The deep and ongoing crises of leading capitalist countries, especially the United States, has provoked a debate over the causes, consequences and appropriate policies to remedy it.
The debate has revealed a deep division over the causes and remedies, with Anglo-Franco American (AFA) politicians, columnists and economists on one side and their Asian-German (AG) counterparts on the other. In general terms the AFA spokespeople put the blame for the crises on external factors, or more specifically they point their finger at the positive trade surpluses, dynamic export sectors and high investment rates in productive sectors and low levels of consumption in the AG countries as the cause of ”unbalances” or “disequilibrium” in the world economy .
The electoral victory of center left regimes in at least three Latin American countries, and the search for a new ideological identity to justify their rule, led ideologues and the incumbent presidents to embrace the notion that they represent a new 21st century version of socialism (21cs). Prominent writers, academics and regime spokespeople celebrated a totally new variant of socialism, as completely at odds with what they dubbed as the failed 20th century, Soviet-style socialism. The advocates and publicists of 21cs claims of a novel political-economic model rested on what they ascribed as a radical break with both the free market neo-liberal regimes which preceded, and the past “statist” version of socialism embodied by the former Soviet Union as well as China and Cuba.
In this paper we will proceed by examining the variety of critiques put forth by 21cs of both neo-liberalism and 20 century socialism (20cs), the authenticity of their claims of a novelty and originality, and a critical analysis of their actual performance.
The most striking aspect of the prolonged and deepening world recession/depression is the relative and absolute passivity of the working and middle class in the face of massive job losses, big cuts in wages, health care and pension payments and mounting housing foreclosures. Never in the history of the 20-21st Century has an economic crisis caused so much loss to so many workers, employees, small businesses, farmers and professionals with so little large-scale public protest.
To explore some tentative hypotheses of why there is little organized protest, we need to examine the historical-structural antecedents to the world economic depression. More specifically, we will focus on the social and political organizations and leadership of the working class; the transformation of the structure of labor and its relationship to the state and market. These social changes have to be located in the context of the successful ruling class socio-political struggles from the 1980’s, the destruction of the Communist welfare state and the subsequent uncontested penetration of imperial capital in the former Communist countries. The conversion of Western Social Democratic parties to neo-liberalism, and the subordination of the trade unions to the neo-liberal state are seen as powerful contributing factors in diminishing working class representation and influence.
by Prof James Petras
Global Research, July 9, 2009
The recent events in Honduras and Iran, which pit democratically elected regimes against pro-US military and civilian actors intent on overthrowing them can best be understood as part of a larger White House strategy designed to rollback the gains achieved by opposition government and movements during the Bush years.
In a manner reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s New Cold War policies, Obama has vastly increased the military budget, increased the number of combat troops, targeted new regions for military intervention and backed military coups in regions traditionally controlled by the US . However Obama’s rollback strategy occurs in a very different international and domestic context. Unlike Reagan, Obama faces a prolonged and profound recession/depression, massive fiscal and trade deficits, a declining role in the world economy and loss of political dominance in Latin America, the Middle East, East Asia and elsewhere. While Reagan faced off against a decaying Soviet Communist regime, Obama confronts surging world-wide opposition from a variety of independent secular, clerical, nationalist, liberal democratic and socialist electoral regimes and social movements anchored in local struggles.
by Prof. James Petras
Global Research, June 18, 2009
“Change for the poor means food and jobs, not a relaxed dress code or mixed recreation… Politics in Iran is a lot more about class war than religion.”
Financial Times Editorial, June 15 2009
There is hardly any election, in which the White House has a significant stake, where the electoral defeat of the pro-US candidate is not denounced as illegitimate by the entire political and mass media elite. In the most recent period, the White House and its camp followers cried foul following the free (and monitored) elections in Venezuela and Gaza, while joyously fabricating an ‘electoral success’ in Lebanon despite the fact that the Hezbollah-led coalition received over 53% of the vote.
The recently concluded, June 12, 2009 elections in Iran are a classic case: The incumbent nationalist-populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (MA) received 63.3% of the vote (or 24.5 million votes), while the leading Western-backed liberal opposition candidate Hossein Mousavi (HM) received 34.2% or (13.2 million votes).
President Obama’s greatest foreign policy successes are found in the reports of the mass media. His greatest failures go unreported, but are of great consequence. A survey of the major foreign policy priorities of the White House reveals a continuous series of major setbacks, which call into question the principal objectives and methods pursued by the Obama regime.
