Society

The reason why our world is dying: the ongoing financial war behind all wars

The small core…

Global Political Analysis

Introduction

On this blog several posts are focussing on the topic of private Banks creating money out of nothing – with special regard to [1,2] – offering analyses on the far-reaching social-economic consequences of the financial system built upon such practice. Due to the special and global relevance of this issue – affecting all countries as an imminent and persistent threat of the same Debt Crisis as the one that led to annexation of Greece [1,3] – here we rephrase and outline again the formerly elaborated main points, along with the implications we can capture after connecting the dots among them.

In a genuinely democratic world, mainstream academia and media would address this subject with top priority and would warn the public of the alarming global trend arising from a financial system that is ruled and exploited by an unelected minority, yet this discussion is excluded even from the curricula…

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Of past ideologies #Capital #Liberation

William Blake, The Simoniac Pope, 1824-1827From: “Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism”, David Harvey, © 2014

Political ideas and strategies that make sense in one place and time do not necessarily apply to another. Many a political movement has failed because it sought to appeal to ideas and ambitions that were well past their sell-by date. We cannot shape our current political strategies and carve out our contemporary political ambitions to fit the defunct ideas of some long-dead political theorist. This does not mean there is nothing to be learned from a study of the past or that no advantage is to be had from drawing upon past memories and traditions for inspiration in the present. What it does imply is an obligation to write the poetry of our own future against the background of the rapidly evolving contradictions of capital’s present.

 

Image: William Blake, The Simoniac Pope, 1824-1827

Close to the Wire

From Baltimore to Britain (and back again): we pray for the victims of tyranny and injustice, everywhere.

Close to the Wire.

 

How Corrupt is Britain?

Reality on the island…

 

Russian Nationalism and Eurasianism: The Ideology of Russian Regional Power and the Rejection of Western Values

To date the clearest account of the present conflict of values.

Center For Syncretic Studies

248227777_679812a8ac_m   By: Dr. Matthew Raphael Johnson

Russian Nationalism and Eurasianism:

The Ideology of Russian Regional Power

and the Rejection of Western Values

aleksandr-dugin-1962 Dugin

old-english-calligraphy-alphabet-the recent flurry of writing on Russian politics, nationalism and Alexander Dugin shows the contemptible inability of western savants to apprehend any idea beyond the cliche’s of stagnant neo-liberalism.  Worse, “Russia specialists” in academia are now tripping over themselves trying to “analyze” Dugin and the Eurasianist idea.  Bereft of the vocabulary to understand the concept, they merely apply fashionable labels from western political thought onto Russia in a pathetic and pretentious attempt to show how “dangerous” such ideas are to “European values.”  

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Ingolfur Blühdorn: The Sustainability Of Democracy | The New Significance

On limits to growth, the post-democratic turn and reactionary democrats.

Emancipation, the central demand of democracy, has come to mean liberation from restrictive social and ecological imperatives. Are radical participatory solutions the answer when contemporary democracy serves the politics of unsustainabilty?

via Ingolfur Blühdorn: The Sustainability Of Democracy | The New Significance.

Jean-Pierre Chevènement: “Without Russia something is missing in Europe”

I am posting here a personal adaptation of Jean-Pierre Chevènement‘s interview with Le Figaro of March 8, 2014. The links in the article are not by the author, but my own commentary.

Andrei Rublev [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What outcome can you foresee for the Ukraine crisis?

In this sort of situation, one blows hot and cold in succession. A phase of de-escalation, at least verbal, appears to have been started by Vladimir Putin’s statement. He conducted an operation of ‘calculated posturing’, as the military says. What matters now is to define the axis of exit from this crisis. There is no longer any ideological or military reason for a new cold war in Europe. No-one has any interest in that. There is too much interdependence between us for not looking at the road for a durable resolution.

We are not taking that road currently…

From the start there was a big misunderstanding: the EU policy aimed at association with Ukraine, while raising expectations of membership, as Olli Rehn declared, cannot be realised in a sensible timeframe. Membership may not even be desirable. One should not have placed, and must not, place Ukraine in front of a manichean choice: either Russia, or the EU. That is an unsolvable dilemma for Ukraine, given her history. The reality of Ukraine is her diversity. In the East there are russophone populations, and in the West, uniate catholic communities, some of which were once part of Austro-Hungary. It is not sensible to expect a democratic equilibrium in Ukraine, with power alternating between East and West, as we have witnessed since 1991: Kravtchuk in 1991, Timochenko, then Ianukovitch. I see not reason why Ukraine could not become a federal state. It may be what Russia is leading at: that is no reason to disqualifying the proposal, if it makes good sense. As for Crimea, no-one could challenge that it is Russian, as the majority of her population. A substantial autonomy is in the natural order. As Charles de Gaulle once said: ‘There is no worthwhile politics outside realities’.

