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Salami Tactics Then and Now

2:43 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

As the Ukraine descends into armed combat between the police of a legitimate government and Neo-Nazi thugs with European backers, it’s none to soon to be talking about fascism.

Munich - Adolf Hitler and NSDAP treasurer Franz Xaver Schwarz. Hitler and Schwarz at the dedication of the renovation of the Palais Barlow on Brienner Straße to the Brown House.

Deena Stryker invokes Godwin’s Law by comparing Hitler’s Germany to the rise of modern American fascism.

After defeating German, Italian and Japanese fascism that threatened American power in the mid twentieth century, Washington turned against its former ally, the Soviet Union, and then China, when the Communists won their struggle for power there in 1949 – for Communism was the real enemy of corporate power! Sixty-five years later, fascism is resurgent, overtly in Europe, covertly in the United States. And yet, when left-leaning American intellectuals utter the F word, it is with lowered voice, perhaps fearing accusations of irresponsibility, or a lack of academic rigor, should they  compare what is happening in the United States with the process that took place in Germany in the nineteen twenties and thirties, culminating in the Second World War, and ultimately, the banalization of ethnic cleansing. The events in Ukraine require Americans and Europeans to review that history, unless we want to relive Nazi Germany.

After the Nazis were defeated, the Soviet Union took over Eastern Europe. One local leader boasted of destroying his country’s non-Communist parties by ‘cutting them off like slices of salami’, re-baptizing what Hitler had called his ‘piecemeal strategy’. Today we talk about frogs allowing the water they are in to be gradually brought to a boil until it is too late to jump out. Efforts by right-wing parties to lure Ukraine, whose Western half fought with the Germans, into the EU, suggest that it may be too late for Europe to avoid another fascist takeover: thanks to genuine political freedom that affords all parties the same protections, fascist parties are on the ballot in every country, with between ten and twenty percent of the vote.

American fascist parties are not on the ballot, and yet Americans are seeing their freedoms being cut away, slice by slice, by the government, and with each slice, we dispose of fewer means to prevent the next cut. The corporate media condemns Hitler-worshipping hate groups, but appears not to notice that the NSA, PRISM, FISA, facial recognition, police drones, etc. are technologically embellished equivalents of the means Hitler used to consolidate power with the backing of Germany’s industrialists.

The German excuse for territorial aggression was ‘Lebensraum’, literally, ‘room to live’. Today, the world military/industrial/financial complex headquartered in Washington is determined to secure the raw materials that will enable the 1 percent to maintain itself on a dying Earth until it can colonize another planet. If you think I’m imagining things, I’m not alone. See Neil Bloomkamp’s Elysium, in which two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made planet called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, dying Earth. Bloomkamp probably isn’t far off: government research on space colonization has been going on for years and is now also being carried out by private companies. Implementation of the project will require the acquiescence of the 99%, who in fact are just now emerging from McCarthy’s closet to demand the rights, benefits and personal freedoms that have been enjoyed for decades by workers in the European Union. This awakening makes it doubly necessary to take down the welfare state, which not only ensures a decent living for all, but is a major economic competitor. If the economic crisis of 2008 created by Wall St. turns out to have dealt it a fatal blow, it will not, I believe, be an unintended consequence.

On the surface, what is happening in 21st century America looks nothing like when took place in 1930‘s Germany. However, it is still about the fundamental question of equity whether it be between the few and the many, or between governments. American determination to topple the Syrian president is the latest example of the latter: Since its independence in 1946, Syria has been the only secular Arab state, and under the Arab Baath Socialist Party it has maintained that distinction. It has been the contention of this writer for many months that the current world crisis is at bottom about equity, as illustrated by the array of religious, secular and progressive forces vying for power in the Arab world. And we cannot understand this if we are ignorant of the historical conflict between fascism and communism.

The fact that fascism developed precisely as a nationalist competitor for workers’ allegiance in the years following the victory of the many in Russia is largely ignored today. The fact is that the Russian Revolution led to brief takeovers in both Germany and its former ally Hungary by Communist and Socialist governments, creating a veritable Red Scare across Europe. After a turbulent two years, Germany’s first ever parliamentary system, the Weimar Republic, was created.  As a sign of the times, it was led by democratic socialists, and opposed by conservatives, monarchists, communists, as well as Hitler’s so-called ‘national-socialist’ party.

The 1918 armistice had formalized the loss of Germany’s African colonies, excised part of its homeland to create new nations and condemned it, as the aggressor, to huge reparations. Hitler’s career took off in the early twenties with charismatic speeches that stoked resentment over this punishment among farmers, war veterans and the middle class. Hitler and his friends tried unsuccessfully to take over the country in 1923, in what was called the Beer Hall Putsch.

What follows is a rough comparison between the rise of fascism in Germany (where it was known as Nazism, the German contraction of ‘national socialism’), and contemporary America, where a globalized economy is rewarding the 1% while imposing hardships on the majority, as happened in post World War I Germany:

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Luck Running Out

8:44 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

George’ Clooney’s 2005 film ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’, a tribute to the great journalist, Edward R. Morrow, who signed off with those words, should be shown again.

Edward R. Murrow

Edward R. Murrow

Morrow was CBS’s star newsman.  His boss William Paley, did not interfere with editorial decisions, but would “not allow editorial decisions’ to bring down the network.  When Morrow denounced Joseph McCarthy, for conducting a veritable witch hunt against supposed Communists, Paley riled but stood behind him.

