Saturday, October 31, 2015

Impressions from the spiraling crisis of the state of Spain

Yesterday it was news that the glued-to-the-chair Spanish President Mariano Rajoy has been meeting with all-Spain political parties in order to rally them around his brittle figure against the Catalan process of independence and in defense of the Franco-blessed "sacred unity of Spain". 

Of course not a single relevant Catalonia-only party or coalition (nor even Catalan regional leader of an all-Spain party) was called to La Moncloa Palace. It is being dealt as a Castilian problem, totally ignoring the will of 7.5 million Catalans. There will be a token Catalan politician meeting today but his party (Unió) has been eliminated from the political competition in the last elections, so they are totally irrelevant. 

Shamelessly President Rajoy declared to the press that "we are all together in this", meaning that the all-Spain unionist parties PSOE and Ciudadanos back him: a very narrow meaning of "all". He declined to even mention the dissident Podemos party, addressing it as "that party that you mention", which is clearly off line. The other major state-wide left-wing coalition, United Left, will attend today but again they are clearly not in line with the hardcore unionist dogma of the Weimar Coalition, which is the same as the Commission Majority at European Union level (minus Convergencia, which is affiliated to the liberal ALDE bloc, along with the unionist Ciudadanos). 

The idea that transpired is that the threatened state of Spain (Greater Castile) will act in force against the secessionist threat, even suspending the autonomy status. The relative weakness of the Weimar Coalition was also apparent even if Rajoy insisted in using the word "all", meaning actually some, mostly Castile-only, forces. 

Police raids against Catalan anarchists and Galician nationalists

I think that it is very symptomatic that the Spanish political tribunal Audiencia Nacional (alias The Inquisition, created by dictator Franco under another name) has been rounding political dissidents in both Catalonia and Galicia these days. Dozens of people have been arrested in both countries accused of being loosely related to anarchist direct action groups (in Catalonia, in spite of the alleged attacks taking place in Madrid and Zaragoza) or to Galician leftist independentist guerrilla. 

The raids can be taken as an instance of saber rattling, not the first one. However in Catalonia it has become a political issue because the autonomous police force Mossos d'Esquadra has taken part in the operation, raising the anger of a key independence process actor: the Popular Unity Lists (CUP). These quickly criticized the autonomous government for obeying dictates from Madrid, precisely when they have proposed a roadmap for independence, which implies actively denying Spain any further authority in Catalonia by means of political and social disobedience.

The Catalan process conundrum

The radical independentist bloc CUP is crucial to form an independence government in Catalonia, as Junts pel Sí (Together for the Yes) coalition does not have a majority. They are making sure that their program is incorporated to the process and that it won't be a any feint for mere continuity with previous Convergencia-led governments, under strong judiciary pressure for corruption but also under political criticism for being way too bourgeois and not prioritizing the popular classes and human rights. 

The CUP, as I say, has proposed a roadmap for independence via serious political disobedience. The proposal is at the moment blocked by means of a technicality: the new Parliament has not yet convened because the PP is delaying its constitution all it can. But it's clear that it will be put to vote as soon as the Parliament is formed. It is plausible that it will be approved, although maybe slightly amended, because it is a pre-condition by the CUP in order to continue negotiations to enable the formation of a government. 

The CUP is also demanding that the new President is not considered to be the President of an autonomous region of Spain but of the Catalan Republic. 

Yesterday it was also leaked that some councilors of the current government considered these demands to be unacceptable. However President Mas seems to have shrugged and stated the obvious: without the CUP there is no government and there is no independence process. As the Junts pel Sí list is mostly made up of independents, rather than members of the backing parties Convergencia and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, it is likely that the opinion of possible dissidents within Convergencia will have only limited weight in practical terms.

So the most likely outcome is that the CUP will succeed in the essence of their demands, which are set to make sure that the process of independence can't be reversed, that the bad practices of previous governments are not repeated and that the general program of the new government is more left-leaning. Although still not discussed, almost certainly the new President won't be Artur Mas but someone with a more leftist profile. 

As a marginal note, the support of half of the Catalonia Sí que es Pot list (Catalonia Can Indeed, participated by Podemos and United Left, as well as independents) to the election of the new President of the Parliament has been taken by some as a sign pro-independence leaning among many of its members, reinforcing the pro-independence majority in the Catalan Parliament. 

Another note is that the Catalan Government announced yesterday that it cannot pay the cost of medicines to pharmacies, what is in practical terms a signal of bankruptcy. This is in turn may be affected by the fact that Catalonia does not manage its own finances in full within the current status.


My expectation is that a provisional government of the Catalan Republic will be invested in short term, surely even before the all-Spain elections of December. This assuming that Madrid takes so long to suppress the autonomy and that the civil disobedience plan does not work well enough to allow for the constitution of such government. 

Madrid will, almost without doubt try to suppress the Catalan democratic institutions for the first time in many decades, creating an unprecedented situation that is in almost everything identical to what happened with Kosova (Kosovo) in 1990. However Catalonia is much more important economically than Kosova, not just in GDP but also because of its strategical position as nexus between the Iberian peninsula and continental Europe, and also has several times the population of the Balcanic country. 

