Happy Anti-War Day! The weapons must be silent!


Happy Anti-War Day! The weapons must be silent!
by Otto Konig and Richard Detje

The DGB (the German alliance of unions) and its member unions, an important voice in the German peace movement, commemorate the barbaric consequences of war and fascism on September 1. Trade unionists fight for peace, democracy and freedom.
The weapons must be silent!

by Otto König/Richard Detje

Anti-War Day 2022

[This article posted on 8/30/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Die Waffen müssen schweigen!]

The DGB (the German alliance of unions) and its member unions, an important voice in the German peace movement, commemorate the barbaric consequences of war and fascism on September 1. Trade unionists fight for peace, democracy and freedom.

In view of the warlike conflicts around the world, it is only logical that the motto of this year’s DGB appeal for Anti-War Day should be: “For peace! Against a new arms race! The weapons must finally be silent!”

The Anti-War Day 2022 is marked by the war in Ukraine, but also by other world political trouble spots in the Near and Middle East as well as in Africa, which mean “death, destruction and flight”. Instead of disarmament, the signs are currently pointing to conflict and deterrence. The “Doomsday Clock” of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stands at 100 seconds to 12 o’clock and illustrates the nuclear madness. Nuclear powers are currently modernizing their nuclear arsenals.

While there were serious discussions about the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons before the start of the Ukraine war, the traffic light coalition in Berlin decided to acquire new nuclear-capable F-35 fighter jets only a few days after the Russian attack on Ukraine. It thus joined the new nuclear modernization push to secure the deployment of new B61-12 NATO nuclear weapons from U.S. arsenals in Rhineland-Palatinate.

A new nuclear arms race is looming in Europe. “This madness must be stopped!” reads the DGB’s appeal. The federal government is called upon to “stick to the goal of a nuclear-free Germany formulated in the coalition agreement, to withdraw from nuclear sharing and to end the storage of nuclear weapons in Büchel, Rhineland-Palatinate.” Instead of sticking to nuclear sharing, Germany should join the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was democratically adopted by the vast majority of the international community, he said.

The global nuclear threat can only be effectively countered with a complete ban on nuclear weapons. For the danger of nuclear escalation, whether intentional or accidental, exists as long as states possess nuclear weapons.

For months, we have been witnessing an irrational arming reflex on the part of all states directly and indirectly affected by the Ukraine war. While thoughtfulness is being disposed of, enthusiasm for powder vapor and steel thunderstorms is on the rise. Suddenly howitzers, tanks, rocket launchers are things that create peace. Principles such as no arms deliveries to crisis and conflict areas are thrown overboard. The red-yellow-green government, with the support of the CDU/CSU opposition, has rushed through the Bundestag an arms buildup with 100 billion euros in special funds for the Bundeswehr by amending the Basic Law. Profits are exploding in the arms companies.

The transatlantic elites have succeeded in removing the taboo from militarism: Caught up in the irrationalism of war, bellicose politicians and editors spread the word that those who question war as a means of politics are “dangerous fantasists.” Differentiated thinking is no longer in demand and is in danger of being denounced as partisanship for the wrong side. Appeals for peace by prominent personalities, presumably also the DGB appeal for Anti-War Day, are defamed as “Moscow’s fifth column”.

This is a clumsy method that was already used against the peace movement in the times of the Cold War and is being brought out of the mothballs again today: Already the call of the DGB in 1957 had to be directed against the anti-communist war sentiments “Better dead than red!”. 40 years ago, the then CDU Secretary General Heiner Geißler accused the opponents of the NATO rearmament decision of adopting “seamlessly arguments of the Soviet Union” and mutating “in the intellectual debate in the Federal Republic to a fifth column of the other side”.

Today, the slogan is: peace can only be achieved with weapons. Anyone who does not support this is denounced as a “murderer in spirit. Political scientist Herfried Münkler, for example, attacks opponents of the supply of battle tanks as morally degenerate “submission pacifists. Or “lumpenpacifists” who pursue “pacifism at the expense of others,” as former Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse (SPD) rants in SPIEGEL.

The DGB rightly criticizes the “narrowing of the debate … to the use of military means of peacekeeping” and warns against further militarization of the substantive debate. Those who demand an immediate end to the war in Ukraine are not making themselves into the “useful idiots” of the Russians, but are performing a protective function as trade unionists in the interests of dependent employees.

This includes the statement in the DGB appeal: “We resolutely reject the German government’s commitment to permanently increase the German arms budget to the NATO two-percent target or beyond,” because the increase in arms spending is “at the expense of the efficiency of our social state” and exacerbates “social inequality in our country. For the unions and wage earners, the consequences of the war are already being felt massively: on the one hand, the rise in inflation, driven by energy prices, and on the other, the increasing danger of recession.

Frank Deppe is to be agreed with when he states: “The discourse on peace and security policy must not be burdened with prohibitions on thinking that are intended to ward off analyses of the war’s prehistory as well as its significance in the global struggle for a new world order beyond the ‘American Empire’ as Russia-friendly propaganda.”[1] It is an imperative of humanity to end the war in Ukraine. The “victory on the battlefield” that has been repeatedly called for is becoming increasingly unlikely as it drags on. Military experts predict that the military conflict is heading toward a war of attrition lasting months or even years.

Complaining about increasing “war fatigue” (Annalena Baerbock) in Western Europe does not help, but is counterproductive; only the search for solutions beyond war, such as first a cease-fire, then a peace order with prospects for the post-war international order, is a reasonable perspective. It is welcome when the DGB calls for “a European and international peace order based on human rights and the principles of freedom, self-determination and social justice.”

The only realistic way to end this war is through negotiations. “Solidarity with Ukraine is not a question of supplying as many and heavy weapons as possible, but a question of the degree of diplomatic initiatives to end this war” says Johannes Varwick, political scientist at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. Negotiation does not mean capitulation. Diplomatic activities to end the war would first and foremost be in the interest of Ukrainians* directly affected by the war. But it would also avert severe social upheavals for dependent employees in Germany and worldwide.

It is therefore right when the DGB calls for “civilian instruments of diplomacy, development cooperation and a fair trade policy, humanitarian aid and conflict prevention” in its appeal for Anti-War Day. Endless diligence has been devoted by historians since time immemorial to depicting the course of battles and wars. The superficial causes of wars have also been traced. “But little energy, energy and effort have usually been devoted to thinking about how they could have been avoided,” former German President Gustav W. Heinemann admonished Germany’s then nascent peace and conflict studies community in 1970.

The Ukraine war in particular shows how important it is to stick to the goal of globally controlled disarmament. This is also why, on September 1, trade unionists and activists of the peace movement are opposing a new global arms race and are calling for a “worldwide ban on nuclear weapons”. The aforementioned call on the German government to “adhere to the goal of a nuclear weapons-free Germany as formulated in the coalition agreement” also means that Germany must join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.


[1] Frank Deppe: Never again war! Never again fascism! On the occasion of Anti-War Day 2022, in: Sozialismus.de, issue 9/2022, p. 34.


Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The story of the empty pot and the subtle violence of storytelling


The story of the empty pot and the subtle violence of storytelling
by Andreas Mauz
[This article posted on 7/8/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Die Geschichte vom leeren Topf und die subtile Gewalt des Erzählens.]

We love stories, and we also love them because we already know them. The successful wisdom tale “The Empty Pot” can be used to make clear which deep structures are responsible for this. But its example can also be used to show that we must be attentive to the price that the fulfillment of these structures can have.

Humans – the storytelling animal – have the beautiful ability to be particularly enthusiastic about some stories. This enthusiasm is demonstrated, for example, by his desire to share his reading experience with others, by his insistent promotion of a reading of the story in question. In an educational context, such recommendations then sound like this, for example: “This book deserves a 5-star rating, it offers an entertaining read that does not overtly lecture or moralize, it tells the truth, embodies quality, and shows originality. Use this book to teach integrity. A good lesson for the whole class!” Then, when you learn that the book in question not only belongs in the “Children’s Choice” of the “International Literacy Association,” it is also “an American Bookseller ‘Pick of the Lists,'” you will no longer hesitate and want to read it for yourself.

The story to which the cited praise is directed is the wisdom-filled tale The Empty Pot (1990) by the multi-award-winning U.S. children’s book author and illustrator Demi (Charlotte Dumaresq Hunt, b. 1942). I would like to demonstrate two things with the impressively illustrated story of the empty pot, whose material is based on a Chinese folk tale: On the one hand, this story exemplifies what it is about storytelling itself that excites us so much. On the other hand, the story gives reason to think about the general due date of narrative criticism: a way of dealing with narratives that asks about the conditions of their functioning and, if necessary, also raises objections against them.

“Long ago …”

The story is conveyed by a narrator whose tone closely matches Thomas Mann’s terse talk of the “murmuring conjurer of the imperfect.” The plot of the Empty Pot is also – as Mann writes with reference to the Zauberberg novel – “as it were already completely covered with historical noble rust and must necessarily be presented in the tense of the deepest past.” The narrative world opens as follows: “A long time ago, there lived in China a boy named Ping. He loved flowers. Whatever he planted began to bloom: his flowers, shrubs, and even large fruit trees grew as if by magic!”

Now Ping’s green thumb is not an insignificant skill in China, because – the story continues – everyone in the empire loves flowers, including and especially the emperor. But the emperor is an old man, and since he has no children, he must find a successor. This problem is now to be solved via a competition: Every child in the empire gets a seed, and whoever grows the most beautiful flower within a year will be named successor. Ping, of course, is very eager to participate. He knows his chances are good. He fills a pot with good soil and waters it daily. But the seed does not want to sprout. Ping is understandably desperate. So he chooses a bigger pot, different soil, and waters and waits patiently. But again nothing happens; the seed does not want to sprout, the pot remains empty. It is different with the other children: Their pots are magnificently filled. Finally, the day approaches when the flowers are to be presented to the emperor. Ping does not know what to do, and he is mocked.

“His clever friend walked by, holding a large plant in his hand. ‘Ping!” he said. ‘You don’t really want to go to the emperor with an empty pot, do you?’ […] – ‘I have grown many flowers better than yours,’ Ping said. ‘It’s just this seed that won’t grow.’ Ping’s father heard this and said, ‘You have done your best, and your best is good enough to show the emperor.'”

Ping follows his father’s advice and goes to the palace with his empty pot. There the emperor looks at the many flowers, walks back and forth, but is strangely silent. Finally, he comes to Ping, who keeps his head down, expecting to be punished. But no:

“The emperor asked, ‘Why did you bring an empty pot?’ Ping began to cry and replied, ‘I planted the seed you gave me and watered it every day, but it didn’t sprout.’ […] So today I had to bring an empty pot without a flower. That was the best thing I could do.’

When the emperor heard these words, a smile slowly spread across his face, and he put his arm around Ping. Then he called out to everyone, ‘I have found the one person worthy to be emperor!’

‘Where you got your seeds from, I do not know. For the seeds I had given you had all been cooked. They could not germinate. I admire Ping’s great courage in coming before me with the empty truth. Now I reward him and make him emperor!'”

The narrative DNA of history

So much for the story, so much for its much-appreciated lesson. So what can be learned about the practice of storytelling from the example of The Empty Pot? Against the background of elementary insights of narrative theory, what can be said about Demi’s successful book?

The most important feature of this approach, as in scholarship in general, is abstraction. Narratology’s attention is focused on capturing general properties of narrative communication. It asks less about the surface, about Little Red Riding Hood and the course of the encounter with the wolf. It looks for the characteristics that regulate this story as well as others: How does the narrator’s perspective interact with those of the characters? (The narrator of the Little Red Riding Hood tale, for example, stands outside the narrated world himself; but he knows what is going on in the characters). How are the speech or thoughts of the characters represented – in direct speech or superimposed by the narrator’s speech? And how is the temporal order represented against the background of general models?

The repertoire of general narrative research also includes the basic question of why something is narrated at all, what gives certain events their worthiness of narration. And the most general answer to this question is: because we are our story, because identity is always also narratively composed. In the pithy words of Odo Marquard (Narrare necesse est, 1999):

“Every person is who he is …; and who he is more precisely, only stories ever say: […] Little Red Riding Hood is the one who was eaten by the wolf; Odysseus is the one who took twenty years to return home from Troy. […] If Little Red Riding Hood had reached her grandmother without a wolf, if Odysseus had come home quickly without incident, these would not have been – real – stories. […] It is only when an unforeseen incident befalls a course of events regulated by natural law or a planned action that they must be told and can only be told […].”

For our case we can add: If the emperor has a child, he is not that emperor, and his story is not worth telling; then no succession problem arises. And we would probably not want to read the story if what Ping hopes happens: he comes to the emperor with the most beautiful flower and becomes his successor. For a “real” story, “something” must come in between: There needs to be a conflict, a task that sets the situation in motion.
We tell ourselves the same stories over and over again, and we love them because we already know them.

If we now follow this track, it becomes clear that stories – as far as their deep structures are concerned, their narrative “DNA” – are similar to an astonishing degree. To put it bluntly: We tell ourselves the same stories over and over again, and we love them because we already know them. Accordingly, the Russian folklore researcher Vladimir Propp was able to make an astonishing observation in the 1920s in a study of the genre of the magic fairy tale: If one abstracts from the colorful narrative surface, these texts can be reduced to a simple basic structure: The magic fairy tale lives from 31 “functions” that obey a certain sequence. One function would be, for example, the introduction of a defect or the violation of a prohibition; another would be the assignment of the hero to eliminate this evil. The regulated sequence of the functions emerges from the last one in each case: the hero/heroine is rewarded, he/she marries or receives a high reputation, for instance – as in Demi’s case – by ascending the throne. The 31 functions need not all be verifiable in every fairy tale, but they can be assigned to seven constant “circles of action”, which in turn belong to a certain “actant” – for instance to the “hero”, the “antagonist”, the “victim” or the “helper”. Seen in this way, various fairy tales can be traced back to more general structures: Whether the hero fights with the dragon or plays cards with the devil is secondary insofar as both realize the function “hero and antagonist enter into a direct duel.”

Beginning – Middle – End

Propp’s investigation was concerned with only one genre. As later research has shown, however, his observations can be effortlessly applied to other source types, and indeed to narrative itself, through further abstraction. If we look generously at Propp’s seven circles of action, they also coincide with the simplest structural model known since antiquity, which has only been unfolded with varying degrees of precision and given different terminology since then: The archetypal story has three acts, or – according to Aristotle – it has a beginning, a middle and an end. John Yorke (TV producer at the BBC and author of one of the most successful books on screenwriting) describes this structure in terms of (1.) set up, (2.) confrontation, and (3.) resolution. The transition between these acts is marked in each case by a “turning point.” “Inciting incident” transitions the first act into the second, “The Crisis” transitions the second into the third. Let’s apply this scheme to our story.

Act 1: The set up introduces the hero Ping. The “Inciting incident” (as the first “Turning point”) is that the old emperor must find a successor. Act 2: The confrontation takes the form of the competition, Ping must prove his green thumb in competition with the other children. “The antagonist” here is thus a collective subject: Ping against the many others. The “Crisis” (as the second “Turning point”) consists in the unsuccessful attempt to make the seed germinate. Ping must now decide: Does he drop out of the competition? Does he bring the empty pot to the emperor? Mediated through the father’s helper figure, he makes a decision: he stays in the competition and goes to the palace. Act 3: The resolution is based on the imperial information that the seed could not have sprouted at all. This makes it clear: Ping is the only child who has kept the rules of the game – he brings the “empty truth” in the “empty pot” – which qualifies him to be the heir to the throne.

Becoming capable of criticism

So the scheme is fulfilled in this case as well. But what now? This brief narrative analysis provides a good basis for thinking in a second direction: that of narrative criticism. If you use the available theories to understand how the story is structured, you will have understood it better. And to understand better always means to become capable of criticism. On this track we get a different view of the story, which takes away from it – what will perhaps be a disappointment – some of its wise glamor.

History “works”, as is shown not least by its great success. But what is the price of this functioning?

Let’s look at the figure of the emperor. He has a problem to solve, and he succeeds. Through the flower contest, he identifies the only child who has the moral qualifications to succeed him. The positive quality that is highlighted here is honesty, in which Ping remains even. The high price for this doctrine lies first in the fact that the emperor, in order to make his honesty test, must leave even this same moral category. The competition has a double bottom, after all: The seeds have been prepared, they cannot germinate; the real competition is not for the most beautiful flower, but for the morally sovereign handling of the empty pot. When it is said at the introduction of the competition that “because the emperor loved flowers so much, he decided to let the flowers choose,” this turns out in retrospect to be a feint – also narratively. For the narrator initially hides the character’s actual intention. But when honesty is seen as a virtue and is full-bodiedly put forth as the doctrine of the Empty Pot, one inevitably has to face a familiar dilemma: Must there necessarily be a correspondence between means and ends? Is it legitimate in itself to be dishonest in order to test honesty? Is it in this case, when the leadership of a country is at stake? Or is the duplicity particularly reprehensible just then?

But narrative criticism must go further. The story, in order to be just so tellable, must create other conditions that further increase the price of literary construction. I name two of them.

First, the chosen fulfillment of the basic school-like structure lives from the fact that Ping is the only child who does not cheat; if a second one came to the farm with an empty pot, it would collapse. Then there would be another story, perhaps about a second contest to determine the winner. Also conceivable would be the alternative course, which would be about a change in the order of rule, namely the replacement of imperial autocracy by co-emperorship. But the original story chooses a maximally radicalized quantity ratio: All other children – that is: all children of the Chinese empire – choose the way of deception. This, too, can be seen critically. In order to create a particularly heroic hero, the story has to accept a conception of man that assumes a natural inclination towards less noble deeds. However, the split social unity of the children is fleshed out even further. Ping is not mocked by just any child, but, as it is explicitly stated, by a “clever friend.” As the basically positive characterization of the friend as “clever” shows, the narrator, out of strategic calculation – we still know nothing of the emperor’s trick – again makes himself his accomplice.

Second, the chosen fulfillment of the scheme thrives on the fact that Ping has a reliable moral compass in his father. The narrative dynamics suggest that Ping’s decision-and thus his overcoming of the “Crisis”-was motivated by his vote: “You did your best, and your best is good enough.” What was the case at the level of the children is thus repeated at the level of the adults. The father is also the one exception to the rule: all the other parents (who, after all, could not have escaped failure because of the nature of the competition) at least did not discourage their children from trying to cheat, if not encouraged them to do so.

It seems to me that The Empty Pot is nevertheless a very good story. Good it is, however, in a double sense. On the one hand, it does indeed convey in an appealing way key social virtues: honesty, but also the will to do one’s best – and, more difficult, to stand by that best even when it not only falls short of one’s own expectations but also provokes ridicule from others. On the other hand, the story is also good because it is easy to show that its success is tied to well-rehearsed narrative schemes. These schemes, as well as the manner of their fulfillment (or non-fulfillment), always deserve our attention and, on a case-by-case basis, our criticism. Narrative theory offers a variety of tools for performing both tasks. But even without such tools, the simple strategy of retelling or even retelling a particular story can help us gain crucial insights and productively change the way we look at the original.

Demi: The Empty Pot. New York 1990 (translation by Andreas Mauz).

Vladimir Propp: Morphology of the Fairy Tale. Munich 1972.

John Yorke: Into the Woods. How stories work and why we tell them. London 2014.

Andreas Mauz,

*1973, is a literary scholar and theologian and part of the Neue Wege editorial team.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Spiral downward and No exit!


Spiral downward and No exit!
by Claus Peter Ortlieb and Herbert Bottcher

The austerity dictates imposed on the Eurozone are only exacerbating the crisis they are supposed to be fighting. In all economies under the thumb of the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank & the European Commission, the austerity measures are leading to a collapse in domestic demand.

Spiral downward
No way out of the debt crisis
by Claus Peter Ortlieb
[This 2012 article is translated from the German on the Internet, https://exit-online.org/textanz1.php?tabelle=autoren&index=5&posnr=511&backtext1=text1.php.]

It is becoming increasingly clear that the austerity dictates imposed on the Eurozone are only exacerbating the crisis they are supposed to be fighting. In all economies under the thumb of the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, the austerity measures are leading to a collapse in domestic demand. The resulting recession, which has been triggered or exacerbated, is causing unemployment to rise, resulting in higher social spending, while at the same time gross domestic product (GDP) and tax revenues are declining. As a result, the indicators of public debt, i.e. the debt level and new borrowing as a percentage of the decreased GDP, deteriorate. This, in turn, calls the “troika” into action, which, based on its criteria, has no choice but to tighten the thumbscrews and tighten the austerity requirements, which causes domestic demand to decline further, and so on.

This spiral of austerity, recession, even greater austerity and even sharper recession is familiar from the 1930s, in Germany under the heading of “Brüning’s emergency decrees,” but also in the U.S., where President Hoover’s administration pursued a similar course. The result of that time can now be observed again in the southern European crisis countries: An unemployment rate around 25 percent, while youth unemployment is at 50 percent. There is one difference: While in the 1930s governments ruined their own economies, in the Eurozone this job is done by the German government with the result that almost only the German economy (still) grows a little, while the Eurozone as a whole shrinks economically.