Morrow felt compelled to break with the media’s uncritical coverage of Congress’s anti-communist crusade when the Air Force dismissed a pilot on grounds that his immigrant father had subscribed to a foreign newspaper, supposedly making the young man a security risk. His principled stance eventually led to McCarthy’s downfall, and the film closes with a shot of President Eisenhower reminding Americans that “we have habeus corpus’ and no one can take that from us.

A year after Clooney’s film was released, in 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Patriot Act, eliminating habeus corpus for those suspected of terrorism – or, in an eery throwback to the airman’s father – of associating with terrorist suspects. Seven years later, the corporate media maintains an obedient, united front against Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and a growing cohort of whistle-blowers.

In the films’ final take, Morrow maintains that television could be a powerful educational tool, but he was not heard in the big three boardrooms.  CNN came on the scene in 1980 with the desire to do better, but with Ted Turner’s ouster, it became just another spin machine.  Neither the print media nor mainstream telelvision acknowledge the existence of foreign networks such as Al-Jazeera, France 24 or RT, hence most Americans haven’t a clue as to what the rest of the world is thinking, doing or wanting.

Publlc ignorance has led to a situation that even the most astute observers would have deemed impossible just six months ago: Edward Snowden is weighing whether to swap his Moscow asylum for Berlin, or testify remotely about NSA spying on the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.   The arrow of time, combined with the acceleration of energy within the world system is moving it toward a bifurcation point that signals a change of era.  Notwithstanding Morrow’s fervent wishes, our luck is running out.
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Three Musketeers vs. Goliath

8:24 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

RT’s Sophia Shevardnadze interviews Russian specialist Professor Stephen F. Cohen today about the fall-out from the Snowden case in U.S.-Russia relations. Cutting to the chase, Cohen compared the American public’s response to the Pentagon papers with what is happening today: polls indicate that about half of Americans accept to be spied upon if that will keep their children safe from terrorists, whereas in the seventies, reaction to Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of Vietnam War documents turned the country against that war.

Bradley Manning faces life in prison for supposedly aiding the enemy by revealing past American misdeeds, Julian Assange is threatened with arrest for publishing his leaks if he sets foot outside the Ecuadoran embassy in London, and Edward Snowden is stuck in a transit no-man’s land in  Moscow facing the same charges. These three musketeers are being hounded for exposing government wrong-doing that has cost thousands of lives as ‘the West’ crusades against terrorists and a select list of ‘dictators’ around the world.

Last Monday France 24 aired an interview with an exiled Syrian journalist who is operating a radio program for Syrians (Radio Rozana) financed by the French government. Lina Chawaf described the conditions under which she worked while still in Syria. Her private television channel was only allowed to broadcast non-political programs, and when she went to work for another channel, government minders pressured her regularly to broadcast the Assad line. Threats, veiled and otherwise eventually motivated her to leave the country.

Americans have been conditioned to condemn curtailment of press freedom in one-party states. But, call me a trouble-maker, I have a hard time seeing these situations as qualitatively different from what increasingly goes on in the United States. Granted, journalists may not receive daily threats from the FBI or the CIA, but for decades they’ve known what they can and cannot say if they want to keep their high-paying jobs, and now, new laws allow the government to jail them on the pretext that talking to sources equals aiding the enemy. Chris Hedges and several other prominent journalists just lost a law suit against these scary tactics.

In case anyone thinks activists are exaggerating the gravity of the situation, the recent death of an investigative American journalist in an automobile accident that may have been caused by a cyber attack (http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/transportation/cars/journalist-michael-hastings-body-cremated-authorities-against-familys#) should give pause. The day before his death, Michael Hastings emailed friends that he was going to have to “go off the radar for a bit” because he was on to an important story. His body was returned to his family in an urn, and no one has been allowed to examine the car that suddenly burst into flames on a Los Angeles street. Aside from the more sophisticated means employed, is this incident qualitatively different from the assassination, say, of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya a few years ago in the elevator of her apartment building?

We can expect such deaths to multiply, given the stakes for the American system and the electronic tools it has perfected. For background read Tomdispatch’s July  14th Surveillance Blowback The Making of the U.S. Surveillance State, 1898-2020  By Alfred W. McCoy, then tell me whether journalists and whistle-blowers should be prosecuted.
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The Great Unraveling

9:17 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

We’re back to the arrow of time again: cnce the energy in a system begins to accelerate, for whatever reason, it cannot decelerate, but pushes relentlessly forward toward a bifurcation point.

That is what is happening in front of our very eyes on the world stage: since the end of the Second World War, the United States has moved toward ever-greater supremacy over the other countries of the world.  For decades there was little appetite among its allies to counter its expansion, whether through manufactures, trade or finance.  There were benefits for the ruling classes that to a greater or lesser degree trickled down to the rest of fast-growing societies, so the ruling classes looked the other way at the  occasional abuse.

Over the last decade they have become ever more uncomfortable with America’s wars of aggression, limiting their participation to the minimum they could get away with and still benefit from handouts.  Then came Wikileaks, and Private Bradley Manning and what appear to be trumped-up sexual charges against Julian Assange (which noone seems to have investigated in Sweden where they were put forth), and America’s allies could only mutter disapproval at the methods being used against these whistle-blowers.

The Snowden saga has become a bifurcation point: it matters not where he ultimately finds sanctuary, for his latest revelations show that the United States crossed a red line from which it cannot turn back: spying on its allies to a degree hitherto unknown in international relations.

There are many, for sure, among the governing elites of the world who have been waiting for this moment, some without even being aware of it. For the first time in sixty years, the United States has become fair game, and the domestic advantages to stepping back from its orbit are too great in this time of austerity to overcome any remaining scruples.

We are witnessing the start of a great unraveling.