Saturday, August 6, 2016

The 1 Percent’s Useful Idiots

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The parade of useful idiots, the bankrupt liberal class that long ago sold its soul to corporate power, is now led by Sen. Bernie Sanders. His final capitulation, symbolized by his pathetic motion to suspend the roll call, giving Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination by acclamation, is an abject betrayal of millions of his supporters and his call for a political revolution.

No doubt the Democrats will continue to let Sanders be a member of the Democratic Caucus. No doubt the Democrats will continue to agree not to run a serious candidate against him in Vermont. No doubt Sanders will be given an ample platform and media opportunities to shill for Clinton and the corporate machine. No doubt he will remain a member of the political establishment.

Sanders squandered his most important historical moment. He had a chance, one chance, to take the energy, anger and momentum, walk out the doors of the Wells Fargo Center and into the streets to help build a third-party movement. His call to his delegates to face “reality” and support Clinton was an insulting repudiation of the reality his supporters, mostly young men and young women, had overcome by lifting him from an obscure candidate polling at 12 percent into a serious contender for the nomination. Sanders not only sold out his base, he mocked it. This was a spiritual wound, not a political one. For this he must ask forgiveness.

Whatever resistance happens will happen without him. Whatever political revolution happens will happen without him. Whatever hope we have for a sustainable future will happen without him. Sanders, who once lifted up the yearnings of millions, has become an impediment to change. He took his 30 pieces of silver and joined with a bankrupt liberal establishment on behalf of a candidate who is a tool of Wall Street, a proponent of endless war and an enemy of the working class.

Sanders, like all of the self-identified liberals who are whoring themselves out for the Democrats, will use fear as the primary reason to remain enslaved by the neoliberal assault. And, in return, the corporate state will allow him and the other useful idiots among the 1 percent to have their careers and construct pathetic monuments to themselves.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be pushed through whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The fracking industry, fossil fuel industry and animal agriculture industry will ravage the ecosystem whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The predatory financial institutions on Wall Street will trash the economy and loot the U.S. Treasury on the way to another economic collapse whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Poor, unarmed people of color will be gunned down in the streets of our cities whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The system of neoslavery in our prisons, where we keep poor men and poor women of color in cages because we have taken from them the possibility of employment, education and dignity, will be maintained whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Millions of undocumented people will be deported whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Austerity programs will cut or abolish public services, further decay the infrastructure and curtail social programs whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Money will replace the vote whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. And half the country, which now lives in poverty, will remain in misery whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president.

This is not speculation. We know this because there has been total continuity on every issue, from trade agreements to war to mass deportations, between the Bush administration and the administration of Barack Obama. The problem is not Donald Trump. The problem is capitalism. And this is the beast we are called to fight and slay. Until that is done, nothing of substance will change.

To reduce the political debate, as Sanders and others are doing, to political personalities is political infantilism. We have undergone a corporate coup. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will not reverse this coup. They, like Barack Obama, know where the centers of power lie. They serve these centers of power.

Change will come when we have the tenacity, as many Sanders delegates did, to refuse to cooperate, to say no, to no longer participate in the political charade. Change will come when we begin acts of sustained mass civil disobedience. Change will come when the fear the corporate state uses to paralyze us is used by us to paralyze the corporate state.

The Russian writer Alexander Herzen, speaking a century ago to a group of anarchists about how to overthrow the czar, reminded his listeners that it was not their job to save a dying system but to replace it: “We think we are the doctors. We are the disease.”

We are here not to reform the system. We are here to overthrow it. And that is the only possibility left to restore our democracy and save our planet. If we fail in this task, if this system of corporate capitalism and globalization is not dismantled, we are doomed. And this is the reality no one wants to speak about.

We will have to be in the political wilderness, perhaps for a decade. But a decade ago Syriza, the party now ruling Greece, was polling at only 4 percent. This is what the Green Party is polling today. We will not bring about systemic change in one or two election cycles. But we can begin to build a counterweight to the corporate state. We can begin to push back.

We must find the courage not to be afraid. We must find the courage to follow our conscience. We must find the courage to defy the corporate forces of death in order to affirm the forces of life.

This will not be easy. The corporate state—once its vast systems of indoctrination and propaganda do not work to keep us passive, once we are no longer afraid, once we make our own reality rather than accommodating ourselves to the reality imposed upon us—will employ more direct and coercive forms of control. The reign of terror, the revocation of civil liberties, the indiscriminate violence by the state will no longer be exercised only against poor people of color. The reality endured by our poor sisters and brothers of color, a reality we did not do enough to fight against, will become our own.

To allow the ideological forces of neoliberalism to crush our ideals and our values is to fall into a deadly cynicism and despair. To allow the consumer culture and the cult of the self, which lies at the heart of capitalism, to seduce us is to kill our souls. Happiness does not come with the accumulation of wealth. Happiness does not come from possessions or power. These are narcotics. They numb and kill all that is noble and good within us. Happiness comes when you reach out in solidarity to your neighbor, when you lend your hand to the stranger or the outcast, when you are willing to lose your life to save it. Happiness comes when you have the capacity to love.

Our span of life, in the vastness of the universe, is insignificant. I will be 60 soon. The arch of my own life is beginning to draw to a close. We all will die. How do we use the miracle of this flash of light that is called life?

