Category Archives: Latin America

Conspiracy and Class Power | Michael Parenti

No ruling class could survive if it wasn’t attentive to its own interest, consciously trying to anticipate, control, or initiate events at home and abroad, both overtly and secretly.

— Michael Parenti

Michael Parenti is a historian and political scientist and the author of many books, including Democracy for the Few; Power and the Powerless; Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media; Blackshirts & Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism; The Face of Imperialism, God and His Demons, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome; and Superpatriotism.

In 1993 he delivered an outstanding speech entitled “Conspiracy and Class power” in Berkeley, California, that was recorded and preserved on audio cassette from a radio broadcast, and then, more recently, rediscovered in a collection kept by a listener:

A full and annotated transcript is provided below.

*

Related thoughts for the day

Remember, remember the fifth of November, 
Gunpowder treason and plot…

Across the United Kingdom this evening, people will congregate around bonfires and go to watch firework displays. Bonfire Night, or Fireworks Night, or Guy Fawkes’ Night is a uniquely British festival and one that commemorates what has come to be known as The Gunpowder Plot, which in earlier centuries was often called the Jesuit Treason. Nowadays this is widely treated as just a fun night out although there remains a darker sectarian side to the celebrations in some Protestant parts of Northern Ireland.

But ask most people attending a bonfire party tonight and few will be unable to tell you much more than The Gunpowder Plot was a failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. They are unlikely to know more precisely that the target of the attack was the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament. Or even that this was an attempt to assassinate King James I with the hope of restoring a Catholic monarchy. And in spite of the annual festivities, scarcely anyone in Britain would be able to recall the year of 1605.

Of the plotters the best remembered by far is Guido or Guy Fawkes; a Catholic convert who had fought for Spain against the Dutch reformers. But again, few people in Britain pay much attention to the historical background. They remember the name of Fawkes mainly because it is a gloriously evocative one and because it is his effigy that traditionally was burned on the top of the bonfires: thankfully an increasingly forgotten tradition. In the past, there was another tradition called “penny for the Guy” where Fawkes’ effigy was propped up beside a begging bowl; the children who made him begging donations for sweets – this was Britain’s precursor to “trick or treat”.

In short, the image of Guy Fawkes is confusing. Originally the villain, he has since been almost redeemed and partially transformed into a defiant antihero: during the Occupy protests Fawkes masks were worn at protests all over the world.

Update:  Twelve people were arrested and eight police officers were injured in London’s Parliament Square at a Bonfire Night rally last night after hundreds of demonstrators turned out many wearing Fawkes masks and also burning an effigy of Boris Johnson:

And while Fawkes has become a sort of anarchist superstar, few again could recall any of the names of his fellow conspirators, nor do we give much thought to the motivations of this small band of provincial English Catholics led by (lesser known) Robert Catesby. But the official story – and today’s historical account – is certainly an illuminating one.

Had The Gunpowder Plot taken place recently, then more than likely we would all know it simply as 5/11. Indeed, it shares some features with the atrocity of September 11th that took place across the Atlantic four centuries later: a group of religious fanatics with plans to execute an audacious terrorist attack – failing only because of – if we accept the official story of 5/11 – an anonymous letter was sent to William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle on October 26th.

With foreknowledge of an attack, the arrest of Guy Fawkes then sealed the fate of the conspirators. As luck would have it, he was discovered guarding a large pile of firewood in the cellar beneath the House of Lords that was concealing 36 barrels of gunpowder – enough to have razed the building to rubble – during a search conducted on the evening of November 4th. Shortly afterwards, Fawkes was convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

As with the aftermath of 9/11, the political repercussions were swift and drastic, and Parliament soon introduced a raft of anti-Catholic legislation. Many were suspicious and doubted the official story. Specifically, they wondered who had advance knowledge of the plot. According to the current Wikipedia entry:

Many at the time felt that Salisbury [i.e., Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury] had been involved in the plot to gain favour with the King and enact more stridently anti-Catholic legislation. Such conspiracy theories alleged that Salisbury had either actually invented the plot or allowed it to continue when his agents had already infiltrated it, for the purposes of propaganda.

I have highlighted the phrase “conspiracy theories” because it is surely remarkable how more than 400 years on, Wikipedia finds it necessary to downplay contemporary concerns about the veracity of the official story and to draw our attention away from revised historical accounts with this exceedingly modern and weaponised term. And this brings me right back to Michael Parenti’s outstanding talk embedded above – with an annotated transcript below.

Parenti’s central point (and mine) is that conspiracies happen all the time. The Gunpowder Plot obviously involved a conspiracy. 9/11 involves a conspiracy. Whether you subscribe to the fully authorised narrative or not, both of these remain conspiracies. The question then is who was behind the conspiracies: was it carried out by the accused alone, or were others complicit, whether actively involved, or who had foreknowledge but stood down? To those (like Wikipedia) who feel compelled to use this weaponised term “conspiracy theory” whenever a version of the truth differs from the official narrative, I would advise great caution.

Manufacturing consent necessarily involves conspiracies and yet it happens all the time – Babies out of incubators in Kuwait lied us into the Gulf War; false allegations of WMDs in Iraq and Syria have led to more bloodshed; lies about Viagra purportedly supplied to Gaddafi’s troops enabled another war of empire – you name it, war after imperialist war was instigated on pretexts founded on carefully and deliberately crafted lies.

QAnon(sense) was very likely a psyop concocted to distract a gullible audience, exacerbate divisions between political factions and to justify clampdowns on free speech. But it wouldn’t have gained very much traction had it not contained just a germ of truth: Q plainly doesn’t exist, but child sex trafficking is horribly real. Moreover, Jeffrey Epstein ran an elite child prostitution ring that most likely operated as a honey trap for intelligence agencies. And who among us believes that Epstein committed suicide?

As I have documented extensively, Russiagate was essentially a hoax, whereas US meddling in foreign elections and its involvement in coups failed or otherwise inside Bolivia, Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ukraine and elsewhere is well-established to have happened.

Covid is a real and present danger but where did it actually originate? Truth is we still don’t know. It is not a “conspiracy theory” therefore to raise the question of origins or even to point toward probable answers.

Finally, if the left doesn’t hold its ground and seek judiciously and consistently to challenge official narratives in attempts to transcend the increasingly narrow positions that are deemed respectable, ‘reputable’ and permissible (the ever-tightening Overton Window), but instead instantly dismisses alternative inquiry, whether valid or not, as “conspiracy theory”, then it serves the interests of the establishment and ruling elites by enabling them to shutdown debate and tighten controls on us.

Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper recently took the Washington Post conspiracy theory quiz only to discover that the Washington Post had failed its own test!

See the full quiz at http://usefulidiots.substack.com

*

Additional:

Some years later and post-9/11 (delivered prior to 2012 and possibly 2008), Michael Parenti delivered a speech entitled “Understanding Deep Politics” which follows almost directly from his talk at Berkeley. Embedded below, Parenti’s analysis and choice of illustrative examples gets more interesting and insightful as it goes on:

*

Full transcript

The transcript below is my own with links also included where relevant:

The title of the talk is conspiracy and class power and the key word in that title is the ‘and’. That is, what you’re getting on the Left lately is a debate in which people are saying: “we mustn’t look at conspiracy, we’ve got to look at the broader institutional systems”. That’s an argument being made by Alexander Cockburn, Noam Chomsky, Chip Berlet, and any number of people.

And I think it’s an incorrect argument, that it’s not conspiracy or class power; it’s conspiracy and class power. And I’m not going to talk about any specific conspiracies in any detail, I want to talk about the relationship of conspiracy to the larger political economic context of the system – I want to start off by talking about that political economic system and I think it can be approached in three basic ways:

First, you can look at the system as a conservation celebration. We’ve had twelve years of that as you know. How wonderful our free market society is and how much more wonderful it would be if it were not for meddlesome government regulations and the demands of undeserving low-income groups that feed out of the public trough. That’s the conservative celebration.

The second approach is a liberal complaint about how some of our priorities are all wrong. How there are serious problems that represent aberrant departures from what is otherwise a basically good system. That would be the Bill Clinton approach, perhaps.

And then the third approach you might call a radical analysis, and that sees ecological crises and military interventions and the national security state and homelessness and poverty and an inequitable tax system and undemocratic social institutions such as the corporate-owned media – it sees these things not as aberrant outcomes of a basically rational system, but as rational outcomes of a system whose central goal is the accumulation of wealth and power for a privileged class.

That is, they must be looked at as part of a context of power and interest that is systemic; and you could look at race, you could look at gender; and you could look at class itself undialectically – just look at it as an income bracket or whatever else – but what I’m talking about today is not class but class-power, the class-power system which is something more and something else.

If you take that third perspective of a radical analysis: if you move from a conservative celebration or a liberal complaint to a radical analysis then you cross an invisible line and you’ll be labelled in mainstream circles as a ‘conspiracy theorist’ or a Marxist or even a paranoiac: terms that some people treat as coterminous.

One theorist I will quote, J.G. Merquior, who wrote a book called The Veil and the Mask, a book which I recommend to you if you like bloated, turgid self-inflated theorising that never pauses to substantiate its pronouncements – and Merquior, he says: “Conspiratorial accounts of social dynamics are produced by vulgar Marxists.” He further asserts that “Class interest is seldom a conscious matter.”

That’s the cool position. Less cool than him was 1837, a Congress person by the name of Abraham Lincoln. And this is what Abraham Lincoln said in 1837 (quote):

These capitalists generally act harmoniously [that’s in concert/together] to fleece the people. 1

Now today Abe Lincoln would be dismissed as a ‘conspiracy theorist’! He is ascribing conscious intent to a class interest. We know that isn’t the way it works, they say.

Now for some conspiracy is by definition ridiculous and non-existent, but in fact, brothers and sisters, conspiracy is a very real thing, in fact it’s a concept in law; people go to jail for it: it means planning or acting together in secret, especially for an unlawful or harmful purpose, often with the use of illegal means. It’s come to mean, in fact, any machination, plot or concerted deception.

The State’s major mode of operation, I have maintained in my books Democracy for the Few, Power and the Powerless, The Sword and the Dollar, Inventing Reality – the major mode of operation is systemic and legalised, rather than conspiratorial – never argue that the State maintains itself conspiratorially: no ruling interest could last long if it tried to control an entire society through the manipulations of secret cabals. At the same time, no ruling class could survive if it wasn’t attentive to its own interest, consciously trying to anticipate, control, or initiate events at home and abroad, both overtly and secretly.

It’s hard to imagine a modern state in which there’d be no conspiracies, no plans, no machinations, deceptions or secrecies within the circles of power. In the United States there have been conspiracies aplenty and I’ll list a bunch of them – these are all now a matter of public record:

In recent decades, the deliberately fabricated Tonkin Gulf Incident, which served as an excuse for escalating the Vietnam War – you mean the president deliberately lied to the people to mislead the American people and are you saying he had this cold conspiracy to get them all worked up for something that never happened? Yes! We now know yes… the Pentagon Papers are out… yes, it was a total fabrication and a lie.

Operation Phoenix [aka Phoenix Program] which no-one heard about in which US forces set up assassination squads that murdered thousands, tens of thousands of dissidents in Vietnam: secretly organised, illegal, immoral, unpublicised.

The Watergate break-in was a conspiracy: an illegal, secret, unlawful act followed by another conspiracy – the second one, which was the one that brought Nixon down – the Watergate cover-up.

The FBI COINTELPRO involving dirty tricks, infiltration and harassment of left dissident groups – I remember reading in The New York Times when the story finally broke and the Church Committee and all that – The august New York Times said: for years left groups have been saying that the FBI has been harassing them and we thought it was paranoia; now it seems to turn out that there might be some truth in it. Well, welcome to reality New York Times; every so often The Times hits right on reality like that and it’s worth mentioning because it’s so rare.

Iran-Contra in which executive leaders conspired to circumvent the law, secretly, illegally selling arms to Iran in exchange for funds that were then used in covert actions against Nicaragua – a conspiracy which the Joint Congressional Committee investigating Iran-Contra said: we will probably never get at the bottom of this immense conspiracy 2 – that’s what they said; it wasn’t some ‘conspiracy theorists’, it was these people there: we will never get to the bottom of this… certainly not the way you guys were investigating it, you would never get at the bottom of it!

The function of the investigation is to uncover some stuff to let you know that the system is self-rectifying and self-cleansing, but not uncover too much as to destabilise the State itself. And you heard guys on the committee saying: we need a successful presidency; we must be careful what we’re doing and all that.

The assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, a matter of public record: the House Select Committee on Assassinations uncovered the fact that there were all sorts of things; it was sparse uncovering, but there have been any number of independent investigators who have uncovered the fact that these conspiracies were done not by some lone crazed assassin, who just suddenly on an impulse devoted six months of his life, somehow financed himself to go kill this or that leader. 3

[Aside: A fortnight ago on October 22nd, President Joe Biden took the decision to ‘postpone’ the release of sixty-year-old assassination-related records that the CIA has steadfastly been keeping secret from the American people. As Jacob Hornberger, a former attorney and adjunct Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Dallas, wrote a few days later:

There has got to be a good reason why the CIA does not want people to see those 60-year-old secret records. That’s why they didn’t disclose them during the era of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s. That’s why they demanded that President Trump continue keeping them secret in 2017. That’s why they demanded that Biden extend the secrecy. […]

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, those 60-year-old secret records obviously contain incriminating evidence — evidence that consists of more pieces to the puzzle pointing to a regime-change operation in Dallas.

After all, as I have repeatedly pointed out, the notion that the release of 60-year old records could constitute a grave threat to “national security” is nonsensical on its face. Is there anyone who really believes such nonsense?

Click here to read the full article entitled “Surprise! Biden Continues the CIA’s JFK Assaassination Cover-Up, published on October 25th by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

And here to read a follow-up piece entitled “What the CIA is Hiding in the JFK Assassination Records” published by Counterpunch on November 4th. ]

The CIA drugs-for-guns trade in Central America; covert CIA-sponsored terrorist wars in a dozen countries [most recently in Syria]; the BCCI scandal involving what some call the most crooked bank in the world, in 1990, the motherlode of all conspiracies: the Savings and Loan [crisis] which the Bush Justice Department itself called: a thousand conspiracies of bribe, theft and fraud – a thousand conspiracies – they said we don’t have enough agents to investigate it. Sure, because all the agents are checking out events like this one!

Too busy keeping tabs on people who want to keep raising medical funds for El Salvador to go look at the Savings and Loan conspiracy, which is ripping off literally billions of dollars from the American taxpayer. The greatest financial crime in the history of humanity: Savings and Loan – you’ve been living it and you’re going to pay for it, or we are going to pay for it, so you might as well know about it.

Conspiracies, I maintain, are carried out regularly by the national security state. What’s the ‘national security state’? It’s the White House executive office. It’s elements within the State Department and the Pentagon. It’s the Joint Chief of Staff. It’s the National Security Council, the National Security Agency and the CIA and other intelligence agencies. That conglomeration or operational link groups in that conglomeration are what is known as the ‘national security state’. Well, it can list the Treasury at times, it could list commerce, I feel there are people in Congress who are link to it – I think Sam Nunn’s got one foot [in it].

The national security state is involved in secretly planning operations around the globe. It resorts to low-intensity warfare, special forces, undercover agents, surveillance, infiltration and destruction of dissident groups, the bribing of state leaders, unlawful break-ins, the training of death squads and torturers, political assassination, counterinsurgency suppression, and terrorist military forces against revolutionary governments as in Angola, Mozambique and Nicaragua.

Our rulers themselves explicitly call for conspiratorial activities. They call publicly admit it, except they don’t call them conspiracies; they call them ‘covert action’, ‘clandestine operations’, ‘special operations’ and ‘national security’. Now, if for some reason you don’t want to call these undertakings ‘conspiracies’, don’t call them ‘conspiracies’, give them another name: call them ‘peekaboo operations’, ‘surprise surprise initiatives’; call them whatever you want, but recognise them for what they are – as wilfully planned actions whose real intentions are almost always denied.

If they’re not conspiring, why all the secrecy? I’m reminded of my friend Phil Agee, he was just here a few months ago, and I was sitting having coffee with him when he gave a talk here in Berkeley. When Phil left the CIA, disillusioned because he thought America was helping the world, and he found out that America was doing something quite the opposite, and he left, he wrote a book called Inside the Company.

In 1980, American filmmaker Allan Francovitch produced a documentary featuring Philip Agee and exposing the secret dirty history of the CIA entitled On Company Business which is embedded below. A discussion about the making of the film can be found at the Internet Archive. Francovitch suffered a fatal heart attack in a Customs area at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, on April 17, 1997 whilst entering the United States from England. He was 56-years-old:

The book was banned from the US and I remember that and the government said ‘national security’: it’s banned. I said, wait a minute, the book has been published in Europe in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese – I said, doesn’t the KGB have anyone who reads French or German…? The book was even available in English in Canada. I said, oh but foreign agents aren’t allowed to buy books in Canada, I said to myself!

No, the reason [for] the ban was not intended to keep Agee’s exposé from foreign enemies, but from the American public. It was not national security but the political interests of the national security state in continuing to deliberately lie and mislead the American public. That’s a ‘conspiracy theory’, then you tell me what was the reason for banning a book in the USA that was available everywhere else in the world. Give me the alternative reason. That’s only one small instance of the many cases in which the government uses manipulative measures.

The existence of the national security state also demonstrates that along with issue politics, we have class rule. In academic political science and in our news media, issue politics are either ignored or they’re looked at in a kind of vacuum. I mean you can get issue politics [but] it’s in a vacuum: like this issue comes up, that issue comes up, that issue comes up… and nothing’s linked to anything else.

Some political scientists I know, and I can name two very prominent ones right here in Berkeley, have studied the American presidency for thirty years and written books on the subject and never mentioned capitalism and corporate interests. I remember turning to one – we were on a panel together – Aaron Wildavsky and I said: how could you write about the American presidency for thirty years and never once mention capitalism? And he looked at me blankly. It turned out to be a rhetorical question!

Now to be sure, class interests permeate issue politics: tax policies, subsidies to corporate investments, corporate plunder of public lands – any number of kinds of issues – but issue politics do not encompass the totality of a class system. Class rule is not achieved solely by pressure group politics – by interest group politics. Class rule is not achieved solely by big campaign donations, lobbyists, and other manifestations of interest group politics.

Interest group politics operates within a systemic totality of power and class interest. It operates within the dynamics of a capitalist state system which over and above the desires of any individual elites imposes its own necessities. These systemic imperatives are things that must be taken care of if the system is to be maintained. If value is to be extracted from the labour of the many to go into the pockets of the few, this system has to be maintained.

Conditions of hegemony must constantly be refortified. And that’s something that no one IBM or ITT or General Motors could do for itself. So there has to be central financing and subsidising. There has to be regulating and cushioning competition. There has to be a lot of new research and development that has to be carried out at public cost with the benefits of it then privatised and handed over to corporations. There has to be transferring public domain resources into private corporate hands for their exploitation and profit. There’s absorbing from the public realm riches [that] go to the private realm, and then from the private realm, you absorb the diseconomies, the poverties from the private sector into the public realm. The diseconomies are picked up by the public: you know, the pollution, the toxic waste dumps; all these things we then have to pay for them – we have to pay [for] the homeless, the helpless; whatever else, those are things we have to pay for.

That system [also] has to do something else. It has to act as the agent of class control. It has to mobilise repressive forces at home and abroad. It has to limit and repress dissent. It has to control information and manipulate opinion. This is the essence of the State. That’s what the State is about. It’s to act as an overarching conscious agent – a conscious agent – for maintaining the entire system; doing what no private interest group can do to buttress class hegemony.

To put it simply, the function of the capitalist state is to sustain the capitalist order and it must consciously be doing that. So for those who would deny conscious intent, we would ask: what is the function of the State?

It pushes for privatisation – one of the things it’s very actively doing is pushing for privatisation here at home and everywhere else – in Russia too. You see it in the papers: what are called ‘reforms’; the reformers, the media keeps talking about the ‘reformers’. Boris ‘buy me a drink’ Yeltsin has ‘reforms’. What are the ‘reforms’ about? The ‘reforms’ are to privatise, to open up the vast riches and resources of Russia and hand them over to private foreign corporations for exploitation and big, quick profits. That’s what the ‘reforms’ are. It is to push forth the system of capitalism.

If the choice is between democracy without capitalism, we don’t want it – our leaders don’t want it, that is. If it’s capitalism without democracy that’s much more preferred. Ideally, what they want is capitalism with a window-dressing of democracy. But democracy is a very dispensable component of that whole thing. Now what the media, of course, is doing is associating market economy with democracy; they keep putting the two together.

In fact, I though the presidential debates last Fall – The Three Stooges act that went on – was a very interesting thing, because at one point Ross Perot got up and said: and we’ve got to keep getting our country right, getting it straight, so that we work for building democracy and capitalism. And Bill Clinton started because the guy was saying it – you see you’re not supposed to say you serve capitalism. He’s supposed to say ‘build for democracy’. But Perot was uninitiated in these things [and] came out and said what it really was about – and not necessarily in the order of importance: he said democracy and capitalism. And I saw the moment. I saw Clinton really start that he would say ‘capitalism’ you see. They usually don’t say that.

In sustaining capitalism the State has a monopoly of the legitimate use (legal use) of force and violence. In mobilising that force and violence the State has another extraordinary resource which is control of the public treasury: that is, through a process of coercive non-voluntary taxation they extract from the public monies which are then used to carry out these services. They tell me some things are also done, you know, building roads and schools and those kinds of things, but generally [with] the federal government, that’s what it’s doing.

Well, who is this corporate class, this super-rich plutocracy, this oligarchy that you keep talking about, Parenti? Who are these guys? Well, there’s no mystery. I’m talking about the top 400 families; they’re listed in Forbes, the Social Register. Almost a third of the descendants of whom are linked by blood or marriage to the Rockefeller, du Pont, Mellon and Morgan dynasties. I’m talking about the super-rich 1%; less than 1% of the population of this country that owns 70% of the nation’s wealth. I’m talking about the top 800,000 individuals over the age of sixteen who have more wealth and income than the other 184 million individuals combined over the age of sixteen.

The economist Paul Samuelson, thirty years ago, gave a very vivid image – it still holds. He says if you want to look at the income distribution in this country; if you want to build an income pyramid, imagine taking children’s blocks and each block is a thousand dollars, and you pile them up. The highest income in this country would be vastly higher than the Eiffel Tower, while almost all of us would be not more than a yard or a yard and a half off the ground. This gives you an idea of the spread and the distribution.

Instead of ‘conspiracy theory’ what the apologists for power give us is what I call ‘innocence theory’. Now ‘innocence theory’ has several varieties:

There’s ‘somnambulist theory’ that those in power do things walking in their sleep without a thought for their vast holdings and interests. David Rockefeller wakes up in the morning and he says: what am I going to do today? Am I going to look after my immense fortunes and investments…? No, no, if I did that I would only be playing into the hands of the conspiracy theorists; I won’t do that! And I don’t like unions, David Rockefeller says, and oh, Morgans, Mellons, you don’t like unions either, well isn’t that a coincidence?  I don’t like unions I guess because they sound like ‘onions’; I don’t like onions, yeah, that’s it!

