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Venezuela, Syria, Ukraine: Axis of Evil or Civilization Flatlining?

2:46 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

 One can’t help but notice the geographic pattern formed by the three countries that are currently in the United States’ crosshairs, roughly across the middle of the globe.

Beyond that fanciful note, the governments of these three countries may appear to be very different from one another, however they share a crucial element: the Catholic Latin American, the Muslim Mediterranean, and the Orthodox Eastern European, are all located on the left end of the political spectrum.

Although Ukraine has been a ‘capitalist’ country since the fall of the Soviet Union, its current president is allied with a Russia that, as I have noted before, has not thrown the socialist baby out with the communist bathwater (demonstrators recently tore down the statue of Lenin in Kiev); moving westward, Syria has been ruled by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party since the 1960’s, and is the only truly secular Arab state (some of my readers believe this was also the case for Libya, but although all religions were tolerated, Gaddafi declared Islam to be the only universal religion in his Socialist Republic). And across the Atlantic, facing the Pacific, since Hugo Chavez became President, Venezuela has sought to implement the economic independence and equitable distribution of revenues called for by the 19th century revolutionary Simón Bolívar.

This could be considered a coincidence if all three regimes did not also share two other characteristics: their relationship with Russia and their relevance to the supply of oil.

The illogical desire of the Ukrainian people to be accepted as ‘Europeans’ given the EU’s dire economic situation, has been amply reported. Elements of the situation that have been given short shrift – at least in the Western MSM – include the fact that the Russia-Europe pipeline passes through Ukraine; that the leaders of the revolt have maintained World War II Nazi affiliations, and that they have been armed as no demonstrators in recent memory have. (Without arms, demonstrations remain demonstrations; they do not degenerate into civil war.)

As for Syria, let no one be deceived by references to Russia’s access to its Mediterranean seaport of Tartus; an Arab regime that is close to Iran by virtue of its religious affiliation to Shi’a Islam is on the other side of the ideological divide from, say, Al Sissi’s - or even Morsi’s – pro-capitalist, pro Western Egypt, not to mention Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies.

Washington’s three pronged aggression that almost spans the globe from West to East is not about democracy, or even replacing regimes that ‘have blood on their hands’. It represents a desperate attempt by the most powerful nation that has ever existed to maintain its dominance while the world increasingly rejects its values and goals. That is why we are seeing a united front between the younger generation of Islamic and left-wing activists: both are opposed to globalization and inequality.

Hollande in Washington and Fascism’s Revenge

8:44 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

Who could have imagined at any moment during the last half century, that fascism would again become a major force in the world?  The image of history as a relentless forward march has blinded us to the equally powerful truth that it often repeats itself.

A little-noticed reason for the return of fascism is that since the Second World War, Western Europe has remained an American vassal, its individual nations hardly more independent than those of Eastern Europe that until 1989 were part of the Soviet sphere of influence for forty years.  I know because I lived in both.

In Une autre Europe, un autre Monde, published in France on the day the Berlin Wall fell, I foresaw the reunification of the old continent as well as the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I chastised Western Europe for accepting the stationing of American Pershing missiles intended to prevent Soviet tanks from completing their ‘takeover’ of the old continent, instead of working for its reunification.  I argued that an enlarged Europe had nothing to fear from the Soviet behemoth, because in reality that country was merely one of several giants on the Eurasian continent: China, India and the Middle East being the others, along with Europe.

A quarter of a century later, three of the five Eurasian giants (Russia, China and India) form the backbone of the BRICS countries, which account for 40% of the world’s GDP. But although it is whole again and has the second largest economy in the world, Europe has been ravaged by the financial system based on Wall Street. The single currency that went into effect in 2000 could have guaran-teed its independence, however without a political union, the welfare system which had been its pride and joy was overcome by austerity.

Meanwhile the fifth giant, the Muslim crescent, is experiencing an upheaval comparable to that of the Christian Reformation that embroiled Europe in conflict for a hundred and thirty years (1524-1648). What I call the Muslim Reformation, and the nexus between Europe and Africa, both play a crucial role in the current rise of fascism. Post-colonial Africa’s 1.772 billion people account for more than a fifth of the world’s 7 billion inhabitants, and the continent is in a state of upheaval that may not have been equalled anywhere at any time in history.  Govern-ments of fifty-five separate states, relatively new at ruling, must weave antagonistic tribal groups into national entities, even as outsiders – former colonial masters as well as newcomers like China and imperial America – compete for its riches, including not only minerals, but forests and agricultural land.  (Saudi Arabia is particularly interested in the latter…).

