Tag Archives: Neo-feudalism

Australian reports on wealth and poverty: A tale of two countries

By Cheryl McDermid
June 9, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Two reports published in Australia late last month starkly highlighted the growing polarisation between rich and poor. The first, the Australian Financial Review magazine’s 2015 BRW Rich 200 list outlined the rising fortunes of the country’s wealthiest 200 individuals and families. The second, the Salvation Army’s Economic and Social Impact Survey, for the fourth year running exposed the dire and deteriorating conditions endured by welfare recipients.

While the livelihoods of these vastly different layers of society are a world apart there is, in fact, a direct connection between them. The conditions of deprivation and poverty imposed on those at the bottom of society are dictated by the corporate boardrooms and company owners of the Rich 200 list, among others, who determine the austerity measures of both Liberal and Labor governments that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

This process has resulted in the poorest section of the Australian population eking out an existence on an impossible $43.45 per day, while the average daily income of the richest 200 is an obscene $2.7 million. The richest six individuals own more wealth—$55.9 billion—than the bottom 20 percent—1.73 million households.

The top six are Gina Rinehart with $14.018 billion, Anthony Pratt and family $10.759 billion, Harry Triguboff $10.228 billion, Frank Lowy $7.837 billion, Hui Wing Mau $6.890 billion, and Ivan Glasenberg $6.144 billion.

The Rich 200 list reports a record 49 billionaires, up from 39 last year, and reveals the unimaginable wealth of this tiny parasitic layer. Despite a decline of almost $6 billion in the wealth of Australian’s richest person, mining magnate Rinehart, due to the plunge in iron ore prices, the combined wealth of the country’s richest 200 individuals increased by 1.2 percent to $195.6 billion.

The wealth required for entry to the list was also a record $286 million, up from $250 million last year. The first Rich 200 report, published in 1983, required a mere $10 million to make the list, so there has been an almost 30-fold increase in the entry level. Sydney is the preferred city of residence for 18 of the 49 billionaires, with the surrounding state of New South Wales housing 61 of the 200 richest individuals, just beaten by Victoria on 63.

Only six of the top 200 derived their wealth from manufacturing, with Pratt and his family, who control Visy and the US-based Pratt Industries, coming in second on the list, increasing their wealth by a massive 29 percent in one year. According to the Australian Financial Review, Pratt’s “series of big bets on the comeback of the USA manufacturing sector have paid off.” This is, without doubt, attributable in large part to the protracted slashing of American wage levels under the Obama administration.

More than a quarter—53 of the richest 200—derived their wealth from property, with soaring housing prices driving the rapid increase in their stakes. Harry Triguboff, the owner of Meriton, Australia’s largest apartment developer, climbed from eighth in 2014 to third this year, almost doubling his wealth to $10.23 billion. The property price surge that has benefited Triguboff and others on the list so handsomely has resulted in the median house price in Sydney climbing to a staggering $752,000, followed by Melbourne on $567,000. This has effectively priced hundreds of thousands of families and young people out of the housing market.

There are 17 newcomers on the list, the calibre of which is highlighted by the prominence given to one, Tony Denny, who made his $320 million selling used cars in Russia and Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Denny was one of the myriad capitalists who flooded into these countries to profit from the cheap labour and opportunities afforded by the Stalinist bureaucrats who oversaw the destruction of the remaining social gains from the Russian Revolution. The staggering decline in the conditions, living standards and life expectancy of the population in these countries was due to the exploitation and plundering carried out by such individuals.

While the top 10’s combined wealth dropped marginally from 2014, due to falling mining export prices, they still owned 37 percent of the total wealth of the richest 200, while the top 20 held 47 percent.

By contrast, the Salvation Army’s survey, conducted in February, was based on the responses of 2,406 families and individuals, whose dependents included 2,486 children, who accessed the charity’s emergency relief and support services. Of the respondents, 88 percent received income support payments, which means that their welfare benefits did not cover the basic necessities of life.

Three quarters of the respondents had been seeking employment for up to two years. These people “experienced more housing stress (75 percent), a higher level of deprivation (49 percent could not afford 11 or more essential items), and consequently lower satisfaction in life,” as measured by a personal wellbeing index.

Significantly 5 percent of the respondents had jobs, but were still forced to seek emergency relief. Of those surveyed, 75 percent were single-parent households, with 53 percent of those with children.

Due to the rising cost of rental accommodation, in which the majority of respondents lived, 59 percent of their total income was spent on housing costs, leaving only $125 per week or $17.86 per day for food, utility payments, medical expenses, transport and clothes.

The percentage of income paid for accommodation was twice the commonly-used benchmark of 30 percent that signifies housing stress. Some 78 percent of respondents suffered extreme housing stress. Three quarters of those surveyed said they had cut down on basic necessities, including meals and paying utility bills, because they could not afford them.

No less than 87 percent of the adults and 60 percent of the children reported severe deprivation, which is characterised as having to go without five or more essential items. Essential items included a substantial meal once a day, medical and dental treatment, having $500 savings in case of emergency and being able to afford a week’s holiday away from home. They reported that they had few options to improve their situation.

The Salvation Army report cited statistics from the 2014 OECD report, Society at a Glance, which stated that “relative poverty in Australia (14.4 percent of the population) is higher than the OECD average of (11.3 percent)” and “10 percent of Australians report they cannot afford to buy enough food.”

While the charity’s report focussed on the most oppressed and vulnerable sections of the working class, the situation is little better for households whose members have jobs. For the 1.8 million workers on the minimum wage of $656.90 per week, it is a matter of survival from week to week. The illness or injury of one or more in the family can mean the difference between making ends meet and not. The Fair Work Commission last week lifted the minimum wage by a miserable $16 per week, the lowest rise for years, while the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry demanded an increase of no more than $5.70.

The gulf between the tiny elite at the top of society and the poorest section of the population will only widen following the federal budget released last month. Treasurer Joe Hockey announced that a further $1.7 billion will be slashed from welfare payments over four years through the relentless persecution of pension and unemployment payment recipients, while providing $5 billion in tax cuts and concessions for small business.

The Labor opposition’s response to the budget was a call for bipartisan measures to impose the further attacks demanded by the corporate elite. This was a declaration that a Labor government would take up where it left off after losing the 2013 election and continue the assault on the working class.

There is no possibility of overcoming the unprecedented gulf between rich and poor through the re-election of a Labor government or the parliamentary system itself. What is required is the overthrow of the capitalist profit system that, as Marx explained, creates “the accumulation of wealth at one pole” and “at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole.”

US CEO pay hits record high

By Nick Barrickman
May 25, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

money-greedy1A new study released by executive pay research firm Equilar and published earlier this month by the New York Times shows that compensation for chief executive officers for the largest US companies hit a new record in 2014.

The top 200 highest-paid US CEOs each made an average of $22.6 million in compensation, including salaries as well as stocks, options, bonuses and other forms of pay.

This represented a significant increase over 2013’s average of $20.7 million. This figure was more than double that recorded by the firm in 2006, when it first began publishing numbers on executive compensation.

Together, the top 15 highest-paid chief executives took home over $1.1 billion in pay last year. Ranking highest on the list is David M. Zaslav of Discovery Communications, which the Times refers to as “the cable group behind Shark Week and shows like ‘Cake Boss.’” Last year saw Zaslav’s pay shoot up 368 percent to over $156,000,000, making him the highest-paid CEO on Equilar’s list since Tim Cook of Apple was awarded a package of over $378 million in 2011.

Nicholas Woodman, chief executive officer and founder of camera maker GoPro, saw his compensation package shoot up more than 4,000 percent in a single year, to over $77,400,000 after his company’s initial public offering last year, making him the fifth-highest-paid CEO.

Satya Nadella of Microsoft, who declared earlier this year that he would carry out a broad “restructuring plan” resulting in the layoff of 18,000 people—14 percent of its total workforce—raked in over $84,300,000 in 2014, making him the fourth highest-paid CEO.

Margaret C. Whitman of Hewlett-Packard saw her income climb by 11 percent to $19,612,164 last year after announcing over 50,000 job cuts since taking over as CEO. Similarly, Virginia M. Rometty of IBM saw a growth in pay of 28 percent to $17,942,400, even as her company carried out thousands of layoffs over the course of 2014.

Last year, the typical top-200 CEO pay package was roughly 339 times greater than the $51,939 median household income of a family in the United States. By comparison, the ratio in pay between a CEO and a worker in 1978 stood at about 30-to-1. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the growth in CEO pay outstripped even the growth of the stock market throughout this period.

As lavish as the pay for the top CEOs was, their total compensation paled in comparison to hedge fund chiefs. According to another study released earlier this month by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, the top 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers made nearly $11.62 billion for themselves in the past year, amounting to roughly $500 million apiece.

The growth in CEO pay comes as companies sit atop the largest cash hoard in history, with US corporations alone holding $1.4 trillion on their balance sheets. Instead of using this money to invest, hire workers or raise wages, companies are using it to buy back shares, increase dividends and engage in an orgy of mergers and acquisitions. US corporations recently spent over $500 billion buying back their own stock, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The growth of CEO pay has continued despite claims by Democratic politicians and federal regulators that they have taken measures to restrain massive payouts for executives. The New York Times noted in a piece earlier this month (“For the Highest-Paid C.E.O.s, the Party Goes On”) that the Dodd-Frank bill of 2010, the main “financial reform” passed in the wake of the 2007-2008 economic crisis, was underpinned by “a belief that more transparency would lead to some much needed belt-tightening” in terms of CEO pay. The Times bluntly declares that “it hasn’t worked.”

“It’s a common story. Chummy boardrooms, easily achieved performance targets and large discretionary bonuses—these are the hallmarks of executive compensation today,” the Times concludes that “there is little chance that the feeding frenzy will end anytime soon.”

While the financial elite continues to rake in obscene amounts of wealth, conditions of poverty and social inequality prevail for the vast majority of the population. A report released on Thursday by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), found that levels of international social inequality were the highest on record since the organization began recording statistics. Significantly, in the United States, the total wealth of the bottom fifth of the population fell by 26 percent between the years 2007-2013.

Far from being the outcome of impersonal economic forces, the enormous enrichment of the corporate/financial elite has been the product of conscious efforts by both Democratic and Republican administrations to enact a massive transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top of society, facilitated through the pumping of trillions of dollars into the financial system by the Federal Reserve and other central banks. Rather than leading to productive investment and job creation, the influx of cash has largely been pocketed by the corporate and financial elite in the form of executive pay, increased dividends, and soaring stock prices.

Who Really Controls the World?

