Octavio Paz

Through the Labyrinth

1960s: Days of Rage


Octavio Paz Lozano (March 31, 1914 – April 19, 1998) was a Mexican poet and diplomat. For his body of work, he was awarded the 1981 Miguel de Cervantes Prize, the 1982 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and the 1990 Nobel Prize in Literature.  … In 1965, he married Marie-José Tramini, a French woman who would be his wife for the rest of his life. In October 1968, he resigned from the diplomatic service in protest of the Mexican government’s massacre of student demonstrators in Tlatelolco. After staying in Paris for refuge, he returned to Mexico in 1969. … A prolific author and poet, Paz published scores of works during his lifetime, many of which have been translated into other languages. His poetry has been translated into English by Samuel Beckett, Charles Tomlinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Muriel Rukeyser and Mark Strand. His…

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Eine Welt voller Lügen! Wo soll es hinführen?

Kaufen Sie keine Zeitschriften des Mainstream mehr, schalten Sie Radio und Fernseher aus und Ihren Kopf an!

Morbus ignorantia - Krankheit Unwissen

Ich glaube an die Wahrheit

Sie zu suchen, nach ihr zu

forschen in und um uns,

muß unser höchstes Ziel sein.

 

Damit dienen wir vor allem

dem Gestern und dem Heute.

 

Ohne Wahrheit gibt es keine

Sicherheit und keinen Bestand!

 

Fürchtet nicht, wenn die

ganze Meute aufschreit.

Denn nicht ist auf dieser Welt

so gehaßt und gefürchtet, wie die Wahrheit.

 

Letzten Endes wir jeder

Widerstand gegen die Wahrheit

zusammenbrechen wie

die Nacht vor dem Tag!

 

Theodor Fontane

Seit vielen Jahren plagt mich die Frage: Versteht die Menschheit eigentlich, was man ihr durch die Machthaber dieser Welt antun möchte? Dieser und ähnlicher Fragen möchte ich in diesem Artikel nachgehen.

Als in den 1990iger Jahren einige Planungen über die „New World Order“ einer größeren Menschenmenge bekannt wurde, berichtete man im bescheidenen Kreise der bereits damals schon erwachten Menschen darüber. Während man sich im gerade zusammen gebrochenen Ostblock…

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Wann spürte ich das erste Mal, dass ich mich als Deutscher in einem Irrenhaus befand?

Friede ist nur durch Freiheit, Freiheit nur durch Wahrheit möglich.

Conservo

(www.conservo.wordpress.com)

Von Siegmar Faust *)

Ich las einst während einer Zugfahrt im FOCUS:

„Merkelsteuer, das wird teuer.“ So trommelten die Sozialdemokraten im Wahlkampf 2005. Denn CDU-Chefin Merkel kündigte eine Mehrwertsteuererhöhung um zwei Prozentpunkte an. Die SPD versprach: So etwas gibt es mit uns nicht.

Dann gingen Union und SPD eine Koalition ein – und siehe da, die Mehrwertsteuer wurde um drei Prozentpunkte erhöht, sie stieg von 16 auf 19 Prozent.

Wenn das nicht irre ist, was dann? Wessen Interessen vertreten solche Politiker eigentlich? Als Kompromiss hätte ja 17 Prozent herauskommen dürfen, aber nun gleich drei Prozent nach oben? Womit hatte die neue Bundeskanzlerin die SPD-Führung so in die Knie zwingen können?

Seitdem wurde ich etwas wachsamer, denn die Widersprüche von Politikern lernte ich schon während der Endzeit der „DDR“ kennen. Denn als ehemaliger „DDR“-Bewohner, der seit 1976 im Westen lebte, war ich deshalb besonders sensibilisiert. Was da für…

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Neofeudalism: The End of Capitalism?

The road to serfdom

WebInvestigator.KK.org - by F. Kaskais

Marcus • Leis Allion (@_MLA) | Twitter

By Jodi Dean

IN CAPITAL IS DEAD, McKenzie Wark asks: What if we’re not in capitalism anymore but something worse? The question is provocative, sacrilegious, unsettling as it forces anti-capitalists to confront an unacknowledged attachment to capitalism. Communism was supposed to come after capitalism and it’s not here, so doesn’t that mean we are still in capitalism? Left unquestioned, this assumption hinders political analysis. If we’ve rejected strict historical determinism, we should be able to consider the possibility that capitalism has mutated into something qualitatively different. Wark’s question invites a thought experiment: what tendencies in the present indicate that capitalism is transforming itself into something worse?

Over the past decade, “neofeudalism” has emerged to name tendencies associated with extreme inequality, generalized precarity, monopoly power, and changes at the level of the state. Drawing from libertarian economist Tyler Cowen’s emphasis on the permanence of extreme inequality in the global, automated…

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Lockerbie – Three Decades of Lies: J’Accuse…! [Chapter I : A week in December]

Destroying Libya…

Intel Today

“The truth must be known.”