These are in order of importance:
1) Washington’s attempt to push for a joint economic stimulus program among the 20 biggest economies at the G-20 meeting in April 2009;
2) Calls for a major military commitment from NATO to increase the number of combat troops in conflict zones in Afghanistan and Pakistan to complement the additional 21,000 US troop buildup (Financial Times April 12, 2009 p.7);
3) Plans to forge closer political and diplomatic relations among the countries of the Americas based on the pursuit of a common agenda, including the continued exclusion of Cuba and isolation of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador (La Jornada (Mex. D.F.) April 20, 2009);
by Prof James Petras
Global Research, May 17, 2009
“The Deltas are psychos…You have to be a certified psychopath to join the Delta Force…”, a US Army colonel from Fort Bragg once told me back in the 1980’s. Now President Obama has elevated the most notorious of the psychopaths, General Stanley McChrystal, to head the US and NATO military command in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s rise to leadership is marked by his central role in directing special operations teams engaged in extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and search and destroy missions. He is the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building. Between September 2003 and August 2008, McChrystal directed the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations (JSO) Command which operates special teams in overseas assassinations.
The point of the ‘Special Operations’ teams (SOT) is that they do not distinguish between civilian and military oppositions, between activists and their sympathizers and the armed resistance. The SOT specialize in establishing death squads and recruiting and training paramilitary forces to terrorize communities, neighborhoods and social movements opposing US client regimes. The SOT’s ‘counter-terrorism’ is terrorism in reverse, focusing on socio-political groups between US proxies and the armed resistance. McChrystal’s SOT targeted local and national insurgent leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan through commando raids and air strikes. During the last 5 years of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld period the SOT were deeply implicated in the torture of political prisoners and suspects. McChrystal was a special favorite of Rumsfeld and Cheney because he was in charge of the ‘direct action’ forces of the ‘Special Missions Units. ‘Direct Action’ operative are the death-squads and torturers and their only engagement with the local population is to terrorize, and not to propagandize. They engage in ‘propaganda of the dead’, assassinating local leaders to ‘teach’ the locals to obey and submit to the occupation. Obama’s appointment of McChrystal as head reflects a grave new military escalation of his Afghanistan war in the face of the advance of the resistance throughout the country.
The worldwide depression has both common and different causes, affected by the interconnections between economies and specific socio-economic structures. At the most general-global level the rising rate of profits and the over-accumulation of capital leading to the financial-real estate-speculative frenzy and crash affected most countries either directly or indirectly. At the same time, while all regional economies suffered the consequences of the onset of the depression, regions were situated in the world economy differently and subsequently the effects varied substantially.
All the idols of capitalism over the past three decades crashed. The assumptions and presumptions, paradigm and prognosis of indefinite progress under liberal free market capitalism have been tested and have failed. We are living the end of an entire epoch: Experts everywhere witness the collapse of the US and world financial system, the absence of credit for trade and the lack of financing for investment. A world depression, in which upward of a quarter of the world’s labor force will be unemployed, is looming. The biggest decline in trade in recent world history – down 40% year to year – defines the future. The immanent bankruptcies of the biggest manufacturing companies in the capitalist world haunt Western political leaders. The ‘market’ as a mechanism for allocating resources and the government of the US as the ‘leader’ of the global economy have been discredited. (Financial Times, March 9, 2009) All the assumptions about ‘self-stabilizing markets’ are demonstrably false and outmoded. The rejection of public intervention in the market and the advocacy of supply-side economics have been discredited even in the eyes of their practitioners. Even official circles recognize that ‘inequality of income’ contributed to the onset of the economic crash and should be corrected. Planning, public ownership, nationalization are on the agenda while socialist alternatives have become almost respectable.
With the onset of the depression, all the shibboleths of the past decade are discarded: As export-oriented growth strategies fail, import substitution policies emerge. As the world economy ‘de-globalizes’ and capital is ‘repatriated’ to save near bankrupt head offices – national ownership is proposed. As trillions of dollars/Euros/yen in assets are destroyed and devalued, massive layoffs extend unemployment everywhere. Fear, anxiety and uncertainty stalk the offices of state, financial directorships, the office suites the factories, and the streets…
by Prof. James Petras
Global Research, January 20, 2009
A serious discussion of the perspectives for socialism in Latin America today requires several levels of analysis, moving from world economic conditions, to US-Latin American relations, to their specific impact on Latin America. The analysis must focus on how the economic recession/depression impacts on the changing political-economic systems and the class structures. Finally, within this framework, it becomes necessary to examine the development of the class struggle and anti-imperialist movement in specific countries and under different regimes.
While there are broad similarities to previous ‘recessions’ and economic cycles, there are many good reasons to think that what matters most in the present world conjuncture is the specific world historical conditions, which mark the present economic recession as very distinctive or ‘unique’.