By Prof. Dr. Mujahid Kamran
Global Research, April 27, 2015
New Dawn Magazine

 

The Instruments of Worldwide Domination: Obama Administration Spending Billions on New Global Strike WeaponsSince I entered politics, I have chiefly had men’s views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organised, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it. – Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States (1856-1924)

So you see, my dear Coningsby, that the world is governed by very different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes. – Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister (1804-1881)

The advent of the industrial revolution, the invention of a banking system based on usury, and scientific and technological advancements during the past three centuries have had three major consequences. These have made the incredible concentration of wealth in a few hands possible, have led to the construction of increasingly deadly weapons culminating in weapons of mass destruction, and have made it possible to mould the minds of vast populations by application of scientific techniques through the media and control of the educational system.

The wealthiest families on planet earth call the shots in every major upheaval that they cause. Their sphere of activity extends over the entire globe, and even beyond, their ambition and greed for wealth and power knows no bounds, and for them, most of mankind is garbage – “human garbage.” It is also their target to depopulate the globe and maintain a much lower population compared to what we have now.

It was Baron Nathan Mayer de Rothschild (1840-1915) who once said:

“I care not what puppet is placed on the throne of England to rule the British Empire on which the sun never sets. The man that controls Britain’s money supply controls the British Empire, and I control the British money supply.”

What was true of the British Empire is equally true of the US Empire, controlled remotely by the London based Elite through the Federal Reserve System. Judged by its consequences, the Federal Reserve System is the greatest con job in human history.

It is sad and painful that man’s most beautiful construction, and the source of most power and wealth on earth, viz. scientific knowledge – the most sublime, most powerful and most organised expression of man’s inherent gift of thought, wonder and awe – became a tool for subjugation of humanity, a very dangerous tool in the hands of a tiny group of men. These men “hire” the scientist and take away, as a matter of right, the power the scientist creates through his inventions. This power is then used for their own purposes, at immense human and material cost to mankind. The goal of this handful of men, the members of the wealthiest families on the planet, the Elite, is a New World Order, a One World Government, under their control.

Secrecy and anonymity is integral to the operations of the Elite as is absolute ruthlessness, deep deception and the most sordid spying and blackmail. The Elite pitches nations against each other, and aims at the destruction of religion and other traditional values, creates chaos, deliberately spreads poverty and misery, and then usurps power placing its stooges in place. These families “buy while the blood is still flowing in the streets” (Rothschild dictum). Wars, “revolutions” and assassinations are part of their tactics to destroy traditional civilisation and traditional religions (as in Soviet Russia), amass wealth and power, eliminate opponents, and proceed relentlessly towards their avowed goal, generation after generation. They operate through covert and overt societies and organisations.

Professor Carroll Quigley wrote:

The powers of financial capitalism had another far reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands to be able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements, arrived at in private meetings and conferences.… The growth of financial capitalism made possible a centralisation of world economic control and use of this power for the direct benefit of financiers and the indirect injury to all other economic groups.

Winston Churchill, who was eventually “bored by it all,” wrote around 1920:

From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, to those of Trotsky, Bela Kun, Rosa Luxembourg, and Emma Goldman, this world wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation and reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It played a definitely recognisable role in the tragedy of French Revolution. It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the nineteenth century, and now at last, this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America have gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads, and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire.

The High Cabal Exposed by JFK

It was in the dark days of World War II that Churchill referred to the existence of a “High Cabal” that had brought about unprecedented bloodshed in human history. Churchill is also said to have remarked about the Elite: “They have transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus from Switzerland into Russia…” (quoted by John Coleman in The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, Global Publications 2006). Who are ‘they’?

Consider the 1961 statement of US President John F. Kennedy (JFK) before media personnel:

The word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society, and we are as a people, inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, secret oaths and secret proceedings. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy, that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence. It depends on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific, and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published, its mistakes are buried, not headlined, and its dissenters are silenced, not praised, no expenditure is questioned, no secret revealed… I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people.”

Secret societies, secret oaths, secret proceedings, infiltration, subversion, intimidation – these are the words used by JFK!

On June 4, 1963, JFK ordered the printing of Treasury dollar bills instead of Federal Reserve notes (Executive Order 11110). He also ordered that once these had been printed, the Federal Reserve notes would be withdrawn, and the Treasury bills put into circulation. A few months later (November 22, 1963) he was killed in broad daylight in front of the whole world – his brains blown out. Upon assumption of power, his successor, President Lyndon Johnson, immediately reversed the order to switch to Treasury bills showing very clearly why JFK was murdered. Another order of JFK, to militarily disengage from the Far East by withdrawing US “advisors” from Vietnam, was also immediately reversed after his death. After the Cuban crisis JFK wanted peaceful non-confrontational coexistence with the Soviet Union and that meant no wars in the world. He knew the next war would be nuclear and there would be no winners.

The defence industry and the banks that make money from war belong to the Elite. The Elite subscribes to a dialectical Hegelian philosophy, as pointed out by Antony Sutton, under which they bring about ‘controlled conflict’. The two world wars were ‘controlled conflicts’! Their arrogance, their ceaseless energy, their focus, their utter disregard for human life, their ability to plan decades in advance, to act on that planning, and their continual success are staggering and faith-shaking.

Statements by men like Disraeli, Wilson, Churchill, JFK and others should not leave any doubt in the mind of the reader about who controls the world. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote in November 1933 to Col. Edward House: “The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centres has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson.” It may be recalled that Andrew Jackson, US President from 1829-1837, was so enraged by the tactics of bankers (Rothschilds) that he said:

“You are a den of vipers. I intend to rout you out and by the Eternal God I will rout you out. If the people only understood the rank injustice of our money and banking system, there would be a revolution before morning.”

Interlocking Structure of Elite Control

In his book Big Oil and Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families and Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics and Terror Network, Dean Henderson states: “My queries to bank regulatory agencies regarding stock ownership in the top 25 US bank holding companies were given Freedom of Information Act status, before being denied on ‘national security’ grounds. This is ironic since many of the bank’s stockholders reside in Europe.” This is, on the face of it, quite astonishing but it goes to show the US government works not for the people but for the Elite. It also shows that secrecy is paramount in Elite affairs. No media outlet will raise this issue because the Elite owns the media. Secrecy is essential for Elite control – if the world finds out the truth about the wealth, thought, ideology and activities of the Elite there would be a worldwide revolt against it. Henderson further states:

The Four Horsemen of Banking (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo) own the Four Horsemen of Oil (Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, BP Amoco and Chevron Texaco); in tandem with other European and old money behemoths. But their monopoly over the global economy does not end at the edge of the oil patch. According to company 10K filings to the SEC, the Four Horsemen of Banking are among the top ten stockholders of virtually every Fortune 500 corporation.

It is well known that in 2009, of the top 100 largest economic entities of the world, 44 were corporations. The wealth of these families, which are among the top 10% shareholders in each of these, is far in excess of national economies. In fact, total global GDP is around 70 trillion dollars. The Rothschild family wealth alone is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars. So is the case with the Rockefellers who were helped and provided money all along by the Rothschilds. The US has an annual GDP in the range of 14-15 trillion dollars. This pales into insignificance before the wealth of these trillionaires. With the US government and most European countries in debt to the Elite, there should be absolutely no doubt as to who owns the world and who controls it. To quote Eustace Mullins from his book The World Order:

The Elites rule the US through their Foundations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Federal Reserve System with no serious challenges to their power. Expensive ‘political campaigns’ are routinely conducted, with carefully screened candidates who are pledged to the program of the World Order. Should they deviate from the program, they would have an ‘accident’, be framed on a sex charge, or indicted in some financial irregularity.

The Elite members operate in absolute unison against public benefit, against a better life for mankind in which the individual is free to develop his or her innate creativity, a life free of war and bloodshed. James Forrestal, the first Secretary of Defence of the US, became aware of Elite intrigue and had, according to Jim Marrs, accumulated 3,000 pages of notes to be used for writing a book. He died in mysterious circumstances and was almost certainly murdered. His notes were taken away and a sanitised version made public after one year! Just before he died, almost fifteen months before the outbreak of the Korean War, he had revealed that American soldiers would die in Korea! Marrs quotes Forrestal: “These men are not incompetent or stupid. Consistency has never been a mark of stupidity. If they were merely stupid, they would occasionally make a mistake in our favour.” The Bilderberg Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and the mother of all these, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, are bodies where decisions about the future of mankind are arrived at. Who set these up and control them? The “international bankers” of course.

In his book The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, Col. Fletcher Prouty, who was the briefing officer to the President of the US from 1955-1963, writes about “an inner sanctum of a new religious order.” By the phrase Secret Team he means a group of “security-cleared individuals in and out of government who receive secret intelligence data gathered by the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA) and who react to those data.” He states: “The power of the Team derives from its vast intra-governmental undercover infrastructure and its direct relationship with great private industries, mutual funds and investment houses, universities, and the news media, including foreign and domestic publishing houses.” He further adds: “All true members of the Team remain in the power centre whether in office with the incumbent administration or out of office with the hard-core set. They simply rotate to and from official jobs and the business world or the pleasant haven of academe.”

Training the Young for Elite Membership

It is very remarkable as to how ‘they’ are able to exercise control and how ‘they’ always find people to carry out the job, and how is it ‘they’ always make the ‘right’ decision at the right time? This can only be possible if there exists a hidden program of inducting and training cadres mentally, ideologically, philosophically, psychologically and ability-wise, over prolonged periods of time and planting them in the centres of power of countries like the US, UK, etc. This training would begin at a young age in general. There must also be a method of continual appraisal, by small groups of very highly skilled men, of developing situations with ‘their’ men who are planted throughout the major power centres of the world so that immediate ‘remedial’ action, action that always favours Elite interests, can be taken. How does that happen?

It is in finding answers to these questions that the role of secret societies and their control of universities, particularly in the US, assumes deeper importance. The work done by men like Antony Sutton, John Coleman, Eustace Mullins and others is ground breaking. Mankind owes a debt to such scholars who suffer for truth but do not give in. Whenever you trace the money source of important initiatives designed to bring about major wars, lay down policies for the future, enhance control of the Elite over mankind, etc., you will invariably find them linked to the so called banking families and their stooges operating out of Foundations.

In April 2008 I was among approximately 200 Vice Chancellors, Rectors and Presidents of universities from Asia, Africa, Europe and the US at a two day Higher Education Summit for Global Development, held at the US State Department in Washington DC. The Summit was addressed by five US Secretaries, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The real emphasis throughout the Summit was only on one thing – that universities in developing countries operate in partnership with foundations so that global problems could be solved! These are private foundations and the only way to understand this emphasis is to realise the US government is owned by those who own these foundations. As an aside the inaugural address was delivered by the war criminal responsible for millions of deaths in Rwanda, trained in US military institutions, and awarded a doctorate – Dr. Paul Kagame! The very first presentation was made by the CEO of the Agha Khan Foundation!