Along with ‘somnambulist theory’ we might explain away their hegemony as ‘coincidence theory’; that by sheer chance things just happen repeatedly and coincidentally to benefit their interest without any conscious connivance by them – and it is most uncanny.

A frequent mode of explanation is ‘stupidity theory’. You hear it among people all the time: they just don’t know what they’re doing! There’s a radio talk show host in this area who every time she has a guest says: aren’t they just a bunch of stupid, goofy guys who just don’t know what they’re doing? Isn’t that it?

In fact, Ronald Reagan for years we heard he was the moronic, ineffectual president; his administration was called ‘a reign of errors’. There was even a book by that title. Even as he successfully put through his conservative agenda, even as he destroyed the progressive income tax, even as he did all the other things that he did, again and again and again – the judiciary, the budget, the welfare spending, military, everything, did all these things – we kept saying: what a stupid dodo. And I felt like I was the only person in America going ‘he’s not stupid, he knows what he’s doing’.

I mean he would flub – you know he went to Uruguay and said it’s wonderful to be here in Bolivia! And at his press conferences and whatever else… But the guy had his class agenda. He was one of the few presidents who got into the White House and knew what the hell he really wanted to do and set out to do it. By the way, Reagan himself used the ‘stupidity theory’ as a defence during the Iran-Contra; he purportedly was guilty only of a lackadaisical, overly casual management style and was not sufficiently in control of his subordinates. That’s what his hand-picked Tower Commission came out and said: he should have had better control and knew what was happening; he didn’t know what was happening.

In fact, some of his subordinates including Secretary of State [George] Shultz who just published a book [Turmoil and Triumph] saying Reagan was in charge all the while and made all those decisions. In court, some of them said the same thing: that the president not only was informed, but he himself initiated most of the Iran-Contra policy decisions that led to a circumvention of the law and the Constitution. He should be in jail. 4

Those who hold to ‘innocence theory’ would have us believe that unjust social arrangements, wrongful policies, are momentary aberrations – so there’s ‘momentary aberration theory’. There’s ‘incompetence theory’. There’s ‘unintended consequences theory’. There’s ‘innocent cultural proclivities theory’. And by the way, to be sure such things exist. I mean there are unintended consequences. There are cultural influences and all that. But do they explain the reasons why the major policy decisions of political and economic leaders – the reasons for the major policy decisions of our leaders?

Evidence and common sense suggest that the rich and powerful are not oblivious to their interests and do not leave things to chance. The ‘innocence theorists’ dismiss those who see evil and evil-doers as paranoid.

A few years ago I was participating in a conference at University of Colorado in Boulder [with] some interesting people like David Dellinger was there; David Barsamian. I think Holly Sklar. I think Ward Churchill was there. And I was to give the keynote address in the evening, and there were these panels during the day, so I slipped away to do what I really like to do, and I went over to find a used bookstore to look for odd titles of books –

And I was standing in the aisle and on the other side of the bookshelf – I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me – were these two guys and one said to the other: hey, you see this conference was on the CIA, imperialism (he didn’t use the word ‘imperialism’, that’s what I talked about), drugs, Central America, stuff like that. And so the guy says to the other person: hey, you see who they have talking up on the campus at this conference? And he says, guess who. Well, it looks like a who’s who in paranoia. And I sort of stifled the guffaw and I said wait a minute, they’re talking about me! And I said, who are those guys and why did they follow me here! No, no, I didn’t say that… But paranoia! These things don’t really happen; we’ve imagined all this stuff about death squads in Central America.

For years the United States financed, equipped and trained a counterrevolutionary murderous army of thugs and killers that conducted a two-front invasion against Nicaragua, murdering tens of thousands of Nicaraguans, destroying farm cooperatives, power stations, clinics, schools, homes, villages, to bring ruin upon that nation’s economy – for years that happened, for years the president threatened them in every way, imposed boycotts and every other kind of aggression – Reagan even said he wanted the Sandinistas to “cry uncle”.

Secretary of State Shultz promised to cast out the Sandinistas from our hemisphere. Yet when the beleaguered Sandinista government charged that the US wanted to overthrow them, ABC News dismissed the charge as (quote): “the Sandinista paranoia”. Washington Post called it: “Nicaraguan paranoia”. In a speech at the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, noted psychiatrist [!], diagnosed the Sandinistas as paranoiac schizophrenics. Very good, Jeane Kirkpatrick – why, you’re so smart! Kirkpatrick’s comment came two weeks after Reagan and Shultz both announced at the United Nations that the United States might have to invade Nicaragua soon. So much for paranoia. I thought of what James Baldwin once said years ago: that even paranoiacs have real enemies.

Well look Parenti, really, aren’t we asking people to believe too much by suggesting there are all these conspiracies? No, not as much as when asking them to believe there are not conspiracies. Historian Frank Kofsky puts it well in his book called Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948 [sic], which will be published in the Fall. I read it in manuscript and let me read a little statement he said:

What would those who are so ready to derisively exclaim conspiracy theory have us believe? That people with enormous fortunes and/or high political positions do not have greater opportunity than the ordinary citizen to get what they want? That men and women who spend most of their adult lives seeking to obtain or retain money and influence, do so only in order to abstain from employing the advantages these confer? That those with wealth and power are inhibited by some mysterious force from making use of their wealth and power to accomplish their purposes? That the rich and well-placed refuse to cooperate with each other in the pursuit of common political-economic goals? If, in fact, there is one thing that characterizes those at the top, it is their readiness to organize amongst themselves to secure their desires. No other group in society ever comes close in this regard.

And I would add, it’s ironic that the group most organised to concert and control is to be least considered as doing so by the ‘innocence theorists’.

As the capitalist state develops it also increasingly develops its class consciousness and it brings forth coteries of policymakers, who move in law, business, military and government circles; sometimes rotating from one to the other. Those who are sometimes referred to as the ‘power elite’, ‘the ruling elite’, ‘the plutocracy’ – more broadly I consider them the active agents of the ruling class.

Their existence is a matter of public record. It’s been documented excellently by such fine scholars as Lawrence Shoup, who’s here today in the audience – that’s not why I’m mentioning him, I was going to do that anyway before I knew he was here – William Domhoff, Holly Sklar; they’ve talked about the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Conference and the other coteries of consciously organised power and policymaking.

These individuals all have a loyalty to a particular class ideology. You could not get into their ranks with a different ideology – if you can give me an example. You don’t have to be rich to be brought into the ranks, although it helps; you just have to be useful.

Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton – Bill Clinton, who by the way is a member of the Trilateral Commission, attended the Bilderberg conference and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations – they all come from relatively modest backgrounds, but they gained entry, they proved valuable and reliable. They all become rich after a while: Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan, Johnson are rich now. [Note: we could add Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson to the list.]

William Appleman Williams, another historian: a description of the power wielded in the Woodrow Wilson administration of 1918: I think it’s very interesting, I want to quote it at length because it’s still apt, he says:

First, none of these men was naive or innocent. They very seldom blundered into success or failure. Many more times than not they won because they shrewdly picked their spots and deployed their power effectively. All of them, furthermore, had extended experience in business and politics. They were also men who had to come to terms with and practise the kind of routine deceptions and rationales; casuistry that often seemed to be inherent in the conduct of big business, big law, domestic politics and diplomacy. They were not dishonest in the usual meaning of that term, and they were not hypocrites; they were simply powerful an influential men of this world, who had concluded from hard experience and close observation that all of the truth, all of the time, was almost always dangerous, hence, they did not use all of the truth, all of the time.

Secondly, these American decision-makers viewed economics as of extremely great, if not of literally, primary importance in the dynamic operation of the American system. This does not mean that they were motivated by personal pocketbook considerations; it means that they though about…

By the way, I think they are also motivated by personal pocketbook considerations – it is not mutually exclusive of the larger issues.

It means that they thought about economics in a national sense as an absolutely crucial variable in the functioning of the system per se, and as the foundation for constitutional government and a moral society. And all of them viewed overseas economic expansion as essential to the continued successful operation of the American free enterprise system.

Finally, these men shared a central conviction that the good society and the good world were defined by the forms and substance of Western civilisation as they had manifested themselves in the United States. Some were conservatives concerned to preserve aspects of the status quo that they considered particularly valuable; others were reformers, more interested in improving the existing order; but all of them shared a fundamental belief in, and a commitment to the established system.

(End of quote.)

Now it’s understood that coalminers might consciously direct efforts to advancing their interests, and steel-workers, and small farmers, and schoolteachers, but not these elites – at least according to the ‘innocence theorists’. Now, of course, coalminers and steel-workers publicly push for their goals because they’re trying to enlist the support of other publics; broader publics.

Corporate heads, plutocrats, network owners, policy elites tend to move more quietly, less visibly through the corridors of power, preferring not to stir too much public attention. At other times, by the way, they will actually seek to mobilise public sentiment in a particular direction. For instance, in the mid-1970s we had a very interesting development: business leaders showed an increasingly class-conscious concern for the drift of things in the mid-70s. One corporate leader spoke to his concurring colleagues at a meeting of The Conference Board in 1974; I quote him:

The have-nots are gaining steadily more political power to distribute the wealth downwards. The masses have turned to a larger government.

This isn’t Lenin talking, this is a corporate elite (unquote).

Another top executive concurred; he said (quote):

If we don’t take action now, we will see our own demise. We will evolve into another social democracy…

(Like Sweden or Denmark or something like that.)

This is the research done by Leonard Silk and David Vogel. Silk, a former economics, business writer for The New York Times – quite conscious and explicit awareness of their class interests, speaking in explicit class terms here. Not to the public – they don’t say that when they come on the air – but when they talk to each other, it’s remarkable what they say.

What they wanted was outlined, by the way, very explicitly. There’s no conspiracy. They concerted, they plan, but it was right out there; out in the public. Very explicitly in major business publications from the mid-1970s onwards: a cutback in government spending, massive cutbacks to government spending and human services; they wanted an increase in military spending; they wanted generous tax write-offs and credits for upper income individuals and corporations; and they wanted a rollback of government regulations on business. That’s what they wanted.

Giant corporations like Citibank, IBM, Morgan Guranty Trust, Exxon, Ford and Genereal Motors played an increasingly active and conscious role in financing conservative think tanks like the Hoover Institute, American Enterprise Institute; and seeing that a conservative business agenda penetrated the academic circles and mass media. You saw in the 70s, a mass array of conservative pundits and columnists moving in to the media, and they still clutter up that media today.

Corporate money financed the campaigns of ideologically conservative candidates through political action committees [PAC] and the corporations devoted much more systematic effort to breaking labour unions. By 1978, some of the changes that corporate America wanted were already being instituted by the President himself: a Democrat named Jimmy Carter. He started cuts in human services. He started increasing military spending.

The Clawsons were right. The Clawsons wrote an article in which they called it “Reaganism before Reagan”. I was calling it that then too. I said Carter gave us Reaganism before Reagan. But there were problems with Carter because he was partially beholden to labour unions, the African-American vote, you know. And what corporate America wanted was an unencumbered ideological conservative, and their support went overwhelmingly to Ronald Reagan.

Now they were lobbying for issue politics, but not just issue politics, they were trying to shift the centre of political gravity of the entire policy arena in order to maintain class rule and avoid a social democracy that might cut too deeply into their privileges, wealth, and class power. And they succeeded quite well.

The ‘innocence theorists’ will sometimes acknowledge that there is fault: that some people do some bad things. But when they do they place responsibility on everyone; on an undifferentiated ‘we’. Richard Nixon saying, ‘what a strange creature man is that he fouls his own nest’. And saying, ‘we, we are all the Buddhists’. Erich Fromm once said, ‘we produce cars…’ what? ‘We produce cars with built-in obsolescence and dangers’. ‘We continue to pollute the environment’. An alternative radio commentator on a show I was on announced in 1991: ‘we are all guilty of John Kennedy’s death. We’re all guilty of the Gulf War’. I said, ‘no, we aren’t’.

The ‘innocence  theorists’ can get quite specific about conscious intent and conspiracy if it comes from the left; if it involves militant dissenters; labour unions; leftists guerrillas; peace demonstrators; or leaders of communist forces; then intent is readily subscribed. Then it’s recognised that people will actually be fighting for particular agendas to push certain things – in fact, very sinister intent.

The FBI, you remember, looking at the Nuclear Free movement that was sweeping America and charging that it was KGB directed. Now there was a bunch of ‘conspiracy theorists’ right there, but the ‘innocence theorists’ didn’t turn to them and say ‘are you kooky conspiracy theorists?’ They said, ‘could there be KGB agents or not?’ You know they treated that as a serious proposition.

It’s recognised that revolutionaries are capable of conspiracy – there are even laws against them – that revolutionaries are capable of concerted action directed toward consciously desired goals, but not counter-revolutionaries. Peace advocates, but not militarists and interventionists. Proponents of change, but not champions of the status quo. The poor but not the rich.

Nothing said here, by the way, is meant to imply that ruling class leaders are infallible or omnipotent. That’s the straw man that’s always put up in the literature and the debates we have – these people would say that there’s this cabal of people that make no mistakes, they’re infallible, they consciously know everything, or they do everything… nobody’s saying they are infallible. Nobody’s says they’re limitless in their power.

Despite the immense resources at their command they’re sometimes limited in their options by circumstances beyond their control, by pressures from within the economic system. They have divisions among themselves about tactics, about what’s going to be more effective, or what isn’t. They have pressures for the need to maintain legitimating democratic appearances. By their fear of angry and mass popular resistance, sometimes, sometimes.

But whatever the limits of their power, these ruling elites are as fervently involved in class struggle as any communist. And if they don’t always succeed, they succeed often enough. They may not be omnipotent, but they are enormously powerful. They’re far from infallible, but they have such a plenitude of resources as to do sufficient damage control and minimise their losses when mistakes are made – unlike us sometimes.

One of the characteristics of ‘innocence theory’ is that you never ask why: why are certain things done? And that even happens on the left. See the essence of political analysis is two things: when you analyse the impact of policies and situations, what happens long-range, immediate effects and outputs; the other thing is you try to determine intent.

Well, a few years ago when I was teaching a graduate seminar at Brookyn College in New York, I had Walter Karp come and talk to my class. Walter Karp wrote a very wonderful book Liberty Under Siege, and he’s written other books too, Politics of War.

I asked him, ‘have you ever been accused of being a conspiracy theorist?’ Because you’re placing intent, you’re saying that Reagan is doing these things in limiting democracy, because this, that and the other thing. And he said, ‘all the time I’m fighting against the charge that I’m a propagator of The Elders of the Protocol, you know…’ He said, ‘but the essence of political analysis is to try to define and divine intent. That’s what you have to be looking at.’

And yet there’s so many exposés written that never deal with it. We read about environmental devastation. We read about the terrible effects of US intervention in Panama or Nicaragua or Cuba or here or there. But why? Why is US policy doing this? Why are they doing these things?

We read about costly military bases. There’s a very interesting book on that, The Sun Never Sets, how the US has these global bases all over the world. Why do they have these? Not mentioned. They talk about the costliness of it, the violation of the sovereignty of the countries involved, this, that and the other thing… but why?

So we have even on the left where people don’t ask why. We learned not to ask why because once you ask why then you cross the line from a liberal complaint into a radical analysis. Then you are talking, or have to talk about something, or you have to start doing all those other ephemeral explanations: Oh Bush is doing this because he’s got a macho problem; that’s why he invaded Panama. Or, oh we’re doing this because we’d like to feel big, or we’re just kooky that way, or… these become the explanations.

It’s the same with US foreign policy. We hear again and again: US foreign policy is so foolish. So stupid! Why did we go in there? So stupid! Why are we doing that? Just because you don’t understand what they’re doing, doesn’t mean they don’t understand what they’re doing. And never is it asked, ‘what is the intent?’ Without understanding intent, indeed, US policy remains an unsettling mystery, a puzzling thing to liberal critics.

But such policy is really rational and quite successful. It consistently moves against any nation or social movement that tries to change the client state relations of US dominance and imperialism; that tries to use a greater portion of its natural resources, markets and labour for self-development; moves that would infringe upon the interests of rich investors.

Now, if taken in the larger context, US policy appears consistent and sensible and predictable and mostly successful. But most media analysts and academic analysts lack this larger context; even most alternative media analysts. Once we realise these things about US policy, we move as I say from a liberal complaint about how rational the policy is, to a radical analysis about the rational interests involved, and how a particular policy coincides with similar US policies all over the world for decades, supporting privileged interests against popular movements.

This isn’t a ‘conspiracy fantasy’; it’s a conspiracy actuality to conclude that US leaders were not interested in reaching a peaceful accord; that they were lying about their real intentions to the American public, and even to their own staffs.

Well, isn’t this just a demonisation of ruling elites? I mean you have a demon theory about them, the way they have about you. No, it’s not demon theory: they see me and people like me as a real mortal enemy to their class interest; they’re absolutely correct. It’s not a kooky theory. They’re right about me; I’m right about them!

Are they really capable of supporting death squads, assassinations, tortures, violent deeds like this, I mean, you know, you’re talking about Yale, Princeton, Harvard graduates here? I remember speaking to a former CIA – actually he’d been in the OSS and he’d gone to the CIA in the early years under Wild Bill Donovan – he was in the administration at Yale University when I was back there for postdoctoral, and I remember him saying, ‘well Michael, well you know it’s not a pretty world out there, we have to sometimes do things that aren’t very pretty, because we’re facing some very nasty individuals, so we’re compelled to do this – if the politics in the world were like politics in the US we wouldn’t have to do it.’

It’s pretty dirty in the US too. So they have it all rationalised, but the evidence does come out. Yes, they are capable of such things, even Congress, the last to know – I always think of Congress as the deceived spouse. You know, they’re always ‘the last to know’!

Do you remember during the Iran-Contra hearings, the Republican senators who got up – Senator Cohen of Maine, Senator Rudman of Vermont [sic] – they got up and said, ‘I thought we were intervening in Nicaragua because we were interdicting the arms that they were sending to El Salvador.’ I mean those guys really believe that reason when Jeane Kirkpatrick and Shultz and Reagan gave that reason. I said, ‘Boy, we have boy scouts!’ You read history – that stuff I was doing on the Spanish-American War, same thing… these senators were getting up… They really believe the reasons that are given by the White House; at least, they give every appearance of believing.

But Congress eventually – some elements in Congress – catch on. A very unusual member of Congress, Robert Torricelli, head of the Torricelli Bill against Cuba. Yes, you can hiss, but on this issue somehow – you see Torricelli sponsored that bill because somehow he actually thinks that Cuba’s a bad place, and a danger, and we’ve got to democratise it. He really thinks that’s what it is. So then he finds out what the US was doing in El Salvador, and he says (Washington Post, March 17th ’93):

The Chairman of a House subcommittee, Robert Torricelli, Democrat of New Jersey charged yesterday that the Reagan administration lied to Congress for years about the Salvadoran armed forces complicity in murder, and he said [quote]

“Every word uttered by every Reagan administration official about the observances of human rights in El Salvador should be reviewed for perjury.”

Torricelli went on: “It is now abundantly clear that Ronald Reagan made these certifications about human rights in defiance of the truth.” 5

Welcome to reality, congressman!

I just finished doing an investigation of the death of an American president. He died in 1850, Zachary Taylor. I wrote an article called “History as Mystery: The Strange Death of President Zachary Taylor”. In 1991, his tomb was opened and they investigated because some historians were saying – one historian was suspicious that he had actually been poisoned. And they came out with the report that he wasn’t poisoned, he died of natural causes.

Well, I got their reports and started looking at them more closely and found all sorts of funny things: that the arsenic level in him was fifteen times higher than the normal level in a person walking around; that the antimony level in him was vastly higher, was fifty, sixty times higher (antimony is used as a poison with even a higher toxicity than arsenic); and a bunch of other things.

And so I wrote this whole article. And one of the quotes I came across was by a historian, Eugene Genovese. He was asked by the press, ‘would any political protagonist in the United States of 1950 be capable of such a deed? Taylor, you see, was opposing the slave power. He refused to have any extension of slavery. He was holding a hard line against any extension of slavery into the Western territories, and there was a lot of hard feeling against him about this. And when he died Millard Fillmore came in and the policy immediately shifted: total change in policy; the Compromise of 1850 came in and the slave powers got all they wanted. Fugitive Slave laws were strengthened. I won’t go into any more particulars.

That’s what it was all about: there was a real political interest involved. And Genovese says: ‘I can’t imagine any Southern personalities who would have been involved in such a conspiracy.’ Now, it’s an interesting thing when you make these kind of statements because it’s a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of how moderate and decent you are, when you say, ‘I can’t imagine this kind of crazy thing happening.’

If you can imagine this kind of crazy thing happening; this sort of begins to raise some question about your credibility you see. Because I can’t imagine if there could’ve been anybody involved in such a conspiracy. He goes on, he says, ‘but there’s always the possibility that there were some nuts who had access to him and did it.’

Well, I want to say that history shows us that nuts are not the only ones capable of evil deeds. That gentlemen of principle and power, of genteel manner, can arrive at very grim decisions. If they commit crimes, it’s not because they harbour murky and perverse impulses, but because they feel compelled to deal with the dangers that are opposed to their way of life.

This doesn’t mean that they’re motivated by purely financial reasons, although that’s a very real consideration I think, but they equate their vital interests with the well-being of their society and the nation. In this case, with the well-being of the cause of Southern rights. And far from being immoral, or unscrupulous, they are individuals of principles that are so lofty as to elevate them above the restraints of ordinary morality.

They don’t act on sudden impulse. The feeling grows among them that something must be done; something that’s best for all. That the situation is becoming intolerable. They move gradually toward the position – the change is gradual and yet it’s so compelling that when they arrive at their decision, they’re no longer shocked by the extreme measures they’re willing to employ.

The execution of the unsavoury deed is made all the easier by delegating its commission to lower level operatives. Most of the evil in history is perpetrated not by lunatics or monsters or lone psychotics, but by persons of responsibility and commitment whose most unsettling aspect is the apparent normality of their deportment.

It’s like child molesters. We’re finally saying there’s danger in the stranger. It’s not the stranger we find out are the child molesters and the abusers – it’s not some guy who goes around like this with drool coming down like this – it’s the, in many case, upright, estimable gentlemen of the community, who no-one would believe could do such a thing.

I want to point out that the social order itself is not without intent. That you can think of a social order operating with immense impersonality and yet it too has intent.

I had a friend years ago who was a nurse and when she was trained as a nurse she had three patients. And she did very well with these patients, she had a real knack for it; she talked to them, and that’s a good part of the healing process you know, their feelings and all that, and she really liked her work.

And then, she went to work in a hospital, and she was the only nurse on the whole ward: she had twenty-five to thirty patients. Now nobody can take care of twenty-five to thirty patients. And what begins to happen after a while she gets irritated and angry, and she starts to get annoyed, and feeling that they are wanting to be pampered and all that and [she’s] getting very curt with the patients: acting like a nurse.

So what you see here is the patients are ascribing this behaviour to her personality, when in fact its behaviour that’s the result of a structured situation that’s beyond her control – which is too many patients to take care of. But there’s something more to that story.

The hospital is run by a bunch of rich directors and profiteers. They make the decision to maximise their profits, they cut down on staff. The more you cut down on staff, the more you increase your rate of exploitation per person you’ve employed. If I can get one person to do the work of three that increases my profits. So that board of directors which drew huge salaries and extracted large profits for the corporate shareholders at the hospital were very much involved in that paradigm between nurse and patient.