Specificities of the current recession/depression (RD)
We refer to the present crisis as ‘recession-depression’ because the negative growth of capitalism is a current ongoing process that is still in its opening phase: The current recession is still spreading and likely will deepen into a depression as early as mid-2009 onward for a prolonged period. Secondly, the recession/depression is spreading unevenly in terms of depth and timing, with some countries and regions in more ‘advanced’ states of crisis (US-EU-Japan) than others (India and China).
by Prof. James Petras
Global Research, January 2, 2009
Because of the unconditional support of the entire political class in the US, from the White House to Congress, including both Parties, incoming and outgoing elected officials and all the principle print and electronic mass media, the Israeli Government feels no compunction in publicly proclaiming a detailed and graphic account of its policy of mass extermination of the population of Gaza.
Israel’s sustained and comprehensive bombing campaign of every aspect of governance, civic institutions and society is directed toward destroying civilized life in Gaza. Israel’s totalitarian vision is driven by the practice of a permanent purge of Arab Palestine informed by Zionism, an ethno-racist ideology, promulgated by the Jewish state and justified, enforced and pursued by its organized backers in the United States.
The facts of Israeli extermination have become known: In the first six days of round the clock terror bombing of major and minor populations centers, the Jewish State has murdered and seriously maimed over 2,500 people, mostly dismembered and burned in the open ovens of missile fire. Scores of children and women have been slaughtered as well as defenseless civilians and officials.
Colonial style empire-building is making a huge comeback
Image by Dandelion Salad via Flickr
“The deal South Korea’s Daewoo Logistics is negotiating with the Madagascar Government looks rapacious…The Madagascan case looks neo-colonial…The Madagascan people stand to lose half of their arable land.”Financial Times Editorial, November 20, 2008
by Prof. James Petras
Global Research, November 25, 2008
November 2008 Landslide
The pro-Chavez United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 72% of the governorships in the November 23, 2008 elections and 58% of the popular vote, dumbfounding the predictions of most of the pro-capitalist pollsters and the vast majority of the mass media who favored the opposition.
PSUV candidates defeated incumbent opposition governors in three states (Guaro, Sucre, Aragua) and lost two states (Miranda and Tachira). The opposition retained the governorship in a tourist center (Nueva Esparta) and won in Tachira, a state bordering Colombia, Carabobo and the oil state of Zulia, as well as scoring an upset victory in the populous state of Miranda and taking the mayoralty district of the capital, Caracas. The socialist victory was especially significant because the voter turnout of 65% exceeded all previous non-presidential elections. The prediction by the propaganda pollsters that a high turnout would favor the opposition also reflected wishful thinking.
The significance of the socialist victory is clear if we put it in a comparative historical context:
by Prof. James Petras
Global Research, November 19, 2008
The Elections of November 23, 2008
The Venezuelan gubernatorial and municipal elections, taking place on November 23 of this year, are the most polarized and significant in the country’s history. A great deal has changed for the better since my first teaching invitation at the Central University over 40 years ago: The Chavez government has build hundreds of medical and educational facilities serving the vast majority of the poor, vastly reduced underemployment, subsidized food for the slum residents of the ‘ranchos’ and raised living standards for ordinary Venezuelans. Equally significant, this year a new pro-Chavez political party, the Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV), with a formal membership of over a million members is facing its first test – in action in 23 states and over 300 municipalities. The elections and their results will tell us a great deal about the popular response to two conflicting versions of the recent past: Whether the government’s positive efforts toward building socialism compensates for local political and economic deficiencies or whether the pro-US/capitalist-led opposition with its control of the mass media and its new ‘grass roots’ strategies have penetrated and influenced at least some sectors of the Chavista mass base. The elections are in effect a judgment of the performance of the great majority of state and local governments ruled by Chavista incumbents as well as a political statement about the support and ‘drawing power’ of President Chavez. The outcome of these elections will have a profound impact on the future political direction of the Chavez government’s transition to socialism as well as on the possibilities of a future referendum allowing for Chavez’ re-election.
Equally important, the electoral outcome will have an important impact on the policies of the incoming Obama regime: A decisive victory or defeat of the Chavistas will entail important tactical and strategic adjustments in the new Administrations policies.
Contrary to popular belief, the big change in America’s society stemming from the recent presidential elections, was not the election of the first African-American president. The most important event has taken place in the intellectual community, in which a paradigm shift has taken place and few have noticed.
The new era of voting for the lesser of the two evils has penetrated the core of America’s critical intellectual community, and some of the biggest voices for change have endorsed Obama. In effect, what has taken place is the union between those opposed to imperial ideology and those endorsing it. Although this serious event has gone largely unnoticed, American intellectuals will need to reflect on its consequences seriously if they are to contribute to the building of a stable future for humanity as a whole, and in particular to mending the tarnished corrupt fabric of American society.
One American intellectual, James Petras, has been able to identify the direct social consequences of such a paradigm shift and prior to the elections has publicly expressed his views in an article titled; The Elections and the Responsibility of the Intellectual to Speak Truth to Power: Twelve Reasons to Reject Obama and Support Nader/McKinney