Keynesianism, as is well known, emerged in the 1930s as a reaction to the Great Depression and the crisis-exacerbating economic policies of that time. Accordingly, its proponents, above all Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, are stunned by the austerity policies propagated by German politicians (see the article by JustIn Monday in KONKRET 8/12). Krugman seems to be able to explain the increasing “ideological blindness” of German politicians only by their belief “that hard times must be the necessary punishment for past excesses,” overlooking, however, that the hard times and the excesses here do not necessarily concern the same people. Economic stimulus programs are promoted as an alternative to austerity policies: “Today, governments need to spend more money, not less, and to do so until the private sector is again able to sustain the recovery.” Outside Europe, such economic policies are indeed being pursued at present, for example by the U.S. government and Federal Reserve, but also in China.

However, the matter is not quite as simple as Krugman makes it out to be: Keynesian economic policy presupposes that the private sector will at some point be able to sustain the upswing, otherwise the famous bottomless pit will open up. But this prerequisite has not been met for a long time: For more than thirty years, the global economy has been kept going only by (government and private) debt creation. Keynesianism failed in this respect as early as the 1970s, when the economic stimulus programs that are now being called for again were no longer able to trigger self-sustaining capital accumulation, but only led to double-digit inflation rates in some cases.

As is well known, it was then replaced by neoliberalism, which, contrary to its own monetarist doctrine, pursued anything but a policy of stable money supply. Rather, government debt was pushed further (for example, through the excessive arms Keynesianism of U.S. President Reagan), and the deregulation of the financial sector expanded the possibilities for credit-based money creation. At the same time, the shift of large amounts of money from mass consumption and the real economy to the financial sector caused inflation to disappear, or, to be more precise, to shift from the consumer goods to the stock and real estate markets (asset inflation), a thoroughly desirable effect: The Dow Jones Index, for example, increased by a factor of seven between 1982 and 2000, adjusted for inflation, without thus representing correspondingly higher real values. Similar phenomena occurred in real estate markets, where the price increases of houses bought on credit were used to finance the consumption of their owners until the bubbles finally burst.

The talk of “finance-driven capitalism,” which dominated discourse for a while as a “new regulatory model,” says, when seen in the light of day, only that the real economy was financed and kept going by debt. A construction not yet discussed here is that of the deficit cycle, which, in simplified terms, works like this: A extends credit to B, which B uses to buy the goods produced by A, returning the money to A, which it can then lend to B again. Such operations have driven the world economy for decades, for example with China in the role of A and the U.S. in the role of B (Pacific deficit cycle), or – after the introduction of the euro – with Germany in the role of A and the southern part of the eurozone in the role of B (European deficit cycle).

Finance-driven capitalism” must stutter or come to a complete halt as soon as creditors have a reasonable suspicion that their debtors will not be able to repay their debts. This has happened repeatedly at the local level for 30 years, and first took on global proportions with the crash of 2008 because of the length of the credit chains that had been built up in the meantime. In order to save the financial system from complete collapse, sovereigns, as seemingly infallible debtors, had to and continue to bear the costs. In addition, in the following year alone, 2009, government stimulus programs totaling approximately $3 trillion were launched worldwide. Although this prevented a depression like that of the 1930s (for exceptions, see above), it was no more able to initiate self-sustaining real accumulation than in the decades before.

The neoliberal revolution’s answer to the crisis of the 1970s was the “most gigantic credit-financed economic stimulus program ever seen,” as the conservative social scientist Meinhard Miegel notes. Those who, as true conservatives, now call for an end to the “excesses” overlook or conceal the fact, however, that it was precisely these “excesses” that kept the world economy going for more than thirty years. And those who, conversely, call for further government stimulus programs would rather not know that, while this will mitigate the effects of the crisis, it will not overcome the crisis itself, but only increase government debt until, at some point, nothing more will work.

The supposed alternative of austerity policy on the one hand or economic stimulus programs on the other is in reality a dilemma situation, a choice between plague and cholera, between saving to the bone and national bankruptcy. To be more precise, it is not even a choice, since one disease implies the other, because the state is dependent on the successful utilization of capital, for which, conversely, it has to create the conditions.

Global capitalism cannot leave behind the over-accumulation crisis that has been going on since the 1970s, because with the advent of microelectronics and its application in production, an ever smaller part of the world’s labor force is sufficient to produce for everyone. Now, the associated “end of the work society”, i.e. the disappearance of work from the production process, would not be a misfortune in itself; after all, most of us can imagine something better than a lifetime of hard labor. A problem arises from this development only because capitalism, as is well known, is based on the exploitation of labor, i.e. profits can be generated in a capitalistically serious way and in the long run only through the use of human labor. And profits are the meaning and purpose of all capitalist economic activity.

No economic policy of any kind can get to the core of the crisis. It would have to deprive itself of its own basis and abolish capitalism. Since this does not seem to be a realistic perspective, the only option left to the money subjects is to keep the negative consequences of the crisis as far away from themselves as possible and to pass them on to others. What this means in a situation in which fewer and fewer people are still usable for capital and the population of entire regions is becoming superfluous from this point of view has been demonstrated in exemplary fashion by German politics over the last ten years:

The success story with which the supposedly lost “international competitiveness” has been regained begins with the low-wage sector built up in the course of Agenda 2010 and the associated pressure on wages even in the higher echelons. In the EU, Germany is the only country where real wages fell between 2000 and 2008, i.e. where the high productivity growth was no longer passed on to wage-dependent employees, but instead wage dumping was practiced. In addition, the share of industrial production in Germany’s gross domestic product is significantly higher than in other countries and, precisely because of lower unit labor costs, this ratio is shifting more and more in favor of German industry, because the industries of many other countries, especially the southern European euro countries, which are no longer protected by their own currencies, cannot compete under these conditions. This built up the European deficit cycle already outlined above. This imbalance of trade balances in the common currency area is the problem of the euro zone, which goes beyond the general global economic crisis to the point of its still possible collapse.

German politicians will probably not let it get that far, as domestic capital has earned too much from the euro for that, but of course the “German model of success” should not be abandoned either. Instead, the entire EU is now to follow this model. This is crazy even according to the criteria of insane system logic, because the model is based on an asymmetry, namely the trade balance deficits of the southern European crisis countries as the flip side of the German trade balance surplus. It all makes sense only if the goal is to make the euro zone “internationally competitive” in competition with India and China, which would mean bringing it up to the same level, especially in terms of living and working conditions. Greece is currently demonstrating what this means.

If everyone follows those who have been successful recently, the further course of the crisis is preordained: Since success in the competition between locations means being among the few who can export their products, costs must be squeezed locally, especially those for such luxuries as caring for the sick, the elderly and other boarders who make no contribution to economic success. The struggle for competitiveness can thus only lead to a further downward spiral, which, by the way, has long been underway.

There is little consolation in the fact that even the temporary winners of this competition will hardly be able to rejoice in their victory: After all, who is going to buy the products of the ever fewer and ever smaller islands of capitalist prosperity?

Disrupting the war drive! Instead of: Onward to disaster
by Herbert Bottcher
[This 2022 article is translated from the German on the Internet, https://exit-online.org/textanz1.php?tabelle=autoren&index=20&posnr=663&backtext1=text1.php.]
First published on: http://www.oekumenisches-netz.de

Russia’s war against Ukraine is drifting towards an ever more dangerous escalation, which could lead to a nuclear world war. Instead of mindless ‘Keep it up!’ reflective interruption would be the order of the day.

The ‘Keep it up!’ feeds on illusionary delusions. It is a self-deceived illusion to believe that by supplying more and more weapons – including heavy equipment – NATO is not making itself a war party and is doing everything to prevent a nuclear escalation. In fact, however, NATO is making itself a party to the war and Ukraine the battleground of a conflict between Russia and NATO that has been escalating for years. This conflict is now being fought in a brutal war on the backs of the people of Ukraine. It is claiming more and more lives, destroying towns and villages, destroying livelihoods. Already, its deadly effects are also evident in the massive deterioration of food situations, especially in parts of Africa.

More and more new deliveries of weapons aggravate and prolong the war, in which those atrocities are committed which are deplored and accused, but which at the same time are given space by prolonging the war and threatening to lead to a nuclear catastrophe. This course of events cries out for interruption and critical self-reflection! This is all the more true because NATO, in the course of the war, repeats or increases the mistakes that contributed to it: its unrestrained expansion to the east combined with the renunciation of arms control and limitation. This perplexing ‘Keep up the good work’ is now being continued in an unchecked supply of weapons to Ukraine and in a dangerous escalation of the war.

The resistance to critical self-reflection is reflected in the full-bodied, naive, simplistic and dangerous rhetoric with which arms deliveries and rearmament are justified in the governing coalition, above all by the FDP and the Greens, fueled in the opposition by the CDU/CSU, and carried out by the SPD with an occasionally guilty conscience and with delays. It feeds on the dangerous juxtaposition of a struggle of ‘good’ against ‘evil,’ of the rational against the delusional. When it comes to war and armament, their heart for humanity and human rights, their sensitivity for ‘humanitarian catastrophes’ is discovered by those who neither show sensitivity nor waste concern in the ‘normality’ of capitalist crisis relations, when refugees drown in the Mediterranean, are handed over to dictatorships, deported to death, when hunger is produced, livelihoods are destroyed and and and…, in short: Where Western freedom and democracy show that flip side of death, destruction and terror without which they cannot be ‘had’.

The demand for interruption and critical self-reflection does not imply a justification of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, but its condemnation without ‘ifs and buts’. From this, however, no justification can be derived for the senseless actions of the NATO states. Interrupting self-reflection in the face of worsening catastrophes could reveal that in the war over Ukraine the actors confront each other in the context of the capitalist world system hitting its inner limit and disintegrating. This is where Russia’s imperial hallucinations fail, as well as those of the U.S. or NATO. The disintegrating world is also militarily no longer ‘controllable’. This is exactly what the failed military interventions of recent years signal. Instead of critical recognition of the limits and the failure, megalomania is spreading. It is an expression of the fetish relations, which are determined by the irrational end in itself, to increase money/capital for its own sake. The more this abstract end in itself runs into the void, the more intensively it releases its potential for destruction. It demands its ‘normal victims’, the ‘victim’ of more and more people in escalating crisis processes, and at the same time its ‘final victim’, insofar as the emptiness of the self-purpose can be compensated less and less and the megalomania becomes the mania of destruction. Not only ‘individuals’ run amok, but the insane system itself runs amok – executed by its senseless agents driven by the delusion of the system.

No determinism can be derived from the fetish certain delusion. It is true that within the framework of the failed capitalist relations no immanent way out of the worsening crises is possible. But this does not mean that the path to nuclear catastrophe is ‘programmed’. Interruption is possible and necessary at the same time. With the demand for interruption a word of Walter Benjamin is taken up. It stands against the course of history into catastrophe. Interruption instead of ‘Keep it up!’ could open a window of time for critical reflection and interrupt paths that could lead to a global catastrophe that once again goes far beyond what we experience in the ‘normal’ catastrophes in crisis capitalism.

No exit? – Economic collapse theories following Marx
An interview of the editorial staff of Narthex with Herbert Böttcher
[This 2022 interview is translated from the German on the Internet, https://exit-online.org/textanz1.php?tabelle=autoren&index=20&posnr=658&backtext1=text1.php.]
Published in: Narthex – Magazine for Radical Thought, pp. 20-25

While there is more talk than ever about an impending ecological or medical apocalypse, the topic of an economic apocalypse, i.e. an impending collapse of the economic system, has currently rather faded into the background. We spoke with Herbert Böttcher, economist and theologian and co-worker at EXIT!, about a possible collapse of capitalism following Marx’s crisis theory and what consequences it could have for the world. Will it also be followed by the collapse of civilization? Or, as Marx hoped, a new, better beginning?

Dear Mr. Böttcher, you are close to the magazine EXIT! which was founded by the theorist Robert Kurz, who has died in the meantime, and which tries to develop his thinking further. Kurz’s approaches – developed, among other things, in the Black Book on Capitalism1 published in 1999 – met with a great response in the 1990s, even outside radical left theory circles. He developed his own variety of a Marxist theory of collapse, which revolved around the “melting away” of the “value substance value” in the course of the “micro-industrial revolution”. Could you perhaps briefly outline the key points of this collapse theory? What distinguishes it from other Marxist theories of crisis and collapse?

The crisis theory developed by Robert Kurz understands the crises associated with capitalism as the process of a contradiction inherent in capitalism that leads to its decline. Since the 1970s, it has become apparent that with the advance of the microelectronic revolution, more labor is being replaced by technology than can be compensated for by cheapening and diversifying production and expanding markets. Thus, capitalism now also historically encounters the logical barrier that Marx had called “processual contradiction “2 . That is to say: mediated by competition, capitalist production is under the compulsion to replace labor by technology. As far as the material side is concerned, this entails an enormous increase in productivity, including a growing consumption of material and energy. But this is accompanied – as far as the value side is concerned – by a process in which labor as the substance of value dwindles. This logical contradiction is now also becoming historically more and more effective in crisis processes, which appear on different levels: in accumulation crises together with the associated state indebtedness and bubble formation on the financial markets, in global and regional location competition, politics as crisis administration without perspective, the disintegration of states, destruction of the natural foundations of life, migration and flight up to the crises of the subjects, who as ‘entrepreneurial selves’ are under a pressure to adapt to the crisis conditions, to which they are supposed to autonomously submit. Individuals banished into the subject form are forced to process the crisis in a form that increasingly loses its foundations as labor dwindles. All this fuels anti-Semitism, anti-gypsyism, racism, sexism, up to social anomie and barbarization in social relations….

The decisive difference compared to other Marxist theories of crisis is above all that Robert Kurz bases his theory of crisis not on contradictions at the level of circulation, but on the self-contradiction of capital at the basal level of the substance of labor. Labor as a real abstraction and crisis are mutually dependent. This becomes clear in the comparison with the crisis theories of Rosa Luxemburg and Hendrik Großmann. According to Luxemburg, capitalism fails because it can no longer access extra-capitalist territories. It can produce surplus value, but fails to realize it by selling it at the level of circulation. Hendrik Großmann does start from the sphere of production and a crisis of surplus value extraction. Ultimately, he espouses the idea that the revenue of capitalists becomes smaller and smaller as a result of the fall in the rate of profit, since a large part of it must flow into accumulation. Immanuel Wallerstein, who in more recent times has been treated as a Marxist crash prophet, assumes a world system and transnational processes that have emerged over 500 years and are characterized by conflict between center and periphery. This system is falling apart today. Indicators of this are austerity, speculation, capital concentration, (national) debt, mass unemployment, etc. These ‘crisis theories’ do not start from the inner connection between processive contradiction and the obsolescence of labor. This is also true for Wallerstein, for whom this remains merely a moment of his otherwise system-theoretical view.

Another characteristic of the crisis theory represented in EXIT! is that it owes itself not only to a reception of Marx that understands Marx not merely as a modernization theorist, but as a theorist of fetishism and crisis. It is at the same time – despite all criticism, especially of the reduction to exchange and circulation – ‘inspired’ by Critical Theory, which reaches out to a social totality and goes hand in hand with an identity-critical thinking that gives space to differences that are not absorbed in the concept. Therefore, Kurz’s theory cannot be reduced to a critique of value, but is constitutively connected to what Roswitha Scholz has developed as a critique of value and separation: Production with masculine connotations and reproduction with feminine connotations constitute equally originally the basic social context of capitalist totality, without one being able to be derived from the other. Thus questions of normative and symbolic content, of the social and androcentric unconscious, are given space, as becomes clear in the inclusion of the question of the role of the social-psychic matrix of the bourgeois subject and the narcissistic social character acting itself out in the crisis. A fortiori, 30 years after the publication of Kurz’s The Collapse of Modernization, it must be pointed out that Kurz also included the etatist-socialist variant of modernization in his theory of crisis and understood the collapse of this variant of commodity production as a ‘precursor’ to the collapse of its liberal counterpart.

The crash of the New Economy, mass unemployment, and then, even more so, the global financial crisis gave Kurz’s theses a high level of evidence. After that, however, there was a significant recovery of the global economy, and the current economic crisis seems to be due at least primarily – and here, too, there are divergent assessments3 – to the Corona virus and the measures taken against it, and not to immanent contradictions of the capitalist mode of production. At best, the jumping of the pathogen to humans and its rapid spread could be characterized as a consequence of forced overexploitation of nature and globalization as well as cramped living conditions. And also in general, capitalism seems to be collapsing, if at all, because it is unable to solve the ecological question and not, as Kurz warned, for structural reasons. – How do they assess this? Would Kurz’s theories need to be revised in light of recent developments? Or is the ecological crisis only a surface phenomenon?

There can be no talk of a recovery of ‘the’ world economy, at best of shifts between crisis winners and de-industrialized regions, as we are experiencing in Europe between Germany and above all southern European countries and the accompanying conflicts. The fact that the preconditions for this have been created in the internal area of the winners with precarious employment and social cuts is lost in the perception. The debt dynamics in particular show how thin the ice is, even for the partially successful countries measured in terms of GDP. The ‘recovery’ after the crash of 2007 ff. consisted of a huge liquidity bubble, which was used to fuel the global economy and which could burst at any time. This bubble economy, fed by the growth of credit and speculative bubbles, has been losing economic momentum since 2008. The astronomical sums of debt, once again driven up by Corona, cannot be offset by future value creation.

It may seem evident at first glance that capitalism is failing because of ecological barriers to its inherent growth. But these are not independent of the logical and historical limit to the accumulation of capital. The compulsion to displace labor as a source of value and surplus value from the production process is further accompanied by attempts to compensate for crises of accumulation by expanding production and cheapening products. This requires an ever higher material and energetic input, which remains even if, in accordance with the basic social tendency, labor is substituted by technology. Ecological regulations counteract the need to fuel the crisis-ridden accumulation process. A ‘Green New Deal’ is likely to produce short-term successes at best, but these will not be economically sustainable in terms of system preservation.

The Corona virus has to do with the capitalist relations of production and distribution – as far as its origin is concerned and even more so as far as its spread is concerned. However, it has not produced a new crisis, but has superimposed itself on the existing crisis in an aggravating way. State interventions ranging from credit-financed economic aid to health protection measures make some dream of the return of the primacy of politics, while others conjure up a new state of emergency. Both of these scenarios miss the reality of the crisis. The confusion between lockdowns and ‘relaxations’ reflects the limits of state action to reconcile the proclaimed protection of health and the systemic necessities of capitalist normality. An indication that, as the crisis progresses, policymakers are less and less able to enforce a ‘state of emergency’ can be seen in the fact that populist authoritarian governments, of all things, are ignoring the pandemic. Aside from whatever mafia connections may have played a role in failing states and populisms: they can ill afford to disrupt ways of ensuring survival, not least through informal employment – with the result that the ‘redundant’ population is just as much at the mercy of the virus without protective measures as it would have been with protective measures. Similar to the refugee crisis, the way Corona deals with the ‘non-survivable’ in regions of collapse shows what threatens the ‘superfluous’ in the centers if the crisis continues to ‘run its course’ here as well. In the process, the currently still suppressed question of who is to pay for the exorbitant anticipation of future crisis-mediated value creation will also come onto the agenda, and what this means for the ‘stability’ of capitalism will become visible.

The idea of a “collapse theory” is, after all, a hot potato in Marx research. It is indisputable that Marx and Engels at some points assume a necessary collapse of capitalism, leading to an inevitable transition to a post-capitalist economy without private ownership of means of production and land. But is this not precisely a problematic aspect of their theories? A legacy of Hegel’s philosophy of history and a piece of secularized theology? Was Marx an apocalyptic prophet disguised as a scientist?

Indeed, it is problematic to assume “an inevitable transition to a post-capitalist economy without private ownership of the means of production and land.” Such an assumption is under the spell of a Hegelian-oriented understanding of history finalized toward the realization of reason and freedom. With regard to the question of property, it overlooks the fact that the legal form is part of the capitalist formal context to be guaranteed by the state. With legal changes in the disposition of means of production, there is neither a break with commodity production nor a break with the areas of reproduction that are split off from it and inferiorized, and thus also not a break with the gender relation associated with capitalism.

Not Marx as the theorist of the bourgeois history of progress, but the Marx of the critique of fetishism would have to be taken up. From there, the insight is to be gained that capitalism has constituted itself as the abstract rule of the irrational self-purpose of the multiplication of capital for its own sake. With the disappearance of labor as a source of value and surplus-value, this fetishistic self-purpose runs into the void and with it value, money, state/politics… Nevertheless, this “metaphysical void” (Kurz) does not escape the compulsion of representation, but must ’empty itself’ into material things. This amounts to human life and nature being ‘sacrificed’ to the fetish even, or even more so, when it runs into the ‘void’. The most drastic expression of this compulsion to destroy is where it becomes self-destruction. Such insanity is related to the insanity of capitalist normality, in which individuals are expected to permanently and inconclusively optimize themselves as ‘entrepreneurial selves’ in the competition for the utilization of labor power for the irrational end of self. Subjugation becomes self-subjugation to a self-purpose running into emptiness and thus self-surrender. To see history as history of progress with an ontological finalization on freedom and reason or even on a classless society may be a variant of “secularized theology” insofar as it reflects the theological (pseudo-)certainties of an ontologically or by God secured universal sense and a good end of history. However, a different theological relation to Marx comes to the fore, where theology is formulated, as in J.B. Metz, as a ‘post-idealist theology’, which ties in with Benjamin’s critique of the understanding of history as a history of progress and victory, as well as with Adorno’s identity-critical ‘negative dialectic’. The focus of such theological reflection is on what human beings and creation had and have to suffer under respective relations of domination, and what can neither be compensated by universal certainties of meaning nor by a guaranteed universal final goal of history. Following biblical traditions, which distinguish between emancipatory speech of God and idols legitimizing domination, such theology articulates itself critically of fetishism. This is not possible without critical social theory and a break with capitalist fetish relations.

