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Tagged ‘neoliberalism‘

WATCH: Gail Dines: Putting the Radical Back in Feminism

January 27, 2016

 

How did we get from radical feminism (liberation meaning you and me) to empowerment (“if I’m okay fuck you”) in a single generation?

A Gail Dines talk filmed at The Institute of Education in London on ‘Putting the Radical back in Feminism’, November, 2014 [Save the Dog Video Production, London]

 

 

LISTEN: The Lies They Tell. The Pitiful State of Environmentalism and its Neoliberalization

Wrong Kind of Green

October 29, 2016

The “New Economy” is Not Inclusive

“The route for real change is not via those who are already totally vested in the growth economy and have gained power through it. Rather look for power amongst those who are disenfranchised by the capital accumulating system. Give them voice. Look to organisations that care for them and if they do not exist, create them. Remember that the vast majority are disenfranchised by the current economic system.”

Professor Clive L. Spash holds the Chair of Public Policy & Governance at WU in Vienna and is Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Values. He has conducted research on climate change economics and policy for over 25 years and his work in the area includes the book Greenhouse economics: Value and ethics as well as numerous articles. His critique of carbon trading was the subject of attempted censorship while he was a senior civil servant at the CSIRO in Australia. More information can be found at www.clivespash.org.

[Filmed by Nemnövekedés – Degrowth – Published September 9, 2016]

 

 

R2P: The Theatre of Catastrophe

Wrong Kind of Green

April 28, 2016

By Jay Taber

 

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Above: Avaaz  and Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans

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The Syria Campaign Facebook PURPOSE Screenshot

Under the neoliberal model of global conquest–exhibited by the heavy-hitters of the UN Security Council (i.e. USA, France and UK) in countries such as Burundi, Mali, Libya and Syria–the recurrent chorus line R2P-R2P-R2P-R2P from pro-war, social media marketing agencies like Avaaz, Purpose and Amnesty International is what the European writer Federica Bueti described as the ‘theatre of catastrophe’ that dramatically changes the way we live. The crises of the war economy concocted by these heavy-hitters throughout the world, then, become stage sets where the drama of neoliberal heroism can be enacted.

Performance extras such as the Purpose subsidiary White Helmets—good guys always wear white hats—funded by USAID, play the role of innocent victims, thus justifying the need for the heavy-hitters to ride to the rescue. Or, in the case of modern warfare, to bomb the hell out of the designated villain(s).

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New York Times Avaaz Ad, June 18, 2015. Headline: “PRESIDENT OBAMA, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” …“A majority of Americans support a No-Fly Zone in Syria to save lives and 1,093,775 people around the world [in an on-line petition] are calling for action now.” The photograph used in the ad is from the Anadolu Agency.

As Bueti observes, catastrophe has ‘become a rhetorical tool used to reinforce a general state of anxiety’ and ‘the rhetoric of crisis suggests a daily apocalyptic scenario in which preventive measures and special interventions are required to ensure the survival of neoliberal forms of governance’. The crisis as a constructed event–in which the media plays a major role–she says, ‘has succeeded in producing a peculiar representation of catastrophe with devastating social effect’ that, due to the urgency of immediate intervention, ‘has produced an opaque filter through which it is almost impossible either to understand the causes and consequences of the current crisis or to see a way out of it’.

Avaaz Obama jpg

“People write congratulatory messages to President-elect Barack Obama on a 24-foot long message board in front of the Lincoln Memorial November 6, 2008 in Washington, DC. The organization Avaaz.org has set up a global message board at the memorial with display of messages from all around the world for people to write their notes to Obama.”

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 29: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks while flanked by Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) during a campaign rally, on October 29, 2010 in Charlottesville, Va. Recent polls show Rep. Perriello trailing challenger Virginia State Senator Robert Hurt (R-VA). With mid-term elections approaching, President Obama has been campaigning for Democrats who may be in jeopardy of losing their seat. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

October 29, 2010: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks while Avaaz co-founder Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) looks on during a campaign rally, on October 29, 2010 in Charlottesville, Va.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Writing further, Bueti notes, ‘In Greek theatre, catastrophe designates the moment preceding the final resolution of the plot. In breaking with the rhythm of the narration and moving from one side of the stage to the other, catastrophe creates a moment of suspension of emphatic participation in the staged event. This moment allows the author to directly address the audience through the Chorus, which represented both the voice of the author and the one of the politeia, or Athenian citizens. …In the moment of kata-strephein, the staged dilemma of the individual hero becomes the shared dilemma of the whole of community, eventually creating a temporary event of solidarity’.

As Bueti reflects, ‘From a strictly pedagogical perspective, the Chorus is the moral representative of the polis and of its institutions, the bearer of a certain order that needs to be endlessly confirmed and reiterated’. When the heavy-hitters of the UN Security Council prepare to pound the constructed villain(s) into oblivion, it is the heavily-armed proxies of the heavy-hitters that produce the conditions creating moral catastrophe that the chorus cheers on toward a happy ending. As Bueti concludes, ‘Apocalyptic scenarios, in this case, possess a restorative dimension in which the hero will save the world from an imminent disaster’.

 

Further reading

THE PURPOSE OF AVAAZ: CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

Wag the Dog: Campaigns of Purpose

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted Indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

 

The King’s Speech (King Leo, that is)

Wrong Kind of Green Op-Ed

January 16, 2016

by Forrest Palmer

 

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Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Golden Globe winner, 2016

At the recent Golden Globe Awards, the immensely popular actor Leonard DiCaprio (King Leo for short) was awarded a leading actor award for his recent movie “The Revenant”, a fact based revenge tale of a man seeking retribution towards another man who killed his son, who was half native. As there were heavy elements of the North Amerikkkan native cultures in the movie since the film was set during the time of Western expansion in the 19th century, the movie took a few sparse moments to discuss the destruction of the indigenous cultures by the European at certain points of the movie.

As a result of the tone of this movie that brought him this current accolade, King Leo was compelled to pay homage to the people who helped provide him the background narrative for his recent inconsequential awards show victory. In King Leo’s acceptance speech, he said the following:

“I want to share this award with all the First Nation’s people represented in this film and all the indigenous communities around the world. It is time we recognize your history and that we protect your indigenous lands from corporate interests and people that are out there to exploit them. It is time that we heard your voice and protected this planet for future generations.”

Of course, this was met with a nice round of applause from the almost exclusively white audience at this awards show since Western filmmaking, and Hollywood specifically, is entirely an anglo dominated environment. And the reason that this was such a resounding and overwhelmingly positive response is because nothing will come of it. It is beyond non-intimidating on the face of it to the status quo since there are a sparse amount of indigenous people in this country that are still alive after this most successful genocide. And because the closest these people ever get to “actual” natives is dressing up like one of them for a Halloween costume party or adorning themselves in some sports paraphernalia to support their local sports franchise that uses their likenesses as a mascot, it means nothing in any tangible way to the audience. Hence, there is no reason to fear indigenous infiltration into their exclusively white environment. Even if the entirely exclusive white spheres in Amerikkka threw open the doors and invited every living native person into their environs, the onrush would be a mere trickle of people, if even that.

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September 21, 2014, Indian Country Today Media Network: “Star Power: Leonardo DiCaprio Climate Marches With Natives, and 9 Other Celeb Sightings: While DiCaprio and Ruffalo marched alongside Indian chiefs and Idle No More organizers, the likes of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon strode side-by-side with former Vice President Al Gore, primatologist Jane Goodall and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, among many, many others.

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September 21, 2014, Amazon Watch website: “Our indigenous allies Patricia Gualinga, Gloria Ushigua, Nina Gualinga, Elena Gálvez, and Antonella Calle joined with thought-leaders and celebrity change-makers such as Naomi Klein and allies Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton, Sting and Trudie Styler.” 

Yet, this is not the first foray into the intersection of Hollywood and mainstream recognition of indigenous genocide. On March 27, 1973, Marlon Brando won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his part in the movie ‘The Godfather’. As a sign of solidarity regarding the recent indigenous uprising at Wounded Knee as well as the disgusting representation of natives in Amerikkkan cinema, Brando chose not to go to the Oscars that year and sent an indigenous representative, Sacheen Littlefeather, to accept his award if he won that evening. Here is the wikipedia entry regarding this particular incident:

“Brando had written a 15-page speech for Littlefeather to give at the ceremony, but when the producer met her backstage he threatened to physically remove her or have her arrested if she spoke on stage for more than 60 seconds. Her on-stage comments were therefore improvised. She then went backstage and read the entire speech to the press.