Albert Camus wrote, “One of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt. It is a constant confrontation between [human beings] and [their] obscurity. It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.”

He said further, “A living [person] can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he [or she] dies in refusing to be enslaved, he [or she] reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.”

There is only one way to rebel. You fight for all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed. You understand that there is no country. Our country is the earth. We are citizens of the world. Nationalism is a disease. It is a disease we must purge. As long as a Muslim family suffers in a refugee camp in Syria or an LGBT person suffers from the bigotry imposed by the Christian heretics in the Christian right, we all suffer.

There are desperate single mothers struggling to raise children on less than $10,000 a year in some Philadelphia neighborhoods. Many of these children go to bed hungry. There are unemployed workers desperate to find a job and restore their dignity. There are mentally ill and homeless we have abandoned to the streets. There are Iraqi and Afghan families living in terror, a terror we have inflicted on them, in the futile and endless wars waged to enrich the arms industry. There are men and women being tortured in our worldwide archipelago of secret detention centers. There are undocumented workers whose families we have ripped apart, separating children from parents, or imprisoned.

This is reality. It is the only reality that matters. It is a reality we must and will change. Because, as the great socialist Eugene V. Debs, who upon being sentenced in 1918 for violating the Sedition Act by defying the madness of World War I, said, “I recognized my kinship with all living beings. I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Augustine wrote that hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage—anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

The fight will be hard and difficult. It will require love and self-sacrifice. It will require anger and courage. It is the greatest moral imperative before us. Those who do not defy the evil become its accomplice. We may not succeed. But we must be among those of whom future generations will say: They tried. They dared to dream. They dared to care. They dared to love. They enabled those who followed to press on in the struggle.