There is, after all, the well-known saying of the U.S. Marxist Fredric Jameson: “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” – Marx and Engels may still have had reasons to assume that something better might follow an end to capitalism. Do we still have those reasons today? Or is there only the threat of an even worse barbarism? Wouldn’t one almost have to try to prevent the collapse of capitalism as a communist in today’s world situation?

In the quoted dictum, it becomes clear above all how much people are fused with capitalism in their perception, feeling and thinking, and precisely these necessary analytical insights, above all those of the crisis, are blocked. This blockage becomes clear precisely in the concept of the subject. In the context of the Enlightenment, it is understood as a mature, autonomous subject that is aware of itself, i.e. free and capable of acting. What remains outside of this self-understanding is that the subject as autonomous can only act within the framework of the unreflectively presupposed capitalist relations. Just as the state’s ability to act depends on the increase of capital through labor, the subject’s action remains bound to labor. Robert Kurz has described it as “the agent of abstract labor and its derivative functions.” This shapes its “form of perception, form of thought, form of relationship, form of activity. “4 The subject is thus no more ‘autonomous’ than the state and politics as a form of action, but is subject to relations that have constituted themselves – mediated through human action – as “abstract domination,” without the individuals simply being puppets of the system.

“An end to capitalism” might well be “followed by something better.” But this presupposes a categorical break with capitalist relations, that is, with ‘ontological’ positings such as labor, money, state, subject, enlightenment, with those categories, in other words, with which people are so fused that they can imagine the end of the world rather than that of capitalism and its real-abstract categories. If it does not come to that, indeed “an even worse barbarism” threatens – even if “communists” do everything to “prevent the collapse of capitalism”. Even they cannot leap over the logical and historical barrier with ever more willing adaptations.

In reactionary circles, too, there have been increasing warnings in recent years of an economic collapse of capitalism. Here, apocalypticism seems to be much more widespread than among left-wing forces, most of whom assume that capitalism can be saved by a ‘green turn’. One only has to think of the movement of right-wing radical “preppers”, who, fearing a coming catastrophe, stockpile weapons and food and erect nuclear shelters in their front yards. And Ken Jebsen & Co. eagerly discuss that the financial system is one huge bubble that will burst sooner or later. In left-wing circles, on the other hand, you’re often considered an anti-Semite if you even try to discuss the financial market critically. – What do you think of this development? Should the left return more strongly to Marx’s theory of crisis?

In times of crisis, apocalypticism becomes a free-floating metaphor in which fears of doom are expressed. The talk of dystopia, which enjoys great popularity today, also belongs in this context. In right-wing ideological circles, the metaphor of apocalypticism makes it possible to hold on to the conditions by offering forms of crisis processing in which above all the male subject seems to find a foothold, with violent defense against Jews, non-working people, foreigners. Criticism of the financial markets is combined with structural anti-Semitism where the connection between the bubble economy and the crisis of the real economy is not seen and creative capital is played off against rapacious capital and associated with the power of money, which is connoted as ‘Jewish’. Some promise themselves a certain power in powerlessness if they think they have knowledge of apocalyptic end-time scenarios and believe they can even arm themselves individually or in groups with delusions up to preparations for a civil war. ‘Apocalyptics’ in lateral thinking circles (including Markus Krall, Christian Kreiß, Matthias Weik, Marc Friedrich, Dirk Müller), who are not infrequently close to conspiracy theories, do not want capitalism to be overcome, but the ‘right’ one in their sense. Here, a gap is filled that has been left by a left that does not care about a Marxian theory of crisis, at the center of which is the connection between processive contradiction and labor and thus the decline of capitalism.

In all this, of all things, what constitutes the core of apocalyptic plays no role, at least when it is understood from its biblical contexts. It is not about an anticipatory reportage of terrible events at the end of time, but about the confrontation with Greek rule in the 2nd century B.C.E. as well as with Roman rule in the 1st century C.E. The apocalyptic traditions give a voice to those who suffer under this rule and fall victim to it. In the literal sense of apocalyptic, they are concerned with uncovering something hidden. The victims of domination and its deadly character are revealed. Apocalyptic understood in this way stands against mythical veilings in the ‘always the same’ as well as against metaphysical-ontological appeasement by giving meaning, in which the suffering of the victims is made invisible. In doing so, it certainly falls back on mythical images. In images of predators, for example, she expresses the bestial character of respective domination. It is not placed in the cycle of the ‘same old’, but confronted with its temporality in history and thus with its end. This thinking of history and time is rooted in the Jewish understanding of God, who in the break with domination paves ways of liberation. The biblical apocalyptic ascribes to him the ‘last word’ that judges ‘dominions and powers’. From this, the apocalyptists gain strength to resist the demanded subjugation.

In this sense, apocalyptic demythologizes as final and comprehensive (‘totalitarian’) appearing and cultically staging rule in its fetish character. Salvation can only come with a break, i.e. with the ‘radical’ end of rule. Immanent turns, e.g. a better ruler, a ‘little’ more justice and peace are excluded. Against this background, Marx would not be an ‘apocalyptic prophet disguised as a scientist’, but could be called an ‘apocalypticist’ precisely as a scientist insofar as, in continuation of his critique of religion, he pursued critique of domination as analysis and critique of capitalist fetish relations.

In its critique of certain historical domination, apocalyptic contradicts at the same time the domination of time in the form of its perpetuation. Against the postmodern farewell to history and its flight into seemingly comforting myths that make domination invisible, apocalyptic thinking objects to identitarian closed immanence, currently to the finality of capitalism, but also to the finality of the death of the victims in history – quite close to Benjamin’s blasting of the continuum of history as the continuation of a homogeneous and empty time5 as well as to Adorno’s ‘Negative Dialectics’6.

To make it concrete again at the end: What do you think is in store for us in the coming decades? And how should we behave towards these processes?

No predictions can be derived from critical social theory regarding the course of the crisis, but tendencies can be identified. Since there are no forces in sight that are pushing for a break with the conditions, and even where there is talk of transforming capitalism, it is still supposed to continue with work, the state, money or its derivatives, or alternatives are sought in the split-off spheres of reproduction, there is much to suggest that – all the more so in view of Corona – the crisis process will intensify. This is also true with regard to ecological crises, the solution of which would require, among other things, a rational use of resources, which would include a transformation of the production apparatus. Thus, forms of barbarization are ‘pre-programmed’, which are fueled by the denial of the crises.

Social movements are more eager to take a place at the cat’s table of crisis management than to forfeit their supposed attention through radical critique. Instead, it would be important to make relations as a ‘concrete totality’ the object of critique, in order to make clear the necessity of a categorical break as a precondition for alternatives to capitalism.

This does not take the question of praxis off the table. Only when analytical insight is combined with practical interventions can processes of change occur. One perspective on this path would be protests against ever new social impositions as well as interventions against forms of barbarization in sexism, racism…, as well as demands aiming at the satisfaction of basic needs and at not making the shaping of interpersonal relationships and relations dependent on the submission to fetish relations, but to consciously bring them under control and to shape them within the framework of an “association of free people” (Marx).

Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview.


Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The necessary breach and Rackets and Rockets


The necessary breach and Rackets and Rockets
by Tomasz Konicz

The climate movement should not be afraid of being accused of radicalism. Given the civilization-threatening dimensions of the climate crisis, it is a matter of sheer collective will to survive to solve this monstrous problem. It is obvious that global capitalism, in its boundless compulsion to grow, is incapable of reducing resource consumption and emissions.
The necessary breach
By Tomasz Konicz
[This article posted on 8/12/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.konicz.info/2022/08/12/der-notwendige-bruch/.]
ak, Aug. 12, 2022

The climate movement needs anti-capitalist guardrails for its upcoming actions

The climate movement should not be afraid of being accused of radicalism. Given the civilization-threatening dimensions of the climate crisis, it is a matter of sheer collective will to survive to solve this monstrous problem. It is obvious that global capitalism, in its boundless compulsion to grow, is incapable of reducing resource consumption and emissions. This has long been empirically proven, as in the 21st century global emissions of CO2 could only be reduced in the short term at the price of world economic crises, only to rise again all the more rapidly as a result of subsequent economic stimulus measures. The entire world is being turned into the mere fuel of this irrational exploitation cycle.

Link: https://www.akweb.de/bewegung/die-klimabewegung-braucht-antikapitalistische-leitplanken-fuer-ihre-kommenden-aktionen/
Even more: since wage labor forms the substance of capital, increases in productivity cause the hunger for resources of the capitalist profit machine to increase, since the value of the individual commodity decreases and more commodities must be produced in order to successfully complete the cycle of exploitation (this results in the tendency for many products to be produced in such a way that they break down more quickly). The climate crisis is a capitalist climate crisis. Without overcoming capital, there is no hope of averting the impending climate catastrophe.

Being radical means first and foremost saying what’s what. The fight against the capitalist climate crisis must be waged with open sights in view of the rapidly running time. It is necessary to tell people openly that sustainable climate protection, i.e. the alleviation of the climate crisis, is only possible if the capitalist compulsion to grow is overcome. The climate struggle must thus be waged as a struggle for transformation into a post-capitalist society. Overcoming capital’s exploitation compulsion run amok is the absolute minimum.

This confrontation would finally break the ideological spell that makes the discussion of system alternatives impossible. And actually most people suspect that late capitalism is heading for the abyss; the apocalypse is omnipresent in the culture industry, in film and computer games. The difficulty would rather be to convince the people, who are lapsing into resignation, that the climate collapse including the apocalypse is not inevitable. The demand for a system transformation would also put a stop to the opportunism rampant among the Greens and the Left Party, which still sees even the climate crisis as a vehicle for career dreams in crisis management.

What does anti-capitalist climate policy mean?

The vision of a climate-friendly and resource-conserving post-capitalist society, which seems so abstract, results from the concrete necessities of climate protection. The demands of an anti-capitalist climate policy must not be concerned with the irrational coercive logic of eroding and ailing late capitalism; they must be oriented to the objective, scientific necessities of climate protection, as well as to the technological possibilities of society. The productive forces that capitalism brought forth would break the fetters of capitalist production relations in this regard.

In concrete terms, this also means meeting the current fears of wage earners: The killer argument of job preservation in fossil industries, for example, would have to be countered by saying that the reproduction of people must no longer be linked to the reproduction of capital in their jobs. For this confronts wage-earners in late capitalism with the tragic choice between social survival and the threat of climate collapse. The same applies to the admonitions about the financial viability of climate protection measures, which could be countered by intensifying and expanding the debate about socialization and expropriation.

The ideological constraints that capital has erected in the neoliberal era would have to be countered by the very real constraints of climate protection. Such a transformational climate policy, linking concrete actions with demands that clearly go beyond the logic of capital, would be tantamount to a first breakout from the capitalist prison of thought.

But what actually needs to be overcome? Even the most powerful capitalists are helplessly exposed to the momentum of capital, which it forms through market mediation. The uncontrollable self-movement of money functioning as capital in its forms of commodity, money and labor power is called fetishism. This is why the capitalists cannot “save the world,” even though the impending social and ecological collapse ultimately threatens their businesses as well. For it is precisely this dynamic of exploitation, unconsciously produced by market subjects, that is devastating impotent human societies and the global ecosystem.

Marx’s seemingly cryptic remark that the overcoming of capitalism would conclude “the prehistory of human society” thus receives its clarity. All previous human history took place unconsciously, within the framework of fetishistic social systems: from the religious fetishism of early times and the Middle Ages to the secularized religion of capital.

The systemic crisis of capital is irreversible

Overcoming this state of affairs would mean simplifying social reproduction. The organization of society would then be organized directly through an egalitarian, process of understanding by the members of society. This goal would also have to appear already in the organizational structure of the transformational movement, which plans its course of action in open discourse – and at the same time practices for the post-capitalist future.

And here is the crux of the matter: the systemic crisis of capital is also an irreversible, fetishistic process, as it chokes on its increasing economic and ecological contradictions and passes into transformation. It is not a question of the subjective will of the members of society whether the collapsing system will be overcome. It is a question of survival of human civilization, ultimately of human existence, in which way the coming transformation process will proceed: as a chaotic disintegration, in the form of the establishment of a brutal crisis dictatorship, or in a progressive direction that would open up new emancipatory perspectives for mankind in spite of all the coming climate-related distortions. What is at hand is a struggle for the course of system transformation.

What is more, this transformation process is already taking place – and the increasing political, ideological and also military conflicts are precisely the expression of this upheaval that is unconsciously taking place above humanity. Civilization or barbarism – these are the extreme poles in this historical “phase of transition”. The transformation struggle for a livable post-capitalist future should form the common denominator of many seemingly disparate movements and struggles.

As the system is in upheaval and the formerly fixed social structures-from the eroding state, to the political coordinate system in disintegration, to the steadily crumbling economy-are in a sense liquefying, collective action has a far greater impact on shaping the future than in periods when capitalism seemed more stable. Thus, bourgeois politics, the actions of political subjects, also matter again; they carry weight. Not because they solve the crisis, but because they can determine the course of the crisis. Whether Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders is in the White House is quite relevant to the course of the crisis process.

Tasks for radical movements

The task for radical movements is thus to understand even seemingly reformist decisions as setting the course for the transformation process and to position themselves accordingly. Here, too, it is important to emphasize the necessity of system transformation in order to finally anchor a discourse on social alternatives in society as a whole. Even protest movements like Fridays for Future and uprisings like the “Arab Spring” are similar in that they can erupt spontaneously when social tipping points are crossed. However, these very different movements, which erupted in reaction to the same socio-ecological crisis process, are only able to take an emancipatory course if they are supported by an adequate crisis consciousness that is broadly anchored in society.

Conceiving of the crisis as a maxim of emancipatory practice thus means asking in what form late capitalist society will enter the inevitable transformation process. Should it be an authoritarian, racist, police-state administered oligarchy with absurd social abysses in which the fossil fuel industry buys its parties, or a more egalitarian, bourgeois-democratic polity in which there continues to be scope for radical critique and praxis? A progressive movement, borne of an understanding of the necessity of systemic transformation, would thus struggle to establish conditions that could steer this transformational dynamic in an emancipatory direction. The maxim of such a post-politics would consist, on the one hand, in the effort to maintain and develop the process of civilization and, on the other hand, in the struggle to overcome the destructive capitalist momentum.

There is a maxim of political practice that leftist movements, groups or even parties must follow in the 21st century if they want to act as progressive social forces in the current epoch of upheaval and crisis. Capitalism must be transformed into history as quickly as possible, the capital relation as a social totality must be consciously abolished – all practical actions, all tactics, all reform proposals, all broader strategies would have to be oriented to this categorical imperative.

This is not an expression of leftist “radicalism,” but the formulation of the reasonable, middle, moderate minimum, without whose realization the process of civilization in the 21st century would end in barbarism. Precisely because capital is collapsing, it must be overcome. Progress can only be realized beyond capital, in the transformational struggle to shape a post-capitalist society.


Rackets and Rockets
By Tomasz Konicz
[This article posted on 5/25/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.konicz.info/2022/05/25/rackets-und-rockets/.

Concrete, 05/2022

To understand the background of the Ukraine war, it is worthwhile to analyze the Russian power apparatus, which has undergone a significant transformation under Vladimir Putin’s leadership.

The invasion of Ukraine is turning into a military fiasco for the Kremlin, but on the home front, the attack certainly seems to be having the desired effects. The population is largely behind the course of the war. While the Russian army withdrew from Kiev oblast and northern Ukraine in early April at great human and material cost, leaving behind vast amounts of military debris, mass graves and much evidence of war crimes, approval ratings for Vladimir Putin’s actions climbed to ever new highs.

According to polls, by the end of March, some 83 percent of Russian Federation citizens supported the invasion planned by a tight circle of power in the Kremlin. In February, approval ratings for Putin’s Ukraine policy were 71 percent, compared with 69 percent in January. The growing support among the population is not only due to the usual truce policy that usually emerges after the beginning of hostilities in the warring states – this was also the case, for example, with the U.S. invasion of Iraq – but is also favored by defiant reactions to the Western sanctions. Moreover, a large part of the Russian population apparently wants to see Russia’s geopolitical decline prevented, which the great power would experience if Ukraine were to move closer to NATO.

The population’s apparently widespread desire to maintain and expand Russia’s imperial power, which pseudo-left-wing Putin insiders in the West like to nostalgically glorify with regard to the Soviet Union, goes hand in hand with an easily mobilized fear of Russia’s state disintegration. When Russian politicians currently warn that the West ultimately seeks to destroy the country, they are addressing deeply rooted fears. Putin’s popularity, especially among the older generation that lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union, is based on his historic achievement in bringing to an end Russia’s chaotic transformation phase, which was characterized by social disintegration and wild oligarch rule. Putin is seen by the population as the man who ‘brought order’, who as the personification of the strong Russian state stopped post-Soviet social decay, disempowered the oligarchs, curbed pauperism and halted Russia’s plunge into global political irrelevance. That Putin stabilized Russia as an imperial power pole will never be forgiven by the West, which is not shy about close cooperation with mass murderers like Recep Tayyip Erdo?an.


The structure of the current Russian regime, the notorious deep-state power vertical with the Kremlin at its head, formed in the early 21st century in confrontation with the very oligarchic forces that pursued the economic sellout and political disintegration of the bankrupt Soviet mass during the drunken Yeltsin era. (Boris Yeltsin was able to win the presidential election in the crisis year of 1996 only thanks to massive financing from the newly bankrupt oligarchs).

In the course of the disputes during Putin’s first presidency, three powerful oligarchs, some of whom still promoted Putin’s political career, have been ousted: Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gussinsky were forced into exile, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky had to spend quite a few years in Russian penal camps. The remaining oligarchs and crisis profiteers, most of whom were recruited from the Soviet functional elite of the nomenklatura and were able to amass huge fortunes in a very short time during the period of wild privatizations in the course of the implosion of the Soviet Union, received mostly informal guarantees of ownership that had to be bought with political disempowerment and unconditional allegiance to the Kremlin. Before Putin came to power, the so-called Yeltsin family – a circle of privatization profiteers who were able to acquire stakes in companies because of their family connections to the first Russian president – also received guarantees of ownership that were largely honored.

Billionaire Roman Abramovich, who paved the way for Putin and sold his company holdings to the Russian state at a good price in good time, is considered a prime example of this politically neutered ex-oligarchy from Yeltsin’s time, as is industrial magnate Oleg Deripaska, who was able to keep his empire because of a special proximity to the Kremlin. In addition, there are politically well-connected billionaires like Arkady Rotenberg, who experienced their rise in the Putin era and owe their corporate empire to close ties to the Kremlin – in this case, personal acquaintance and cooperation with the president. In some ways, this architecture of power is reminiscent of that of Putin’s cherished imperial tsarist era, since in the 18th and 19th centuries, too, the economic success of merchants or industrialists in Russia not infrequently depended on the favor of the political power center.

In the strict sense of the word, there is no longer an oligarchy in Russia today, at least not if one understands the term to mean that absurdly wealthy individuals assert their particular interests by informally taking over or instrumentalizing parts of the state apparatus. Russia’s economic functional elite, the continuing layer of the super-rich, is politically subordinate to the state-or, more precisely, to the ruling layer that has usurped the state apparatus.

Putin, however, did not single-handedly disempower the oligarchy politically, but rather with recourse to secret service silos that emerged from the KGB and groupings from the Russian ‘power ministries’ that, in the broadest sense, enforce the state’s monopoly on the use of force. This dominant layer in Russia’s state power apparatus, from which Putin himself hails and from which many of his closest confidants are still recruited, is known as the siloviki, in reference to the Russian word for force (sila). They pushed back the oligarchy’s influence in the state apparatus, enforced essential state functions-such as the collection of taxes-with some brutality, and forced the oligarchy to sell strategic corporations to the state, especially in the areas of infrastructure, resource extraction, and energy extraction. Wages and pensions were reliably paid again and massive capital outflows from Russia were halted, helping to stabilize the country politically and economically.