The incident provoked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to rule out future proxy acceptance of the Academy Awards.”

In addition, the response to Littlefeather’s words by the audience was much different than one King Leo received from his assembled audience recently. The video of Littlefeather giving her speech, which can be found on youtube, shows mostly stunned silence, a few applause, but a noticeable amount of boos also.

 

Sacheen Littlefeather refusing to accept the Best Actor Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando for his performance in “The Godfather” – the 45th Annual Academy Awards in 1973. Liv Ullmann and Roger Moore presented the award.

Since that time, there hasn’t been much mention of the treatment of natives in cinema or even in Amerikkka during Hollywood awards ceremonies or anywhere in the entertainment industry. Before King Leo’s recent speech, the only other blip at a Hollywood awards ceremony was during Kevin Costner’s acceptance speech for Best Picture in 1991 for the film “Dances With Wolves”, his grand opus about one good white man amongst the savages, where the natives were a mere backdrop like any onstage prop to showcase the white character’s overwhelming humanity. Costner threw a few words of thanks to the Sioux community, but nothing of any significance in terms of reparations or acknowledgement regarding even the present plight of the people who he exploited for artistic recognition and monetary success. It was just a perfunctory thank you for Costner’s brief appropriation of their culture for his individual aggrandizement. Nothing more and nothing less. And since it was as non-threatening as you can get, the positive response was approximately twenty years after the previous reaction, which was tepid in the most positive, unbiased description of the scene .

The relaying of non-anglo pain and anguish must always be filtered through the mouth of a white representative, most preferably male.In a sign that this may actually be cyclical in nature, a little over twenty years has passed since ‘Dances With Wolves’ received awards and accolades and a fair amount of revenue for a youthful Kevin Costner. Now, King Leo is at the pinnacle of Amerikkkan Hollywood supremacy and he is the mouthpiece of what is perceived of consciousness from this particularly vacuous and superficial community. Over the past few years, King Leo has positioned himself to be seen as the social conscience of the celebrity elite. But, it is only because of this fact that the message is acceptable. It isn’t the words themselves. It is only the conduit from which they are emanating. The relaying of non-anglo pain and anguish must always be filtered through the mouth of a white representative, most preferably male.

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Actor Leonardo DiCaprio (C) poses for a photo with May Boeve, executive director of 350.org (L) and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (R) following a Divest-Invest new conference on September 22, 2015 in New York City.  [ Further reading: September 15, 2014: This Changes Nothing. Why the People’s Climate March Guarantees Climate Catastrophe][Follow up: September 23, 2015 Under One Bad Sky | TckTckTck’s 2014 People’s Climate March: This Changed Nothing]

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Photo: Leonard DiCaprio (L) and ‘s Al Gore, September 2014 [Source: leonardodicaprio via Instagram./ Published: 01/4/2016] [Further reading: The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse]

Another reason why this is so palatable to mainstream society is that it is not a threat. The only thing King Leo is calling for is just for people in general to recognize the indigenous community. Well, since the indigenous community has been totally destroyed in this country, how are these words going to physically manifest themselves in any tangible way?  This isn’t calling for the sparse few indigenous to get some type or reparations or restitution, as they are housed in some of the worst conditions imaginable in this country that are equivalent to modern day concentration camps. It is just a mere call “to honor” them in some general terms and only so far as it benefits whiteness since King Leo framed it as following ‘the noble savage’ and the mystical aspects of their romanticized existence to be the salve for what is ailing the world. In an homage to the old idiom of wanting your cake and eating it too, you can evidently have the affluence represented by the congregation of the Hollywood elite and also be a spiritual messiah for all that is good in the world. The fictionalization of the world doesn’t just stop once the movie cameras stop rolling.

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United Nations climate change envoy DiCaprio has purchased an island in Belize to build a multimillion-dollar ecotourism resort. The 104-acre Blackadore Caye is to feature 68 guest villas, a mile of secluded beach, and infinity pools. Although prices have yet to be announced, some of the villas will be for sale at US$15 million. According to the National Post, the project will tap into the growing market for upmarket eco holidays.

But, what does King Leo really mean by “save the Earth”? In similar fashion to how King Leo is now co-opting the global indigenous movement and attempting to be the face of the humane Western response, he has long been considered the face of the mainstream celebrity portion of environmentalism (or more honestly, its faux aspects). But, if you look at all of his work for the environmental movement, it has been nothing more than the combination of exclusivity of white privilege, the intense commercialization of all designated renewable resources (renewable in name only mind you) and the exorbitant cost of making this available those at the highest rung of the class and social order.

DiCaprio

Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, and actor Leonardo DiCaprio at a press conference on Tuesday announcing a new fossil fuel divestment report. At the same event, it was announced that DiCaprio planned to divest his personal and those belonging to his foundation.” (Credit: David Sassoon, InsideClimate News)

So, when King Leo gets on this stage and says these things, he is bringing the entire cache of Western acceptability and respectability that he has been able to amass during his twenty years of success in Hollywood. This in and of itself makes him a non-threat. Yet, as the mainstream media is a byproduct of the anglo power structure, it has totally embraced King Leo’s words as the representation of the most heartfelt plea imaginable for the small, miniscule portion of Amerikkkan society that feels “sorry” for past depredations against the indigenous.

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Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Leonardo DiCapri, 2014.

Therefore, King Leo will continue to receive a pat on the back from the mainstream as he is doing the job of rectifying the inequities of the past by his current statement. The fact there is no actual list of suggested solutions regarding the past and current oppression of natives is the cause of the ovation shown by the crowd at the Golden Globe Awards and the praise by the members of the liberal side of the media. However, King Leo ever endorsing something that would actually benefit the indigenous here in Amerikkka would cause a much different response. Therefore, if King Leo was to list the actual policy changes that would assist the indigenous and, by extension, affect the privilege of his audience, the applause would inexorably transition from applause to the boos of yesteryear.

And the greatest lie is that King Leo doesn’t know this…or that all of us don’t know it either…

 

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

Edited with Cory Morningstar, Wrong Kind of Green Collective.

 

 

XSanFrancisco – White Men, Wealth, Neoliberalism and Tech Disruption, Part 1

SFsthetik

January 8, 2016, San Francisco

by Mark Gould

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Image by Mark Gould

The political and socio-economic forces of neoliberalism, private equity venture capital investment, commodity capitalism and the advance of technology have transformed culture around the world for decades, and continues to accelerate at light speed in the 21st century. Here, the City once referred to as Baghdad By The Bay, home to several significant social and counterculture movements, San Francisco and large parts of the Northern California Bay Area can now be seen as both a petri dish and assembly line for “unicorn” grade corporate wealth, new extremes for unregulated private equity markets, hyper-speed gentrification, mass cultural displacement and a business culture that rewards white male supremacy over diversity creating unparalleled income inequality. Distilling it in these terms might sound like hyperbole. These are quite simply, the facts.

You’ll find it in all of the headlines, and just about everywhere you look. In a January 6, 2016 article published by San Francisco Chronicle owned website SFGate, the headline was Good news, Bay Area: Region is one of the best to find a new job in 2015.

A WalletHub analysis compared the 150 largest cities in America to determine the best places to find a job. They used eight different job market criteria, including job opportunities, monthly median starting salary, employment growth and disability friendliness. They also gave points for the city’s socioeconomic environment, like benefits, annual transportation costs, housing costs and time spent commuting.

By their metrics, San Francisco has the ninth-best job market in the nation. The holistic ranking was brought down by socioeconomic environment, which ranked 74th (those housing costs did not help). Topping the list was Plano, Texas, which has the country’s second-best job market and eighth-best socioeconomic environment ranking.

A city once believed to be one of the most progressive places on earth now boasts the highest rents in the country, one of the most inhospitable environments for the poor and middle class, and an affordable housing program that appears to be all but non-existent. This is happening while African-Americans have been reduced to 3 per-cent of the city’s population and as is happening in many other big cities in America, deaths of African-Americans and Latinos caused during police interactions are being investigated.

SF Mayor Calls for Budget Cuts, Ethics Commission Says No – Commissioner Says City Has ‘Slid Into Corruption”

While progressives on the Board of Supervisors might hope they can turn things around – San Francisco city government is now being questioned for its role in creating this unfortunate scenario. Curious that during this 21st Century Gold-Plated-Smartphone-Rush of wealth into SF, the city is being told by Mayor Ed Lee to cut budgets across the board. According to SF Weekly, the Ethics Commission is not at all pleased to be faced with cutting it’s budget, and said Commissioner Peter Keane:

“The city has slid into corruption,” he said. “It’s pay to play. It’s a game of bribery, whether we can ever prove it or not.”