Motto of the Pan Am 103 passengers’ families

     “Your government and ours know exactly what happened but they are never going to tell.”

US President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (London, February 12 1990) [1]

May 18 2020 —  On this day 30 years ago, Dr. Jim Swire boarded British Airways Flight 177, London’s Heathrow airport to New York’s JFK. Inside his luggage, Dr. Swire had hidden a suspicious device.

This good friend of mine had carried a fake bomb onto the aircraft as a demonstration of lax security. Today, I post the first chapter of my book “Lockerbie — Three Decades of Lies: J’Accuse…!” free for all of you to read, learn and enjoy. Following chapters will be posted every Monday for the next 10 weeks.  Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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A modest search for truth – 2

Châlons_-_Mau_(1)Remembered pictures, scenes, objects from childhood sometimes give us clues as to our way of thinking, as to the questions that keep haunting us. The small town where I grew up had, in those days, a single dancing locale, which was, on Saturday evenings, the meeting place for the young, the not so young, and visitors. Among those were American GIs, whose campment was hidden in the dark pine forests, planted in the Second Empire, that surrounded the town. There they would stay until, in 1967, De Gaulle, in a spirit of national independence, withdrew the French military from the joint command of NATO, and sent SHAPE packing from their palatial abode in Fontainebleau to Brussels.

In my childhood, my friends and I looked at those tall and strangely spoken gum-chewing fellows, riding their huge trucks and noisy jeeps, as we wondered who they really were, and what they were (still) doing there. Particularly entertaining were Saturday nights, when I was allowed out a little late, as we witnessed the Military Police, helmetted and brassarded, collecting the bodies of recalcitrant or far too-drunk-to-move GIs. Everyone was well behaved, and only occasionally the MPs used their long truncheons to calmly herd the unruly. Especially well-behaved were the chaps of the Combat Engineers battalion, stationed within the US campus, all black soldiers, and seggregated as was then the entire US army. These men had seen real combat in Germany, and were, for us, a subject of amazement and deep interest. They were even taller than the others, always impeccably dressed in their strange uniforms, and among them were, mysteriously, very good French speakers. During the frequent maneuvres, their GMCs crossed villages and country roads, gratifying the local urshins with oranges, various sweets and the highly valued gum. My childhood impressions of the US military presence were benevolence and gigantism.

These days have long gone, but the childish questions, after several decades, have remained, transformed by adulthood, experience, and the flow of history:

  1. What were the American troops still doing in Europe, more than a decade after the end of the war?
  2. What are they still doing here now, thirty years after the end of the Cold War?
  3. How is it that US Foreign Policy appears, at least since 1945, to have been unchanged, through wars and cataclysms, irrespective of whose majority holds Congress, and which president sits in the White House?

(Image: Par Fab5669 — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32658017)

 

The puzzle of Empire

62FBNFYRGZHOHGEYTKQPMP7VRUI had read in Arrighi that the Vietnam war had been the “signal crisis” of American hegemony. However it took me until 2006, the publishing date of The Peace of Illusions, American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present, to gather some of the main pieces of the puzzle. The author, Christopher Layne, is University Distinguished Professor of International Affairs, and Robert M. Gates Chair in National Security at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Mr Layne explains in his book the rationale for the Post-World War II US Hegemony in Europe, and in Eurasia, and hence America’s role in the world. This is a work of thorough academic-historical research, unbiased by ideology. Mr Layne is a realist, who unravels the causes, motivations and consequential costs of the US hegemonic strategy. In the following the emphasis is mine (except in bold) :

Since the early 1940s, the United States has pursued a grand strategy of extraregional hegemony. From the standpoint of neorealist theory, this is puzzling. The historical record shows that hegemonic grand strategies invariably have proved self-defeating, because they result in counterhegemonic balancing and/or imperial overstretch […] The puzzle is explained partially by the fact that America’s geostrategic position in the international system is sui generis. Unlike Europe’s great powers – which could attain security only by establishing hegemony  on the Continent – the United States has not needed to seek security through extraregional hegemony. Because of military capabilities and geography, since its emergence as a great power, the United States  has been extraordinarily secure. Moreover, before 1945 America’s security was bolstered by the fact that Europe’s great powers had to focus their strategic attention on threats close to home and were unable, therefore, to build up the power projection capabilities to seek extraregional hegemony.

Unlike Europe, the Western Hemisphere was a power vacuum rather than a multipolar system, which allowed the United States to attain regional hegemony. America’s uniques status as the only regional hegemon in the international system was a launching pad for US pursuit of extraregional hegemony. The stopping power of water did not prevent the United States from extending its hegemony to Western Europe after Word War II. Combined with military capabilities, water (or, more correctly, geography) often is a barrier to great power expansion, because it is difficult to project great power over long distances. However, the “stopping power of water” is not an ironclad rule. As America’s experience demonstrates, distance is not invariably an insurmontable obstacle to the attainment of extraregional hegemony. The United States was able to establish its extraregional hegemony on the Continent after World War II because Western Europe was a power vacuum, the United States had overwhelming military capabilities, and it was the beneficiary of sheer good luck (the war ended with a massive US military presence on the Continent.