Putin and the siloviki see themselves as Russia’s saviors, saving the country from disintegration during open and chaotic oligarch rule. Finally, who better to run the many state-owned enterprises than Russia’s saviors? The repeated nationalization of the corporations privatized in the 1990s (such as Aeroflot and part of the oil and gas industry) was accompanied by the siloviki taking over the management of the companies. Thus, a new layer of functional elites was formed: the state oligarchy. Ultimately, Putin did break Russian oligarchy rule, but only at the price of forming oligarchic structures in the expanding state apparatus, which rose to become a central economic actor. The siloviki, of course, also became fabulously wealthy in their role as stewards of state enterprises. The new state oligarchy has provided stability, but it is also responsible for the failure to modernize the Russian economy, which propagandists of the West, which is increasingly pushing into the post-Soviet space, like to deride as a gas station armed with nuclear missiles on the economic scale of Italy.

In Soviet times, one was satisfied with a color TV and a few Western products, a former member of the old Soviet nomenklatura who has not lost touch with the siloviki recalled to the ‘Financial Times’. But now his former party comrades would ‘steal on such a scale’ not least because they saw themselves as representatives of the state and consequently it would be ‘tantamount to humiliation’ if they were poorer than a ‘bunch of businessmen’. The difference between today’s state oligarchy and the first generation of post-Soviet robber barons is primarily that Putin’s people in the state apparatus do not engage in massive capital export-and that they do not flaunt their wealth to the outside world in order to maintain the facade of oligarch tamers. Moreover, the power and turf wars between the individual factions of this state oligarchy hardly ever reach the public today.

The higher the careerists rise in the Russian power apparatus, the more exclusive the society becomes. The inner circle around Putin shows traits of a rope team held together by loyalty obligations, ultimately a mere racket that formed decades ago on the basis of personal acquaintances in St. Petersburg. Putin, who in the early days of his reign still had to act cautiously and take account of different power groups, brought ‘his’ people from St. Petersburg to Moscow, who then successively occupied many of the most important positions in the state apparatus over the past decades.

This group includes, for example, former President and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, former Economy Minister Herman Gref, who now chairs the board of the semi-state-owned Sberbak, and Nikolay Patrushev, a former KGB agent who now heads the Russian Security Council. Another KGB man from the former Leningrad has headed Russia’s FSB since 2008: Alexander Bortnikov. Sergei Naryshkin, who attended KGB high school with Putin and followed him to Moscow in 2004, is responsible for the FSB’s foreign department. Even oligarch Arkady Rotenberg, who is loyal to Putin, started his career with a security company and a chain of gas stations in St. Petersburg. In addition to the siloviki and the St. Petersburg clique, right-wing liberal forces initially played some role in the Kremlin, many of whom also hailed from the former Leningrad.

The influence of a faction within the Russian power apparatus is measured by its access to those in power in the Kremlin-and here, above all, to the president. This is a process characteristic of authoritarian systems that ultimately undermines their ability to function: The circle of people or the political and ideological spectrum that can still exert influence on Putin is visibly narrowing. Moreover, controversial discussions, even dissent, seem hardly possible in the Kremlin. The more Putin is able to cement his power, the less willing his advisers, who have turned into lackeys, are to contradict him even on essential issues. The situation is similar with Erdo?an’s rule in Turkey, where he can cling unchallenged to his ‘anti-interest rate’ delusion despite an inflation rate of 60 percent at times.


Which brings us to the Kremlin’s seemingly insane decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. To be sure, a Russian intervention of any kind in Ukraine, with its simmering civil war in the east, was inevitable within Russian imperial logic, since Russia could not maintain its status as an imperial great power in the medium term without its sphere of influence, its geopolitical ‘front yard’ in the southwest. But the megalomaniacal Putinist maximalism of wanting to take over the entire Ukraine virtually in a coup d’état and carry out regime change in Kiev seems to be a consequence of the aforementioned power-political dysfunctionality of the entrenched authoritarian structures.

Russian opposition media reported that a few weeks after the start of Russia’s war of aggression, a number of high-ranking FSB officials in Moscow had been placed under house arrest, and that a purge was now underway in the apparatus. Clearly, in the run-up to the war, Putin was fed information by his bitterly competing lackeys in the intelligence services for access to the inner sanctum, information that met Putin’s desires for a Russian-Ukrainian community of destiny – and not necessarily of a Ukraine being rapidly upgraded by NATO, with Western Ukrainian right-wing extremists gaining increasing influence in its military and state apparatus and setting up quick-witted, fanatically anti-Russian fighting formations.

Responsibility for the military and geopolitical disaster seems to fall squarely on Putin’s FSB elite, which at the same time cannot simply be disempowered. In Naryshkin and Bortnikov, the Russian head of state has dilettantish but at the same time loyal subordinates who – as in the case of Naryshkin shortly before the outbreak of war – can be publicly humiliated, but whose reliability is indispensable, especially in times of crisis. And stability is likely to be the highest priority in domestic politics. Similar to the Russian population, the ranks in the power apparatus and within the state oligarchy are likely to close in the short term, which makes Western talk of alleged coup plans in the Kremlin appear to be mere wishful thinking. Only when the social and economic consequences of the historically unprecedented Western economic sanctions fully take hold of Russian society, only when the pending conquest of eastern Ukraine should also fail, could there be a change of mood in the population and in the Russian power apparatus.

Tomasz Konicz wrote in konkret 4/22 about the German rearmament program


Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The war cannot be won – Luxemburg journal, July 2022


The war cannot be won
by Luxemburg journal, July 2022

NATO has propped up dictatorships in its own sphere of influence. It has covered up or condoned wars in which crimes against humanity have been committed. What is happening right now because of Russia has not changed my opinion about NATO there.
“The war cannot be won”
Conversation with Silvia Federici, Étienne Balibar, Michael Löwy and Marcello Musto.
[This conversation published in July 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://zeitschrift-luxemburg.de/artikel/krieg-kann-nicht-gewonnen-werden/.]

The Russian war of aggression poses new challenges for the Left. How does it position itself in the turmoil of imperial rearmament, legitimate self-defense, and new bloc confrontation? Étienne Balibar, Silvia Federici, Michael Löwy and Marcello Musto talked about this.

Marcello Musto: The Russian invasion of Ukraine has once again brought the brutality of war to Europe. Now the world is faced with the dilemma: how to deal with this attack on Ukrainian sovereignty?

Michael Löwy: As long as Putin still pretended to protect the Russian-speaking minorities in the Donetsk region, his policy at least had the appearance of rationality. The same can be said about his rejection of NATO’s eastward expansion. But for his brutal invasion of Ukraine, with all the bombed cities, the thousands of civilian victims – including old people, children… – there is no justification at all.

Étienne Balibar: The war that is raging here before all our eyes is a “total” war. A war of destruction and terror, waged by the army of an all-powerful state whose government is waging an irreversible, imperialist campaign against its smaller neighbor. The most urgent and immediate imperative of the hour is for Ukrainians to maintain their resistance. To do so, they must be supported by action, not just expressions of sympathy. But what kind of deeds? This is where the tactical discussion begins, i.e. the weighing of the benefits and risks of defense versus attack. Waiting and seeing is not an option.

Marcello: The justified Ukrainian resistance aside, the equally crucial question is how Europe can avoid being seen as a party to the war. Instead, European governments must contribute as effectively as possible to a diplomatic initiative to end the hostilities. It is in this sense that the demand of a significant part of the population that Europe should not participate in this war should be understood – regardless of the war rhetoric of the last three months. The most important point here is that further suffering of the population must be prevented. Because there is a danger that the country, having already been reduced to rubble by the Russian army, will be turned into a weapons depot and permanently supplied with supplies by NATO. And then a protracted war will be waged on behalf of Washington, where it is hoped that Russia will be permanently weakened and Europe will become more economically and militarily dependent on the United States. Should this occur, the conflict would go beyond the legitimate defense of Ukrainian sovereignty. Those who have warned from the beginning of the dangerous spiral of war that would drive the supply of heavy weapons to Ukraine are fully aware of the violence that takes place there every day. They certainly do not want to simply abandon the population to Russia’s military superiority. “Non-aligned” by no means means neutrality or equidistance, as has been claimed in many a distorted account. It is not a matter of principle of abstract pacifism, but rather one of concrete diplomatic alternative. This means carefully examining every action or statement: Does it bring us one step closer to the current supreme goal of initiating serious negotiations to achieve peace?

Silvia Federici: I don’t see any dilemma: Russia’s war against Ukraine is to be condemned. Nothing can justify the destroyed cities, the killing of innocent people or the terror under which thousands and thousands are forced to live right now. Much more than Ukraine’s sovereignty has been violated by this act of aggression. But I agree that we must also criticize the many actions of the U.S. and NATO that helped prepare the ground for this war in the first place. And also the decision of the U.S. and the EU to supply weapons to Ukraine, because that will prolong the war indefinitely. The arms deliveries should be rejected not least because the Russian invasion could have been prevented, namely if Russia had received a guarantee from the U.S. that NATO would not be extended to Russia’s borders.

Marcello: Since the beginning of the war, one of the main points of discussion has been what kind of assistance Ukraine should receive to defend itself against Russian aggression, without at the same time creating the conditions for even more massive destruction and the international expansion of the conflict. In recent months, this has included President Selensky’s call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, the scope of economic sanctions against Russia, and, more importantly, the issue of arms deliveries to the Ukrainian government. What decisions do you think would be necessary to reduce the number of casualties in Ukraine as much as possible and prevent further escalation of the conflict?

Michael: There are many things to criticize about Ukraine today: the democratic deficits, the oppression of the Russian-speaking minority, the ‘Occidentalism’ and much more. And yet Ukrainians* have every right to defend themselves against the Russian invasion of their country – and the brutal, criminal disregard for their right to national self-determination.

Étienne: I would say that Ukraine’s struggle against the Russian invasion is, in the sense of legal history, a bellum justum, that is, a “just war.” I am well aware that this is a questionable category and that the history of this conceptualization in the West is far from unproblematic. And yet I can’t think of a more appropriate term. So I want to appropriate it, emphasizing that in my view a “just war” is one in which it is not enough merely to acknowledge that it is legitimate to defend against aggression – that is, the international law criterion. But that it is also necessary to show solidarity with the defenders and to take sides with them. And finally, it is a war in which one does not have the choice to remain passive – not even people like me, for whom every war in the current world order is unacceptable and catastrophic. The consequences of such passivity would be even worse. So even if I am not enthusiastic about this, I am consciously positioning myself against Putin.

Marcello: I can well understand this perspective, but I would emphasize more strongly how necessary it is to prevent a general conflagration, that is, how urgent a peace agreement is. The longer that fails to happen, the more the danger of a widening war grows. It is not a matter of looking the other way and ignoring what is happening in Ukraine. But we must realize that it is illusory to believe that the war against Putin – that is, against the nuclear power Russia, a country where, incidentally, there is currently no peace movement worth mentioning – can be won.

Étienne: I am very afraid of a military – even nuclear – escalation. That is a horror scenario that clearly cannot be ruled out. Nevertheless, pacifism is not an option. It is the order of the day to support Ukraine in its resistance. So let’s not go back to the old canard of non-intervention. The EU is already involved in the war anyway. Even though it is not sending troops, it is supplying weapons – and I think it is right to do so. It is a form of intervention.

Marcello: On May 9, 2022, the Biden administration approved the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act: a package of more than $40 billion in military and financial aid to Ukraine. A gigantic sum, to which must be added aid from various EU countries. And it seems to be about financing a long lasting war. Biden himself reinforced this impression when he announced on June 15 that the U.S. would provide additional military aid worth $1 billion. The ever-increasing deliveries of military equipment by the U.S. and NATO encourage Selenskyj to keep postponing much-needed talks with the Russian government. Moreover, it is a legitimate question whether these deliveries are really being used exclusively to push Russian forces off Ukrainian territory, considering that weapons have also been delivered to war zones in the past and, in many cases, later used by third parties for entirely different purposes.

Silvia: I think the most sensible thing the U.S. and the EU could do now would be to guarantee Russia that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, this was also promised to Gorbachev, but never in writing. Unfortunately, there is little interest in reaching a solution. Many actors in the U.S. military and political power apparatus have been challenging and preparing for confrontation with Russia for years. Now the war serves as justification to drastically expand oil production without regard to global warming. Already, Biden has broken his campaign promise to end oil production on indigenous lands. So among the biggest winners in this war is the military-industrial complex, which is just being boosted by the detour of billions of dollars. Peace, however, will not be achieved by escalating the fighting.

Marcello: Now to the question of how there has been a reaction on the part of the left to the Russian invasion. Some organizations, albeit a small minority, made a fatal political mistake in refusing to unequivocally condemn Russia’s “special military operation” – a mistake that, quite apart from anything else, also makes future condemnation of aggression by NATO or any other actor much less credible. This reveals an ideologically one-dimensional view of politics, as if all geopolitical issues must be judged solely on the basis of whether they are aimed at weakening the United States. At the same time, all too many others on the left have succumbed to the temptation to become more or less openly enthusiastic supporters of this war. The positions of the Socialist International, the Greens in Germany, or the few progressive members of the Democratic Party in the U.S. have not surprised me much – although there is always something shrill and effervescent about the sudden defection to militarism of people who just the day before professed pacifism. But I am thinking especially of certain forces on the “radical” left that have currently lost any independent voice amid the pro-Selenskyj chorus. I think that if progressive forces don’t position themselves against war, then they lose a central element of their raison d’être and end up adopting the argument of the political opponent.

Michael: It is no coincidence that “radical” left parties around the world -even those considered particularly Soviet-nostalgic, such as the Communist Parties in Greece or Chile- have in their vast majority condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Unfortunately, in Latin America, important left-wing forces and even governments, as in Venezuela, have sided with Putin or else taken a supposedly “neutral” position. The left is thus faced with a choice: either the right of peoples to self-determination – which Lenin once also advocated – or the right of empires to invade and annex other countries. You can’t have both, they are incompatible positions.

Silvia: In the US, representatives of social and feminist organizations like Code Pink have condemned Russia’s aggression. Nevertheless, it has been denounced that the US and NATO are very selective in defending democracy. Just consider their roles in Afghanistan, Yemen, or Africom operations in the Sahel region. And the list could go on. The hypocrisy of the U.S. is evident, among other things, in the fact that in the case of Ukraine, the U.S. government speaks of defending democracy, but says not a word about Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine, or about the permanent destruction of Palestinian lives. Moreover, the U.S. opens its doors to Ukrainian refugees, while they remain closed to migrants from Latin America. Although the flight from their home countries was and is for many just as much a question of life and death. Looking at the left as a whole, it is indeed a shame that the institutional left – starting with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – has come out in favor of supplying arms to Ukraine. I would also like to see the critical media scrutinize more closely what we are being told at the institutional level in the first place. For example: Why is Africa “starving” because of the war in Ukraine? What international trade policies have made African countries dependent on Ukrainian grain supplies in the first place? Why is there no mention in this context of the massive land grabs by international corporations, the so-called “new race for Africa”? Hence my question: whose lives are really considered valuable and worth protecting? And why do only very specific forms of death trigger outrage?

Marcello: Despite the great support for NATO in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – witnessed in particular by the official membership applications of Finland and Sweden – it is necessary to argue even more vehemently against the general notion that the largest and most aggressive military machine in the world (NATO) can help solve global security problems. This is because NATO has repeatedly shown itself to be a dangerous organization that, through its drive for expansion and unipolar dominance, stirs up tensions around the world that ultimately lead to war.
“It is already very worrying that Russia’s war against Ukraine has created a complete amnesia, namely regarding NATO’s expansionism.” (Silvia Federici)

However, we are also currently experiencing a paradox: barely four months after the start of the war, we are in fact realizing that Putin has not only relied on a wrong military strategy. He has also ended up strengthening the very enemy – and in particular its ability to build international consensus – whose influence he actually wanted to push back: NATO.

Étienne: I am a proponent of the view that NATO should also have been dissolved with the end of the Cold War, in parallel with the winding down of the Warsaw Pact. But NATO had not only an external function, but also – possibly even mainly – the function of disciplining the Western camp internally, not to say bringing it into line. All this undoubtedly involves a form of imperialism: NATO is one of the instruments used to prevent genuine European geopolitical independence from the U.S. empire. That is one of the reasons why NATO was preserved in the aftermath of the Cold War. And I would agree with the statement that the consequences of that have been devastating for the whole world. NATO has propped up dictatorships in its own sphere of influence. It has covered up or condoned wars in which crimes against humanity have been committed. What is happening right now because of Russia has not changed my opinion about NATO there.

Michael: NATO is an imperialist organization that, dominated by the United States, is responsible for countless wars of aggression. It is a fundamental task of democracy to smash this political-military monster that the Cold War once produced. NATO’s weakening in recent years prompted France’s President Macron to say as recently as 2019 that the alliance was “brain dead.” Unfortunately, Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine has now breathed new life into the same alliance. U.S. troops are stationed in Europe in large numbers, and Germany recently approved special spending on 100 billion euros worth of rearmament, despite refusing to increase its military spending just two years ago – and despite unrelenting pressure from Trump. Putin has thus saved NATO from its slow decline, perhaps even disintegration.

Silvia: It is already very worrying that Russia’s war against Ukraine has created a complete amnesia, namely regarding NATO’s expansionism and its support for the imperialist policies of the EU and the US. It would be time to refresh memories of NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia, its role in Iraq, as well as in the violent breakup of Libya. The examples in which NATO has expressed its utter and fundamental disregard for democracy – that universal value it now claims to defend – are too numerous to even list. I do not believe that NATO was truly doomed before the Russian attack on Ukraine. Rather, its sweep through Eastern Europe and its current presence in Africa point to the exact opposite.
“It would take an effective system of international security – that is, a democratic renewal of the UN and the abolition of the veto in the Security Council.” (Etienne Balibar)

Marcello: This amnesia seems to have afflicted many left forces, especially those with government participation. In a complete repudiation of their historical principles, the majority of the Finnish Left Alliance’s parliamentary group recently approved their country’s accession to NATO. In Spain, a large part of Unidas Podemos joined an interparliamentary chorus of deputies who voted in favor of supplying arms to the Ukrainian army and immediately gave their approval to the enormous increases in arms spending. A party that does not have the courage to speak out against such policies is ultimately only contributing to the expansion of U.S. militarism in Europe. For such servile political behavior, left-wing parties have often been punished in the past whenever the opportunity arose, including at the ballot box.

Étienne: It would be best for Europe to be able to defend its own territory. It would also need an effective system of international security – that is, a democratic renewal of the UN and the abolition of the veto in the Security Council. But the more NATO gains in importance as a security structure, the more that of the UN declines. In Kosovo, in Libya, and especially in Iraq in 2013, it has always been the goal of the U.S. – and by extension NATO – to weaken the UN’s ability to mediate, regulate, and enforce international law.

Marcello: In conclusion: What course do you expect the war to take and what future scenarios do you think are possible?

Étienne: The upcoming developments can only make us deeply pessimistic. For me, at least, that’s the case, and I rate the chances as very low that a catastrophe can still be averted. I see at least three reasons for this. First, further escalation is likely, especially if resistance to the invasion can be sustained over the long term: And such an escalation would not end with conventional weapons – partly because their distinction from weapons of mass destruction has become very blurred anyway. Second, if the war ends with a “result,” it will be disastrous in any case. It would be fatal, of course, should Putin achieve his goal and defeat Ukraine. This would only encourage him to further similar ventures. The same would be true should he be forced to retreat and the world return to a policy of rigid bloc confrontation. Either scenario would bring a long-lasting resurgence of nationalism and hatred. Third, war and its aftermath block – indeed, accelerate – global mobilization against climate catastrophe. Too much time has already been wasted.

Michael: I share these concerns, especially with regard to the now protracted fight against climate change, which has been completely eclipsed by the arms race of all countries that have been alarmed by the war.

Silvia: I am also pessimistic. The U.S. and other NATO countries show no willingness to give Russia any guarantees that NATO will not expand to Russia’s borders. So the war will continue. And it will have devastating consequences for Ukraine, Russia and far beyond. Only the coming months will show to what extent other European countries will be affected. For the foreseeable future, I cannot imagine any other scenario than a continuing, permanent state of war, which is already a reality in so many parts of the world. This includes the extensive use of public resources for destructive purposes that would be so badly needed in the area of social reproduction. It pains me that there is currently no powerful feminist movement taking to the streets, on strike, and determined to fight for an end to all wars.
“The left should fight for a diplomatic solution and against higher military spending. After all, the cost is ultimately borne by the working people” (Marcello Musto)

Marcello: I also have the impression that the war will not end soon. A peace that may not be perfect, but immediate, would certainly be preferable to prolonging the war. But there are too many forces pushing for a different solution. Every time a government declares that it will “support Ukraine until it emerges as the clear winner,” the prospect of negotiations recedes further into the distance. Therefore, I think it is more likely that we are looking at a permanent prolongation of the war. A war in which Russian troops face a Ukrainian army equipped and indirectly supported by NATO. The left should fight tirelessly here for a diplomatic solution and against higher military spending. The cost of this is ultimately borne by the working population, so that even more economic and social crises will be fueled. If this happens, it will benefit parties of the far right, which are already shaping the European political debate in an increasingly aggressive and reactionary manner.