Obama’s legacy: Identity politics in the service of war

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Barack Obama concluded his address to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Wednesday night by declaring himself ready to “pass the baton” to the party’s nominee and his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Accounts of the address in the corporate media have repeatedly referred to the US president casting Clinton as the continuator and custodian of his “legacy.”
But what is the legacy of Obama? In its essential political terms, it consists of his having succeeded in overcoming internal divisions on the question of war that have plagued the Democratic Party for half a century. His administration marks the return of the Democrats to their roots as the premier party of US imperialism, a status the party maintained though two world wars and the subsequent Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Obama, who was swept into office on a wave of popular antiwar sentiment, will enjoy the dubious distinction of being the first president to keep the US at war throughout two full terms in office.
He has continued the wars he inherited in Afghanistan and Iraq, while launching a new one that toppled the government and decimated the society of Libya; engineering a proxy war for regime change that now includes US troops deployed in Syria; and carrying out attacks in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and beyond.
With its “pivot to Asia” and steady buildup of US-NATO forces in Eastern Europe, Washington’s military might has been increasingly directed against Russia and China, in a relentless quest for global hegemony that poses the growing danger of a third world war.
Obama’s administration will also be remembered for its vast expansion of drone warfare, targeted assassinations and kill lists, along with vicious attacks on civil liberties and the militarization of America’s police.
What is extraordinary in the face of all of this is that war was not even a subject of discussion at the convention in Philadelphia. The silence on the matter was guaranteed by the fraudulent opposition candidate Bernie Sanders, who publicly backed Obama’s wars during his campaign, and officially ended his “political revolution” by uncritically endorsing Clinton, the chosen candidate of both Wall Street and the massive US military and intelligence apparatus.
In advance of both major party conventions, there were many comparisons in the media of this presidential election year with that of 1968, with predictions that, once again, there could be violence in the streets.
While no doubt the Trump campaign has escalated the atmosphere of violence in American politics, wholly ignored in these largely superficial analogies was the core issue that brought about the violence of 48 years ago: mass popular opposition to the Vietnam War, which ended up tearing the Democratic Party apart.
The incumbent Democratic President Lyndon Johnson was unable to run for re-election because of the hostility within his own party to the war in Vietnam, expressed in support first for the candidacy of Eugene McCarthy and then for that of Robert Kennedy, who broke with Johnson on the issue.
While Robert Kennedy’s assassination was followed by the nomination of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a supporter of the war, and his subsequent defeat by Republican Richard Nixon, Vietnam shattered the ideological foundations of the old Democratic Party, based on the filthy deal that was the foundation of Cold War liberalism: lip service to social reform at home, combined with unwavering support for US imperialism abroad.
In 1972, the antiwar candidate George McGovern won the nomination and was defeated by Nixon. Nonetheless, the Democratic Party was compelled to take antiwar sentiment into account, in its political calculations, for decades after the war in Vietnam ended.
A chasm had opened up between the party’s leading personnel within the US capitalist state and the Washington think tanks, who remained committed proponents and strategic thinkers of US imperialism, and a political base, including academics and upper layers of the middle class, in which there remained broad hostility to war.
This produced internal conflicts within the party in one election after another. On the one hand, Democratic candidates were compelled to posture publicly as opponents of war, in order to retain credibility with broad sections of the party's electoral constituency. On the other hand, the Democratic candidates sought desperately to maintain credibility with the corporate and military-intelligence establishment, which expected that the candidate, once elected, would conduct foreign policy with the necessary ruthlessness.
In the aftermath of the election of George W. Bush came the mass antiwar demonstrations of 2003, and the subsequent attempts by various pseudo-left forces to channel this opposition back into the Democratic Party.
With the 2004 presidential election, Howard Dean emerged as an early favorite, campaigning as the representative of the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” and appealing to antiwar sentiment within the party. Even after his candidacy was derailed by the party establishment and the media, John Kerry, who had supported the war, was compelled to posture as an opponent, tying himself up in political knots and handing a re-election victory to Bush.
Finally, in 2008, the decisive reason that Barack Obama won the nomination and Hillary Clinton lost it was Clinton’s vote in 2002 to authorize the US war in Iraq.
In the promotion of Obama’s candidacy, his racial background was presented, particularly by the pseudo-left, as some kind of credential for progressive and antiwar politics, even as a close examination of his political record showed that he was no opponent of militarism. His family and professional connections to the US intelligence apparatus, meanwhile, were kept out of the news.
While Obama’s election was hailed by the pseudo-left as “transformative,” what has emerged over the course of his administration, facilitated by these same political forces, has been the utilization of identity politics in the furtherance of US imperialism.
This formula was on full display at the Philadelphia convention, where identity politics—the promotion of race, gender and sexual orientation as the defining features of political and social life—was woven directly into an unabashed celebration of American militarism.
This found carefully crafted expressions in Obama’s speech, including his declaration that “our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity, forged into common service,” a claim that could be made on behalf of another “all volunteer” imperialist fighting force, the French Foreign Legion.
He went on to state, “When we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. And if you doubt that, just… ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband that he loves.”
The US military had long been a bastion of fanatical homophobia, with over 114,000 service members forced out, with dishonorable discharges, over the issue between World War II and the scrapping of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011. That allowing gays into the military would erode discipline had been an article of faith for the US command.
Central to support for changing this policy was the recognition, within both the ruling political establishment and decisive layers of the military brass, that it would prove politically useful in winning support for the military among a privileged upper middle class layer that had identified with the politics of American liberalism.
The message at the convention was explicit: “These are your troops. These are your wars. They are being fought in your interests.”
Similar issues of identity politics were employed by the Obama administration in its attempts to whip up the anti-Russian hysteria that was on display in Philadelphia. Thus, well-orchestrated campaigns were mounted around Pussy Riot and statements made by Putin in relation to gays during the Sochi winter Olympic games.
In response to the heated rhetoric at the convention, the Washington Post’s security columnist wrote a piece entitled “Clinton has now made the Democrats the anti-Russia party.” He noted: “In their zeal to portray Donald Trump as a dangerous threat to national security, the Clinton campaign has taken a starkly anti-Russian stance, one that completes a total role reversal for the two major American parties on US-Russian relations that Hillary Clinton will now be committed to, if she becomes president.”
The anti-Russian campaign has been ratcheted up sharply in response to the WikiLeaks release of Democratic National Committee emails exposing the collaboration of the DNC leadership and the Clinton campaign in the attempt to sabotage the campaign of her rival, Bernie Sanders, and rig the nomination.
Clinton and her supporters have attempted to quash any discussion of the damning contents of these emails by casting their release as a “national security” issue, with the absurd charge that Vladimir Putin was the real author of the leak, aiming to subvert the US elections.
The same method, it should be recalled, was employed in response to earlier exposures of US imperialism’s crimes abroad and wholesale spying at home, with Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden bearing the consequences in the form of vicious persecution, imprisonment and exile.
Opposition to this relentless repression, as well as to war, found no expression in the Democratic convention. Needless to say, Clinton not only supported, but participated in both.
Most tellingly, a whole political layer, commonly referred to as the “neoconservatives,” which broke with the Democrats in the 1960s and 1970s and moved into leading positions with the Reagan and Bush administrations, have now come home, issuing open letters and statements in support for Hillary Clinton.
This political evolution of the Democratic Party is not merely the matter of machinations within the party leadership and the state apparatus. It has a social base within a privileged social layer that has moved sharply to the right, providing a new constituency for war and imperialism. The systematic fixation on the issues of race, gender and sexual orientation—deliberately opposed to that of class—has provided a key ideological foundation for this reactionary turn.
The convention in Philadelphia has exposed a party that is moving in direct opposition to, and preparing for a confrontation with, a growing radicalization of the American working class.
The next period, as the class struggle emerges powerfully, will see a resurgence of opposition by American workers to war.