Africa’s challenges spill over into Europe as unwelcome migrations of the upheavals’ victims as well as of those who simply believe they can do better in the North. Al-though in the United States, white people will be a minority by 2050, or even sooner, the northern and southern American hemispheres are both Christian. Very differently, in Africa, three major religious traditions interact: Christi-anity, Islam and a myriad of tribal religions. For their respective white majorities, the prospect of a mainly Latino/Black/Asian United States is nothing, compared to that of a brown, Muslim Europe.  That ‘threat’ has revived the spirit of the anti-Muslim crusades of the Middle Ages, as Europe sees in Islam a threat to its 2000 year Christian culture.

In the country I’m most familiar with, France, the National Front Party has been off bounds even to most conser-vatives for the virulence of its anti-Semitism and racism, yet today it is drawing support from right-wing voters of all classes, especially in the provinces where closing factories leave workers unemployed and rising crime worries the middle-class. The voters who in a recent report on France 24 expressed their intention to back the National Front in up-coming municipal and European elections tacitly acknowledged the opprobrium that attaches to a Neo-Fascist party in a country that was occupied by Nazi Germany, apologetically describing it as their only hope.

Hitler too, was Germany’s only hope in 1933, as it strug-gled to meet the financial burdens imposed upon it after the first world war.  And just as the Germans began to see the Jews among them as responsible for their difficulties, today’s Europeans see the Muslims among them as contributing to the state’s burdens and the lack of jobs.

In Africa, Christians, Muslims and traditionalists also reciprocally condemn each other, however the fact that in Europe all parties are legal masks the threat of fascism, its parliamentary ups and downs making it seem no different from other parties.  But fascism IS different in that it does not rule out the use of force to impose its will.  This has been particularly evident in Greece, with the rise of the fist-raising, immigrant attacking Golden Dawn Party (while ironically, Greece’s  left-wing parties see Angela Merkel as a new Hitler because of the painful conditions Germany imposed on Greece as part of its bailout).

Nor is fascism in Europe limited to the southern, poorer tier: Norway’s welfare state is so advanced that it runs a unique prison offering comforts and opportunities to inmates in a relatively successful rehabilitation program. Yet the avowed fascist Anders Brevik killed 70 young socialists on a vacation island two years ago in protest against the country’s immigration policy.  (Africans make up less than 2% of Norway’s population, but there has been a significant rise in their numbers since 2000.)

Across the EU, Africans only account for 1.5% of the population, however Muslims account for 10%, and the number of mosques is increasing. (In France, which has the largest Muslim population, there are over 2000).  What is most significant is that about a third of Muslims actually practice their religion compared to only 5% of Christians, meaning that attitudes promoted by religion are far more prevalent among the former than the latter. (Conservative Christians cannot admit that they share Muslims’ rejection of women’s liberation and non-traditional sexual life-styles.)

From anti-Muslim sentiment to a grass roots fascism, embodied in hyper-nationalistic, racist political parties is but a short step that conveniently dovetails with the so-called ‘war on terror’ being waged by governments. In the U.S., and increasingly in Europe, that war justifies the most far-reaching surveillance of citizens ever seen, the visible part of the corporate/fascist governance that is replacing government of, by and for the people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may be using KGB methods to spy on his own citizens, but the Soviet Union lost over 20,000,000 in the conflict with Nazi Germany, leaving its people with a lasting rejection of fascism. Even capitalist Russians value the socialist commit-ment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Rather than going to war against islamic terrorism, Putin encourages gradual modernization among Russia’s Muslim neighbors, while supporting religious values both there and in Russia, as evidenced by the sentencing of the Pussy Rioters who desecrated a cathedral, and the law against the proselytization of gay lifestyles to youth.

Very differently, American leaders claim that negotiation is useless because ‘the enemy’ is by definition in bad faith (see the conflict with Iran). And any country that is not a bona fide ally is painted as a potential enemy. Presented as a righteous attitude toward the responsibility to defend the homeland, this is an indispensable part of corporate/government fascism, which is about profit: war is good for the bottom line, as is the rebuilding of devastated lands.

By making a state visit to Washington, French President Francois Hollande may be hoping that a rapprochement with the United States will lure France’s right-wing voters away from the fascist temptation. But by clinging to its Cold War status as an American vassal, Europe risks coming full circle with 1940, when Nazi Germany occupied the entire continent.

 

 

 

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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