NINE DEAD IN PARADISE – Cops Massacre Nine Kids at Sao Paulo Funk Party

THE FACES OF NINE YOUNG PEOPLE MURDERED BY COPS ON SUNDAY MORNING

NINE DEAD IN PARADISE – Cop Massacre at Sao Paulo Funk Party

by Paul Davidson 3/12/2019 – Sao Paulo

In the early hours of Sunday morning, Dec 1, 2019, Sao Paulo military police beat and shot to death nine young people in a funk party in a favela (shanty town) in Sao Paulo. The average age of the murdered children was eighteen, with one only fourteen and two only sixteen years of age. The cops tried to cover up the nature of their premeditated massacre by claiming a shot had first been fired at an officer. No guns were recovered at the scene and there was no independent verification of their claim.

The street party took place in an area situated in the south-west of the sprawling metropolis, a favela called Paraisópolis (Paradise City). It is a regular venue for the well known event called “DZ7” that draws in crowds from the whole city and beyond, sometimes as many as 5,000. It is an attraction that aids the commercial life of this destitute neighbourhood, a favela that sits uneasily next to the upmarket region of Morumbi. The funk party usually starts late and goes on all night. It has a mixed response among the local residents. Some approve, others don’t. Many spend a sleepless night waiting for it to die down while other are out dancing and boozing. Sometimes there is trouble. Always there is loud music, dancing, food stalls and a lot of alcohol and drugs. Above all, there is fun. It’s what youth do. It’s what they are left with when everything else is denied them.

The favela of Paraisopolis seen from above with Morumbi behind


One month ago, during a police operation in the same area a cop was shot to death in an exchange of gunfire. Sergeant Ronaldo Ruas Silva of the Tactical Force became another victim of the civil war that has gone on since time began in the marginalised communities of Brazil, where the state forces are naturally seen as and understood as the oppressor. Silva might have been a good cop, might have been a bad one. We don’t know. But he was part of that oppressive force that keeps the poor poor and keeps the rich rich. Law and order is there to protect property and the more property you have the more protection it offers. Life comes second to property under capitalist rule.

When a cop dies his colleagues take it hard. Cops have a strong mutual bond that is bred in them from the first day of their training. Loyalty to the squad and to the force, the sense of privilege and superiority with regard the poor sits alongside a knee-bending servility towards the powerful, these are the qualities sought for in the new recruit. When a cop dies his comrades sweat for revenge. This is an old story. Six years ago a security guard was killed in nearby Osasco. A spate of unsolved killings followed, including a massacre at a food stall where a crowd of young people out for the night was sprayed with automatic fire and left for dead. Over a single week 17 young people were shot to death in unidentified drive-by shootings. When cops die their comrades load their guns.

In this case, last weekend, six cops were out patrolling on the edges of the funk party. There was some sort of altercation and reinforcements were called in, several dozen. The DZ7 funk party is large, perhaps the largest in Sao Paulo, with between 3,000 and 5,000 youth. It takes place at the centre of the ramshackle barrio, itself an area of no more than a few dozen city blocks. Where the central streets cross there is plenty of space, but go one block away and the roads narrow into alleyways with jerry-built homes crowding in each side. Many alleys are dead-ends, no exit. When the cop reinforcements arrived the gassing began, then the chasing and then the beating. Most of the kids were not from Paraisopolis and didn’t know the streets. They were confused and ran where they could with cops after them shouting “kill them all.”

A dead-end alley in Paraisopolis, similar to where the youth were beaten to death

The video link here shows what happened in one such dead-end alley. A group of kids try to escape the police. They walk up the alley, come to the dead end and turn back. But half way back they meet others looking for an escape. A few seconds later the cops arrive and crowd them down to the end where they are packed in with nowhere to go. They shout to the cops that they cannot go on, that it’s a dead-end. The cops fire tear gas at them and start beating, on the heads mostly, with night sticks. The young people go down. The cops continue beating them on the ground, kicking and punching at them. The young people are screaming in terror and in pain. They cannot breathe due to the gas in the confined space. They are suffocating. The cops continue beating. Local people called a SAMU ambulance but the cops cancelled it. No medical assistance was allowed.

At the end of all this, nine young people lie dead, their faces and hands covered with guts, bruises and gaping holes. The chief of the cops tells the press how unfortunate it all was; how the cops were chasing a suspect but the party-goers threw bear cans at them so they had to go in and sort things out. He said there had been a stampede and that several young people had been trampled to death. He denied any wrongdoing. The mass media faithfully repeated every lie that came out of his cop-mouth. The local people quickly organised to protest the killings. Hundreds filled the streets shouting “assassins” at the cops.

Brazil’s military police are organised on state and federal lines, not municipal. The State Governor, João Agripino da Costa Doria Júnior (known as Doria) tweeted how sorry he was about the deaths, how he supported the police but how there needed to be an inquiry. His spokesperson however was quick to say that the cops were not to blame. In a statement from Doria’s office his spokesperson said the organisers of the party should be solely held responsible. Doria is a leader of the social-democratic PSDB, neither social nor democratic, a right-wing party similar to the US Democratic Party but with less of a track record for reforms and more known for its gangsterism, a neo-liberal party of corrupt charlatans who led the impeachment of PT’s Dilma Rouseff for budgetary irregularities while its leader, the political fixer, Aécio Neves da Cunha was facing a police investigation on conspiracy to murder a political opponent and misappropriation of $2million.

Under Doria’s governorship of the Sao Paulo state, education and social budgets have been slashed in an effort to cut state spending and reduce taxes on the rich. The MSDB pressed for and recently voted for Bolsonaro’s pension reforms, which slash workers rights to a fair retirement while increasing the age of retirement by up to five years. Doria is slated to become the PSDB candidate for the 2022 presidential election, to replace the fascist Jair Bolsonaro and be a more moderate face for the same authoritarian rule. Besides the cosmetics, nothing much else will change.

The youth of Brazil, in their vast majority facing no hope and no future, see the cops as their enemy. Economic division breeds political division. The cops are there to control things. They use indiscriminate force, especially in the poorer and more racially mixed areas. There are five cop killings every day in Rio, almost 2,000 a year. If you live to be fifty, on average, you have a one in a hundred chance to have your life cut short by a cop bullet at some point in Rio. If you are black and poor those chances increase drastically.

You will not have heard about the massacre in Paradise, Sao Paulo. Your media outlets will not have reported it. They were too busy reporting on two dead in London or the one dead in Hong Kong, where the harmful effects of tear-gas are a major concern for the media. But nine young, poor lives lost in a favela in downtown Sao Paulo, by cops beating heads until the brains stopped, by cops who will face no charges at all for their actions, by cops who get no criticism from the press and the politicians here, where the middle classes say, well, if some are killed in a favela they were probably deserving it, no, that is not a story, it is an everyday occurrence.

Here follows a list of the dead:

Gustavo Cruz Xavier                                      14 years old

Dennys Guilherme dos Santos Franco       16 years old

Marcos Paulo Oliveira dos Santos               16 years old

Denys Henrique Quirino da Silva                16 years old

Laura Victoria Oliveira                                  18 years old

Gabriel Rogerio de Moraes                           20 years old

Eduardo da Silva                                           21 years old

Bruno Gabriel dos Santos                             22 years old

Mateus dos Santos Costa                              23 years old

SAINT PETER – Patron Saint of Dogmatism

“Humble yourselves”

SAINT PETER – The Patron Saint of Dogmatism

by Paul Davidson – 28 Nov 2019

“Saint Peter don’t you call me ‘cos I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.” (Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford)

I once read the Christian Gospels, all four of them, written under the names of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. The stories feature Jesus, who was said to have actually existed, though none of the supposed authors actually met him and, it must be admitted, they don’t say where they picked up their stories about him.