Signs of the Coming Economic Crash

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Eight years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the economy is doing much better in many important ways. We have now seen almost 80 straight months of job growth, unemployment is down below 5 percent and some numbers suggest that wages are ticking upwards, however slowly. But make no mistake: The next crash is coming. It's not a question of "if." It's a question of "when."
And that's because the underlying cause of the 2008 crisis is still with us today -- the economy is too financialized.
According to government statistics, the financial services sector of our economy -- i.e. Wall Street, the big banks and all their various tentacles -- only employ about 4 percent of our workforce, but now accounts for something like a quarter of all corporate profits.
In 2015, no other individual industry came even close to matching finance's dominance over the economy. This is just not sustainable.
Although there is a role for banks to play in the economy -- they facilitate commerce, after all, when just doing "normal banking" -- 30-plus years of Reaganomics have made banks increasingly vulnerable and prone to crisis. Giving banks this kind of powerful role to play in the economy is just asking for trouble. Wall Street is literally a ticking time bomb, and when it explodes it will take the rest of the economy down with it.
This is not hyperbole -- it's fact, and we're seeing more and more evidence every day that the moment when the Wall Street time bomb will explode is rapidly approaching. As Greg Ip points out in the Wall Street Journal, housing prices and stock prices are now hovering around decades-long highs.
The last time they were this high? You guessed it: 2007, right before crash.
Meanwhile, net wealth is now equal to about 500 percent of the United States' national income. As Ip also points out, "Net wealth has reached that level only twice before: from 1999 to 2000 during the Nasdaq bubble, and 2004 to 2008 during the housing boom."
In other words, history appears to be repeating itself in the worst possible way.
So what's the endgame here? Now that we know that the next big financial crisis is probably on its way, what do we do about it?
Well, one thing we shouldn't do is "let a good crisis go to waste," as Rahm Emanuel once warned President Obama against doing. The crash of 2008 was one of the biggest missed opportunities in US history.
But, instead of overhauling our financialized wreck of an economic system, we tweaked around the edges, leaving the economy in much the same position as was before the crash, plus or minus a few regulations here and there.
The economic royalists who brought us Reaganism are still in charge. Dodd-Frank, the crowning achievement of the post-2008 reform push, is a perfect example of this.
Although it set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and put in place new rules for big banks, it didn't break those banks up, and now they're back and bigger than ever before.
Ironically, 2008's failure could be 2016's success. Because we didn't completely overhaul the economy last time around, the crash of 2016 is probably going to be a lot worse than the crash of 2008.
Things will be bad for a bit, but if the crash is as disastrous as it's likely going to be, that also opens up opportunities for big change. Once people realize the dysfunction that governs our economy, they'll fight back, just as they did in the 1930s during the New Deal.
History is cyclical -- especially US history. At different points in our country's history the mass of "We the People" have come into conflict with "They the Billionaires and Economic Royalists."
It happened in 1800 when Thomas Jefferson was elected -- it happened in the Progressive Era when the Robber Barons were taken down -- and it happened in the New Deal when FDR picked up the pieces after the crash of 1929 put and literally built modern US democracy.
After 2008, we avoided going to war against the royalists, which is why the next crisis is inevitable.
But if the next crisis is inevitable, our response to it is not. This generation's fight against the royalists is coming -- let's get ready to win.