In your last book you wrote: ‘Without Russia, something is missing in Europe’…

Russia is a great European country. Her space stretches across Europe and Asia, but her people are unquestionably European. Something essential to our culture would go missing without the Russian novelists, Tolstoï, Dostoievski, without Tchekov’s plays, Diaghilev’s ballets, Tchaikovski’s music, Sutin’s painting. Moreover, France is well placed to know how much she owes to Russia: in 1914 we were lucky to have the Russian front buying us time to hold on to the Marne, and more so in WWII. We are in Russia’s debt for her immense sacrifices in breaking the back of nazi Germany. One cannot delete history at a stroke.

Is Russia a democracy?

For twenty two years Russia has been a state based on the rule of law, no doubt imperfectly so, but which comprises all the elements (necessary to) democratic development: political pluralism, freedom of expression – at least in the written press and on the Internet – elections that the opposition can win, as for example in Yekaterinburg, fourth city in the country, last September. The 1993 Constitution, still in force, has been adhered to; in France, twenty years after 1789, we had at least ‘consumed’ seven or eight (constitutions). One has to trust (the effects of) economic development, time, the rise of a middle class: democracy will develop from the Russian people themselves. The thesis of exporting democracy is dangerous: the ideology that states that the West must export its values, norms, standards, can only feed the lingering remains of the cold war. One always has to try and understand what’s in the head of ‘the other’: Russians believe that Westerners, particularly in the US, have not given up on ‘regime change’.

They haven’t forgotten Kosovo, Iraq, Libya etc. Russia defends her geopolitical interests, but she is not the USSR. That disappeared twenty three years ago. One must accept that each country evolves at her own pace and chooses her destiny. I always refer to Jacques Berque who said that every people must find in themselves, and in their motivations, reasons to borrow concepts that at first are foreign, but that those cannot be forced upon them.

Does Europe need Russia?

Since, on the other side, there is a project of euro-asian free trade, why not try and work this out in its entirety, from Brest to Vladivostok? That was the spirit of strategic partnership agreed between the EU and Russia in 2003: to create a vast free-trade area from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Since then there has been growth of interconnected interests: western investment, German and French, in Russia, as well as energy and industrial interdependence. One has to see how this can be developed further in a free trade space that must, of course, include Ukraine.

You have denounced also the ‘ambient Russophobia’…

Russia became a great country at the end of the eighteenth century, with Catherine the Great and Alexander I, as Napoleon found out at his cost. But Russia has long inspired fear. In Germany and the Anglo-Saxon world, there was political Russophobia, geopolitical rivalry between Great Britain and the Russian Empire, as shown in the nineteenth century by the war in Crimea and the ‘Great Game‘. Between the US and the USSR it was the Cold War, from 1917 to 1990.

Germany, in 1918 and 1941, was tempted to expand to the East, by pushing away the Slavs, an old pan-germanic thesis. That temptation has now fortunately disappeared and today German policies towards Russia are infinitely wiser.

In France there is an ideological Russophobia. It was defined in 1839 by the Marquis de Custine in his famous formula: ‘Siberia starts at the Vistula’. That Russophobia is deeply detrimental to the interest of our country, and to that of a peaceful Europe. In ‘Le monde’, for example, the historian Françoise Thom, wrote of a ‘civilisation choice’ about Ukraine: are we going back to Samuel Huntington‘s ‘clash of civilisations’ (1994)? If Bernard-Henri Lévy and a few others could resuscitate Joseph Stalin it would give them their ‘raison d’ être’!

How do you see Vladimir Putin?