Thus Layne explains how the US pursuit of hegemony, outside its natural sphere of influence (the Western Hemisphere), at the end of Word War II was possible. This is no surprise: with the Soviet Union, England and all West European countries on their knees, the vacuum was economic, human and military. By comparison the US were an economic and military superpower, without competitors. But why pursuing hegemony?

If security did not drive America’s postwar pursuit of extraregional hegemony, what did? That question is best answered by extraregional hegemony theory, a neoclassical realist theory of US grand strategy. After World War II, the presence of American military power in Europe, the shift in the distribution of power between the United States and Europe in America’s favor as a result of the war, and America’s hard power capabilities provided the opportunity and means for the United States to seek hegemony in Western Europe. But what were the motivations animating US grand strategy? The answer is found at the domestic level: the economic and political Open Doors – in other words, America’s liberal (Wilsonian) ideology – caused the United States to seek hegemony.

The Open Doors is a complex set of linkages among economic and political (ideological) openness abroad, America’s prosperity, and the security of its core values domestically. Since World War II, the Open Doors has reflected what present-day US policymakers call the virtuous circle (which is based on circular logic): international economic openness and the spread of Americam ideology abroad create peace and security for the United States, and the US military presence in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East creates the conditions that allow for international economic openness and the spread of American ideology. By the same token , the Open Doors posits that closure abroad – either economic or ideological – would endanger the safety of America’s core values at home by forcing the United States to adopt regimented economic policies and to become a garrison state. In essence, the Open Doors substituted an open-ended, ideological, and de-territorialized definition of American security for a more traditional conception of security based on the international system’s distribution of power. That is, it divorced the concept of security from defense of the American Homeland and, instead, ultimately defined security ideationally […]

The Open Doors posits that the United States can be secure – that its domestic political and economic system can survive – only if it enjoys absolute security. Unsurprisingly, therefore, even as World War II was still being fought, US postwar planners had concluded that the United States needed to aim for unipolarity. To this end, Washington used its economic leverage to reduce Britain to an adjunct to American power and its military muscle to ensure Germany and Japan never again could reemerge as great powers. During the late 1940s and the 1950s, US policy makers also aspire to eliminate the Soviet Union as a great power by fomenting internal dissention and “rolling back” the Soviet empire in East Central Europe. However, this aspiration – which never entirely disappeared as an element in America’s cold war strategy toward the Soviet Union – ran up against the harsh realities of the nuclear revolution, and its realization had to be deferred.

Thus, I finally uncovered the truth about the continued presence of American forces, and the ideology that fired US hegemonic ambitions since the 1940s. Layne’s analysis also clarifies the reasons for the peculiar predicament of the European Union.

Postwar US grand strategy toward Western Europe was based on the perception that America’s prosperity and its domestic political stability were linked inextricably to an open Western Europe and that, by fostering peace, an open international economic system would contribute to US security. US policymakers believed that economic openness could not take root in Western Europe if the Continent reverted to multipolar power politics. In this respect, America’s postwar Western European grand strategy was neither cold war-driven nor counterhegemonic. The aims of that strategy had been decided on even before World War II had ended, and they required the United States to establish its own hegemony on the Continent. As the cold war unfolded, it was superimposed on this preexisting grand strategic foundation. Even if there had been no Soviet threat, the United States would have maintained a permanent military presence in Western Europe, because the attainment of its economic Open Doors aims compelled it to act as Western Europe’s stabilizer (or “pacifier”) to keep the Western Europeans – especially the French and the Germans – from being at each other’s throats.

The United States also wanted to make certain that Western Europe did not emerge as an independent pole of power – a “third force” – in the international system. Thus the United States had to keep the Western Europeans together economically but apart strategically to prevent them from coalescing and contesting US hegemony. Hence, the United States  promoted Western European integration to “de-nationalize” the foreign and security policies of the Western European states, and it established its hegemony  on the Continent to subordinate the Western Europeans to American leadership in the realms of “high politics”. The most important piece of evidence supporting this explanation is the fact that although the cold war ended some fifteen years ago [Layne writes c. 2005], the United States has not given up its hegemonic role on the Continent and has opposed the European Union’s emergence as an independent strategic pole of power in the international system […]

By many measures, America’s grand strategy from 1945 to 1991 indeed was successful – but not without a price. Not only did US postwar grand strategy impose great costs – and serious risks – on the United States, but the cold war obscured from view America’s underlying hegemonic ambitions and the costs of pursuing them. Some of these costs are tangible, measured in the opportunity cost of trillions of dollars diverted from other – arguably more economically productive and socially benefitial – uses to pursuing US global ambitions […] Other costs were more subtle: the expansion of state power, the accretion power in the imperial presidency (and the concomitant diminution of congressional authority in the realm of foreign affairs), the decay of traditional social institutions, and a general coarsening of public discourse. Ironically, US officials claimed that America’s post-World War II grand strategy would prevent the United States from becoming a garrison state. Instead, the United States became […] a national security state – a point made by Eisenhower when he warned of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex”.