Washington funds death squads, concentration camps in the Philippines

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US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Manila on Tuesday and spent Wednesday meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay. In an effort to secure continued Philippine support for Washington’s war drive against China, Kerry committed $32 million in funding for Duterte’s fascistic crackdown on drugs and alleged criminality.
Since Duterte took office on June 30, over 440 people have been killed and the daily death toll is accelerating. During the less than the 48 hours that Kerry was in Manila, 42 people were reported killed by police and vigilantes.
Duterte has called for the reinstatement of the death penalty by hanging, and for the lowering of the age of criminal accountability to nine. Bills to this effect are before both houses of the newly-opened legislature, where Duterte has a super-majority. The legislature has also introduced a bill granting the president unspecified “emergency powers,” ostensibly to deal with the traffic situation in Manila.
Duterte has implemented a curfew for minors throughout Metro Manila and is moving to expand it nationwide. Youth found on the streets after 10 p.m. at night may be subject to arrest. The parents of unescorted minors may likewise be arrested.
Duterte announced on Wednesday that he will set up what are in effect concentration camps throughout the country, where citizens deemed by the state to be “no longer of service to humanity” may be held indefinitely, without legal recourse, in wired-off camps within existing military bases.
Kerry did not breathe a word of criticism against these police-state measures. On the contrary, he publicly announced Washington’s support for Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, and provided funding for its implementation. In return, Kerry made clear that Washington expects Duterte to continue his predecessor’s support for the US “pivot to Asia,” aimed against China.
The Duterte administration has responded with hesitancy to the sweeping ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, which declared on July 12 that China’s nine-dash-line claim in the South China Sea was invalid and its land reclamation activities on islets unlawful. Duterte is attempting to balance between the country’s economic dependence on China and the political and military might of the US.
Washington is seeking to use the PCA ruling as a pretext for a dramatic escalation of its confrontation with China. The White House is looking for the ostensible claimant in the case—the Philippines—to assert its rights in some way on the basis of the ruling.
As the PCA ruling was handed down, US State Department Counselor Kristie Kenney, a former ambassador to the Philippines, traveled to Manila to push for a strong stance. The new government did not oblige, but publicly said it would “research the ruling carefully.” Duterte announced he was appointing former President Fidel Ramos to head a delegation to Beijing to carry out bilateral negotiations over the South China Sea and trade ties.
A week later, a US congressional delegation, headed by Senator Chris Murphy, met with Duterte, and told him the PCA ruling was “non-negotiable” and he should not be engaged in negotiations with China.
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers met from July 21 to 26. Fierce disputes broke out over whether the ASEAN joint communiqué would include reference to the PCA ruling. Kerry attended the summit, pressing repeatedly on the contentious topic of the South China Sea. It was reported at the time that Cambodia, which has close ties to China, blocked the inclusion of the PCA ruling in the communiqué. Phnom Penh issued a statement on July 28 claiming that it was Manila, and Foreign Secretary Yasay, which had the section on the ruling removed from the communiqué. Manila has denied the claim.
Traveling to Manila from Laos, where the ASEAN summit was held, Kerry was the first foreign minister to meet with the new Philippine president. He adopted the tack of using and supporting Duterte’s fascist agenda as a means of securing a stronger position from Manila against China.
On the day of Kerry’s arrival, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled “with finality” that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which provides the US with military bases in the country, was constitutional. The judges turned down the bogus legal challenge to the deal filed by the Maoist umbrella group BAYAN.
In his meeting with Duterte, Kerry highlighted the fact that he and Duterte had a common past as state prosecutors. Like Duterte, he stated, Washington was “committed to fighting the illegal drug trade.”
US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg, who was present at the meeting, told the press that Duterte’s inaugural speech and State of the Nation address revealed that the president was committed to “following due process and respecting human rights.” This is a flagrant lie. The two speeches repeatedly endorsed, in the most vulgar language, the murder of individuals accused of crimes, and granted immunity to the police and vigilantes who carried this out.
Kerry secured from Duterte and Yasay a public commitment that any talks between Manila and Beijing would open with a discussion of the PCA ruling. Beijing has publicly stated that it would not conduct any discussions with Manila on these grounds. Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre announced on Thursday that the ruling would form the “underlining agendum” in any prospective bilateral talks with China
In return for this commitment, Kerry promised $32 million for Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, to be spent on training and supplies for the police and military. Evidence strongly suggests that he also provided Duterte with military intelligence that attempts to connect China with the drug trade in the Philippines.
Kerry concluded his public press conference with Yasay by saying: “I speak for President Obama and his entire administration when I say that we look forward to working with President Duterte.”
Duterte left his meeting with Kerry and immediately convened the National Security Council. It was a nearly unprecedented gathering. Former presidents, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aquino, joined the heads of the legislature and Duterte’s cabinet to discuss three topics: the South China Sea, the peace deal with the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the war on drugs. This was not a photo-op; they met for over five hours.
Duterte then convened a meeting of the mayors of major cities and governors of provinces, organized under the League of Cities and Provinces (LCP) and League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP). He announced the funding he had received from Kerry.
Duterte told his audience that “a country friend of ours” has “provided us with intercepts” which revealed that the transshipment of drugs in the Philippines came from China. He said he could not reveal all the details for security reasons, but the drug wholesale trade was being run entirely by “the Chinese (intsik)” who were based not in the Philippines, but in China. He claimed that the evidence supplied to him revealed that the Chinese were using drug money to “buy judges, fiscals, the police, mayors, governors.”
The president proposed to spend a large portion of the money received from Washington on what he called rehabilitation centers. He described what can only be called concentration camps. Duterte said he was making arrangements for space to be provided in every military facility throughout the country for housing the detained. The detainees “would be placed in barracks” within “high wire encampments.”
Anyone, Durterte stated, “who is no longer of service to humanity” would be detained. Drug users would be rounded up. There were too many for the police to handle. Over 170,000 had surrendered thus far, he claimed. “We don’t need a legal basis for this,” he stated. The state had the right, he asserted, to “lock up” anyone who is insane. And “drug users” were insane.
The next morning, Duterte delivered a speech to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and police and reiterated his claim that a “friendly country” had given evidence that the Chinese were behind the drug trade.
He ominously told his audience: “I want to confront China over this… We can’t start a war with China, but if they invade us that’s a different matter.”
Kerry’s money does not come without strings attached. One can only conclude that the Duterte administration, in league with Washington, is cooking up a provocation of some sort that will be used by the US to greatly intensify pressure on China.