Étienne: In order to present a constructive perspective for a solution, we should advocate for the reordering of Europe – taking into account the respective interests of Russia, Ukraine and our own. And in a way in which questions of nation and nationality would be entirely rethought. Even more ambitious would be the project of creating a multilingual, multicultural, cosmopolitan Greater Europe, instead of declaring the militarization of Europe to be the most important task for the future – no matter how alternative it may seem in the short term. The goal would be nothing less than to prevent a clash of civilizations, of which Europe would otherwise become the epicenter.

Michael: In the sense of a more positive ambition, I suggest: We should strive quite fundamentally for a different Europe and a different Russia, namely each freed from capitalist, parasitic oligarchy. The Jaurès maxim, “Capitalism carries war like the cloud carries rain,” is more relevant than ever. Only in another – post-capitalist, social-ecological – Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, can peace and justice become a reality. Whether this is a realistic scenario? That is up to each and every one of us.

Silvia Federici is a scholar, lecturer, and Marxist-influenced radical feminist activist.

Étienne Balibar is a French philosopher and well-known Marxist. He was a student and close collaborator of Louis Althusser.

Michael Löwy is a sociologist and philosopher as well as a researcher emeritus at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and a lecturer at EHESS in Paris. He focuses on social movements in Latin America and Marxism.

Marcello Musto teaches political theory at York University in Toronto, Canada. His writings turn primarily to the work of Karl Marx and its contemporary relevance. A publication on the last years of Marx’s life is planned for 2018, to be published by VSA.

The triumphant Thanatos
By Mike Davis
[This article published in March 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://zeitschrift-luxemburg.de/artikel/der-triumphierende-thanatos/.]

Is there a grand plan behind every quest for hegemony? In a world where a thousand gold-drunk oligarchs, billionaire sheiks and self-professed silicon deities decide the future of humanity, there’s no need to wonder that greed dominates and gives us reptilian brains. What I find most remarkable in these strange days – while aerosol bombs melt shopping malls and fires rage in nuclear reactors – is the inability of our supermen to legitimize their claim to power with any plausible promise and positive outlook for the near future.

By all appearances, Putin, who shares with the extinct Russian Tsarist family a penchant for astrology, mysticism and perversion, truly believes that he must save Ukrainians from being Ukrainians in order to fulfill the heavenly destiny of Rus. The present must be shattered in order to create the future from an imaginary past.

Putin is far from being the dictator-in-chief and mastermind that guys like Trump, Orbán and Bolsonaro think he is and admire him for. Putin is simply ruthless, impulsive and tends to be paranoid. The people in the streets of Kiev and Moscow who cracked jokes about the military threat until the first missile shells hit in the middle of Ukraine were naïve only in that they assumed that no rationally thinking head of state in the 21st century would be willing to sacrifice the economy of a large country like Russia just to fly a flag with a fake double-headed eagle over the Dnieper. Indeed, no sensible head of state would do so.

On the other side of the Atlantic, it seems as if Biden is holding an endless séance with Dean Acheson[1] and all the ghosts of the past Cold Wars. The White House has no vision and no plan for this mess it helped create. All the think tanks and genius minds supposedly propping up and advising the Clinton-Obama wing of the Democratic Party are, in their own way, as small minds as the priests in the Kremlin. They are so intellectually limited that they can think of nothing else for the U.S. and the defense of its waning power than nuclear competition with Russia and China. (One almost thought one heard a sigh of relief when Putin relieved them of the mental burden of having to think about global reordering and strategy in the Anthropocene.) In the end, Biden has proven to be a warmonger in the presidency, a role we always feared Hilary Clinton would play if she ever ran the country. Even if the situation in Eastern Europe is distracting from it right now, we should not doubt Biden’s resolve to engage in a military confrontation in the South China Sea – waters that could prove far more dangerous than the Black Sea.

What is remarkable is the inability of our supermen to legitimize their claim to power with any plausible promise or positive prospect for the near future.

Meanwhile, the White House seems to have almost casually abandoned its already weak commitment to progressive politics. A week after the release of one of the most ominous reports in human history, which in some ways heralded the imminent decimation of the world’s poor, the president addressed the nation without a single mention of climate change. (This seems suddenly negligible compared to the transcendental urgency to restructure and expand NATO). And Trayvon Martin and George Floyd are now just something like unfortunate accident victims, quickly out of sight of the rearview mirror of the presidential limousine in which Biden allows himself to be driven around, assuring cops everywhere that he is completely on their side.

But the whole thing is not simply a betrayal of leftist ideals: Indeed, the left in the U.S. shares responsibility for this bleak situation. For hardly any of the energies released by the Occupy movement, Black Lives Matter and Bernie Sanders’ election campaigns have been used to find new answers to global questions or to develop a new politics of international solidarity. The situation is similarly bleak in terms of expertise and intellectual models regarding U.S. foreign policy. At one time, the left benefited from radical thinkers and critics such as I.F. Stone, Isaac Deutscher, William Appleman Williams, D.F. Fleming, John Gerassi, Gabriel Kolko, and Noam Chomsky, to name a few. Unfortunately, the generational change that has become necessary has been missed here.

The accusation of being overwhelmed with understanding and coping with the current epochal geopolitical challenges also applies to the European Union. Germany in particular, which has tied its economic well-being to trade with China and natural gas from Russia, is facing a glaring loss of direction. The governing coalition in Berlin is characterized by cowering and is proving incapable, to say the least, of embarking on an alternative path toward prosperity and greater protection of the environment. The same applies to Brussels: Even if the danger emanating from Russia has revived the store in the meantime, it remains the capital of a failed superstate, a union that has been unable to find a common way of dealing with the migration crisis, the pandemic, or the heads of state in Warsaw and Budapest who like to play the strongman. An enlarged NATO, entrenched behind a new Iron Curtain, is unlikely to be the solution and could end up being worse than the disease it purports to cure.

Everyone quotes Gramsci and his thesis of the great crisis as an interregnum, but in doing so, it is assumed that something new will or could emerge automatically. I doubt that, however. What I think we need to diagnose instead is a brain tumor of the ruling class, an increasing inability to develop a coherent understanding of the far-reaching change the world is currently undergoing, and from this to define what the common interests of humanity are and to pursue them with comprehensive and sustainable strategies.

In part, this shows the triumph of a pathological presenteeism that subordinates everything to short-term considerations and calculations and serves above all to enable the super-rich to enjoy everything beautiful and good on this earth within their lifetime and to destroy it through their hyperconsumption. (Michel Aglietta, in his recent book “Capitalisme: Le temps des ruptures”, emphasizes the unprecedented nature of this gap that is currently opening up, demanding enormous sacrifices from the generations that will follow us). Greed has radicalized and taken on a life of its own to the point that it no longer needs political masterminds or organic intellectuals, but only Fox News and a sufficient data transmission rate. When push comes to shove, Elon Musk will lead a billionaire flight movement that simply leaves planet Earth behind.

It may also be that the rulers are so blind because they lack the penetrating view that only a revolutionary situation or view, whether bourgeois or proletarian, allows. A revolutionary age may appear in costumes of the past (as Marx pointed out in “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”). But it is defined by the recognition of the possibilities of social reorganization arising from technological and economic innovations and new power relations. In the absence of external revolutionary consciousness and the threat of insurrection, the old orders no longer produce their own (alternative) visions.

At this point I would like to point out a curiosity: On February 16 of this year, Thomas Piketty gave a lecture at the Pentagon’s National Defense University as part of a regular lecture series entitled “Reactions to China.” In it, the French economist spoke of how the proper response of “the West” to Beijing’s hegemonic aspirations was to abandon its “outdated hypercapitalist model” and instead adopt a “new emancipatory and egalitarian perspective for the whole world.” A peculiar place and occasion to promote democratic socialism.

Meanwhile, nature has once again taken the reins of history, using enormous violence in a kind of self-defense to rob humans and powers of control over natural and technical infrastructures that empires once claimed for themselves. Against this background, the “Anthropocene,” with its Promethean orientation, seems a particularly poor fit for the reality of apocalyptic capitalism.

One could counter my pessimism by saying that at least China is clairvoyant where everyone else is proving to be blind. Unquestionably, China’s vision of a unified Eurasia, its New Silk Road project, is an impressive blueprint for the future, probably the most far-reaching since the sun of the “American Century” rose on the war-torn world in 1945. But what constituted China’s genius from 1949 to 1959 and 1979 to 2013 was the “neo-Mandarinist” practice of collective leadership, centralized but multi-voiced. Xi Jinping, who ascended the throne of Mao, is like the worm in the apple. Although he has strengthened China’s economic and military influence, he may end up opening a Pandora’s nuclear box with his negligent unleashing of ultra-nationalism.

We are witnessing the nightmare version of “great men make history.” Unlike during the height of the Cold War, when politburos, parliaments, cabinets and general staffs could still counter the megalomania at the top, today there are few safety switches between the political rulers and Armageddon. Never before has so much concentrated economic, media and military power been in so few hands. Reason enough to pay tribute to such heroes as Alexander Berkman,[2] Alexander Ilyich Ulyanov[3] and the incomparable Sholom Shvartzbard[4].

This article first appeared in New Left Review.

[1] Dean Acheson was U.S. Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953 (translator’s note).

[2] Alexander Berkman (1870-1936) was a leading activist in the anarchist movement in the United States. He assassinated an industrialist after ten workers were killed in a strike (translator’s note).

[3] Alexander Ilyich Ulyanov was Lenin’s older brother and was sentenced to death in 1887 for his involvement in a failed assassination attempt on Tsar Alexander III in Russia (translator’s note).

[4] Scholom Schwartzbard was a French poet and anarchist. He shot Symon Petlyura in Paris in 1926 for his responsibility for pogroms against the Jewish population on Ukrainian territory during the Russian Civil War (translator’s note).

Mike Davis is an urban sociologist and internationalist socialist. He became known in 1990 with “City of Quartz. Excavating the Future in Los Angeles” and “Planet of the Slums” (2006). In 2005, he published a book on avian flu, titled in English “The Monster at our Door. The Global Threat of Avian Flu.”

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

White men’s war


Indian writer and essayist Pankaj Mishra stressed, “The antiquated Cold War model of thinking – democracy versus autocracy, as U.S. President Joe Biden says – is misleading. It gives the impression that there are only these two power blocs. In truth, the world is deeply interconnected.

White men’s war

by Erhard Crome
[This article published on 6/10/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.linksnet.de/artikel/48397.]

The hegemonic war between Russia and the U.S. and NATO has four dimensions: the shooting war in Ukraine, in which Ukrainians provide the ground troops of the West and are the victims; a propaganda war waged very skillfully by Ukrainian President Selenski and the Western mainstream media; a political-diplomatic war in the UN and worldwide; and the West’s economic war against Russia.

In view of the EU summit on May 30-31 in Brussels, the stricter economic sanctions repeatedly demanded by Selenski had become the center of the controversy. Hungary’s Prime Minister Orbán prevented a complete oil embargo against Russia, as Poland and other states had demanded and Ursula von der Leyen had planned. Earlier, Orbán had stressed, “We need the solutions first and then the sanctions.” In the end, there was an embargo on Russian oil deliveries by ship, while deliveries continue via the “Druzhba” oil pipeline, which dates back to socialist times and to which Hungary is also attached. Vice-Chancellor Habeck called Orbán’s actions “nefarious” because he had represented Hungary’s interests, while “politics must be pursued in a higher interest.” German media commented predominantly that this only served “Putin.”

In fact, one nationalist (Orbán) had a score to settle with the other nationalist (Selenski). Since 2014, not only Russians but also Hungarians in Transcarpathia have been affected by the restrictive Ukrainian language and regional policy. In Hungary, for example, it was reported that the Ukrainian website “Mirotvorec,” which is considered far-right and is said to be linked to the Ukrainian domestic intelligence service SBU, maintains a death list of “enemies of Ukraine” that includes tens of thousands of people, with date of birth, address and passport number. Among them from Hungary were Orbán, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, EU Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, as well as László Brenzovics, president of the Hungarian Cultural Association in Transcarpathia, and a number of other people who were active in offices and institutions there. Many of the latter had seen special reason to leave Ukraine after the beginning of the war: they feared for life and limb.

Since already since March 2022 President Selenski as well as the Ukrainian ambassador in Budapest, Ljubov Nepop, publicly criticized the Hungarian government for its restrained tactics and in particular the ban on supplying Western weapons to Ukraine via Hungarian territory, shortly after the parliamentary elections (see Blättchen 8/2022 for more details), Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjártó summoned the Ukrainian ambassador and told her that it was time for the Ukrainian leadership to stop “insulting” Hungary and accept its policy of neutrality. In doing so, the government showed a level of national self-respect that other EU and NATO countries are currently failing to muster toward Kiev.

Comments on the Brussels oil compromise were contradictory. For example, the Irish Independent newspaper wrote, “A partial oil embargo is better than no embargo.” The Tagesschau, on the other hand, said, “Better no embargo than one like this.” In contrast, everyone seemed to agree that the sanctions policy, and now the oil embargo, “limits the financing of Putin’s war machine.” Even economists who work for the Green Party believe that a freeze on fossil fuel imports would severely limit Russia’s ability to continue the war. On the other hand, economist Paul Steinhardt stressed in the journal Makroskop under the headline “Green economic war fantasies” that this is not true from a purely technical point of view. A reduction in foreign exchange earnings would lead to Russian companies exporting oil and natural gas having less income in foreign currencies. The Russian state, however, pays domestically in rubles, which it can print itself, both to its state employees, including soldiers and officers, and for the weapons it buys from Russian companies.

Incidentally, Russia also produces the fuel for tanks and aircraft itself; the weapons systems of the Russian armed forces are also manufactured exclusively in the country. And the extent to which bottlenecks caused by microchips no longer supplied by the West caused restrictions that could not be compensated for by China remains pure Western conjecture.

But the basic assumption about the effects of economic warfare measures is also geopolitically incorrect. China, India and other southern states stand ready to buy additional Russian oil and gas. In the case of India, this is particularly obvious; it is already buying, in part because Russian oil has become cheaper on world markets due to Western sanctions policies. In May 2022, India received 24 million barrels of Russian crude, up from 7.2 million barrels in April and three million barrels in March. Indian purchases of about 28 million barrels are forecast for June 2022. The laws of capitalism cannot be outwitted even by the U.S. and the EU. Between Feb. 24 and May 26, India’s total goods imports from Russia rose to $6.4 billion, up from $1.99 billion in the same period last year.

University of St. Andrews India specialist Chris Ogden wrote that relations between India and Russia and the Soviet Union, respectively, have a long history dating back to the 1950s. Most importantly, he said, Indian foreign policy is premised on a “posthegemonic, post-Western, multipolar future” in which various great powers vie for influence. Indian policy, he said, contradicts the Western strategic assumption that the country would be “a natural part of a pro-democracy bloc” and exemplifies “a clear shift in the global balance of power to the disadvantage of Western powers.”

A major German newspaper recently printed a world map showing Ukraine and Russia in dark, the sanctions countries in red, and the “rest of the world” in yellow. Only the U.S., Canada and the EU were red, as well as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand on the eastern edge of the world map, and the rest of the world was yellow, i.e. the entire “global South.”

This also has immediate foreign policy consequences. In the March 2, 2022 UN General Assembly vote to condemn the Russian invasion, 141 states voted yes, five voted no, and 35 abstained, including China, India, Pakistan, and South Africa. However, when the UN General Assembly voted to expel Russia from the UN Human Rights Council a few weeks later on April 7, only 93 states voted yes, while 24 voted against and 58 abstained. Southern statesmen make no secret of their stance on the Ukraine war. “This is no longer a problem between NATO and Russia or between Ukraine and Russia, it’s a problem for the world,” Argentine President Alberto Fernández said during a joint appearance with Chancellor Olaf Scholz before the press in Berlin on May 11, 2022, ruling out sanctions by his country against Russia. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also ostentatiously refused to call Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a war at the joint press conference on the occasion of Scholz’s official visit to Pretoria on May 24, 2022, and he criticized Western sanctions policies: “Even those countries that are bystanders or not part of the conflict at all will suffer from the sanctions imposed on Russia.”

Indian writer and essayist Pankaj Mishra stressed, “The antiquated Cold War model of thinking – democracy versus autocracy, as U.S. President Joe Biden says – is misleading. It gives the impression that there are only these two power blocs. In truth, the world is deeply interconnected. By punishing Russia, you are inadvertently punishing many other and poorer countries.” And he asked directly, “Have you thought all this through to the end?”

For the Southern world, it’s another “white man’s war” in the North.


Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Opportunity instead of crises and End the Madness!


Opportunity instead of crises and End this madness!
by Urs P Gasche and Yanis Varoufakis

Almost no one asks what an economic policy looks like that no longer subordinates everything to economic growth: How to reduce the debt mountain to a reasonable level without GDP growth? How can pensions be secured without GDP growth and how can sufficient gainful employment be guaranteed?
Opportunity instead of crisis.

Will we seize the opportunities presented by the current global crisis?
Here’s how we could emerge from the crises

by Urs P. Gasche
Economic growth dictates policy. But the risks of inflation, higher interest rates and mountains of debt are increasing.
[This article published on 7/29/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, So könnten wir aus den Krisen herauskommen – infosperber.]

The economies of the Western industrialized nations functioned well for a long time during the reconstruction phase after World War II. Growth was able to satisfy many basic material needs of the population. It was also possible to shorten statutory working hours.

But in the meantime, the growth-driven economy is driving full speed ahead into a dead end. Governments and central banks tried in vain to revive economic growth by deregulating, cutting taxes for businesses, and handing out generous subsidies.

But despite these measures, for more than twenty years now, almost all industrialized countries have achieved real growth in gross domestic product only by incurring similar levels of additional debt: Growth on credit. However, this is a risky recipe.

The hope of reducing the mountain of debt thanks to strong growth has also turned out to be wishful thinking.

Out of sheer helplessness, central banks have been flooding the economy with cheap money for years. They accepted that confidence in the value of money could dwindle.

Those who were rich enough took refuge in material assets such as land, real estate, gold or art in good time. Or they invested in companies with shares.

This is a major reason why the gap between the general population and the super-rich has grown even wider.
Part 1: Central banks expropriate savers and turned the rich into the super-rich
Part 2: Euro worth half as much in only 8 years, CHF in 20 years

Jobs and pensions without GDP growth

Almost no one asks what an economic policy looks like that no longer subordinates everything to economic growth: How to reduce the debt mountain to a reasonable level without GDP growth? How can pensions be secured without GDP growth and how can sufficient gainful employment be guaranteed?

Answers would be expected from science. But few economists have ever dealt with an economy without growing GDP. This is now taking its toll.

For despite all efforts, the GDP of the Western industrialized countries in the OECD has been growing only on credit for more than twenty years. Government debt alone has grown faster than GDP in most OECD countries. Add to this the increased debt of companies and private individuals as well as the increased debt of the financial sector (banks, Blackrock, Vanguard, hedge funds, etc.).

Even growth-believing economists who deny that it would take three planets like the Earth if all the inhabitants of Africa, India and China consumed as many resources as the people in the industrialized countries should take note of this.

When bank deposits are no longer safe

The financial sector is mainly to blame for the increasingly unstable conditions. Instead of serving the real economy as it used to, the financial sector, with the support of central banks, has degenerated into a gigantic betting casino over the past 25 years. The vast majority of financial transactions no longer serve manufacturing companies, but are pure betting transactions worth trillions of euros, which are often settled in fractions of a second.

The high incalculable risks of betting transactions on credit are borne by the real economy and the holders of savings and payment accounts. In Switzerland, 100,000 francs per bank are supposedly guaranteed, but only up to a maximum sum of 6 billion francs – out of a total of around 800 billion francs!

Fearing that one day too many people might withdraw their credit balances from the banks, discussions are already underway as to whether cash withdrawals and payment options with cash should be restricted. There is even talk of abolishing cash. Talk of this alone is a red flag.

Concentration of power and distorted prices

A reversal of policy is made more difficult by billion-dollar mergers and acquisitions, which greatly accelerate concentration and thus a concentration of power in both the manufacturing economy and the financial sector. International megacorporations and their lobbies can put enormous pressure on national governments and parliaments.

National legislators no longer manage to regulate corporations that have become too influential in line with the market, for example

eliminate the “too big to fail” privilege;
to effectively stop the worldwide, extensive tax avoidance practices;
enforce the polluter pays principle for environmental damage and risks incurred;
Reduce subsidies.

Instead of efficiency, high socialized costs

It is the climate-relevant aviation, shipping and heavy goods traffic, as well as simply all fossil fuels, that benefit from direct subsidies in the trillions. Transport does not even have to pay for its massive environmental impact. According to calculations by the EESI (Environmental and Energy Study Institute), subsidies for fossil fuels reach 55 billion euros each year in Europe and 20 billion dollars in the U.S. – without taking into account the environmental and health damage.

The consequences of transport prices that are far too low are serious: deregulated world trade has distributed production facilities and gainful employment to locations that are economically wrong. For this reason, the international division of labor does not bring the hoped-for benefits, but instead brings high socialized costs.

The means of transport subsidized with trillions are the main reason why the nonsensical, globalized and fragmented production came about. This is now being felt by many countries because of a comprehensive sanctions policy.