Image: The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, destroyer Russell and cruiser Bunker Hill conduct routine operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean. (MC2 Anthony Rivera/U.S. Navy) – source

The dominant elites

Red_Sea_Summit_in_Aqaba

Why has the United States stuck so long with its hegemonic strategy? Were US policymakers foolish, or were they willfully indifferent  to the burdens placed on the United States by its grand strategy? The answer is both complex (a topic worthy of a book in its own right) and yet simple. In his book Myths of Empire, Jack Snyder talks about elites “highjacking” the state. This fails to make the point quite strongly enough. Dominant elites do not hijack the state; they are the state. The United States has pursued hegemony because that grand strategy has served the interests of the dominant elites that have formed the core of the US foreign policy establishment since at least the late 1930s, when the New Deal resulted in the domestic political triumph of what Thomas Ferguson calls “multinational liberalism” [“From Normalcy to New Deal“, 1984]. At the core of the multinational liberal coalition were large capital-intensive corporations that looked to overseas markets and outward-looking investment banks. This coalition displaced the so-called system of 1896, which was organized around labor-intensive industries that favored economic nationalism and opposed strategic internationalism.

The multinational liberal coalition that cemented its hold on power during the New Deal had its roots deep in the Eastern establishment; it also included the national media, important foundations, the big Wall Street law firms, and organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations. This coalition favored economic and political Open Doors and the strategic internationalism that accompanied them. Although the bipartisan consensus among the US foreign policy establishment favoring strategic internationalism and US hegmony that was forged some six decades ago has occasionally been tested – notably during the Vietnam War – it has proved remarkably durable. Unless it undergoes a Damascene-like intellectual conversion, as long as the present foreign policy elite remains in power the United States will remain wedded to a hegemonic grand strategy. It probably will take a major domestic political realignment –  perhaps triggered by setbacks abroad or a severe economic crisis at home – to bring about a change in American grand strategy.

Layne concludes his analysis by considering if and how the United States could distance itself from its hegemonic grand strategy in order to preserve its own interests. We are now reading The Peace of Illusions fifteen years after its publication. In this “modest search for truth”, we accept that it provides a very clear and convincing demonstration as to why US foreign policy appears to have been constant, since the 1940s, in its pursuit for global dominance and hegemony. Yet some questions remain unresolved (emphasis mine).

In Thomas Ferguson paper, quoted by Layne, its author intends to “outline the major elements of the coalition that triumphantly came together during and after Roosevelt Second New Deal – the coalition that, in its successive mutations, dominated American politics until Jimmy Carter […] I sketch the systematic, patterned disintegration of the System of 1896 and the simultaneous emergence of another New Deal bloc, whose interests and ideology shaped what can conveniently be termed ‘multinational liberalism'” The full title of Ferguson’s 1984 essay is “From Normalcy to New Deal: industrial structure, party competition, and American public policy in the Great Depression”. Did Ferguson mean that the “coalition” ceased to be dominant under, or after, the Carter presidency, or that its objectives, and hence American politics, then changed and took another direction?

Yet Layne asserts, in 2005, that no such change ever took place:

It is often said, with respect to US grand strategy, that the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington DC, “changed everything”. But they did not. After 9/11 – as before – geopolitical dominance has been the ambition of the United States. If anything, 9/11 gave Bush II administration’s “hegemonists” a convenient – indeed, almost providential – rationale for implementing policies they would have wanted to pursue in any event, including “regime change” in Iraq (and possibly Iran); the projection of US power into the Middle East and Central Asia; a massive five-year defense buildup […] and a nuclear strategy that aims at attaining meaningful nuclear superiority over peer competitiors and simultaneously ensuring that regional powers cannot develop the capacity to deter US military intervention abroad. In short, the Bush II administration has sought security by expanding US power and pursuing hegemony. In this respect it has stayed on – not left – the grand strategic path followed by the United States since the early 1940s.

In considering the merits of Layne’s arguments, some fifteen years later, one must observe that, judging by results, the main outcomes of the Bush II administration’s – and its successors’ – initiatives in Central Asia and the Middle East, appear now to be opposite to the grand strategic aims. While the global US military presence, the expansion of NATO, and the bloated defense budget, public and hidden, remain constants of American foreign policy, the Iraq and Afghanistan fiascos imposed a heavy cost on American credibility and influence, a blow to the hegemonic ambition. If Vietnam was America’s hegemon “signal crisis”, according to Arrighi, was the second Iraq war not an ignominous sign of its decline? Is this the inevitable result of the “self-defeating” grand strategy?

Especially in the Middle East, the US lost friends, failed to succeed in their regime change ambition in Syria (assuming regime change was the objective), and, worst of all, was unable to prevent the armed intrusion, in Syria, at the heart of this most strategic area, of a dreaded “regional power”, the Russian Federation. It must be legitimate to ask who really benefited from the “providential” events of 2001 and the actions of the Bush II “hegemonists”.