 

Keane noted that, by rights, the city should have plenty of dough and accused the mayor of sabotaging the commission and turning it into a “castrated body” that can’t do its job — a job that includes policing the mayor’s office.”

Y Combinator Founder Under Fire After Celebrating Income Inequality

Welcome to the new world of neoliberalism, where tech disruptors with money proudly proclaim themselves as “manufacturers of economic inequality.”

In an essay published on his website this week, Y Combinator founder Paul Graham mansplains to us that people are rich because they’re not lazy. You see, attempts to address income inequality would be nothing more than an attack on tech startups:

“Y Combinator founder Paul Graham published an essay over the weekend in which he argues economic inequality is a good thing, or at least that it’s a necessary evil of promoting entrepreneurship.  A lot of people think he is wrong. He frames critiques of economic inequality as attacks on an ecosystem that allows the startups to thrive:
“You can’t end economic inequality without preventing people from getting rich, and you can’t do that without preventing them from starting startups.”

Essentially, Graham comes from a world in which, at least economically, which more often than not turns out to be more important than basketball, white men can jump, and higher than you.  His brand of social darwinism fuels the new social order, writes Holly Wood on Quartz News:

In his singular defense of Silicon Valley Ideology, Paul Graham would have you believe our entire economy should run on startups. I think Paul Graham believes this is democracy. This ability to start a company, he assumes, is equally accessible to everyone, and this presumed equality of opportunity legitimizes gross wealth inequality. If some people are rich, it’s because they were driven to do what you are too lazy to do.

 

Never mind if you don’t actually want to run a startup because you’re a nurse and you believe saving lives and caring for people adds value to society. Screw you, really.

 

Graham never addresses how a startup economy would put men like Paul Graham in positions of plutocratic authority, since the majority of us are deprived of startup capital without first submitting ourselves to the judgment of people like Paul Graham. It might not be overtly rent-seeking, but it’s definitely not democratic.

 

We should worry about an American future that would first have to pass through the judgment filter of men like Paul Graham.

Ayn Rand And The Disruptors

Writes Pando’s Paul Carr about the nature of tech disruption:

The truth is, what Silicon Valley still calls “Disruption” has evolved into something very sinister indeed. Or perhaps “evolved” is the wrong word: The underlying ideology — that all government intervention is bad, that the free market is the only protection the public needs, and that if weaker people get trampled underfoot in the process then, well, fuck ’em — increasingly recalls one that has been around for decades. Almost seven decades in fact, since Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” first put her on the radar of every spoiled trust fund brat looking for an excuse to embrace his or her inner asshole.

Tech’s “White People Problem”

It probably may come as no surprise to most then, that high-tech has a wee bit of a diversity problem. Perhaps no surprise, most people working in high tech are white men. While companies like Apple make sure the front lines working in stores are incredibly diverse, the biggest tech companies are only now publicly saying they will try to address the tragically low percentages in hiring of women, blacks and Latinos. (The Nation)

“…While Twitter the platform is bustling with all types of racial diversity, Twitter the company is alarmingly white.

Twitter isn’t alone. Most of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley are overwhelmingly white and male. While blacks and Latinos comprise 28 percent of the US workforce, they make up just 6 percent of Twitter’s total US workforce and six percent of Facebook employees. The number drops to five percent at Google. The statistics are startling considering the increasingly important role the technology sector plays in the American economy. Tech firms employed nearly six percent of private sector workers in 2014 and the industry is responsible for a little more than seven percent of the US GDP.

After World War II in the last century, companies profited by meeting the needs of consumers, and putting a premium on trust in the products they sold. These days, it’s more that you buy some products because you’re made to think you have to, or need to, than because you want to, and the sell happens in increasingly manipulative and hidden ways. Quite often the advertising, news media, or social media messages to consumers are often disguised in a number of ways. (More about that in a future post.)

In an excellent essay written by Ben Valentine, “Masking Against The Neoliberal Gaze,” Ben Valentine notes that some artists are now using elements of feminist and queer theory, using masks as a way of resisting this gaze and as a tool in the fight against surveillance and technology’s built in method of identifying  and tracking consumers, a feature (often surreptitious) of how business has succeeded  transferring control of the economy from the public to the private sector.

As neoliberal capitalism extends around the globe and into our lives, the mask has become an iconic symbol of the struggle against the logic of the neoliberal gaze. I define the neoliberal gaze as a transnational means of looking that is prying, self-serving, and reductive;

 

The desire for a utilitarian mask that perfectly obscures our identities has long attracted our imagination, but unless it hides us from humans and machines alike, it only draws closer inspection from humans and machines alike. The desire of the neoliberal gaze is to identify, categorize, and then profit from or subdue everything it sees — as such, it’s an apparatus that loathes anomalies.”

Critics have argued that neoliberal capitalism can promote exploitation and social injustice, further advance income inequality, increases corporate power and shift economic privilege to the upper class.

All of this makes me want to throw my smartphone and my laptop out the window, and turn off the internet. Maybe tomorrow.

 

[Mark Gould is a former journalist and editor, a photographer and videographer. http://markgould.net/ . He can be reached at mark@sfsthetik.com. ]

 

 

The Postmodern Left and the Success of Neoliberalism

Libcom

January 5, 2016

by Scott Jay

The Postmodern Left and the success of neoliberalism

 

The international Left promotes its own image rather than engaging in the bitter reality of resistance against neoliberalism. It does not need to believe in postmodernism because it is postmodernism.

The rise of neoliberalism across the globe for decades, and its continued resilience since the 2007-2008 financial crisis in particular, forces us to ask why there has not been a more successful resistance against it.

We might start with the changing structure of the working class, especially in the West, and that would be worthwhile, but it is not as though neoliberalism has abolished working class resistance entirely. It is not as though there have not been multiple general strikes in Greece, for example. Additionally, the United States just recently saw a series of urban rebellions against police killing Black people, with buildings set on fire and police cars destroyed in revolt against the conditions imposed upon them by the state. Many of the participants have since been convicted of arson and other crimes and are now serving out years-long prison terms.

The problem is not that militancy is not possible or even at times imminent. Working class people in the US have shown great courage against police terrorism, and in Greece refused to accept yet another round of austerity even with European capital holding their economy hostage.

The alternate question to ask, then, is why has the Left specifically failed to resist neoliberalism?

We might answer this question in dozens of ways, one answer for each Left that exists. But the failure of SYRIZA in Greece to resist yet another wave of austerity measures–in fact to embrace austerity–sharpens and clarifies the problem, posing uncomfortable truths.

That is, perhaps the Left hasn’t failed to resist neoliberalism. Perhaps it has not even tried.

Wasn’t SYRIZA a decade-long project to build up an alliance of radicals in response to the collapse of social democracy into neoliberalism? It certainly seemed so at the time, probably to its participants most of all. And yet the entire project collapsed so immediately and so spectacularly, going from the cutting edge of the international Left to the symbol of all that is wrong with it, in less than a week.

The defining moment of SYRIZA and of the international Left of the current generation occurred in the early morning hours of July 11, 2015. Many histories will forget this detail as just one of many parliamentary sessions, yet this was by far the most significant. In this moment, just days after the spectacular “Oxi” vote by the Greek people rejecting austerity, their parliamentary representatives chose to embrace it. With 149 seats in parliament, only two members of the radical coalition of the Left dedicated to ending austerity found themselves voting “Oxi” along with the people they claimed to represent. It was a stunning moment that no radical should forget for the rest of their life, unless they simply want to repeat these exciting failures over and over indefinitely.

Certainly, the votes improved later in the month, but the collapse of July 11 should not be so easily forgotten. For a brief moment we saw the crux–or one of the cruxes–of the problem of the international Left.

In short, these members of SYRIZA were more committed to the image of SYRIZA as a united coalition of the radical Left than they were in actually opposing austerity when the opportunity to do so was right in front of them. They recoiled from reality and its consequences and embraced the image of what they had built instead. This is the Postmodern Left in practice.