After the economic collapse of Russia in the decade that followed the end of the USSR, when Russian GDP was halved, Putin improved that situation considerably (with average annual economic growth of 7% between 2000 and 2010). He has adopted policies that are socially appreciated. Paradoxically he has contributed to the rise of a middle class that is not particularly supportive to him. He has restored Russia’s international role. Russian public opinion appreciates him. In the main the French media project at best a reductive vision of the Russian reality. Certain things of course may shock us: gay propaganda towards minors is legally suppressed. This may be interpreted in many different ways. But we forget that thirty years ago, in France, interference with minors was more heavily sanctioned for homosexuals. That cannot be the sole benchmark to judge a country. Death penalty is not abolished in Russia, but there is a moratorium, and no executions. One cannot say the same of all countries, including some of our closest allies. A majority of the Russian people supports Vladimir Putin, and the opposition is divided. M. Navalny, leader of the opposition, received 28% of votes in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin likes to present himself as the inheritor of the European christian roots…

Are we in a confrontation between Eastern and Western christianities? In a poll, seventy four percent of Russians below the age of 30, were ignorant of the ‘filioque‘, the theological quarrel that led in 1054 to the schism between the Byzantine Church and the catholic Church of Rome. It was a question of knowing if the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father, or from the Father and the Son. What surprises me is that 26% of young Russians still know what that was about! Russian society is more religious than ours: a simple walk though the basilicae of the Golden Ring shows the many worshippers, of all generations, praying fervently in front of the icons.

The truth is that Russia has an identity problem, now she has been pushed back to her sixteenth century borders, and that she sees NATO extended far beyond West Germany’s boundaries, contrary to the 1990 agreement. Russians remember that NATO wanted to include Georgia and Ukraine in 2006 – which France and Germany opposed. They consider that Russia’s status as great power would be threatened by NATO’s extension to these two countries. They probably exaggerate the threat, but they don’t enter easily into the western leaders’s reasoning. We have seen many of the same leaders, a few weeks back, posturing on Maidan square, making unreasonable speeches, and displaying themselves in the company of unsavoury characters. Was that sensible? The agreement concluded with Ianukovitch, countersigned by the three foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland, was then emptied of substance. And one speaks of interference!

You speak in your book of the inevitability of a ‘variable geometry’ Europe, as the sole solution to managing a Union of twenty eight plus countries…

Why not linking the Euro – as a single or common currency – and the Rouble: Europe represents more than half Russian foreign trade. We have a strong interdependence for energy and economic growth: few French citizens know that more than a million cars built in Russia, or a third of the total production, are made by French automakers. Few people are aware of the scope of investments in the Yamal peninsula to exploit natural gas. Those are considerable investments, in which Total, among others, has a stake. Russia’s is a resurgent economy close to us, with Moscow a mere three hours from Paris. French businesses in Russia do not wish for this crisis to worsen.

And the American alliance?

We must maintain our alliance with the US, but an alliance does not equate with subordination. The 21st century cannot be reduced to a confrontation between China and the US. It is desirable that Europe organises herself to exist by herself. One must think of a ‘variable geometry’ Europe associating different countries, each choosing how it converges its policies toward a common European interest.

 For the past eight months Europe and the US have been negotiating a commercial agreement dubbed ‘Transatlantic Treaty‘, which aims at improving the conditions of free trade between the two Atlantic shores: do we have anything to gain from that agreement?

My fundamental criticism is that the Euro/Dollar exchange rate can vary in a 1 to 2 ratio. The Euro was at 82 cents in 2000, and $1.60 in 2006. So (in these conditions),what does the suppression of our custom duty (3 to 4%) and norms harmonisation mean?

Today the Euro is worth $1.40, a very high level for the French economy, which is not in (trade balance) surplus with the US like Germany’s. Behind that treaty is a US will to group all the countries of the Atlantic shores, as those of the Pacific, to isolate China.

There is then the will of some large multinational corporations to implant themselves in low-cost areas: Mexico, and even the US, for financial reasons.I cannot see what our country can gain from that.

What is your view of the sanctions decided last Thursday by the EU?

The European sanctions (against Russia) are a double-edged sword. They target all Russian nationals, contrary to the US measures targetted at the leadership, except Vladimir Putin… The only virtue I see is that they are easily reversed…

A Plea for a Federation of European States/2

HangingAt the time of religious and murderous sectarian upheavals, in sixteenth century France, Michel de Montaigne retired to his estate in the Aquitaine to write his Essays. His reflections would take him on a personal journey of introspection, rather than an exploration of the historical reasons for the events of his time. In many ways we can be grateful for his decision: Montaigne legated to us a monument of European literature, and there were others, perhaps better placed, to chronicle the turmoil of his time.