In the following posts we will investigate the apparent contradictions of the grand strategy in recent history, as well as attempt to answer this last question: who benefited? To achieve this we will have to look back at some of the influences that may have inflected US foreign policy and its actors.

For a European left critic of Christopher Layne’s book, see “A Radical Realist“.

Image: President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, President Bush, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in June 2003. source

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A modest search for truth – 3 >>

A modest search for truth – 1

PoilusreposWhy history?

From an early age I was interested in history. I remember poring over my parents’s Grand Larousse illustré, probably a 1920’s edition, the beautiful tables of uniforms, grades and weapons of the belligerents of the Great War, and articles, once I could read, detailing the manoeuvres and strategies of the heroes of the allied victory. Later, I would discover the Empire and the myth of Bonaparte’s greatness. Already I had questions. My paternal grand father had come back in 1918, gassed and fatally wounded only to die the year of my dad’s birth in 1920. This was the great tragedy of my grand mother’s life, and hence of my parents. My father had been a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II, and had told me of his experience, as a young engineer, drafted to the german war effort. Compared with many other prisoners his life had been then relatively privileged: his skills were required, the war in the East demanded superior engines and mechanical acumen. My dad told me also about the others, Russian prisoners treated like slaves, and the horror of cities reduced to cinder: Stuttgart, where he lived and worked for four years, was reduced to ashes by US phosphorous bombs in 1944.

The more I understood, the more questions I had. History was to remain my strongest subject, even stronger than mathematics, during all my school years. In the late 50’s I listened to the news on the radio, and I was aware of, and would remember, dates of important events, 1953 (death of Joseph Stalin), 1954 (Dien-Bien-Phu), 1956 (Hungary uprising), and others. In 1958 I was well aware of the war in North Africa, and of the events of 13 May. I would become, later, a student of Charles de Gaulle’s life. De Gaulle had for me the fascination of belonging to two worlds: that of the first World War, of the Russian revolution – he had been as a young officer detached to the Polish army in its fight against the Bolcheviks – and what I knew: post-War France, the narratives of the Resistance, England and the last colonial wars.

My parents, my brother and I, lived then in a small town of Eastern France, surrounded by the ever present artefacts of a long history. In the small nearby village of Varennes, in 1791, Louis XVI and his family had been arrested on their flight to the émigrés and Austrian armies; at a short distance from the town were the Champs Catalauniques, where the tradition locates the final battle against the Huns’ of Attila, fought by a coalition of Romans, Gaules and Germanic warriors. All around, WWI munitions littered the chalky ground, sometimes buried just below the surface: the landscape was a battlefield. Every autumn farmers died, after their plough had hit a 75mmm unexploded shell. A little further to the North-East was the Ardennes, and just across the Belgian border the site of the last Nazi offensive of the Western front in 1945, the battle of the Bulge.

On 22 November 1963, in the evening, I was sitting enjoying a film at the small local cine club organised by students of the local engineers school. At the pause one of the organisers came on stage, visibly shocked, and announced that the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had been assassinated in Dallas. We were stunned to total silence. It was incredible, beyond belief, and suddenly a wave of questions submerged the mind of this sixteen year-old. How can this be? Where is Dallas? Why? Who? What happens now?

Those questions stayed in my mind ever since. On 11 September, 2001, and many times in-between, similar questions came to haunt me. I kept questioning, about current events, the frequent outrages that marred this period of our lives we called the Cold War, and those real wars that followed, but also about the past, about history. To this day I cannot imagine how anyone, uninterested in history, who does not read history, can ever understand anything about the world where we live in. Yet a majority of people do not care, or seem to care. I have also wondered why that was.

I am now looking more systematically for answers, through common sense, patient research, and reading authors who matter.

Image: « Tranchée de première ligne : groupe de poilus devant l'entrée d'un abri ». Bois d'Hirtzbach, Haut-Rhin, France. Autochrome. Paul Castelnau base mémoire Ministère de la Culture (France) - Médiathèque de l'architecture et du patrimoine - diffusion RMN, N° photographie CA 000500

 

After the war

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Being born two years after the end of the second World War, the war itself, as well as the events that preceded and followed it, weighed heavily on my youthful and later adult reflections. The war itself, the occupation of France, the war in the East and the Pacific, were full of mysteries, as well as extreme horrors. There were questions at every corner, as I attempted to unmask the undisputed historical facts: the origins of the war, which I saw as the second even more hideous chapter of World War I, who had funded the Nazis, indeed who were the Nazis, why had Hitler launched Barbarossa, why had the Soviet armies retreated for the whole of 1941… what was the truth about the Resistance.