Permanent fear for jobs and pensions

In the richest countries of the world there is a permanent fear for jobs and pensions. Because almost all industrialized countries have made the financing of pensions dependent on economic growth and high investment returns, their long-term financing is at risk. As a way out, they want to reduce pensions and pay them out only at a higher age.

Unemployed and unemployed people, on the other hand, have been put off for years until there is more growth.

At the same time, corporate executives are constantly trying to increase the productivity of their companies. Their goal is to get by with as few workers as possible for a given output. The “IT revolution”, which supposedly makes many jobs superfluous, is supposed to contribute to this.

Business lobbies and government officials stoke the fear of job loss and exploit this fear politically in collective bargaining and in referendums.

The overriding but suppressed problem

But headlines about job losses and pensions in jeopardy, about mega-mergers, quarterly closings, negative interest rates, stock market prices and trade agreements all distract from an overarching problem: Today’s generation in rich countries is living at the expense of future generations like no other before. If everyone lived like this, it would take three or four planets like Earth. In addition, the current generation is leaving its descendants a gigantic mountain of debt, oceans polluted and overfished with plastic waste, the consequences of accelerated global warming, contaminated soils and decimated animal and plant life. And it has consumed a large part of the earth’s raw materials that could be mined or extracted cheaply. Future generations will have to store the abandoned highly radioactive nuclear waste safely for hundreds of thousands of years.

The “politically feasible” is not enough

Obviously, a radical change of course is needed. But the power and influence of corporations bent on short-term profit maximization prevent political majorities for a change of course. Politicians mostly limit themselves to what they consider “politically feasible” – in view of elections and referendums.

The overriding goal is therefore not shaken: The economy – measured in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) – should finally grow as strongly as possible again. Politicians from the right to the left are subordinating almost everything to this goal: Tax, social, labor market and environmental policy. Trade and economic policy in any case.

Voting citizens should please align themselves with what brings more economic growth and gives companies more advantages in international “competition.”

However, a panel of experts could provide better answers to these questions than voting citizens.

The three real goals of economic activity

Orderly debt relief would be a first important step out of the dangerous impasse.

The second step would be for the economy and politicians to free themselves from the compulsion to grow the economy. They should stop trying to boost consumption and growth with a crowbar. If GDP grows anyway, so much the better. If GDP falls, it doesn’t matter, because a future fit for grandchildren and our happiness do not depend on whether or not we have even more money overall to consume, throw away and waste in the years to come. Progress is possible even without GDP growth.

Policymakers can then return to the three real goals of economic activity:

The economy should satisfy people’s material needs, using as few raw materials, energy and gainful employment as possible. If too little gainful employment remains, the remaining necessary working hours are to be better distributed with incentives.
Economic activity should prevent people from falling into material and social hardship. Everyone should receive an income that allows them to live above the subsistence level.
Economic activity should help to improve the general quality of life: Allow participation and co-determination, create good conditions at workplaces, pollute air, water and soil as little as possible; avoid noise and other immissions as much as possible; keep the landscape intact; produce in a way that is suitable for grandchildren, i.e. not at the expense of future generations.

An exit strategy that is not politically feasible

It is the task of politics to define the rules of the market in such a way that private and public economic activity achieve these three goals. This means turning away from supposed growth incentives such as subsidies, tax breaks, and relaxation of social and environmental regulations. It requires structural reforms that a panel of experts can devise.

Here are some concrete measures that various parties have already proposed:

Stop measuring economic performance by GDP growth:
The performance of the economy must be measured by whether material needs were met with less energy, raw materials and environmental pollution – and in rich countries, no longer by whether even more could be consumed and wasted. Paying off the mountain of debt with growth has proven to be an illusion. Orderly debt cuts are needed.
Different valuation in the media
The media no longer consider it bad news when people fly and travel less, or when cruises are canceled, or when meat sales decline. They no longer talk about “bad consumer sentiment” when less is consumed.
News programs could publish the following “incidence” numbers weekly or monthly: Global increase/decrease in CO2 emissions; Decrease in glacier ice in Antarctica; Increase/decrease in heating oil and gasoline consumption nationally; Increase/decrease in waste nationally; Increase in plastic waste in the ocean; Increase/decrease in fish stocks in the oceans; New deforestation of virgin forests; Increase in nuclear waste; Increase/decrease in global public and private debt; Global increase/decrease in malnourished; Global increase/decrease in migrants, etc.
Cost truth and polluter pays principle:
Competition is only fair and useful if companies can, as far as possible, no longer socialize costs, i.e. pass them on to the general public. Downright cost socialism prevails primarily in energy sources such as oil, coal and nuclear power, in transport and in agriculture. Subsidies for fossil fuels must be gradually but consistently reduced. The same applies to subsidies for the sale of meat.
Costs and risks that arise today or in the future during production are to be charged, or liability coverage is to be required, as every car driver must also take out.
Require costs for the use of nonrenewable goods of nature:
Non-renewable goods of nature must be given a price that increases as they become more scarce.
Avoiding unemployment:
If the needs of the population can be met with less gainful employment, this is to be welcomed. It is wrong to fuel an allegedly “too weak” consumption with financial incentives and with seductive advertising. – Financial incentives are needed to better share the remaining gainful employment. In times of impending unemployment, employers who divide the work among several people willing to work should be relieved financially. Unemployment is the worst form of part-time work. A basic income should also be considered.
Limit the power of large corporations so that the state can regulate independently:
Competition law must be tightened so that monopolies and cartel agreements are prohibited even if they are said to bring social benefits. Mergers must be prohibited if dominant positions are created in submarkets.
Whistleblowers are protected, even if they turn to the media.
Companies and their associations can continue to voice their interests in consultations. However, they may no longer make payments to political parties, elections and votes.
[See: Corporate Power]
No major bank or corporation may be “too big to fail”:
Taxpayers must no longer bear the major risks of bankruptcy. Until the unweighted equity of large banks reaches 25 percent of total assets (including government bonds), they must not pay dividends. For as long as banks can create ten or twenty times more credit than they have money, the banking system will remain unstable and a danger to the real economy. Private deposits of up to CHF 100,000 per bank should be covered by an unlimited government guarantee.
[See: Big banks are more subsidized than agriculture].
Shadow banks such as hedge funds, which are largely unregulated today, must be regulated, among other things, so that banks cannot circumvent capital adequacy rules:
Shadow banks account for about a quarter of all global financial transactions. Shifting risk to shadow banks is “the biggest threat to financial stability,” warned Goldman Sachs Vice Chairman Gary Cohn.
Credit default swaps, or CDSs, are only to be permitted if an existing loan is actually insured:
Pure betting transactions, which account for more than 90 percent of CDS trading, are to be banned.
High-risk investment banking is to be shifted to independent legal entities.
Proprietary trading, i.e. stock market speculation by banks for their own account, should be banned.
[See: CS alone: $50,980,000,000 derivatives].
No promotion of debt creation:
Companies and individuals should no longer be able to deduct debt interest in their taxes, as has been the case in Sweden since the late 1980s.
Radical tax reform:
The gradual introduction of a micro-tax is a simple and effective change of course proposed by asset manager Felix Bolliger (Infosperber, Feb. 18, 2016) and supported by Zurich finance professor Marc Chesney.
A micro tax of up to 2 per mille on all electronic money transactions is envisaged, for example 1 per mille per debit and credit. The revenue could be used to replace the much higher and bureaucratic value-added tax. It would also be easy to finance future gaps in the AHV and the costs of climate policy.
A popular initiative that wanted to introduce a micro tax failed for the time being because it did not get enough signatures in the Corona year 2021, and probably also because it wanted to abolish the federal social tax in addition.
Transparency as a prerequisite for democratic participation:
The Public Information Act should be expanded along the lines of the Freedom of Information Act in the United States.

“Politically unfeasible”

Most of these and other appropriate measures seem to be “politically unfeasible”. No political majorities can be found for them because the influence of the financial sector and large corporations is too great. This raises the question of whether traditional democratic institutions are still capable of setting the necessary course in time.

History teaches that major course corrections usually emerge from crises. However, far-sighted economists and politicians should start thinking today about how to shape a future without debt crises, without ecological and social exploitation, without an accumulation of power among international corporations and, last but not least, without compulsive growth.

Democracies under stress

The financial and political crises are taking their toll on democracies in the West. The separation of powers is also in trouble.
Will growth lead to happiness or a crash?

Will we run out of work if we don’t consume more and more? Or are pensions at risk?
Was this article useful?

The editors automatically close the opinion exchange after ten days or did not enable it at all for this article.
6 opinions

Gerhard Gucher, Aeugstertal
on 29.07.2022 at 12:19 pm

All well and good, probably even correct, but it won’t work. I will list a few reasons here, far from complete.
– It would be necessary that all states participate. This will not happen as long as nations attack others because they feel diffusely threatened and third parties finance this because they are afraid to freeze in the next winter.
– The individual (with us) would have to accept a clear decrease in prosperity in the range of 30-50% to contribute a personal contribution of 0.0000001 per mille worldwide. No Way.
– There are always people who are driven by greed or envy and exploit or sabotage the system.
– There are billions of people who want to reach our level first. If we don’t use up the resources they will.
– The global financial system doesn’t let you change step by step fast enough. It will only happen in the event of a global collapse.

Josef Hunkeler, Fribourg
on 29.07.2022 at 14:22 hrs

The currently starting inflation crisis should contribute a lot to the solution of these problems.

That the biggest warmongers are most affected by this inflation reminds of the saying : “Qui sème le vent, récolte la tempête”.

However, the Clinton reforms of the US financial system have probably not yet played out their full destructive potential. Lehman Brothers “2” sends its regards.

Werner René Zwicky, Chur
on 29.07.2022 at 14:42 hrs

Dear Mr. Gasche, thank you very much for this great and stirring contribution. Now I am probably a lot smarter, but my stomach ache has increased greatly. What you write there is the unsparing truth about the miserable conditions in our country and in the whole world and should be spread in ALL media and be delivered to every Federal Council, the parliament in Bern and all people who stand in our country in the responsibility towards the people. Dear Mr. Gasche, I am totally shaken now, but again 1000 thanks for your comments.

Peter Ulrich, Gattikon
on 29.07.2022 at 15:00 h

Thank you, Mr. Gasche, for this very convincing orientation contribution! Far too rarely, especially in this country, these fundamental political-economic issues are discussed.The point is not whether one agrees exactly with every point, but to gain the vision for the essential challenges in the first place.

As a suggestion, I would like to elaborate on point 10: I would replace the merely symptom-fighting postulate of abolishing the tax deductibility of all interest on debt without replacement with a far-reaching reform of the monetary system that would eliminate the root cause of the error in the monetary system that leads to the constant expansion of debt, namely the privilege of banks to simultaneously engage in money creation by granting loans. I outlined the main ideas in this regard in an Infosperber commentary on the occasion of the debate on the full money initiative on April 7, 2018: https://www.infosperber.ch/politik/schweiz/mehr-swissness-fuer-unser-gutes-geld/

Peter Herzog, Waldshut-Tiengen
on 29.07.2022 at 16:37 hrs.

m.E. one would have to smash like Anno Domini with Rockefeller, the power concentration of Black Rock, Vangard, Gates, Soros et al.
It is this concentration of power of the super rich that have taken over power, disempowered nation states and made democracy absurd, you can only elect their lobbyists into government. The result is a redistribution from the bottom to the top, e.g. through the Corona pandemic, the Ukraine / gas war, etc.

Ludwig Pirkl, St.Margrethen
on 30.07.2022 at 15:53 hrs

The enlightenment comes too late,
The power of the financial capital thugs (owners and top administrators) and their opportunistic politicians is overwhelming.
The power no longer emanates from the people, even in democracies, in crucial matters, but from financial capitalists who act almost “free” of national regulations on the global financial markets and offshore.

Central banks produce only cash.
Financial institutions can write “book money” again almost at will.
National banks of banks regulate, but do so insufficiently.
( much more equity capital of the balance sheet total of the banks prescribe )

“Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin must put an end to this madness”.
Yanis Varoufakis on Russia’s war on Ukraine
[This article published on 7/28/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, «Joe Biden und Vladimir Putin müssen diesen Wahnsinn beenden» – infosperber.].

Negotiations should end the killing and destruction in Ukraine, demands former Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis.

upg. On the Ukrainian side alone, the war is killing up to 100 people and injuring 500 every day. But U.S. President Biden declared that he does not want to negotiate with the aggressor Putin. Yanis Varoufakis criticizes this.
Politicians who push for a negotiated solution are often portrayed as “appeasers” (Tages-Anzeiger), “irritating procrastinators” (NZZ on Emmanuel Macron) or “callers to surrender” (Tages-Anzeiger title) who torpedo a Ukraine victory. Infosperber informed several times complementary to other media about their arguments. Today we adopt the statements of Yanis Varoufakis in the following interview, distributed by the international press agency Pressenza.

“Ukraine cannot win the war against the superpower”.

The conflict in Ukraine escalates every day, we see the battlefields and are affected by the many terrible fates. NATO and Ukraine declare that they can win this war on the battlefield, that they will be victorious. What solution do you see?

Certainly not the way NATO and Washington are pretending. What does it mean to say that Ukraine will win? I am very happy to see that the Ukrainian army is fighting back against Putin’s troops. However, it is one thing to say that a resistance army will succeed in defending its territory. It is another to say that it will win a war against a superpower like Russia.

What exactly are the U.S. and Selensky’s government saying? How could they win this war without an agreement between Washington DC and Moscow? Do they want to take Moscow? Do they want to invade the steppes of Russia? Are they so crazy that they are considering this?

I hope they are not because Ukrainian lives are at stake. As we speak, people in Ukraine are dying, being wounded, the poor in Africa and Asia are suffering from the rise in food prices. A great poverty is breaking over a part of the world.

The only reasonable solution for Ukrainians is to find immediate negotiations between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin to put an end to this madness and find a way for a neutral Ukraine alongside Europe, perhaps with close ties to the European Union, even becoming a member state but not a member of NATO. That would make sense and give Putin a way out without putting the lives of millions of people in danger.

An Austrian-style solution

What do you say about Russia’s goals? Russia states that it wants a neutral Ukraine that does not become a member of NATO and is demilitarized. President Putin also talked about denazification of Ukraine.

I have never made the mistake of classifying a country and its leaders. Russia is a very heterogeneous country. I have colleagues, friends who are in prison in Russia as we speak, victims of the Putin regime. Vladimir Putin and his people have their own ideas.

It seems very obvious to me that we here in the West should not want NATO to expand to Russia’s borders. Do we really want nuclear missiles of Russia and NATO to be placed a few kilometers apart? That would be total madness.

Nuclear missiles on the border would not serve our interests in the West, it would not serve Russia’s interests and certainly not those of the Ukrainians. Consequently, the idea would be an Austrian-style solution. During the Cold War, Austria was a democratic country, a member of the West, a wonderful, technologically advanced country, a free and liberal country, but not a NATO member. It was a neutral country. What would be the problem with such a solution for Ukraine? In fact, this would be the best solution for all. Why don’t we discuss this instead of offensive weapons for Ukraine? Suppose Ukraine now had these weapons, what would it do with them? Put them to use against a nuclear power like Russia? Has madness reached such an apotheosis?

What do you say to those who declare that Ukraine has the sovereign right to do what it wants, to define its own defense and foreign policy, and to join any alliance it wants?

Yes, Ukraine has these sovereign rights. However, at present, this state lacks a part of the country because the Russian army is located there. Ukrainians will have to make a final decision, but we in the West must support them. President Selensky had spoken in favor of a neutral solution several times after the war began. The only ones not talking about it are the Western powers, especially Joe Biden. [That is why one hardly hears anything more from Selensky in this direction].

Selensky himself cannot conduct such a negotiation with Putin. His country has been invaded. Joe Biden and Washington alone have the ability and the moral duty to sit down with Vladimir Putin, whether they like him or not. In this way, they can give Selensky the opportunity to put a neutrality solution into action.

We should not hide behind sovereignty or the theoretical right to become a member of NATO or any galactic empire while the country is occupied. We in the West must pave the way for Ukraine to concretely remain a sovereign state, and we must give Ukraine sovereign rights that it does not concretely have at the moment.

From the perspective of the West and NATO, will there be regime change in Russia soon? President Biden has said that almost by accident, and the Secretary of Defense has talked about weakening the Russian army.

I hope Joe Biden is not serious when he talks about regime change because every time the U.S. and the Western powers, but especially the U.S., have tried to change a regime, it has not gone very well. Think about Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. After five, six or ten years, the U.S. and the West were defeated. What they left behind was absolute devastation.

One of the weapons used in this conflict on both sides is sanctions. Do you support the sanctions imposed on Russia and the counter-sanctions implemented by Russia?

There, the answer is nuanced. If someone tells me that they don’t want to trade with a power that invades other countries, I respect that. Do we think this will work? No. We can already see that this is not working. The sanctions are very tough and more effective than most of us expected, especially the exclusion of the Russian Central Bank from the Swift international dollar payment system.

That was a very significant action by the West, and there will be consequences that I can’t go into now. What I can say is this: Exclusion from the dollar payment system will have an extremely negative impact on the Russians. Only I don’t think Vladimir Putin is that concerned about the Russians. These sanctions will have no effect on himself. The value of the ruble has even recovered because Russia has the largest liquidity reserves in its history: $250 billion. If Russia cannot import because of the sanctions, but continues to export energy, Russia will naturally have a trade surplus. Therefore, the regime will not collapse.

What do you say about the fact that the majority of the world’s population does not support the sanctions imposed on Russia? Neither the African continent, nor the whole Middle East, nor all of Latin America, nor the countries with the largest populations in the world, China and India, go along with these sanctions.

This is an interesting phenomenon. We’re looking at a disconnect between the North Atlantic West, the Global North, as it’s also called, and the Global South. And that’s not because the South is supporting Putin’s Russia. In my opinion, they are simply fed up with the mendacity of U.S. governments. Governments that committed crimes against humanity in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya, before that in Vietnam, and organized a coup in Iran.

If you trace US policy back to the 1950s, I can mention in Greece the fascist military regime that came to power through the CIA and was supported by the US.

In addition to this hypocrisy, fear may also play a role that if the West can close Russia’s central bank, it could do so with all central banks. This outsized power that is simply the power of the reserve currency, the dollar, becoming a power that can shut other central banks out of the international payments system, all of that scares the rest of the world. It’s understandable.

If we want a rules-based global governance system, we should create one. But not a system that allows the U.S. to commit crimes against humanity and, if they want to exclude someone like Putin for his crimes against humanity, they can do that.

If you look at the impact of this conflict, you find that many countries in Europe are paying for it. Russia has cut energy exports to several countries; the other day, gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland were cut off because those countries refused to pay in rubles. The leaders of Poland and Bulgaria, as well as the European Union, accuse Moscow of blackmailing these countries. Yet these countries are among those that have imposed sanctions on Russia. What effect does this have on Europe in general? I think that Europe is paying for this as well.

In fact, Europe will emerge from this conflict as the economic bloc that paid the highest price. Not so much in terms of dead people, although of course Ukrainians are suffering a lot, but I think the European Union will emerge from this conflict more divided and more fragmented, poorer, much poorer, and much more reactionary.

Remember that there were hopes for a real European Union, where we would have a common defense policy, a common international policy. None of that is happening. All we have are European governments forced into submission by Washington, forced to follow Washington when it comes to rearmament and when it comes to NATO expansion. There is no European defense. The EU will emerge from this conflict weakened.

Wouldn’t it be time for Europe to formulate its own foreign policy goals independently of Washington?

It would be a good idea to have our own foreign policy, but it does not exist. In 2010, I was involved in the Greek debt crisis. The EU did not want to acknowledge the consequences of not having common guarantees for the sovereign bonds of the different countries, like U.S. Treasury bonds or Chinese government bonds. We refused to be jointly liable for the debt. We also do not have a European parliament. We have only one body that goes by that name. Example: We decided to buy 1.5 billion euros worth of weapons for Ukraine. That was an extremely important decision that we have to approve. But the purchase of these weapons is not monitored by any national parliament, not even the European Parliament.

Instead of coming closer together, we will be more fragmented, poorer and ultimately more reactionary after this war. I would have wished that this would not be the case, but that a European Union would emerge from this crisis, not only in name, but as a reality. But this will not be the case. It is going in a different direction.


Euro worth half as much in just 8 years, CHF in 20 years.
Inflation is tearing up the value of money

by Urs P. Gasche
The loss of purchasing power would be enormous if inflation remained at today’s level. The people have nothing to say about it.
[This article published on 7/26/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Euro in nur 8 Jahren noch halb so viel wert, CHF in 20 Jahren. – infosperber.]

The loss of purchasing power again hits the weakest the hardest. In Switzerland, the consumer price index in June 2022 increased by 3.4 percent year-on-year, in Germany by 7.6 percent and in the USA by 9.1 percent.

If inflation remains at this level, the franc – are pensions – will be worth only half as much in just twenty years as it is today. In Germany, the value of the euro would even halve in just nine years, and in the U.S., the value of the dollar in eight years.