Jesus did a lot of things but one thing was to tell parables: A parable being a fictional tale designed to illuminate some facet of life by way of a metaphor extended into a story. I look at the Gospels themselves as an extended parable and the character Jesus as the protagonist in a fictional tale constructed to illuminate us.

Seen from that perspective, the Gospels can be taken as an esoteric teaching about the human being and his endless effort to make something better of himself, to evolve, or as Nietzsche put it, to stand on his own shoulders and become the ubermensch. In that teaching, every character has something to show us of ourselves. Besides Jesus, the character I find most illuminating is Peter, or Simon-Peter, as he is also known, or Saint Peter, as he became.

We could use a Jungian term, archetype, to describe what each character represents. Peter, for example, is the archetypal dogmatist. His character is carefully drawn from the beginning. He is originally Simon, a fisherman, a simple man but one capable of catching a fine haul. His haul starts as fish but develops into ‘men.’ He becomes the ‘fisher of men,’ the recruiter to the cause, the one capable of translating the teaching of Jesus into the common tongue. And what is this common tongue but the literal truth, the ‘this is this and that is that, of categorical thinking.  Simon sees everything in black and white, facts being things-in-themselves, obvious to the naked eye.

For Simon, there is little the eye does not see. He is a victim of the naïve instincts that tell him precisely what is what. Thomas plays the role of the doubter but Simon’s faith is as solid as a rock, a fierce defender of his perceived truth. This is why Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter (Latin – the stone or the rock). And Jesus predicts that upon that rock his church will be built. That is to say, he predicts that his teaching will become a dogmatic code at the hands of Peter. Peter, in effect, is not blessed by his founding of the church as Christians believes, but is cursed. Peter’s fate is to sell out the teaching, to turn it into a dead letter.

Peter commands people to the faith but is incapable of leading them to a deeper understanding. Faced with a centurion who doubts Jesus, Peter unsheaves his sword and cuts off the centurion’s ear, meaning that he renders those who doubt incapable of hearing. He turns Christianity into a sect of blind believers incapable of transformation and builds its church on that rock.

What is the further meaning of the name Peter, the rock or the stone? This is explored in the first story of Jesus, the Marriage at Cana where Jesus takes a stone vase and pours water, which turns into wine. The transformation from stone to water to wine depicts the transition from dogma to understanding and finally to spirit. To be stuck at the level of stone truth is to miss the whole point of the teaching. One has to evolve from intellectual understanding to psychological integration, what Jung called individuation (the state of being undivided).  

The fact that the word ‘religion’ derived from the Latin ‘re-ligere’ (to tie back together) is testimony to the intended meaning.  Peter is fragmented and being fragmented, holds himself together with belief. And belief is a fragile thing. He is a violent man who uses force to support his faith in his dogma. But it is all a superficial show. Eventually, when his faith loosens, he vacillates and becomes a turncoat.

Peter renounces Jesus three times and loses his position as a disciple. He is finally crucified upside down in Rome. He is the upside down martyr, the dogmatic priest who builds the church on a rock, kills the teaching and goes ‘where he does not wish to go,’ which is, standing forever at the gates of heaven, neither in nor out, the gatekeeper of the Kingdom, the celestial bouncer.

This archetype of Peter is that of the categorical dogmatist.. His story demonstrates what happens when such a character is put into a position of command. In political terms, where a society is seeking to evolve, the dogmatist is incapable of transforming stone (the word) into water (revolutionary understanding) and from there into wine (revolutionary action) for he is himself only at the level of stone.

He may have read Marx and may be capable of arguing any principle but is incapable of revolutionary action. He argues that everything must be done in linear stages, ‘A’ followed by ‘B’ followed by ‘C,’ etc. One cannot have a socialist revolution before completing the democratic bourgeois revolution, therefore a ‘popular front’ is necessary in which the worker must reduce his demands so as not to scare away the progressive bourgeoisie.

The Saint Peters of this world will defend dogma, sword in hand, but will run when the going gets tough. They ride their horses into battle facing backwards so they can lead the retreat. And we have seen time and again where it all leads. The dogmatist is a great recruiter, a fisher of men, but never a leader.

BOLIVIA: RETURN OF THE ABSOLUTIST STATE

BOLIVIA: THE CALL FOR THE RETURN OF THE ABSOLUTIST STATE

(in English and Portuguese)

by Paul Davidson – 17 Nov 2019


https://www.facebook.com/rodolfo.ceniz.1/videos/179519853224454/UzpfSTEwMDAwMTU3MTYwMzQwMjpWSzoyNTI2MjU5OTQwNzc3MjM4/?multi_permalinks=2528361590567073%2C2526699814066584%2C2526651707404728%2C2525835177486381%2C2525791210824111&notif_id=1573756515816092&notif_t=group_activity

One of the most significant phrases I heard from this military machine was the call for the “independence of the state.”

Well, a long time ago the state was quite independent. This was a time when we had Kings and Queens, a fairyland paradise for those who would wish to return to the past. But the bourgeois revolutions put the state firmly in the hands of the new rich, the industrialists and bankers. The state was in their command and it was they who elected governments to run it and this was called democracy.

But then something unfortunate happened. The common people fought for and won the right to vote, the right to participate in the bourgeois elections and even form parties and stand their own candidates. And in some cases these candidates got elected and formed governments. Hence, all the trouble began for the bourgeoisie.

So many times they had to ban these parties, cancel these elections and even overthrow these governments . . . and all in the name of democracy.

But now it is clear. They feel they can no longer afford the pretense of this democracy. They can no longer allow the people to feel that they are sovereign and that the state is a servant of their will. It has all become too much.

And this sentiment is perfectly expressed in the slogan, “For the independence of the state.” Yes, let the state do whatever it wishes. It must be sovereign and the people reduced once again to serfdom. Let it be very clear that ‘democracy’ was only ever a temporary phenomenon, like giving kindergarten children the choice of what to have for their lunch. No, it was a good game but it went too far. Put the toys away children, it’s time for your afternoon sleep. The state is independent of your wishes and always was. Enough of fairy tales

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Uma das frases mais significativas que ouvi dessa máquina militar foi o chamado à “independência do estado”.

Bem, há muito tempo o estado era bastante independente. Era uma época em que tínhamos reis e rainhas, um paraíso do país das fadas para aqueles que gostariam de voltar ao passado. Mas as revoluções burguesas colocam o Estado firmemente nas mãos dos novos ricos, dos industriais e dos banqueiros. O estado estava sob seu comando e foram eles que elegeram os governos para administrá-lo e isso foi chamado de democracia.

Mas então algo lamentável aconteceu. As pessoas comuns lutaram e conquistaram o direito de votar, o direito de participar das eleições dos bourgois e até formar partidos e candidatar-se. E, em alguns casos, esses candidatos foram eleitos e formaram governos. Portanto, todo o problema começou para a burguesia.

Muitas vezes eles tiveram que banir esses partidos, cancelar essas eleições e até derrubar esses governos. . . e tudo em nome da democracia.

Mas agora está claro. Eles sentem que não podem mais se dar ao luxo de fingir essa democracia. Eles não podem mais permitir que o povo sinta que é soberano e que o estado é um servo de sua vontade. Tudo se tornou demais.

E esse sentimento é perfeitamente expresso no slogan “Pela independência do estado”. Sim, deixe o estado fazer o que quiser. Deve ser soberano e o povo reduziu o seu prestígio novamente à servidão. Que fique bem claro que a “democracia” sempre foi um fenômeno temporário, como dar às crianças do jardim de infância a escolha do que comer no almoço. Não, foi um bom jogo, mas foi longe demais. Guarde os brinquedos, crianças, é hora de dormir à tarde. O estado é independente de seus desejos e sempre foi. Chega de contos de fadas

THE RAPE AND MURDER OF RAWAN, AN 8-YEAR-OLD CHILD BRIDE


Article by Paul Davidson


In an online blog entitled ‘LifeInSaudiArabia.’ under the sub-heading ‘latest news–sex,’ is published an unsigned article about a small Kuwaiti child called Rawan, married off to a Yemeni man five times her age. The genitals of this young girl were so badly ripped on her ‘wedding night’ that, consequent to this agonising sexual torture, she bled to death.

The rape and murder of Rawan is both tragic and appalling, but what also appals me is the underlying argument in the blog that “an 8-year-old girl, who obviously has not even reached puberty yet, is obviously not able to fulfil the sexual needs or desires of her husband.” The argument appears to be based upon a view that, though the correct role of a wife is to fulfil the sexual needs or desires of her husband, in this case the bride was too young as she had not reached puberty.


The idea that marital rape is fine, if it is post-puberty because, by then, the child will have understood the role of her body in satisfying the needs of her husband is built upon several lies: Firstly, that the duty of the woman is to satisfy the man, secondly that the start of menstruation is the natural age for sex and thirdly, that the man has “sexual needs,” that must be satisfied.

1. Biologically, men and women have commensurate levels of need and desire. The so-called ‘duty’ of a woman towards a man is nothing less than socially-engineered subjugation of one otherwise equal human being to another.

2. Girls may reach puberty and begin menstruating anywhere between 9 and 16. The start of one’s period is no indication whatsoever of any understanding of one’s body. Though it may mark a particular and limited physical milestone, it has little or no psychological impact on one’s readiness or otherwise to engage in penetrative or in any other kind of sex. And it is certainly no licence for a man to rape, under the guise of ‘marriage’ or any other guise.

3. Food, water, air, warmth; these are all physical needs; sex is not. Even to the extent that the sexual drive, unfulfilled, can be very frustrating, it can be managed in other ways than penetrative sex. But religion, which looks harshly on masturbation and other non-penetrative practices, indoctrinates the believer into the perverse belief that the rape of a female child is fine but masturbation will send you to hell. There is no such thing as sexual need. There is sexual drive and sexual desire, neither of which will kill you. More importantly, there is the responsibility of each human being to treat the other as an equal, with equal rights and equal needs, with both care and respect.

Female social and sexual subservience, by extension, results in the arranged marriage, rape, sexual torture, maiming and deaths of young girls. This is not an unforeseeable consequence but a well-documented fact. And often, the victims are from the poorer families and the perpetrators from the more wealthy.

So long as the intersection between class and gender results in the forced or arranged coupling called marriage, which for the woman is actual bondage, so long as class and economic privilege dominate in the relation between men and women, so long as women are kept in an inferior position and held as hostage to the economic power of the man and so long as this whole edifice of gender subjugation is held in place on the firm foundation of property rights, essential for global capitalism, then deaths such as that of 8-year-old Rawan will take place.

ECUADOR, BRAZIL and the LIMITS OF LEFT POPULISM

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ECUADOR, BRAZIL and the LIMITS OF LEFT POPULISM

by Paul Davidson – Oct 18 2019

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra

  1. BRAZIL

Following the formal end of the 21-year military dictatorship in March 1985, Brazil had a succession of bourgeois governments that, due to enormous pressures from the mass movement, brought in reforms such as a national health service (SUS). But despite this, these governments either pandered to or else slavishly followed the US neo-liberal dictate, which led to both economic and social stagnation amid rates of high debt, interest and inflation.

This changed in January 2003 when the Workers Party (PT) of Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva took the presidency and was able to govern Congress in coalition with bourgeois parties. PT initiated a program of agrarian, social and nation-building reforms under a political agenda put to the people in his June 2002 “Letter To The Brazilian People,” promising change, growth, inclusion, justice and peace. Lula promised security, anti-corruption, renewed sovereignty and social hope.

In his ‘carta’ Lula wrote: “The prevailing feeling in all classes and in all regions is that the current model has run out. The country cannot continue on this path, otherwise it will be in chronic stagnation or . . . economic, social and moral collapse.” And he promised: “an alternative national project that will make Brazil grow again, generating jobs, reducing crime, rescuing our sovereign and respected presence in the world.”

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The invitation was therefore to unite “all classes” in a “national project” to “make Brazil grow again,” through “courageous and careful changes . . . in defense of Brazil.” He further declared: “Significant portions of the business community are added to our project. It is a vast, in many respects, nonpartisan coalition that seeks to open new horizons for the country . . . a broad national negotiation, which must lead to a genuine alliance for the country, a new social contract, capable of ensuring growth with stability.”

He also promised to “respect” the huge foreign debt, in the light of which, he said, the leeway for independent economic policy was small and would have to be channelled, along with foreign policy and in alliance with “all segments of society,” towards generating foreign exchange. “A return to growth” was therefore the overall priority he outlined in a linear projection, “production, employment and social justice.”

This ‘carta’ was a break from PT’s more radical past. For example, at the Brazilian Constituent Assembly of 1988 it had advocated repudiation of Brazil’s external debt, nationalization of the country’s banks and mineral wealth and a radical land reform. In addition, as a form of protest, PT’s delegates refused to sign the draft constitution.

Following the ‘carta,’ some segments of the left split from PT leaving a majority committed to a growth-led program promising social reform, once foreign revenue allowed. It was with this majority that Lula led his party to victory. The coalition he knitted with the opportunist bourgeois party, PMDB, was to finally come undone 14 years later when in 2016 Vice-President Temer led the charge with his social-democratic allies to impeach PT President Dilma Rousseff on a technical charge of permitting budget irregularities.

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The fork in the road that was reached in 2002 had not been taken. That is to say, the effort had been to ignore that there was a fork and instead to proceed along two divergent paths at the same time. The nation-building project was predicated on a class alliance between national capitalist producers and their workers to jointly work for increased production, efficiency and exports, part of the value of which would subsequently be channeled back through the government to the workers and the poor through enhanced rights and social programs. What happened?

PT was certainly able to make valuable reforms, eradicating hunger and illiteracy, building homes, enhancing workers rights, pushing agrarian and educational reform, increasing environmental protection, nurturing and expanding SUS and bringing basic services to the poor. On the economic front, it also presided over ten years of economic growth, including lower inflation and interest rates and reduced deficits. PT built up the armed forces and put money into infrastructure, including hydro-electric power, roads and water. But it did not curtail corruption nor markedly decrease crime and insecurity.

The generation and expansion of social programs, some of which were already in place from previous administrations, were almost entirely down to PT but the economic growth cannot be shown to be so determined. Brazil, along with much of Latin America, went through a significant growth cycle during the first decade of this century due to two significant factors:

Firstly, the sustained growth in global production and trade since the 1990’s corresponded to the adage, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ This rising tide was due to measures taken in the US and copied elsewhere, to deregulate the financial markets (financialization), introduce new technology (informatics) and transfer wealth from the poor to the rich (monetarism and austerity). This led to two decades of recession-free growth.

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Secondly, the opening up of China in the context of global growth and financial globalization enhanced demand for commodities (minerals and agricultural) and commodity prices. Economies based on extraction experienced a tremendous rise in foreign earnings, disproportionate to the growth of their overall economies. The differential rents (earnings that accrue from having a monopoly in commodities that other markets require) allowed such governments to take part of that rent and plough it back into social programs, which is largely what happened in Brazil and many other countries of the sub-continent.

At the same time, the increasing power of the WTO along with the signing of free-trade deals led to the more powerful economies undercutting domestic producers in the less powerful and replacing their domestic products with imports. During the first decade of this century a tremendous shift took place in throughout Latin America. While fantastic returns were made on extraction, domestic production stalled and fell back. With regard Brazil, PT followed through on its deal to promote national capital and used the national banking sector to favor large construction firms such as Odebrecht and agribusinesses.

Interest rates were kept low to keep cheap money available for big companies. But, seeing their domestic markets being undercut by imports, capitalists chose not to borrow and invest. Instead they put their profits into the banks or sent it abroad or into real estate or simply spent it on imported luxury goods. Low interest rates, intended to stimulate the capitalists, became a burden to them, bringing low returns to their savings and fueling an anti-PT spirit.

The national accord was falling apart even when the economy was still growing but as the global slowdown hit Brazil from 2012 onward and commodity prices and revenues fell, it collapsed entirely. Discontent was further fueled by the ‘Lava Jato’ anti-corruption process and its particular aim at PT. As the economy faltered under the PT presidency of Dilma Rousseff, she reigned in public spending, public fares went up and discontent mounted within the urban poor.

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Eventually, a combined campaign by mass media, right-wing political forces, military leaders, the judiciary and evangelicals brought the middle class out onto the streets demanding the ouster of PT, which was effected with the impeachment of Dilma in 2016 and the illegal imprisonment of Lula for crimes that had never taken place. Brazil today is facing the exact same scenario Lula had warned against, chronic stagnation or economic, social and moral collapse.

Despite a valiant attempt, PT’s cross-class, economic program had come to an inglorious end before the party’s ouster from power. The social and moral collapse followed, as evidenced with the election of the fascist Jair Bolsonaro.

The 2002 fork in the road had been a clear choice: Either forge a revolutionary party with a sustained working class base, strong enough to push through radical structural reforms in order to finish with capitalist stagnation for good or take the same old path but disguise if simply by changing step. PT’s nation-building project lasted only as long as commodity prices held and could sustain a reform program. It was entirely dependent on the global capitalist market and prolonged global growth. PT proved ineffective in building an integrated economy whilst simultaneously opening Brazil up to free-trade globalization.

Additionally, having worked so hard in the early years to build a large popular base among the working class and landless of Brazil, that work was squandered by PT-in-government on its new line of ‘respecting’ the institutions of state, the national military, the private ownership of production, the financial sector and the supposed long-term health of international capital. PT, as a party, became an administrative organ of the state and its leading cadre were reduced to functionaries of government. The organs of popular power became orphans of the same and the gulf between leadership and class became unbridgeable.

  2. ECUADOR

From the 1990’s on, the presidencies of Bucaram, Alarcón, Arteaga, Mahuad, Noboa, Gutiérrez and Palacio followed in quick succession. Each had promised an end to corruption, an era of growth, prosperity, equality and liberty, but each had perished under the combination of broken promises and mass discontent, which had sometimes led to virtual insurrection, especially from the indigenous peoples. (Since 2000 the Ecuadoran economy has been 100% dollarized.)

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Then came Raphael Correa, an avowed socialist; An October 15 article in RT stated as follows:

“After a period of 10 years in which they had seven presidents, Ecuador finally achieved political stability in 2007 under the leadership of President Rafael Correa, a fierce critic of the IMF and the US government. A charismatic leader and a doctor in economics, Correa was able to unite social movements in a racially and ethnically diverse –and divided– country through what he and his followers called “The Citizen’s Revolution.” With Correa as President, Ecuador experienced strong, sustainable economic growth, while drastically reducing poverty and inequality.”

RT claims this was a “revolution,” but was it? RT continues:

“The revolution achieved great success, undergoing a transition from a neo-liberal political economy dependent on the United States to one that emphasized social investment and regional integration. Ecuador virtually abandoned the IMF, and singled that entity out as a major foe to Ecuador’s development. Ecuador also joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in 2007, alongside the socialist bloc of Latin America – Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.”

This is all worthy of respect and support, but it’s not yet a revolution. Let us go a step further and see where the RT analysis leads:

“Things were going well in Ecuador; one could argue, for the first time since the conquest. So well, in fact, that once Correa’s second term in office was up, his hand-chosen successor, Vice-President Lenin Moreno, easily won the election. Moreno promised to continue the Citizen’s Revolution . . . But then something changed. Moreno flipped . . . he joined the country’s elites in a witch hunt against supposed corruption within the Correa government. He began cozying up to Washington and pulling away from ALBA. Moreno then signed the deal with the IMF.”

The US$4.2 billion, weaponized IMF loan (which had actually began its negotiated life under Correa) was conditioned on a neo-liberal structural adjustment aimed at the poor, something designed to greatly benefit interests in the US but that would leave Ecuador in debtor’s prison for generations to come.

The deal led immediately to huge hikes in fuel process and a massive rebellion that left seven dead, 1,100 arrested and 1,300 injured. Eventually, the fuel hike was cancelled but the IMF deal remains in place, along with the presidency of Lenin Moreno and the undiminished power of the repressive state apparatus that ensures the IMF deal will persist against all protests. And it is the continuation of this repressive machine that signals the improbability of the claim that a revolution, under Correa, had taken place.

Like Brazil and Venezuela, Ecuador has a mainly extractive economy and oil is its major export by far. It benefited greatly from high oil prices during the Correa government but came under increasing economic and financial strain post 2012.

Correa handed power to his former Vice President, Lenin Moreno in a US-CIA soft-coup that, unlike Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, he did not publicly fight but succumbed to, under pressure. They had him step down and endorse Moreno rather than fight for a constitutional change to allow him to run for a third term, which would likely have been passed had he fought for it.

Moreno, once in the driving seat, passed a ruthless neo-liberal act called, “The Organic Law to Foster Productivity, Attract Investment, and Create Jobs, Stability, and a Balanced Budget,” an act that the $4.2bn IMF loan enhanced. While accepting the IMF loan Moreno cancelled some $4.3bn in fiscal obligations (tax debts)owed by large capitalist enterprises and corporations, including fossil fuel corporations, offshore phone companies, private banks, and . . . Odebrecht.

It should be noted that the Ecuadoran legislature passed this law without requesting even the basic information about the tax debt. It did so with the votes of Alianza País, the same movement started by former President Rafael Correa.

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Consequent to this neo-liberal turn, an October 14 article in NACLA reports, “The policies the government has implemented under the IMF agreement have brought the economy to a standstill. The IMF itself predicts a 0.5 percent reduction in GDP this year. Unemployment has continued to rise, with only 37.9% of the economically active population having adequate employment. The poverty rate has risen from 35.3 per cent of the population in December 2014 to 43.8 per cent in June 2019, meaning two million more people have fallen into poverty, for a total of 7.6 million Ecuadorans living in poverty out of a total population of 17.3 million people. Meanwhile, the IMF policies are still geared toward serving the interests of creditor countries and the national debt.”

In another article in the same journal on Sept 23, political theorist Mabel Thwaites Rey argued we should see this turnaround as the end of a cycle (elsewhere referred to as the ‘Pink Tide’) of left-progressive governments throughout Latin America. The leftist wave resulted from a reaction to the structural adjustment policies of the 1990’s when mass movements challenged the neo-liberal regimes of that period which was consequently translated into the rise of new progressive governments.

Key to this was the 1999 election of Chavez in Venezuela whose further radicalization following the attempted coup of 2002 led to a “regional breakthrough.” Then came the rise in commodity prices which allowed the role of the state to change.

Rey wrote:

“In the new period, what national states began to recover was the capacity to arbitrate between bourgeois fractions, and the capacity of redistribution and mediation between dominant and popular classes, or between capital and labour.”

But this ‘pink tide’ had significant, defining variations:

In the case of Venezuela, the population became increasingly radicalized after the leftist government came to power and the Bolivarian socialist revolution was declared. “It is from the leadership of the state that Chávez began to promote popular participation . . . there was an attempt at activation.”

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And Bolivia was, “The clearest case of a consistent popular mobilization that flows into the government of Evo Morales.”

But in most other cases, the popular insurrectionary trend had already peaked by the time progressive governments came into office and, in the downward phase of mass militancy, these governments ‘captured’ the movements and ‘pacified’ them. In Argentina, for example, the popular movement was channeled by a Peronist fraction, Kirchnerism.

“In the cases of Brazil and Uruguay, the governments that came to office were constituted by center-left coalitions that had been combative at one time, but which at a certain moment—in the case of the PT it is especially clear—made political alliances and moderated their public discourse in order to win elections. . . . In any case, they can still be reproached for how little they did to activate popular participation from the state in order to deepen changes.”

In the case of Ecuador, the pre-existing decomposition of the state had required constitutional reforms and this later became termed the ‘Citizens’ Revolution.’

In Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff, upon her re-election in 2012, instigated an adjustment program in the context of the drop in state revenues due to falls in commodity prices. Neo-liberal adjustment preceded the impeachment. The trajectory for it had been set by PT.

In Ecuador too the process of adjustment preceded the replacement of Correa by Moreno. The nation-building program of Correa included the promotion of state mining companies on eco-reserves, reproducing and entrenching the extractive model of development, and this led to protests from indigenous groups that were termed ‘infantile environmentalism,’ repressed, criminalized and charged with rebellion. States of emergency were declared to quell the protests and hundreds were arrested. The IMF loan was being negotiated before Correa ceded power.

We saw in the recent protests that the indigenous mass movement was calling for the removal of Lenin Moreno in order to have Correa back. They were calling for an end to the whole program of nation-building based on extraction which characterized both presidents of the Alianza Pais party. And it is difficult to see how, once having repressed the mass mobilizations, you can ever again gain the confidence of the people. The protests against Moreno were not those of the AP base against a usurper. They were of the people against AP.

In a June 2 2017 article, Linda Farthing and Thea N. Riofrancos write:

“Alianza Pais was created as electoral vehicle during Correa’s first presidential campaign to get him elected to office. It has no democratic mechanism for choosing candidates, is run by very small cadre of leadership, and has no accountability to popular organizations . . . In addition, AP has made a number of questionable local alliances that have further diluted programmatic coherence. As a result, AP reproduces its own centralized leadership rather than serving as a political force to forge popular unity.”

  1. SOME CONCLUSIONS

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The ‘pink tide’ theory of 2000-2015 left-populism hides a basic difference with regard say Ecuador and Brazil on the one hand and Bolivia and Venezuela on the other. In both sets of cases the nations suffered from a reliance on an extractive economy and a low industrial base and were at once boosted by the rise in commodity prices and then thrown to the threshing floor by the 2008 crisis.

In the case of Ecuador and Brazil, the progressive governments had spent their base support and could not resist the onslaught of global forces. They succumbed and began adjusting to neoliberalism before falling. They had given priority to raising consumption and ameliorating the clash of classes. They could afford this while revenues were high but then, when the going got tough, they found a gulf had opened up between them and their bases and their prospects died.

With regard Bolivia and Venezuela, there had been continual activism nurtured both from below and above. When the global recession in commodity prices hit and their economies suffered, they mobilized mass resistance and were able to withstand the pain. Though their economic programs may have been verisimilar to that of Brazil and Ecuador, promoting extraction for nation-building and reform, in both cases another key element was present, that of the political struggle.

The political struggle is as it ever was, a struggle for power between the working people and the repressive capitalist state. It is not a matter of getting elected and passing reforms but of confronting the very instrument that permits the opposing class to regain their parliamentary throne at the moment of their choosing. The political struggle of the working masses is the struggle against the capitalist state and this is a struggle to the death. To simply take the throne for a definite period and honour its symbols and play its game and then give it up when requested, is a recipe for disaster.

Nation-building is needed so long as there are nations. But nation-building can only be accomplished once there is a nation. So long as there are two classes, one owning all the wealth and the other producing it, there are two nations. The very word ‘nation’ derives from the Latin for ‘birth’ and implies ‘to be born as one.’ It implies identity as a unitary force, a people. But class society has divided the people between those who have and those who do not. Two peoples and two nations.

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“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

If you cannot take two bifurcating paths at the same time, neither can one build two nations that oppose each other. One has to choose which path to follow. The choice is posed most sharply at times of crisis. Capitalism is a system bound for crisis and globalized capitalism is one in which, for those nations at the bottom of the global heap, the sharpness is most clearly defined. In the post-2008 world, the condition of bifurcation is more acute than ever and with the upcoming second global crisis of the century the choice is posed as never before in world history, socialism or barbarism. There is the choice. Take it.

 

 

 

 

THE TURKISH INVASION OF SYRIA

by Paul Davidson

‘Kurds Have No Friends But The Mountains’

THE TURKISH INVASION OF SYRIA
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The current attack

The Turkish invasion of Syrian border territories enters its fourth day. Turkey’s defense ministry says it has killed “342 Kurdish terrorists,” while the Kurdish Red Crescent reports eleven civilians killed. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) says 22 of its fighters have been killed. One Turkish soldier and 17 Syrian allied soldiers have also been reported killed. 100,000 civilians have fled their homes and the fate of 11,000 captured ISIS terrorists hangs in the balance.

Turkey claims its “incursion” is a peace effort, limited in scope, to clear a 6,000 square mile “safe zone” along the frontier. This ‘clearance’ of Kurdish people [which amounts to ethnic cleansing] would be followed by the repatriation of non-Kurdish Syrian refugees to the area, an exercise in demographic engineering designed to ensure the security of Turkey’s border, so it says.

Syrian sovereignty

The Syrian presidency and armed forces (SAA) have made it clear that the Turkish assault is an illegal, ‘expansionist’ attack on its national sovereignty and will be strongly resisted. To all intents and purposes, it is the replacement by one invading NATO force (USA) by another (Turkey). But Syria’s Foreign Ministry also apportions blame to the SDF for its alliance with “the American project,” that is, the illegal positioning of US military on Syrian soil under the guise of fighting ISIS.

Kurdish self-determination and the national question

Kurdish nationalism first arose in its modern form in the 1860’s, a time when even the formation of modern European nation states had not reached completion (1871 in the case of both Germany and Italy). At that time the Kurdish areas were part of the Ottoman Empire. But with the defeat of the Ottomans after the First World War the Kurds were promised a state via the Treaty of Sèvres. But the treaty was rescinded and the Kurd territories were divided between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, the latter two being under French and UK rule, respectively. Since independence, the various regimes have strongly repressed Kurdish struggles and during the Iran-Iraq war the Kurds were further squeezed between the two opposing nation states. Saddam Hussain is said to have had murdered over 100,000 Kurds in a deliberate policy of genocide.
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The Kurdish national fight, nurtured by many rebellions really came alive from the 1970’s on, spurred by increasing ethno-nationalist repression by the post-colonial Arab, Persian and Turkish regimes. This new wave of struggle, which hitherto had mainly been led by conservative Kurd forces, became increasingly radicalised and influenced in some cases by Marxism. The emergence of the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) in Turkey and Iraq was in turn met by a new wave of repression.

In Syria, in 1962 the Government announced an “Arab Belt” plan to expel the Kurdish population from a 350 km long, 15 km deep strip of land along Syria’s northeast border with Turkey and replace them with Arab settlers. Though never fully implemented, this is remarkably similar to Erdogan’s aim today. Al Jazeera reports, “President Recep Tayyip says the offensive is aimed at removing the Kurdish-led forces from the border area and creating a ‘safe zone’ so millions of Syrian refugees can be returned.”

The US/Kurd alliance and the ‘stab in the back’

The oft quoted phrase, ‘Kurds have no friends but the mountains,’ is true. They were exploited by the imperialist powers to divide the emerging Arab states, and then dumped. The same is true today. The US has used the Kurds for their own purposes and then jettisoned them. But they did the same with Saddam Hussain. They supplied the Iraqi ruler with arms and chemical weapons to fight Iran and kill Kurds and then invaded the country and gave rise to ISIS and everything resulting from that.

A statement from the mainly Kurd SDF called the US pull-out that directly preceded the Turkish invasion, “a stab in the back.” But one could rightly ask, why expose your back to the US, of all states, for it to be stabbed? It is the nature of the competing imperialist powers that they have no real allies, just future enemies, and the US is the prime example of that. Did the STF, led by the Kurdish YPG, truly believe that it had an ally in the US, that it was not simply being used? Was it so naïve to take the promises as good coin?

In the life or death fight to defeat ISIS my estimation is that it was certainly acceptable for them to fight alongside the US forces and even to take arms and supplies from them. But that is far from considering the imperialist US an ally. I would question whether such a leadership, making such a fundamental error, has any right to call itself revolutionary.

The Syrian response to this, in pointing to STF partial culpability, appears measured, and while the Syrian Arab Army vows to fight to regain every inch of Syrian territory, it says it will not sacrifice itself for the dreams of the Kurds. And it must be said, the STF took advantage of the civil war/terrorist invasion of Syria to extend its hold beyond what has traditionally been Kurdish land and now they risk losing what they took and more, not to Assad but to Erdogan.

As for the aspirations for a Kurdish nation state, no one is backing this today. Even the PKK changed its goal from independence to equality and autonomy. The Iranian Kurds have long held the view that autonomy is sufficient and the Iraqi Kurds have largely achieved that. The Kurds are certainly a nation, in the sense of cultural and historic affinities, but history has shown the goal of a nation state to have been illusory in their case. It cannot be achieved except through the intervention of imperialist powers, in which case it would be a vassal state, a bastardised state, not an independent one, something akin to present day Kosovo.

Turkish imperialist pretentions

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Turkey is a full member of NATO and forms the second largest military force in that alliance. It is a junior imperial power, but one NATO, the US and the EU is keen to keep on board. But the contradictory nature of its current position is pulling Turkey towards Russia, which is also an aspiring imperial power. Whether or not the current invasion of Syria is an expression of a Turkish expansionist drive, as Damascus publically suggests, is not clear. It does however show the determination of the Turkish state to subdue the Kurdish struggle for equality and autonomy.

The Erdogan faction in power does not favour integration of the Kurds. It demands either complete cultural assimilation of the Kurds, who make up 20% of the Turkish population, or their physical annihilation, both of which policies have a century long history.

Erdogan has for the last decade engineered, supported and exploited the continuing presence of terrorist fighters along the border for geo-political aims. What are those aims?

On Sept 13 2019, The Washington Institute published an article by John Saley, who wrote that Turkey colluded, “with Russia and Iran in its invasion of the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, ultimately allowing Syrian extremist groups affiliated with the Syrian opposition coalition to commit countless war crimes against Kurdish and Yazidi populations.”

He also stated that Ankara trained and equipped 40,000 Syrian fighters, including jihadi terrorists to lay siege to the Kurdish areas.

Saleh continued:

“Turkish control of the safe-zone may also serve to bypass U.S. sanctions on Iran. If this safe-zone comes under Turkish control, Erdogan will gain access to major sources of energy, gas, and oil. Turkey may also utilize their shared borders with Syria and Iraq to purchase Iranian gas and smuggle goods from Tehran to Ankara through Syria to bypass U.S. sanctions. Turkey has worked around U.S. sanctions in the past, including in 2012, when Turkey assisted Iran in smuggling 85 metric tons of gold through Dubai– a known transhipment point to Iran.”

Under the theme of ‘safeguarding Turkish national security’ Turkey recently purchased the S-400 Russian missile defence system, to the fury of Washington.

Turkey’s key geo-political strategy

Following the 2016 coup attempt against him, Erdogan’s overall aim today seems to be to consolidate Turkey’s position as the Middle East’s leading guarantor of collective security. It seeks to strengthen central governments in the region to achieve that stability which will guarantee regional security.

In this vein, according to the website The National Interest, “On December 26, 2017, Turkey expanded its military presence in Qatar by deploying hundreds of Joint Force Command troops to its military installation in Doha. This troop deployment gained significant media attention, as it came just one day after the release of a report revealing that the Turkish military intervened on Qatar’s behalf to prevent Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from launching a coup against Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in June.”

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Acting as a regional stabiliser, Turkey seeks not only economic advantage and national security but also an enhancement of its power as a seat at the table with regard regional affairs. And since the US under Trump has increasingly withdrawn from such a role itself, the space is being seized by Erdogan where and when he can. With a large standing army that, he hopes, will have shown itself successful on the battlefield in Syria and with his new Russian anti-missile system, Erdogan’s ambition is to replace the US role, to the extent he can, and draw the geo-political benefits that then follow. The invasion of Syria is likely part of this strategy, demonstrating Turkey’s capacity to act and challenging even the US to stop it.

Russia

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Insofar as Russia too seeks stability, following the US wars in the region, and insofar as Russia also seeks to weaken the US role, President Putin tentatively backs Turkey and his rebuke of the Turkish military action has been noticeably mild. A durable Russian/Turkish alliance would suit Putin and the missile deal is a powerful symbol of that. Russia and Turkey have converged on seeing the importance of a strong central government in Syria, which can only be the current one led by Assad. The aim then is to bring Assad under the wing of this new alliance and control him. With that accomplished, Russia can also be an important link between the Arab world and Israel, staving off future confrontations while allowing Israel to further expand and consolidate itself. This again diminishes and replaces the US role as regional deal broker.

The geo-political aim of Russia consists of diminishing the power of the ‘Atlantic’ axis while consolidating its own lasting alliances to the east. Turkey’s move is not inconsistent with that and will not be challenged by Putin, bar some useful cosmetics.

The other mountain

Nationalism in today’s world has long ceased to be a revolutionary or even a progressive force. It was always contradictory, serving the bourgeoisie more than any other class. From the start it consisted of opening up territories for free-market economic activity against the restrictive policies of the monarchies and empires. That was its progressive side. But the democracy nationalism offered was only ever formal and the capitalist surge it initiated took much of that democracy away. Today, even though citizens can vote and elections may be orderly, the decisions that really effect people’s lives take place not in parliaments but in the boardrooms of multinational corporations, to the extent that even the nation state appears an anachronism.

Yet, the relentless accumulation of power by concentrated capital, at the expense of those who work for it, produces resistance, including national resistance, particularly in those countries least able to achieve an acceptable measure of development to ensure the life demands of their populations Today we see a massive movement in Ecuador against the constraints imposed on that country by the IMF loan deal. Freedom from debt-bondage is a national struggle but it is also immediately a class struggle, for the national bourgeoisie are against it. And though the struggle may start as a national struggle for economic and financial independence, to succeed it has to transgress the national boundaries and find allies internationally. What may start as a national uprising against austerity must immediately become international, which is what is happening.

Resolution

With regard the Kurds, The goal of a nation state is, in any practical sense, unrealisable. Yet their suffering, their oppression, their state of rebellion, must find its resolution in realisable goals. The Turkish demand of Kurdish assimilation or annihilation is abhorrent to anyone with the slightest morality. Integration is the only possible way forward. It may come in various intermediary forms, such as the PKK demand for regional or cultural autonomy and equality, federal solutions or whatever. But it is hard to see how, under capitalism, such solutions can be achieved. It is hard to see how unconditional autonomy can be easily granted to national minorities when the enemy, armed to the teeth and set on divide and rule, is at the door.

Therefore the goal of equality and autonomy must be set within the larger context of anti-imperialism. That being the case, the YPG/SDF strategy of reliance on US military alliances was totally mistaken and has led to the isolation of the Kurds and the possibly terrible consequences that may befall them. Unless the Kurdish organisations can forge lasting alliances with the other peoples of the region against the common imperialist enemy and their junior partners such as the Erdogan regime they will inevitably be driven to play a reactionary role, whatever their philosophical or political leanings may be. The national question, in today’s world, can only be resolved in the international setting, a particular setting, that of the anti-imperialist struggle, which is also a struggle for genuine socialism.

BE LIKE WATER: The Hong Kong Delusion

Nothing is weaker than water,
But when it attacks something hard
Or resistant, then nothing withstands it,
And nothing will alter its way.

(Lao Tzu)

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“Be like water” (slogan of recent protests) is usually attributed to Bruce Lee but originates in an ancient Chinese tradition called Wu-wei, literally translating as “not trying” or “not doing,” It refers to the dynamic, effortless, and unselfconscious state of mind of a person who is optimally active and effective, which Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously called, in his book of the same title, ‘Flow.’ It is similar to the neo-Vedanta version of formlessness, which states that God, who resides in us all, has no form and that to be touched by That, one must oneself first be psychologically formless.

Neo-Vedanta was a strong influence on the emergence of the Theosophical Society, from the folds of which arose Jiddu Krishnamurti, whose teaching was later to have a powerful and enduring influence on the young Bruce Lee. And thus we come full circle. Lewis Caroll, author of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland used the same meme when addressing his protagonist’s quest to enter the secret garden. Alice was advised that she had to walk away from it (or from her desire) in order to gain entry into it. Carlos Castaneda made much of non-doing in his don Juan novels.  In other words, non-doing is a powerful modern-age meme.

Bruce Lee’s teacher, Yip Man, once told him: “Preserve yourself by following the natural bends of things and don’t interfere. Remember never to assert yourself against nature; never be in frontal opposition to any problems, but control it by swinging with it.”

And in Bruce Lee’s own words, “I thought of all my past training and got mad at myself and punched the water! Right then — at that moment — a thought suddenly struck me; was not this water the very essence of gung fu? . . . This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.”

It is clear then that ‘being like water’ can apply equally to the puncher and the punched. “The puncher IS the punched,” Krishnamurti might have answered.

Now we have a strange phenomenon. The Hong Kong Black-Shirt protesters identify themselves with Bruce Lee’s famous utterance. They think they are behaving “like water.” Why? Because, they say, the movement has no form, no organization and no leadership, a political version of Lee’s ‘Jeet Kune Do.’

Is it true that they have no form, organization or leadership? One can justly doubt it. Their uniform of black shirt, builder’s hat, gas mask, iron bar and umbrella are all marks of form. Their repetitive busting up of subway stations, Chinese businesses and any individual who challenges them on the street, are all form. How about organization? It is loose, but it is organized. There are several organizations who call marches and protests, set times, give tactical orders and manage things. The fact that they are secretive does not negate their existence. And leadership? Yes. There is also that. Their leaders are there in the Council, they are also people who led the 2014 protests, who are feted abroad wherever they go and given great press coverage. You only have to spend a short time watching any major US or UK TV channel to meet the leaders. It is all very public. And behind them you have the foreign interests, but I won’t go into that right now.

Being like water does not equate well with being wet behind the ears.

The protesters are predominantly young, a lost generation of misplaced hopes. What does water mean to them? What are their objectives? Recall Lip Man’s words to Bruce Lee: “never be in frontal opposition to any problems, but control it by swinging with it.” Is it in that spirit that they act?

Water is indeed formless or, one could say, it forms any shape in which it is contained. But the major property of water is that it flows. And, according to the law of gravity it always flows downhill, towards the ocean. Water is always seeking to find its own level. How does this apply to Hong Kong and to the hopes and dreams of its young citizens?

Like water, Hong Kong is flowing downhill, but with a great resistance to the flow from the young, who would like it to flow backwards, back up the hill, right back to the times of British colonial rule in some cases. In what does this downward flow consist? It is the flow of a territory that, having been transformed in recent decades from an industrial colony of the UK into a financial colony of the UK/US axis, is now having the riverbed pulled away from under it and sees the ocean rising before it, ever faster and ever closer. What is that ocean and why is it rising?

The ocean is China. Water has to obey the law of gravity, even if it is temporarily diverted in its downward flow, but it can never flow uphill or overcome its true nature. There may be a little anti-capillary activity here and there but for the mass of water . . .

China is rising, as a world power, in all fields. In terms of its financial base, its industrial base, its levels of education, innovation, transportation, militarisation, sophistication and greatly impacting globalisation, China is on the up, destined to overtake the US within a decade or two. Yet historically, Hong Kong has been ahead of China and has somehow held its head above the rising China Sea up until now. How is that? How is it that the ex-colony can have generated, among its youth, the expectation, as it exists, of prolonged and righteous superiority over its birth-mother? After all, even the crest of a wave only rises temporarily.

Inflated egos on an inflatable cushion

Hong Kong has kept its head out of the rising sea because that head has been propped up on an air-bed, the puffed-up cushion of financialisation. HK became the financial hub for east-west trade, a financial bridge. HK is a financial hub for one reason, not because its people are marvelously smart at numbers or innovation but because a suitable bridge was needed. There is a history to its recent role, a brief history of no more than three decades.

Since the 1980’s China opened up to foreign investment at that the same time as the cold war ended. Much of the initial investment in fact came from the capitalist producers of Hong Kong, many descended from the KMT who came across to the island with their ill-gotten gains at the time of the revolution. And those same capitalists building new factories along the mainland coast brought their super profits straight back to HK and even became financiers in their own right. With the aid of Wall Street and the City of London, a strong financial base was built from that base and the children of those thrown out of factory jobs were reeducated to be herded into finance jobs in the city.

It was a huge transition that took place in little more than a decade and broke with the past almost entirely and it was due to one thing, the opening up of China. Both the industrial jobs lost and the financial ones gained were utterly dependent on what was happening on the mainland and had nothing at all to do with any supposed enterprising spirit of HK culture. A false history was taught and the real past was fast forgotten. In that engineered setting, the mirage of ex-colonial superiority flourished, replenished by vast sums of new money that flooded the island, every cent of which came from abroad. HK thus had no industry, no agriculture and no future, other than this temporary function as a financial bridge. And the effect of all that money was to push up house prices astronomically and again impoverish the discontented worker.

On 1 July 1997, after 156 years of British colonial rule, which began with the Opium Wars and the consequent Treaty of Nanking (it is to be recalled that Queen Victoria was the biggest narco-trafficker in world history), Hong Kong and it’s 6.5 million inhabitants were handed back to China by the United Kingdom. The ‘one country, two systems’ settlement was a temporary one, set to last fifty years, until 2047. We are now almost halfway through that period and something significant is happening that is setting all this violence off and unsettling the calm waters of post-colonial transition.

The finance-inflated cushion which has kept the HK head out of the water against the rising tide of China for three decades is now seriously leaking air. China itself is developing independent means of carrying out the big trades it needs. China’s financial market is maturing rapidly at the same time that the historic privileges accorded the US dollar following World War Two are in rapid decline. And let’s be honest, Brexit is not helping, precisely because it diminishes the global role of City of London, upon which the future of HK as a vassal state of the British financial empire was predicated. One is tempted to conclude that all should be over for HK, bar the shedding of tears and the gnashing of teeth. And that would have been the case were it not for a final water twister in the tail.

The virtual demise of Hong Kong as a financial hub, bridging east and west, comes at the same moment that a rift is fast opening between that same east and west, namely, the coordinated campaign of financial and regulatory warfare against the Peoples Republic of China by its main global adversaries, the US, the UK and the EU and their assorted allies. This is a war of attrition, a scheme designed to wear China down and hold it back while at the same time continuing to take advantage of the commercial opportunities it offers global capital. It is a contradictory and many-faceted attack rather than a direct one.

Here, Hong Kong plays a useful role. The fomenting of rebellion among HK disaffected youth is a ploy to get China to hit back, thus creating a public image of a China that is brutal, uncivilized, vengeful, anti-democratic and ripe for either regime-change (very unlikely) or else ostracism. I believe the west is trying to create a sort of new cold war, rather than a hot one, to contain China behind an exchange wall that the west controls and in such conditions that Hong Kong can again play a protracted role as an east-west bridge, similar to that Yugoslavia played during the Cold War. The west promotes the idle hope among the idle hopeless of that territory, a hope in such a prolonged role for Hong Kong.

The perishing dreams of a melting iceberg

The only form in which water can stand above water is when it is ice, that is, frozen. An effort to freeze the role of Hong Kong as an east-west bridge is what is going on. It is what the youth are being lined up for. This is the battle. The downward slope towards 2047 needs to be dammed up. The rise of China has to be stymied. The force required to accomplish this has to also harness, by means of spiritual exploitation and political manipulation, the youth of HK. The ‘international community’ will react strongly to any move towards a smooth transition from ‘one country, two systems’ to communist rule. Hong Kong is being played as a flashpoint in a political gambit and its youth are expendable pawns (or prawns, if we are to extend the ocean metaphor) in that game.

A watery grave or a choiceful fate

”We are water,” say the youth, many mere schoolchildren. No you are not. Currently, you are grains of dry sand blown in the wind by forces you do not comprehend and, in your hopeful, hopeless ignorance, you do not wish to understand. You are living someone else’s dream, which for you will soon become a nightmare. To be as water means to go WITH the flow, not against it, and in this case the flow is that of history, which, like gravity, cannot be long denied.

Remember or learn about Wu-wei. Don’t ‘try.’ Don’t ‘do.’ Find a path that goes WITH the flow of history, not against it. Mark the transition as a coming of age or as a rite of passage. If you are religious, understand the derivation of that word, re-ligere, to join back together. If you have material aspiration then view China as your material future, a land of unheard of promise that will be the very center of humanity in a short while.

If you want freedom, democracy, whatever you call it, first be free of your illusions in systems built on greed, the very worst characteristic of the human being. Be free of that. Be free of vassalage. Neither the US nor the UK are your friend. If you want to change China, change it. Fight to make it better, for your future is there and nowhere else. Above all, be like water . . . and you will never need an umbrella again, I guarantee it.

On The World Economic Crisis

On the World Economic Crisis – Pandavi

With regards the specifics of the current crisis. Many factors were drawn together in it but it’s first necessary to go back a little and ask why the usual economic cycle of boom-bust took so long to mature this time, after all, the eight-year cycle became a virtual 24 year one this time. Why did the boom take so long to peter out, leading to a bust of such gigantic proportions, and what do the factors involved say about the future?

The boom was prolonged by four major factors. 1) the technological revolution in informatics and automation, both in production and circulation. 2) the deregulation of finance and the more free-flowing economy that this and informatics led to. 3) the massive extension of cheap credit to all economic sectors, including banking, production and consumption, particularly as Chinese money came washing back through the Western economies, and 4) the introduction into the world capitalist economy of hundreds of millions of Chinese, Vietnamese and other workers at minimal wages.

Put bluntly, in a free-flowing and global capitalist economy how can the US worker who gets $20 per hour compete with the Bangladeshi worker who gets 20 cents for the same hour? Something has to give. Almost everything else flows from the above facts.

For the future:

1) We cannot predict new technological revolutions, though nano-technology, genetic modification, new materials such as graphene and 3-D printing are the type of factors to look at. Nevertheless I feel it would be incorrect to overstress the dead weight of the old technologies upon the development of new ones, which was more a problem for old, protectionist economies and not so much for global capitalism as it is now organized.  In terms of the organic basis of the economy it is only technological innovation which allows the rate of profit to rise rather than fall, as Marx predicted. The rate of innovation can exceed that of falling profit and does so over extended periods and there is no economic law that limits it.

2) The deregulation of money cannot be undone or move backwards. But regulation as such has not ended. It has moved its axis and is reorganising its structures. Regulation de facto has INCREASED, not decreased. It is not an option to go back to a gold standard, for example. The fact is that there is no standard any longer. The USD has stood as a standard since WW2 but from the 1970’s onwards has not been tied to gold. The ‘standard’ as such has been the global confidence in the US economy, which was now waned considerably. Confidence has been kept by the exclusive privileges the USD enjoys a) as the major currency of foreign reserves bolstering every other currency in the world; b) all oil dealings are done exclusively through the USD, tying the world to a strong dollar and allowing US domination of many markets and c) the domination of the US in international institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.

Things are changing. a) Many foreign reserves are now held partially in dollars and partially in other currencies such as the Euro, an increasing trend. b) Venezuela, Brazil and other oil economies are questioning the dollar/oil bond, and c) China and the BRICS nations are demanding a reorganization of global financial institutions. Indeed, the IMF, by offering hundreds of billions to secure struggling currencies, ‘on its own recogniscence,’ actually created a new global currency-in-waiting.

What all this amounts to is a further socialization of the global economy, albeit still within the hands of the capitalist class.  Therefore the crisis moves up one more level. At the heart of this crisis is the contradiction between the social nature of production and its private ownership. The theory of the falling rate of profit and its consequences is secondary to that. The crisis is fundamentally social, not economic. One of the failures of Marxism, following the death of Marx, has been its economism.

3) The basic reason for the massive extension of cheap credit, including into consumption relations (so-called domestic credit), from the 1990’s onwards, was the movement into far-eastern production. Huge amounts of surplus profit were thus accumulated in societies where consumption was historically very low. The Chinese state had the monopoly hold on vast sums which could neither be spent nor invested back into production. This fortune washed back into the western economies, particularly the US, through massive bond buying and speculative lending through the financial institutions of capital.  This was the major reason regulations were relaxed, to soak up the huge surplus.  That was the credit boom.

While the US fights for a say in how China’s currency is valued, China fights for a fair hand in the world’s financial institutions commensurate with its new economic power. This is the biggest political struggle in the world today: who controls the levers controls the wealth. This is the new war-front.  Meanwhile, Chinese money has made that nation a world power and a major creditor of the US. The US depends upon Chinese finance as much as the value of that Chinese money depends upon a strong and resilient US. Within that frame, they struggle for dominance, each over the other.

It is inevitable there will be a new credit bubble so long as the tremendous inequality between East and West continues and vast surpluses accrue which cannot be re-absorbed directly by workers buying the goods they produce. Even though Chinese living conditions continue to improve and consumption in the East increases, the East-West lag is so tremendous it precludes any sudden resolution of this hemispheric injustice. The Western capitalist states, including the EU, will use every lever they have, including military, to perpetuate their privileges and, unfortunately, the working classes of those countries will, in general, support them in doing so, so long as reformist ideology prevails.

4) The world proletariat continues to grow and becomes increasingly ‘eastern.’ Free-flowing capitalism sees its future in the east. The conditions that have allowed the West to dominate over centuries, are slowly eroding. China builds its own industries and is ever less reliant on Western R&D, expertise and/or finance.  The BRICS countries are also now centers of innovation. India has sent a rocket to Mars. Brazil has overtaken the UK in terms of GDP, and has no foreign debt. In short, what was a boost to Western capitalism in particular over the last two decades, the rapid incorporation of a billion new proletarians into the global work force, has become a major threat to those sectors of the Western capitalist classes who cannot adapt to the latest shifts and will inevitably fail in face of Eastern (and southern) competition. Only the most free-flowing forces will keep their heads above water, along with those sectors whose innovations can match or surpass the combined effects of low-wage competition and the deadweight of their own failing national economies.