Much later I would read Christopher Clarke’s The Sleepwalkers, about the origins of WWI, and even later, as I came to live in Berlin, started to unpack the history of the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War. Memorials to the Red Army are everywhere in and around Berlin. I read Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad, Chris Bellamy’s Absolute War, and more recently, Visaly Grossman’s Stalingrad (aka For a Just Cause) and its sequel, Life and Fate.  Christopher Clarke’s Time and Power caused me to question historical motivations, the “why?” gradually becoming enmeshed with “where in history?” This concept of the position of events, and of the decisions that led to them, were shaped by how the leading actors saw themselves in history, became to my mind, the right key to dissipate the confusion of events. I know now that the “official” version of everything is often only part of the truth, and sometimes, not even that. Reading Grossman convinced me to put in writing these thoughts, as a clarification, for my own sake, perhaps even as a justification, for the time I spend now reading history. Another motivation came after reading Laurent Guyénot 50 Years of Deep State, that brought me back to my early years, 22 November 1963, and 11 September 2001.

Image: Soviet War Memorial, Schönholzer Heide, Berlin

 

Childhood

Robert S. McNamara and General Westmoreland in Vietnam 1965.pngAs I reached some degree of maturity in my professional life in the 70’s, I was well aware that, until then, my generation, the generation of the Cold War, had benefited, in Europe and the US, of very privileged conditions, the so-called golden years of the Post-War period, whose demise was sign-posted as the Viet-Nam war was drawing to an end. I was equally aware that this prosperity was not everywhere, and not even equally, here, in Europe. As I would go to work and live in the UK, I built up experience in different sectors of activity, the defence industry, telecommunications, financial services and public services, and, as any thirty year old with a family, often forgot about history. However I would take an interest in economics, and more questions came my way: about consumerism, the long downturn, the waves of deregulations of the finance sector, the rise of neo-liberalism and the spectacle society. I realised that the transformation of society through the spectacle, as predicted in 1967 by Guy Debord, was a powerful process that depoliticised opinion, made Margaret Thatcher’s assertion that “there is no alternative” into a new creed, and the Mainstream media the main instrument of untruth. Then I understood untruth to be not the opposite, but the dilution of truth, in order to mask the real intents, and, of course, who the perpetrators were, à qui le crime profite. People were, are, fed stories that may have only a faint grounding in reality, just enough to make them appear plausible. The reasons, I suspected, were not a world-wide conspiracy, but rather the necessities of oligarchies determined to preserve their privileges and guarantee their own survival.

Image: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and General Westmoreland talk with General Tee on conditions of the war in Vietnam. Department of Defense. Department of the Navy. U.S. Marine Corps.

 

Sources

Russland, Paulus und v. Seydlitz-Kurzbach

I discovered The Long Twentieth Century of Giovanni Arrighi , and the writings of Robert Brenner. On the way, David Harvey, Ha-Joon Chang and Christopher Layne helped me to see some light. Assisted by those sources, and others, I propose to try and explain what, for me, untruth now means. Over those years the writers who attracted my attention belonged to two species: first there were the visionaries and witnesses, who through fictional work recreated the worlds they knew, as realist painters describe nature. They are, for example, Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, die Kameraden, Vasily Grossman, Albert Camus, La Peste, Max Gallo, Les Patriotes, Bao Ninh, The Sorrow of War. Those authors inspired me to look further, to gain a deeper understanding of history. I knew about the horrors of the Viet-Nam wars before I read Bao Ninh. But after reading his book I thought about it in another, deeper way.

Kien knows the area well. It was here, at the end of the dry season of 1969, that his Battalion 27 was surrounded and almost totally wiped out. Ten men survived from the Unlucky Battalion, after fierce, horrible, barbarous fighting.

That was the dry season when the sun burned harshly, the wind blew fiercely, and the enemy sent napalm spraying through the jungle and a sea of fire enveloped them, spreading like the fires of hell. Troops in the fragmented companies tried to regroup, only to be blown out of their shelters again as they went mad, became disoriented and threw themselves into nets of bullets, dying in the flaming inferno. Above them the helicopters flew at tree-top height and shot them almost one by one, the blood spreading out, spraying from their backs, flowing like red mud.

The diamond-shaped grass clearing was piled high with bodies, killed by helicopters gunships. Broken bodies, bodies blown apart, bodies vaporised.

(The Sorrow of War)

I want to mention here William T. Vollmann, Europe Central, whose reconstruction of some of the characters and actors of WWII and Soviet Russia, belongs to a very special category, that of the imaginary, yet beautifully researched, representation of historical actors (for example his account of Lieutnant-General Friedrich Paulus in The Last Field-Marshal.)

The explainers, Arrighi, Harvey, Brenner, Layne, Guyénot, are the historians, analysts, economists, scientists who help to make sense of the realities behind events and headlines, who give us the intellectual tools to unravel truth, and recognise untruth. David Harvey’s expert monographies about “The Enigma of Capital”, “The Seventeen Contradictions”, “A Brief History of Neoliberalism” , dissect the apparent complexities and myths of the prevailing economic narrative:

Financial and monetary crises have been long-standing features of the historical geography of capitalism. But their frequency and depth have increased markedly since 1970 or so, and we have to grapple with why this is happening and what might be done about it. The compounding rate of growth of global capital accumulation has put immense pressure upon the sate-finance nexus tofind new and innovative ways to assemble  and distribute money capital in quantities, forms and locations where it is best positioned to exploit profitable opportunities. Many of the recent financial innovations were designed to overcome the barriers posed by pre-existing institutional and regulatory arrangements.

(The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism, 2010)

My starting point was, and still is, Arrighi’s world system analysis, which exposes the principles that governed the rise and fall (Paul Kennedy) of the European and North-American “great” powers that dominated the world political and economic life for the most part of the last five hundred years. I am in debt to Arrighi for his magisterial explanation of why the successive would-be dominant powers, the Norhtern Italian city-states, as bankers to Imperial Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and now the US, all moved away in their ultimate iterations, from productive investment and the real economy to financialisation and speculation. Why indeed should England, once the workshop of the world, turn into the bloated financial services economy it is today?

The explainers may not agree with each other, and many aspects of the world we live in remain unexplained, shrouded in confusion and uncertainties. However those events that shape this world, and cause violent changes in peoples lives, their livelyhood, their security and their health, deserve our particular attention. The two world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War, the creation of Israel, the Viet-Nam war, the implosion of the USSR, 9-11, the Iraq war, the successive crises of 1987, 2000, 2008 and the present conandrum around the Covid pandemic, are such events.

In following posts I propose to explore some of my findings.

Image: By Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1971-070-73 / Jesse / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5482619

A modest search for truth – 2 >>

Reflections on a sad day

I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” Charles de Gaulle

 

Sir_Edward_Heath

 

Where to start? In 1975, shortly before the referendum that approved the accession of the UK to the then European Economic Community of 9 members states (in 1973), I visited Britain for the first time. I had already the intention of spending some time there, motivated by a desire to improve on my rudimentary knowledge of the language, a romanticised view of Britain as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, of the Computer industry and more, and some antiquated concepts of the history of democracy . By upbringing, I was more of a Germanophile and there was much curiosity in my interest.
The friends I met then, mostly in London and on the South-East coast, were, young, conservative and European enthusiasts. The positive mood about the referendum was palpable. I did not meet once, in the circle I associated with, anyone hostile to British membership. In 1977 I moved to Britain and started working in the Midlands for a small firm that was exporting high technology equipment to the US. There were problems then, but the UK was still an industrial power, innovative and dynamic. I did not understand the politics, and was busy with my job, the adapting to society, and bringing up a young family. Britain then was totally different from what it was to become a few years later. What happened in the years between 1979 and 2016 was concluded on January 31, 2020, as the UK left the European Union of 27 member states.
I lived and worked in the UK until my retirement in 2010. I have since shared my time between Britain and Germany, with spells in France and Italy. It is time to reflect.

The advent of Thatcherism, a mixture of ill-digested Hayek economics and reference to the abominable Pinochet régime in Chili, was to transform the country. In less than twelve years the British industrial base would largely disappear or be sold off to foreign interests. Privatisation of everything from the telecommunications network, the railways and all utilities, and many other public services (in a repeat of the infamous “enclosure of the commonwealth”), would be carried through. The indigenous coal, steel and car industry would be all but destroyed. Scottish North-Sea oil would pay for the disaster. The UK economy would be turned into a service, mainly financial, hub. During these thirty three years I worked in the software, financial and public services sectors and accumulated some fair experience of the ravages of those policies.
By the time of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, shortly before Thatcher’s ousting from power, precisely due to deep contradictions within the British establishment concerning Europe, Britain was thoroughly chained to the Neo-Liberal fallacy. So was the then European Union. It is as false to claim that the UK policies of austerity and other Neo-liberal idiocies are due to membership of the EU, as it is to blame the UK for the Neo-liberal turn of 1992. The harnessing of the Union and its institutions to the Neo-liberal agenda has a long history (well described, for example, in “The New Old World” from Perry Anderson.) Far from being fostered on Britain by the European Union, Neo-liberalism was native to Thatcherism, and continued by all her successors of whatever party. In continental Europe the conversion of the German Federal Republic to financial globalism was achieved by the Gerhardt Schröder’s government by 2005, through Neo-liberal tax reforms and the demolition of the post-War German welfare state, without needing help from Britain.
There is also a long history of how conservative British governments rubbished and blamed the European Union for their own failures, while hiding from the electorate and tax-payers, the reality of the European Union, its benefits and institutions. I have a very simple example, about which I had direct experience: the contributions of the EU Regional Development Program to local regeneration and development in the the poorest regions in the UK. In continental Europe those projects, often infrastructure-based, are always displaying the origin of funding in full, and the EU’s contribution is in evidence. In the UK, the poorest London boroughs and other cities, agricultural North-Wales and the deindustrialised North, benefited for years from the programme. The EU preponderant contribution was never acknowledged. Unctuous and meaningless titles such as “Single Regeneration Budget” were used in London to hide the main source of funding.
There was never any effort, on the part of the government, to explain the role of EU institutions and the value of the European Parliament. In the few years leading to the referendum of 2016 British MEPs elected to the Parliament were for most incapable of making themselves any constructive proposals. “Euroskepticism” became the fashion. Needless to say the electorate was in no position to exercise a reasonable judgement by the time political stupidity and narrow interests brought about the 2016 referendum. The shameful lies and non-sense perpetrated during the campaign preceding the 2016 referendum would have been unthinkable in 1975.