In the face of unrelenting neoliberalism, the international Left has embraced postmodernism, not in theory but in practice, putting style over substance and feel good moments and flashy leaders over the brute reality of resisting capitalist exploitation. The Postmodern Left does not reject metanarratives or objective reality in theory. In fact it embraces the metanarrative of its own centrality to altering the course of history, but when it finds itself at the center of historical development, then history is treated like an ethereal, formless blob that nobody can make any sense of. It simply happens, and no options are possibly available that can shape it. Once the Left is placed in the driver seat, there is no alternative other than to passively participate in the machinations of the system. Anything else is just too difficult

The Postmodern Left avoids building actual power among the poor and the oppressed, instead focusing on self-promotional spectacles which feel like struggle and power but are entirely empty.

The Postmodern Left talks about “class struggle unionism” then carries out pension reform in the name of a balancing the budget and then insist that they never supported any such thing because words are meaningless and have no relationship to objective reality.

The Postmodern Left is detached from reality because it makes its own reality.

The Postmodern Left does not believe in postmodernism. The Postmodern Left is postmodernism.

The material roots of Postmodern Leftism

The Postmodern Left is not the result of the declining relevance of objective reality. On the contrary, it has a solid material base from which it arises, and to which it is shackled, specifically in the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) form. Under neoliberalism, the destruction of social welfare programs and other sources of stability for working class people have been replaced by services granted by NGOs, funded by foundations and governmental grants as well as directly from corporations. This organizational form has extended beyond the service sector and into the Left itself, where protest movement organizations can build up an infrastructure of full-time staff members through many of these same grants. The problem for NGOs, then, is to challenge the status quo without challenging the elite sources which fund the operation. This has proven to be an impossible problem to solve, and instead NGOs have served to reproduce neoliberalism rather than challenge it.

A few examples will illustrate this.

The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung is a global network of organizations based in Berlin and New York that celebrates the life of Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish revolutionary best known for her role in the German socialist movement as a critic of its support of electoral reformism and imperialism. She was later killed by her reformist comrades when they came to power. Meanwhile, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung has taken her name while supporting the the United Nations and hailing the electoral victory of Alexis Tsipras after he embraced austerity. Her name has become little more than a tool for garnering funding.

DeRay McKesson is an activist who rose to prominence during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, especially in Ferguson, MIssouri. While he is known as an activist, few people can point to what he has accomplished beyond amassing an enormous Twitter following and gaining the accolades of the corporate media. McKesson was also a school administrator associated with Teach For America, a pro-corporate school “reform” organization which weakens teachers’ unions by supplying schools with inexperienced, low-cost and temporary teachers fresh out of college. More recently, McKesson quit his job to become a “full-time activist” working with the Democratic and Republican parties, Twitter and other corporate sponsors to host presidential debates. In short, DeRay McKesson is not really a left-wing militant, but at times he sure looks like one. The problem is, there are so many McKesson’s on the activist scene, typically much less tied to corporate interests than he is, that it can be difficult to discern the difference between a “real” militant and “fake” one.

A group of non-profit organizations recently held a housing and tenants rights conference in Oakland, California. This is a city where two-bedroom apartments regularly rent for $2,000 or more and the Black and Latino working class is rapidly being displaced. One of the sponsoring organizations was recently bargaining with the City of Oakland over a $320,000 contract to oversee Oakland’s Day Laborer Program, which supplies low wage immigrant labor to various employers. Meanwhile, one of the speakers at the conference plenary session declared the enemy to be no less than the capitalist system itself. Recently deposed mayor Jean Quan, who was sitting in the audience and maintains a close alliance with many of the organizers, did not bat an eye at such a statement, and neither will anybody in Oakland City Hall, because this is all just window dressing to create the illusion of radicalism. Nobody who takes $320,000 from the city is going to threaten the political alliances that helped them garner it, no matter how loudly they proclaim their opposition to capitalism.

The Left exists in the general milieu of NGO activism created by such organizations. That is, not all radicals have to succumb to the NGO form, they merely need to adapt to the activism led by NGOs, which is the appearance of militancy, in order to build up a base of support and win reforms, without the substance of militancy, in order to avoid embarrassing important funding sources and allies. In short, the image of something that seems fundamentally revolutionary–Rosa Luxemburg, and the urban rebellions against police terror–can be used by people whose aims are totally compatible with neoliberalism.

The Postmodern Left does not need to take money from the City of Oakland, or even have a tax-free status. It merely needs to confuse such activism as a challenge to the system without identifying its severe limitations. And why would anybody do that? Because this sort of activism is so exciting! And everybody else is doing it. And being the sole figure in the room who says there is something wrong here is a terribly lonely place to be, especially when you are attempting to build a base or recruit people or just mobilize people around anything at all in the hopes that something will be a basis for future struggle. But instead of struggle we get the performance of struggle.

Anybody who attended one of the larger meetings of the British Socialist Workers Party in the past will be aware of the performative aspects of this organization. Having failed to build a workers party during its decades of existence, it must create a performance as though it is a workers’ party, otherwise workers won’t join it, capped off with chanting “The workers united will never be defeated!” Who they are chanting to is unclear. There are no bosses nearby, so it is more likely directed to the workers in attendance, or perhaps just to the party faithful to remind themselves of their commitment to the working class. It is not as though they are not committed–they certainly believe they are–rather the problem is that their commitment is a performance. Rather than build a workers party, they simulate one in the hopes that the workers will join it.

The Postmodern Left is the simulation of a Left, with all of the chants, banners and other paraphernalia of a militant Left with few to none of the acts of resistance. It simulates struggle, basks in the glorious imagery, then wonders why it never achieves victory, which is impossible unless there is an actual battle. Most of the time these battles will end in defeat, so the Postmodern Left accepts the happy illusion over the sad reality. Of course, working class people cannot ignore the bitterness of their own lived reality, but the Postmodern Left generally does not inhabit this world so it is not a problem for them.

On the one hand, Postmodern Leftism has completely failed to challenge neoliberal austerity measures. On the other hand, we can see that full-time staff of the Postmodern Left has done a spectacular job of staving off austerity once we realize that the only jobs they are committed to protecting are their own.

Postmodern social movements

Arun Gupta discussed the postmodern method behind many social movements, describing the People’s Climate March in 2014, a stunning victory of style over substance. He noted that there were “no demands, no targets,and no enemy. Organizers admitted encouraging bankers to march was like saying Blackwater mercenaries should join an antiwar protest. There is no unity other than money.”

How could a march of hundreds of thousands be made so powerless? Because it was run by NGOs committed most of all to continuing their own stream of revenue. All that was necessary was the image of a mass march, the feeling that we are doing something. That this was entirely inadequate to the problem at hand–saving the planet from destruction by capitalism–is not so much a problem if your real goal is to get donations, sell books and set up speaking engagements. In other words, this is not struggle but merely marketing in the form of struggle. It is merely a simulation.

Or, as Gupta described the logic:

Branding. That’s how the climate crisis is going to be solved. We are in an era or postmodern social movements. The image (not ideology) comes first and shapes the reality. The P.R. and marketing determines the tactics, the messaging, the organizing, and the strategy.

One of the most blatant current examples of illusory struggle is the Fight for Fifteen campaign, particularly at the national level, which has led thousands of low-wage workers in strikes against fast food employers. Or have they? One participant describes her experience: “In Miami, I’ve attended Fight for $15 demonstrations in which the vast majority of participants were paid activists, employees of NGOs, CBOs (Community Based Organizations), and union staff seeking potential members.” In fact, many people who have attended these actions will look around and ask, who is really on strike here? There are certainly people who risk their jobs to participate, but in many cases the hundreds of people who attend one of these “strikes” are simply supporters of the idea of low-wage workers striking. The striking workers are far and few between, with a small handful designated as media spokespeople and none others identified at all.

Jane Macalevy is a former staffer with the Service Employee’s International Union (SEIU), the union which runs the Fight for Fifteen in the background, but quietly in order to maintain the image of a worker-led campaign. She has described how illusory this campaign really is: “The problem is that there isn’t any depth to the Fight for 15 campaign. We call it the Berlin Rosen campaign: one hot-shot media firm that’s gotten something like $50 to 70 million from SEIU to paint, through social media, the illusion of a huge movement.”

Berlin Rosen is a public relations firm employed not only by SEIU but also by the current Mayor of New York City and was involved in the bankruptcy of Detroit, the belly of the beast of neoliberalism. They were also employed by the leadership of the United Auto Workers to convince Chrysler employees to accept a contract after these same employees rejected an earlier one that did not go far enough in cancelling the two-tier wage system. In this case, postmodern activism and neoliberalism are one and the same. Berlin Rosen proves, if nothing else, that there is good money to be made in postmodern social movements.

SEIU has since endorsed Hillary Clinton, who does not support a $15 per hour minimum wage. Meanwhile, the most recent Fight for $15 strike ended with appeals to get out the vote in 2016–we can imagine for whom–and has shifted its campaign slogan to “Come Get My Vote.” That is, the movement is being openly positioned to being co-opted by the Democratic Party. This is not usually how a national workers’ rebellion plays out, but might be how a simulated one could be directed.

Richard Seymour described the empty, feel good activism, in which the good feelings of people finally able to express their opposition to the horrors of neoliberalism overcomes the question of what can we do to actually stop these things. Why ask these difficult questions when it feels so good just to finally be marching?

It was, indeed, a joyous occasion [Seymour writes of a march against austerity]. The people thronged into streets barely big enough to contain them, and chanted and sang in notes of cheerful defiance. Those who claim that such events are ‘boring’ are wrong in point of fact, and give the impression of political thrill-seeking. We all had a lovely time. And this was precisely the problem.

A minimum condition for sentience on the left is an awareness that this protest is itself evidence of at least five years of catastrophic failure. There is something powerfully and stunningly incongruous in the subjectivity of a left marching as if in recreation, when we know we are also mourning for the casualties and the dead. It suggests that we don’t really mean business. It suggests that, rather than wanting to shake the walls and pillars to the earth, we want to grab some ice cream and go home.

What Seymour describes is the problem posed by February 15, 2003, the high point of postmodern activism, when millions around the globe marched against the war in Iraq in possibly the largest day of demonstrations in world history. Millions of people flooded the streets and for many it felt like the most empowering moment of their lives, and yet how little power we actually had. Of course, millions of people have an enormous amount of power, but not when they just stand there on the street, even if they are carrying a banner or wearing a political t-shirt. The Postmodern Left can still be heard, from time to time, saying how we nearly stopped the war in Iraq. Nothing could be further from reality, but reality does not bother the Postmodern Left.

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living,” wrote Marx in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. In this case, it’s more like a daydream, a fantasy of struggle with all the imagery of resistance and none of its substance. If this is all we can do, and no more, then we are utterly lost.

Some people have been grappling with the problem posed by February 15 for the last decade. Others are perfectly content to repeat this same process over and over again, as it allows them to continue selling books, booking speaking engagements, recruiting people to their organizations and funding their non-profit organizations. These machinations can continue indefinitely and are entirely compatible with the capitalist system. One can make can make quite a satisfying career and lifestyle as a revolutionary of sorts, so long as it is all within the confines of the Postmodern Left.

SYRIZA’s Postmodern Neoliberalism

If this is the age of illusions, then the rise of SYRIZA in Greece must be the penultimate illusion. Sadly, but predictably, the SYRIZA bubble has been popped and we have all been forced back down to reality. Since SYRIZA’s acceptance of austerity, former SYRIZA Central Committee member Stathis Kouvelakis has written a number of autopsies of what was once the SYRIZA dream. In one especially revealing statement, he notes how so many moves by SYRIZA were so contrary to what any radical Leftist would accept.

For example, he notes the acceptance of an early agreement on February 20, 2015, to extend the bailout, well before the July capitulation:

Its first and most immediate consequence was to paralyze the mobilization and destroy the optimism and militancy that prevailed in the first weeks after the January 25 electoral victory. Of course, this downgrading of popular mobilization is not something that started on January 25 or February 20, as a consequence of a particular governmental tactic. It is something that was preexistent in Syriza’s strategy.

This is the exact opposite of what was supposed to happen, but the facade had to be maintained. Kouvelakis then notes the rapid decline of internal democracy in SYRIZA in the last few years.

What we saw being constructed after June 2012 — step by step but systematically — was a party form increasingly leader-centered, centralized, and detached from the actions and the will of the membership. The process went entirely out of control when Syriza went into government.

None of this should be unexpected. These are the well known consequences of electoral strategies, which Marxists have been aware of for a century, since the capitulation of European Social Democracy to World War One and repeated many times since. Yet, eager Marxists the world over looked to SYRIZA as something different, but it was merely the illusion of something different. In the end, it was exactly the same sort of radical electoral strategies of the past, but the appeal that these plucky Marxist intellectuals and activists could take on the European powers was far too seductive. In SYRIZA, the international Left saw itself, and could not imagine that it, too, might collapse in much the same way under similar circumstances.

The problem is that these strategies appeal to a certain brand of Leftist occupying a certain social position–specifically, intellectuals and NGO leaders–including those who have spent their careers explaining the limitations of electoralism. The appeal of electoral glory is simply too great for these people to be withstood against a rock-solid critique of reformism.

After July 11, no serious Leftists can ever, for the rest of their lives, look a prominent left-wing figure in the eye and take their promises at face value. We just cannot take ourselves seriously if we continue to pretend that lofty promises from self-important, self-selected leaders can be trusted. And yet, this is precisely what the Postmodern Left will continue to do, assuring everybody that no, this next project is not an other SYRIZA, even though they almost certainly said the some sort of thing about SYRIZA itself.

Greece has had dozens of general strikes over the last few years and some even predicted that the working class might rise up in response to SYRIZA’s capitulation. There was even a one-day general strike of public sector workers carried out the day that the first round of austerity was approved by the Greek parliament on July 15. Surprisingly, this general strike seemed to have no impact whatsoever on parliament. “The fight is now on,” heralded one breathless commentary announcing the impending strike. “It is not off: it’s the period of shadow boxing that is over.” The strike came and went, but the mere shadow boxing continued.

We are left to wonder whether or not working people can challenge their own governments if even a general strike cannot alter the course of history. There is, of course, an alternate explanation, which is that at least some of these may have been mere simulations of general strikes, turned on and then turned off by the union leadership with little threat of disrupting much beyond halting a days’ work, after which order was fully restored, if it was ever even threatened in the first place.

If we cannot tell the difference between simulation and reality, we risk descending from a healthy pessimism over the current state of affairs into believing that working class struggles can have no impact simply because it deceptively appears that they don’t.

Simulation hits reality

SYRIZA played out like a simulation of Marxist theory. The collapse of social democracy required a new electoral force to take its place. In stepped SYRIZA, an electoral alliance that assured everyone that they were actually going to take on the financial powers in Europe. Marxists around the world who have documented in detail how social democracy has flailed and decayed for decades suddenly believed that yes, this electoral reform project would succeed, and no, there was no reason why it was any different than the failures of the past. Without a “fake” Marxist Left–the Stalinists, reformists and other revisionists of the past–the “real” Marxist Left stepped in to take its place, heralding the dawn of a new age in Europe, for a few exciting months anyway.

It can seem impossible at times to tell the difference between the real and the fake, the simulation and reality, but ultimately we do not live in a postmodern world. We simply live in a world where so many on the Left act as though it is. Nonetheless, all of these simulations do eventually confront the brute material forces of reality, and suddenly the complete inadequacy of the simulated Left–not just in SYRIZA but across the board–is laid bare for all to see. Eventually, a Ferguson or a Baltimore revolts and the irrelevance of the Postmodern Left to the project of organizing working class resistance is made completely clear.

If there is any way out of this rut, it is to reject the spectacle and the simulation in favor of substantive material resistance. The feel good moment of triumph with a hollow center, the exuberant meetings and chants that people remember for the rest of their lives, just might be an obstacle toward building something with actual power. The image of revolt, and even talk of socialism and–hold onto your seats!–“political revolution” coming from the Bernie Sanders campaign for President will go nowhere. It is the courageous act of resistance and the rein of terror that it must face in response from the neoliberal state that transforms a class into a force for rebellion.

In short, if social movements do not directly hurt the people in power–and not just mildly embarrass them–or empower the exploited and oppressed–and not just temporarily mobilize them–then it may not be a worthwhile strategy. It may simply feel like one.

In other words, if it feels good, don’t do it.

We may struggle to see past the illusions from our current vantage point. No doubt, we will find ourselves in the trenches of class war, only to look outside and realize that the entire spectacle has been constructed by a charlatan. This will continue to happen, so long as neoliberal capitalism provides career opportunities for charlatans, as it no doubt will.

There is a great need, then, to breakdown the facade, to no longer allow the false images of resistance that surreptitiously enable neoliberalism and distract from the fundamental project of resistance. The SYRIZAs of the world will insist that this is counterproductive to their project. And that is exactly the point.

Newly Elected Argentinian President Mauricio Macri Trapped «In the Net» of Populism

Strategic Culture Foundation

November 29, 2015

By Nil Nikandrov

From left: Presidents Evo Morales, Bolivia; Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina; José Mujica, Uruguay; Dilma Rousseff, Brazil; and Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela, in 2013. (Photo by Ricardo Stuckert/PR.)

From left: Presidents Evo Morales, Bolivia; Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina; José Mujica, Uruguay; Dilma Rousseff, Brazil; and Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela, in 2013. (Photo by Ricardo Stuckert/PR.)

Mauricio  Macri, the newly elected President of Argentina, will take the office on 10 December. This Liberal-Conservative politician, the leader of Republican Proposal (Spanish: Propuesta Republicana, PRO), a center-right political party, has won as a result of a fierce battle with Daniel Osvaldo Scioli, the candidate from the Front for Victory, the ruling left-wing Peronist electoral alliance.

Neither candidate managed to win the vote outright, forcing a run-off – the first in the country’s history. Macri won 51.4 per cent of the vote to 48.5 percent for ruling party rival Daniel Scioli. The gap is narrow, but Argentinian channels and radio stations were biased predicting the Macri’s victory from the very start of the race.

Daniel Scioli admitted defeat to his opponent even before the final count of the votes. «I respect the popular will, which has chosen an alternative», he said. Sciolli congratulated Mauricio Macri and his team on the victory and wished them good luck. He did not sound dramatic. The Front for Victory ruled the country for 12 years. Under the direction of Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) and then his wife Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (2007-2015) Argentina went through the difficulties inherited after the years of bloody military dictatorship and neoliberal experiments. The «kircherists» can be rightfully proud of their social-economic achievements and the fundamental and consistent policy aimed at protection of national interests.

The Mexican La Jornada editorial clearly explained what has recently happened in Argentina:

«The yesterday’s defeat should not be perceived as the refusal of Argentinians to do justice to the achievements of 2003-2015. It’s rather the result of internal and external factors that exist in the national context of the situation in the Western Hemisphere. Tycoons persistently tried to destabilize the governments led by the Kirschners, they were constantly under media attacks. Foreign interference also took place. And not only that. The powers that ran out of steam [el desgaste], the reduced demand for mineral resources led to economic slump, there were cases of corruption in the government… Experts agree that the triumph of Macri, as he moves to Casa Rosada [the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina – translator’s note], will bring the country back to neoliberal politics that resulted in devastation at the beginning of this century to spark a serious economic crisis undermining the government’s credibility and ability to govern».

Macri said he won the presidential race because the people were tired of economic and financial problems, the growing crime rate and corruption. Mass media echoed this thesis highlighting the results of the presidential race. What about the «new deal» promised by Macri in his victory speech? He is seasoned enough not to make any bombastic statements. Macri only called on Argentinians to work together joining efforts to meet the interests of the country and ensure a bright future. «This is the beginning of a new era that has to carry us toward the opportunities we need to grow and progress», Macri noted. Somehow, he left behind the populist mimicry actively used during the final stage of the race. Macri promised equal access to health care, free medicine for low-income seniors, the eradication of poverty, the creation of another one and a half million jobs and homes for all the needy.

In the victory speech Macri slightly mentioned the issue of overdue reforms, which would certainly spark social tensions, if implemented. The commercial and financial elite of Argentina, land owners, the military, a large part of middle class and the activists of non-government organizations expect Macri to do away with «populist structures». They want him to adopt more confrontational approaches and implement the policy of «open economy». Perhaps, the first thing he would do is the liberalization of currency market that would lead to devaluation of peso.

Macri promised to build Argentina with zero poverty, intensify the fight against drug trafficking and boost international cooperation to have good relationships with all countries. «We want to work with everyone. We know that the Argentine people have much to bring to the world», he said. It can be said now that Macri will not be able «to work with everyone». Not once he made unfriendly remarks toward the Bolivarian government of Venezuela and President Nicolas Maduro during the presidential race. The Macri’s meetings with Venezuelan opposition are used by US propaganda for subversive activities against the «Maduro regime». Macri continues to sound hostile towards the Venezuelan government after the race is over.

The newly elected president said he would propose that Mercosur, the trade bloc of South American nations, suspend Venezuela for its «undemocratic» actions against opposition politicians. What exactly does he mean? Some members of opposition took part in armed attacks. Over 40 people lost lives, as a result, including police. Obviously, the Macri’s statements are of provocative nature, because the Argentina’s neighbors, such as Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, as well as some other countries led by left wing democratic governments, will inevitably get involved in the conflict. As a result, the process of regional integration will be negatively affected at the time the region is going through hard times.

The ongoing financial and economic crisis has affected everyone. Macri will raise the stakes launching neoliberal reforms and inserting changes into the foreign policy. The support of the United States administration is guaranteed. Macri has been loyal since 2007 when he met Mike Matera, a CIA agent. Back then he called on the US embassy to take a tougher stand against then President Nestor Kirchner and then Christina Kirchner.

The new president of Argentina is a 100 percent pro-US politician. Some experts predict he won’t deteriorate the relations with Moscow and Beijing. These optimistic predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. Christina Fernandez and her government have done a lot to spur the progress in the Russia-Argentina relations and cement the bilateral strategic partnership as was agreed by the presidents of Russia and Argentina in April 2015.

It’s all in the past now. The situation has changed: Argentina, like other states led by left wing governments, is facing economic hardships. Its geopolitical position is negatively affected. For Macri, the cooperation with the United States is a natural thing to do. Some political scholars believe that the Macri’s win in Argentina ends the era of Christina Fernandez. On December 10, she’ll move out of the presidential palace. But it’s hard to imagine she’ll keep out of politics to become a passive bystander, especially now as the Sciolli suffered a defeat and the Front for Victory is in opposition.

Starting from December 10 President Macri will have to establish working relations with the opposition in the National Congress, where the Front for Victory and its allies dominate in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Argentine National Congress, and the Senate, the upper chamber of parliament. It’s hard to believe that Christina Fernandez and her supporters will let Macri destroy everything that has been created during so many years. A great effort was applied to ensure social stability, national progress and the well-being of the people. They won’t let it go down the drain. Any attempts «to cut» social benefits and state expenditure will spark mass protests.

The supporters of «Kircnerism» believe that shifting the foreign policy priorities is fraught with the loss of independence and national sovereignty. As Macri takes office, the Pacific Alliance and other geopolitical projects initiated and controlled by the United States will be given priority over other Latina American integration projects. Not «kircherists» only, but all those who support national interests, will fiercely oppose it.

 

Argentina: A Quiet Neoliberal Coup d’Etat in Latin America’s Southern Cone

Global Research

December 1, 2015

by Peter Koenig

Supporters of Daniel Scioli, the ruling party presidential candidate, watch a large screen at Plaza de Mayo square that broadcasts live statements from Scioli aid Diego Bossio about the presidential election results in Buenos Aires,  Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Opposition candidate Mauricio Macri took an early lead over the ruling party contender Daniel Scioli  in Sunday's historic runoff to pick a replacement for outgoing President Cristina Fernandez, who along with her late husband dominated Argentine politics for 12 years.(AP Photo/Ivan Fernandez)

Supporters of Daniel Scioli, the ruling party presidential candidate, watch a large screen at Plaza de Mayo square that broadcasts live statements from Scioli aid Diego Bossio about the presidential election results in Buenos Aires, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Ivan Fernandez)

 

For the past few weeks the world has been and still is focusing all attention on Syria, the NATO-Turkey downing of a Russian SU-24 fighter jet, the bombing of a Russian airliner over Sinai (224 dead), the alleged ISIS-Daesh Paris massacre (132), the Islamic terror attack on the Bamako (Mali) Radisson Blu hotel (27) – plus the endless fear mongering of more terror in Brussels, Berlin, Rome, Paris, Copenhagen — you name it. The mainstream media is in over-drive. And the neoliberal European (non)-Union uses the shock doctrine to cut civil rights and install police states with ‘temporary’ Martial laws – mind you, they are basically asked for by the populace – for their protection, they are made to believe.

Absorbed by their own fate and fear, Europeans have hardly eyes to see beyond their Continent, their sphere of self-interest. The neoliberal coup d’état in Argentina happened almost unnoticed. Never mind that it is just about bringing some 42.5 million people (2015 pop. estimate) under Washington’s rule.

Argentina’s general election 2015 ended on Sunday 22 November in a run-off – the first in Argentina’s history – between Daniel Scioli, the incumbent Governor of Buenos Aires Province, a Kirchnerite from the ruling Front for Victory Party (FPV – Frente para la Victoria), and Mauricio Macri, a neoliberal multi-billionaire and Mayor of Buenos Aires from the right-wing Cambiemos party. Against all odds, Macri won with 51.4% against Scioli’s 48.6% – a margin of 2.8%. A margin small enough no to raise many questions of fraud.

And here are the odds: Two days before the 25 October ballot The Guardian polls predicted an 8.5% lead for Scioli (38.41%) vs. Macri (30.07%). Nevertheless, the 25 October real election results reduced Scioli’s lead to a mere 2.4% (36.8% vs. 34.4%).

At the end of July, three months before the first election run, Scioli was leading with a 13.6% margin (38.8% vs. 25.2%). The outcome of the 9 August Primaries left Scioli still with a more than 12 point lead (36.8% vs 24.7%).

There is definitely something fishy with a deterioration of a candidate’s lead so crass as to convert an almost 14 point lead into a 3 point loss in 4 months, a 17% percent difference. This is not a typical pattern of error for pollsters, nor an indication for a public opinion change, a public that has benefited from their government to the extent Argentinians did within the last 15 years, since the economic collapse in 2001: An average annual growth of between 6% and 8%, a highly distributive economic development, helping reducing poverty from 65% in 2002 to less than 10% in early 2015 and with a massive increase in countrywide free education and health services, including in rural areas; not to mention the elimination of foreign debt.

A simple question of logic: Would a people of which 80% to 90% have massively benefited from the ruling government policies vote with more than 50% against the continuation of such policies – and instead for a neoliberal politician, who promised to turn the clock back? Hardly. Unless they have been subjected to a massive media brainwashing and slander campaign, vote buying and other democracy-destroying measures, through foreign induced destabilization.

We know about the NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and other US based think tanks (sic), receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department to train and fund “NGOs” throughout the world, to infiltrate in counties’ internal affairs, where Washington wants to achieve soft regime change, as opposed to hard-core regime change – which involves the US military, proxy-armies, mercenaries and – of course – the ever present NATO. – So far the election fraud worked in Argentina without bloodshed.

Such destabilization movements, soft and less soft, abound around the globe during the last 20 years, coinciding with the ever stronger onset of the all controlling globalized neoliberal doctrine. Suffice it to mention the invented Arab Spring , the Color Revolutions of Central Asia and the former Soviet Republics. If propaganda alone doesn’t do the trick, the Washington imposed changes are being helped with false flags, inducing armed conflicts and ‘civil wars’. Recent cases in point are the Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, to name just a few.

Argentina’s Constitution does not allow for more than two consecutive presidential terms. Before the mid-term elections in 2013, the ruling FPV hoped for a two third majority to be able to amend the Constitution allowing unlimited re-elections. Due to strong resistance from the opposition parties, the FPV did not win the necessary supermajority.

The president is elected with a modified two-stage system, whereby a candidate wins when he / she receives at least 45% in the first run, or 40% with a margin of at least 10% to the runner-up. A run-off election, like the one on 22 November 2015, has never happened before in Argentina’s history.

With a lead of more almost 14 points by Scioli over Macri, the right-wing Cambiemos candidate, it was absolutely necessary for the Macri camp to reduce the lead difference by the first round of balloting to less than 10% to provoke a run-off, allowing more time to manipulate voter opinion and committing more election fraud. Despite the polls indicating an 8.5% lead for Scioli two days before the 25 October first election run, the actual election count resulted in Scioli winning with only 2.4%. Again, this is an unusual margin of error that should have attracted the attention of the election organizers and supervisors.

In 2011 Wikileaks revealed that Mauricio Macri asked the US Embassy in Buenos Aires to launch a strong anti-Kirchner campaign, slandering her and her political alliances, thereby massively discrediting Cristina Kirchner’s Presidency. It did not work for Macri in 2011, as Cristina Kirchner was re-elected. But the Washington-driven anti-Kirchner and anti-FPV campaign expanded massively until this past election. And it paid off.

The international investigative journalist, Estela Calloni, who followed the elections closely, concluded that there was not only massive manipulation with lies and defamation by an important media elite, but a brutal campaign against the Kirchner legacy – ‘putting the future of Argentina at risk.’ She went on saying that ‘our societies are being hammered by information coming from the United States and that they are worse than disinformation.’ She warned that Argentina should stay alert not to lose any of the progressive achievements made in the past 15 years.

Who is Mauricio Macri? – He was born in 1959 into a family of owners of the country’s most important industrial and economic groups. In 1975, the Macri family possessed 7 enterprises; at the end of the military dictatorship the Macri fleet of companies had grown to 46. The Macri family benefited greatly from business relations with the totalitarian military government of Videla. In connivance with US banks, they built up false debt which later had to be assumed by the Argentine government.

Nevertheless, the new President-elect in one of his recent observations has insisted that the Kirchner Government reopen negotiations with the IMF and pay the infamous vulture funds in full.

As Mayor of the City of Buenos Aires, Macri leaves behind a highly questionable legacy; mismanagement of public funds, huge budget overruns and never ending public works. He has also allegedly diverted public funds into his political campaigns and accepted contributions from prostitution rings.

Mr. Macri is known as an extreme conservative, right-wing politician following neoliberal policies, who will most likely turn the wheel of progress of the Kirchner Administration back by seeking reduction of public expenditures to the detriment of labor, privatization of public services and ending fiscal policies aiming at redistribution of wealth.

As to Mr. Macri’s views on human rights, it can best be described by his observation in 2014, “Conmigo se termina el curro de los derechos humanos” – “with me the chants of ‘human rights’ will end;” – meaning that protests against his government will be repressed.

South America had proudly achieved over the past 20 years a degree of independence from its Washington masters, no other western region has reached – least the vassal states of Europe. With this neoliberal, largely unnoticed coup d’état in Argentina, the Subcontinent of South America, is, indeed, gradually turning into what President Obama calls his ‘backyard’. In the Center-North are Peru and Colombia, neoliberal strongholds of the US; and now the Southern Cone is gone.

All the while the Great Dictator and its paid foreign minions are diligently working at discrediting the Governments of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela, and of Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil; the former with infiltrated and local mercenaries spreading unrest and violence; the latter with defamation of corruption linked to the oil giant Petrobras, all manufactured via henchmen and associated banks in Florida and New York. Corruption is always an easy accusation – difficult to prove, yet very effective with the common people – in discrediting their government. An accusation coming from the most corrupt, criminal rogue state of this globe – the United States of America.

 

 

[Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, CounterPunch, TeleSur, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance]

Murder in Honduras

Intercontinental Cry

November 20, 2015

by Jay Taber

Honduras

March, 2015: “…the International Airport Toncontin, located in the country´s capital is going to close, and that a new international airport is going to be built inside the United States military base of Palmerola. Palmerola is the United States biggest military base in Central America, and permanently has 600 US troops. It is the main headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command. The base was used during the Cold War to plan and execute attacks against Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama and many countries in the Caribbean. When former President Zelaya, ousted in a 2010 military coup, proposed taking control of the military base in 2008 and removing the the United States soldiers, he was strongly attacked by the national and international media. In contrast, Juan Orlando Hernandez has presented the same plan, but with the participation of the United State’s Army South Command, and the initiative is presented as a tool for development.” [Source]

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Murder of indigenous activists in Honduras has prompted the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz*, to issue a warning about state-sponsored ethnic cleansing there, where, since 2010, 44 indigenous activists have been killed to facilitate free market development.

Unfortunately, Corpuz fails to mention the US role in this atrocity. Having supported the 2009 coup, President Obama made sure the new Honduran government had the ways and means to terrorize activists and journalists.

REMILITARIZING CENTRAL AMERICA

TIGRES Commandos conduct bounding over watch exercises during training with Green Berets from 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Junglas from the Columbian National Police Tegucigalpa, Honduras., May. 08, 2014. 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Berets and Junglas from the Columbian National conduct daily physical training with TIGRES (Toma Integral Gubermental de Repuesta Especial de Seguridad) commandos to condition their bodies for the physical challenges they may encounter. The TIGRES will be the force of choice for the Honduran government with seeking to capture high value targets such as narcotraffiking and criminal leadership.(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven K. Young/Released)

Honduran commandos conduct unit leapfrogging exercises during training with U.S. soldiers and Colombian national policemen in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 8, 2014. | Source: U.S. Department of Defense

TIGRES Graduation

Honduran commandos demonstrate a river crossing before their graduation ceremony in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, June 19, 2014. U.S. 7th Special Forces soldiers and Colombian national policemen trained the commandos to be the force of choice for the Honduran Government. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven K. Young

War on the Poor in Honduras by Dawn Paley exposes the U.S. role in remilitarizing Central America. Taking a page from his idol Ronald Reagan, President Obama — who supported the 2009 military coup in Honduras — has established his credentials as a servant of the American Empire. While not yet a full-fledged fascist like his predecessor in the Oval Office, Obama is well on his way to institutionalizing a fascist, neoliberal agenda.

As Paley reports, the war on the poor by armed gangs — often working in collusion with the police, private security and soldiers in politically-motivated attacks on leftist party activists and journalists — has left residents of Honduras terrorized into silence by the Honduran elite. This elite of mafia-like families that control factories, banking and media, also control the government.

All of which has the U.S. military and the Obama White House to thank for ongoing support under the guise of the War on Drugs.

SWEATSHOP STATES

It turns out there was a logic to the U.S. coup in Honduras: maquiladoras in the form of city-states. What better way to advance the U.S. neoliberal agenda in Latin America than militarized sweatshop states exempt from national and international law? Barack and Hillary must be proud of their junior achievers.

EXPORTING VIOLENCE

When the US abandoned any pretense at pursuing democratic values, opting instead for an economy based solely on exporting violence and fraud, the window of opportunity for democratic reform in Latin America rapidly closed. As Upside Down World reports, the 2009 US-backed coup in Honduras has set in motion a replay of President Reagan’s murderous meddling in Central America, while Plan Colombia and the reintroduction of U.S. military bases in Chile and Argentina preclude even neoliberal independence in South America. As President Obama seeks to emulate and maybe even surpass the ruthlessness of his mentor President Reagan, democracies and democratic movements in the Western hemisphere are no more immune to U.S. military aggression and economic subversion than are Central Asia or the Middle East.

NO ONE LISTENING

The American aristocracy has always lived well off the theft of land and labor, but in the 21st Century, the game has changed. Dissatisfied with merely profiting handsomely from investing their inherited wealth in productive enterprise, the aristocracy today uses their publicly-funded privileges to gut American enterprise. Through hostile takeovers using private equity trading firms, they buy profitable corporations, sell off the assets, pocket the cash, and close them down. When that doesn’t work, they get bailouts from the U.S. Treasury.

The growing numbers of unemployed, hungry and homeless in the United States is testimony to the success of the largely unregulated private equity trading in securing the aristocracy’s power and influence into the future. As owners of the media, as well as the financiers of most federal political candidates, the aristocracy pretty much rules unopposed.

As for civil society NGOs and academic institutions, they have mostly succumbed to the aristocratic paternalism of philanthropic foundations, now functioning for the large part as public relations agents for privatization. Some might want to lay all this at the feet of a genuine American aristocrat by the name of George W. Bush, but it was Barack Obama who announced to us eight years ago that his ideological idol was Ronald Reagan, the epitome of American fascism. Was no one listening?

 

 

*Victoria Tauli Corpus is the Executive Director of Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy and Research Education). Corpus is also is a board-member of Conservation International. Both Corpus and the NGO she oversees, that of Tebtebba, work closely with the United Nations (UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues) and have been instrumental in pushing the false solution of REDD forward. From Feb 2002 to present Corpus has been a Member of National Selection Committee of the Ford Foundation who has invested heavily in advancing the REDD agenda. As well, Corpus has served as board member of the pre-COP15 corporate creation TckTckTck. TckTckTck was  initiated by the United Nations working with one of the largest marketing agencies in the world (Havas), while partnering with many of the most powerful corporations on the planet, in a united effort to “to make it become a movement that consumers, advertisers and the media would use and exploit.” [courtesy Wrong Kind of Green]

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber (O’Neal) derives from the most prominent tribe in Irish history, nEoghan Ua Niall, the chief family in Northern Ireland between the 4th and the 17th centuries. Jay’s ancestors were some of the last great leaders of Gaelic Ireland. His grandmother’s grandfather’s grandfather emigrated from Belfast to South Carolina in 1768. Jay is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

Exploiting Feminism for Profit

Media Diversified

November 6, 2015

by Maya Goodfellow

Last week while flicking through TV channels an advert caught my attention. I was momentarily pleased to watch as a young girl was enchanted by clips of famous women – from feminist activist Emmeline Pankhurst to iconic singer Billie Holiday – while Fleur East’s version of Girl on Fire played in the background. But as the feature came to a close, I was jolted back into reality; this was an advert, a multimillion-pound advert for Virgin Media, to be precise. The billion pound conglomerate is now using women and girls to sell broadband. Exploiting feminism for profit.

I can’t celebrate seeing feminism exploited in the ad breaks by a company that has been built by taking millions from the taxpayer. Virgin ushers publicly run assets into the private sector then languishes on subsidies from the public purse while making a huge profit. This is not an outlandish statement; it’s what has happened in the past. Take a look at their involvement in the privatisation of our railways and you’ll see a pattern: Virgin takes state subsidies, distributes massive payouts for their shareholders, while the quality of service declines.

It doesn’t stop there. Virgin Media sits alongside Virgin Care Ltd, which is slowly creeping further into the NHS in the form of backdoor privatisation. Although the company’s foray into feminist territory might seem like a reason to celebrate, a win for women it really represents neoliberal capitalism’s attempt to co-opt the message of feminism. All in the name of profit.

Neoliberal capitalism, which is built on the disenfranchisement of women and people of colour, is attempting to contain radical discourse within its walls. In doing so it neutralises the potential for system change. Richard Branson, the billionaire businessperson who owns Virgin, is flourishing under the current system. Though he likes to cultivate a benevolent image, he isn’t doing anything that would seriously challenge the system out of which he does so well. It’s far better and easier for him to give the impression that he cares while making symbolic tweaks to unequal structures.

This is going on all around us; it’s how capitalism stayed relatively steady on its feet after the 2008 financial crash. It’s a dangerous process that inhibits the possibility for real change: it takes in the collective effort of intersectional feminism and spits out individualistic gender equality and antiracism in its most feeble form.

We’ve witnessed a similar phenomenon from one of neoliberalism’s cheerleaders, in the form of David Cameron’s recent jaunt into the world of antiracism. From his Conservative party conference speech this year to a recent article in the Guardian, the Prime Minister has proclaimed himself a champion of race equality.

But our PM has conveniently failed to touch upon the number of ways his Government is systematically disenfranchising black and minority ethnic people: through their aggressive cuts agenda, which disproportionately affect people of colour; their decision to continue protecting an unfair employment market, that leaves BAME young people worse off; and the role they play in sustaining racist – in particular Islamophobic – narratives, have we already forgotten when Cameron described migrants as a “swarm”?

Cameron and Branson are bringing antiracism and feminism – two struggles that are actually interwoven – into Margaret Thatcher’s arena of individualism. Helping the the few to appease the masses.

There is a big difference between certain women succeeding in a society that exploits the poorest and most vulnerable and a movement that reconstructs a system to create a fairer society. Similarly, there’s a vast chasm separating the recently announced name-blind university applications and deconstructing institutionally racist structures that see people of colour as lesser, structures that have been maintained since the era of colonialism.

None of this is to say that accepting these steps forward within the current system is a failure. We can recognise the benefits of quotas in the workplace (incidentally a policy Virgin say they’re all for) but challenge why this is not enforced across all companies and certainly with not enough attention paid to race.

But while we’re realising the shift in public discourse – usually a problematic shift where race is pushed to the back of the conversation – we have to remember that the real alterations won’t come by accepting these small steps from individuals. You can do both; as American scholar Kimerlé Crenshaw said: “I believe that women in power is absolutely essential, and that women in power is absolutely not enough”.

Or as writer Reni Eddo-Lodge put it, equality is a transitional demand; we must remember we don’t want to be assimilated into the status quo. For real change we have to reconstruct the system. We need liberation. But that goes against the interests of the people (often white men) who stand to benefit from the world the way it is. That’s why business tycoons and rightwing politicians saying they care about gender and race discrimination don’t convince me.

It’s as if Branson’s and Cameron’s media strategists are sitting in a room realising that some people want liberation from gender and race discrimination, and thinking of ways to give the illusion that they want the same thing too. Giving that impression is good for the brand.

 

[Maya Goodfellow is a journalist and political commentator. She primarily writes about British politics and has worked as a researcher for a think tank. She also writes about international affairs, with a particular focus on conflict studies. Find her on Twitter: @Mayagoodfellow]

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