Who Plans the Economy? Imagining Fair and Free Trade

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The way we talk about trade is all wrong. We're told we have two options: the "free" trade status quo or protectionism. But many other possibilities exist, if we are willing to entertain different rules for owning and controlling capital both within and between countries.
To understand "free" trade we need only identify the subjects for whom it is "free." Though "free" trade proponents assume trade is free for all of us, it's really only designed to be free for the owner of productive capital. Fundamentally, "free" trade is designed to keep investment decisions private by limiting the restrictions that national democratic politics can place on capital investment. It's free only for the plutocrat minority who controls our corporations and owns the giant majority of the capital in our country and the world. They remain free to make the investment decisions that determine what industries and jobs will exist, where they will be located, and what will be the terms and pay of employment. These decisions literally shape our world. Whoever gets to make them holds supreme authority in society.
Senator Bernie Sanders recently made a version of this criticism in the op-ed pages of The New York Times. Many economists, including Joseph Stiglitz and Dean Baker, repeatedly argue that "free" trade really just means corporate-managed trade for corporate interests, and that many aspects of "free" trade are not free at all, such as expanded intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical and entertainment corporations that are meant to prevent trade competition.
On the other hand, protectionism empowers national governments to compete to attract international capital investment and to use their own national markets to benefit their own producers of goods and services. A system where countries compete on the terms of investment and marketing of goods and services can only result in trade wars that in the past have always become military wars.
The real problem with the current system is that it is unfair because it creates an increasing concentration of wealth, which effectively disenfranchises economically and politically, the vast majority of people who don't have any wealth. A "free," level playing field for trade and investment places capital that has already been concentrated, in the form of Western corporations, at a great advantage to capital that has yet to be concentrated in the global South. Those with capital can more easily reproduce that capital than those without capital can produce it.
This is why many countries in the global South remain largely cut off from the wealth of the global industrialized economy. "Free" trade, which is designed by powerful countries to prevent an egalitarian distribution of wealth between all countries, has explicitly been our country's preferred imperial strategy since Secretary of State John Hay's articulation of the Open Door Policy at the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth. With the project of genocidal continental expansion complete, "free" trade between economic unequals became the US strategy to promote a cycle of dependence by the global South on the global North. The US was and remains the most economically powerful country, which keeps the global North in charge of the financial services and sale of the manufactured and high-tech products that generate the highest-profit margins.
The same dynamic plays out within countries. Our country's zones of disinvestment -- both urban areas populated primarily by people of color and rural areas mired in decades of poverty -- stand as a testament to our country's colonization by the plutocratic minority which owns our capital. Those who own capital invest it in order to produce more capital. They are not interested in investing in the grocery stores or bank branches that would employ people in areas that lack potential customers with the capacity to pay for their products. Even if they were, paying living wages that might allow employees to begin to build wealth directly conflicts with the capital investor's main goal of return on investment. Without purchasing power, poor communities cannot attract the investment needed to help them build purchasing power. They are marginalized and forgotten by the market society planned by our plutocrats.
In broad terms, the ability of private owners of investment capital to plan the economy according to their own needs, absent any accountability to social needs, is how we've reached a place of unprecedented wealth inequality for post-feudal Western civilization, and it's how wealth inequality in this country continues to track along racial lines.
"Free" Trade Is Neoliberalism's Failure
Discussions about trade that only include the options of "free" trade vs. protectionism are all wrong because they assume that the plutocratic minority that owns our productive capital must remain in control of investment decisions. This is the key assumption at the core of neoliberalism. Either we let the owners do whatever they want (the status quo) or countries compete to make life better for them (protectionism). If neoliberalism's core assumption must be protected, then, yes, those are the only two options. But there is no economic reason why we must remain within the constraints of neoliberalism. We remain there only because neoliberalism is a profitable system for the plutocratic and corporate interests that fund our government.
The limits of neoliberalism are producing huge real world consequences. Just look at the UK's referendum vote to exit the EU. Political leaders, who get elected by aligning themselves with the interests of plutocratic capital, can't offer any relief to the economic suffering that has created growing criticism of the international investment regime. They have given capital free reign, incentivizing capital investment to the max; there is not much left to give. And the plutocrats, who invest their capital primarily to produce more capital, are unable to create widespread prosperity.
Xenophobic demagogues have a tendency to arrive in times like these to channel that suffering toward their own cynical and personal gain. Missing from the conversation has been any attempt to acknowledge the suffering that the current order causes so many Americans (half of the country has zero net assets) and to create an alternative system capable of creating widespread prosperity.
Perhaps the best evidence for the argument that neoliberalism can't produce a trade regime other than "free" trade is that none of the Democrat pundits have been offering any alternatives to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) despite the overwhelming evidence that most voters don't support the agreement. Instead, they offer a seemingly endless stream of op-eds branding Sanders as a protectionist like Donald Trump, presumably hoping to avoid an argument on trade.
As for the rare neoliberal concession to trade reform, Hillary Clinton argues for vague improvements to the TPP's labor and environmental standards, while others propose many bilateral "free" trade agreements instead of one big multilateral TPP. Neither approach would seriously curb the supreme power of private capital, let alone direct capital investment to the goods, services and vast expansion of ownership demanded by our society's obscene wealth inequality and growing economic desperation.
The Limits of Democratic Socialism
Instructively, while Sanders frequently points out that the status quo is not designed to achieve the widespread prosperity it promises, he has not proposed alternative trade and investment rules. Sanders proposes blocking the TPP and creating a $1 trillion public spending program to invest in jobs in this country. But simply blocking the TPP does not place accountability on the private capital controlled by the plutocrats to create full employment, a cost that is in direct opposition to their profit motives. "Free" trade must not just be blocked, but replaced by new rules. However, the key tools of the democratic socialist state -- regulation, taxation, and public spending -- also have their limits.
