their own communities from right wing elements edged on by politicians and now finally they are being told that they are going to be singled out for more persecution. This time they have CNN, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and all the vampires in between giving them a platform. This is not coincidence, this is not by chance but instead by design. They will be used like cannon fodder and discarded once Black Jesus is restored to the throne or civil war ensues.
This is a Secular Wahhabi revolt, a new breed very aptly described by Andrew Korybko.
Imperialists are masters of creating ethical. moral juxtapositions that perplex, that rip apart emotional cords in the masses, drive them to hysteria and in the thick of it they take reins of their emotions and play them to their hearts content.
It is a sad sight to behold.
Can human intellect rise above the machinations of the 0.0001 % ?
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
Source: Of Two Minds
Rather than being the bad guys, as per the usual Liberal world-view, the Armed Forces may well play a key role in reducing the utterly toxic influence of neocon-neoliberals within the Deep State.
Suddenly everybody is referring to the Deep State, typically without offering much of a definition.
The general definition is the unelected government that continues making and implementing policy regardless of who is in elected office.
I have been writing about this structure for 10 years and studying it from the outside for 40 years. Back in 2007, I called it the Elite Maintaining and Extending Global Dominance, which is a more concise description of the structure than Deep State. Going to War with the Political Elite You Have (May 14, 2007).
I’ve used this simplified chart to explain the basic structure of the Deep State, which is the complex network of state-funded and/or controlled institutions, agencies, foundations, university research projects, media ties, etc.
The key point here is you can’t separate these network nodes: you cannot separate DARPA, the national labs (nukes, energy, etc.), the National Science Foundation, DoD (Department of Defense), the National Security State (alphabet soup of intelligence/black budget agencies: CIA, NSA, DIA, etc.), Silicon Valley and the research universities: they are all tied together by funding, information flows, personnel and a thousand other connections.
For the past few years, I have been suggesting there is a profound split in the Deep State that is not just about power or ideology, but about the nature and future of National Security: in other words, what policies and priorities are actually weakening or threatening the long-term security of the United States?
I have proposed that there are progressive elements within the sprawling Deep State that view the dominant neocon-neoliberal agenda of the past 24 years as a disaster for the long-term security of the U.S. and its global interests (a.k.a. the Imperial Project).
There are also elements within the Deep State that view Wall Street’s dominance as a threat to America’s security and global interests. (This is not to say that American-based banks and corporations aren’t essential parts of the Imperial Project; it’s more about the question of who is controlling whom.)
So let’s dig in by noting that the warmongers in the Deep State are civilians, not military. It’s popular among so-called Liberals (the vast majority of whom did not serve nor do they have offspring in uniform–that’s fallen to the disenfranchised and the working class) to see the military as a permanent source of warmongering.
(It’s remarkably easy to send other people’s children off to war, while your own little darlings have cush jobs in Wall Street, foundations, think tanks, academia, government agencies, etc.)
These misguided souls are ignoring that it’s civilians who order the military to go into harm’s way, not the other way around. The neocons who have waged permanent war as policy are virtually all civilians, few of whom served in the U.S. armed forces and none of whom (to my knowledge) have actual combat experience.
These civilian neocons were busily sacking and/or discrediting critics of their warmongering within the U.S. military all through the Iraqi debacle. now that we got that straightened out–active-duty service personnel have borne the brunt of civilian planned, ordered and executed warmongering–let’s move on to the split between the civilian Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the DoD (Department of Defense) intelligence and special ops agencies: DIA, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, etc.
Though we have to be careful not to paint a very large agency with one brush, it’s fair to say that the civilian leadership of the CIA (and of its proxies and crony agencies) has long loved to “play army”. The CIA has its own drone (a.k.a. Murder, Inc.) division, as well as its own special ops (“play army” Special Forces), and a hawkish mentality that civilians reckon is “play army special forces” (mostly from films, in which the CIA’s role is carefully managed by the CIA itself: How the CIA Hoodwinked Hollywood (The Atlantic)
Meanwhile, it’s not exactly a secret that when it comes to actual combat operations and warfighting, the CIA’s in-theater intelligence is either useless, misleading or false. This is the result of a number of institutional failings of the CIA, number one of which is the high degree of politicization within its ranks and organizational structure.