With their money glut and low interest rate policies, central banks have already expropriated savers and pensioners and turned the rich into the super-rich (see Part 1: “Central Banks Expropriate Savers and Turn the Rich into the Super-Rich “).

Industrialized countries and many companies have become massively over-indebted because of the financial crisis, because of the Corona crisis and the consequences of war and sanctions. In addition, most states wanted to stimulate economic growth with additional debt.

To reduce the gigantic debts, high inflation is politically the most convenient way. This is because it requires neither a parliamentary nor a government resolution, let alone a referendum.

Inflation: Those who have debts benefit. Those who live on wages or a pension lose out

If prices for products and services have risen by 5 percent, even a 5 percent wage increase on average only secures the previous purchasing power. If wage increases lag behind inflation, employees suffer a loss of purchasing power.

Pensioners are particularly disadvantaged by inflation. This is because the AHV increases pensions only with a delay. In the case of pension funds, it depends on the individual companies whether they compensate for inflation at least partially or – in most cases – not at all. With a pension that is nominally the same, retirees in Switzerland will only be able to consume half as much in 20 years if inflation remains at 3.4 percent annually.

Inflation also devalues savings in bank accounts. The greater the difference between the interest rate (currently zero or negative) and inflation, the faster savings will melt away. In plain language: A de facto tax is levied on the money saved, without this having been decided democratically. Saving is no longer worthwhile. Those who can, save themselves even more than before in the purchase of tangible assets, i.e. real estate and shares.

The losers are people without assets who own neither real estate nor stocks and have no money to buy them.

Special case Switzerland

Because Switzerland has its own currency in the form of the Swiss franc, the Swiss National Bank can prevent inflation as high as in the EU by revaluing the franc. This makes imports of heating oil, gasoline and all other products from abroad cheaper. But if a crash were to occur in the EU, Switzerland could easily be sucked into the vortex.

Squaring the circle

Today, it would be most elegant for central banks (and governments) if they could induce inflation and still keep interest rates as low as possible.

But if central banks continue to keep interest rates too low, inflation threatens to get out of hand.

But as soon as central banks raise interest rates more sharply to fight inflation, a troubling scenario looms: because of the huge mountains of debt, higher interest rates could lead to a crash. The central banks have brought this problem on themselves by encouraging the gigantic indebtedness of governments, companies and private individuals with their zero interest rate policy.

If the central banks were to raise interest rates by even a few percent to effectively combat inflation as in the past, highly indebted countries such as Greece, Italy and Portugal would quickly become insolvent and the euro would be seriously threatened. Highly indebted companies, financial groups and real estate owners would soon be unable to pay the higher variable interest rates or the higher interest rates on subsequent loans.

Higher interest rates would also sharply reduce the market value of existing zero-interest bonds. Large banks, insurance companies or pension funds holding such bonds would have to adjust their value downward and would quickly find themselves in trouble.

For all these reasons, central banks are trying to raise their key interest rates only in small steps. However, it is doubtful whether this will be enough to bring down high inflation and reduce the risky mountain of debt.

Possible way out of the impasse

A possible way out of the impasse would be orderly and staggered debt cuts and an orderly departure from an economic policy that seeks to solve the problems of the rich industrialized countries with economic growth, i.e. with even more energy, raw materials, gainful employment, consumption and waste – and if this requires even more debt.

The hitherto supreme goal of economic policy, the strongest possible GDP growth, belongs in the mothballs of the last century.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Hiroshima is everywhere. The never-ending struggle


Hiroshima is everywhere – Or: The never-ending struggle
Hiroshima after the atomic bombing

by Leo Ensel
Hiroshima showed: Man is capable of wiping out all life on Earth. A world without nuclear weapons must be our goal.
[This article published on 8/6/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Hiroshima ist überall – Oder: Der niemals endende Kampf – infosperber.]

Hiroshima ist überall – Oder: Der niemals endende Kampf – infosperber

Hiroshima hat gezeigt: Der Mensch ist fähig alles Leben auf der Erde auszulöschen. Eine Welt ohne Atomwaffen mus…
77 years ago, on August 6, 1945, a Monday, at 8:16 a.m. local time, an atomic bomb was detonated for the first time over a living area – it exploded with a heat development of almost 4,000 degrees Celsius 580 meters above the Shima Hospital of the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where about 400,000 people lived on the day of the catastrophe and which had been spared from bombardments up to that point. It was released from the American B-29 bomber “Enola Gay” at an altitude of almost ten kilometers, after another bomber had already flown over the city three quarters of an hour earlier to check the weather conditions. It was a beautiful sunny day, quite clear skies. The bomb, comparable in its explosive power to a present-day ‘tactical’ nuclear weapon, had been christened “Little Boy” by the U.S. military.

Hundreds of thousands of “test victims

More than 70,000 people were killed instantly. The bomb killed 90 percent of the population within a 500-meter radius of Ground Zero. Most people were vaporized or burned up. Within a second, the blast wave destroyed 80 percent of downtown. A firestorm destroyed 11 square kilometers of the major city and drove the mushroom cloud characteristic of atomic bombs up to an altitude of 13 kilometers, which fell on the surrounding area twenty minutes later as highly contaminated radioactive fallout.

Dead: 282,000. 50 percent of them on the day the bomb was dropped, 35 percent in the following three months, 15 percent since November 1945. (The figures vary. But even if one starts from the lowest assumption, 170,000 victims, everything remains basically the same). Diseases of survivors (among others): Blood diseases (pernicious anemia, leukemia), skin growths caused by burns (keloids), liver disease, cataracts, post-traumatic stress disorder. To this day, people are dying from cancers caused by the bombing.

Three days later, on August 9 at 11:02 a.m., the U.S. detonated another atomic bomb – it was named “Fat Man” – over the port city of Nagasaki, located in southwestern Japan. Casualties: between 60,000 and 80,000. Injuries: around 75,000.

Months later, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey sent doctors to the largely destroyed and contaminated cities. Their job, however, was not to provide medical assistance to the countless injured, highly traumatized people. Their job was to scientifically study the effects of radiation on the human organism. The hundreds of thousands of dead and injured in the two Japanese cities had been, from the U.S. point of view, “test victims,” “human guinea pigs.” The later spread claim that the atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to force Japan to surrender was a propaganda lie.1)

End Times and End of Time

August 6, 1945 was not a day of any terrible catastrophe. After all, human history teems with atrocities and gruesome crimes. What makes this date a caesura – and not only of human history, but also of the entire planet – is the fact that since that day humans are able to destroy themselves as a species, possibly even all life on this globe.

The philosopher Günther Anders (1902-1992), who was one of the very first to set himself the task of finding an appropriate language for this unprecedented possibility of man-made apocalypse – which had never been foreseen by any philosopher, even by any theologian – put this unheard-of circumstance into forceful sentences at the end of the 1950s:

Hiroshima as a world condition. With August 6, 1945, Hiroshima Day, a new age began. The age in which we can turn any place, nay our earth as a whole, into a Hiroshima at any moment. Since that day we have become modo negativo omnipotent; but since we can be annihilated at the same time in every moment, this means at the same time: since that day we are totally powerless. No matter how long, no matter if it will last forever, this age is the last: Because its characteristic, the possibility of our self-extinction, can never end – except by the end itself.

The consequence: according to Anders, human existence has since been defined as a “time limit”. We live as “just-not-yet-selves.” By this fact the moral basic question has changed: The classical question “How do we want to live?” has been subsumed by the question “Will we live?” In other words, “To the ‘how-question’ there is only one answer for us, who are just living in our time limit: ‘We have to see to it that the end time, although it could turn into end of time at any time, becomes endless; that is, that the turnaround never occurs.'”

Temporary resistance

The perceptive analyses of people like Günther Anders and Albert Einstein – “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything – except our way of thinking, and so we are drifting towards a catastrophe without equal. A new way of thinking is necessary if humanity is to continue to live.” – did not remain completely ineffective.

In July 1955, philosopher Bertrand Russell called for the outlawing of a future world war that would inevitably be fought with weapons of mass destruction. His appeal was signed, among others, by Nobel Prize winners in physics Max Born and Albert Einstein. At the end of the 1950s, the “Fight Atomic Death” movement and the “Easter March” movement emerged in the old Federal Republic as a reaction to the temporary plans to equip the Bundeswehr with tactical atomic bombs. In April 1957, 18 highly respected nuclear physicists of the Federal Republic of Germany (among them the Nobel laureates Otto Hahn, Max Born and Werner Heisenberg) also opposed a nuclear armament of the Bundeswehr, downplayed by the then Chancellor Konrad Adenauer as “further development of artillery”, in their joint “Göttingen Manifesto” and combined this with an unambiguous act of civil disobedience: “In any case, none of the signatories would be willing to participate in any way in the production, testing, or use of nuclear weapons. ”

The Easter March movement died off for a time in the 1960s – the SPD had cut off its funding under American pressure – but experienced a renaissance in the 1980s in the wake of the so-called NATO disarmament decision, along with the New Peace Movement. Never before had there been so many sensitive (and ready for action) groups of the population regarding the danger of a possible nuclear annihilation as in the 1980s in Western Europe, the USA and – under very different conditions – also in some states of the Warsaw Pact.

For a brief, beautiful moment, in the form of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of “new thinking,” Einstein’s postulate from 1946 even reached the heights of world politics. And by no means in vain: thanks above all to the determination of the Soviet administration of the time, no less than 80 percent of all nuclear warheads worldwide were scrapped!

Two thousand five hundred times a second world war

Since then, however, times have changed considerably. In the past two decades, almost all disarmament and arms control treaties have been scrapped – exclusively on the initiative of the USA – including the most important disarmament treaty in world history, the INF Treaty signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan at the end of 1987.

It is not only since Russia’s war against Ukraine that the Cold Warriors have regained the upper hand: nuclear bombs have long since become socially acceptable again, a new, even more dangerous nuclear armament spiral is imminent, scenarios for a possible first use – both in the USA and in the Russian Federation – and a supposedly limited and winnable nuclear war are already in the drawers. German politicians, especially among the once peace-moving Greens, are blathering about “nuclear sharing”. And this, although the atomic bombs stored at present world-wide still have together an explosive power of approximately 2500 second world wars!

Resistance against this development, for example in the form of the International Campaign for the Prohibition and Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, the International Organization “Physicians against Nuclear War” (IPPNW) or the initiative “Justitia et Pax” 2), is only tentatively stirring.

The dark cloud

And the task that lies ahead is gigantic: The goal must not only be pursued with unprecedented tenacity, but also illusionlessly and – endlessly!

This, too, was masterfully summed up by Günther Anders as early as the end of the 1950s:

“As mighty as man may be – he cannot do one thing: He cannot revoke his own ability! And as great as the ability of his learning may be, he cannot learn one thing; namely to unlearn that what he can. The atomic weapons, which he has just now, he can abolish; but his knowledge of making them, he cannot get rid of.”

The necessary struggle for a physical destruction of all existing weapons of mass destruction – for which in recent years the now 91-year-old Mikhail Gorbachev 3) has repeatedly spoken out – must therefore, according to Günther Anders, be supplemented by measures of another category, by measures that prevent us from doing that which we can do, that is, from producing those devices whose mode of production we are incapable of forgetting.

“But this means that the transformation of man will have to be a transformation of his morality. The awareness that this is an absolute taboo will have to take such deep roots in each of us billions of people and will have to become so general that whoever would consider using these means to achieve his political ends would face the ostracism of all humanity.”

In short and without illusions: The struggle against the danger of nuclear self-destruction of mankind will have to be a never-ending one. For each of the generations yet to come – if there will be any – this danger will precede as a possibility like a dark cloud. – Let us leave the last word to the great philosopher of the atomic age:

“Every day gained will indeed be a day gained. But no day won will be a guarantee of tomorrow’s winning. We will never arrive. So what lies ahead is the endlessness of uncertainty. And our never-ending task will be that at least this uncertainty will have no end.”


1) https://overton-magazin.de/hintergrund/politik/august-1945-atombomben-auf-japan/
2) https://ostexperte.de/die-schaerfste-kritik-der-atomaren-abschreckung-liefert-zur-zeit-die-katholische-kirche/
3) https://www.gorby.ru/presscenter/news/show_30157/

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The Unbroken: Evo Morales


Recent events give hope for a resurgence of the left on the continent. Morales points to recent electoral victories in Peru, Chile, Colombia, as well as Lula’s soon expected return to the Brazilian presidency. “These times are coming again,” he says. “We have to work to consolidate these democratic revolutions, for the benefit of humanity. I have a lot of hope.”

The Unbroken.
Evo Morales, ex-president of Bolivia, talks about his uphill battle against the U.S. empire, which is trying to stifle any resistance globally.
From Rubicon’s World Desk
[This article published on 8/2/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Der Ungebrochene.]

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, with only six years of schooling under his belt and derided by the elites of the time for his illiterate language in 1998, wrote one of the continent’s most impressive socialist success stories during the 13 years of his presidency. In 2019, a U.S.-launched coup threw him out of office. The coup regime under Jeanine Áñez administered Bolivia until new elections in October 2020, which were again won by Morales’ ruling MAS party. In an interview with British investigative journalist Matt Kennard, the ex-president talks about his partly successful efforts to break the continent’s once poorest country out of its dependence on the United States.

By Matt Kennard

When Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was overthrown in a British-backed coup in November 2019, many believed his life was in danger. There have been many such cases in Latin American history where a freedom fighter was eliminated by vengeful imperial powers. The legendary resistance leader Tupac Katari, who like Morales belonged to the indigenous Aymara tribe, was quartered by the Spanish in 1781 – with the help of four horses to which his arms and legs were tied.

238 years later, a few days after the coup against Morales, Bolivia’s self-appointed interim president, Jeanine Áñez, appeared in Congress waving a giant leather-bound Bible. “The Bible has returned to the government palace,” she announced. Her new regime immediately whipped through Decree 4078, which gave the military immunity for all actions “in defense of society and maintenance of public order.” That meant a green light. The following day, 10 unarmed protesters were massacred by security forces.

Morales had gone underground when the coup seemed inevitable. Along with his vice president, Alvaro García Linero, he fled to El Trópico de Cochabamba, a tropical area deep in the Amazon rainforest in central Bolivia that formed the heartland of his Movimiento al Socialismo party and its indigenous base.

Before officially resigning, he flew to the remote Chimoré airfield, whose access roads had been blocked by local coca farmers. The leaves of the coca plant form the raw material for cocaine, and the airfield was a regional strategic base for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the period prior to Morales’ presidency. By 2008, Morales had banned the DEA from Bolivia and converted the base into a civilian airfield. Coca cultivation declined soon after. A few days after Morales and Linera arrived at El Trópico, Mexico’s leftist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent a plane to rescue them and fly them out of Chimoré. Obrador later said the Bolivian army fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at the plane shortly after it took off. Apparently, the British-backed coup regime wanted the deposed president – who had served for 13 years – dead. Morales says today he owes his life to Obrador.

Villa Tunari

Morales is back in El Trópico today, but under greatly changed circumstances. After a year under the “interim government,” democracy was finally restored in October 2020, and Morales’ ruling MAS party won elections anew. New President Luis Arce, Morales’ former economy minister, came to power, and Morales returned triumphantly from exile in Argentina. He traveled much of the country on foot and then settled in El Trópico. He recently moved into a house in Villa Tunari, a small town-it has a population of just over 3,000-about 20 miles from the Chimoré airport.

To get to Villa Tunari from Cochabamba, the nearest major city, takes four hours in one of the minibuses that leave every 10 minutes. You also pass through Sacaba, the place where the regime massacred the 10 protesters, a day after assuring the military of impunity.

As the minivan penetrates deeper into El Trópico, the importance of Morales and the MAS party becomes more apparent. The corrugated iron-covered shelters that are home to the world’s poor increasingly feature murals on the side showing Morales’ face. Soon his name in capital letters – EVO – is everywhere. So is the word MAS.

Tunari itself is a traditionally indigenous town, a tourist destination surrounded by national parks. Since the restoration of democracy, the tourist industry has also recovered. Because El Trópico is the backbone of support for MAS and Morales, it was subject to repression at the time of the coup government. For quite some time, ATMs everywhere did not work-an attempt by the Áñez government to isolate the region. Today, however, Tunari is bustling with life again. Along its main axis, well-attended fried chicken and fish restaurants line up. Buses wait steaming at the bus station, and hotels and hostels can be found in the side streets. A raging, sepia-colored river stretches along one side of the city. It looks like a typical Latin American backpacker stopover.

The British Embassy as a “strategic partner” of the coup regime.

I arrive in Tunari late on Saturday afternoon, after a long flight to Cochabamba and the four-hour ride in a minibus. The interview with Morales is scheduled for Monday, but when I activate the Wi-Fi on my cell phone after arriving, I find a bunch of text messages from his assistant. Morales has almost finished his day’s business and wants to give the interview later that evening, in two hours. And it will be at his house.

Morales is known for his work ethic. Shortly thereafter, my colleague who will be filming the interview (3) comes to pick me up. In the middle of a tropical downpour, the water seeming to fall en masse like bricks, we take a tuk-tuk into town and sit sipping coffee under a tarp, waiting for the assistant to call. Eventually the call comes, and we board another tuk-tuk and drive through remote streets until we are standing in front of the walls of a nondescript house. A woman comes out to let us in. We go into the living room, where the only inventory is two sofas. As I find out later, I am the first journalist to be allowed to interview Morales in his house.

I got the interview because I had written an investigative article in March 2021 revealing the United Kingdom’s support for the coup that cost Morales his office. The British Foreign Office released 30 pages of documents dealing with British Embassy projects in Bolivia. According to the documents, it appears to have hired an Oxford-based company to optimize the “exploitation” of Bolivia’s lithium deposits in the month after Morales fled the country. It also shows that the British Embassy in La Paz acted as a “strategic partner” of the coup regime, organizing an international mining conference four months after Bolivia’s democracy was overthrown.

The story quickly spread throughout Bolivia. Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta summoned British Ambassador Jeff Glenkin, showed him the contents of the article and demanded comment. The British Embassy in Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, issued a statement claiming Declassified was running a disinformation campaign, but provided no evidence.

An alternative economic model

Local journalists told me that Morales often mentions the article in his speeches, so I will start with this. “It was only last year that we learned from the media that England had also participated in the coup,” he reported. “This was a blow to our economic model because that economic model has produced results,” he says, adding:

“It’s an economic model that belongs to the people, not to the empire (1). One that doesn’t come from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but an economic model that comes out of social movements.”

And further:

“When we came to power in 2006, Bolivia, economically and according to development indicators, was the bottom of South America and the second worst country in the double continent.”

In the 13 years of his administration that followed, Bolivia experienced its most stable period since the declaration of independence in 1825, achieving unprecedented economic success that was even recognized by the IMF and World Bank. Crucially, this success also translated into unprecedented improvements for Bolivia’s poor classes. “During the first six years, we had the highest economic growth in South America, and that was due to the nationalization policies that emerged from the social movements,” Morales recounts. He was part of the “pink tide” of leftist governments that existed in Latin America in the 2000s, but his economic model was one of the most radical of all.

On his 100th day in office, Morales nationalized Bolivia’s gas and oil deposits by ordering the armed forces to occupy the gas fields and giving foreign investors 6 months to meet his demands or leave the country.

Morales believes it was this nationalization program that led to the Western-backed coup against him. “I remain convinced that the empire, or capitalism/imperialism, cannot accept that there is an economic model that is better than neoliberalism,” he tells me.

“The coup d’état was against our economic model (…); we showed that another Bolivia is possible.”

Morales says the second phase of the revolution – after nationalization – was industrialization. “And the most important was lithium,” he stresses. Bolivia has the world’s second-largest deposits of lithium, a metal needed for batteries that has become a hot commodity with the burgeoning trend toward electric cars.

A visit to South Korea

Morales recalls a formative trip to South Korea he made in 2010.

“We talked about bilateral agreements, investment, cooperation. They took me to a lithium battery factory. Interesting. South Korea wanted lithium from us, the raw material.”

Then Morales says he asked the factory how much it had cost to build the plant. They said $300 million. “Our foreign reserves were growing,” he reports. “At that moment, I said, ‘I can guarantee 300 million. Let’s build a factory just like this in Bolivia. I’ll guarantee your investment.’ But the Koreans said, ‘No, no,'” Morales recalls.

“It was then that I realized that the industrialized nations were only interested in Latin America for the raw materials. They didn’t want to give us the added value.”

It was at that point that Morales decided to industrialize Bolivia, undoing half a millennium of colonial history.

The usual imperial dynamic that kept Bolivia in poverty was for rich countries to extract raw materials, process them into products in Europe, which at the same time helped industrialize Europe, and sell the finished products expensively in Bolivia.

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni (or Salar de Tunupa) salt pan contains a pool of brine exceptionally rich in lithium (2). (Anouchka Une, Wikimedia Commons)

With the country’s lithium reserves, Morales was determined to do otherwise. They would not be satisfied with mining lithium, but would also manufacture the batteries themselves. Morales refers to this as “value creation.” “We started with a laboratory, of course we had to hire international experts,” he reports.

“Then we built a pilot plant. We put $20 million into the project, and today it works. Every year it produces 200 tons of lithium carbonate and lithium batteries in Potosi.”