Progressive free trade agreements -- like those proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus -- that promise to increase protections for labor and the environment, enhance labor's ability to unionize, and impose greater regulations and control on capital are fundamentally the same as today's "free" trade agreements. They protect and expand the power of private capital as our society's supreme authority, like any trade regime that reduces barriers for workers to enter professional sectors, curbs excessive patent and copyright restrictions for which the pharmaceutical and tech industries lobby, and scraps the TPP's corporate authoritarian investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.
The creation of an international social democratic order would not necessarily address the supreme authority we continue to afford private capital. Thomas Piketty's proposal for a global wealth tax is a building block for such an order. As is the proposal for a Global Marshall Plan that redistributes global wealth by taxing wealthy countries to provide for public spending in poor countries. Such schemes would pretty obviously reduce some of the economic suffering produced by the status quo but they would not be able to take us anywhere beyond a society controlled by private capital.
Democratic socialism can curb the worst of capitalism's excesses. But it leaves capital as the dominant partner to labor, an inconvenient reality driving the decades-long rollback of social democracy worldwide since its post-war peak. Just as we need a left that imagines reform beyond democratic socialism, we need international investment and trade rules that shift control from the private owner to the democratic public.
Imagining Alternatives: Economic Democracy
Any real alternative to the current international investment regime requires confronting the power of private plutocratic capital. So what might a new international trade and investment regime look like?
For starters, it must promote a free exchange of goods and services, but, unlike the current system, it must do so on fair terms. The main idea must be that any fair and free trade and investment regime must expand the number of people who have a say in the investment decisions within and between countries that will determine where jobs will exist and on what terms for employees. Such a regime should give everyone a say, especially women, racial minorities, former colonized countries, and people of all minority sexual orientations and other non-mainstream persuasions who have been most marginalized by the plutocratic regime for centuries. Ideally, investment would be made in producers who share with employees, or better still, where all employees are owners. In short, a fair and free investment and trade regime needs to redefine the rights of capital by subordinating capital rights to human rights.
The sociologist Johanna Bockman analyzes the last attempt to create such an international order by the world's relatively poor countries at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1964.
UNCTAD, which included on an equal basis all nation-states recognized by the UN, pursued what Raúl Prebisch, the Argentinian economist and UNCTAD's first secretary general, called a "new international economic order." It sought to upend the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the contemporary international "free" trade and investment order, which effectively enforced the old colonial trading arrangements whereby former colonies, instead of developing their own manufacturing capacity, provided the colonizers with the raw materials needed for their high-margin manufactured goods. Yet, complicating the current false choice offered between the "free" trade status quo and protectionism, UNCTAD advocated for trade liberalization and opposed protectionism.
In order to build an international trade and investment order that could benefit all countries, UNCTAD called for "structural adjustment" of the international economy of a sort just a bit different from the austerity, privatization and trade liberalization programs of the same name that the International Monetary Fund has since imposed around the world. On structural adjustment, the Final Act of the 1964 UNCTAD conference stated: "Developed countries should assist the developing countries in their efforts to speed up their economic and social progress, should cooperate in measures taken by developing countries for diversifying their economies, and should encourage appropriate adjustments in their own economies to this end."
This meant moving parts of the most profitable industries, concentrated in the wealthy Global North countries, to the Global South. It would have required either public capital investment or coercion of private capital to invest toward this purpose. These economic goals would have either displaced private capital with public investment or publically imposed accountability on private capital investment.
"Structural adjustment" would require time and the creation throughout the world of organic democratic organizations capable of facilitating democratic ownership and control of industry.
The Mondragon Corporation in Spain's Basque region and the ecosystem supporting cooperative economics in Italy's Emilia Romagna region offer models for how this could begin to play out at scale. Both models are built around worker-owned cooperatives, the expansion of which has been financed by cooperative development loan funds that are capitalized by public spending and the profits made by member cooperatives. Whereas the Mondragon network is highly centralized, like a Western corporation owned by workers and run by worker-elected management and union leadership, the Emilia Romagna model is more decentralized, defined by state tax exemptions for coop retained earnings and state regulations requiring coops to reinvest significant portions of their profits and contribute to a coop loan fund of their choosing.
Targeted tariffs could help aid a transition toward democratic ownership and control of resources throughout the world. David Schweickart has argued for a socialist tariff whereby international goods face an entry tax into a national market, subsidizing domestic goods, with the tax's revenue returned to the country whose goods were taxed. With a socialist tariff, countries could incentivize the democratization of their own industry -- and protect it from international competition -- while also helping to finance similar democratization of industry abroad. Similarly, in Making a Place for Community: Local Democracy in a Global Era, Thad Williamson, David Imbroscio and Gar Alperovitz argue for tariffs on goods whose entry into the US would tend to undercut the principle of nurturing just, sustainable and secure communities. The idea is to use tariffs to favor goods produced by democratically owned and controlled capital at home and throughout the world.
Any systemic solution to inequality and mass economic deprivation will need to expand the amount and types of people who get to make the investment decisions that determine where industry and jobs will exist and at what pay. The current "free" trade regime is anathema to this conception of economic democracy. We need trade rules that allow all of us together to plan the investment that will shape our society, not just the plutocrats who currently finance and control both of our country's dominant political parties. And to achieve the promise of a democratic society, we must begin to develop institutions capable of actually placing investment decision-making in the hands of the people.