You know Marx and Freud have very little in common, but one thing they do have in common is this idea that human behaviour is often prefigured by forces that are removed from the immediate situation. For Freud, it was all-out hidden agendas and our family and our parents and all that; for Marx, it’s the social situation, the class structure, the institutions and the culture and those kinds of thing, which are operating in ways we don’t see.

It’s the nature of our culture that we don’t see it. And we immediately ascribe it to some psychological or personality component of the other person. It’s not that the directors of that hospital, by the way, took pleasure in overworking the nursing staff and seeing them hassled and irritable. I mean quite the contrary; they’d want a staff that’s pleasant to the patients. But different institutional arrangements evoke different forms of behaviour.

The fact that a dispirited workforce is unintentional does not mean there is no interested power involved. The fact that it’s unintentional, that effect, doesn’t mean there are not intentions working to get some kind of effect there. In other words, institutional arrangements may have unintended effects, but if the arrangements are serving explicit interests, how really unintended are the effects?

And you want to see, by the way, when those interests are threatened. It’s impressive how conscious intention can suddenly be mobilised in situations where conscious intention supposedly plays no role.

This applies to the debate that’s going on right now about the JFK assassination conspiracy. That there are people saying that we shouldn’t get hung up on conspiracies, we should be looking at the larger institutional forces. And what I am arguing is that those larger institutional forces are directed by conscious human agency. And those agencies use conspiracy or non-conspiracies – use conspiratorial forces or non-conspiratorial forces – and that the conspiratorial forces are important; they’re not rare exceptions – and that they are systemic in the nature; and in their output.

There are those who said that, ‘yeah, so three-fourths of the American people believe that John Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy; so what, three-fourths of the American people – Cockburn’s made this argument, Chomsky’s made this argument to me – three-fourths of the American people believe in miracles too. Well, that’s a very facile argument. It’s a confusion. They’re confusing the gullibility about miracles with the public’s refusal to be gullible about the story that the officials are handing down to them about how Kennedy was killed. It’s quite different.

So what I would say is, what I would say to our friends is that we ought not to patronise the public; we ought to educate ourselves about the actualities of that murder, and about every other conspiracy that goes on. We should not dismiss these conspiracies as distractions from the bigger picture, but see how they are an essential part of the bigger picture.

The concern with conspiracy and assassination is not a manifestation of Camelot yearnings, it’s not a search for lost messiahs, or father figures; it’s an immature, kooky idea. It is the angry realisation that state power is used in gangster ways by gentlemen gangsters who defend imperialism and the national security state. Concern about these issues is not gullibility, it’s not irrational yearnings for lost leaders, but it’s an expression of public concern about the nature of our government.

The expression of public concern about the nature of our government; the angry criticism: there’s a name for that, and that is called democracy, and let’s have more of it.

Thank you very much.

*

Hat tip to Max Blumenthal for drawing my attention to Michael Parenti’s talk and also to independent journalist and environmental activist Cory Morningstar for featuring it on her blog Wrong Kind of Green, where you can also find the quote at the top of this article.

*

1 Speech to Illinois legislature (January 1837); This is Lincoln’s First Reported Speech, found in the Sangamo Journal (28 January 1837) according to McClure’s Magazine (March 1896); also in Lincoln’s Complete Works (1905) ed. by Nicolay and Hay, Vol. 1, p. 24.

2 The Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair was released on November 18, 1987.

Below are excerpts of the Executive Summary’s “findings and conclusions”

[T]he question whether the President knew of the diversion is not conclusive on the issue of his responsibility. The President created or at least tolerated an environment where those who did know of the diversion believed with certainty that they were carrying out the President’s policies.

This same environment enabled a secretary who shredded, smuggled, and altered documents to tell the Committees that ‘sometimes you have to go above the written law;’ and it enabled Admiral Poindexter to testify that ‘frankly, we were willing to take some risks with the law.’ It was in such an environment that former officials of the NSC staff and their private agents could lecture the Committees that a ‘rightful cause’ justifies any means, that lying to Congress and other officials in the executive branch itself is acceptable when the ends are just, and that Congress is to blame for passing laws that run counter to Administration policy. What may aptly be called the ‘cabal of the zealots’ was in charge.”

https://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/h-themajorityreport.php

3

The House Assassinations Committee concluded in its final report July 17 that conspiracies probably played a role in the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The committee, which spent two years and $5.4 million investigating the deaths, was unable to pinpoint any specific conspiracy, and its report criticized agencies involved in earlier probes for not pursuing information that could have uncovered such plots. […]

The committee agreed with the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy Nov. 23, 1963, by firing three shots at the president from the Texas School Book Depository Building in Dallas.

However, the panel said scientific acoustical evidence indicated a fourth shot was fired and “establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at [Kennedy].”

Kennedy “probably was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy,” the report stated, but committee members were “unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy.” They ruled out involvement by the Soviet or Cuban governments, the Secret Service, CIA or FBI. […]

The committee concluded that James Earl Ray killed King on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. But the committee said there was “substantial evidence to establish the existence of a St. Louis conspiracy to finance the assassination of Dr. King.”

https://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/document.php?id=cqal79-1185454

4

Was President Reagan aware that his agents were offering Iran a ransom of arms to buy back hostages? Was George Bush a full participant in that demeaning decision, despite his frequent protestations of being “out of the loop”?

The answer to both questions, according to the first part of former Secretary of State Shultz’s memoirs, excerpted this week in Time magazine, is a dismaying “yes.” His eyewitness evidence shows that Reagan lied to himself, sticking to a script denying reality; Bush lied only to investigators and the public.

From an article entitled “George Shultz’s Book Stirs up a Hornet’s Nest of Iran-Contra Lies”, written by William Safire, published by Chicago Tribune on February 5, 1993. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1993-02-05-9303175679-story.html

5 Based on the original article entitled “Reagan Administration Accused of Lies on El Salvador” written by John M. Goshko, published in the Washington Post on March 17, 1993. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1993/03/17/reagan-administration-accused-of-lies-on-el-salvador/857e23c3-c709-4fc7-868b-08ff210ccad0/ 

3 Comments

Filed under analysis & opinion, did you see?, Latin America, USA

Free Donziger: Steven Donziger now faces 6 months in jail despite UN calls for his release

Steven Donziger is a human rights lawyer who represented the indigenous people of Ecuador in a class action lawsuit against petrochemical giant Chevron after it had systematically polluted a vast area of rainforest during the two decades of the 70s and 80s in what has been dubbed the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’. Following a landmark judgment that awarded nearly $10 billion in damages, Chevron has since refused to pay any of the compensation to the tens of thousands of victims of its toxic spills, but instead withdrew all of its assets from Ecuador and launched legal action against Donziger.

On Friday 1st October, after more than two years under house arrest, Steven Donziger was sentenced to six months in prison for a misdemeanour. While still under house arrest pending appeal, yesterday [October 7th] he spoke with independent journalist and activist Katie Halper, who was joined by guests Marianne Willamson and Chris Hedges:

Click here to read more about the case in a previous article.

The following statement is reproduced in full from an email I also received yesterday from the Free Donziger campaign. Highlights using bold, italics and capitals have been retained from the original.

60b5746d0fd2360841246ac2_freedonziger20loggo-p-500

On Friday, October 1st, 2021, Judge Preska sentenced me to six months in jail. It has taken days for me and my family to process this shocking turn of events. I now want to speak directly to my supporters.

First, I want you to know that I believe I could be forced into prison as soon as the week of October 25 unless the federal appellate court intervenes to keep me “out” under house arrest with the ankle bracelet still shackled to my leg. Yes, it appears the “choice” is not between prison and freedom while my appeal winds its way slowly through the courts, but between prison and home confinement. It’s just outrageous given that I have now served four times longer under house arrest than my prison sentence. And if I am allowed to stay home, I likely will have served close to four years under house arrest on a misdemeanor charge even if I win my appeal and get exonerated.

As a result, I am again asking for immediate help. I need to raise $150,000 by Friday, October 22 to hire two people who can carry forward the work if and when I get incarcerated. Please help by donating what you can. (If I don’t get incarcerated, I am hiring them anyway because we need the help.)

Second, I want you to know that I am fine and that my family is standing strong. Obviously, this experience causes great pain to our son in particular. But the overwhelming response from our supporters has thus far fortified our sense that the future will be secure. As many know, I have for years been targeted with withering attacks from 60 Chevron law firms in retaliation for helping Indigenous peoples in Ecuador fight back against the company for dumping billions of gallons of cancer-causing oil waste onto ancestral lands. While we expect those attacks to continue, we are steadfast in our determination to withstand them.

My pending prison sentence is incredibly difficult for me and my family, but for the climate movement as a whole it is potentially a disaster of epic proportions. That is, unless we either stop it or use it as an opportunity to build this campaign even stronger.

Many legal observers believe my sentence is a slap in the face by Judge Preska to the rule of law. It comes after five respected jurists from the top human rights legal body in the world, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, issued a unanimous decision calling my home detention “arbitrary” and a violation of multiple provisions of international law. The body concluded that my treatment violates my right to a fair trial and my right to an impartial judge. The U.N. jurists also demanded that the United States government IMMEDIATELY free me and pay compensation for the time that I have lost while locked up in home imprisonment.

Despite the fact that the decision from the U.N. Working Group requested that the U.S. government “take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Steven Donziger without delay,” Judge Preska continued to do Chevron’s bidding to silence me and send a message of intimidation to all Earth Defenders.

Day by day, the stakes of this case grow higher. The more Judges Preska and Kaplan attack me, the stronger our movement seems to become. My appellate attorneys already have filed our challenge to this conviction. Now it is as critical as ever that we put an end to Chevron’s two-decade campaign to evade complying with court orders that it compensate the Indigenous peoples in the Amazon that it poisoned.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 68 Nobel Laureates, 475 lawyers and human rights defenders, and several members of Congress, including AOC and Rep. Jim McGovern, have joined us in this fight. Chevron’s plan to silence me is backfiring. But we now must focus on increasing our reach and taking our leverage higher. 

Please help us to expose this incredible human rights violation and ensure that NO environmental advocate or Earth Defender ever goes through this again. Help us hire staff to keep the work going stronger than ever even if I go to prison and am unable to communicate or work.  Will you please chip in $500, $250, $100, $50, $25, or whatever you can today to help fight Judge Preska’s decision and keep me out of jail while guaranteeing this work continues?

Leave a comment

Filed under campaigns & events, Ecuador, USA

Free Donziger: update and final call for support before sentencing on Oct 1st

Steven Donziger is a human rights lawyer who represented the indigenous people of Ecuador in a class action lawsuit against petrochemical giant Chevron after it had systematically polluted a vast area of rainforest during the two decades of the 70s and 80s in what has been dubbed the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’.

Following a landmark judgment that awarded nearly $10 billion in damages, Chevron has since refused to pay any of the compensation to the tens of thousands of victims of its toxic spills, but instead withdrew all of its assets from Ecuador and launched legal action against Donziger.

Click here to read more about the case in a previous article.

The following statement is reproduced in full from an email I received today from the Free Donziger campaign. Highlights using bold, italics and capitals have been retained from the original.

60b5746d0fd2360841246ac2_freedonziger20loggo-p-500

Days ago my lawyers Rob Kuby and Marty Garbus filed a powerful petition before Judge Preska giving all the compelling reasons why I should be freed at sentencing on October 1.

To be clear, no lawyer EVER in the United States has been sentenced to prison for the crime of misdemeanor contempt. Yet Chevron is doing everything in its power to weaponize the legal system against me and convince Judge Preska of the Chevron-funded Federalist Society to make me the first.

Here is a preview of the letter:

Steven Donziger letter Sept 2021

You can read the full letter here.

October 1 is just around the corner where I could be sentenced to jail after already spending 787 days in home confinement, eight times longer than the longest sentence ever given to a lawyer convicted of my supposed crime. But this is all a part of Chevron’s demonic plan to silence me and the affected communities in Ecuador who won the historic pollution judgment.

Chevron is now using me as a foil to distract from the plight of Indigenous peoples in Ecuador who are suffering massive health problems because of the company’s planet and people-destroying practices. I am far from the only person who was involved in the pollution judgment against Chevron, but I am the most convenient target to try to scare future environmental lawyers from seeking accountability for the industry’s destructive operational practices. If I didn’t exist, Chevron probably would have invented me.

To reiterate, no lawyer ever has been sentenced to prison for the misdemeanor crime of contempt. We must fight back to make sure that I am not the first. We only have a few days left before my sentencing. Please donate today to help fund my defense and continue this critical battle against Chevron.

Thank you so much,

Steven

P.S. Reminder: If you are in the New York area, please come on Oct. 1 to the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan to show your support. Click here for more information.

Leave a comment

Filed under campaigns & events, Ecuador, USA

‘Amazon Chernobyl’ lawyer Steven Donziger who won huge damages against Chevron is now facing the ‘first corporate prosecution in America’

The disaster has been dubbed the “Amazon Chernobyl”, which is actually misleading since it implies that an accident happened, when in fact there was no accident. For almost three decades, the oil company Texaco – acquired by Chevron in 2001 – was responsible instead for deliberately dumping over 30 billion gallons of toxic waste and crude oil into the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.

The system of oil extraction they had designed had, as its fundamental feature, the systematic discharge on a daily basis of millions of gallons of cancer-causing toxic waste; poison that was dumped into rivers and streams that the local communities relied on both for drinking water and for fish, a staple food. As a consequence and over a period of decades, a great many have died of cancer, and continue to die. There has also been a spike in birth defects. To this day, there are still a thousand open-air toxic waste pits that Chevron built to run their cancer-causing effluent into the Amazon’s rivers and streams.

The impact on local communities has been absolutely devastating:

From 1964 to 1992 Texaco, the company acquired by Chevron with all its liabilities, polluted a 1700 square mile swath of pristine rainforest. In its lust for profits, the company cut corners and dumped at least 19 billion gallons of toxic water into the environment. It discharged 17 million gallons of crude into unlined pits, some as deep as 30 feet, on the forest floor. There is no telling how many species succumbed to the horrors of such unbridled greed.

But this is also a story of environmental racism. For decades, Indigenous people of this region were told that the oil was no threat to them. On the contrary, many of them were told that it had medicinal value and contained “vitamins.” Thousands of people used that water. They drank it, cooked with it, bathed in it, oblivious to the danger. After seeing a spike in birth defects and cancers, that danger became increasingly clear. Unable to relocate because of crushing, imposed poverty, they are forced to live in this human-made disaster area, even though it is slowly killing them.

From an article entitled The Amazon Chernobyl is a Warning for Us All written by Kenn Orphan, published in Counterpunch on March 19th.

Here is the complete version of Abby Martin’s three-part series covering Chevron’s disaster in Ecuador, on teleSUR’s ‘The Empire Files’:

Steven Donziger was the lead US attorney in a class action for the indigenous people of Ecuador that began in 1993 shortly after the company left. Nearly two decades on, in February 2011 – almost half a century after Texaco began their criminal operations – an Ecuadorian court issued a historic ruling ordering Chevron-Texaco to pay close to 10 billion dollars compensation. Unsurprisingly, Chevron considered the ruling illegitimate and then in retaliation moved all of their assets out of Ecuador. To date the Ecuadorian plaintiffs have never received any compensation from Chevron.

Shortly after the judgement, Chevron-Texaco instead filed a civil racketeering suit in New York City against Donziger, and this is where the plot further thickens. The judge assigned to the case was US District Judge Lewis Kaplan and in 2014 he also ruled that the judgement in Ecuador was invalid, claiming Donziger had achieved the result through “fraud, bribery and corruption”:

For some, call them criminal justice ingenues, it may be hard to believe this is happening in the United States, that our famed judiciary has sunk this low. But in the U.S., a judge acts as prosecutor and jury on behalf of a giant oil company, Chevron, as it destroys the life and career of human rights lawyer Steven Donziger. His crime? Daring to win a judgment against Chevron in an Ecuadorian court. For those less enchanted with the U.S. justice system, this is no surprise. But there it is. This judicial travesty is occurring in New York state. And the Chevron friendly judges – first Lewis A. Kaplan and his hand-picked appointee judge Loretta Preska, and now the U.S. court of appeals for the second circuit in a March opinion – keep ruling for the company, as they cage Donziger with house arrest, 600 days so far and counting.

The New York federal prosecutor declined to prosecute this case which is based, Donziger says, on lies, so in an astonishing move, Kaplan appointed Chevron’s attorneys. There will be no jury. Judge Preska will doubtless find Donziger guilty – of a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 90 days – though he’s already been under house arrest for over 600 days. The message to the legal community is clear: don’t mess with a fossil fuel company, because if you do, they will find a judge who favors the company and they will destroy you.

From an article entitled The Judicial Persecution of Steven Donziger written by Eve Ottenberg published in Counterpunch on April 9th.

*

60b5746d0fd2360841246ac2_freedonziger20loggo-p-500

On March 1st Steven Donziger was interviewed by Ross Ashcroft for RT’s Renegade Inc. Doniziger told him:

“In a nutshell, we won the case big – there’s about a ten billion dollar judgement. Which by the way, that might sound like a lot [but] it’s a modest number compared to the magnitude of the damages. It’s a fraction for example of what British Petroleum has paid for its Deep Water Horizon disaster in the United States, but in any event it’s a sizable number.

“And then Chevron sued me back in US courts where I live here in New York. They named as defendants all the community leaders, other lawyers, scientific consultants and they ran what was essentially a show trial without a jury, presided over by a judge who was a former tobacco industry lawyer, who would not look at any of the evidence from the Ecuador case – would not look at the voluminous scientific evidence that backed the judgment in Ecuador…

“And he found based on a paid witness – Chevron paid a witness $2 million – that I orchestrated the bribery of the trial judge in Ecuador which is something that is completely false. It’s been rejected by 29 different appellate judges in Ecuador and Canada who’ve looked at it. But it was used to attack me and to try to block enforcement of the judgement against Chevron’s assets. It was part of that process.” [from 5:40 mins]

The full interview is embedded below:

In 2020, Donziger was disbarred in New York, but not in the District of Columbia where he is also a bar member. He totally denies all of the allegations and has appealed the verdict, considering the attack on his law licence to be politically motivated in retaliation for his successful human rights work in Ecuador.

As Donziger explains on his own campaign website:

Chevron recently orchestrated my criminal contempt prosecution and detention in New York by one of the company’s private law firms, Seward & Kissel. This happened after I appealed a shocking and unprecedented order from trial judge Lewis A. Kaplan — a former tobacco industry lawyer — that I turn over my computer and phone for review by Chevron lawyers. This order violated the most basic sanctity of the attorney-client privilege, potentially placing my vulnerable clients at severe risk of grave bodily harm or even death. As my appeal of this order was pending, Judge Kaplan charged me with criminal contempt. The federal prosecutor in Manhattan rejected the case, prompting Kaplan to appoint the Chevron law firm Seward & Kissel to “prosecute” me. The Seward firm failed to disclose until seven months into the case that Chevron is a private client — a flagrant conflict of interest. The Seward law firm has kept me under house arrest without trial for 19 months while the pandemic has caused numerous delays of my trial.

Donziger remains under house arrest in his apartment in New York. His trial has been postponed several times but was rescheduled for May 10th:

Steven Donziger is on trial in Manhattan federal court for failing to turn over his computer, phones and other electronic devices and refusing court orders to surrender his passport in the civil case brought by Chevron.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska is presiding over the case with no jury.

In an opening statement, prosecuting attorney Rita Glavin said that Donziger had consciously chosen to disobey court orders to turn over his devices and documents.

“Choices have consequences,” she said.

From a Reuters report released the same day.

On May 26th, ‘The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté invited Steven Donziger to speak on his two years of house arrest in a Kafkaesque prosecution engineered by one of the world’s top oil giants:

On Saturday [June 12th], Steven Donziger also spoke to comedian and activist Jimmy Dore about how he became the first corporate prosecution in America (and hopefully the last):

Steven Donziger is currently the only person locked up pre-trial on a misdemeanour in the whole of America. So far, he has already spent 675 days under house arrest with an ankle bracelet which far exceeds the maximum sentence of 180 days which he could receive if convicted.

As he writes:

For all intents and purposes, I am the only person in American history being prosecuted by a private oil company. This is frightening for me and my family, but it also represents a grave threat to the right of Free Speech and civil society everywhere.

Meanwhile his case receives next to no coverage in the mainstream media.

To support Steven Donziger you can visit his official “Free Donziger” website here:

https://www.donzigerdefense.com/

Leave a comment

Filed under campaigns & events, Ecuador, USA

tackling Covid-19 the Cuban way

As of October 19th, the island of Cuba with its population of 11.2 million had reported just 6,258 cases of Covid-19 and only 127 deaths. None of these fatalities included healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, since the earliest days of outbreak in March, nearly four thousand Cuban medical specialists have assisted in the treatment of more than 350,000 Covid-19 patients in nearly 40 countries. This flood of humanitarian aid was provided by Cuba’s Nobel Peace Prize nominated Henry Reeve Brigades who were deployed in spite of the Trump administration severely tightening sanctions against Cuba, which blocked revenues and generated domestic scarcities of oil, food and medical goods.

In the same period, Cuba’s prestigious biotech industry has also been at the vanguard of treatments with clinical trials underway for thirteen separate Covid-19 related products.

On RT’s Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi spoke with Dr. Helen Yaffe, who is economic historian at the University of Glasgow and co-presenter of a new documentary entitled Cuba & Covid-19: Public Health, Science and Solidarity; a film based around interviews with leading Cuban scientists, community doctors as well as one member of the Henry Reeve International Medical Contingent who travelled to Lombardy in Italy.

In the interview Helen Yaffe explained:

“The Cuban biotech sector is quite unique – the way it was founded very early on in the development of biotechnology as a field – it was founded 1981, so that was after only the second biotech firm in the United States, and the situation [which] is consistent with their socialist planned economy is its 100% state owned. All of the different institutions in the Western Scientific Pole which is in Havana cooperate, they don’t compete. They don’t seek to make a profit on their domestic production.

“The whole industry is set up to meet public health demands of the population. There’s incredible interfacing between the public health sector and the education sector. So it’s a model that essentially undermines this mainstream discourse that says “only the free market, only in pursuit of profit through competition can we have efficient outcomes”.

“Now, I would say that the responses we’ve seen in countries around the world to the Covid-19 pandemic have kind of exposed the values and the principles under which each society is organised. And it has also invited us to question the meaning of efficiency when we have a public health need that cannot be met by this speculative race for profits, because even if there is a race now for a vaccine, there are too many questions to be asked about how poor countries will be able to access those and at what cost. Will it bankrupt nations to be able to access vaccines that they need to save lives?

“For the Cubans, because of the US blockade, it’s been vitally important that they’ve worked towards their own vaccine. I mean we saw with the announcement about the Pfizer trial, the share prices you know immediately respond and you have to wonder what’s driving this process.

“I would say that it is also true that in the Global South there’s a great deal of cooperation with the Cuban biotech sector, and these Henry Reeve Brigades have been taking some of the products that have been adapted or developed specifically for Covid-19 and using them all around the world. I would expect there would be a great deal more cooperation after this pandemic because the Cuban medicines are really showing some promise – there’s even a British joint venture that has been set up to look at the potential for preventing death in critically ill and seriously ill patients.” [from 3:50 min]

Regarding the obstacles presented by US sanctions, Yaffe says:

The issue of US sanctions is a difficult one. There is UK legislation that makes it illegal for the US blockade to be enforced against individuals and companies in Britain and the same applies in Europe. The question of why that legislation is not actively pursued (is not enforced through British courts); that’s another issue. But the collaboration that took place with UCL [University College London] essentially they made available one of their CPAP ventilators which the Cubans took themselves and were able to copy – they also then used parts that were able to create these machines that was fundraised through a group in Britain called Cubanos en UK  (Cubans in the UK). But you know even for that fundraising campaign to save lives they have to be very careful about which platforms they use and how they share the information, because money raised for humanitarian (cultural events and issues) has been confiscated from Eventbrite, Paypal and other platforms because of the US blockade. [from 6:55 min]

On why the Cuban healthcare system has coped so efficiently, she says:

“I think the documentary tried to make clear that the essential tool on the way that Cuba has been able to control contagion is the family healthcare medical practices. So these are family doctors [who] exist in every community – Cuba has the highest ratio of doctors per person. 26,000 family doctors are in the community; they live among their patients. Even the doctors and their families and the nurses and their families live in the clinics: so help is available twenty-four hours per day.

“They have a system where they catagorise the health status of all of their community. So they immediately know if a disease like Covid comes along that affects people with respiratory problems, who are the vulnerable patients. And the most incredible element of their response to Covid-19 has been to increase a process that they do anyway, which is going to visit every home in their community. And they’ve been assisted by 28,000 medical students who of course couldn’t carry on studies because their universities were closed – they joined the family doctors and they went door-to-door every day.

“So they were in teams where they knocked on a hundred doors and they asked everyone in the house, you know, how they were feeling, and they were basically tracking down symptoms. When they had a suspected case, instead of leaving them in the community, they were withdrawn and taken to a medical facility or an isolation centre where they would be tested – it was obligatory supervised quarantine in these isolation centres for two weeks. Now they’ve got the disease under control, the isolation is taking place at home.

“But they were also doing contact tracing in a very serious way – not just text messages – but turning up at people’s doors, removing anyone who had been in contact out of circulation until they had been tested themselves. So they took it really seriously and this is entirely consistent with the approach of the Cuban healthcare system, which is prevention over cure, and having this network of family doctors at a grassroots level.” [from 8:55 min]

From a review of the documentary:

Based on interviews with top scientists, community doctors and medical internationalists, this documentary explores Cuba’s outstanding domestic and international response to the global pandemic. From Cuba’s extraordinary biotech sector we interview Dr Luis Herrera Martínez, who led the team that produced the Cuban anti-viral drug Interferon Alfa 2b in 1986 and is now a scientific adviser to BioCubaFarma; Dr Gerardo Guillén, Director of Biomedical Research at the world-leading Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, which has produced some of the innovative drugs on Cuba’s Covid-19 treatment protocol; and Dr Mitchell Valdes Sosa, Director General of the Cuban Neuroscience Center, which was charged with manufacturing the medical equipment required during the pandemic.

We interview a family doctor from Havana, who conducts daily door-to-door health checks to track down the virus and slow community transmission, and a medical student who was among 28,000 others to join the public health campaign as universities were shut down. We hear from Jesús Ruiz Alemán, a member of the Henry Reeve International Medical Contingent who went to Lombardy in Italy when it was the epicenter of the global pandemic.

Click here to read the same review at cubanos.org.uk.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cuba, did you see?

Brazilian ex-President Lula da Silva on Op. Car Wash, Bolsonaro, Assange, US meddling and more

In April 2018 former Brazilian President Lula da Silva (of the Workers’ Party or PT) was convicted on charges of money laundering and corruption and sentenced to serve 12 years following the largest investigation into corruption in the country’s history; this was so-called Operation Car Wash.

Although Lula’s sentence was upheld at appeal, he has always vigorously denied all the charges and consistently claimed the case against him was politically motivated: Lula’s conviction immediately opening the way for Jair Bolsonaro to be elected with his main challenger now eliminated from the race. As if to settle the matter, Judge Sérgio Moro, who had presided over the case, was shortly afterward appointed as Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice:

In a transaction that even anti-Lula crusaders found highly distasteful, the judge who found Lula guilty and cleared the path for Bolsonaro’s ascension to the presidency — Judge Moro — thereafter accepted a position in Bolsonaro’s government that has been described as a “Super Justice Minister”: a newly designed position consolidating powers under Moro that had previously been dispersed among various agencies. It rendered Judge Moro — less than a year after putting Lula in prison and thus removing Bolsonaro’s key obstacle — one of the most powerful men in Brazil.

From an article written by Glenn Greenwald based around an interview he conducted with Lula while he was still in prison. In the same piece, Greenwald explains in more detail how Lula’s conviction paved the way for Bolsonaro’s accession:

Lula’s criminal conviction on corruption charges last year came under highly suspicious circumstances. All year long, polls showed him as the clear front-runner for the 2018 presidential race. After anti-PT forces finally succeeded with [former President] Dilma [Rousseff]’s impeachment in doing what they spent 16 years trying with futility to accomplish at the ballot box — removing PT from power — it seemed that Lula’s 2018 return to presidency was virtually inevitable and that only one instrument existed for preventing it: quickly convicting him of a felony which, under Brazilian law, would render him ineligible to run as a candidate. And that’s precisely what happened. 1

Lula was finally released in November 2019 after serving 580 days in prison. This followed revelations also published by Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept based on:

[G]roup chats between Car Wash prosecutors and conversations between task force coordinator Deltan Dallagnol and Moro, showing that the then-judge and the prosecutors were unethically and inappropriately collaborating in secret. Despite repeatedly insisting in public that they were acting ethically and impartially, the chats revealed that the judge was passing on advice, investigative leads, and inside information to the prosecutors — who were themselves plotting to prevent Lula’s Workers’ Party from winning last year’s election. 2

Click here to find the full “Secret Brazil Archive” published by The Intercept (The quote above is from Part 4 of the 14 part series).

On his release, Lula spoke to supporters saying, “They did not imprison a man. They tried to kill an idea.”

Adding that under Bolsonaro, “Brazil did not improve, Brazil got worse. The people are going hungry. The people are unemployed. The people do not have formal jobs. People are working for Uber – they’re riding bikes to deliver pizzas.” 3

Click here to read an earlier post about the coup against Dilma Rousseff entitled “‘Brazil’: now more than ever, a satire for our age”.

*

On Saturday, RT’s Going Underground devoted its show to an extended interview with Lula da Silva, which is embedded below. He told host Afshin Rattansi:

In Brazil some important things took place that the world needs to know about. For the first time in its history, during my government, Brazil became an international player. Brazil had created UNASUL [the Union of South American Nations] demonstrating a beautiful relationship within South America. Brazil had developed a relationship between South America and Africa; between South America and the Arab countries. Brazil had taken part in the creation of the BRICS. Brazil had created IBAS [or IBAS initiative (India, Brazil and South Africa), also called the G-3]. That is, Brazil was becoming an international player and that is something that the Americans never allowed.

Now Brazil is returning to the colonial period. After the coup on President Dilma, they would never want to have Lula back as the President of the Republic to continue our domestic social inclusion policy and our international protagonism policy. They want Brazil to continue to be a colony.

So they conjured this lie called the Car Wash Operation against me. They invented a lie during the procedure. They condemned me without any evidence. I’ve proved my innocence and I am waiting for them to prove any guilt on my part. I have challenged the Federal Prosecutor and the Judge who headed my trial. But I am much more concerned with Brazil at this moment. [from 4:55 mins]

*

Continuing:

We had eliminated hunger in Brazil and hunger has returned. We were in a process of raising education in this country and now we have a great setback in education as well as in science and technology.

We have major setbacks in the environmental legislation, in deforestation and in the preservation of our forests and out water resources. Obviously Brazil would be better off if I had been allowed to be a candidate [during the last Presidential elections]. They withdrew my candidacy for presidency with a legal procedure because they knew that if I ran in the elections I would have won in the first round.

And here in Brazil, a part of the country’s elite cannot stand to see poor people eating in restaurants, or travelling by plane, or buying cars. They cannot stand to see poor people ascending, which is what we achieved through hundreds of public policies to improve the lives of the poor people in this country.

I am proud that the President of the United Nations acknowledged that Brazil had eliminated hunger. I am proud that in 2010, Brazil was the country with the highest level of hope in the world – with the happiest people in the world – because we had so many expectations; so many dreams. And Brazil was about to become the fifth global economy.

Now we see Brazil experiencing a rise in poverty. People are hungry in Sao Paolo, in Rio de Janeiro and all over the country people have gone back to the streets. Wages dropped drastically and unemployment has risen. This is the country of the fascists who rule it.

I want a democratic country, a sovereign country, a country where people are happy and proud to say they are Brazilian. [from 6:25 mins]

When asked whether leaving the oligarchs in power to falsely prosecute him and afterwards to remove Dilma from office in a de facto coup, Lula replies:

I won an election; I did not start a revolution. I do not believe that a metalworker, like myself, could have become President of the Republic if it had not been for democracy; and if it had not been, most of all for democracy and for the Brazilian people’s comprehension and maturity when they voted.

I confess that I ruled for all. I doubt that there was any moment in Brazil’s history when everyone benefited so much. It is true that businesses won. It is true that bankers won. It is true that big landowners won. But it is also true that the poor workers won too.

We had the greatest pay rise for the poor during my government; the greatest rise in education. We are already known in history as the government that built the greatest number of universities and technical schools; invested the most in science and technology; and for sure we must have made mistakes, or else there would have been no coup against President Dilma.

The coup was the beginning of a new attitude in Brazil. In my opinion it was organised by the US Department of Justice with the participation of the CIA. We have video recordings. The Intercept has publicly exposed all the scams of the Federal Prosecutor and Judge Moro – and the participation of the US DOJ in destroying the construction and engineering sector in Brazil; the gas industry in Brazil; and the country’s politics. Because the US never accepted the fact that Brazil would become an international player.

You must remember that the US and Europe had a hard time dealing with Iran, because they could not reach an agreement with regards to uranium enrichment. Ambassador Celso Amorim and I went to Iran with the President of Turkey, and we were successful in convincing Iran to accept an agreement which was better than this deal that was signed by the Americans and the European Union.

Regretfully, when we proposed the agreement I expected that the US and the EU would thanks Brazil and Turkey; instead they applied more sanctions against Iran in a clear demonstration that they were telling us that Brazil is a small third world country that cannot meddle with major countries’ affairs.  [from 8:50 mins]

In 2008, Lula had also negotiated with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to win a contract with naval supplier DCNS [renamed Naval Group] for the sale of five submarines. This deal permitted a transfer of technology enabling Brazil to assemble four conventional submarines and one submarine with nuclear capability. During Operation Car Wash in 2016, DCNS was investigated over concerns of “corruption of foreign officials”. Asked about this part of the scandal, Lula says:

I am certain that the Americans did not agree that we should settle an agreement with France to build the nuclear submarine. I am certain that they did not appreciate it when I created the South American Defence Secretariat because as soon as we discovered the pre-salt oil, which was the major oil discovery of the twenty-first century – one thousand meters deep in the Atlantic Ocean – the Americans announced that they would reactivate their Fourth (maritime) Fleet in the Atlantic Ocean, which had ceased to operate after World War II.

Petrobras, the Brazilian state-run energy giant, had discovered the Tupi oilfield, which is located in the Santos Basin’s subsalt layer and estimated to hold recoverable reserves of between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels of oil, back in November 2007. It began pumping in May 2009. 4

Our oil is on the maritime border with international waters. So I believe that the US truly is interested in taking over our oil, just as they grabbed so much oil in so many countries around the world.

As you know Afshin, all political confusions around the world occur because of oil and the Americans do not want Petrobras, or the Brazilian people, to keep all that oil. [from 15:15 mins]

Lula also spoke about the assistance gave to his friend Hugo Chavez in Venezuela:

I had a fantastic relationship with President Chavez for many years, and I created a group of “Friends of Venezuela” to prevent any American intervention. And we were very successful during the Bush administration and later in the Obama administration with the following phrase: The people of Venezuela take care of democracy in Venezuela.

An American citizen who wins elections based on fake news like Trump has no moral authority to talk about democracy – likewise Bolsonaro in Brazil. Certainly I may have been naive, as well as Dilma, in believing in democracy; in believing in the conduct of the Brazilian elite, and we are paying the price for that. But nevertheless, I think that the solution is a democratic one. It involves democracy; freedom of the press; freedom of labour unions; freedom of association; respect for human rights. This is what motivates me and this is what I will fight for because it is only with democracy that we will be able to improve the quality of life of the poor; of the workers; and of the excluded people in our country. [from 17:00 mins]

Regarding the current political situation in Brazil, Lula says he thinks his former prosecutor Sérgio Moro will not run for President in 2022:

Moro will never become president. Moro was fabricated by Globo TV. Moro is an invention of the media and without the media, he is nothing. Moro is a citizen who I believe seems to be a coward because I have challenged him to debate with me. Now that he’s no longer a judge he could debate with me, but he won’t. And I do not think Globo will have the guts to support him. But if he is it is not a problem at all. [from 21:50 mins]

While at another point Lula says:

I am sure that Moro and [lead prosecutor of Op. Car Wash, Deltan] Dallagnol must take very heavy drugs to sleep because their conscience is not calm. They know that they lied about me. Dallagnol knows that he formed a gang in the Car Wash taskforce to pass on information to the US, and to strike a deal – a financial deal even – through which Dallagnol would raise a 200 million real fund to do something here in Brazil. My conscience is clear because my innocence is proven. Now I want to prove their guilt in the crimes they committed against Brazil. Attempting to destroy Brazil’s sovereignty.

Today I do not feel any hatred or resentment. I am actually destined to continue fighting for democracy, because as you know, although I will be 75-years old on October 27th, I have the energy of a thirty-year old and the political will of a twenty-year old. Therefore I still have a lot of energy to fight for democracy and for the Brazilian people and also to try to contribute to a world with new leaders that are more impetuous and brave for politics, because world governance nowadays has been outsourced.

Crises are no longer managed by governments, but rather by bureaucrats. So there are no more political leaders and this weakens politics and originates people of the like of Trump and Bolsonaro. [from 12:15 mins]

The full story is available in the “Secret Brazil Archive” at The Intercept but you can also read a summary of some of these allegation in a Guardian report published in June 2019.

Asked why he did nothing to reform oligarch-owned media in Brazil, Lula says:

I didn’t do anything because in Brazil to change the rules for the media you need to submit a bill to be voted in the National Congress and the majority in Congress being so conservative will never approve the rules to make the media more democratic.

We created a public TV channel. Certainly we did not make the necessary investments to make it competitive – not financially competitive – but competitive with regards to providing more information to society. This is something I regret not having one.

We developed a project to regulate the media – it was complete by mid-2009. We did not have support from Congress because elections would be held the following year, and we left it for the new administration. This is one thing that we will need to do when the PT returns to the government, because information that is meant for society cannot have an owner. Information cannot be conveyed to society from the viewpoint of ‘the economy’, or of a part of that society. [from 20:00 mins]

And regarding the incarceration and looming potential extradition to America of Julian Assange, Lula reminds us:

It is true that the Americans may hate Snowden because he was a State Department employee and he leaked information, but the fact is that Assange should be considered a hero by all democratic countries around the world. Because he was the one who used Snowden’s leaks to expose US espionage in Petrobras, in Brazil, in Germany, in Argentina, in France. That is why Assange cannot be handed over to the US. Assange should win the Nobel Peace Prize because he managed to expose the rotten espionage of the US in the rest of the world.

It is a pity that European and South American countries are not brave enough to stand up for Assange for all the good he did for mankind. [from 18:30 mins]

At the beginning of the interview, Afshin Rattansi asks Lula directly “why are you accusing your successor Jair Bolsonaro of genocide?” To which he replies:

For a very simple reason, our president did not take care of Brazil and of the Brazilian people as he should have done. This pandemic did not reach Brazil without prior notice. We already had experience of what was going on in other countries around the world, and the president should simply have done the obvious, only what common sense teaches us to do.

The president, since he doesn’t know about anything except weapons and violence, should have set up a technical committee with experts and scientists. He should have gathered all state governors as well as mayors and established a crisis committee to guide Brazilian society – to participate in the process of mitigating the impact of the pandemic in Brazil.

He did not do this. He decried the pandemic. He said that people should not wear masks. He proscribed a drug called chloroquinine to the population without any scientific basis. And to this date he continues to vulgarise death because effectively he does not believe in science, or in the Brazilian people, and he does not respect individuals. The only thing he does is compliment Trump and to try to copy the same foolish things that Trump does in the US. [from 1:27 mins]

Later in the interview, Lula is asked what he believes the likely consequences of Bolsonaro winning 2022 election will be, especially when it comes to impacts on the environment. He replies:

[Protection of] the Amazon must remain an issue for the Brazilian society. The Amazon does not need to have squatters or invaders. Instead of cattle breeders and soy bean farmers, the Amazon needs to be occupied by researchers, anthropologists and scientists to study its plants and animals, and all of the pharmacological wealth it has, as well as its potential to feed our society.

The Amazon is extraordinary for mankind and Brazil needs to have the obligation, the moral and ethical commitment, to preserve the Amazon in order to provide balance to Planet Earth. This is an irresponsibility of the Bolsonaro government, which has destroyed the entire surveillance system. Even the director of the agency that monitored deforestation with spatial imaging was dismissed. Now they are blaming the indigenous people and the small farmers for deforestation.

I have high hopes that in 2022, Brazil will return to democracy: that the people will elect a democrat for president who respects the environment and our air space; our borders; and who knows the meaning of our country’s sovereignty. [from 22:30 mins]

Adding finally:

I am convinced that the only solution we have is to strengthen democracy including for the American people now. They have the right to change American politics by electing someone who is civilised; someone who has some humanity; someone who has at least some respect for blacks, for native Americans, for the women and for differences between human beings. Therefore we have the duty to rebuild democracy in the world, so that we can prevent the destruction of Planet Earth, which is like a boat and we are all sinking in it.

I think we need to realise that the Americans are going backwards in exercising democracy. Recently I saw Trump calling Obama a communist. Calling Biden a communist. Calling Clinton a communist. He doesn’t even know what communism is.

I think ignorance is defeating intelligence and… intelligence, humanism, solidarity need to be restored in the world. The world today is being ruled by committees, not by governments. I think that governments need to rediscover their role in governance including the United Nations.

The UN needs to change its role. Today’s UN cannot be the same as it was in 1948. We need to have African countries in the UN Security Council. We need Latin American countries in the Security Council. And countries like India. It cannot be the same five countries as in 1948. We need to create a new global governance.

In 1948 the UN was strong enough to create the State of Israel. In 2020 the UN does not have the power to create the Palestinian state.

It is shameful because we need to renegotiate the role of the UN and other institutions. We need to discuss the IMF. What is the use of the IMF? What is the use of the World Bank?

I have already talked to Pope Francis. I have gone to the World Council of Churches in Geneva. We need a global campaign against inequality on our planet. It is not possible that half a dozen entrepreneurs in digital corporations make in one year what billions of human beings do not ever have. We also need to discuss the role of capitalism. And I am willing to do this.  [from 24:35 mins]

Note that: The transcript above is my own although based on the translation provided by the show. It is more or less complete but reordered with time stamps for each section.

*

1 From an article entitled “Watch: Interview With Brazil’s Ex-President Lula From Prison, Discussing Global Threats, Neoliberalism, Bolsonaro, and More” written by Glenn Greenwald, published in The Intercept on May 22, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/05/22/lula-brazil-ex-president-prison-interview/

2 From an article entitled “Their Little Show” which is Part 4 of a series of 14 articles based upon what is described as “A massive trove of previously undisclosed materials provid[ing] unprecedented insight into the operations of the anti-corruption task force that transformed Brazilian politics and gained worldwide attention”, entitled “Secret Brazil Archive” published by The Intercept. https://theintercept.com/series/secret-brazil-archive/ 

3 From an article entitled “Brazil’s former president Lula walks free from prison after supreme court ruling” written by Dom Phillips, published in the Guardian in November 8, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/08/lula-brazil-released-prison-supreme-court-ruling

4 https://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/75679/petrobras_pumps_first_crude_from_massive_tupi_field_offshore_brazil/ 

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Brazil, neo-liberalism, Venezuela

the united colours of Bilderberg — a late review of Montreux 2019: #6 the eco-industrial complex

Important note: It is well past the period spanning the end of May and beginning of June when Bilderberg meetings are ordinarily scheduled, so it should be observed that the home page of the official Bilderberg website still declares in bold capitals:

THE MEETING 2020 IS POSTPONED.

It does not say for how long.

*

The effectiveness of political and religious propaganda depends upon the methods employed, not upon the doctrines taught. These doctrines may be true or false, wholesome or pernicious—it makes little or no difference.

— Aldous Huxley 1

This is the sixth of a sequence of articles based around the ‘key topics’ at last year’s Bilderberg conference discussed here in relation to the prevailing political agenda and placed within the immediate historical context.

This piece focuses on issues relating to climate change, ‘sustainability’ and the future of Capitalism:


A schematically enhanced version of last year’s ‘key topics’

*

“Suddenly, saving our planet is within reach. We have a plan. We know what to do. Stop the damaging stuff, roll out the new green tech, stabilise the human population as low as we fairly can, keep hold of the natural wealth we have currently got and we’ll have built a stable, healthy world that we can benefit from forever. We now have the choice to create a planet that we can all be proud of, our planet, the perfect home for ourselves and the rest of life on earth.”

— narrative spoken by Sir David Attenborough on World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) promo

*

WWF recently released (June 5th, 2020) a short video 2 of British “national treasure” and conservation icon, Sir David Attenborough, telling us that “suddenly” saving the world is within reach. He says they know what to do and have a plan to build a stable, healthy world that we can benefit from forever. What’s not to like? Well, a lot! WWF’s plan regurgitates a 19th century racist assumption: That too many of the wrong kind of people threaten us all.

Their “plan” has four commandments: 1) “stop the damaging stuff”; 2) “new green tech”; 3) get population down, and; 4) keep hold of “natural wealth we have currently got.” Let’s begin by removing the two “no-brainer” outliers, the first and last in the plan, stopping doing damage and keeping existing advantages. Both are self-evident approaches to pretty much anything. What we’re left with then is just two answers to the planet’s problems – new green tech and reducing population.

So begins a damning critique of the ‘Big Green’ agenda and a recent WWF promotional film to “save the planet” written by Stephen Corry, an activist and campaigner who has worked since 1972 with Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights. 3

Corry continues [all footnotes retained from the original]:

[I]t’s in the other “solution” – getting the population down – where both Attenborough and WWF really plumb the depths of their elitist ideology. One can visualize the meetings of writers who struggled to express this without attracting attacks from those like me who think the 200-year old cry of “overpopulation” is ideological, fundamentally racist, certainly eugenic, and nothing to do with science.

The writers finally came up with, “stabilize the human population as low as we fairly can.” They presumably thought that using “stabilize” rather than “reduce” (which is what they mean), and that inserting “fairly,” would satisfy the critics. That only goes to show just how little they understand what the problems with their “overpopulation” dirge actually are!