This situation, and similar situations elsewhere in the Union, was made worse by the European Union’s incapacity, or unwillingness, to explain and promote its role. The institutional limitations of the present arrangements are all too obvious, but little understood by electorates. Furthermore, in the case of Britain, the continuous acceptance of the UK as an exception, opting out of this or that, and the incredible tolerance toward abuse and rubbishing aimed at the European Union and its institutions, have much contributed to the outcome.
The UK had an incredible position within the European Union: out of the single currency framework and constraints, at the table for all major decisions, benefitting from all kinds of exceptions, and accounting for at least 40% of its trade from Union’s members. This will be over, in all probability, by the end of 2020. The money markets pronounced their verdict the day after the 2016 referendum, with a 20% devaluation of Sterling.
The shenanigans of the last four years, in the British Mainstream media, in Parliament and from the UK government, made many of us immensely sad. That what became known as “Brexit” is an economic idiocy is evident. Only speculation may benefit from it, briefly. It is also a national, and I would argue, even a nationalistic stupidity, damaging the unity of the country, and threatening its sovereignty, and real independence.
We lived through all this. Now we’ll get on with our lives.

Picture: Sir Edward Heath, source

See also: History of the European Union

Danke, Angie! — Angela Merkel geht in ihr 15. Amtsjahr als Kanzlerin. Grund genug, endlich einmal umfassend Danke zu sagen.

“Jedenfalls ist ein Staat keine karitative Einrichtung und der deutsche Steuerzahler keine Melkkuh, die sämtliche Hungernde und Arme dieses Planeten mit einem täglichen Glas Milch, einer Wohnung, Gratis-Gesundheitsversorgung und monatlich 1000 Mark zu versorgen hat.”

Conservo

(www.conservo.wordpress.com)

Eine satirische Glosse von Phil Mehrens

Im 15. Jahr deiner Amtszeit, liebe Angie, ist es einfach mal an der Zeit, Danke zu sagen. Ohne dich wäre ich heute ein anderer Mensch. Ohne dich würde ich sicher auch heute noch CDU wählen. Ich wäre nie auf die Idee gekommen, das CDU-Wahlprogramm zur Europawahl zu lesen, und ich hätte dessen Inhaltsleere und platte Rhetorik des Weiter-so daher auch nie durchschauen können.

Die CDU, das war die Partei unseres Vertrauens, die Partei, die Oma und Opa gewählt haben, die Mama und Papa gewählt haben und die auch ich – wozu da ein Parteiprogramm lesen? – immer weiter gewählt hätte. Wenn es dich nicht gegeben hätte, dich, die große Augenöffnerin.

Am Anfang deiner Amtszeit, beim Atomausstieg, für die Franz-Josef dir ordentlich die Leviten gelesen hätte, und bei der Abschaffung der Wehrpflicht, die Konrad vermutlich mit einem barschen: »Spinnst du?« quittiert hätte…

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The Institute, reading notes

TO GO WITH AFP STORY ON UN HUMAN RIGHTS

The Institute, Stephen King, Hodder & Stoughton, 2019

We have all seen the pictures, or the films, old newsreels or recent TV, the revolutions, the civil wars, bombing, starvation, the destruction of lives, pictures of children, big eyes open, uncomprehending, all victims, sometime actors, like those child soldiers of far-away wars, in far-away countries. Stephen King knows, understands, the Heart of Darkness. Evil is his obsession, as it is, or should be, ours. The Stand (1978) warned us, before AIDS and Ebola, of horrors to come. With The Institute Stephen  goes into the taboo subject of children abuse, the world over. This Institute  is in America, in Maine. It’s one of many, as we will learn. The first Institute, we’ll be told at the end, was founded elsewhere. There is no prize to guess where: think of the greatest evil of the XXth century. As in The Stand, the Evil survives: of course, we know, for heroes can do so much, and not forever. The actors, we know, we’ve seen them at work, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, the former torturers, the small cogs, the agents of pain and suffering, sure of themselves, perhaps, sure of doing the “right stuff”, for whatever, saving the world.

The plot is tightly woven, toward the apocalyptic end, giving hope for those who survive. The characters, contrary to idiotic criticism I have heard, are unforgettable, all very plausible. The whole story is plausible. That is the crunch. I know this is a novel, but it is an important book. I am sure there are many Institutes in the world, now. Making many gorks. Stephen King’s message must be heard. Then, perhaps, we will manage to send Evil back to where it belongs: to Hell. Read this book.