Potosi is a city in southern Bolivia that became the center of the Spanish Empire in Latin America after gigantic amounts of silver were discovered there in the 16th century. It is estimated that in this so-called first city of capitalism, up to 8 million indigenous people died in the mines of Potosi’s Cerro Rico (rich mountain), where they mined for silver destined exclusively for Europe.

Morales continues:

“We had a plan to build 42 new (lithium) factories by 2029. It was expected to make $5 billion in profit. Profit!”

“But then came the coup,” he reports (4).

“The U.S. said China’s presence is not allowed, but (…) having China as a market is very important, the same with Germany. The next step was Russia, and then came the coup.”

“And only last year we found out that England was also involved in the coup – all because of lithium.” But, Morales says, his people’s long struggle to control their own wealth is not unique.

“This struggle is not just raging in Bolivia or Latin America, but worldwide. Who owns the natural resources? To the people, under control of their state? Or are they privatized under the control of a multinational corporation that has a free hand to plunder?”

Partners or bosses?

Morales’ nationalization program put him on a collision course with powerful transnational corporations that had grown accustomed to traditional imperial dynamics. “During the 2005 election campaign, we said that if the corporations want to be here, they can do so as partners, or as providers of services, but not as bosses or as owners of our mineral resources,” Morales recounts.

“We take a clear position with the multinationals: we talk, we negotiate, but we don’t submit to dictates.”

As an example, Morales cites hydrocarbon contracts signed by previous governments:

“In these contracts – which were drafted by neoliberals – it literally says: ‘The rights holder acquires the rights to the product at the entrance of the well.’ Who is this rights holder? The transnational oil company. They want to own the oil from the entrance of the well.”

And further:

“The companies tell us that as long as it’s in the ground, it belongs to the Bolivians, but once it’s extracted, it no longer belongs to the Bolivians. Once it’s out of the ground, the multinationals have a vested right to it. And that’s why we insisted on the regulation: mined or not, it belongs to the Bolivians.”

Morales continues:

“The most important thing is that now, out of 100 percent of the revenue, 82 percent is for Bolivians and 18 percent is for the corporations. Before, it was 82 percent for the corporations, and 18 percent for the Bolivians, and the state had no control – how much was promoted, in what way – nothing.”

It’s been an uphill battle, Morales adds, and some companies have left. “We respected their decision to leave,” Morales said.

“But we insisted that any legal claims would have to be made in Bolivia, rather than going to CIADI. That was also a struggle we had to fight, to negotiate all the claims at the national level, because that’s a matter of sovereignty and dignity.”

CIADI is the Spanish acronym for ICSID, “International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.” International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes). Although a little-known branch of the World Bank, it is the most important supranational forum where corporations can sue states for imposing rules that the investor believes violate his rights. In reality, it represents a system that often allows corporations to override or ignore sovereign state decisions – or extract huge compensation payments.

Under this “arbitration” system, a British company sued Bolivia. In 2010, Morales nationalized Bolivia’s largest utility, Empresa Eléctrica Guaracachi. The British electricity investment firm Rurelec, which indirectly owned 50.001 percent of the utility, cited Bolivia before another investor-state arbitration board, this time in The Hague, seeking a $100 million settlement. Bolivia was eventually ordered to pay Rurelec 35 million, and after further negotiations, the parties agreed to pay just over 31 million in May 2014. Rurelec celebrated this outcome with a series of press releases on its website. “My only downer is that it took so long to reach agreement,” the fund’s CEO said in a statement.

“All we wanted was a peaceful negotiation and a handshake with President Morales.”

Empire sets conditions

Since the beginning of the Monroe Doctrine anno 1823 – in which the U.S. claimed all of the Americas as a zone of influence – Bolivia has largely been under U.S. control. This changed for the first time when the Morales government took office. “As a state, we want diplomatic relations with all countries in the world, but based on mutual respect,” Morales clarifies.

“The problem we have with the United States is that any relationship with them is always conditional.”

He continues:

“It’s important that trade and bilateral relations are based on mutual benefit, not competition. And we found some European countries willing to do that. But most importantly, we found China. Diplomatic relations with them do not come with conditions.”

And further:

“For example, with the U.S., if you wanted to join their economic plan, the ‘Millennium Challenge Corporation’ (MCC), you had to privatize your natural resources in return.”

This MCC was a project of the George W. Bush administration that wanted to run development aid more like a business. Led by a CEO, it is funded with public money but can operate autonomously and has a board of directors like a company, with businessmen who know how to make money. The “aid contracts” that are signed with countries come with political strings attached. “China doesn’t impose such conditions on us, nor does Russia and some countries in Europe,” Morales adds. “That’s the big difference.”

Regime change made in the U.S.

A glimpse of the way the U.S. government used to view Bolivia is permitted by the following private conversation Richard Nixon had with his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, in June 1971:

Kissinger: We also have a huge problem in Bolivia. And …

Nixon: I understand. (U.S. Secretary of Commerce) Connally was talking about that. And what do you propose to do?

Kissinger: I have instructed (CIA Deputy Planning Director) Thomas Karamessines to prepare an operation as soon as possible. Even the ambassador there, who has always been a softie, is now saying if we don’t put the military there, it’s all going to go down the drain.

Nixon: Yes.

Kissinger: Monday it’s going to start.

Nixon: And what does Karamessines think it will take? A coup?

Kissinger: We have to see what we can do, in what context … In two months they want to throw us out of the country. They’ve already done that with the Peace Corps, a major asset. But now they also want to expel (the U.S. Information Agency and) military personnel. And I don’t know if we can even think about a coup, but we have to find out what the situation is there. Before there would be a coup, we would …

Nixon: Remember, we let the damn Bolivians have the tin.

Kissinger: Well, that can always be reversed. And then …

Nixon: … let’s undo that.

The “huge problem” in Bolivia of which Kissinger spoke was Juan José Torres, a socialist leader who had come to power the previous year and had set his sights on the country’s independence. The U.S. coup came two months after the above conversation, and military General Hugo Banzer was installed. Torres fled into exile and was assassinated five years later, in 1976, in Buenos Aires by Operation Condor – a CIA-backed right-wing terrorist network then operating throughout Latin America. Torres was the last leftist president in Bolivia before Morales.

Brits throw a party

Back to the 2019 coup in Bolivia. The British government lavishly supported it and welcomed the new regime, full of praise for the potential it opened up for British companies to make money from the country’s mineral resources, especially lithium. On Dec. 14, 2019 – three weeks after the British-backed regime carried out another massacre of protest demonstrators – British Ambassador Jeff Glekin even hosted a Downtown Abbey-style English tea party. There were Victoria bisques.

“We complain that the British celebrated at the sight of dead protesters,” Morales said. “But that’s been our history since the European invasion of 1492.” And explains:

“I used to hold certain European nations in high regard for their self-liberation from monarchies. But oligarchy went on and monarchy and hierarchies, and we want nothing to do with that.”

According to Morales, the new millennium “is a millennium of people, not of monarchies, hierarchies, oligarchies. That’s our struggle.”

Referring to the British, he finds, “‘Superiority’ is so important to them, the ability to dominate. We are simple, poor people, that’s the difference. It is reprehensible that they lack any sense of humanity, of brotherhood. Instead, they are prisoners of their dominance strategies.”

About the relationship with England, he said:

“There are deep ideological, programmatic, cultural and class antagonisms, but especially in terms of principles and beliefs.”

He adds:

“There are countries that, because of their state principles, always tend to oppress, isolate or condemn and marginalize sisters and brothers when they speak of truth and defend life and humanity. I cannot accept this.”

I report that when I contacted the UK Foreign Office about my original research, they simply said, “There was no coup” in November 2019. What does Morales have to say about this?

“It’s incomprehensible how a European country (…) can seriously claim in the 21st century that this was not a coup d’état, it doesn’t make sense.”

And further:

“This is a deeply colonial way of looking at things. They believe that some countries are owned by other countries. That God put them in this place and so the world belongs to the U.S. and the British. And that’s why the rebellions and uprisings will continue.”

Morales saw from childhood the result of his country being considered the property of other countries. He grew up in extreme poverty, with four of his six siblings dying as children. He worked as a “cocalero” (coca picker) at an early age and became politicized by America’s “war on drugs.” He gained national prominence after being elected leader of the coca growers’ union in 1996.

An intimidation tactic

When WikiLeaks began publishing diplomatic dispatches in 2010, it brought to light an extensive campaign by the U.S. Embassy in La Paz to topple Morales’ government. Many had suspected as much, but the dispatches showed clear U.S. ties to the opposition.

I ask Morales about Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who has now been in Belmarsh maximum security prison for four years for bringing these and other U.S. imperial operations to public attention.

“Sometimes the empire talks about free speech, but deep down they are enemies of free speech,” Morales comments.

“The empire, as soon as someone tells the truth (…) at that moment the retaliation starts, just like with Assange.”

He adds, “Some people (…) stand up against these measures because they think it is important to defend life, equality, freedom, dignity. Then comes the retaliation.” – “I salute and admire all those who speak the truth for the sake of people’s liberation,” Morales said.

“The detention of our friend (Assange) is an escalation, an intimidation measure, so that all the crimes against humanity committed by the different U.S. governments don’t come to light. All the interventions, all the invasions, all the looting.”

He continued, “Former CIA agents and DEA agents are also participating in this rebellion, telling the truth about the United States. Retribution always comes.” – “The truth is, this will not stop, it will continue,” Morales elaborates.

“To our brother (Assange), I send our respect and admiration. I hope that there will be more revelations so that the world can be informed (…) about all the criminal activity in the world.”

Morales believes that information and communication are the most important issues today for the “people who have no voice.” He is currently working to build independent media in Bolivia. “It’s hard for people with few means of communication to communicate,” Morales says.

“We’ve been able to gain some experience, especially in El Trópico. We have a radio station that the whole nation can’t receive, but it’s often heard and followed by the right-wing media.”

Above all, they hope to find points of attack against Morales. “How nice it would be if people had their own media channels,” Morales continues, “that’s the challenge people face. The existing media that belong to the empire or to the right wing of Bolivia, and it’s like that everywhere in Latin America, they defend their interests (…) and are never on the side of the people.” And further:

“For example, when the right wing makes a mistake, it is never exposed, it is covered up, and they protect themselves. The (corporate) media serve to protect the big corporations, their lands and their banks, and they want to humiliate the peoples of Bolivia, the ordinary people of this earth.”

Latin America has long been the global center of democratic socialism. I ask Morales if he has hope for the future. “In South America, it’s no longer the time of Hugo Chávez, Lula, (Néstor) Kirchner, (Rafael) Correa,” he advises. Together, these progressive leaders have worked to integrate Latin America and the Caribbean, through organizations such as the “Union of South American Nations” (UNASUR) in 2008 and the “Community of Latin American and Caribbean States” (CELAC) in 2011.

“We have been slacking, but now we are on the road to recovery,” Morales commented. Recent events give hope for a resurgence of the left on the continent. Morales points to recent electoral victories in Peru, Chile, Colombia, as well as Lula’s soon expected return to the Brazilian presidency.

“These times are coming again,” he says.

“We have to work to consolidate these democratic revolutions, for the benefit of humanity. I have a lot of hope.”

And further:

“In politics, we must ask ourselves: are we with the people or with the empire? If we are with the people, we build a country; if we are with the empire, we make money. If we are with the people, we fight for life and humanity; if we are with the empire, we support the politics of death, the culture of death, interventions and the plundering of the people. This is what we must always ask ourselves as people, as leaders: are we at the service of our people?”

Morales then addresses the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “I think it’s time, given the problems between Russia and Ukraine, to have an international, worldwide campaign that first clarifies that NATO, at the end of the day, simply represents the United States.”

– “Or better yet, a campaign to disband NATO. NATO does not guarantee humanity or life. I don’t accept – indeed, I condemn – how they could exclude Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. After the U.S. interventions in Iraq, Libya, in so many countries in recent years, why was (the U.S.) not expelled from the council? Why didn’t anyone ask this question?”

He adds:

“We have deep ideological differences with the policy that the U.S. is pursuing through NATO. It is based on interventionism and militarism.”

And, concluding the theme:

“Between Russia and Ukraine, they are looking for an agreement, but (the U.S.) continues to fuel the war, the U.S. arms industry, which lives on war, and they provoke wars to sell their weapons. This is the other reality we live in.”

The Water Wars

Morales is the most successful president in Bolivia’s history – and one of the most successful in Latin America’s history. The period of his presidency is perhaps the most successful long-term experiment with democratic socialism in history anywhere. Therein lies a danger to imperial powers, who have long warned of the threat posed by a successful example. It declared an end to 500 years of white rule in Bolivia and ushered the country into the modern world. The new 2009 constitution “refounded” Bolivia as a “plurinational” state in which indigenous peoples were allowed to govern themselves. It created a new Congress, with seats reserved for even the small indigenous groups, and recognizes the Andean earth deity Pachamama instead of the Roman Catholic Church.

“How could the Indians – or the social movements – lead a revolution?” asks Morales, alluding to Bolivia’s traditional white elite and their imperial masters.

“A democratic revolution, based on the voices of the people, that amplified popular consciousness and even reached the government?” – “Even today there are people who believe ‘we must dominate and rule over the Indians.’ You can find this mentality inside Bolivia. ‘They are slaves, they are animals, we have to exterminate them.’ To overcome this mentality is our struggle.”

On the way back to Cochabamba, a bustling indigenous city that is Bolivia’s fourth largest, I am reminded that this epic struggle began right here. In the early 2000s, the “water wars” raged in Cochabamba after the local water company was privatized and the American corporation Bechtel drastically raised prices and even banned rainwater collection. Tens of thousands of protesters fought street battles with police for months. Bolivia’s coca farmers, led by a little-known congressman, Evo Morales, joined the protesters in demanding an end to the U.S.-funded program to destroy their coca plantations.

After months of protest and activism, the Bolivian parliament was ready to roll back privatization in April 2000. It was the beginning of a revolution. Five years later, the people seized power and reversed 500 years of colonial rule in Bolivia.

But even in 2022, the danger is not over. The U.S. and Britain, along with their local elites, continue to work to bring Bolivia under control. But in this country with a majority indigenous population, they seem to have found an equal opponent.

Morales reports that building union power was the basis for the democratic revolution. But the crucial step, he says, was getting into government.

“Gaining political power allowed us to close the U.S. military base. We expelled the DEA from the country, we expelled the CIA from the country. By the way, the U.S. ambassador who enabled the 2008 coup (attempt) through his conspiracy and financing, we expelled him too.”

And, after a pause:

“We don’t just talk about anti-imperialism. We practice it.”

Matt Kennard is senior investigative journalist for the online newspaper Declassified UK. He was a staff member and later director at the Center for Investigative Journalism in London. Follow him on Twitter at @kennardmatt. For more information, visit: declassifieduk.org.

Editorial Note: This text first appeared in full text under the title “Evo Morales: UK Role in Coup That Ousted Him” at Consortium News. It was translated by the Rubicon volunteer translation team and proofread by the Rubicon volunteer proofreading team.

Sources and Notes:

Translator’s notes:

(1) “The Empire” is a common paraphrase in Latin America, always referring to the United States.
(2) The Salar de Uyuni is located at an altitude of 3,600 meters and has about twenty times the area of Lake Constance.
3) The resulting video can be found, for example, at https://consortiumnews.com/2022/07/15/evo-morales-uk-role-in-coup-that-ousted-him/.
(4) The author fails to mention that Morales also accuses Tesla CEO Elon Musk of complicity with the coup plotters. In the video, this passage can be found starting at minute 5:30.


Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Negotiating to End the Ukraine War isn’t Appeasement


Negotiating to End the Ukraine War isn’t Appeasement
by Charles A. Kupchan

A negotiated end to the conflict is the right goal — and one that needs to arrive sooner rather than later. Ukraine likely lacks the combat power to expel Russia from all of its territory, and the momentum on the battlefield is shifting in Russia’s favor. The longer this conflict continues, the greater the death and destruction.
Negotiating to End the Ukraine War Isn’t Appeasement

It’s time for Biden to set the table for talks.

Opinion by Charles A. Kupchan 06/15/2022

Charles A. Kupchan is a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served on the National Security Council under Presidents Obama and Clinton. His most recent book is Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself from the World.

As the war in Ukraine grinds through its fourth month, defiant Ukrainians continue to bloody Russian’s invasion force. The United States and its allies are backstopping Ukraine’s staunch defense of its territory through a steady inflow of weapons. The goal, as President Joe Biden put it in a recent essay in the New York Times, is “to work to strengthen Ukraine and support its efforts to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict.”

A negotiated end to the conflict is the right goal — and one that needs to arrive sooner rather than later. Ukraine likely lacks the combat power to expel Russia from all of its territory, and the momentum on the battlefield is shifting in Russia’s favor. The longer this conflict continues, the greater the death and destruction, the more severe the disruptions to the global economy and the food supply, and the higher the risk of escalation to full-scale war between Russia and NATO. Transatlantic unity is starting to fray, with France, Germany, Italy and other allies uneasy about the prospect of a prolonged war — especially against the backdrop of rising inflation.

But if Biden is serious about facilitating negotiations, he needs to do a better job of laying the political groundwork and shaping a narrative that prioritizes arriving at a diplomatic endgame. There is still too much hawkish rhetoric in Washington, with U.S. arms flowing to Ukraine “so that it can,” in the words of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “repel Russian aggression and fully defend its independence and sovereignty.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy insists, not surprisingly, that “victory will be ours” and urges Ukrainians to “defend every meter of our land.” And Biden, even as he makes mention of the need for diplomacy, has so far been unwilling to caution Kyiv against those aims, instead affirming “I will not pressure the Ukrainian government — in private or public — to make any territorial concessions.” “We’re not going to tell the Ukrainians how to negotiate, what to negotiate and when to negotiate,” Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, reiterated this week. “They’re going to set those terms for themselves.”

But Washington has not only a right to discuss war aims with Kyiv, but also an obligation. This conflict arguably represents the most dangerous geopolitical moment since the Cuban missile crisis. A hot war is raging between a nuclear-armed Russia and a NATO-armed Ukraine, with NATO territory abutting the conflict zone. This war could define the strategic and economic contours of the 21st century, possibly opening an era of militarized rivalry between the world’s liberal democracies and an autocratic bloc anchored by Russia and China.

These stakes necessitate direct U.S. engagement in determining when and how this war ends. Instead of offering arms with no strings attached — effectively leaving strategy up to the Ukrainians — Washington needs to launch a forthright discussion about war termination with allies, with Kyiv, and ultimately, with Moscow.

To prepare the ground for that pivot, the Biden administration should stop making claims that could tie its own hands at the negotiating table. Biden insists that the West must “make it clear that might does not make right.” Otherwise, “it will send a message to other would-be aggressors that they too can seize territory and subjugate other countries. It will put the survival of other peaceful democracies at risk. And it could mark the end of the rules-based international order.”

Really? Russia has illegally held Crimea and occupied a chunk of Donbas since 2014. But the rules-based international order has not come to an end; indeed, it has performed admirably in punishing Russia for its new round of aggression against Ukraine. Washington should avoid painting itself into a corner by predicting catastrophe if Russia remains in control of a slice of Ukraine when the fighting stops. Such forecasts make compromise more difficult — and risk magnifying the geopolitical impact of whatever territorial gains Russia may salvage.

How will The White House define ‘victory’ in Ukraine?: 6 things to know

The claim that Vladimir Putin will end his trouble-making only if he is decisively defeated in Ukraine is another fallacious argument that distorts debate and stands in the way of diplomacy. Writing in The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum calls for the “humiliation” of Putin and insists that “the defeat, sidelining, or removal of Putin is the only outcome that offers any long-term stability in Ukraine and the rest of Europe.” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wants to weaken Russia “to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

But this is wishful thinking, not strategic sobriety. Putin is poised to remain in power for the foreseeable future. He will be a troublemaker no matter how this war ends; flexing his geopolitical muscle and burnishing his nationalist credentials are the primary sources of his domestic legitimacy. Furthermore, humiliating Putin is risky business; he could well be more reckless with his back up against the wall than if he can claim victory by taking another bite out of Ukraine. The West has learned to live with and contain Putin for the past two decades — and will likely continue to have to do so into the next.

Finally, Biden needs to start weaning mainstream debate away from the false equation of diplomacy with appeasement. When Henry Kissinger recently proposed in Davos that Ukraine may need to make territorial concessions to end the war, Zelenskyy retorted: “It seems that Mr. Kissinger’s calendar is not 2022, but 1938, and he thought he was talking to an audience not in Davos, but in Munich of that time.” Biden himself asserts that “It would be wrong and contrary to well-settled principles” to counsel Ukraine on potential concessions at the negotiating table.

But strategic prudence should not be mistaken for appeasement. It is in Ukraine’s own self-interest to avoid a conflict that festers for years and instead negotiate a ceasefire and follow-on process aimed at concluding a territorial settlement.

The United States, its NATO allies, Russia, and the rest of the world have an interest in securing this same outcome — precisely why it is now time for Biden to set the negotiating table.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment