Sunday, March 15, 2015

Open Letter to the People and Leaders of Iran from the People of the United States

This petition was created and is being circulated initially by the ANSWER Coalition: Act Now to Stop War & End Racism.  Please do sign

Open Letter to the People and Leaders of Iran from the People of the United States
Sign onto the letter at the bottom of this page
To the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran: 

It has come to our attention while observing the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States government that a group of 47 U.S. Senators are attempting, against the will of the majority of the American people, to sabotage any agreement due to their hope of creating additional conflict between our country and the people of Iran.

We would also like to bring to your attention that many people in the United States are aware that the United States government is in violation of a treaty approved by the Senate and signed into law. The treaty imposes an affirmative obligation on the United States and all other countries possessing nuclear weapons to act to diminish and eventually eliminate all of their existing nuclear weapons as a condition for relieving non-nuclear countries of the need to acquire such terrifying weapons. The official name of this treaty is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or NPT.

We also wanted to bring to your attention that under the U.S. Constitution, (Article 6, Clause 2), any treaty approved by the Senate and signed into law “shall be the supreme law of the land” in the United States.

Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty requires the United States as a nuclear power to: “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control". (our emphasis)

We wanted to make sure that you were aware that the U.S. Constitution, recognizing the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the supreme law of the land in the United States, requires government officials to carry out two specific tasks:

First, to eliminate the U.S. nuclear arsenal under its Treaty pledge of “general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control;”

And second, to “pursue negotiations in good faith” with other nations for the achievement of nuclear disarmament.

As things stand, the United States is in violation of this “supreme law of the land.”

The United States is not ridding itself of nuclear weapons. It possesses thousands of operational nuclear weapons that it is not destroying. In fact, it is in the process of improving their capability, deploying them on updated fighter aircraft, and other land-attack missiles, aircraft carriers and submarine platforms at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars in new government funding.

The United States also provides more than $4 billion in military and economic aid to the state of Israel although Israel refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or allow outside inspectors, and does not deny that it possesses a considerable arsenal of nuclear weapons. We are not aware of any call by U.S. officials insisting that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or begin liquidating its own nuclear arsenal.

We, the people of the United States, are also aware that Iran as a signatory to the same Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has the absolute legal right, as do all signatory countries, to develop a nuclear capability for civilian energy purposes.

Article IV of the Treaty states: “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

As a side note, we are also aware that when your country was ruled by a monarch installed in power in 1953 as a consequence of a CIA led-coup against the then constitutional government in Iran, the policy of the U.S. government was to encourage the development of an Iranian nuclear program.

We hope that this letter enriches your understanding that the spirit and content of the Open Letter by 47 Republican Senators does not conform with the views and desires of a broad section of public opinion inside the United States.

Their real aim in scuttling and sabotaging the current negotiations between the United States and Iran, perhaps unprecedented in the form they have chosen, is to create more conflict including the danger of military action against Iran.

Be assured that the last thing the American people want is war with or against Iran.

-- Add your name to these initial signers:

Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General • Cynthia McKinney, former Congresswoman • Brian Becker, ANSWER Coalition • Cindy Sheehan, peace activist • Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund • Heidi Boghosian, Esq., Constitutional Rights attorney • James Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles • Debra Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait • Chuck Kauffman, National Co-Coordinator of Alliance for Global Justice • Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst • Eugene Puryear, Party for Socialism and Liberation • Medea Benjamin, co-founder, Code Pink • David Swanson, WarIsACrime.org • Juan Jose Gutierrez, Vamos Unidos, USA • Malachy Kilbride, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance • Imam Mahdi Bray, American Muslim Alliance • Phil Wilayto, author and editor, Virginia Defenders Newspaper • Don DeBar, Host, CPR News • Arturo Garcia, Alliance Philippines • Radhika Miller, Attorney, Washington, D.C. • Rev. Claudia de la Cruz, Rebel Diaz Arts Collective (RDACBX) • Kim Ives, Haiti Liberte • Benjamin N. Dictor, Attorney, New York, NY • John Beacham, ANSWER Chicago • Phil Portluck, Voices4Justice72.com • Preston Wood, ANSWER - LA • Kevin Zeese, PopularResistance.org • Mike Prysner, March Forward! • Barry Ladendorf, President, Veterans for Peace • Jeff Bigelow, labor organizer • Gloria La Riva, National Committee to Free the Cuban Five         

Add your name to these initial signers 
American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC)

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

How Crimea Plays in Beijing

THE ROVING EYE
How Crimea plays in Beijing
By Pepe Escobar

"We are paying very close attention to the situation in Ukraine. We hope all parties can calmly maintain restraint to prevent the situation from further escalating and worsening. Political resolution and dialogue is the only way out."

This, via Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong, is Beijing's quite measured, official interpretation of what's happening in Ukraine, tailored for global consumption.

But here, in a People's Daily editorial, is what the leadership is really thinking. And the focus is clearly on the dangers of regime change, the "West's inability to understand the lessons of history", and "the final battlefield of the Cold War."

Yet again the West misinterpreted China's abstention from the UN Security Council vote on a US-backed resolution condemning the Crimea referendum. The spin was that Russia - which vetoed the resolution - was "isolated". It's not. And the way Beijing plays geopolitics shows it's not.

Oh, Samantha …
The herd of elephants in the (Ukraine) room, in terms of global opinion, is how the authentic "international community" - from the G-20 to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) - who has had enough of the Exceptionalist Hypocrisy Show, has fully understood, and even applauded, that at least one country on the planet has the balls to clearly say "F**k the US". Russia under President Vladimir Putin may harbor quite a few distortions, just like any other nation. But this is not a dinner party; this is realpolitik. To face down the US Leviathan, nothing short of a bad ass such as Putin will suffice.

NATO - or shorthand for the Pentagon dominating European wimps - keeps issuing threats and spewing out "consequences". What are they going to do - launch a barrage of ICBMs equipped with nuclear warheads against Moscow?

Furthermore, the UN Security Council itself is a joke, with US ambassador Samantha "Nothing Compares to You" Power - one of the mothers of R2P ("responsibility to protect") - carping on "Russian aggression", "Russian provocations" and comparing the Crimean referendum to a theft. Oh yes; bombing Iraq, bombing Libya and getting to the brink of bombing Syria were just innocent humanitarian gestures. Samantha The Humanitarian arguably gives a better performance invoking Sinead O'Connor in her shower.

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin was polite enough to say, "these insults addressed to our country" are "unacceptable". It's what he added that carried the real juice; "If the delegation of the United States of America expects our cooperation in the Security Council on other issues, then Power must understand this quite clearly."

Samantha The Humanitarian, as well as the whole bunch of juvenile bystanders in the Obama administration, won't understand it. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov gave them a little help; Russia didn't want to use the Iranian nuclear talks to "raise the stakes", but if the US and the EU continue with their sanctions and threats, that's what's going to happen.

So the plot thickens - as in a closer and closer strategic partnership between Tehran and Moscow.

Secessionists of the world, unite?
Now imagine all this as seen from Beijing. No one knows what exactly goes on in the corridors of the Zhongnanhai, but it's fair to argue there's only an apparent contradiction between China's key principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, and Russia's intervention in Crimea.

Beijing has identified very clearly the sequence of affairs; long-running Western interference in Ukraine via NGOs and the State Department; regime change perpetrated with the help of fascists and neo-nazis; a pre-emptive Russian counterattack which can be read as a by-the-book Samantha The Humanitarian R2P operation (protecting Russians and Russian speakers from a second coup planned in Crimea, and thwarted by Russian intelligence.)

On top of it Beijing well knows how Crimea has been essentially Russian since 1783; how Crimea - as well as a great deal of Ukraine - fall smack into Russian civilization's sphere of influence; and how Western interference directly threatened Russia's national security interests (as Putin made it clear.) Now imagine a similar scenario in Tibet or Xinjiang. Long-running Western interference via NGOs and the CIA; a take over by Tibetans in Lhasa or Uighurs in Kashgar of the local administration. Beijing could easily use Samantha's R2P in the name of protecting Han Chinese.

Yet Beijing (silently) agreeing to the Russian response to the coup in Kiev by getting Crimea back via a referendum and without a shot fired does not mean that "splittists" Tibet or Taiwan would be allowed to engage in the same route. Even as Tibet, more than Taiwan, would be able to build a strong historical case for seceding. Each case bears its own myriad complexities.

The Obama administration - like a blind Minotaur - is now lost in a labyrinth of pivots of its own making. A new Borges - that Buddha in a gray suit - is needed to tell the tale. First there was the pivoting to Asia-Pac - which is encircling of China under another name - as it's well understood in Beijing.

Then came the pivoting to Persia - "if we are not going to war", as that Cypher in Search of an Idea, John Kerry, put it. There was, of course, the martial pivoting to Syria, aborted at the last minute thanks to the good offices of Moscow diplomacy. And back to the pivoting to Russia, trampling the much-lauded "reset" and conceived as a payback for Syria.

Those who believe Beijing strategists have not carefully analyzed - and calculated a response - to all the implications of these overlapping pivots do deserve to join Samantha in the shower. Additionally, it's easy to picture Chinese Think Tankland hardly repressing its glee in analyzing a hyperpower endlessly, helplessly pivoting over itself.

While the Western dogs bark …
Russia and China are strategic partners - at the G-20, at the BRICS club of emerging powers and at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Their number one objective, in these and other forums, is the emergence of a multipolar world; no bullying by the American Empire of Bases, a more balanced international financial system, no more petrodollar eminence, a basket of currencies, essentially a "win-win" approach to global economic development.

A multipolar world also implies, by definition, NATO out of Eurasia - which is from Washington's point of view the number one reason to interfere in Ukraine. In Eurasian terms, it's as if - being booted out of Afghanistan by a bunch of peasants with Kalashnikovs - NATO was pivoting back via Ukraine.

While Russia and China are key strategic partners in the energy sphere - Pipelineistan and beyond - they do overlap in their race to do deals across Central Asia. Beijing is building not only one but two New Silk Roads - across Southeast Asia and across Central Asia, involving pipelines, railways and fiber optic networks, and reaching as far as Istanbul, the getaway to Europe. Yet as far as Russia-China competition for markets go, all across Eurasia, it's more under a "win-win" umbrella than a zero-sum game.

On Ukraine ("the last battlefield in the Cold War") and specifically Crimea, the (unspoken) official position by Beijing is absolute neutrality (re: the UN vote). Yet the real deal is support to Moscow. But this could never be out in the open, because Beijing is not interested in antagonizing the West, unless heavily provoked (the pivoting becoming hardcore encirclement, for instance). Never forget; since Deng Xiaoping ("keep a low profile") this is, and will continue to be, about China's "peaceful rise". Meanwhile, the Western dogs bark, and the Sino-Russian caravan passes.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Global War on the 99%: How International Financial Elites Change Governments to Implement Austerity

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by ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Many countries around the world are plagued by all kinds of armed rebellions, economic sanctions, civil wars, “democratic” coup d’états and/or wars of “regime change.” These include Ukraine, Venezuela, Syria, Thailand, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia and Lebanon. Even in the core capitalist countries the overwhelming majority of citizens are subjected to brutal wars of economic austerity.

While not new, social convulsions seem to have become more numerous in recent years. They have become especially more frequent since the mysterious 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and the 2008 financial collapse in the United States, which soon led to similar financial implosions and economic crises in Europe and beyond.

Despite their many differences, these social turbulences share two common features. The first is that they are largely induced, nurtured and orchestrated from outside, that is, by the United States and its allies—of course, in collaboration with their class allies from inside. And the second is that, contrary to the long-established historical pattern of social revolutions, where the desperate and disenfranchised masses rebelled against the ruling elites, in most of the recent struggles it is the elites that have instigated insurgencies and civil wars against the masses. The two features are, of course, integrally intertwined: essentially reflecting the shared interests and collaborative schemes of the international plutocracies against the global 99%.

Fighting to Make Austerity Economics Universal
The official rationale (offered by the U.S. and its allies) that the goal of supporting anti-government opposition forces in places such as Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela is to spread democracy no longer holds any validity; it can easily be dismissed as a harebrained pretext to export neoliberalism and spread austerity economics. Abundant and irrefutable evidence shows that in places where the majority of citizens voted for and elected governments that were not to the liking of Western powers, these powers mobilized their local allies and hired all kinds of mercenary forces in order to overthrow the duly elected governments, thereby quashing the majority vote.

Such blatant interventions to overturn the elections that resulted from the majority vote include the promotion of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2004 and 2014), Rose Revolution in Georgia (2003), Cedar Revolution in Lebanon (2005), Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan (2005) and the Green Revolution in Iran (2009). They also include the relentless agitation against the duly elected governments of the late Hugo Chavez and now his successor Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, as well as the rejection (and effective annulment) of the duly elected Hamas government in Palestine.

So, the real driving forces behind wars of regime change need to be sought elsewhere; specifically, in the imperatives of expansion and accumulation of capital on a global level. Socialist, social-democratic, populist or nationalist leaders who do not embrace neoliberal economic policies, and who may be wary of having their markets wide open to unbridled foreign capital, would be targeted for replacement with pliant leaders, or client states. This is, of course, not a new explanation of economic imperialism; it is as old as the internationalization of trade and investment.

What is relatively new, and seems to be the main driving force behind the recent wars of regime change, is that, as the U.S. and other major capitalist powers have lately embarked on austerity economic policies at home they also expect and, indeed, demand that other countries follow suit. In other words, it is no longer enough for a country to open its markets to investment and trade with Western economic powers. It seems equally important to these powers that that country also dismantle its public welfare programs and implement austerity measures of neoliberalism.

For example, after resisting imperialist pressures for years, the late Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi eventually relented in 1993, and granted major oil and other transnational corporations of Western powers lucrative investment and trade deals. Under pressure, he even dismantled his country’s nuclear technology altogether in the hope that this would please them to “leave him” alone, so to speak. None of the concessions he made, however, proved satisfactory to the U.S. and its allies, as his regime was violently overthrown in 2011 and he was literally butchered by the thuggish gangs that were trained and armed by Western powers.

Why? Because the U.S. and its allies expected more; they wanted him to follow the economic guidelines of the “experts” of global finance, that is, of the U.S. and European economic “advisors,” of the International Monetary Fund and of the World Trade Organization—in short, to dismantle his country’s rather robust state welfare programs and to restructure its economy after the model of neoliberalism.

The criminal treatment of al-Gaddafi can help explain why imperialist powers have also been scheming to overthrow the populist/socialist regimes of the late Hugo Chavez and his successor in Venezuela, of the Castro brothers in Cuba, of Rafael Correa Delgado in Ecuador, of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and of Evo Morales in Bolivia. It also helps explain why they overthrew the popularly elected nationalist governments of Mohammad Mossadeq in Iran, of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, of Kusno Sukarno in Indonesia, of Salvador Allende in Chile, of Sandinistas in Nicaragua, of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti and of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras.

The imperialist agenda of overthrowing al-Gaddafi and other “insubordinate” proponents of welfare state programs abroad is essentially part of the same evil agenda of dismantling such programs at home. While the form, the context and the means of destruction maybe different, the thrust of the relentless attacks on the living conditions of the Libyan, Iranian, Venezuelan or Cuban peoples are essentially the same as the equally brutal attacks on the living conditions of the poor and working people in the US, UK, France and other degenerate capitalist countries. In a subtle way they are all part of an ongoing unilateral class warfare on a global scale. Whether they are carried out by military means and bombardments or through the apparently “non-violent” processes of judicial or legislative means does not make a substantial difference as far as their impact on people’s lives and livelihoods is concerned.

The powerful plutocratic establishment in the core capitalist countries does not seem to feel comfortable to dismantle New Deal economics, Social Democratic reforms and welfare state programs in these countries while people in smaller, less-developed countries such as (al-Gaddafi’s) Libya, Venezuela or Cuba enjoy strong, state-sponsored social safety net programs. Plutocracy’s intolerance of “regimented” economies stems from a fear that strong state-sponsored economic safety net programs elsewhere may serve as “bad” models that could be demanded by citizens in the core capitalist countries.

In a moment of honesty, former U.S. President Harry Truman is reported as having expressed (in 1947) the unstated mission of the United States to globalize its economic system in the following words: “The whole world should adopt the American system. The American system can survive in America only if it becomes a world system” [1].
In a similar fashion, Lord Cecil Rhodes, who conquered much of Africa for the British Empire, is reported to have suggested during the heydays of the Empire that the simplest way to achieve peace was for England to convert and add the rest of the world (except the United States, Germany and few other Western powers of the time) to its colonies.

The Mafia equivalent of Truman’s or Rhodes’ statements would be something like this: “You do it our way, or we break your leg.”

The mindset behind Truman’s blunt statement that the rest of the world “should adopt the American system” has indeed served as something akin to a sacred mission that has guided the foreign policy of the United States ever since it supplanted the British authority as the major world power.

It explains, for example, the real and the main reason behind the Cold War hostilities between the U.S. and its allies, on the one side, and the Soviet Union and its allies, on the other. While the “threat of communism” has been the official rationale for the start and escalation of those hostilities, there is convincing evidence that not only Joseph Stalin and his successors in the Soviet Union had no plans to wage war against the United States or its allies but that, in fact, they played a restraining role to contain independent revolutionary movements worldwide. “It is often forgotten,” points out Sidney Lens, “that for a few years after the war, he [Stalin] assumed an exceedingly moderate posture. . . . His nation had lost 25 million people in the war, was desperately in need of aid for rebuilding, and continued for a long time to nurture hopes of coexistence. Far from being revolutionary, Stalin in those years put the damper on revolution wherever he could” [2].To accommodate the United States and other Western powers in the hope of peaceful coexistence, Stalin often advised, and sometimes ordered, the pro-Moscow communist/leftist parties in Europe and elsewhere in the world to refrain from revolutionary policies that might jeopardize the hoped-for chances of coexistence.

The goal or mission of converting other economies to the U.S.-style capitalism also helps  explains why the United States has engaged in so many military operations and engineered so many coup d’états and regime changes around the world. The Federation of American Scientists has recorded a list of U.S. foreign military engagements which shows that in the first decade after the collapse of the Berlin Wall (1989-99) the U.S. engaged in 134 such operations, the majority of which are altogether unknown to the American public [3].

Global financial elites change “unaccommodating” regimes not only in the less developed countries but also in the core capitalist countries. They accomplish this not so much by military means as by utilizing two very subtle but powerful means: (a) artificial, money-driven elections, peddled as “democracy in action”; and (b) powerful financial institutions and think tanks such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), central banks and bond/credit rating agencies like Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Group. An unfavorable rating report by these agencies on the credit status of a country can create havoc on that country’s economic, financial and currency position in world markets, thereby dooming its government to collapse and replacement. This is how during the ongoing financial turbulence of recent years a number of governments have been changed in places like Greece and Italy—no need for the traditional or military style regime change, the “soft-power” financial coup d’état engineered by the IMF and/or rating agencies would serve the purpose even more effectively.

Class War on a Global Scale
As noted, all the schemes and wars of regime change, whether by the traditional military means or by the “soft” power of the global financial juggernaut, essentially represent one thing: a disguised class war on a global level, a relentless worldwide economic war by the one percent financial-economic oligarchy against the rest of the world population.

Class struggle in an economically-tiered society is of course not new. What is relatively new in the recent years’ war of the 1% against the 99% is its escalated pace, its widespread scale and its globally orchestrated character. While neoliberal austerity attacks on the living conditions of the public in the core capitalist countries began (formally) with the supply-side economics of President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher more than three decades ago, the brutality of such attacks have become much more severe in the context of the current financial/economic crisis, which began with the 2008 financial crash in the United States.

Taking advantage of the crash (as an economic shock therapy, as Naomi Klein put it), the financial oligarchy and their proxies in the governments of the core capitalist countries have been carrying out a systematic economic coup d’état against the people the ravages of which include the following:
• Transfer of tens of trillions of dollars from the public to the financial oligar­chy through merciless austerity cuts;
• Extensive privatization of public assets and services, including irreplaceable historical monuments, priceless cultural landmarks, and vital social services such as healthcare, education and water supply;
• Substitution of corporate/banking welfare policies for people’s welfare programs;
• Allocation of the lion’s share of government’s monetary largesse (and of credit creation in general) to speculative investment instead of real investment;
• Systematic undermining of the retirement security of millions of workers (both white and blue collar) and civil servants;
• Ever more blatant control of economic and/or financial policies by the rep­resentatives of the financial oligarchy.

Combined, these policies have significantly aggravated the already lopsided income/wealth distribution in these countries. The massive cuts in social spending have resulted in an enormous transfer of economic resources from the bottom up. The transfer has, indeed, more than made up for the 2008 losses of the financial speculators. In the U.S., for example, the wealthiest one percent now own 40 percent of the entire country's wealth; while the bottom 80 percent own only seven percent. Likewise, the richest one percent now take home 24 percent of the country's total income, compared to only nine percent four decades ago [4].

This shows that, as pointed out earlier, while neoliberal attacks on the 99% in the core capitalist countries may not seem as violent as those raging, for example, in Venezuela, Syria or Ukraine, the financial impact of such attacks on the living conditions of the 99% is no less devastating.

Plutocrats of the World Are United
Policies of regime change are usually designed and carried out as collaborative schemes by cross-border plutocracies, that is, by the financial oligarchies of the imperialist countries in partnership with their native counterparts in the less-developed countries.

In addition to constant behind-the-scenes strategizing, representatives of transnational capital and their proxies in capitalist governments also routinely meet at international conferences in order to synchronize their cross-border business and financial policies—a major focus of which in recent years has been to implement global austerity measures and entrench neoliberal policies worldwide. These include the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the World Bank and IMF annual meetings, the Periodic G20 meetings, the Aspen Institutes Ideas Festival, The Bilderberg Group annual geopolitics forum, and the Herb Allen’s Sun Valley gathering of media moguls—to name only a handful of the many such international policy gatherings.

Through its global strategies and operations, transnational capital has broken free from national constraints and commitments at home and successfully shifted the correlation of class forces and social alliances worldwide. Today’s elites of global capitalism “are becoming a trans-global community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home,” writes Chrystia Freeland, Global Editor of Reuters, who travels with the elites to many parts of the world. “Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves,” she adds [5].

Implications for Globalization from Below
What conclusions can the 99% draw from this? What can the working people and other grassroots do to protect their jobs, their sources of livelihood, their communities and their environment? What can communities of ordinary people do to undermine the strategies of the global 1% that block life-sustaining progressive social and economic reforms?

In the same fashion that, in their fight against the working people, the elites of the international capitalist class are not bound by territoriality or national boundaries, so does the working class need to coordinate its response internationally.

A logical, first step deterrent to transnational capital’s strategy of blackmailing labor and communities through threats such as destroying or exporting jobs by moving their business elsewhere would be to remove the lures that induce plant relocation, capital flight or outsourcing. Making labor costs of production comparable on an international level would be crucial for this purpose. This would entail taking the necessary steps toward the international establishment of wage and benefits, that is, of labor cost parity within the same company and the same trade, subject to (a) the cost of living, and (b) productivity in each country.

A strategy of this sort would replace the current downward competition between workers in various countries with coordinated bargaining and joint policies for mutual interests and problem-solving on a global level. While this may sound radical, it is not any more radical than what the transnational 1% is doing: coordinating their anti-99% strategies on a global scale. If at an earlier stage of capitalist development "workers of the world unite" seemed an outlandish dream of the leading labor champion Karl Marx, internationalization of capital, the abundance of material resources and developments in technology, which has greatly facilitated cross-border organizing and coordination of actions by the 99%,  has now made that dream an urgent necessity.

As capital and labor are the cornerstones of capitalist production, their respective organizations and institutions evolve more or less apace, over time and space. Thus, when production was local, so was labor: carpenters, shoemakers, bricklayers, and other craftsmen organized primarily in their local communities. But as capitalist production became national, so did trade unions. Now that capitalist production has become global, labor organizations too need to become international in order to safeguard their and their communities’ rights against the profit-driven whims of the footloose and fancy-free transnational capital.

Many would argue that these are not propitious times to speak of radical alternatives to capitalism. The present state of the sociopolitical landscape of our societies appears to support such feelings of pessimism. The high levels of unemployment in most countries of the world and the resulting international labor rivalry, combined with the austerity offensive of neoliberalism on a global level, have thrown the working class and other grassroots on the defensive. The steady drift of the European socialist, Social Democratic, and labor parties/governments toward the U.S.–style market economies and the erosion of their traditional ideology, power, and prestige have led to workers’ confusion there. The collapse of the Soviet Union, however much some socialists have always distanced themselves from that system, haunts the specter of socialism, and is likely to do so for some time to come. These developments have understandably led to workers' and other grassroots’ confusion and disorientation globally.

None of these, however, mean that there is no way out of the status quo. Capitalism is not only “destructive,” it is also “regenerative," as Karl Marx put. As it captures world markets, universalizes the reign of capital, and disrupts the living conditions for many, it simultaneously sows the seeds of its own transformation. On the one hand, it creates common problems and shared concerns for the majority of the world population; on the other, it creates the material conditions and the technology that facilitate communication and cooperation among this majority of world citizens for joint actions and alternative solutions.

When the majority of world population, the global 99%, will come to the realization and determination to actually appropriate and utilize the existing technology and material resources for a better organization and management of the world economy, no one can tell. But the potential and the long term trajectory of global socioeconomic developments point in that direction. The distance between now and then, between our immediate frustrations and the superior but elusive civilization of our desire, can be traversed only if we take the necessary steps toward that end [6].

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave – Macmillan 2007), the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989), and most recently, Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (forthcoming from Routledge, April 29, 2014). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press 2012).

References:
[1] As cited in Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization or Empire. New York and London: Routledge 2004, P. 131.
[2] The Military-Industrial Complex, Kansas City, MO: Pilgrim Press and the National Catholic Reporter 1970, p. 19.
[3] See Ismael Hossein-zadeh, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism, Palgrave-Macmillan 2006, p. 88.
[4] Henry Blodget, “America Today: 3 Million Overlords and 300 Million Serfs,” Business Insider, April 10, 2013, available at: .
[5] “The Rise of the New Global Elite,” The Atlantic, January–February 2011, available at: < http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/the-rise-of-the-new-global-elite/308343/>.
[6] For a detailed discussion of this issue see Ismael Hossein-zadeh, Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis, Routledge (forthcoming, April 29, 2014), Chapter 8.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ramifications of Geneva Deal on Iranian Working Class


Ramifications of Geneva Deal on Iranian Working Class
Wilhelm Wolff
December 14, 2013 (updated December 20, 2013)

In as recent a headline as December 8, 2013, even Israel, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has began softening its harsh position against the interim nuclear agreement signed in Geneva between Iran and the U.S.  The government of the settlers in Israel has realized that the Obama Administration, through the P5+1 Geneva Agreement, has kept the bigger share of the pie and constricted Iran to a space only worthy of nations with limited sovereignty.  Secondly, Secretary of State, John Kerry speaking to a conference run by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, assured the Israeli skeptics that should the U.S. conclude that Iran still continues supporting the demands of Palestine, for example, it will toss the interim document like a scrap of paper, into the dust bin.

And if we hear that U.S. Senators talk about adding more sanctions to the stack of those already existing, as reported in the Financial Times of Dec. 9, 2013, their chatter should not be taken seriously.  The main acts of these Congressmen and women are posturing not only for U.S. people but also for the international community.  Through such theatrics, they intend to send two messages: 1) assuring their constituency "We're still awake and working to defend your safety and security from the Dangerous Foreign Boogieman as defined by U.S. foreign policy, and 2) sending a message to the Iranian government that it should not dare to retreat from the agreement whose lion share is captured by the U.S. 

In order to assure the pro-Israel representatives in Congress and for Obama to show how tightly he is drawing the noose around Iran's neck, the White House Punishes More Firms Over Iran Sanctions, according to the New York Times of Dec. 12, the Obama Administration announced an expanded list of additional companies and individuals placed on its sanctions list, to "demonstrate that it is not easing up on sanctions on Iran's oil sector or its nuclear program…" in preparation for a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the Iran nuclear talks.

In the U.S. Congress, to talk tough against Iran, like passing new and more onerous sanctions, is a profitable business because, given the cynicism of the American public against other nations, especially the third world countries, it is profitable business - they get elected for the next term. This was almost the opinion of President Obama in his end of the year news conference, December 20, 2013.

When the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on December 19, 2013 questioned "whether Tehran is willing to abandon the ability to build an atomic bomb" Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Questions Whether Tehran Is Willing to Abandon the Ability to Build an Atomic Bomb he in fact plays into the hand of the conservative classes in the U.S., Europe and beyond, and should not be taken seriously.  Just as the reactionaries in the U.S. pinnacles of power, the French, Germans, and Israelites, to mention a few, are the members of the world capitalist club who see themselves obliged to raise dust and engage in a symphony of howling. 

Only two weeks have passed since the signing of the "agreement", the Israeli government began joining the groups in and around the Congress and the U.S. administration to boost and shape Washington's negotiating position.  This phenomena speaks loudly and clearly as to the nature of the negotiation process that took place in an absolute secrecy, concealed from the Iranian people, between Tehran and Washington, months before Mr. Hassan Rouhani the current president of Iran, declared himself as a presidential candidate toward the end of May 2013.  Rouhani was subsequently endorsed by Iran's Council of Guardians, a powerful office headed by the cleric Hojatolislam Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was in the forefront of privatization of the country's national wealth and capital.

According to the Financial Times of Dec. 8, 2013, a team of senior Israeli officials led by the country's national security advisor, Yossi Cohen, is going to hold a meeting with high-ranking U.S. State Department officials to "harmonize" their combined efforts to narrow down the claims by Iran to the right of nuclear enrichment for use in civilian nuclear energy, a principle clearly pronounced in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran has signed. 

The reasons that the warmongers in Washington and the settlers' regime in Tel Aviv are whetting their appetite to extract the last drop of blood out of the body of Iranian polity is the decrepit state of Iran's economy maligned by nepotism, absence of plans for national economic development, along with a series of haphazard privatization of banking, mining and energy systems, lack of long-term investment on research and innovation, and dearth of programs for high quality job creation for all those tens of thousands who paid for college education with the high hopes of employment in professional careers.  In return this university-educated population, along with other strata of the labor force, living in their parents' homes is becoming a part of the lost generation.  A strata of this unemployed population has joined the army of idle labor force, engaged in the shadow economy of drug trafficking and prostitution while financial theft among the upper strata of the country's banking system is daily taking place.

Under the most rosy projection of the U.S.-Iran thaw, the agreement in foreign relations must be complemented with a social contract, allowing the great majority of the Iranian people, i.e., the working class of Iran to have the civil rights to form its own independent labor unions and political parties.  In the absence of such a social contract, the great majority of the people of Iran will be excluded from expressing and participating peacefully in the future capitalist development with foreign corporations waiting to take control of Iran's economy and polity, capitalizing on the cheap labor pool of unemployed.

For the laboring classes of Iran to attain the right of participation in planning and running the economy and in political endeavors is for the U.S. to halt threatening Iran with acts of aggression and imposition of the current and future sanctions.  It goes without saying that war-and-sanctions talks that give rise to insecurity in Iran and the region amounts to social designs which restrict the freedom of the working classes in shaping their own destiny.

In the last two decades, the U.S. and its western European cohorts, along with Israel and dysfunctional undemocratic states in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea have done everything in their power to blow the wind of insecurity, manufacture pseudo-civil wars using free oil money,  collection of personal data by the intelligence services ala National Security Agency (NSA), censorship and administration of governments in the Middle East by a small social group, mainly the commercial bourgeoisie flanked by military trusts and black marketeers.  All this is at the service of greater degrees of capitalist exploitation and greater denials of the labor rights in Iran and across the region.

In light of all of the above, the question remains "Why Iran in its negotiating process had to give away the entire shop – lock, stock and barrel – in return for some minute concessions?  The simplistic and everyday answer to this question from the American and Iranian political class has been that without the income from Iran's oil sales and foreign investment, Iran's economy will remain in the doldrums.  The reasoning of Iran's neo-liberal commentators and opinion-makers has been that the country's acute and endless recession, high rates of unemployment, misallocations of resources, low level of labor and capital efficiencies, lack of application of advanced sciences and technologies, are the direct and indisputable results of sanctions by the United States.

If the above assertions were true, then the essential question to be asked is whether these disorders and economic infirmities did not exist before the sanctions began being implemented less than ten years ago.  The answer to this question rests on a search through the chapters on the economic history of Iran in the period before and after the 1979 Revolution.

In his authoritative and valuable book entitled The Economy of Iran by Dr. Abrahim Razaghi, using the country's Annual Statistical Data of 1981 and 1984 built solid tables for active and unemployed workforce.  On Table 26 of the book, the rates of unemployment for the years 1976, 1982, and 1983 on the national scale as indicated to be 10.2 percent, 14.9 percent and 12.9 percent consecutively.  As we see the rates of unemployment in Iran were excessively high two decades before the U.S. decided to impose stringent sanctions on the Iranian economy and its financial sources internationally.  The data shows that the high rates of unemployment in Iran have been endemic to the national economy and not solely nor necessarily the function of the U.S. sanctions regime.  Furthermore, the rates of unemployment in rural Iran reached 19.6 percent in 1982, three years after the Revolution.

As to the trend of prices of consumer goods and services are concerned, Dr. Razaghi's book provides an exhaustive table depicting the rates of inflation for the period between 1972 and 1984.  In this span of time, the cost of such essential items as food, housing, clothing, home appliances, transportation, and health care (holding 1974 as a base, i.e., 1974=100) shot up by 564.5%, 364% 496%, 488.2%, 594.8% and 247.6% respectively.  In other words, the cost of the necessities for survival of the working class rose by almost 500 percent during that period.  During this period that partly coincided with the 8-year war with Iraq (1980-1988, the merchant class taking advantage of scarcity and monopolization of domestic trade and import-export immensely profited from artificially-kept higher prices of consumer goods. 


The conclusion could be drawn that even before the imposition of the severe sanctions Iran has been suffering from lack of national economic planning, diversification of its products and industry and low levels of economic investment in the most strategic and growth-oriented industries that integrate labor, capital, advanced science and technology in a new social contract that could be capable of invigorating social productive forces looking ahead. 
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 About the Author:
AIFC received this analysis from one of our contacts in Germany, who apparently has studied economics.  We apologize for its late posting, but it is still relevant to today's events. We have asked Mr. Wolff to send us additional articles on Iran-U.S. relations.  Eleanor Ommani, Moderator

Monday, September 30, 2013

Welcome Pakistani Prime Minister Who is coming to Tell the Truth to the World



Free Kashmir
No Indian Army
PAKISTAN – USA FREEDOM FORUM
82-44 243 St., Bellerose, NY 11426
Tel (718) 343-1653 or (718) 763-3543
E-mail: pakusaff@hotmail.com
Stop Dividing
Families
End the Raids and
Deportations

The Pakistani American community in the United States of America welcomes the Honorable Mian Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan; he will be telling the world how countries and regions are taken advantage of when colonial powers violate sovereignty and international borders. Pakistan is the real victim and model to learn from. We must learn the negative example of Kenya as well, which suffered from the hostage situation by playing the game of the imperialists in invading its neighbor Somalia.



You have concern and worry over the thousands that were killed and displaced in the recent earthquake in Baluchistan which killed many people, and also stress over the numerous separatist groups, who are preventing the rescue efforts of the Pakistani Army in the affected areas. Please make Pakistanis proud in telling the UN General Assembly, without any hesitation and with courage, how the Pakistanis are suffering without power, have a lacking and deteriorated educational and health system, a free-falling economy and extremism, the only one big reason behind the long-time dictatorships (Dictator Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who was also a high Citibank official) and were backed by the US and other Western countries.
We are hopeful that, as a third-time Prime Minister (you were raised by the dictator General Zia) you can act as you did when you were Prime Minister of Pakistan for the second time, showing the world that you can take a stand for Pakistani interests, against the atomic power pressure of the USA under Clinton, and create good relations with your neighbors. Life teaches you to gain the peoples' trust, that openness and closeness is the best way to govern our beautiful country. We hope you will never allow ministers who have high civil positions to hold party positions. Also that intelligent Pakistanis will be appointed to key positions very soon, such as foreign and defense ministers and ambassadors. We are requesting the government to not appoint to any post those who are foreign dual citizens who have not lived in Pakistan for a continuous five year period. Educated Pakistanis deserve the fruits of their struggle for a democratic rule of law. Ask every member of the National Assembly and the army generals of the last 20 years to give a full accounting of the money they hold outside the country, and return it to the Pakistan treasury or leave their posts. There should be full cooperation and obedience to orders made by the courts and no special pardons should be made. For example as Mr. Zardari shamelessly disobeyed all court orders and abused the power of the position he held. 
You should encourage all Pakistani citizens and foreigners to come to Pakistan without hassle and bribes to gain entry. Please do not repeat your blunder when you act very badly to control the dollar accounts opened by Pakistanis living abroad because you said that Pakistan needed dollars to prevent default. You have same old advisors in your cabinet.
Attention should be given to the needs of the women, students and laborers who have suffered very badly for the last thirty years under Musharraf, Shaukat Aziz, Shujat and P Elahi and NRO President Zardari. Prisoners who were never sentenced or have completed their sentence must be released! Pay attention to the needs of the soldiers who are vital for the defense of our motherland; the differences in salaries and conditions from those of the officers must be fair. Prime Minister, we need improved infrastructure and safety throughout the entire country; other national interests need attention. These improvements should be based on the interest of the nation and not greedy money-makers (political game in Karachi & MQM’s dirty tricks, the selling of PIA, Steel, Railway, etc) who always find a way to influence the ruling party.
The Pakistan USA Freedom Forum (PUFF) asks you to pay attention to the new strategy of the superpowers, who are now talking to the Taliban and Iran (we hope this is very good news). Pakistan in developing relations with these forces and countries should base on its own interests and sovereignty. PUFF hopes you will raise the following concerns hemduring your state visit with President Obama in October: the status of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the drone attacks, the situation in Kashmir and the secret CIA involvement inside Pakistan, the information related to abduction of Pakistani citizens and any information regarding safety and sovereignty of our country. Demand full reimbursement from the US, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan), NATO, which amount to billions, to help the poor economy of country; these are small steps for a real Pakistani leader who will prove that  the 2013 elections was not an NRO-2 government or a election devised by colonial powers.

Dr. Muhammad Shafique
President
Mr. Shahid Comrade
General Secretary
(917) 280-0840

This article reflects the political ideas of the Pakistan USA Freedom Forum, which is a strong anti-war voice in the American Peace Movement. We post it for your knowledge and information about the struggle for democracy in Pakistan.