The inconvenient truth, never mentioned by the ideologues, is that the Global North’s population has been dropping for generations. Overall numbers are still growing there only because they’re boosted by newcomers from the Global South. 4 The largest growth area is sub-Saharan Africa, where the population density remains extremely low and where they use very little of the world’s resources themselves. 5 That’s because the “natural wealth they have currently got” is largely stolen from them by the North. 6 Have a look at the area at night from a satellite to see just how little energy is used in Africa compared to Europe, or get the view from a plane, as Attenborough will have done hundreds of times.

In other words, if you’re worried about overpopulation threatening the environment, then you’re blind to the real menace: It’s not the growing number of “have nots” in the South, but growing overconsumption by the “haves” in the North.

Adding:

The story reminds me of WWF fundraising from 1994, which posed the very odd question: whether to send in the army or an anthropologist to stop indigenous people destroying the Amazon (its proposed answer, needless to say, was to give WWF yet more money). Yes, WWF actually suggested that indigenous people, not the industry bigwigs 7 it invites to sit on its boards are the destroyers of the world’s largest rainforest, an ecosystem which those same indigenous people are both responsible for creating and by far the best at protecting. That can now be proven from satellite pictures and data about the higher biodiversity in indigenous-controlled territories.

The real tragedy here is not what Attenborough and WWF believe – that won’t change unless and until savvier folk get a controlling hand – it’s that they are able to foist their propaganda on so large a sector of the Global North, including on many progressives. Perhaps many white environmentally-aware people really do believe that “overbreeding” will overrun the Earth and see it as a duty, even “sacred” duty, to defend the planet from the barbarian hordes. That’s been the really big lie drummed into us for over a century, it’s a key component of racism and anti-immigration. It has financial support from corporations and big foundations, and enormous backing from governments which dedicate massive amounts of our money to foment it. Worst of all, those who promulgate this lie are now planning on getting billions more dollars through their terrible “new deal for nature,” which is warming up to be the biggest land grab in history. They want control of no less than one-third of the globe for their “Protected Areas,” and yes, they are sending in the army, often private militias, to get local people out. 8

Click here to read the Stephen Corry’s full article entitled “The Big Green Lie” published by Counterpunch on June 26th, 2020.

*

In the short clip embedded above, recorded in November 2014, Baka from Ndongo, a village where WWF has a regional base, call upon WWF to stop funding the anti-poaching squads that have persecuted them for years. A slighter longer report is embedded below featuring the Baka at Yenga, Cameroon:

Many Baka refer to both WWF and the anti-poaching squads it funds as “dobi-dobi” or ‘dobi-dobiyu’ (WWF). Here, they are referring to WWF itself.

Click here to learn more at Survival International.

*

Big Green

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying, “This is mine”, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: “Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau 9

*

Whenever I peruse the list of participants for any forthcoming Bilderberg meeting, the names that really stand out are not those of the bankers, hedge fund bosses and major industrialists; and nor are my eyes especially drawn to the inclusion of usual suspects from journalism, academia (especially economics departments) and the major political parties, or with high ranking attachment to the military and intelligence agencies, nor even the occasional monarch; last year it happened to be His Majesty the King of the Netherlands – Funny how they include NLD after his title presumably as a token to their inherent egalitarianism!

But the names that always grab my attention are instead those I’m just not expecting to see at all. For instance last year:

Henry, Mary Kay (USA), International President, Service Employees International Union

Hers was certainly amongst the names stood apart. These are a few of the others:

Solhjell, Bård Vegar (NOR), CEO, WWF – Norway

Rockström, Johan (SWE), Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Buitenweg, Kathalijne (NLD), MP, Green Party

With sincere apologies to Oscar Wilde: to invite one environmentalist may be regarded as a misfortune; to invite three looks like a plan of action. Not that environmentalist ties to Bilderberg are as novel as they may first appear.

In fact, anyone familiar with the history of Bilderberg knows that the attendance of the King of the Netherlands is also in keeping with the origins of the meeting, which had been co-founded by Prince Bernhard, consort of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. And those familiar with the generally unspoken history of modern environmentalism will recall that Prince Bernhard is one of the co-founders of the World Wildlife Fund (as WWF was originally known); becoming its first President in 1961.

Moreover, when Bernhard was forced to step down as WWF President in 1976 because his involvement in the Lockheed Bribery Scandal came to light, he was immediately succeeded by John Loudon, the former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell (called “Royal Dutch” for very good reason) And there was more to Loudon’s network of interests:

After [John Loudon] stepped down as chairman in 1965, he continued to be active in the company as chairman of the board of supervisory directors for 11 more years.

When David Rockfeller, the president of Chase Manhattan Bank, set up an advisory committee in 1965 to counsel the bank on its growing international business, Mr. Loudon was named as chairman. He retired from the group in 1977. 10

From an obituary published by The New York Times on February 9th, 1996.

What the NYT fails to mention here is that once Loudon became WWF President in 1976, his appointment also crossed over with tenure on that advisory committee of Chase Manhattan. Noteworthy too is the fact that President of Chase Manhattan, David Rockefeller, has sat alongside Prince Bernhard as a fellow member of Bilderberg since its inception in 1954. Afterwards he became co-founder of closely-allied globalist body, the Trilateral Commission.

These unseemly beginnings of WWF ought to serve as a caution, and especially to those on the left, that the environmental movement is not all it seems. That Bilderberg is back to greening itself ought to come as no surprise either.

*

On 22 June 2011, German public broadcaster ARD aired a documentary by Wilfried Huismann in which WWF was directly accused of contributing to the willful destruction of habitat and species it claims to protect and of harming indigenous peoples. The documentary entitled “Silence of the Pandas – what the WWF does not tell us” [In German: Pakt mit dem Panda – was uns der WWF verschweigt] (which is embedded below) calls into question the WWF’s close associations with major corporations including Monsanto:

In it [Wilfried Huismann] complained above all about the proximity [of WWF] to the agricultural industry. One of the problems is that the WWF is sitting with so-called round tables for soybean (RTRS) and palm oil (RSPO) producers together with large agricultural groups such as Monsanto. 11

From a review of the documentary by Der Spiegel.

The excerpt below is from an earlier report by Der Spiegel that was similarly critical of the WWF’s soy and palm oil policies at this time:

SPIEGEL has traveled through South America and the Indonesian island of Sumatra to test this. In Brazil, an agro manager talked about the first shipload of sustainable soy that was certified according to the WWF standard and reached Rotterdam with a lot of PR noise last year. The manager conceded that the origin of the cargo was not exactly known. In Sumatra, members of a tribe reported how hired troops from WWF partner Wilmar [International Limited is Asia’s leading agribusiness group] had destroyed their homes. They had been in the way of undisturbed palm oil production.

Representatives of independent non-governmental organizations such as Rettet den Regenwald [trans: Rainforest Rescue] and Robin Wood no longer see the aid organization as just the trustee of the animals. To many, the WWF seems more like an accomplice of the corporations to whom it grants the license to destroy nature in exchange for large donations and small concessions. 12

Click here to read the full Der Spiegel article entitled “Kumpel der Konzerne” which translates as “Buddy of the corporations”

Huismann was subsequently sued by WWF over the documentary and the book he based on it, and in an out of court settlement agreed to remove or else revise some of the claims.

As the Der Spiegel review explains:

In fact, the “black book” was not available for a long time from providers such as Amazon or Thalia – for fear of legal disputes. “Rarely has the book trade been so intimidated after the publication and deterred by the distribution of the book,” complained Random House lawyer Rainer Dresen. The German Journalists’ Union (DJU) also criticized the environmentalists’ “legally questionable attempts at intimidation” and the “anticipatory obedience” of the dealers in a statement. 13

 

*

‘Natural Capital’ and ‘Green Growth’

“We must adapt our ways to the carrying-capacities of this planet and distribute the resources more fairly. And the only way to achieve that is to move toward a model of economic growth where the value of natural capital is fully integrated in economic and political decision-making by governments and by businesses and citizens alike. This to me is the essence of green growth, which of course means that the dichotomy between green growth and just growth is a false one. Just as you cannot take on a larger financial debt you can handle, you cannot use natural resources, which is like taking up a loan from nature, beyond nature’s capacity to renew itself. However, done properly, green growth means prosperity and a better future.” [from 7:40 mins]

From then-Norwegian Minister of the Environment, Bård Vegar Solhjell’s keynote speech during Forests: the 8th Roundtable at Rio+20, a CIFOR-hosted event, which brought together over 550 scientists, policy makers and members of civil society to discuss the role of forests in providing the world with food, energy, income and clean water:

*

“Natural capital” has become a buzzword in the sphere of environmentalism. It means literally putting a price tag on nature or as the World Forum on Natural Capital puts it:

Natural capital can be defined as the world’s stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water and all living things.

It is from this natural capital that humans derive a wide range of services, often called ecosystem services, which make human life possible.

The most obvious ecosystem services include the food we eat, the water we drink and the plant materials we use for fuel, building materials and medicines. There are also many less visible ecosystem services such as the climate regulation and natural flood defences provided by forests, the billions of tonnes of carbon stored by peatlands, or the pollination of crops by insects. Even less visible are cultural ecosystem services such as the inspiration we take from wildlife and the natural environment 14

This is the top result from a Google search on the topic. The next result brings up the Natural Capital Coalition which “was launched in January 2020 and hosts over 370 leading organizations to accelerate the use of capitals thinking”. The blurb on their website continues:

Originally established in 2012 as the TEEB For Business Coalition and hosted by ICAEW, the Natural Capital Coalition quickly became the global leader in mainstreaming natural capital approaches in the private sector, and released the internationally recognized Natural Capital Protocol in 2016.

The ICAEW for those not fully literate in contemporary acronyms is the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, which perhaps doesn’t need further comment, while TEEB is a group whose title in full is The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. The opening statement on their official website begins:

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) is a global initiative focused on “making nature’s values visible”.

Interestingly, one of their listed partners is the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, another is Pricewaterhouse Coopers. I think the picture is becoming clearer, arguably all the more so when we discover the World Bank has its own entry that is again ranked on page one of any Google search. Here’s how the World Bank lists “natural capital” with commendable frankness as just another “asset”:

Long‐term development is a process of accumulation and sound management of a portfolio of assets—manufactured capital, natural capital, and human and social capital. 15

A decade ago, Forbes magazine ran an article entitled “Names You Need to Know In 2011: Natural Capital Project”. It explains:

[U]ntil recently it’s been difficult to put a truly measurable value on what are often threatened natural resources. The Natural Capital Project, a non-profit venture led in part by scientists from Stanford University, has changed that. Its software tool, called InVEST, helps to map out the value of natural land or seascapes—assets the group calls “natural capital.” 16

The same Natural Capital Project is still going strong and back in March 2019 they had teamed up with Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) in an official partnership. Prior to his invitation from Bilderberg, Professor Johan Rockström had been the Executive Director of SRC for twelve years (2004–2012) where he led a team of scientists in developing a scientifically debatable, neo-Malthusian Planetary Boundaries framework.

Alongside Rockström’s SRC, the National Capital Project also proudly lists three more “world-class academic institutions – Stanford University [its host], the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the University of Minnesota” and amongst its six core partners, two of the world’s largest NGOs, The Nature Conservancy and Bård Solhjell’s World Wide Fund for Nature. 17 In short, last year’s Bilderberg meeting brought together two attendees who are both deeply embedded within this ‘natural capital’ matrix, which aims to set a price on everything in nature.

As Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher write in an excellent rebuttal of this new environmental accountancy:

The fact that the food we eat and the water we drink apparently need to be labeled “natural capital” only becomes meaningful in the context of capitalist growth. In this context everything should, in principle, become “capital”.

It is therefore vital to be clear on what “capital” really means. In daily conversations and some economic theory, the term is frequently defined as a “stock” or as “assets”. More accurate, however, is to see capital as a process, a dynamic. It is about investing money (or value) in order to make more money (or value). In short, capital is “value in motion”.

Capital in a capitalist economy is therefore never invested for the sake of it. The aim is to extract more money or value than had been invested. Otherwise it would not be capital.

It follows that the move from “nature” to “natural capital” is not an innocent change in terminology, another word for the same thing. Rather, it constitutes a fundamental reconceptualisation and revaluation of nature. Natural capital is about putting nature to work for capitalist growth – euphemistically referred to as green growth.

The same piece entitled “Nature is Priceless, Which is Why Turning it into ‘Natural Capital’ is Wrong”, continues:

The move from nature to natural capital is problematic because it assumes that different forms of capital – human, financial, natural – can be made equivalent and exchanged. In practice – and despite proponents’s insistence to the contrary – this means that everything must potentially be expressed through a common, quantitative unit: money. But complex, qualitative, heterogeneous natures, as these same proponents acknowledge, can never adequately be represented in quantitative, homogenous money-units.

And even if we try, there is an untenable tension between the limitlessness of money (we can always generate more money) and the limits of natural capital (we cannot exchange evermore money-capital into natural capital, for all eternity).

Natural capital is therefore inherently anti-ecological and has little to do with giving value to nature, or rendering this value visible. It is the exploitation of nature to inject more value, and seeming legitimacy, into a faltering capitalist growth economy.18

Click here to read the full article published by Wrong Kind of Green in September 2016.

*

It’s not the end of the world

In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.

The First Global Revolution: A Report by the Council of the Club of Rome 19

*

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.

Michael Shellenberger, quoted above, has credentials that give weight to these contentions. He was named a Time magazine Heroes of the Environment in 2008 – the same year he won the Green Book Award – has provided expert testimony to US Congress and was invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to serve as Expert Reviewer of its next Assessment Report. Just as importantly, Shellenberger is able to draw upon his wealth of experience as an environmental activist as the next statement in this recently published mea culpa entitled “On Behalf of Environmentalists, I Apologize For the Climate Scare” (soon afterwards retracted by Forbes magazine), goes on to add:

I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30.

Unsurprisingly then, Shellenberger’s piece (which is still available online at other sites) has caused a bit of a stink. In response, for instance, the Guardian ran a long item which criticises some of the claims but mostly highlights Shellenberger’s close links to the nuclear trade association Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). My purpose here is not to defend or promote Shellenberger and I certainly do not share his opinions about the need to expand nuclear power (as many previous articles testify) however, it is worthwhile reminding ourselves that the Guardian’s chief environmental columnist, George Monbiot, is another well-known and outspoken advocate for nuclear power (read my previous criticism here).

In any case, the most significant issue Shellenberger raises goes beyond such particular concerns as the dangers of ‘climate change’ and our best response to it (including nuclear); points which remain highly contested. The point is that we are no longer allowed to contest any of this – the constant demand being that we must “get with the programme”. As he says:

Until last year, I mostly avoided speaking out against the climate scare. Partly that’s because I was embarrassed. After all, I am as guilty of alarmism as any other environmentalist. For years, I referred to climate change as an “existential” threat to human civilization, and called it a “crisis.”

But mostly I was scared. I remained quiet about the climate disinformation campaign because I was afraid of losing friends and funding. The few times I summoned the courage to defend climate science from those who misrepresent it I suffered harsh consequences. And so I mostly stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public.

I even stood by as people in the White House and many in the news media tried to destroy the reputation and career of an outstanding scientist, good man, and friend of mine, Roger Pielke, Jr., a life long progressive Democrat and environmentalist who testified in favor of carbon regulations. Why did they do that? Because his research proves natural disasters aren’t getting worse.

But then, last year, things spiraled out of control.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said “The world is going to end in twelve years if we don’t address climate change.” Britain’s most high-profile environmental group claimed “Climate Change Kills Children.”

The world’s most influential green journalist, Bill McKibben, called climate change the “greatest challenge humans have ever faced” and said it would “wipe out civilizations.”

Mainstream journalists reported, repeatedly, that the Amazon was “the lungs of the world,” and that deforestation was like a nuclear bomb going off.

As a result, half of the people surveyed around the world last year said they thought climate change would make humanity extinct.

And in January, one out of five British children told pollsters they were having nightmares about climate change.

Whether or not you have children you must see how wrong this is. I admit I may be sensitive because I have a teenage daughter. After we talked about the science she was reassured. But her friends are deeply misinformed and thus, understandably, frightened.

Click here to read Michael Shellenberger’s full article.

*

Final thoughts: XR and the ‘Fourth Industrial Repression’

 “I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic”

— Greta Thunberg 20

*

These days you will often find grown men dressed in polar bear costumes parading outside the entrances to the G20 or COP, rubbing their eyes to brush away fake tears. The TV companies flock to it. They love every kind of manipulative theatrics. Not that we are supposed to believe the polar bears are truly sad of course; that’s just for the children. No, this otherwise quite blatant appeal to sentimentality – well, polar bears are cute, let’s face it – is deliberately tempered. They are crying dry self-conscious tears that are laced with postmodern irony: crocodile tears shed for the presumed fate of the human race.

And I wonder what they really want, sweating beneath those layers of Mickey Mouse costuming. What do modern environmentalists want in general? Most of ones I know (many are friends) actually consume a great deal more than I do, and whenever I propose modest solutions of my own, the response is highly predictable.

Here is one challenge I sometimes like to set them. If you really wish to put a stop to overconsumption – as in principle I do too – then let’s begin with a straightforward ban on advertising, I will say. After all the primary purpose of such ubiquitous mass psychological manipulation is in driving our desire to consume – and I don’t even bother mentioning the unseen role advertising plays both in weakening our personal sense of self and buttressing the extant free market system (There are a whole host of good reasons to place a ban on advertising – read this for my fuller thoughts).

A ban can be rolled out in stages, I propose (maintaining the inherent modesty of my proposition and reminding them of the successful restrictions that now prohibit advertisements for cigarettes and other tobacco products), and the first step might simply introduce bans on commercials for SUVs or airlines or oil companies or something else that is considered especially polluting.

It’s then that the eye-rolling generally begins. Excuses are sought for why a ban of this kind would make no real difference and the conversation moves on. Thus, although, they say they dream of radically changing the world, my experience is that even such a simple and workable idea is likely to be rejected out of hand. This response is telling don’t you think?

Do they want to allow corporate providers to go on lying to us all on a daily basis, cajoling us to buy their unnecessary products? Or are they just afraid of the economic repercussions such a ban might have? In fact I believe both answers apply, and the reasoning is quite straightforward and understandable. The environmental movement is itself inherently consumerist: beset with ingrained market-led values of a system it claims to oppose; and all the environmentalists I know are happy consumers of eco-friendly brands.

Yet, and though modern environmentalism seeks inherently materialist solutions including, if it is deemed necessary, the final commodification of the entirety of the natural world, it habitually confuses all of this with spiritual ends. Even the word ‘ethical’ is becoming narrowly redefined in some quarters. In the future it may simply mean obeying controls on how much one consumes and observing the proper restrictions on provision and/or access to ‘natural resources’. Being a good consumer will finally equate to being a good person.

Unlike the old-style conservationism it supplanted (which had serious issues too as described in sections above), a darker side to the new environmentalism has gradually evolved as focus was shifted from preservation of our natural environment by acting primarily on a local scale to calls for the prevention of an impending global catastrophe. The threat of a terror it evokes is of such magnitude that it seems nearly impossible to surmount: an existential crisis that arguably calls for miraculous or semi-miraculous modes of intervention.

“The end of the world” is of course attractive to some, if only because of its unique power to diminish all other problems and fears by rolling them up into a single ball of quintessential evil. Old-style religious zealots, chastising sinners or else parading their own sinfulness under the burden of heavy banners that declare “The End is Nigh” are seldom seen on our high streets nowadays. Their self-inflicted mournfulness intensified all the more by the derision of the average passerby and unintentionally sanctified: “for blessed are ye, when men shall hate you” 21

But many of today’s eco-prophets of doom have picked up the same banners to parade in their stead. Enter the ‘Red Rebel Brigade’ furies (not to be confused with Mao’s Red Guards!) dressed in scarlet gowns and veils, weeping blood over funereal face-paint:

Other emblems of the new faith are the death’s head and the increasingly familiar and starkly angular XR hourglass, which always looks to me like a neatly folded swastika:

Screenshot from Guildford Extinction Rebellion website

Aspects of these performances are presumably intended to give you the creeps, at least if you take them seriously, though it’s hard to see beyond the amateur dramatics and cappuccino angst. As death cults go, this has to be one of the most convivial – most greenies I know wouldn’t hurt a fly (some literally).

And what plans do they have to save the planet, besides new bicycle lanes, shopping ‘bags for life’, bamboo toothbrushes and veganism? To judge by the literature on affiliated websites whatever this envisioned transformation involves, its goals are remarkably vague – waking people up to the ‘climate emergency’ is enough for now basically.

Meanwhile, the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (4IR) or ‘Industry 4.0’ constructed around 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) is awaiting implementation – a development I discussed in greater length in a previous article within this series. As Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, writes in his book of the same title:

“The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril.” 22

And behind the overarching 4IR hi-tech rollout that combines artificial intelligence, gene editing and advanced robotics – “blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds” to quote the current UK government website 23– there are other gilded labels like ‘smart growth’ and ‘sustainable development’ that disguise more insidious intent: translated it will mean the microscopic monitoring of our personal lives and household activities with attendant regulations and social controls allied closely to an incrementally tightening regime of ‘austerity measures’. Economic hardship applied not only to our western economies, but stifling development across the third world. (Rest assured that the billionaire class with their private jets, private yachts and private islands, whose agenda is being inadvertently pushed, will not be subjected to the same privations and exclusions).

As anarchist author Paul Cudenec outlines in a short essay published by Wrong Kind of Green, “The Fourth Industrial Repression wants to replace everything true and authentic with its replicas, with a reality not so much virtual as entirely fake”:

The 4IR wants us all to be on our own, online and in line.

The 4IR empties everything of meaning, particularly words. It says “sustainable” when it means ecocidal. It says “development” when it means destruction. It says “basic universal income” when it means slavery.

When the 4IR talks about “social impact investing” it really means it wants to turn human beings into lucrative investment opportunities.

When the 4IR talks about “a new deal for nature” it really means it wants to privatise the whole living world so as to make the billionaire class even richer than it already is.

Concluding:

The 4IR employs huge armies of professional liars and gullible fools to spread its propaganda and scream abuse at all who dare challenge its fearmongering falsehoods.

The 4IR is a death cult which dreams of wiping out everything that is natural, everything that is wild, everything that is free.

Resist the Fourth Industrial Repression!

Fight the 4IR! 24

Click here to read the full article entitled “Resist the Fourth Industrial Repression!”

Finally, should any of these demands require the further hollowing out of western democracies in order to put greater powers into the hands of technocratic administrators, then so be it. For what sacrifice is too great when you believe the fate of the whole planet hangs in the balance, and worse, when we are so swiftly “running out of time”?

*

It is interesting to note that in 2018 Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, was invited and attended the Bilderberg Conference when it convened in Turin. What is relevance? Well, almost precisely twelve months later, in the wake of an audience with chief executives and chairs from global finance and multinational energy companies, Pope Francis officially declared a global “climate emergency”:

“Future generations stand to inherit a greatly spoiled world. Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay the cost of our generation’s irresponsibility,” he said, in his strongest and most direct intervention yet on the climate crisis. “Indeed, as is becoming increasingly clear, young people are calling for a change.”