Listening to some inept “bavardage” from French fashionably conservative commentators, on one of France main TV news channels, who were describing Russian concerns with the apparent take-over by fascists in the capital of the Ukraine, as “anachronism“, I wondered who was in fact living in the real world: them, evidently convinced of the justification of their statement (“fascism? Where? What?”), or myself, and no doubt thousands of other Europeans trying to make sense of the tragedy in Kiev and its consequences for the people of the Ukraine, and the whole of Europe.

I was also reminded of Robert Gates’ scathing observations on the posturing of the British and French governments during the bombings of Libya. Germany, who refused to participate in the bombings, saved the day nonetheless and procured the missing ordnance!

“The blunt reality,” Mr. Gates said, “is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress – and in the American body politic writ large – to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”

The British and French media conveniently chose to forget those remarks, as, today, the mainstream, inclusive of Le Monde and the liberal press (Guardian etc.), and the same governments, hide behind the John Kerry’s creed about those “brave democrats in the Ukraine”, at no risk to themselves. Should the present crisis degenerate into a bloody conflict in Central Europe who will be paying the price?

That there are, of course, good reasons for Russian anxiety – meaning both for the government of the Russian Federation, and the large Russian minorities, and majority in the Crimean autonomous region, is beyond doubts. Those reasons, far from being anachronisms, are rooted in the painful memory of recent history, the realities of the last decades, the role of successive US administrations in fostering violent régime changes in countries deemed to be of strategic interest, from Chile in the 70’s to Afghanistan and Syria, and the betrayal of promises made to Russia and her reformist government at the time of the implosion of the USSR.

On the events that led to the ousting of the elected administration of the Ukraine, the tug of war between factions in favour of and against EU influence, and the nefarious consequences of IMF/ECB – driven austerity policies as experienced in many European countries, was a decisive confrontation. Some of us, in “old Europe”, are troubled as to why the “opposition” now in power in Kiev appears to consist solely of right-wing groups and a party whose claimed European aspirations are weirdly mixed with a nostalgia for an ignoble fascist past.

For sure, this is a complex situation, and that very complexity, may drive some of us toward retiring and writing fiction, if not “essays”, rather than trying to unravel the complexity. This would be a mistake. Many times in history, Europe, that is the community of people, and since the sixteenth century, states, had to pull back from the brink of annihilation. This was the case after the Thirty Years’ War that destroyed half the population of the German speaking lands. It was the case after WWII, when the USSR’s heroic sacrifices and US power rescued Europe from nazi madness.

Charles de Gaulle called for the formation of a “Europe of nations, from the Atlantic to the Urals”. His vision had the merit to recognise Russia as a European nation.

Language and #politics

The great enemy
of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s
declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms,
like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of
politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly,
hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer

Since the current news and European affairs depress me deeply (who would not be depressed, as a citizen of the European Union, by the sight of the beloved blue flag being brandished, at the same time as the ignoble logos of a hated nazi past), I have sought refuge, and solace, in classics. As part of my research for the A to Z Challenge (more about it in April!) I have re-read George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, and some of the interesting articles the Wikipedia editors have dedicated to the subject.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.

Orwell denounced the unctuous use of metaphors to hide atrocities:

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.

Orwell’s positions were countered by post-modernist Judith Butler who claimed “…that difficult concepts need to be expressed with specialised vocabulary, or jargon. She quotes Marcuse, who believes that if people could use plain language to describe something, they would. She is attempting to prove that jargon is natural and necessary. Butler also says ‘language conditions thought,’ meaning that the words we use shape the way we think.

But it is not simply “the words we use”. As Orwell understood better than anyone else it is the words we are fed daily by the mass media, the words we read, hear, the images see even, if we do not not always understand their implications, and the intent behind them.

The “liberal media” has developed an entire vocabulary of euphemisms: “international community” (summoned whenever the bad side is to be chastised), “national sovereignty” (being threatened now by Russia in the Ukraine, but trampled on in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Venezuela, Syria, Okinawa, whenever it suits the Super Power), and of course ready-made phrases that evoke the UN Charter – conspicuously ignored when it comes to Palestine, but remembered when it suits, again, the Department of State and its cronies.

So, back to George Orwell, his recommendations for good writing, are worth considering time and time again, in our efforts toward clear and understandable language (they may even help us to overcome despair):

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

How to Write About Tax Havens and the Super-Rich: An Interview with Nicholas Shaxson | Longreads

Property scam in neo-liberal London

via How to Write About Tax Havens and the Super-Rich: An Interview with Nicholas Shaxson | Longreads.