In a fascinating study of the Yale secret society Skull and Bones, Antony Sutton uncovered numerous aspects of profound importance about this one society. In his book America’s Secret Establishment – An Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones, Sutton points out there is a set of “Old Line American Families and New Wealth” that dominates The Order (of Skull & Bones) – the Whitney family, the Stimson family, the Bundy family, the Rockefeller family, the Harriman family, the Taft family, the Bush family, and so on. He also points out that there is a British connection:

The links between the Order and Britain go through Lazard Freres and the private merchant bankers. Notably the British establishment also founded a University – Oxford University, and especially All Souls College at Oxford. The British element is called ‘The Group’. The Group links to the Jewish equivalent through the Rothschilds in Britain (Lord Rothschild was an original member of Rhodes’ ‘inner circle’). The Order in the US links to the Guggenheim, Schiff and Warburg families… There is an Illuminati connection.

Every year 15 young men, and very recently women, have been inducted into The Order from Yale students since 1832. Who selects them? A study of the career trajectories of many of those ‘chosen’ shows how they rise to prominence in American life and how their peers ensure these men penetrate the very fabric of important US institutions. They are always there in key positions during war and peace, manipulating and watching ceaselessly.

The influence of the Elite families on the thought processes of nations is carried out through academic institutions and organisations, as well as the media. Sutton writes:

Among academic associations the American Historical Association, the American Economic Association, the American Chemical Society, and the American Psychological Association were all started by members of The Order or persons close to The Order. These are key associations for the conditioning of society. The phenomenon of The Order as the FIRST on the scene is found especially among Foundations, although it appears that The Order keeps a continuing presence among Foundation Trustees… The FIRST Chairman of an influential but almost unknown organisation established in 1910 was also a member of The Order. In 1920 Theodore Marburg founded the American Society for the Judicial Settlement of Disputes, but Marburg was only President. The FIRST Chairman was member William Howard Taft. The Society was the forerunner of the League to Enforce Peace, which developed into the League of Nations concept and ultimately the United Nations.

The United Nations is an instrument of the Elite designed to facilitate the setting up of One World Government under Elite control. The UN building stands on Rockefeller property.

Selecting Future Prime Ministers to Serve the New World Order

In his article, ‘Oxford University – The Illuminati Breeding Ground’, David Icke recounts an incident that demonstrates how these secret societies and groups, working for the Elite, select, train and plan to install their men in key positions. In 1940 a young man addressed a “study group” of the Labor Party in a room at University College Oxford. He stressed that he belonged to a secret group without a name which planned a “Marxist takeover” of Britain, Rhodesia and South Africa by infiltrating the British Parliament and Civil Services. Since the British do not like extremists they dismiss their critics as ‘right-wingers’ while themselves posing as ‘moderates’ (this seems like the anti-Semitism charge by ADL, etc. whenever Israel is criticised). The young man stated that he headed the political wing of that secret group and he expected to be made Prime Minister of Britain some day! The young man was Harold Wilson who became Prime Minister of Britain (1964-70, 1974-76)!

All young men studying at Ivy League universities, and at others, must bear in mind they are being continually scrutinised by some of their Professors with the intention of selecting from amongst them, those who will serve the Elite, and become part of a global network of interlocked covert and overt societies and organisations, working for the New World Order. Some of those already selected will be present among them, mingling with them and yet, in their heart, separated from them by a sense of belonging to a brotherhood with a mission that has been going on for a long time. These young men also know they will be rewarded by advancement in career and also that if they falter they could be killed!

Utter secrecy and absolute loyalty is essential to the continued success of this program. This is enforced through fear of murder or bankruptcy and through a cult which probably takes us back to the times of the pyramids and before. Philosophically ‘they’ believe in Hegelian dialectics through which they justify bringing about horrible wars – euphemistically called ‘controlled conflict’. Their political ideology is ‘collectivism’ whereby mankind has to be ‘managed’ by a group of men, ‘them’, organised for the purpose – a hidden ‘dominant minority’. ‘They’ believe that they know better than ordinary mortals. The Illuminati, the Freemasons, members of other known and unknown secret societies, all mesh together under the wealthiest cabal in human history to take a mesmerised, dormant and battered mankind from one abyss to the next. Former MI6 agent John Coleman refers to a “Committee of 300” that controls and guides this vast subterranean human machinery.

In his book Memoirs, published in 2002, David Rockefeller, Sr. stated that his family had been attacked by “ideological extremists” for “more than a century… Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterising my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty.

Prof. Dr. MUJAHID KAMRAN is Vice Chancellor, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan, and his book The Grand Deception – Corporate America and Perpetual War has just been published (April 2011) by Sang e Meel Publications, Lahore, Pakistan, and is available from www.amazon.co.uk. Prof. Kamran’s website is www.mujahidkamran.com.

The Capitalist Origins of the Oppression of African Women

A Glorious Past Before Colonialism

By Garikai Chengu
March 8, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Sunday marks International Women’s Day, which was founded in 1908 by the Socialist party of America in order to promote the struggle for women’s equality. Unbeknown to many, for the vast majority of human history, which took place in Africa, women have been equal if not superior to men.

The world’s first civilizations arose from the spiritual, economic and social efforts of African women and African women in turn went on to lead those Matriarchal societies.

Matriarchy in ancient Africa was not a mirror image of patriarchy today, as it was not based on appropriation and violence. The rituals and culture of matriarchy did not celebrate violence; rather, they had a lot to do with fecundity, exchange and redistribution.

Early man was unaware of the link between intercourse and birth, therefore it was thought that new life was created by the woman alone. This belief created the first concept of God as a caring, compassionate, generous, all loving and all powerful Mother, which is the basis of the African matriarchal ideology.

Historian Cheikh Anta Diop illustrates how as early as 10,000 BC women in Africa pioneered organized cultivation, thereby creating the pre-conditions for surplus, wealth and trade. African women are responsible for the greatest invention for the well being of human kind, namely, food security. It is the practice of organized agriculture that made population expansion, food surpluses and the emergence civilization possible.

Pre-capitalist matriarchal civilizations in Africa included the Nigerian Zazzau, Sudanese Kandake, Angolan Nzinga, and Ashanti of Ghana, to name but a few. The quintessential African matriarchal system was most evident and most enduring in black Ancient Egypt.

Women in Ancient Egypt owned and had complete control over both movable and immovable property such as real estate in 3000 BC. As late as the 1960s, this right could not be claimed by women in some parts of the United States.

A closer look at ancient Egyptian papyrus’ reveals that society was strictly matrilineal and inheritance and descent was through the female line. The Egyptian woman enjoyed the same legal and economic rights as the Egyptian man, and the proof of this is reflected in Egyptian art and historical inscriptions. Egypt was an unequal society but the inequality was based much more upon differences in the social classes, rather than differences in gender.

From ancient legal documents, we know that women were able to manage and dispose of private property, including: land, portable goods, servants, slaves, livestock, and financial instruments such as endowments and annuities. A woman could administer all her property independently and according to her free will and in several excavated cemeteries the richest tombs were those of women.

The independence and leadership roles of ancient Egyptian women are part of an African cultural pattern that began millennia ago and continued into recent times, until Europeans brought capitalism and Christianity to Africa.

In the 1860s, the colonial explorer Dr. David Livingstone wrote of meeting female chiefs in the Congo, and in most of the monarchical systems of traditional Africa there were either one or two women of the highest rank who occupied a position on a par with that of the king or complementary to it.

Professor of Ancient African History, Barbara Lesko illustrates how anthropologists who have studied African history and records of early travelers and missionaries tell us “everywhere in Africa that one scrapes the surface one finds ethno-historical data on the authority once shared by women.”

Under colonial misrule, black women suffered double-edged discrimination and dis-empowerment both as women and as black people.

It is difficult for many people to accept that racial discrimination and antagonism, which is such a pervasive phenomenon in the world today, has not been a permanent historical feature of humanity. In fact, the very notion of “race” and the ideology and practice of racism is a relatively modern concept.

For instance, historians recount how the Romans and Greeks attached no particular stigma to the colour of a person’s skin and there were no theories about the inferiority of darker skin. Slavery in ancient societies was not defined by color, but primarily by military fortune: conquered peoples, irrespective of their color, were enslaved.

Just before colonisation, African women were largely equal to men. The significant value of African women’s productive labour in producing and processing food created and maintained their rights in domestic, political, cultural, economic, religious and social spheres, among others. Because women were central to production in these pre-class societies, systematic inequality between the sexes was nonexistent, and elder women in particular enjoyed relatively high status.

With the creation of the capitalist colonial economy, the marginalization of women came in several ways:

Firstly, the advent of title deeds, made men the sole owners of land. Consequently, as women lost access and control of land, they became increasingly economically dependent on men. This in turn led to an intensification of domestic patriarchy, reinforced by colonial social institutions.

Secondly, as colonialism continued to entrench itself on African soil, the perceived importance of women’s agricultural contribution to the household was greatly reduced, as their vital role in food production was overshadowed by the more lucrative male-dominated cash crop cultivation for the international market. Prior to colonialism, women dominated trade. Markets were not governed by pure profit values; but rather, by the basic need to exchange, redistribute and socialize. Traditional African economic systems were not capitalist in nature.

Thirdly, colonialism brought with it Christianity and a masculine fundamentalism, which is now prevalent across Africa today. The imported patriarchal religion does not allow women to play the leading roles they have in the indigenous African religion.

In Ancient African religions it is not only God who is female, but also the main guardian spirits and sacred principles. Rosalind Jeffries, a historian, documents the concept of the Supreme Mother. In a paper entitled, “The Image of Woman in African Cave Art”, she shows how African Creation stories focused on the Primordial Mother, creating woman first, then man.

Christianity brought the monogamous nuclear family unit to Africa. Its sole purpose was to pass on private property, in the form of inheritance, from one generation of men to the next. Under capitalism, the modern family unit is founded on concealed, domestic slavery of the wife; and, the modern capitalist society is a compound made up of many individual families as its molecules.

A glance at the dictionary will reveal that the word family, has rather telling Latin origins. Famulus literally means domestic slave; and familia, which is also the Italian word for family, signified the total number of slaves belonging to one man. Karl Marx lays it bare: “The modern family contains in germ not only slavery (servitus) but also serfdom, since from the beginning it is related to agricultural services. It contains in miniature all the contradictions which later extend throughout society and its state.”

Finally, the introduction of wage labour affected women by uprooting men from villages to work in urban areas, causing profound, negative economic impacts on women. Colonial authorities routinely used native African males to impose taxes on women, thereby entrenching male dominance in the Native’s psyche. After all, colonialists brought to Africa the concept of the Victorian woman: a woman who should stay in the private domain and leave “real work” to the men. Due to the Victorian concept of women held by all colonialists, African women were excluded from the new political and administrative system, whose sole purpose was to extract raw materials and labour from the colony.

Colonialism replaced the role and status of the pre-colonial, African woman with a landless and disenfranchised domestic slave.

The United Nations Development Program notes that nowadays, African women perform sixty-six percent of the world’s work, produce fifty percent of the food, but earn only ten percent of the income and own only one percent of the property.

The greatest threat towards the African woman’s glorious future is her ignorance of her glorious past. Armed with knowledge, Africans must now fight to restore women to a position of respect and of economic freedom that exceeds that which she enjoyed before colonialism.

Garikai Chengu is a scholar at Harvard University. Contact him on garikai.chengu@gmail.com

 

Wealth of world’s billionaires surges past $7 trillion

By Joseph Kishore
March 4, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

InequalityThe combined net worth of the world’s billionaires has reached a new high in 2015 of $7.05 trillion, according to the latest compilation published by Forbes magazine on Monday.

There are a record 1,826 billionaires, each with an average wealth of $3.8 billion. Relative to last year, the world’s billionaires have increased their combined wealth by more than 10 percent, from $6.4 trillion in 2014, while the total number of billionaires has grown by 11 percent.

In introducing its report, Forbes noted the striking disconnect between the continued surge in the wealth of the world’s ultra-rich and the state of the world economy. “Despite plunging oil prices and a weakened euro, the ranks of the world’s wealthiest defied global economic turmoil and expanded once again,” the magazine commented.

This growth in the wealth of billionaires is bound up with the continued rise in global equity markets. The FTSE All-World Index surged to record highs last month, and US markets have continued to break records. Stock ownership is overwhelmingly concentrated in the hands of the wealthy, who have been the prime beneficiaries of “quantitative easing,” record low interest rates and other government policies.

The wealth of the world’s billionaires

The United States, the home of Wall Street and center of global financial capital, again has far and away the highest number of billionaires—536. Since the beginning of the so-called “economic recovery,” in 2009, some 95 percent of all income gains in the United States have gone to the top 1 percent. Meanwhile, nearly one in four children in the country lives in poverty.

At the top of the list of billionaires in the US are familiar names, including Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, whose individual wealth alone surged by $3.2 billion, to $79.2 billion. Among Americans, Gates was followed by investor Warren Buffet, the list’s biggest gainer for the year, who now has a net worth of $72.7 billion, up $14.5 billion from last year.

Further down the list, one finds individuals like hedge fund manager Steven Cohen, a personification of the essentially criminal character of American capitalism. A year ago, Cohen’s former hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, pleaded guilty to insider trading charges. Cohen himself was never charged, and he simply transferred his fortune to a new firm, Point72 Asset Management. Cohen made $1.3 billion last year, bringing his total net worth to $11.4 billion.

If categorized as a separate country, California, with 131 billionaires, would be second on the Forbes list, following only the US as a whole and China. Among the new billionaires in California are Travis Kalanick and Garett Camp, co-founders of Uber, a car-sharing service that specializes in coordinating drivers who are paid low wages, with uncertain and irregular hours. Such labor is increasingly being seen as a model for the American economy as a whole.

Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecommunications magnate, was second on the global list, with $77.1 billion. Half of Mexico’s population of 122 million people lives in poverty, defined as an income of less than about $6 a day (2,329 pesos a month). Slim’s personal fortune is roughly comparable to the combined annual income of these 60 million impoverished Mexican workers.

While Slim is the richest single individual in Latin America, the country with the largest number of billionaires in the region is Brazil, with 54. Half of Brazil’s 60 million children live in poverty.

Overall, the country with the second largest number of billionaires is China, with 213, followed by Germany, India and Russia.

China, which remains a cheap labor platform for world capitalism, is home to 71 of the 290 billionaires on the Forbes list this year, or about a quarter of the total. The richest individual in China is Wang Jianlin ($24.2 billion), a real estate magnate, followed by Jack Ma ($22.7 billion), the founder of Alibaba Group, an Internet trading company.

A surge in equity markets in China last year has benefited not only Chinese billionaires. Forbes commented, “If you invested in the companies run by billionaires on the top 20 China billionaire list, you’re tracking their wealth right into your brokerage account.” The initial public offering of Alibaba last year became an international spectacle of speculation and greed, netting global investors tens of billions in profits.

On India, Forbes commented that the country’s 90 billionaires “are riding high on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of ‘good times.’” The right-wing Hindu fundamentalist politician, elected last year, has quickly pushed through a raft of pro-business measures, while promoting the country as the world’s sweat shop.

The richest Indian is Mukesh Ambani (net worth of $21 billion), the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Limited. About 60 percent of the population in India, or 750 million people, live on less than $2 a day.

Russia has seen a significant decline in the number of billionaires, from 111 to 88, dropping from third to fifth on the overall list of countries. This is one result of the economic crisis that has engulfed the country, due to the sharp drop in oil prices and crippling economic sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe. One of the primary aims of these sanctions is to encourage a section of the Russian oligarchs, fearful of the impact on their wealth, to turn against the government of Vladimir Putin.

Certain broader comparisons are revealing. The debt that Greece owes the banks of Europe, for example, is about $90 billion. The wealth of the world’s billionaires is more than 77 times this amount.

In the United States, the city of Detroit has a debt of $6.9 billion, or one one-thousandth of the collective wealth of the world’s billionaires.

Both Greece and Detroit have been dragged through a disastrous restructuring dictated by the banks and endorsed by the entire political establishment, resulting in mass impoverishment and the decimation of living standards.

The Forbes list gives expression to the parasitic character of world capitalism as a whole. Whatever the particular sector of the economy with which their wealth is associated—finance, manufacturing, telecommunications—the fortunes of the ultra-rich are invariably tied to surging stock markets.

The concentration of such enormous sums in the hands of so few is not simply the product of abstract economic processes, but deliberate government policies, intensified since the financial crash of 2008. As the World Socialist Web Site noted at the time, the crisis was “the form in which a fundamental restructuring of the American and global economy, and the social and class relations upon which it is based, is taking place.”

Since 2009, when the policies of bank bailouts, near-zero interest rates and “quantitative easing” were fully implemented, the wealth of the world’s billionaires has nearly tripled. Led by the Obama administration in the US, the ruling class has funneled trillions of dollars into the financial markets while carrying out a relentless assault on the working class.

The universal character of these processes makes clear that what is at issue is the very nature of the existing economic order. The extraordinary growth of social inequality and the immense transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top are expressions of a bankrupt and diseased social system, capitalism. The decay and crisis of this system are producing the means for its own demise—the eruption of social conflict and class struggle on a world scale.

Fifty Years of Imperial Wars: Results and Perspectives

By James Petras
March 2, 2015
Dissident Voice

 

unclesam_lind_pdOver the past 50 years the US and European powers have engaged in countless imperial wars throughout the world. The drive for world supremacy has been clothed in the rhetoric of “world leadership”, the consequences have been devastating for the peoples targeted. The biggest, longest and most numerous wars have been carried out by the United States. Presidents from both parties direct and preside over this quest for world power. The ideology which informs imperialism varies from “anti-communism” in the past to “anti-terrorism” today.

Washington’s drive for world domination has used and combined many forms of warfare, including military invasions and occupations; proxy mercenary armies and military coups; financing political parties, NGO’s and street mobs to overthrow duly constituted governments. The driving forces in the imperial state , behind the quest for world power, vary with the geographic location and social economic composition of the targeted countries.

What is clear from an analysis of US empire building over the last half century is the relative decline of economic interests, and the rise of politico-military considerations. In part this is because of the demise of the collectivist regimes (the USSR and Eastern Europe) and the conversion of China and the leftist Asian, African and Latin American regimes to capitalism. The decline of economic forces as the driving force of imperialism is a result of the advent of global neoliberalism. Most US and EU multi-nationals are not threatened by nationalizations or expropriations, which might trigger imperial state political intervention. In fact, MNCs are invited to invest,trade and exploit natural resources even by post-neoliberal regimes. Economic interests come into play in formulating imperial state policies, if and when nationalist regimes emerge and challenge US MNCs as is the case in Venezuela under President Chavez.

The key to US empire building over the past half-century is found in the political, military and ideological power configurations which have come to control the levers of the imperial state. The recent history of US imperial wars has demonstrated that strategic military priorities – military bases, budgets and bureaucracy – have expanded far beyond any localized economic interests of MNCs. Moreover, the vast expenditures and long term and expensive military interventions of the US imperial state in the Middle East has been at the behest of Israel. The take-over of strategic political positions in the Executive branch and Congress by the powerful Zionist power configuration within the US has reinforced the centrality of military over economic interests

The ‘privatization’ of imperial wars – the vast growth and use of mercenaries contracted by the Pentagon- has led to the vast pillage of tens of billions of dollars from the US Treasury. Large scale corporations which supply mercenary military combatants have become a very ‘influential’ force shaping the nature and consequences of US empire building.

Military strategists, defenders of Israeli colonial interests in the Middle East, mercenary military and intelligence corporations are central actors in the imperial state and it is their decision-making influence which explains why US imperial wars do not result in a politically stable, economic prosperous empire. Instead their policies have resulted in unstable, ravaged economies, in perpetual rebellion..

We will proceed by identifying the changing areas and regions of US empire building from the mid 1970’s to the present. We then examine the methods, driving forces and outcomes of imperial expansion. We will then turn to describe the current ‘geo-political map of empire building and the varied nature of the anti-imperialist resistance. We will conclude by examining the why and how of empire building and more particularly, the consequences, and results of a half century of US imperial expansion.

Imperialism in the post Vietnam Period: Proxy Wars in Central America, Afghanistan, and Southern Africa

The US imperialist defeat in Indo-China marks the end of one phase of empire building and the beginning of another: a shift from territorial invasions to proxy wars. Hostile domestic opinion precluded large scale ground wars. Beginning during the presidencies of Gerald Ford and James Carter, the US imperialist state increasingly relied on proxy clients. It recruited, financed and armed proxy military forces to destroy a variety of nationalist and social revolutionary regimes and movements in three continents. Washington financed and armed extremist Islamic forces world-wide to invade and destroy the secular, modernizing, Soviet backed regime in Afghanistan, with logistical support from the Pakistan military and intelligence agencies, and financial backing from Saudi Arabia.

The second proxy intervention was in Southern Africa, where the US imperial state financed and armed proxy forces against anti-imperialist regimes in Angola and Mozambique, in alliance with South Africa.

The third proxy intervention took place in Central America, where the US financed, armed, and trained murderous death squad regimes in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to decimate popular movements and armed insurgencies resulting in over 300,000 civilian deaths.

The US imperial state’s ‘proxy strategy’ extended to South America: CIA and Pentagon backed military coups took place in Uruguay (General Alvarez), Chile (General Pinochet) Argentina (General Videla), Bolivia (General Banzer) and Peru (General Morales). Empire building by proxy, was largely at the behest of US MNCs which were the principal actors in setting priorities in the imperial state throughout this period.

Accompanying proxy wars, were direct military invasions: the tiny island of Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989) under Presidents’ Reagan and Bush, Sr. Easy targets, with few casualties and low cost military expenditures: dress rehearsals for re-launching major military operations in the near future.

What is striking about the ‘proxy wars’ are the mixed results.The outcomes in Central America, Afghanistan and Africa did not lead to prosperous neo-colonies or prove lucrative to US multi-national corporations. In contrast the proxy coups in South America led to large scale privatization and profits for US MNCs.

The Afghan proxy war led to the rise and consolidation of the Taliban “Islamic regime” which opposed both Soviet influence and US imperial expansion. The rise and consolidation of Islamic nationalism in turn challenged US allies in South Asia and the Gulf region and subsequently led to a US military invasion in 2001 and a prolonged (15 year) war (which has yet to conclude), and most probably to a military retreat and defeat. The main economic beneficiaries were Afghan political clients, US mercenary military “contractors”, military procurement officers and civilian colonial administrators who pillaged hundreds of billions from the US Treasury in illegal and fraudulent transactions.

Pillage of the US Treasury in no way benefited the non-military MNCs. In fact the war and resistance movement undermined any large scale, long-term entry of US private capital in Afghanistan and adjoining border regions of Pakistan.

The proxy war in Southern Africa devastated the local economies, especially the domestic agricultural economy, uprooted millions of laborers and farmers and curtailed US corporate oil penetration for over two decades. The ‘positive’ outcome was the de-radicalization of the former revolutionary nationalist elite. However, the political conversion of the Southern African “revolutionaries” to neoliberalism did not benefit the US MNCs as much as the rulers turned kleptocratic oligarchs who organized patrimonial regimes in association with a diversified collection of MNCs, especially from Asia and Europe.

The proxy wars in Central America had mixed results. In Nicaragua the Sandinista revolution defeated the US-Israeli backed Somoza regime but immediately confronted a US financed, armed and trained counter-revolutionary mercenary army (the “Contras”) based in Honduras. The US war destroyed many of the progressive economic projects, undermined the economy, and eventually led to an electoral victory by the US backed political client Violeta Chamorro. Two decades later the US proxies were defeated by a de-radicalized Sandinista led political coalition.

In El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the US proxy wars led to the consolidation of client regimes presiding over the destruction of the productive economy,and the flight of millions of war refugees to the United States. US imperial dominance eroded the bases for a productive labor market which spawned the growth of murderous drug gangs.

In summary, the US proxy wars succeeded, in most, cases in preventing the rise of nationalist-leftist regimes, but also led to the destructive of the economic and political bases of a stable and prosperous empire of neo-colonies.

US Imperialism in Latin America: Changing Structure, External and Internal Contingencies, Shifting Priorities and Global Constraints

To understand the operations, structure and performance of US imperialism in Latin America, it is necessary to recognize the specific constellation of competing forces which shaped imperial state policies. Unlike the Middle East where the militarist-Zionist faction has established hegemony, in Latin America the MNCs have played a leading role in directing imperial state policy. In Latin America, the militarists played a lesser role, constrained by (1) the power of the MNC, (2) the shifts in political power in Latin America from right to center-left, (3) the impact of economic crises and the commodity boom.

In contrast to the Middle East, the Zionist power configuration has little influence over imperial state policy, as Israel’s interests are focused on the Middle East and, with the possible exception of Argentina, Latin America is not a priority.

For over a century and a half, the US MNCs and banks dominated and dictated US imperial policy toward Latin America. The US armed forces and CIA were instruments of economic imperialism via direct intervention (invasions), proxy ‘military coups’, or a combination of both.

US imperial economic power in Latin America ‘peaked’ between 1975-1999. Vassal states and client rulers were imposed via proxy military coups, direct military invasions (Dominican Republic, Panama, and Grenada) and military-civilian controlled elections.

The results were the dismantling of the welfare state and the imposition of neoliberal policies. The MNC-led imperial state and its international financial appendages (IMF, WB, IDB) privatized lucrative strategic economic sectors, dominated trade and projected a regional integration scheme which would codify US imperial dominance.

Imperial economic expansion in Latin America was not simply a result of the internal dynamics and structures of the MNC but depended on (1) the receptivity of the ‘host’ country or more precisely the internal correlation of class forces in Latin America which in turn revolved around (2) the performance of the economy – its growth or susceptibility to crises.

Latin America demonstrates that contingencies such as the demise of client regimes and collaborator classes can have a profound negative impact on the dynamics of imperialism, undermining the power of the imperial state and reversing the economic advance of the MNCs.

The advance of US economic imperialism during the 1975-2000 period was manifest in the adoption of neoliberal policies, the pillage of national resources, the increase of illicit debts and the overseas transfer of billions of dollars However, the concentration of wealth and property, precipitated a deep socio-economic crises throughout the region which eventually led to the overthrow or ouster of the imperial collaborators in Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Nicaragua. Powerful anti-imperialist social movements especially in the countryside emerged in Brazil and the Andean countries. Urban unemployed workers movements and public employees unions in Argentina and Uruguay spearheaded electoral changes, bringing to power center-left regimes which ‘re-negotiated’ relations with the US imperial state.

US MNC influence in Latin America waned. They could not count on the full battery of military resources of the imperial state to intervene and re-impose neoliberal clients because of its military priorities elsewhere: the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

Unlike the past, the US MNCs in Latin America lacked two essential props of power: the full backing of the US armed forces and powerful civilian-military clients in Latin America.

The US MNCs’ plan for US centered integration was rejected by the center-left regimes. The imperial state turned to bilateral free trade agreements with Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Panama and Peru. As a result of the economic crises and collapse of most Latin American economies, “neoliberalism,” the ideology of imperial economic penetration, was discredited. Neoliberal advocates marginalized.

Changes in the world economy had a profound impact on US-Latin America trade and investment relations. The dynamic growth of China and the subsequent boom in demand and the rising prices of commodities, led to a sharp decline of US dominance of Latin American markets.

Latin American states diversified trade, sought and gained new overseas markets, especially in China. The increase in export revenues created greater capacity for self-financing. The IMF, WB and IDB, economic instruments for leveraging US financial impositions (“conditionality”), were sidelined

The US imperial state faced Latin American regimes who embraced diverse economic options, markets and sources of financing. With powerful domestic popular support and unified civilian-military command, Latin America moved tentatively out of the US sphere of imperialist domination.

The imperial state and its MNCs, deeply influenced by their “success” in the 1990s, responded to the decline of influence by proceeding by ‘trial and error,’ in the face of the negative constraints of the 21st century. The MNCs backed policymakers in the imperial state continued to back the collapsing neoliberal regimes, losing all credibility in Latin America. The imperial-state failed to accommodate changes – deepening popular and center-left regime opposition to “free markets” and the deregulation of banks. No large scale economic aid programs, like President Kennedy’s effort to counter the revolutionary appeal of the Cuban revolution by promoting social reforms via the ‘Alliance for Progress”, were fashioned to win over the center-left,probably because of budget constraints resulting from costly wars elsewhere.

The demise of neoliberal regimes, the glue that held the different factions of the imperial state together, led to competing proposals of how to regain dominance. The ‘militarist faction’ resorted to and revived the military coup formula for restoration: coups were organized in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras and Paraguay … all were defeated, except the latter two. The defeat of US proxies led to the consolidation of the independent, anti-imperialist center-left regimes.Even the “success”of the US coup in Honduras resulted in a major diplomatic defeat,as every Latin American government condemned it and the US role,further isolating Washington in the region.

The defeat of the militarist strategy strengthened the political-diplomatic faction of the imperial state. With positive overtures toward ostensibly ‘center-left regimes’, this faction gained diplomatic leverage, retained military ties and deepened the expansion of MNCs in Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and Peru. With the latter two countries the economic imperialist faction of the imperial state secured bilateral free trade agreements.

A third MNC-military faction, overlapping with the previous two, combined diplomatic-political accommodations toward Cuba, with an aggressive political destabilization strategy aimed at “regime change” (coup) in Venezuela.

The heterogeneity of imperial state factions and their competing orientations, reflects the complexity of interests engaged in empire building in Latin America and results in seemingly contradictory policies, a phenomenon less evident in the Middle East where the militarist-Zionist power configuration dominates imperial policy-making.

For example the promotion of military bases and counter-insurgency operations in Colombia (a priority of the militarist faction) is accompanied by bilateral free market agreements and peace negotiations between the Santos regime and the FARC armed insurgency (a priority of the MNC faction).

Regaining imperial dominance in Argentina involves: (1) promoting the electoral fortunes of the neoliberal governor of Buenos Aires Macri; (2) backing the pro-imperialist media conglomerate Clarin, facing legislation breaking up its monopoly; (3) exploiting the death of prosecutor and CIA-Mossad collaborator Alberto Nisman to discredit the Kirchner-Fernandez regime; (4) backing New York speculators’ (vulture) investment fund attempting to extract exorbitant interest payments and, with the aid of a dubious judicial ruling, blocking Argentina’s access to financial markets.

Both the militarist and MNC factions of the imperial state converge in backing a multi-pronged electoral and coup approach, which seeks to restore a US controlled neoliberal regimes to power.

The contingencies which forestalled the recovery of imperial power over the past decade are now acting in reverse. The drop in commodity prices has weakened post neoliberal regimes in Venezuela, Argentina, and Ecuador. The ebbing of anti-imperialist movements resulting from center-left co-optation tactics has strengthened imperial state backed right-wing movements and street demonstrators. The decline in Chinese growth has weakened the Latin American market diversification strategies. The internal balance of class forces has shifted to the Right, toward US backed political clients in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Paraguay.

Theoretical Reflections on Empire Building in Latin America

US empire building in Latin America is a cyclical process, reflecting the structural shifts in political power, and the restructuring of the world economy – forces and factors which ‘override’ the imperial state and capital’s drive to accumulate.Capital accumulation and expansion does not depend merely on the impersonal forces of “the market” – because the social relations under which the “market” functions, operate under the constraints of the class struggle.

The centerpiece of imperial state activities-namely the prolonged territorial wars in the Middle East – are absent in Latin America. The driving force of US imperial state policy is the pursuit of resources (agro-mining), labor power ( low paid autoworkers), markets (size and purchasing power of 600 million consumers). The economic interests of the MNCs are the motives for imperial expansion.

Even as, from a geo-strategic vantage point, the Caribbean, Central America as well as South America are located most proximate to the US, economic not military objectives predominate.

However, the militarist-Zionist faction in the imperial state, ignore these traditional economic motives and deliberately choose to act on other priorities – control over oil producing regions, destruction of Islamic nations or movements or simply to destroy anti-imperialist adversaries. The militarists-Zionist faction counted the “benefits” to Israel, its Middle East military supremacy, more important than the US securing economic supremacy in Latin America. This is clearly the case if we measure imperial priorities by state resources expended in pursuit of political goals.

Even if we take the goal of “national security”, interpreted in the broadest sense, of securing the safety of the territorial homeland of the empire, the US military assault of Islamic countries driven by accompanying Islamophobic ideology and the resulting mass killings and uprooting a millions of Islamic people, has led to “blowback”: reciprocal terrorism. US “total wars” against civilians has provoked Islamic assaults against the citizens of the West.

Latin America countries targeted by economic imperialism are less belligerent than Middle Eastern countries targeted by US militarists. A cost/benefits analysis would demonstrate the totally “irrational” nature of militarist strategy. However,if we take account of the specific composition and interests that motivate particularly imperial state policymakers, there is a kind of perverse “rationality”. The militarists defend the “rationality” of costly and unending wars by citing the advantages of seizing the ‘gateways to oil’ and the Zionists cite their success in enhancing Israel’s regional power.

Whereas Latin America, for over a century was a priority region of imperial economic conquest, by the 21st century it lost primacy to the Middle East.

The Demise of the USSR and China’s conversion to Capitalism

The greatest impetus to successful US imperial expansion did not take place via proxy wars or military invasions. Rather, the US empire achieved its greatest growth and conquest, with the aid of client political leaders, organizations and vassal states throughout the USSR, Eastern Europe, the Baltic States the Balkans and the Caucuses. Long term, large scale US and EU political penetration and funding succeeded in overthrowing the hegemonic collectivist regimes in Russia and the USSR, and installing vassal states. They would soon serve NATO and be incorporated in the European Union. Bonn annexed East Germany and dominated the markets of Poland, the Czech Republic, and other Central European states. US and London bankers collaborated with Russian-Israeli gangster-oligarchs in joint ventures plundering resources, industries, real estate, and pension funds. The European Union exploited tens of millions of highly trained scientists, technicians, and workers – by importing them or stripping them of their welfare benefits and labor rights and exploiting them as cheap labor reserves in their own country.

“Imperialism by invitation” hosted by the vassal Yeltsin regime, easily appropriated Russian wealth. The ex-Warsaw Pact military forces were incorporated into a foreign legion for US imperial wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Their military installations were converted into military bases and missile sites encircling Russia.

US imperial conquest of the East, created a “unipolar world” in which Washington decision-makers and strategists believed that, as the world’s supreme power, they could intervene in every region with impunity.

The scope and depth of the US world empire was enhanced by China’s embrace of capitalism and its ruler’s invitation to US and EU MNCs to enter and exploit cheap Chinese labor. The global expansion of the US empire, led to a sense of unlimited power, encouraging its rulers to exercise power against any adversary or competitor.

Between 1990 and 2000, the US expanded its military bases to the borders of Russia. US MNCs expanded into China and Indo-China. US backed client regimes throughout Latin America dismantled the national economies, privatizing and denationalizing over five thousand lucrative strategic firms. Every sector was affected: natural resources, transport, telecommunications, and finance.

The US proceeded throughout the 1990s to expand via political penetration and military force. President George H. W. Bush launched a war against Iraq. Clinton bombed Yugoslavia and Germany and the EU joined the US in dividing Yugoslavia into ‘mini states’

The Pivotal Year 2000: the Pinnacle and Decline of Empire

The very rapid and extensive imperial expansion, between 1989-1999, the easy conquests and the accompanying plunder, created the conditions for the decline of the US empire.

The pillage and impoverishment of Russia led to the rise of a new leadership under President Putin intent on reconstructing the state and economy and ending vassalage.

The Chinese leadership harnessed its dependence on the West for capital investments and technology, into instruments for creating a powerful export economy and the growth of a dynamic national public-private manufacturing complex. The imperial centers of finance which flourished under lax regulation crashed. The domestic foundations of empire were severely strained. The imperial war machine competed with the financial sector for federal budgetary expenditures and subsidies.

The easy growth of empire, led to its over-extension. Multiple areas of conflict, reflected world-wide resentment and hostility at the destruction wrought by bombings and invasions. Collaborative imperial client rulers were weakened. The world-wide empire exceeded the capacity of the US to successfully police its new vassal states. The colonial outposts demanded new infusions of troops, arms and funds at a time when countervailing domestic pressures were demanding retrenchment and retreat.

All the recent conquests – outside of Europe – were costly. The sense of invincibility and impunity led imperial planners to overestimate their capacity to expand, retain, control and contain the inevitable anti-imperialist resistance.

The crises and collapse of the neoliberal vassal states in Latin America accelerated. Anti-imperialist uprisings spread from Venezuela (1999), to Argentina (2001), Ecuador (2000-2005) and Bolivia (2003-2005). Center-left regimes emerged in Brazil, Uruguay and Honduras. Mass movements, in rural regions,among Indian and mining communities gained momentum. Imperial plans formulated to secure US centered integration were rejected. Instead multiple regional pacts excluding the US proliferated-ALBA, UNASUR, CELAC. Latin America’s domestic rebellion coincided with the economic rise of China. A prolonged commodity boom severely weakened US imperial supremacy. The US had few local allies in Latin America and over ambitious commitments to control the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

Washington lost its automatic majority in Latin America: its backing of coups in Honduras and Paraguay and its intervention in Venezuela (2002) and blockade of Cuba was repudiated by every regime, even by conservative allies.

Having easily established a global empire, Washington found it was not so easy to defend it. Imperial strategists in Washington viewed the Middle East wars through the prism of the Israeli military priorities, ignoring the global economic interests of the MNC.

Imperial military strategists overestimated the military capacity of vassals and clients, ill-prepared by Washington to rule in countries with growing armed national resistance movements. Wars, invasions and military occupations were launched in multiple sites. Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Pakistan were added to Afghanistan and Iraq. US imperial state expenditures far exceeded any transfer of wealth from the occupied countries.

A vast civilian-military-mercenary bureaucracy pillaged hundreds of billions of dollars from the US Treasury.

The centrality of wars of conquest, destroyed the economic foundations and institutional infrastructure necessary for MNC entry and profit.

Once entrenched in strategic military conceptions of empire, the military-political leadership of the imperial state fashioned a global ideology to justify and motivate a policy of permanent and multiple warfare. The doctrine of the ‘war on terror’ justified war everywhere and nowhere. The doctrine was ‘elastic’ – adapted to every region of conflict and inviting new military engagements: Afghanistan, Libya, Iran and Lebanon were all designated as war zones. The ‘terror doctrine’, global in scope, provided a justification for multiple wars and the massive destruction (not exploitation) of societies and economic resources. Above all the “war on terrorism” justified torture (Abu Gharib) and concentration camps (Guantanamo), and civilian targets (via drones)anywhere. Troops were withdrawn and returned to Afghanistan and Iraq as the nationalist resistance advanced. Thousands of Special Forces in scores of countries were active, purveying death and mayhem.

Moreover, the violent uprooting, degradation and stigmatization of entire Islamic people led to the spread of violence in the imperial centers of Paris, New York, London, Madrid, and Copenhagen. The globalization of imperial state terror led to individual terror.

Imperial terror evoked domestic terror: the former on a massive, sustained scale encompassing entire civilizations and conducted and justified by elected political officials and military authorities. The latter by a cross section of ‘internationalists’ who directly identified with the victims of imperial state terror.

Contemporary Imperialism: Present and Future Perspectives

To understand the future of US imperialism it is important to sum up and evaluate the experience and policies of the past quarter of a century.

If we compare, US empire building between 1990 and 2015, it is clearly in decline economically, politically and even militarily in most regions of the world, though the process of decline is not linear and probably not irreversible.

Despite talk in Washington of reconfiguring imperial priorities to take account of MNC economic interests, little has been accomplished. Obama’s so-called “pivot to Asia” has resulted in new military base agreements with Japan, Australia, and the Philippines surrounding China and reflects an inability to fashion free trade agreements that exclude China. Meantime, the US has militarily re-started the war and reentered Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to launching new wars in Syria and the Ukraine. It is clear that the primacy of the militarist faction is still the determinant factor in shaping imperial state policies.

The imperial military drive is most evident in the US intervention in support of the coup in the Ukraine and subsequent financing and arming of the Kiev junta. The imperial takeover of the Ukraine and plans to incorporate it into the EU and NATO, represents military aggression in its most blatant form: The expansion of US military bases and installations and military maneuvers on Russia’s borders and the US initiated economic sanctions, have severely damaged EU trade and investment with Russia. US empire building continues to prioritize military expansion even at the cost of Western imperial economic interests in Europe.

The US-EU bombing of Libya destroyed the burgeoning trade and investment agreements between imperial oil and gas MNCs and the Gaddafi government. NATO air assaults destroyed the economy, society, and political order, converting Libya into a territory overrun by warring clans, gangs, terrorists and armed thuggery.

Over the past half century, the political leadership and strategies of the imperial state have changed dramatically. During the period between 1975-1990, MNCs played a central role in defining the direction of imperial state policy: leveraging markets in Asia; negotiating market openings with China; promoting and backing neoliberal military and civilian regimes in Latin America; installing and financing pro-capitalist regimes in Russia, Eastern Europe, the Baltic and Balkan states. Even in the cases where the imperial state resorted to military intervention, Yugoslavia and Iraq, the bombings led to favorable economic opportunities for US MNCs. The Bush Sr regime promoted US oil interests via an oil for food agreement with Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Clinton promoted free market regimes in the mini-states resulting from the break-up of socialist Yugoslavia .

However, the imperial state’s leadership and policies shifted dramatically during the late 1990’s onward. President Clinton’s imperial state was composed of long-standing MNC representatives, Wall Street bankers, and newly ascending militarist Zionist officials.

The result was a hybrid policy in which the imperial state actively promoted MNC opportunities under neoliberal regimes in the ex-Communist countries of Europe and Latin America, and expanded MNC ties with China and Viet Nam while launching destructive military interventions in Somalia, Yugoslavia, and Iraq.

The ‘balance of forces’ within the imperialist state shifted dramatically in favor the militarist-Zionist faction with 9/11: the terrorist attack of dubious origins and false flag demolitions in New York and Washington served to entrench the militarists in control of a vastly expanded imperial state apparatus. As a consequence of 9/11, the militarist-Zionist faction of the imperial state subordinated the interests of the MNCs to its strategy of total wars. This in turn led to the invasion, occupation and destruction of civilian infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan (instead of harnessing it to MNC expansion). The US colonial regime dismantled the Iraqi state (instead of re-ordering it to serve the MNC). The assassination and forced out-migration of millions of skilled professionals, administrators, police and military officials crippled any economic recovery (instead of their incorporation as servants of the colonial state and MNC).

The militarist-Zionist ascendancy in the imperial state introduced major changes in policy, orientation , priorities and the modus operandi of US imperialism. The ideology of the “global war on terror” replaced the MNC doctrine of promoting “economic globalization”.

Perpetual wars (“terrorists” were not confined to place and time) replaced limited wars or interventions directed at opening markets or changing regimes which would implement neoliberal policies benefiting US MNCs.

The locus of imperial state activity shifted from exploiting economic opportunities, in Asia, Latin America and the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe to wars in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa – targeting Muslim countries which opposed Israel’s colonial expansion in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

The new militarist-power configuration’s conception of empire building required vast – trillion dollar – expenditures, without care or thought of returns to private capital. In contrast, under the hegemony of the MNCs, the imperial state, intervened to secure concessions of oil, gas and minerals in Latin America and the Middle East. The costs of military conquest were more than compensated by the returns to the MNC. The militarist imperial state configuration pillaged the US Treasury to finance its occupations, financing a vast army of corrupt colonial collaborators, private mercenary ‘military contractors’ and, soon to be millionaire, US military procurement (sic) officials.

Previously, MNCs directed overseas exploitation led to healthy returns to the US Treasury both in terms of direct tax payments and via the revenues generated from trade and the processing of raw materials.

Over the past decade and a half, the biggest and most stable returns to the MNC take place in regions and countries where the militarized imperial state is least involved: China, Latin America, and Europe. The MNCs have profited least and have lost most in areas of greatest imperial state involvement.

The ‘war zones’ that extend from Libya, Somalia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are the regions where imperial MNCs have suffered the biggest decline and exodus.

The main “beneficiaries” of the current imperial state policies are the war contractors and the security-military-industrial complex in the US. Overseas the state beneficiaries include Israel and Saudi Arabia. In addition Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani client rulers have squirreled away tens of billions in off-shore private bank accounts.

The “non-state” beneficiaries include mercenary, proxy armies. In Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Ukraine tens of thousands of collaborators in self-styled “non-governmental” organizations have also profited.

The Lost-Benefit Calculus or Empire-Building under the Aegis of the Militarist-Zionist Imperial State

Sufficient time has passed over the past decade and a half of militarist-Zionist dominance of the imperial state to evaluate their performance.

The US and its Western European allies, especially Germany successfully expanded their empire in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Baltic regions without firing a shot. These countries were converted into EU vassal states. Their markets dominated and industries denationalized. Their armed forces were recruited as NATO mercenaries. West Germany annexed the East. Cheap educated labor, as immigrants and as a labor reserve, increased profits for EU and US MNCs. Russia was temporarily reduced to a vassal state between 1991-2001. Living standards plunged and welfare programs were reduced. Mortality rates increased. Class inequalities widened. Millionaires and billionaires seized public resources and joined with the imperial MNCs in plundering the economy. Socialist and Communist leaders and parties were repressed or co-opted. In contrast, imperial military expansion of the 21st century was a costly failure. The ‘war in Afghanistan’ was costly in lives and expenditures and led to an ignominious retreat. What remained was a fragile puppet regime and an unreliable mercenary military. The US-Afghanistan war was the longest war in US history and one of the biggest failures. In the end the nationalist-Islamist resistance movements – the so-called “Taliban” and allied ethno-religious and nationalist anti-imperialist resistance groups – dominate the countryside, repeatedly penetrate and attack urban centers and prepare to take power.

The Iraq war and the imperial state’s invasion and decade long occupation decimated the economy. The occupation fomented ethno-religious warfare. The secular Ba’thist officers and military professionals joined with Islamist nationalists and subsequently formed a powerful resistance movement (ISIS) which defeated the imperial backed Shia mercenary army during the second decade of the war. The imperial state was condemned to re-enter and engage directly in a prolonged war. The cost of war spiraled to over a trillion dollars. Oil exploitation was hampered and the US Treasury poured tens of billions to sustain a “war without end’.

The US imperial state and the EU, along with Saudi Arabia and Turkey financed armed Islamic mercenary militias to invade Syria and overthrow the secular, nationalist, anti-Zionist Bashar Assad regime. The imperial war opened the door for the expansion of the Islamic-Ba’thist forces-ISIS into Syria. The Kurds and other armed groups seized territory, fragmenting the country. After nearly five years of warfare and rising military costs the US and EU MNCs have been cut off from the Syrian market.

US support for Israeli aggression against Lebanon has led to the growth in power of the anti-imperialist Hezbollah armed resistance. Lebanon, Syria, and Iran now represent a serious alternative to the US, EU, Saudi Arabia, Israeli axis.

The US sanctions policy toward Iran has failed to undermine the nationalist regime and has totally undercut the economic opportunities of all the major US and EU oil and gas MNCs as well as US manufacturing exporters. China has replaced them.

The US-EU invasion of Libya led to the destruction of the economy and the flight of billions in MNC investments and the disruption of exports.

The US imperial states’ seizure of power via a proxy coup in Kiev, provoked a powerful anti-imperialist rebellion led by armed militia in the East (Donetsk and Luhansk) and the decimation of the Ukraine economy.

In summary, the military-Zionist takeover of the imperial state has led to prolonged, unwinnable costly wars which have undermined markets and investment sites for US MNCs. Imperial militarism has undermined the imperial economic presence and provoked long-term, growing anti-imperialist resistance movements, as well as chaotic, unstable and unviable countries out of imperial control.

Economic imperialism has continued to profit in parts of Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa despite the imperial wars and economic sanctions pursued by the highly militarized imperial state elsewhere.

However, the US militarists’ seizure of power in the Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia have eroded EU’S profitable trade and investments in Russia. The Ukraine under IMF-EU-US tutelage has become a heavily indebted, broken economy run by kleptocrats who are totally dependent on foreign loans and military intervention.

Because the militarized imperial state prioritizes conflict and sanctions with Russia, Iran, and Syria, it has failed to deepen and expand its economic ties with Asia, Latin America and Africa. The political and economic conquest of East Europe and parts of the USSR has lost significance. The perpetual, lost wars in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucuses have weakened the imperial state’s capacity for empire building in Asia and Latin America.

The outflow of wealth, the domestic cost of perpetual wars has eroded the electoral foundations of empire building. Only a fundamental change in the composition of the imperial state and a reorientation of priorities toward centering on economic expansion can alter the current decline of empire. The danger is that as the militarist Zionist imperialist state pursues losing wars, it may escalate and raise the ante, and move toward a major nuclear confrontation: an empire amidst nuclear ashes!

James Petras was Director of the Center for Mediterranean Studies in Athens (1981-1984) and adviser to Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou (1981-84). He resigned in protest over the PM expulsion of leading trade unionists from PASOK for organizing a general strike against his ‘stabilization program’. Petras is co-author of Mediterranean Paradoxes: The Politics and Social Structure of Southern Europe. His latest books include Extractive Imperialism in the Americas: Capitalism’s New Frontier (with Henry Veltmeyer) and The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle East. Read other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

Wars for Resources?

The Petroleum Factor

By John Foster
March 2, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Oil WarsRecent conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine have ostensibly been about “bad guys” who threatened peace with weapons of one kind or another, or stifled freedom and democracy.

Whatever the accusation, concerns about petroleum — oil and gas — are missing from official pronouncements. Yet each of these “hot spots” involves petroleum, a vital commodity for economies worldwide.

Since 9/11, the West has intervened in one country after another. But snapshots of events in each country create a collage with recurring petroleum themes that deserve attention.

Iraq

Iraq has the world’s fifth largest reserves of oil. The Bush administration accused Saddam Hussein of harbouring weapons of mass destruction and being a threat to the world. At the same time, before the invasion, Washington began drafting an oil law for Iraq — one that would open Iraq’s oil to Western companies. During the war, the country’s infrastructure was devastated, thousands of Iraqis were killed, and millions fled as refugees. The Oil Ministry and oil fields were protected. Washington insiders now admit there was an oil agenda.

Although oil was not privatized as Washington envisioned, oil companies thronged to Iraq. The country was poised to become a top oil exporter. Then Islamic State took power in Iraq’s Sunni north and moved to encroach into the Kurdish northeast and Shia south. Each region has huge oil resources. Was recent Western intervention related to petroleum as well as humanitarian concerns?

Libya

In Libya, a country with the world’s ninth largest oil reserves, the limelight was on Muammar Gaddafi. He had used the country’s oil wealth to provide Libyans with free education and healthcare, and to promote pan-African interests, such as the African Union and a new African currency to replace trading in U.S. dollars.

When a rebellion erupted in Libya’s oil region, the West accused Gaddafi of attacks against civilians. The UN authorized a no-fly zone. Under Canadian General Bouchard, NATO flew 9,700 strike sorties, leaving behind death, destruction and chaos. The oil economy was poised to recover until continued violence severely curtailed both exploration and exports. Was Libya a humanitarian intervention, or an excuse for regime change and control of oil? For sure, Gaddafi’s challenges to U.S. hegemony have been eliminated.

Syria

In Syria, the focus has been on Bashar al-Assad and his efforts to quell a civil war. The United States accused him of using chemical weapons against his own people and prepared for war on humanitarian grounds. Russia intervened and Assad agreed to destroy all chemical weapons. Soon, strong evidence emerged questioning U.S. assertions of Assad’s culpability and pointing to the rebels as responsible for the chemical attack. Even so, senior Obama officials still point fingers at Assad.

Coincidence or not, Assad became a foe in 2011, shortly after backing a pipeline proposal to bring gas from Iran — through Iraq and Syria — to Europe. The U.S. supports a rival pipeline proposal to bring gas from Qatar — through Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey — to Europe. If one or the other is built, it will be the first pipeline ever to bring gas from the Middle East to Europe. Its sponsors would reap enormous rewards.

The geopolitics are complex. Russia, Iran, and China support the Syrian government. The U.S., France, and Britain support so-called moderate rebels. Saudi Arabia and Qatar bankroll rebels of all sorts, and Turkey provides bases for them. Now, Islamic State is a threat to both the Iran and Qatar pipeline proposals, controlling territory along potential routes.

Ukraine

Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine is a diverse country. In the west, its populace favours ties to Europe. In the east, the population has close economic, linguistic and cultural ties to Russia. Crimea has a unique status as home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since 1783. Before voting to join Russia, it was an autonomous republic within Ukraine.

Two differing narratives obfuscate recent events in Ukraine. The U.S., NATO and European Union have one narrative. It features Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, as the bad guy, accusing him of interfering to create chaos on his border. The Russian narrative highlights U.S. meddling in Ukraine, points to NATO expansion, and openly discusses pipelines.

Russia has the world’s second largest reserves of natural gas. Half of its gas exports flow through Ukraine’s pipelines to Europe. The pipelines matter — for Russia, Ukraine, and Europe. Russia earns half of its foreign exchange earnings from oil and gas. Ukraine receives significant revenue from transit fees on pipelines. Some European countries depend on Russia for all or most of their gas.

Ukraine has become an unreliable transit route, with long-standing payment and delivery issues. To diversify, Russia built Nord Stream, a pipeline bringing Russian gas under the Baltic Sea directly to Germany. With European partners, Russia planned South Stream to bring gas under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and on to central Europe. The European Commission expressed regulatory concerns and in June 2014 intervened to halt construction.

The European Union backs a rival pipeline project, the Southern Gas Corridor, to bring gas from Azerbaijan — through Georgia and Turkey — to Europe. In December 2014, with South Stream stymied, Russia cancelled it and announced Turkish Stream, a project of similar dimension to bring gas across the Black Sea to Turkey for delivery to Europe at the Greek border. Since Turkey does not belong to the European Union, Turkish Stream is unaffected by EU regulations. Now European countries are charged with building their own pipelines to connect at the Greek border.

Russia, Pipelines, and Lower Oil Prices

Pipelines create political and economic bonds between countries as well as ongoing streams of revenue. Three countries — Russia, Qatar and Iran — have the world’s largest gas reserves. Each country plans a huge pipeline to supply Europe. Russia’s plan is Turkish Stream. Iran and Qatar each plan a pipeline passing through Syria. For the Russian and Qatari projects, Turkey is a strategic transit country. Is there room for more than one of these pipelines to Europe? Does Russia’s ability to move ahead quickly with Turkish Stream pre-empt the other two projects?

With its European trade threatened, Russia is taking counter-measures, promoting trade and investment with Asia, Latin America, Turkey, and Iran. It has recently announced a huge pipeline deal to supply gas to China. Significantly, the deal involves trading in rubles and yuan instead of the U.S. dollar.

Geopolitics typically involve policies and actions on more than one front. Could the dramatic decline in world oil prices be another geopolitical move? Saudi Arabia, traditionally a swing producer, is pumping close to capacity despite weakening world demand for oil and unprecedented production increases in North America. Is Saudi Arabia simply seeking to knock out high-cost producers? Or is it working with its ally, the U.S., to make things even more difficult for Russia? For Russia, already coping with sanctions and NATO’s expansion to its borders, the low prices represent a third whammy.

Iran

Iran is a petroleum giant, with the world’s largest reserves of gas and fourth largest of oil. Its economy is hard hit by low oil prices, in addition to long-standing sanctions. In 2002, President Bush accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Countless inspections by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency have found no evidence. U.S. intelligence assessments agree. Yet Western governments ignore the evidence, even as they negotiate with Iran about ending sanctions. How do Iran’s petroleum resources figure in geopolitical calculations?

Afghanistan

Afghanistan shares a long border with Iran and a shorter border with Turkmenistan, a country with the world’s fourth largest reserves of gas. Turkmen gas exports go north to Russia — thence Europe — and across Central Asia to China. For years, the U.S. has promoted a pipeline to bring gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. It’s called TAPI, after the initials of the four countries. Meanwhile, the U.S. vigorously opposes a proposed pipeline to bring gas from Iran to Pakistan.

Afghanistan is a bridgehead to Central Asia. TAPI is the flagship project in Washington’s New Silk Road initiative to link Central and South Asia. U.S. and NATO recently signed security agreements with Afghanistan enabling troops to remain. Will foreign troops be working with Afghans to protect the TAPI pipeline route?

Wars for resources?

Looking at each hot spot individually may obscure the big picture. Petroleum is the lifeblood of modern economies, important to all countries of the world. Control and access matter. So does the wealth that petroleum resources and pipelines produce. Petroleum issues are typically kept in the shadows. Wars for resources are illegal under the UN Charter. Yet petroleum appears to play a role in the complex geopolitics of each hot spot.

Modern wars generate much death and destruction, consume enormous sums of money, and invite blowback for years to come. In this context, the petroleum dimension merits much more discussion.

John Foster spoke recently at CIC Branch events in Thunder Bay, Saskatoon and South Saskatchewan.

This essay originally appeared on Open Canada.

 

The Entitled Get More Brazen by the Day

Are We Witnessing the Dawn of Feudalism 2.0?

By Murray Dobbin
March 1, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Powell River, British Columbia.

InequalityEvery so often a cluster of news stories combine to become more than the simple sum of their parts. In the last few weeks, stories have emerged that reinforce the argument made by some academics and commentators suggesting that the West, including Canada, is beginning to devolve into a kind of new feudalism.

First up the revelations, leaked by an insider, that Swiss banking giant HSBC actively facilitates gross tax evasion on the part of the world’s wealthy and also launders billions in drug money.

Second, we have been provided a window on the heart-stopping corruption and moral turpitude of (at least some of) the global political elite through revelations that former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Gaston André Strauss-Kahn (I’m not making that up), the same guy accused of raping a New York hotel maid who settled out of court — is now charged with “aggravated pimping” for providing prostitutes for sex orgies. This is the man who was once destined to be the French Socialist Party’s presidential candidate.

Then there was the story of NBC rock star “news” anchor Brian Williams lying about his war experience (the helicopter story) in the beginning weeks of the Iraq war. This lie, while pretty inconsequential in the scheme of things, does allow us to shine some light on the role of these talking hair-dos in the new feudal order.

How does all this relate to neo-feudalism?  There is no single definition of feudalism or its 2.0 version but there are some characteristics common to most. Wikipedia has this helpful explanation of neo-feudalism: “… a theorized contemporary rebirth of policies of governance, economy and public life reminiscent of those present in many feudal societies, such as unequal rights and legal protections for common people and for nobility.”

Ah, yes, the nobility. That would pretty much describe the principals in the three stories that managed to break through the “let’s-make-everyone-stupid” machine that is today’s mass media.

The HSBC story certainly reinforces one key component of neo-feudalism: unequal rights and legal protections for ordinary people and the super-privileged. The story on HSBC was leaked to selected media around the world (including the CBC). The story has been front-page news in Britain ever since it was first revealed, with opposition politicians and citizens alike calling for criminal prosecution.

But after a brief exposure here, and the naming of a couple of billionaires, there seems to be a distinct lack of outrage.

The Guardian covered the story and contrasted two citizens (serf and noble?): “She was a poor Scottish cleaner who confessed to benefits fraud of £25,000 and got seven months in jail. He is a wealthy property dealer whose father hid a six-figure sum from the taxman… and paid a small penalty.”

One of the most graphic features of the HSBC saga is the description of one of its services to clients. Many of these clients are hiding money from their governments’ tax departments, so avoiding a paper trail is critical. They can’t just wire $50,000 to their client’s bank account. So the bank would package used, small denomination bills in “bricks” which the client would pick up in person and then courier to their home address in the US, Britain, France — or Canada.

The amount of lost revenue stashed away in tax havens is truly staggering. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists estimates that it amounts to $7.6 trillion, and a loss to governments around the world of some $200 billion in revenue every year.

HSBC’s Swiss office accounts for $100 billion of the total deposits.

Some 1,859 Canadians hold accounts at HSBC valued at $4 billion.

Of that number, 264 have taken advantage of Revenue Canada’s voluntary disclosure program. As a result, not a single tax evader has so far been charged for the crimes they committed — stealing from the government.

I am pretty sure there is no comparable get-out-of jail-free card for the (handful of) impoverished people cheating on social assistance. As far as I am aware no one in the mainstream media has even thought of investigating this staggering double standard. That is how deeply entrenched the new normal has become.

As for Strauss-Kahn, his response to being charged is so outrageous it is worthy of Marie Antoinette. He whined: “The prosecution gives the impression of unbridled activity. There were only twelve parties in total — that is four per year over three years.” Sniff, sniff. The bothersome courts, the disrespectful media. It really is too much.

It is apparently completely beyond this sophisticated member of the French ruling elite that he did anything wrong. He testified to using “rough” sex (sound familiar CBC fans?) — stating matter-of-factly that he needed sex “with exceptional frequency.” There can be no doubt, then, that women should be expected to service his needs. It isn’t just that he hired prostitutes, it’s the brutal sex practices engaged in by Strauss-Kahn and his powerful friends that is the most disturbing.

The utter contempt for women was palpable. He referred to them as “material.” Two of the women described “beast-like” scenes. Another that she felt like “… meat in a slaughterhouse.” “A prostitute named Mounia testified that Strauss-Kahn had insisted on a particular sexual act, and proceeded with it despite her unwillingness, even though she was gesturing for him to stop: ‘I felt that he understood. I was crying, I was in pain.’”

In addition to the barbaric attitude towards women, testimony also revealed overt corruption — powerful people seeking political favour from Strauss-Kahn often hired prostitutes for him. This was while he was making a $500,000, tax-free salary for the IMF. You know the IMF — the organization that has destroyed social programs in half the countries of the world — demanding austerity in the pursuit of the moral imperative of balanced budgets.

Ah, yes, Brian Williams. What is notable about this story is that Williams has been lying for years in the service of the U.S. empire and the more he lied the more was paid and praised. This lie is actually far less egregious in terms of its damage to the body politic than any of the other ones. Pimping for George Bush, promoting the war in Iraq, accepting the grotesque lies about weapons of mass destruction — and calling the war “the cleanest war in all of military history” all the while claiming it triggered the Arab Spring movements. As Joshua Frank of CounterPunch magazine writes: “[Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw et al.] are vastly too invested in the elite they aspire to join and defend. Whatever they may have been as they came up in the craft, too much money and aggrandizement has ruined them.”

These multi-millionaire so-called journalists are the equivalent of courtiers to the super-wealthy One Per Cent — shamelessly pandering to them without a hint of embarrassment or remorse. They hob-nob with billionaires and CEOs and do their bidding as naturally as they breath the same air. And you don’t have to look far to find a similar trend here in our very own Peter Mansbridge, pal of the prime minister whose “interviews” with Harper, with not a single tough question asked, are an embarrassment to the craft of journalism.

The moral and ethical rot at the core of these stories can be characterized quite nicely by the word pimping; HSBC for the rich and drug lords, Strauss-Kahn for other members of the political and economic elite and Williams and his ilk for well-paid complicity in the worst excesses of U.S. (and Canadian) militarism.

I’m sure there’s a good metaphor for all of this. Oh, yes, now I remember. Off with their heads.

MURRAY DOBBIN, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years.  He now writes a bi-weekly column for the on-line journals the Tyee and rabble.ca. He can be reached at murraydobbin@shaw.ca