The Pope’s impassioned plea came as he met the leaders of some of the world’s biggest multinational oil companies in the Vatican on Friday to impress upon them the urgency and scale of the challenge, and their central role in tackling the emissions crisis. It followed a similar meeting last year, but this time the Pope’s stance was tougher as he warned that time was running out and urged them to hear “the increasingly desperate cries of the earth and its poor”.

From a Guardian article published last year entitled “Pope Francis declares ‘climate emergency’ and urges action”.

The same report continues:

The chief executives or chairs of BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, ConocoPhilips, Chevron and several major investors including BlackRock and Hermes, responded by calling on governments to put in place carbon pricing to encourage low-carbon innovation, and called for greater financial transparency to aid investors.

However, they made no pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and set no timetable for action.

But, as the article goes on to say, carbon indulgences may be offered in lieu…

In two statements, which came at the end of a two-day meeting in the Vatican that was addressed by the pope and led by senior Vatican churchmen, the signatories called for a “combination of policies and carbon pricing mechanisms … designed in a way that simultaneously delivers innovation and investment in low-carbon solutions while assisting those least able to pay”. 25

Click here to read the full Guardian report published in June 2019.

*

Additional: The technocratic society

“UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development is the action plan implemented worldwide to inventory and control all land, all water, all minerals, all plants, all animals, all construction, all means of production, all energy, all education, all information, and all human beings in the world.  INVENTORY AND CONTROL.

“Have you wondered where these terms ‘sustainability’ and ‘smart growth’ and ‘high density urban mixed-use development’ came from? Doesn’t it seem like about 10 years ago you’d never heard of them and now everything seems to include these concepts? Is that just a coincidence? That every town and county and state and nation in the world would be changing their land use/planning codes and government policies to align themselves with…what?

“Far from being a ‘conspiracy theory’ or a ‘tin-foil hat’ fantasy, this is an actual United Nations plan, signed onto in 1992 by President George HW Bush along with 178 other world leaders. The UN called it Agenda 21 because it is the Agenda for the 21st century. According to UN Secretary General Maurice Strong, the ‘affluent middle-class American lifestyle is unsustainable.’ That includes single family homes, private vehicles, appliances, air-conditioning, & meat-eating. They are a threat to the planet” — Rosa Koire 26

*

Embedded below is Rosa Koire’s special presentation to the New Hampshire Legislature. It took place in the Legislative Office Building just behind the Capital in Concord on June 25, 2012. She shared with concerned legislators what she has learned about the true nature of Sustainable Development:

*

1 Quote taken from Brave New World Revisited (1958), Chapter 7, by Aldous Huxley.

2 Link to the original film: (https://twitter.com/Survival/status/1268935324232814592)

3 From an article entitled “The Big Green Lie” written by Stephen Corry, published in Counterpunch on June 26, 2020. https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/06/26/the-big-green-lie/

4 The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “Migration and population change – drivers and impacts”. Population Facts, no 2017/8 (2017).

5 The World Bank. “Population growth (annual%)”. 2018. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.GROW?locations=EU-ZG-US-AU-CA-NZ&name_desc=false (accessed June 23, 2020)

6 McVeigh, Karen. “World is plundering Africa’s wealth of ‘billions of dollars a year’”. The Guardian, May 24, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/may/24/world-is-plundering-africa-wealth-billions-of-dollars-a-year (accessed June 23, 2020)

7 Eg. Coca-Cola, Tata, KPMG, Adamjee, AES, Indus Basin etc.

8 Further information can be found here:

Survival International, Rainforest Foundation UK and Minority Rights Group International. The ‘Post-2-2- Global Biodiversity Framework’ – a new threat to indigenous people and local communities?. London: Survival International, 2020. https://assets.survivalinternational.org/documents/1908/post-2020-biodiversity-framework-briefing-final-survival-rfuk-mrg.pdf (accessed June 23, 2020)

9 Quote from philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Discourse on Inequality” (1754) which has the formal title, Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men (Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes), also commonly known as the “Second Discourse”.

Before translation, the original passage reads:

“Le premier qui, ayant enclos un terrain, s’avisa de dire: Ceci est à moi, et trouva des gens assez simples pour le croire, fut le vrai fondateur de la société civile. Que de crimes, de guerres, de meurtres, que de misères et d’horreurs n’eût point épargnés au genre humain celui qui, arrachant les pieux ou comblant le fossé, eût crié à ses semblables: Gardez-vous d’écouter cet imposteur; vous êtes perdus, si vous oubliez que les fruits sont à tous, et que la terre n’est à personne.”

10 From an article entitled “John Loudon, 90, Ex-Head Of Royal Dutch/Shell Group” written by Agis Salpukas, published in The New York Times on February 9, 1996. https://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/09/business/john-loudon-90-ex-head-of-royal-dutch-shell-group.html

11 From an article entitled “Umweltorganisation und Kritiker vor Einigung” written by Christoph Seidler, published in Der Spiegel on July 20, 2012. https://www.spiegel.de/kultur/literatur/schwarzbuch-wwf-einigung-zwischen-wwf-und-huismann-steht-bevor-a-844243.html

The section was translated by Google translate. The original text is below:

Darin beklagte er vor allem die Nähe zur Agrarindustrie. Problematisch sei unter anderem, dass der WWF zusammen mit großen Agrarkonzernen wie Monsanto an sogenannten Runden Tischen für Soja- (RTRS) und Palmölproduzenten (RSPO) sitzt. Auch der SPIEGEL hatte kritisch über die Soja- und Palmöl-Politik des WWF berichtet.

12 From an article entitled “Kumpel der Konzerne” written by Von Jens Glüsing und Nils Klawitter published in Der Spiegel on May 26, 2012. https://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-85913035.html

The section was translated by Google translate. The original text is below:

Der SPIEGEL ist durch Südamerika und auf die indonesische Insel Sumatra gereist, um das zu prüfen. In Brasilien erzählte ein Agro-Manager von der ersten Schiffsladung nachhaltigen Sojas, die nach WWF-Standard zertifiziert wurde und im vergangenen Jahr mit viel PR-Getöse Rotterdam erreichte. Die Herkunft der Ladung, räumte der Manager ein, kenne er gar nicht genau. Auf Sumatra berichteten Angehörige eines Stamms, wie angeheuerte Trupps des WWF-Partners Wilmar ihre Häuser zerstört hatten. Sie waren der ungestörten Palmöl-Produktion im Weg gewesen.

Auch Vertreter unabhängiger Nichtregierungsorganisationen wie Rettet den Regenwald und Robin Wood sehen in der Hilfsorganisation längst nicht mehr nur den Treuhänder der Tiere. Vielen kommt der WWF eher wie ein Komplize der Konzerne vor, denen er gegen große Spenden und kleine Zugeständnisse die Lizenz zur Zerstörung der Natur erteilt.

13 From an article entitled “Umweltorganisation und Kritiker vor Einigung” written by Christoph Seidler, published in Der Spiegel on July 20, 2012. https://www.spiegel.de/kultur/literatur/schwarzbuch-wwf-einigung-zwischen-wwf-und-huismann-steht-bevor-a-844243.html

The section was translated by Google translate. The original text is below:

Tatsächlich war das “Schwarzbuch” längere Zeit über Anbieter wie Amazon oder Thalia nicht zu beziehen – aus Angst vor Rechtsstreitigkeiten. “Selten wurde der Buchhandel nach der Veröffentlichung derart flächendeckend eingeschüchtert und vom Vertrieb des Buchs abgeschreckt”, beklagte Random-House-Jusitiar Rainer Dresen. Auch die Deutsche Journalistinnen- und Journalisten-Union (DJU) kritisierte in einer Erklärung die “rechtlich zweifelhaften Einschüchterungsversuche” der Umweltschützer und den “vorauseilenden Gehorsam” der Händler.

14 https://naturalcapitalforum.com/about/ 

15 https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/natural-capital

16 From an article entitled “Names You Need To Know In 2011: Natural Capital Project” written by Kerry A. Dolan, published in Forbes magazine on October 29, 2010. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2010/10/29/name-you-need-to-know-natural-capital-project/#7a4501aa1f57

17

NatCap is a partnership of four world-class academic institutions – Stanford University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the University of Minnesota, and the Stockholm Resilience Centre – advancing new science together with, inspired by, and implemented through two of the world’s largest NGOs, The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund.

https://naturalcapitalproject.stanford.edu/who-we-are/partners

18 From an article entitled “Nature is Priceless, Which is Why Turning it into ‘Natural Capital’ is Wrong” written by Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher, published in Wrong Kind of Green on September 21, 2016. http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2017/03/01/nature-is-priceless-which-is-why-turning-it-into-natural-capital-is-wrong/

19 Quote from The First Global Revolution: A Report by the Council of the Club of Rome, Part I “The Problematique”, Ch 5, “The vacuum”, p 75, written by Alexander King & Bertrand Schenider, published by Pantheon Books in 1991. https://archive.org/details/TheFirstGlobalRevolution/page/n85

Here are some further extracts:

In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”

A few pages earlier

“The old democracies have functioned reasonably well over the last 200 years, but they appear now to be in a phase of complacent stagnation with little evidence of real leadership and innovation. It is to be hoped, with a new found enthusiasm for democracy in the liberated countries today, that people will not reproduce slavish copies of existing models that are unable to meet contemporary needs.”

Which leads us to a different subheading “The limits of democracy”, following which the text continues:

“Democracy is not a panacea. It cannot organize everything and it is unaware of its own limits. These facts must be faced squarely, sacrilegious although as this may sound. In its present form, democracy is no longer well suited for the tasks ahead. The complexity and the technical nature of many of today’s problems do not always allow elected representatives to make competent decisions at the right time. Few politicians in office are sufficiently aware of the global nature of the problems facing them and little, if any, awareness of the interactions between the problems. Generally speaking, informed discussion on the main political, economic and social issues takes place on radio and television, rather than in Parliament, to the detriment of the latter. Political party activities are so intensely focused on election deadlines and party rivalries that they end up weakening the democracy they’re supposed to serve. This confrontational approach gives an impression that party needs come before national interests. Strategies and tactics seem more important than objectives, and often a constituency is neglected as soon as it is gained. With the current mode of operation, Western democracies are seeing their former role decline and public opinion drifting away from elected representatives. However, the crisis in the contemporary democratic system must not be allowed to serve as an excuse for rejecting democracy.

Adding:

In the countries now opening up to freedom, Democracy is being introduced in a situation which demands greatly changed attitudes and patterns of behavior demands from citizens. The inevitable problems of phasing in democracy are difficult to solve. But there is another, still more serious question. Democracy does not necessarily build a bridge between a colonial or neo-colonial economy or a centralized bureaucratic economy towards a market economy based on competition and producing growth. In a transitional situation such as the present which because of sudden and unforeseen change has been neither planned nor prepared for. The necessary structures attitudes market relations and managerial styles simply do not exist.  If such a situation is allowed to go on too long, it is probable that democracy will be made to seem responsible for the lagging economy, the scarcity and uncertainties. The very concept of democracy could then be brought into question and allow for the seizure of power by extremists of one brand or the other.

20 From a speech delivered by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg to the World Economic Forum at Davos on January 25, 2019 [from 2:20 mins]:

21 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Luke 6:22.

22 Quoted in an article entitled “The 4th Industrial Revolution Is Here – Are You Ready?” written by Bernard Marr, published in Forbes magazine on August 13, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2018/08/13/the-4th-industrial-revolution-is-here-are-you-ready/ 

23 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulation-for-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/regulation-for-the-fourth-industrial-revolution

24 From an article entitled “Resist the Fourth Industrial Repression!” written by Paul Cudenec, published in Wrong Kind of Green on April 17, 2020. http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2020/04/17/resist-the-fourth-industrial-repression/ 

25 From an article entitled “Pope Francis declares ‘climate emergency’ and urges action” written by Fiona Harvey & Jillian Ambrose, published in the Guardian on June 14, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/14/pope-francis-declares-climate-emergency-and-urges-action

26 “Why is Everyone Talking About UN Agenda 21?” flyer written by Rosa Koire. https://www.democratsagainstunagenda21.com/uploads/4/4/6/6/4466371/why_is_everyone_talking_about_un_agenda_21.pdf

4 Comments

Filed under analysis & opinion, Brazil, Cameroon, Charlie Skelton, global warming, Indonesia, nuclear power

Mike Pompeo’s ‘democratic plan’ for Venezuela and Juan Guaidó’s alleged involvement in terrorist regime change operations

After bizarrely placing Nicolás Maduro top of a wanted list on charges of drug trafficking, the Trump administration then unveiled a so-called ‘democratic transition plan’ that calls for the ouster of the Venezuelan President in exchange for a five-person “Council of State”.

Irrespective of the hardships already suffered by the people of Venezuela under the current sanctions programme, and heedless to a worsening situation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the US is threatening “increased” sanctions if Venezuela does not comply.

Yesterday, Aaron Maté from The Grayzone spoke to Latin America policy analyst and campaigner with Codepink, Leonardo Flores, about the latest US effort to starve Venezuelans into submission in order to force a regime change.

Towards the end of the interview, Leonardo Flores describes the extraordinary revelations of Cliver Alcalá, who is one of those indicted by the US Department of Justice on accusations of narco-trafficking. Shortly after the DOJ press conference ended, Alcalá actually confessed on Twitter that he was involved in plots including terrorist attacks to overthrow Maduro.

Additionally, he said weapons confiscated by Colombian police were paid for with money provided by Juan Guaidó. However, Alcalá was not only implicating Washington’s choice for Venezuelan President, Juan Guaidó, scandalously seen photographed with members of the infamous Los Rastrojos drug cartel, but also an unspecified number of US advisors, who he claims met with him on no less than seven different occasions. Alcalá has now been turned over to US authorities.

The transcript of the interview below is mine [interview begins at 1:50 mins].

Aaron Maté: What is your reaction to this so-called ‘democratic transition plan’ from Pompeo?

Leonardo Flores: My reaction really is bewilderment. Because a few days ago, as you just said, the Department of Justice unveiled indictments against Maduro and 13 other former and current government officials and members of the military; immediately ramping up the pressure. And then this transition proposal seems to be kind of a step back.

First of all it’s a total non-starter. It’s not going to go anywhere. It wasn’t negotiated with anyone in Venezuela on the side of the government. It’s a plan that supposedly came from Juan Guaidó in part, but really it’s been designed in the State Department itself.

AM: The thinking here in the White House, what do you think it is? They’ve been trying now for more than a year to overthrow Maduro. They’ve tried to spark some military uprisings. It hasn’t worked. Now they’ve shifted to this bounty last week on Maduro’s head. Wat do you think is the strategy going on inside Washington? What are they hoping to achieve with these narco charges against Maduro, and now this new so-called plan?

LF: Well, in a sense they’re just trying to throw everything at the wall to just see what sticks. But, particularly with this plan, I think it’s to alleviate the pressure that’s coming on them due to the sanctions.

We’ve seen everyone from the UN to the EU to other multilateral organisations and NGOs call for a lifting of the sanctions. We’re seeing a letter being sent around the Senate that has at least 11 people who’ve signed on led by Senator Chris Murphy calling for humanitarian relief for Venezuela and Iran: lifting the sanctions during this pandemic. And so I think that’s maybe getting to the Trump administration and this is their way of sending some kind of olive branch to these more moderate factions in Washington. But, you know, it’s not a serious proposal.

Side note: “It hurts our nation’s security and our moral standing in the world when our sanctions policy results in innocent people dying. I am particularly concerned about the impact of sanctions on the COVID-19 response in Iran and Venezuela”

— Sen. Chris Murphy

AM: What I think has been overlooked in the discussion of all this is that in trying to install Guaidó, the Trump administration has portrayed this picture where it has been basically Maduro versus Guaidó, and there’s no-one in between. But meanwhile, there have been negotiations between Maduro and elements of the Venezuelan opposition, just not the one that includes Guaidó’s faction. Can you talk about this and how it’s been ignored.

LF: Sure. So, the last time Guaidó participated in negotiations seriously – his faction I mean – was in August 2019. And those talks were undermined when the Trump administration imposed what the Wall Street Journal called an economic embargo; they really ramped up the sanctions on August 5th.

After that, about a month later, Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan government began negotiating with more moderate sectors of the political opposition – sectors of that really want to engage in democracy and engage in politics and aren’t looking for regime change. And coincidentally, those months of 2019, I’m talking about September, October and November; they were the most stable months in a really crazy year for Venezuela, that started off with this attempted coup by the Trump administration and Juan Guaidó.

Now, those negotiations are still ongoing. There’s ongoing dialogue. They resulted with – in early January – with a new election for the President of the National Assembly. This new President of the National Assembly was from the same party as Juan Guaidó. I think he was expelled from that party – but I’d have to check up on that to be honest. And what we’re seeing is that Juan Guaidó got kind of pushed out and these extremist opposition sectors got pushed out a bit from these attempted negotiations. So this is their way back in, so to speak.

AM: So, if you could address someone who might look at this plan now from Pompeo and – the way Pompeo’s framing it is that, you know, the US has no preference for who leads Venezuela aside from Maduro. We want him gone. In fact, Pompeo said as much today. Let me play you a clip…

Mike Pompeo: We’ve made clear all along that Nicolás Maduro will never again govern Venezuela, and that hasn’t changed.

AM: That’s Mike Pompeo. Well first of all, let me just ask you to respond to Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State of the United States, declaring that the leader of another country will never govern there again.

LF: I mean it’s completely ridiculous. Maduro has been governing since 2013 and he has been governing throughout this whole time when the State Department has been trying to portray Venezuelan government as nonexistent and they’re trying to force Juan Guaidó as the so-called “interim president”.

But what’s really curious to me is that there’s contradictions within the White House. So that’s a very interesting Pompeo quote, but earlier today, Elliot Abrams, who’s the Special Representative for Venezuela for the Trump administration; he told Reuters that “while Maduro would have to step aside” – and this is a direct quote [the plan did not call for him to be forced into exile ] – “the plan did not call for him to be forced into exile and he even suggested that he ‘could theoretically’ run in the election.

So Abrams is saying ‘hey maybe Maduro can run’, Pompeo’s saying ‘Maduro is never again going to be able to govern’. There’s clear disconnect. It’s kind of indicative of what we’ve seen in the White House since Trump to office, with lack of communication between different sectors of the executive branch.

AM: Let’s say that Abrams, what he suggests, is the proposal that the US is putting forward, then somebody might look at that and say, hey you know listen the US shouldn’t be involved in Venezuela, but it is, and the fact is that right now they’re putting forward this plan where they’re offering to relieve these crippling, murderous sanctions if Venezuela just agrees to this new transition and hold new elections. Why not just abide by that to help ease the suffering of Venezuela?

LF: Well, Venezuela has a constitution. I mean that’s the biggest thing we have to talk about. It is a sovereign country that has a constitution, and is guided by that constitution. And so the Trump administration used that constitution, and made these kind of quasi-legal arguments, to say that Juan Guaidó was actually the real President because Maduro was ‘not officially in power’. And now they’re turning around and saying well you know what, forget that constitution and let’s talk about this whole ‘democratic framework transition’ that has no constitutional basis in Venezuela at all.

But what I think we really need to emphasis is that if the Venezuelan government decided to hold new elections – new presidential elections – after coming to an agreement with the opposition, they’re well within their rights. But this plan is being imposed from abroad, it lacks any sort of popular support within Venezuela, and in that regard it’s a non-starter.

AM: Just to stress this point, I do think holding new elections – that has been under discussion in Maduro’s negotiations with the opposition, right?

LF: Yeah, that’s correct. I mean first of all there have to be new elections – I mean parliamentary elections because those are due this year. And after those parliamentary elections there is the possibility that you might have new presidential elections in Venezuela.

But there’s no way that those presidential elections can be carried out while Venezuela is under sanctions from the US and the EU; particularly by the US sanctions. This is reminiscent of Nicaragua in the ’90s when the Nicaraguan people had an election and the US government said that if the FSLN [Sandinista National Liberation Front] then wins, then the sanctions will continue, but if the opposition wins then the sanctions will be lifted.

AM: Let me play for you a clip on that front. This is John Stockwell, he is a former CIA officer, and he was describing this tactic the US uses of basically making countries like Nicaragua submit to US demands or starve.

John Stockwell [speaking on December 27th 1989]: The point is to put pressure on the targeted government by ripping apart the social and economic fabric of the country. Now that’s words, you know, social and economic fabric: that means making the people suffer as much as you can until the country plunges into chaos, until at some point you can step in and impose your choice of governments on that country.

AM: So that’s a former CIA officer describing the US approach to countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela. Leo, what’s your sense of where the Venezuelan people are at? They’ve been suffering for a long time now under these sanctions. There was just a poll that was shared by the opposition economist Francisco Rodríguez pointing out that two-thirds of Venezuelans say that US sanctions are causing huge misery inside their country.

What is your sense of where the electorate is at inside Venezuela? The people: are they at the point where they’re willing to give up [and] to submit to US demands, whatever they are, in return for some relief from this blockade?

LF: No, I wouldn’t say they are. I mean we have to be clear though, Venezuela is a very polarised country. So we have this sector that votes for the opposition – that a good percentage of it would likely welcome Pompeo’s plan. But then you have the Chavistas, which represent at least 40% of the electorate, and of all eligible voters, and they would absolutely reject this plan.

It’s absolutely true though that sanctions have completely destroyed the economic fabric of Venezuela. But one of the reasons that Venezuela has been able to overcome the pressure from the United States is due to the social fabric, and due to the organising at the community level, and due to the organising that the government enables from above.

AM: Okay, so you mentioned the Venezuelan electorate. Let me ask you quickly about this, because a huge talking point that the US administration uses and its parroted across the political establishment – even Democrats who oppose the sanctions parrot this talking point –which is that Maduro is not a legitimately elected leader, and they point to alleged fraud in the 2019 Venezuelan elections.

I know it’s complicated but can you give us the simplest case for why this talking point is false.

LF: Right. So, there’s actually no evidence that there was fraud, and really the argument that there was fraud only comes from the United States.

What happened in the 2018 elections is that sectors of the opposition just decided to boycott the election. And they boycotted at the direction, or under the instructions of the State Department.

In early 2018 there was dialogue between the government and the opposition. The two sides were very close to signing an agreement – they actually had an agreement written down. They were negotiating in the Dominican Republic, they went back to Venezuela for one week to consult with various parties involved; during that interim week, then-Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, threatened an oil embargo, and he also suggested that if the military were to overthrow Maduro, that this move would be welcomed by the United States.

Also during that week, the State Department said that they would not recognise any elections in 2018: that Maduro had to go first before there were elections. That’s what leads to these kind of claims of fraud because of this opposition boycott. But really there was no fraud: the parties that did participate, participated fully; there were international observers; there was a vote that was audited; and Maduro won in a landslide election.

AM: Maduro received over six millions votes, and, if I have the history correct, the main opposition candidate, Henri Falcón, who ran, he was even threatened with US sanctions if he kept participating in the elections.

LF: That’s right. And not only was Henri Falcón threatened with sanctions, but so was Allup who was leader of Acción Democrática – Democratic Action Party – this is one of the bigger opposition parties. It’s slightly more moderate than Juan Guaidó’s party. But he said, I think it was in March of 2019, excuse me 2018, he pondered ‘why would I run, if the US isn’t going to recognise my victory?’

And so the US made it clear that even if an opposition leader had won, that they were not going to recognise it because it wasn’t going to be the opposition leader that they wanted.

AM: So let me ask you about these narco-trafficking charges that have been unveiled against Maduro and other top officials. The allegation – and maybe you can explain it for us – because it’s pretty bewildering: is that Maduro and the other top Venezuelan officials have been engaged in a criminal conspiracy to flood the US with drugs, going back many years.

LF: Yeah, that’s correct. And so the DOJ talks about a plan to plot to flood the US with cocaine since 1999. Maduro wasn’t even in power in 1999. In 1999, he was a member of the National Constituent Assembly and he was helping to draft Venezuela’s constitution.

So one of the interpretations of these accusations in Venezuela is that these aren’t accusations against individuals, it’s really an accusation against the entire Bolivarian revolution. And going a little bit deeper, this plot claim by the DOJ is patently ridiculous, I mean, the US government’s own statistics show that over 90% of the cocaine in the United States is either from Colombia, or has travelled through Colombia. Those same statistics show that less than 7% of the cocaine that the United States has transited through Venezuela at some point.

Venezuela doesn’t produce coca – the coca leaf – it doesn’t produce cocaine, whereas Colombia is the biggest producer of both coca and cocaine in the entire world. It’s clear that these accusations – these charges – are completely politically motivated and they’re not based on any sort of reality.

If they were, then really the conspiracy to flood the United States with cocaine – you have to look at the President of Colombia and the prior President Álvaro Uribe and really the kind of entire Colombian social structure, which enables narco-paramilitaries to control their society and to support cocaine.

AM: And you’ve written about, for The Grayzone, a piece that explains that one consequence of this indictment, is that it’s triggered a confession – a very serious confession – by one of the people charged of a violent US-based plot against Maduro. Can you explain what happened there?

LF: Right. So one of the people indicted, his name is Cliver Alcalá, he was a former member of the military. He used to be very close to Chavismo. He flipped to the opposition in 2016 and since 2017, give or take, he’s been involved in various plots and coup attempts [including] attempted terror plots in Venezuela. He’s been linked to them.

And so immediately after the DOJ press conference last week that indicted Mr Alcalá, he posted some videos on Twitter and other social media confessing to a terror plot in Venezuela from about a week and a half ago —

So a bit of back story: the Colombian police seized 26 high-powered rifles and several other weapons of war and military equipment. Alcalá claimed that the weapons were his – that they were bought using money from Juan Guaidó. That he and Juan Guaidó had entered into a contract for the weapons. That the weapons were going to be used to help overthrow the Venezuelan government by causing a terror plot and by targeted assassination of Chavista leaders.

Alcalá now has been turned over to US authorities. It’s unclear what’s going to happen with him, but what is clear is that he implicated not just Juan Guaidó in this terror plot, but US advisors – he claims that he met with US advisors on at least seven different occasions.

AM: And just to put a final point on this, he says that Guaidó paid him money for this plot. And so those weapons that were seized in Colombia were paid for by Guaidó, and then presumably the US which backs up Guaidó, and is actually using money initially intended for Central American aid to pay for Guaidó and his fellow coup-plotters.

LF: Yeah, that’s right. The money wasn’t necessarily going to Alcalá directly, it was going to the weapons that Alcalá purchased. And Juan Guaidó’s only source of financing is the US government, which basically is us US taxpayers.

AM: So finally, as part of its coup effort in Venezuela, the US has been putting heavy pressure on anybody engaged in business with Venezuela, and that’s included sanctioning Russia’s state oil company, Rosnef.

Rosnef was recently forced to basically divest its holdings in Venezuela and then transfer it to another Russian government – in fact, the wholly Russian government owned company. Will this be enough to keep Venezuela afloat, or do you think that the power of the US is just too strong here?

LF: I think it would be enough under slightly different circumstances, but the fact is that oil is plummeting right now and so it’s unclear what’s happening with Venezuelan government’s finances.

I don’t think the Venezuelan government is going to fall due to financing. I think in that sense, you know, China and Russia have a lot invested in Venezuela, and Venezuela has other means of securing financing, whether it’s through gold or rare earth minerals. But it does make the situation much more difficult and it has led to gasoline shortages recently in Venezuela.

AM: And finally, in terms of what can be done here in the US, you mentioned that there’s now increased talk from Congress – increased pushback from Congress – asking them not to suspend the sanctions entirely, but to simply pause them during the coronavirus pandemic, which I suppose is better than nothing.

But as we are dealing now with economic troubles of our own here at home, what do you think can be done right now to push back on the Trump administration’s coup effort, and to try to stop the regime change plot on Venezuela – and to drop the sanctions?

LF: Well, I think for starters the issue of Venezuela has become incredibly toxic in mainstream politics. So if you take any sort of position that is deemed friendly to the Venezuelan government, even if it’s actually not necessarily friendly to the government, like say humanitarian relief and [lifting] sanctions, you’re immediately going to be seen with mistrust by a certain element of the political establishment.

And so I think that really what’s most important is that to highlight what the Trump administration has been doing to sabotage dialogue in Venezuela. If it were not for Trump, I think we would already have a political agreement in Venezuela and the country would be much more stable. But he’s in thrall to his financers in Florida, the Cuban-American lobby in Florida and rich Venezuelans in Florida; it all boils down to Florida unfortunately.

I think really that the best hope that the Venezuelan government has is to hold out until after the November elections. Even if Trump is re-elected I think it opens up a possibility of negotiations between the Trump administration and the Maduro government.

AM: Yeah, on that front it doesn’t inspire confidence that Joe Biden has fully embraced Trump’s coup attempt, and has recognised Juan Guaidó as the President, but certainly, no matter what happens, November will be a key date in all this and other issues of course.

Leo Flores, Latin American policy expert and campaigner with Codepink, thanks very much.

LF: Thank you Aaron.

1 Comment

Filed under USA, Venezuela

colour revolution or not: with protests in Catalonia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Haiti and Hong Kong, what are the tests of authenticity?

When the Ukrainians gathered in the square in 2014, the stage had been set for a bloody coup. Today ‘the Maidan’ or ‘Euromaidan’ is seldom if ever mentioned and a false impression is often given that the subsequent Ukrainian civil war was sparked by a Russian invasion of Donbass and its annexation of Crimea. However, at the time of the Maidan, western media featured the Ukraine’s fascist-led colour revolution on a nightly basis: the use of catapaults to launch rocks at the police then applauded by BBC and C4 correspondents alike, as more judiciously were the Molotov cocktails laced with polystyrene for extra adhesion.

Even as it became abundantly clear that leading perpetrators of the violent disorder were neo-Nazi brown-shirts Svoboda and their paramilitary comrades Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector), who were engaged in arson attacks on union buildings and ultimately shooting live ammunition into the square, our media maintained the official charade that this was all part of a ‘pro-democracy demonstration’.

In Venezuela we have been presented with a different fictional account by the same media outlets as once again the US ramped up its repeated efforts to overthrow the elected President, Nicolás Maduro; on this occasion, manoeuvring to replace him with the hand-picked puppet Juan Guaidó. Thus, during another ‘popular uprising’ horrifically violent acts by anti-government thugs that included the burning of opponents alive, went unreported as the corporate media once again parroted the official line that consistently portrayed the perpetrators of these crimes as ‘pro-democracy demonstrators’ fighting against ‘a regime’ and ‘a dictator’.

Today we have the so-called ‘pro-democracy demonstrators’ in Hong Kong who are again lauded for their commitment, courage and ingenuity; even when it comes to smashing up buildings, and hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at police lines. And when considering the authenticity of any uprising, our media’s characterisation of rioting as ‘protesting’ must always be considered a red flag. But besides the one-sided media coverage that quickly prioritises and magnifies the events on the ground (numbers, or rather the perception of numbers matters greatly) and makes this its nightly headline, there are further clues we can look for that help with spotting colour revolutions and distinguishing them from authentic uprisings.

By definition, colour revolutions are driven and directed by outside interests that steer the movement both by means of financial support and by way of official legitimisation (hence the unduly favourable media coverage). And whenever the US State Department issues statements that acknowledge its backing of any protest movement – but especially protests that destabilise states labelled hostile or ‘rogue’ – it is more than likely meddling directly in events on the ground.

In former decades it was left to the CIA to foment uprisings to topple unwanted governments or otherwise unfavourable ‘regimes’, but that role has today been passed over to its soft power agencies USAID and the GONGOs – government-organised non-governmental organisations. Amongst today’s prime movers we find the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which describes itself as “a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world” and that, in turn, funds think tanks and private NGOs. In their 2012 report, NED indicated that it spent more than $3 million on programmes in the Ukraine alone. It had previously spent millions more in US attempts to destabilise Chevez in Venezuela. As author and historian William Blum writes:

How many Americans could identify the National Endowment for Democracy? An organization which often does exactly the opposite of what its name implies. The NED was set up in the early 1980s under President Reagan in the wake of all the negative revelations about the CIA in the second half of the 1970s. The latter was a remarkable period. Spurred by Watergate – the Church committee of the Senate, the Pike committee of the House, and the Rockefeller Commission, created by the president, were all busy investigating the CIA. Seemingly every other day there was a new headline about the discovery of some awful thing, even criminal conduct, the CIA had been mixed up in for years. The Agency was getting an exceedingly bad name, and it was causing the powers-that-be much embarrassment.

Something had to be done. What was done was not to stop doing these awful things. Of course not. What was done was to shift many of these awful things to a new organization, with a nice sounding name – The National Endowment for Democracy. The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities.

It was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations, and of cynicism.1

Click here to read the full piece which provides details of NED’s meddling in elections across the world on William Blum’s official website.

Alongside the dirty hands of in-house agencies USAID and NED there is also the closely aligned and US government-funded NGO Freedom House which claims to be “an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world” and “a catalyst for greater political rights and civil liberties”. Habitually too, we will find the involvement of similarly deceptive ‘independent’ ‘pro-democracy’ organisations more than likely funded by or closely associated with billionaire George Soros.

As the Guardian’s Ian Traynor wrote at the time of America’s first soft coup in Ukraine, the so-called Orange Revolution of 2004, in an article entitled “US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev”:

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.

Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.

Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko.

That one failed. “There will be no Kostunica in Belarus,” the Belarus president declared, referring to the victory in Belgrade.

But experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus has been invaluable in plotting to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma in Kiev.

The operation – engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience – is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people’s elections.

He continues:

In Ukraine, the equivalent is a ticking clock, also signalling that the Kuchma regime’s days are numbered.

Stickers, spray paint and websites are the young activists’ weapons. Irony and street comedy mocking the regime have been hugely successful in puncturing public fear and enraging the powerful.

Last year, before becoming president in Georgia, the US-educated Mr Saakashvili travelled from Tbilisi to Belgrade to be coached in the techniques of mass defiance. In Belarus, the US embassy organised the dispatch of young opposition leaders to the Baltic, where they met up with Serbs travelling from Belgrade. In Serbia’s case, given the hostile environment in Belgrade, the Americans organised the overthrow from neighbouring Hungary – Budapest and Szeged.

In recent weeks, several Serbs travelled to the Ukraine. Indeed, one of the leaders from Belgrade, Aleksandar Maric, was turned away at the border.

The Democratic party’s National Democratic Institute, the Republican party’s International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO and billionaire George Soros’s open society institute. 2

Click here to read Ian Traynor’s full article.

Applying these criteria, it is possible to test the ongoing protests around the world to ascertain the likelihood and scale of outside interference. In the following sections I provide a brief overview region by region. In summary, those pursuing anti-austerity objectives are almost certainly the least susceptible to external manipulation; these include the mass uprisings in Chile, Ecuador, France and Haiti. The unrest in Catalonia is a consequence of a different form of state repression with historical roots and the mainly peaceful protests are the spontaneous response of a mostly genuine pro-democracy grassroots movement. The situation in Hong Kong is more complicated and compelling evidence of western interference is presented below.

Update:

Press TV compares western media coverage of the protests in Hong Kong, the Gilets Jaunes in France, and the Great March of Return in Gaza:

*

Hong Kong

As the initially peaceful protests and mass demonstrations rapidly turned into riots and highly coordinated pockets of violent resistance, it also became increasingly clear that contrary to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s, and US government denials, the unrest had indeed been actively fomented by agencies acting on behalf of American foreign policy agenda. The following extended extract is taken from an assiduously referenced investigative piece written by geopolitical researcher and writer Tony Cartalucci:

US policymakers have all but admitted that the US is funnelling millions of dollars into Hong Kong specifically to support “programs” there. The Hudson Institute in an article titled, “China Tries to Blame US for Hong Kong Protests,” would admit:

A Chinese state-run newspaper’s claim that the United States is helping pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong is only partially inaccurate, a top foreign policy expert said Monday. 

Michael Pillsbury, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland the U.S. holds some influence over political matters in the region.

The article would then quote Pillsbury as saying:

We have a large consulate there that’s in charge of taking care of the Hong Kong Policy Act passed by Congress to insure democracy in Hong Kong, and we have also funded millions of dollars of programs through the National Endowment for Democracy [NED] … so in that sense the Chinese accusation is not totally false.

A visit to the NED’s website reveals an entire section of declared funding for Hong Kong specifically. The wording for program titles and their descriptions is intentionally ambiguous to give those like US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plausible deniability.

However, deeper research reveals NED recipients are literally leading the protests.

The South China Morning Post in its article, “Hong Kong protests: heavy jail sentences for rioting will not solve city’s political crisis, former Civil Human Rights Front convenor says,” would report:

Johnson Yeung Ching-yin, from the Civil Human Rights Front, was among 49 people arrested during Sunday’s protest – deemed illegal as it had not received police approval – in Central and Western district on Hong Kong Island.

The article would omit mention of Johnson Yeung Ching-yin’s status as an NED fellow. His profile is – at the time of this writing – still accessible on the NED’s official website, and the supposed NGO he works for in turn works hand-in-hand with US and UK-based fronts involved in supporting Hong Kong’s current unrest and a much wider anti-Beijing political agenda.

Johnson Yeung Ching-yin also co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post with Joshua Wong titled, “As you read this, Hong Kong has locked one of us away.”

Wong has travelled to Washington DC multiple times, including to receive “honors” from NED-subsidiary Freedom House for his role in leading unrest in 2014 and to meet with serial regime-change advocate Senator Marco Rubio.

It should also be noted that the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum also sits on the NED board of directors.

This evidence, along with extensively documented ties between the United States government and other prominent leaders of the Hong Kong unrest reveals US denial of involvement in Hong Kong as yet another wilful lie told upon the international stage – a lie told even as the remnants of other victims of US interference and intervention smolder in the background.

The direct ties and extreme conflicts of interest found under virtually every rock overturned when critically examining the leadership of Hong Kong’s ongoing unrest all lead to Washington. They also once again reveal the Western media as involved in a coordinated campaign of disinformation – where proper investigative journalism is purposefully side-stepped and narratives shamelessly spun instead to frame Hong Kong’s ongoing conflict in whatever light best suits US interests.

What’s worse is big-tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google purging thousands of accounts attempting to reveal the truth behind Hong Kong’s unrest and the true nature of those leading it. If this is the level of lying, censorship, and authoritarianism Washington is willing to resort to in order for Hong Kong’s opposition to succeed, it begs one to wonder what this so-called opposition is even fighting for. Certainly not “democracy” or “freedom.” 3

Click here to read Tony Cartalucci’s full article.

Here to read a follow up piece in which Cartalucci explains how Twitter “not only has taken no action to expose and stop US interference in Hong Kong, but is actively aiding and abetting it” by “target[ing] accounts within China itself to disrupt any effort to expose and confront this US-backed unrest unfolding in Hong Kong.”

And here to read an earlier post which provides further background to the current uprising in Hong Kong.

Note that: on Wednesday 23rd, HK’s security chief John Lee announced that the bill that had triggered the initial demonstrations by allowing for the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China – legislation that protesters feared Beijing may use to target dissidents – was officially withdrawn. In response, several opposition lawmakers tried to heckle Lee’s speech, demanding his resignation:

*

Haiti

Mass demonstrations demanding the resignation of the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, began in July 2018 following disclosure of the embezzlement of $2 billion in Venezuelan oil loans when “former Presidents René Préval and Michel Martelly, declared states of emergency, allowing their respective prime ministers — Jean-Max Bellerive and Laurent Lamothe —to approve projects using PetroCaribe funds”:

Prior to the earthquake, Haiti had accumulated more than $396 million in debt to Venezuela, which the South American nation forgave. But in the last seven years, it has wracked up [sic] almost $2 billion in new debt as Martelly’s government ministers traveled the globe promoting a new image of a post-quake Haiti while reconstruction projects languished and tens of thousands continued to live in camps. As of October, more than 37,000 Haitians still lived in 27 camps, the International Organization for Migration said. 4

Click here to read the full report published in the Miami Herald.

Although it was the PetroCaribe scandal that sparked the initial unrest, there are many related concerns about government corruption that continue to fuel the protests:

But the anger isn’t just over squandered money. It’s also directed at Haitian politicians and their privileges in a country where two out of three people live on less than $2 a day and concerns are increasing over the potential for more social unrest.

During recent political mudslinging, the president of the Haitian Senate and an opposition senator accused each other of corruption. Sen. Ricard Pierre said Haiti’s cash-strapped government was paying $115,500 to rent a residence for the head of the body, Sen. Joseph Lambert. Lambert in turn accused Pierre of stealing the chamber’s generator.

Pierre denied the accusation. Lambert announced that the Senate would cancel the lease and curtail lawmakers’ privileges. The damage, however, was already done.

“They were not even ashamed,” K-Lib, 37, [whose real name is Valckensy Dessin] said, adding that it’s time for Haitians to stop accepting “corruption and impunity” as normal.

“After the last events that happened to Haiti, the Haitian population understands the necessity for them right now to take part in everything that is happening in the country,” he said. “What’s happening is a movement of massive collective consciousness.” 5

Click here to read the full report published in the Miami Herald.

On Valentine’s Day Al Jazeera reported the deaths of “at least” nine people and “dozens of others injured”. 6 The deaths received very little coverage in either the corporate or alternative media.

Here is a report uploaded by The Real News Network on October 22nd, featuring political economist Keston Perry, who says the Trump administration is propping up the Haitian regime:

*

France

Many thousands of Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) anti-austerity protesters will once again peacefully take to the streets in Paris and other cities across France tomorrow for the fiftieth consecutive weekend.

Last weekend’s ‘Acte 49’ protests took place in Clermont-Ferrand, Lyon, Toulouse, Lille and Bordeaux and looked like this:

And like this – met by a very heavy-handed police response which includes the deployment of water-canon, flash grenades and tremendous quantities of teargas (some dropped from helicopters), while the corporate media generally ignores these protests altogether:

One of the first political commentators to understand the significance of the Gilets Jaunes movement was American author Diana Johnstone, who is based in Paris and wrote in early December:

Initial government responses showed that they weren’t listening. They dipped into their pool of clichés to denigrate something they didn’t want to bother to understand.

President Macron’s first reaction was to guilt-trip the protesters by invoking the globalists’ most powerful argument for imposing unpopular measures: global warming. Whatever small complaints people may have, he indicated, that is nothing compared to the future of the planet.

This did not impress people who, yes, have heard all about climate change and care as much as anyone for the environment, but who are obliged to retort: “I’m more worried about the end of the month than about the end of the world.”

After the second Yellow Vest Saturday, November 25, which saw more demonstrators and more tear gas, the Minister in charge of the budget, Gérard Darmanin, declared that what had demonstrated on the Champs-Elysée was “la peste brune”, the brown plague, meaning fascists. (For those who enjoy excoriating the French as racist, it should be noted that Darmanin is of Algerian working class origins). This remark caused an uproar of indignation that revealed just how great is public sympathy for the movement – over 70% approval by latest polls, even after uncontrolled vandalism. Macron’s Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, was obliged to declare that government communication had been badly managed. Of course, that is the familiar technocratic excuse: we are always right, but it is all a matter of our “communication”, not of the facts on the ground.

Maybe I have missed something, but of the many interviews I have listened to, I have not heard one word that would fall into the categories of “far right”, much less “fascism” – or even that indicated any particular preference in regard to political parties. These people are wholly concerned with concrete practical issues. Not a whiff of ideology – remarkable in Paris! 7

Click here to read Johnstone’s full article entitled “Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron”.

And here to read my own assessment of the Gilets Jaunes movement from an article published on March 25th entitled “Gilets Jaunes, Avaaz, Macron & Facebook (or when grassroots ‘populism’ meets controlled opposition”.

It is difficult to find up-to-date figures of casualties for the full year of Gilets Jaunes protests but as of July, Spiked online magazine was reporting:

The gilets jaunes have been protesting in France – week in, week out – for over six months. They have had to run the gauntlet of tear gas, police batons and rubber bullets every weekend. And yet there has been barely any coverage of the police’s actions – let alone condemnation.

As of this week, the French police stand accused of causing 861 serious injuries to yellow-vest protesters: one woman has been killed, 314 have suffered head injuries, 24 have been permanently blinded, and five have had their hands blown off. Police have attacked disabled people and the elderly. 8

Click here to read the full report published by Spiked online.

On February 23rd, French lawyer and former gendarme, Georgia Pouliquen, produced and uploaded an impassioned video testifying to the brutal treatment meted out against Yellow Vest protestors by President Macron’s French government. In May, Pouliquen travelled to England for the first time in order to help spread the truth about Macron’s assault on the French people. The following upload begins with her original video and afterwards features an extended interview she gave to Brian Gerrish of UK Column News:

Update:

Images from Gilets Jaunes Acte 50 on Saturday Oct 26th:

On the same day, Afshin Rattansi interviewed Priscillia Ludosky, one of the founders of the Gilets Jaunes movement, on RT’s ‘Going Underground’. They discussed the French police’s use of flash-ball riot control guns against protesters, the massive amount of injuries recorded among the Gilets Jaunes protesters, as well as the European Commission’s role in permitting state repression:

*

Ecuador

In common with the Gilets Jaunes protests in France, it was the raising of fuel prices that ultimately sparked the ongoing crisis in Ecuador, in this case following President Lenín Moreno’s announcement that his government was intending remove subsidies on petrol. However, the underlying reason for the protests traces back to just a few days earlier when on October 1st, Moreno was quick to capitulate to IMF demands for the imposition of severe austerity measures and a raft of neo-liberal conditionalities following the acceptance of a $4 million loan:

Protests began on October 3 when President Lenin Moreno cut petrol subsidies that had been in place in the country for 40 years. The cuts saw the price of diesel more than double and petrol increase by 30 percent, overnight.

The government also released a series of labour and tax reforms as part of its belt-tightening measures it was forced to undertake when it agreed to a $4.2bn loan with the IMF.

Some of the more controversial reforms include a 20 percent cut in wages for new contracts in public sector jobs, a requirement that public sector workers donate one day’s worth of wages to the government each month, and a decrease in vacation days from 30 to 15 days a year. 9

Click here to read the full report published by Al Jazeera.

At the height of the protests, Moreno decided to relocate his government to the coastal city of Guayaquil before sending armoured cars onto the streets of the capital Quito in desperate attempts to quell the disturbances:

Tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of people participated.

They were massively disruptive, and the government response was fierce. Security forces killed at least seven people, arrested about 1,000, and injured a similar number. Moreno had declared a “state of exception,” a curfew beginning at 8 pm, and yet still had to flee the capital—temporarily moving it from Quito to the port city of Guayaquil.

writes Mark Weisbrot in The Nation magazine, adding:

Amnesty International had demanded “an immediate end to the heavy-handed repression of demonstrations, including mass detentions, and…swift, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force, torture and other ill-treatment.” The level of police repression shocked many in a country where security forces are not known for the use of excessive force.

The government also raided homes to arrest political allies of former president Rafael Correa, including Paola Pabón, the governor of the province where the capital, Quito, is located. This continues a disturbing crackdown, which has included trumped-up charges against Correa himself and a number of former officials and the abuse of pretrial detention to force them into exile. On Monday, the Mexican embassy in Quito offered protection to a number of pro-Correa political dissidents, including legislators. 10

Click here to read Mark Weisbrot’s full report entitled “Ecuador Reaches a Deal – but Unrest May Return” published in The Nation magazine.

In the midst of Moreno’s state of emergency crackdown on October 11th, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued an official statement that begins:

“The United States supports President Moreno and the Government of Ecuador’s efforts to institutionalize democratic practices and implement needed economic reforms.” 11

On October 10th, The Real News Network spoke to representatives of two of the largest indigenous organizations CONAIE and CONFENAIE:

*

Chile

Protest in Chile erupted a fortnight ago, again in response to unsustainable increases in the cost of living but also with charges of government corruption hovering in the background. In response last Friday [Oct 18th], President Sebastián Piñera announced a state of emergency, and began sending in troops to disperse the demonstrations. As in Ecuador, a curfew was soon put in place. CBS News has since confirmed “at least 18 dead and thousands arrested”:

Approximately 20,000 soldiers are patrolling the streets. Nearly 200 people have been injured, and some 5,000 have been arrested.

Human rights groups expressed concerns about how security forces have handled the protests after the government ordered a military curfew. It was the first such curfew — other than for natural disasters — imposed since Chile returned to democracy in 1990 following a bloody 17-year dictatorship.

“We’re worried,” José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press. “The images that we’ve received from credible sources, trustworthy sources, show that there has been an excess of force both by police as well as some soldiers.” 12

Click here to read yesterday’s full report published by CBS News.

Al Jazeera‘s Manuel Rapalo reported from Santiago on October 23rd:

And this is footage of protests that took place yesterday:

Update:

Scenes from Chile’s capital Santiago on Friday [Oct 25th] with police firing tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators:

*

Catalonia

On October 6th, author, political activist and commentator Chris Bambery, published an extended piece that put into historical context the rise of the Catalan independence movement and the likelihood of heightened protests in the coming weeks. His piece begins:

Catalonia awaits the verdict in the trial at the Spanish Supreme Court of 12 political and civic leaders charged with ‘rebellion’ and ‘sedition’ for their part in the 1 October 2017 referendum on Catalan independence. That verdict will be delivered before 17 October, the judges say. Brace yourself for a wave of non-violent direct action in response across Catalonia.

Continuing:

In Catalonia hundreds of mayors and councillors face trial for crimes such as keeping council buildings open on Spanish holidays or not flying the Spanish flag on those days, while others face trial for ripping up pictures of the King.

However offensive or outrageous you find such things it is hard to imagine them reaching the courts in Germany, France, the UK or other Western European states. The UK is no paragon of liberty and its democracy is flawed but its handling of the Northern Ireland peace process stands out well in comparison to Spain’s dealings with ETA and the offer of peace. Why are things different in Spain? 13

Click here to read Chris Bambery’s full article.

A few days later the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and EuroMed Rights issued a joint report accusing Spain’s Supreme Court of “serious irregularities” in the trial of the Catalan independentists:

The two organizations alleged that judges didn’t do enough to ensure that lawyers could shed light on the alleged facts—for instance, when they prevented defense teams from contrasting the testimony of some witnesses with actual footage from the scenes they were describing.

Observers from the two organizations, who attended the Supreme Court hearings in person, said that prosecutors called witnesses whose testimonies offered “stereotypical” narratives and didn’t guarantee the right to defense. 14

Click here to read the full report in Catalan News.

In light of the Supreme Court verdict and the imprisonment of nine independentist leaders, protesters then took to the streets of Barcelona:

By late afternoon, thousands of protesters had answered a call from the Tsunami Democràtic movement designed to bring the airport to a standstill.

Thousands set off by car, train and metro. When police closed the station, even more made the three-and-a-half hour journey on foot. Several people were injured as police baton-charged protesters on the concourse of Terminal 1, the main international terminal. Foam bullets were reported to have been fired and video emerged of national and the regional Catalan police beating demonstrators and attacking journalists.

Thirteen people received medical attention and more than 60 flights were cancelled. 15

Click here to read the full Guardian report.

However, the real struggle for independence in Catalonia had already reached its crisis point two years ago on October 1st 2017 when, as eyewitness reporter Kevin Buckland testified:

[A]ll across Catalunya ballot boxes were ripped from people’s hands by masked police and a dangerous violence was unleashed, at random, upon some of the 2,262,424 people who stood in long lines to cast their vote. The repression dealt by the Spanish State to prohibit the Catalan Referendum, in every bloodied baton and ever rubber bullet, transformed the day from a question of independence to a question of democracy. People were voting for the right to vote. 16

Click here to read more from my October 4th post entitled “reflections on October 1st 2017: the day when tyranny returned to Catalonia”.

As a friend living in Barcelona reported on the eve of the Catalan elections just a few weeks later:

Things are rather complicated at the moment. We’ve had a “coup d’etat” by the Spanish state (government and lawcourts working together; no independent judiciary here), although of course from their point of view, it is the Catalan side that have staged one of those.

Whichever way, I don’t think the Catalan leaders deserve to be in custody (this could mean up to four years before trial), and even less go to prison for up to thirty years if found guilty (which they might well be). To me this means that anybody, not just them, can be put in prison for their political ideas, whether they’re peacefully demonstrating, or striking, or whatever. Anything can be judged as “sedition” these days.

Something else that has happened is that Catalan self-government, which is in fact older the Spanish constitution, has been suspended, and we may not get it back after the election. The Spanish government have made it clear that it all depends on whether the “wrong” side win or not. Rigging is definitely on the cards.

In the meantime, freedom of expression is being curtailed, sometimes in bizarre ways: for example, yellow lights in public fountains have been banned, because they evoke the yellow ribbons that independentists wear as a protest against the arrests. And school teachers who dared hold debates in class about the police violence on October 1st have been taken to court for it. What gets to me is that many people refuse to see how worrying these things are. I suppose normalizing it all is a survival strategy, since the alternative, i.e. being aware of what’s going on, makes one anxious and afraid.

Click here to read more of my original post “notes from Catalonia on the eve of tomorrow’s elections” published on December 20th, 2017.

But the struggle over Catalonian independence cannot be understood without considering the broader historical context including concessions made following the death of Franco in 1975 and Spain’s transition to democracy. As Chris Bambery explains:

The European Union is very proud of Spain’s Transition and held it up as a model, for instance in the former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. That in part explains its silence on what Spain has done in Catalonia, even its moves to stop three Catalan prisoners and exiles being able to take their seats in the European Parliament after they were elected this year.

When Franco died in 1975 a mass movement of anti-fascist resistance had grown up, strongest in the Basque Country, Catalonia and Madrid. The May events of 1968 had set in motion a chain of events where the left seemed to be in the ascendant.

In ruling circles in Bonn, Paris, London and Washington there was concern that Franco’s death might unleash a mass movement moving in a revolutionary direction. Many on the revolutionary left confidently predicted that the regime could not be reformed but must be toppled.

In Portugal that is precisely what had happened.

Bambery concludes as follows:

It is very clear that the limits imposed on Spanish democracy during the Transition of the late 1970s need to be addressed. But that is something which is near impossible in the current atmosphere in Spain. A conviction for the Catalan 12 will only increase the alienation of that nation from the Spanish state. 17

Moreover, one of the side-effects of the 2008 financial crisis was that it opened up old wounds.

Back in October 2012, I reposted an article by journalist and pro-independentist Esther Vivas entitled “When will we see tanks in Barcelona”. She begins:

“Independent Catalonia? Over my dead body and those of many other soldiers”. It was with these words that on August 31, retired infantry lieutenant-colonel Francisco Alaman Castro referred to the possibility of an independent Catalonia.

Continuing with tremendous prescience:

The current crisis is not only an economic and social crisis, but really an unprecedented regime crisis that calls into question the state model that came out of the Transition, its “pacts of silence” and the very shaky democratic system that we have today.

In the middle of this mess, we must support all democratic demands that come up against the monarchical corset of the Transition, starting with the right of the Catalan people to decide its own future. Who is afraid of such a referendum in Catalonia? Those who are not willing to accept its result.

And concluding:

Infantry lieutenant-colonel Francisco Alaman Castro said that “the current situation resembles that of 1936”. That is quite a declaration of intent. Today, as then, our democracy, our rights and our future are threatened. What is at stake is important. When will we see tanks in the streets of Barcelona? It would not be the first time. But there is one thing I am sure of: the people will not remain silent.

Appended to Esther Vivas’ piece I added my own “words of caution” that begin:

The situation Esther Vivas describes is obviously a very troubling one and I fully appreciate that recent history makes the political situation in Spain more complex than in other luckier regions of our continent – Franco having died in 1975, and thus fascism in Spain lasting well within living memory. However, and in view of what is currently happening across Europe and the rest of the world, I feel it is important to also consider the issue of Catalan independence within a more global context.

The break-up of states into micro-states is a process that has long served as a means for maintaining imperialist control over colonised regions. This strategy is often called Balkanisation, although in general only by its opponents.

Click here to read to read all parts of the post entitled “on the struggle for an independent Catalonia”

In short, what is happening today in Catalonia is the almost inevitable consequence of multiple misguided actions by the Spanish state in its attempts to repress the independentist cause which has deep historical roots and was reignited by the austerity measures imposed during the 2008 debt crisis. The decision two years ago to crush a referendum on the spurious grounds that any vote on independence immediately violates the constitution and the draconian sentences issued to pro-independence leaders meant to quell support for the movement has instead emboldened opposition to Madrid and set in motion a potentially unstoppable revolt.

It is curious that some pro-independence sections of the Catalan protests have begun reaching out to pro-western Union Jack waving protesters in Hong Kong given how the colonial ties are in effect reversed, but the fact that tactics employed in Barcelona have copied those tried in HK does not mean the two movements share anything else in common. It is a mistake to confuse these movements.

Update:

Live feed of peaceful protests taking place on Saturday 26th in Barcelona calling for Catalan independence leaders to be freed:

*

Final thoughts

There are mass demonstrations in two states that I have avoided discussing for quite different reasons: Palestine (specifically Gaza) and Lebanon.

In the case of Lebanon, where demonstrations began little more than a week ago, I am as yet disinclined to discuss the movement until I have a clearer understanding of its background and goals. Regarding Palestine, on the other hand, the case is absolutely open and shut and I have already posted many articles in support of the Palestinian struggle for recognition and full right to return to their land.

The Great March of Return protest that began in Gaza in March 2018 is the single longest running of all the uprisings in the world today. It is also the most dangerous and the most underreported. Dozens are wounded every single week and a great many of the victims are innocent bystanders and children, while our western governments remain impassive and the corporate media maintains an almost unbroken silence.

The Palestinian Center For Human Rights (PCHR) has documented 214 killings by Israel since the outbreak of the protests on 30 March 2018, including 46 children, 2 women, 9 persons with disabilities, 4 paramedics and 2 journalists. Additionally, 14,251 have been wounded, including 3,501 children, 380 women, 245 paramedics and 215 journalists – it also notes that many of those injured have sustained multiple injuries on separate occasions. 18

Today marks the 81st Friday of the mass demonstrations in Gaza. If we wish to hold up a standard against which all other popular uprisings might be gauged then it must surely be the Palestinian Great March of Return. If there is any flag to be waved today and any cause to stand firmly in solidarity with, it is for the freedom of the Palestinian people, and most especially those trapped within the open air prison of Gaza.

Update:

Palestinians gathered in the east of the blockaded Gaza Strip for the 80th consecutive Friday [Oct 25th] to demand the right of return to their ancestral homes. They also called for an end to the illegal Israeli blockade on the enclave, which according to the United Nations amounts to collective punishment:

*

1 From an article entitled “Trojan Horses and Color Revolutions: The Role of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)” written by William Blum, published in Global Research on August 7, 2017. https://www.globalresearch.ca/trojan-horses-and-color-revolutions-the-role-of-the-national-endowment-for-democracy-ned/5515234

2 From an article entitled “US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev” written by Ian Traynor, published in the Guardian on November 26, 2004. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.usa

3 From an article entitled “US is Behind Hong Kong Protests Says US Policymaker” written by Tony Cartalucci, published in New Eastern Outlook on September 9, 2019. https://journal-neo.org/2019/09/09/us-is-behind-hong-kong-protests-says-us-policymaker/ 

4 From an article entitled “Haiti owes Venezuela $2 billion – and much of it was embezzeled, Senate report says” written by Jacqueline Charles, published in the Miami Herald on November 15, 2017. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article184740783.html

5 From an article entitled “’Where did the money go?’ Haitians denounce corruption in social media campaign” written by Jacqueline Charles, published in the Miami Herald on August 23, 2018. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article217110220.html

6 “Death toll rises in Haiti protest crackdown” published by Al Jazeera on February 14, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/death-toll-rises-haiti-protest-crackdown-190214174428945.html

7 From an article entitled “Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron” written by Diana Johnstone, published in Consortium News on December 5, 2018. https://consortiumnews.com/2018/12/05/yellow-vests-rise-against-neo-liberal-king-macron/ 

8 From an article entitled “So now you care about France’s brutal treatment of protesters?” published by Spiked magazine on July 2, 2019. https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/07/02/so-now-you-care-about-frances-brutal-treatment-of-protesters/ 

9 From an article entitled “Ecuador unrest: What led to the mass protests?” written by Kimberley Brown, published in Al Jazeera on October 10, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/ecuador-unrest-led-mass-protests-191010193825529.html

10 From an article entitled “Ecuador Reaches a Deal – but Unrest May Return” written by Mark Weisbrot, published in The Nation magazine on October 16, 2019. https://www.thenation.com/article/ecuador-protests-imf/

11 https://www.state.gov/united-states-response-to-protests-in-ecuador/ 

12 From an article entitled “At least 18 dead and thousands arrested in Chile protests” published by CBS News on October 24, 2019. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/chile-news-santiago-at-least-18-dead-and-thousands-arrested-in-chile-protests-2019-10-24/ 

13 From an article entitled “Flawed transition: why the Spanish state is repressing the Catalan independence movement” written by Chris Bambery, published in Counterfire on October 6, 2019. https://www.counterfire.org/articles/history/20589-flawed-transition-why-the-spanish-state-is-repressing-the-catalan-independence-movement

14 From a report entitled “Human rights groups denounce ‘serious irregularities’ in Catalan trial” published by Catalan News on October 9, 2019. https://www.catalannews.com/catalan-trial/item/human-rights-groups-denounce-serious-irregularities-in-catalan-trial

15 From an article entitled “Violent clashes over Catalan separatist leaders’ prison terms” written by Sam Jones and Stephen Burgen, published in the Guardian on October 14, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/14/catalan-separatist-leaders-given-lengthy-prison-sentences

16 From an article entitled “Disobeying Spain: the Catalan Referendum for Independence” written by Kevin Buckland, published in Counterpunch on October 3, 2017. https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/03/disobeying-spain-the-catalan-referendum-for-independence/ 

17 From an article entitled “Flawed transition: why the Spanish state is repressing the Catalan independence movement” written by Chris Bambery, published in Counterfire on October 6, 2019. https://www.counterfire.org/articles/history/20589-flawed-transition-why-the-spanish-state-is-repressing-the-catalan-independence-movement

18 https://pchrgaza.org/en/?p=13019

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Chile, China, Ecuador, Esther Vivas, France, Haiti, Palestine, Ukraine, Venezuela

ex-President Rafael Correa says Moreno is leading Ecuador to civil war: “I don’t remember having seen a repression of this magnitude”

On yesterday’s episode of RT’s Going Underground, host Afshin Rattansi spoke to former President of Ecuador Rafael Correa (2007–17) on the uprising taking place in Ecuador against incumbent President Lenin Moreno’s austerity budget; whether the violence is likely to get worse; why Moreno refuses to bring the elections forward; and whether Lenin Moreno can survive the crisis and the prospect of a civil war in the country. They also discussed the imprisonment of Julian Assange and the revelations of spying against Julian Assange and himself.

[The following transcript is my own]

Afshin Rattansi: Former President, thanks for coming on the show. Let’s just begin before [we come to] Julian Assange to what is happening in Ecuador. Lenin Moreno, your successor, accuses you of an attempted coup in Ecuador. We’re getting reports of three oilfields seized, 12% of Ecuadorian oil output hit, and he himself has fled the capital.

Rafael Correa: Thank you very much for this opportunity for letting me tell to the world what is happening in Ecuador. Everything that is happening now is the government’s fault. He betrayed the programme approved in the elections and adopted an extreme neoliberal programme. They had a terrible agreement with the IMF; prompted a crisis by cutting domestic financial sources, reducing taxes for the wealthy and increasing useless expenditure. And there you have the consequences. When he had to set a very strong package of measures, poverty had already increased three points. After ten years, poverty has started rising again under this government. It’s grown three points and the very drastic package of measures was the tipping point, where, amongst other things, he doubled the price of diesel – one of the main fuels – and has tried people’s patience. That’s the reason for the protests.

AR: I’ll get to Christine Lagarde’s IMF austerity measures in a moment. She’s of course leaving the IMF to run the de facto EU bank, the ECB. But, what do think about Lenin Moreno’s chances of staying in power. He’s fled to Guayaquil and there are reports of him saying killings to come, although the Minister of Defence has said there are not tanks on the streets of your capital, there are camouflaged armoured cars.

RC: Let’s start with the final part of the question. Perhaps it is hard for me to be objective, because I have also been persecuted by this government, but I don’t remember – since I’ve had political awareness – having seen a repression of this magnitude. In the 70’s we had military dictatorships. I was a teenager. But not even at that time can I remember the people being so brutally restrained.

So he takes this decision by suppressing constitutional rights, by bugging communications, entering [?] houses without a legal order, and all of this. They are also using their force, including with lethal weapons against the protesters. This is something that has not been seen before. I do not remember anything like since the time I became politically aware.

In terms of government: the government has already fallen. Moreno has already fallen. They have to look for a constitutional and democratic way of keeping peace and keeping the country running otherwise they can lead us to a civil war – more than a civil war – a brutal repression by the enforcing authorities.

Luckily, our constitution offers those measures – democratic and institutional measures – in the case of social turmoil Article 130 allows the assembly with a vote of two-thirds of its members to authorise the election to be brought forward. And the President himself under Article 148 of the constitution has the faculty to bring the elections forward.

Why isn’t he doing this? He knows if he brings the elections forward he will lose and we will win. So he prefers the country to fall. They prefer the violence. They prefer this very serious situation instead of getting out by the measures that I insist are part of the constitution in a perfectly institutional and perfectly democratic manner.

AR: Do you think he wants to be the next Pinochet?

RC: No. Lenin Moreno, he was a puppet of the oligarchy, but he has been an instrument and he will stay there as long as he serves the groups of power.

AR: Why former president, are you not in Ecuador now with the tens of thousands of indigenous people demonstrating in Quito? And will you run again to become leader of Ecuador?

RC: I am not interested in that. My plans for life are different. I had to get back into politics because they destroyed my nation and because of the persecution and group persecution we have suffered. In Ecuador crimes of hatred are taking place every day.

They say we have to chase the Correistas. We have to clean our government from the Correistas, which is not only allowed by the media, but also fostered by certain press groups that do hate us, because they experienced controls on the privilege and their abuse while we were in power.

From 2007 to 2017 was the decade of most progress for the nation in our history. We doubled the economic product, we were the regional champions in reducing poverty and reducing inequalities, but this is not understood here in Europe. That is something that the elites do not like. It bothers them. Because it is only in the vertical direction of social relationships, in the inequalities, where they hold their power. Because they believe they are superior to others. If you offer our elites the choice to be three times more prosperous but equal to the rest of the people they will reject that.

AR: Well speaking of media – you’re in Europe – why do you think the media arguably seem more interested in pictures of demonstrations in Hong Kong and previously in demonstrations against Maduro in Venezuela, than armoured cars on the streets of Quito in your country?

RC:  The answer is obvious. It’s because they play a clear political role. It would be enough to see but for a few exceptions who owns the hegemonic media – the national ones within the Latin American countries – which is a very serious problem. But even at an international level they do not belong to the poor. They do not belong to charities, except for a few exceptions; they belong to big capital and play a political role to defend the status quo. The media at a national level within our countries and at a global level plays a political role, but at least at a global level they keep certain limits – more professionalism. As you said, there is a total asymmetry in the information. Double standards. If there are demonstrations in Hong Kong they are not even shown – sorry, I mean if they are against the Chinese regime they’ll be shown every day, right?

AR: I want to ask you about Julian Assange in a moment, but I’ve got to ask you, as today is the anniversary of the Washington-linked killing of Che Guevara – you mention neoliberalism – why do you think his face is on the flags, probably on flags in your capital city, certainly on flags of the Gilets Jaunes in Paris and across France? What does he mean to you on the anniversary of his death?

RC: Well again, double standards. They talk about democracy and respect of human rights when it is convenient to them. So the killing of Che Guevara is a good example of that. He was captured alive and he was executed extrajudicially while he was in prison. It was a crime but who was sanctioned for that crime? And ordered by the actual CIA – they have the names but nothing happens. It is like the case of Julian Assange. They chase the ones who exposed the war crimes but not the ones who committed them, and these crimes are still unpunished, as in the case of Che Guevara.

What is the meaning of Che Guevara? We can agree or disagree about the ideology of Che Guevara but no-one can deny his authenticity or his commitment to go through extreme circumstances – even to leave his own family and give his life for his ideology – and that is something that should be respected by everyone.

AR: Well you gave asylum to Julian Assange at your embassy in London. He’s facing a court hearing on Friday for extradition to the United States for espionage. What did you make of the El País revelations that your embassy was actually being bugged allegedly by CIA-linked security services – including the bugging of his lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC?

RC: Remember they said exactly the opposite: that from the embassy Julian Assange used to spy. There is evidence that they have been spying on me and my family, and spying on Julian Assange, including the sacred conversations between a client and his lawyer. So it is extremely serious. And take it as granted that Julian Assange will be extradited to the United States. Always from the beginning that was the agreement.

AR: You said you may have been the subject of surveillance too. Do you think that came from Washington and do you think that whistleblowers of war crimes by Nato countries – Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, who previously said he liked Wikileaks, he “loved Wikileaks” – they want Assange dead as a lesson to other whistleblowers?

RC: You see the international double standards. The asylum we granted to Julian Assange was not because we agreed with what Julian Assange had done. I believe in a nation’s national security and that certain information should be confidential, however, war crimes cannot be hidden. But the asylum was granted to him because there were no guarantees of a fair process and because he was to be judged with laws that allow for the death penalty that threaten the international [?] system of human rights. All the human rights treaties at a global level are against the death penalty.

AR: Former President Correa, thank you.

RC: You’re welcome.

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Ecuador