The CIA’s reliance on “analysis” rather than human agents (there’s a lot of acronyms for all these, if you find proliferating acronyms of interest), and while some from-30,000-feet analysis can be useful, it’s just as often catastrophically wrong.
We can fruitfully revisit the Bay of Pigs disaster, the result of warmongering civilians in the CIA convincing incoming President Kennedy that the planned invasion would free Cuba of Castro’s rule in short order. There are many other examples, including the failure to grasp Saddam’s willingness to invade Kuwait, given the mixed signals he was receiving from U.S. State Department personnel.
Simply put, if you are actually prosecuting a war, then you turn to the services’ own intelligence agencies to help with actual combat operations, not the CIA.This is of course a sort of gossip, and reading between the lines of public information; nobody is going to state this directly in writing.
As I have noted before:
If you want documented evidence of this split in the Deep State–sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Nobody in the higher echelons of the Deep State is going to leak anything about the low-intensity war being waged because the one thing everyone agrees on is the Deep State’s dirty laundry must be kept private.
As a result, the split is visible only by carefully reading between the lines, by examining who is being placed in positions of control in the Trump Administration, and reading the tea leaves of who is “retiring” (i.e. being fired) or quitting, which agencies are suddenly being reorganized, and the appearance of dissenting views in journals that serve as public conduits for Deep State narratives.
Many so-called Liberals are alarmed by the number of military officers Trump has appointed. Once you realize it’s the neocon civilians who have promoted and led one disastrous military intervention (either with U.S. Armed Forces or proxies managed by the CIA) after another, then you understand Trump’s appointments appear to be a decisive break from the civilian warmongers who’ve run the nation into the ground.
If you doubt this analysis, please consider the unprecedentedly politicized (and pathetically childish) comments by outgoing CIA director Brennan against an incoming president. Even if you can’t stand Trump, please document another instance in which the CIA director went off on an incoming president– and this after the CIA spewed a blatant misinformation campaign claiming a hacked Democratic Party email account constituted a successful Russian effort to influence the U.S. election–a surreal absurdity.
Let me translate for you: our chosen Insider lost the election; how dare you!
A number of observers are wondering if the CIA and its Deep State allies and cronies will work out a way to evict Trump from office or perhaps arrange a “lone gunman” or other “accident” to befall him. The roots of such speculations stretch back to Dallas, November 1963, when a “long gunman” with ties to the CIA and various CIA proxies assassinated President Kennedy, an avowed foe of the CIA.
Setting aside the shelfloads of books on the topic, both those defending the “lone gunman” thesis and those contesting it, the unprecedented extremes of institutionally organized and executed anti-Trump campaigns is worthy of our attention.
Given my thesis of a profound disunity in the Deep State, and the emergence of a progressive element hostile to neocons and neoliberalism (including Wall Street), then it’s not much of a stretch to speculate that this rogue Deep State opposed to neocon-neoliberalism has Trump’s back, as a new administration is pretty much the only hope to rid the nation’s top echelons of the neocon-neoliberal policies that have driven the U.S. into the ground.
Rather than being the bad guys, as per the usual Liberal world-view, the Armed Forces may well play a key role in reducing the utterly toxic influence of neocon-neoliberals within the Deep State.
If you have wondered why academics like Paul Krugman and the CIA are on the same page, it’s because they are simply facets of the same structure. Krugman is a vocal neoliberal, the CIA is vocally neocon: two sides of the same coin. I invite you to study the chart above with an open mind, and ponder the possibility that the Deep State is not monolithic, but deeply divided along the fault lines of Wall-Street-Neocons-Neoliberals and the progressive elements that rightly view the dominant neocon-neoliberals as a threat to U.S. national security, U.S. global interests and world peace.
We can speculate that some of these progressive elements view Trump with disdain for all the same reasons those outside the Deep State disdain him, but their decision tree is simple: if you want to rid America’s Deep State of toxic neocon-neoliberalism before it destroys the nation, you hold your nose and go with Trump because he’s the only hope you have.
Charles Hugh Smith
They don’t hate ‘our freedoms.’ They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries — for oil.
In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I’ve made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. As we focus on the rise of the Islamic State and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology. Instead we should examine the more complex rationales of history and oil — and how they often point the finger of blame back at our own shores.
America’s unsavory record of violent interventions in Syria — little-known to the American people yet well-known to Syrians — sowed fertile ground for the violent Islamic jihadism that now complicates any effective response by our government to address the challenge of ISIL. So long as the American public and policymakers are unaware of this past, further interventions are likely only to compound the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry this week announced a “provisional” ceasefire in Syria. But since U.S. leverage and prestige within Syria is minimal — and the ceasefire doesn’t include key combatants such as Islamic State and al Nusra — it’s bound to be a shaky truce at best. Similarly President Obama’s stepped-up military intervention in Libya — U.S. airstrikes targeted an Islamic State training camp last week — is likely to strengthen rather than weaken the radicals. As the New York Times reported in a December 8, 2015, front-page story, Islamic State political leaders and strategic planners are working to provoke an American military intervention. They know from experience this will flood their ranks with volunteer fighters, drown the voices of moderation and unify the Islamic world against America.
This did not happen without controversy at home. In July 1957, following a failed coup in Syria by the CIA, my uncle, Sen. John F. Kennedy, infuriated the Eisenhower White House, the leaders of both political parties and our European allies with a milestone speech endorsing the right of self-governance in the Arab world and an end to America’s imperialist meddling in Arab countries. Throughout my lifetime, and particularly during my frequent travels to the Mideast, countless Arabs have fondly recalled that speech to me as the clearest statement of the idealism they expected from the U.S. Kennedy’s speech was a call for recommitting America to the high values our country had championed in the Atlantic Charter; the formal pledge that all the former European colonies would have the right to self-determination following World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt had strong-armed Winston Churchill and the other allied leaders to sign the Atlantic Charter in 1941 as a precondition for U.S. support in the European war against fascism.
But thanks in large part to Allen Dulles and the CIA, whose foreign policy intrigues were often directly at odds with the stated policies of our nation, the idealistic path outlined in the Atlantic Charter was the road not taken. In 1957, my grandfather, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, sat on a secret committee charged with investigating the CIA’s clandestine mischief in the Mideast. The so called “Bruce-Lovett Report,” to which he was a signatory, described CIA coup plots in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Egypt, all common knowledge on the Arab street, but virtually unknown to the American people who believed, at face value, their government’s denials. The report blamed the CIA for the rampant anti-Americanism that was then mysteriously taking root “in the many countries in the world today.” The Bruce-Lovett Report pointed out that such interventions were antithetical to American values and had compromised America’s international leadership and moral authority without the knowledge of the American people. The report also said that the CIA never considered how we would treat such interventions if some foreign government were to engineer them in our country.
This is the bloody history that modern interventionists like George W. Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio miss when they recite their narcissistic trope that Mideast nationalists “hate us for our freedoms.” For the most part they don’t; instead they hate us for the way we betrayed those freedoms — our own ideals — within their borders.
* * *
For Americans to really understand what’s going on, it’s important to review some details about this sordid but little-remembered history. During the 1950s, President Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers — CIA Director Allen Dulles and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles — rebuffed Soviet treaty proposals to leave the Middle East a neutral zone in the Cold War and let Arabs rule Arabia. Instead, they mounted a clandestine war against Arab nationalism — which Allen Dulles equated with communism — particularly when Arab self-rule threatened oil concessions. They pumped secret American military aid to tyrants in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon favoring puppets with conservative Jihadist ideologies that they regarded as a reliable antidote to Soviet Marxism. At a White House meeting between the CIA’s director of plans, Frank Wisner, and John Foster Dulles, in September 1957, Eisenhower advised the agency, “We should do everything possible to stress the ‘holy war’ aspect,” according to a memo recorded by his staff secretary, Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster.
Source: John Pilger
The exoneration of a man accused of the worst of crimes, genocide, made no headlines. Neither the BBC nor CNN covered it. The Guardian allowed a brief commentary. Such a rare official admission was buried or suppressed, understandably. It would explain too much about how the rulers of the world rule.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has quietly cleared the late Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, of war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the massacre at Srebrenica.
Far from conspiring with the convicted Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Milosevic actually “condemned ethnic cleansing”, opposed Karadzic and tried to stop the war that dismembered Yugoslavia. Buried near the end of a 2,590 page judgement on Karadzic last February, this truth further demolishes the propaganda that justified Nato’s illegal onslaught on Serbia in 1999.
Milosevic died of a heart attack in 2006, alone in his cell in The Hague, during what amounted to a bogus trial by an American-invented “international tribunal”. Denied heart surgery that might have saved his life, his condition worsened and was monitored and kept secret by US officials, as WikiLeaks has since revealed.
Milosevic was the victim of war propaganda that today runs like a torrent across our screens and newspapers and beckons great danger for us all. He was the prototype demon, vilified by the western media as the “butcher of the Balkans” who was responsible for “genocide”, especially in the secessionist Yugoslav province of Kosovo. Prime Minister Tony Blair said so, invoked the Holocaust and demanded action against “this new Hitler”. David Scheffer, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes [sic], declared that as many as “225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59” may have been murdered by Milosevic’s forces.
This was the justification for Nato’s bombing, led by Bill Clinton and Blair, that killed hundreds of civilians in hospitals, schools, churches, parks and television studios and destroyed Serbia’s economic infrastructure. It was blatantly ideological; at a notorious “peace conference” in Rambouillet in France, Milosevic was confronted by Madeleine Albright, the US secretary of state, who was to achieve infamy with her remark that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children were “worth it”.
Albright delivered an “offer” to Milosevic that no national leader could accept. Unless he agreed to the foreign military occupation of his country, with the occupying forces “outside the legal process”, and to the imposition of a neo-liberal “free market”, Serbia would be bombed. This was contained in an “Appendix B”, which the media failed to read or suppressed. The aim was to crush Europe’s last independent “socialist” state.
Once Nato began bombing, there was a stampede of Kosovar refugees “fleeing a holocaust”. When it was over, international police teams descended on Kosovo to exhume the victims of the “holocaust”. The FBI failed to find a single mass grave and went home. The Spanish forensic team did the same, its leader angrily denouncing “a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines”. The final count of the dead in Kosovo was 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the pro-Nato Kosovo Liberation Front. There was no genocide. The Nato attack was both a fraud and a war crime.
Source: New Eastern Outlook
For three days this month, June 16-18, I had the opportunity to participate as a panelist in the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia. I’ve been in Russia many times since the Ukraine US-backed coup d’état of February 2014, and the deliberate escalations of NATO military and economic tensions and sanctions against the Russian Federation. This year’s forum, my second as participant, gave me a rare opportunity to speak with leading representatives from every sector of the Russian economy- from CEOs of the energy sector to the Russian Railways to the national Russia Grid electricity provider to numerous small and mid-sized businessmen, to a wide range of economists. It sharpened my perception of just how precarious the situation of Russia today is.
What became clearer to me in the course of the three days of discussions in St Petersburg is precisely how vulnerable Russia is. Her Achilles Heel is the reigning ideology that controls every key economic post of the Government of the Russian Federation under Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Under the terms of the Russian Constitution adopted in the chaos of the Yeltsin years and enormously influenced, if not literally drafted, by Russia’s foreign IMF advisers, economic policy is the portfolio responsibility of the Prime Minister and his various ministers of Economics, Finance and so forth. The Russian President, today Vladimir Putin, is responsible for defense and foreign policy.
Making the job virtually impossible of reviving credit flows to fuel genuine real investment in urgently needed infrastructure across the vast land expanse of Russia is the Central Bank of Russia. The Central Bank of Russia was given two constitutionally-mandated tasks when it was created as an entity independent from the Russian Government in the first months of the Russian Federation following the breakup of the Soviet Union. It must control Russian domestic inflation and it must stabilize the Ruble against major foreign currencies. Like western central banks, its role is almost purely monetary, not economic.
In June, 2015 as I participated the first time in the St Petersburg forum, the Russian Central Bank base rate, interest charged to banks, was 11%. In the peak of the so-called Ruble crisis in January 2015 it had reached 17%. Expectations last summer were that Elvira Nabiullina, the central bank governor since 2013, would begin to bring central rates rather rapidly down to manageable levels, especially at a time when central banks such as the European Central Bank, the US Fed and the Bank of Japan were lowest in some 500 years at zero or even negative. Further, since January 2016 oil prices, a significant factor in the Ruble strength as Russia is the world’s largest oil exporter, began a rise of more than 60% from lows below $30 a barrel in early January to levels near $50 six months later.
That lowering of rates by the Central Bank hasn’t happened. Instead it is slowly killing the economy. One year later, in early June, 2016 the Russian Central Bank under Governor Nabiullina made the first rate cut since June 2015…to a still-deadly 10.5%. Perhaps it’s notable that monetarist Nabiullina was named by the London Euromoney magazine as their 2015 Central Bank Governor of the Year. That should be seen as a bad omen for Russia. Equally ominous was the fulsome praise the head of Washington’s IMF had for Nabiullina’s monetarist handling of the early 2015 Ruble crisis.
Source: The Automatic Earth
Like most of you, I too see an increase in the use of the term ‘fascism’ in the media, and it is -almost- always linked to the rise of Donald Trump in the US and various politicians and parties in Europe, Le Pen in France, Wilders in Holland, Erdogan in Turkey, plus a pretty bewildering and motley crew of ‘groups’ in Eastern Europe (Hungary’s Orban) and Scandinavia. I guess you could throw in Nigel Farage and UKIP in Britain as well.
And while I -sort of- understand why the term is used the way it is, and it’s not possible to say it’s used wrong simply because ‘fascism’ knows so many different interpretations and definitions, very few of which can be classified as definitely wrong, that doesn’t mean that just because you’re not definitely wrong, you’re therefore right, and certainly not comprehensive or complete. And there’s a story in there that deserves to be told. Who is really the fascist? From Wikipedia:
George Orwell wrote in 1944 that “the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless … almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’”. Richard Griffiths said in 2005 that “fascism” is the “most misused, and over-used word, of our times”. “Fascist” is sometimes applied to post-war organizations and ways of thinking that academics more commonly term “neo-fascist”.
I’m inclined to venture that ‘terrorism’ is a good second for most misused word, but something tells me that once you get into economics and the way terms like ‘stimulus’, ‘unemployment’ and ‘inflation’ are used, this is an argument that would never end. Let’s stick with ‘fascism’ for now.
The prevalent definition -and public notion- of fascism today is connected first and foremost to Adolf Hitler, to the Holocaust, the SS and other German WWII ‘phenomena’. And it’s quite something to link Trump or Le Pen to that, even if they say things at times that may make you shudder. It seems at least a tad hyperbolic, no matter how much you may not like these people. Neither is responsible for the deaths of millions of people.
What’s more interesting, because it can provide perspective, is to look at what fascism is (or was) prior to, and beyond, Hitler and Germany. One man stands out in this: Benito Mussolini, Italian prime minister slash wannabe dictator from 1922 till 1943, who’s even often labeled the founder of fascism (though its roots go back much further). But for Mussolini, fascism was not what Hitler has made us define it as.