War and the Democratic National Convention

Go To Original
The Democratic Party’s 2016 national convention is unfolding as a carefully scripted and staged infomercial in which this right-wing capitalist party, tied at the hip to Wall Street and the Pentagon, postures as some sort of popular representative of the people.
Amidst the humanitarian moralizing and sentimental declarations of universal brotherhood, one thing that is absent is any serious discussion of what kind of foreign policy a Clinton administration would pursue.
Despite fifteen years of the “war on terror,” the convention’s headline speakers made no mention of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, the death of Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi or the White House’s drone assassination program. This silence is all the more extraordinary given the fact that the Obama administration is the first in US history that has been at war throughout two full terms in office.
The real decision-makers know, however, that in the background of the 2016 elections are escalating military tensions with Russia and China that raise the danger of world war between nuclear-armed powers.
None of the convention’s speakers saw fit to mention the fact that the Obama administration has committed to go to war with Russia if the highly unstable, right-wing governments of Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia launch a provocation against it.
There was likewise no mention of the fact that the vice president is meeting this week with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte—who has threatened to suspend the country’s Congress and has personally bragged about murdering 1,700 people—in order to strengthen the anti-China alliance.
The absence of any discussion of substantive foreign policy issues is all the more striking given recent warnings of a looming great-power conflict from foreign policy journals, military think tanks and high-ranking military officials.
This month, Dennis Blair, the former commander of US forces in the Pacific, told a congressional hearing that, contrary to current policy, the United States should be “willing to use military force” if China seeks to assert its claims to a set of rocks in the South China Sea that are also claimed by the Philippines. Such a conflict, provoked over dubious territorial claims by a US ally on the opposite side of the world, would have a high likelihood of ending in a nuclear exchange that results in hundreds of millions, or even billions, of deaths.
Chinese officials, under no illusions as to what such statements signify, declared in the state-controlled Global Times, “China hopes disputes can be resolved by talks, but it must be prepared for any military confrontation.”
In the latest issue of the journal Foreign Affairs, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt state, “There are regions outside the Western Hemisphere that are worth expending American blood and treasure to defend.” The authors add, “In Europe and Northeast Asia, the chief concern is the rise of a regional hegemon that would dominate its region, much as the United States dominates the Western Hemisphere.”
With regard to Russia, leading generals are calling for an even more maniacal policy than that being proposed against China. Richard Shirreff, NATO’s former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, has suggested that a war with Russia could well take place next year in a book bluntly titled, 2017: War with Russia: An Urgent Warning from Senior Military Command.
Shirreff has developed these points in a strategy paper entitled Arming for Deterrence, released this week by the US-based Atlantic Council think tank. He declared that Russia has the capacity and possible intention to invade the US’s Baltic allies “overnight.” To this end, in a plan of Hitlerian madness, he proposes to convert Poland, currently under the grip of an authoritarian right-wing government, into a military spearhead against Russia. Poland must “reserve the right to attack Russian targets” preemptively, become a staging ground for nuclear weapons and publish “a potential list of targets” inside Russia.
The prospect of a war with Russia after the election is openly being discussed in policy circles, with the National Interest declaring in its most recent cover story, entitled “Russia and America: Destined for Conflict?”, “Relations between the two sides have deteriorated to dangerous levels… If Moscow refuses to oblige, Washington should do whatever is necessary to protect its interests.”
In fact, Hillary Clinton is the most open advocate of military intervention to win the Democratic nomination in recent memory.
As Mark Landler, author of Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power, put it earlier this year, “For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.”
As Secretary of State, Clinton proved to be a more open advocate of military force than Obama. “On bedrock issues of war and peace,” writes Landler, “Clinton’s more activist philosophy…collided” with Obama’s “instincts toward restraint.”
The fact that Obama, who as the New York Times noted in May, “has now been at war longer than Mr. Bush, or any other American president,” is presented as an example of military restraint is a testament to Clinton’s credentials as a warmonger.
In addition to calling for more aggressive military intervention than Obama in Afghanistan and Iraq, Clinton “pressed for the United States to funnel arms to the rebels in Syria’s civil war (an idea Obama initially rebuffed before later, halfheartedly, coming around to it).” She privately demanded that Obama set up a no-fly zone in Syria after declarations by the US military/intelligence apparatus in 2013 that Syrian President Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons, declaring, “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”
Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence analyst who conducted Obama’s initial review on the Afghanistan war, told Landler, “One of the surprises for…the military was...that they have a secretary of state who’s a little bit right of them on [military] issues—a little more eager than they are.”
Writing in the National Interest, Yale professor David Bromwich observed the growing convergence between the policies of Clinton, her “left” apologists and the neoconservatives who helped launch the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“The past few weeks have cemented an extraordinary alliance to defeat Trump that joins two foreign-policy sects that were never entirely distinct: the neoconservatives who commandeered the Bush-Cheney foreign policy of 2001-2006, and liberal interventionists who supported the Iraq war, the Libya war, an expanded program of drone killings, and military intervention in Syria beyond what the Obama administration has allowed.”
He notes, “With a spate of recent articles and op-eds, these people are preparing the ground for Hillary Clinton to assert that the Russian government is in league with the Trump campaign, and that Russia has intervened in the election by releasing hacked Democratic National Committee emails to embarrass Clinton.”
This campaign has been led by the New York Times, whose resident Clinton apologist, Paul Krugman, declared Donald Trump to be a “Siberian candidate” and a proxy for Putin, whom Clinton is determined to oppose.
This theme was taken up in the form of abbreviated remarks by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright at the DNC last night. Albright denounced Russia with a ferocity unheard of since the end of the Cold War. Bemoaning that her “native Czechoslovakia had been taken over by Communists,” Albright declared, “Take it from someone who fled the Iron Curtain, I know what happens when you give the Russians a green light.”
The US ruling class has historically waited to implement long-prepared military escalations until after elections, and the coming year poses enormous dangers. Regardless of who is elected, the struggle against war is the central issue in the building of an independent movement of the working class in the United States and around the world.