Not at all accidentally, Spain is one of the few states of the European Union that does not recognize Kosova as an independent state (the others are Romania, Greece and Slovakia). The obvious reason for this anomalous stand is that Spain fears similar processes of unilateral independence taking place within its own territory and does not want to deal with such problems in a constructive and democratic manner but rather by means of imperialism and militarism, Milosevic-style.

While the lack of popular militias or any form of widespread gun ownership precludes a war, at least in the short term, it is also clear that the military means of Spain are relatively modest. Half of its land forces are the military police corps Guardia Civil (80,000 troops, mostly already busy in regular law enforcement), the rest of the Army having only 75,000 effectives, way too many of them officers. Other land troops that can be used are 5000 marines.

It is unclear to me how a military occupation can solve anything. In fact, we can only expect the situation to deteriorate, as a repression-disobedience stalemate consolidates between the majority's independence will and the relatively powerless occupation forces, while the conflicts spread unavoidably to other parts of the state. 

Even within the wider European Union, such a situation will be hard to manage and, in any case, it is part of the growing spiral of conflicts that it faces as it degenerates into anti-democratic ultra-capitalism at the service of an ailing Empire.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Egin newspaper's director, Jabier Salutregi, steps out of jail

Inquisition against Egin journalists
No matter what, the Spanish repression against the Basque People continues endlessly. Worse: some of those repressors like the infamous former superjudge Baltasar Garzón pretend to be on our side and even now and then manage to deceive a few people, like Julian Assange, who has him as attorney.

It was precisely Garzón who led the worst fascist repression against the Basque People since Franco. He was the one who executed the political cause 18/98 against Egin newspaper and related media (the radio Egin Irratia and the investigative journalism magazine Ardi Beltza, and later also its successor Kale Gorria), as well as the Joxemi Zumalabe Foundation.

Egin was a great newspaper, very especially in its latest years, when it had become a key source of alternative information available every morning in your neighborhood. Not only on local affairs but also had come to develop great international analysis, not anymore merely relying on press agencies and their unbearable bias. But the jewel of the crown was the investigative journalism that the newspaper growingly embraced, led by the Basque-Galician journalist Pepe Rei, who complementarily launched the magazine Ardi Beltza (Black Sheep), also closed by Garzón's fascist repression. 

The newspaper was so good that it was referential even in Madrid, as there was nothing else of its kind in all the state of Spain. I am persuaded that one of the main reasons to forcibly close this media was precisely that the investigative journalism they espoused threatened the status quo, largely based on mafia style corruption, which only recently has begun to be more publicly and formally denounced in Spain and Catalonia (but almost not yet in the Basque Country, Navarre excepted).

In 2009, eleven years after its forced closure, the Spanish tribunals ruled that the closure was illegal and unfounded. The damage was done however and the sentences against its journalists, even if reduced, still stood. 

One by one the repressed journalists have completed their sentences. Today Jabier Salutregi, the director of Egin, could finally walk out of jail, expressing his hope for the definitive end of political repression against the Basque People. 

Two other journalists are still behind bars: Karlos Trenor and Joxean Etxebarria. 

Political trial against internationalists

But the repression, no matter what we all hope, is far from ending. For example these days five Basque internationalists (one of them of German origin) are facing a political trial of exactly the same kind that brought Salutregi to jail. 

The Askapena Five

They and their long-lived internationalist association, Askapena (Liberation), are being accused, as usual, of being somehow related to the guerrilla ETA (in unilateral end of struggle since years ago). The accusation is being carried on by the state but also by far-right Spanish ultra-nationalist associations.

Heroes of our time: the man who rescues slaves from DAESH

I was really moved when I watched this documentary yesterday. It is about the plea of the women enslaved by the so-called Islamic State (DAESH) and the former smuggler who works tirelessly to rescue them, Abu Shuja. Must watch:

Source: Russia Today.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Syria War: latest developments

A couple of updated informative videos from South Front channel.

The first one is dated to October 19th and explains with nice maps the offensives of the Syrian Army, mentioning that the "Caliph" al-Baghdadi has been injured and moved to Turkey for treatment under US protection.

The second one is dated to yesterday October 23rd and complements the previous outline with some further details.

Of course, the videos have a mild pro-Russian and pro-Assad bias but it's not like we can rely on Western "free media" to get any useful information, so it is necessary to reach out to other sources.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A historical inflection point?

The recent Russian intervention in Syria, after 25 years of allowing the USA to do as they wanted (with horrible results) seems to define a critical inflection point in global geopolitics. It is not the only such marker of a changing global scenario in which the formerly uncontested "Western" (USA, NATO) hegemony is revealing itself as a powerless bluff or ill-designed strategy without clear goals. The recycling of the financial system of the BRICS so they walk around the dollar-centric system established by Washington is another shot to the floating line of the US Empire, whose gold reserves are considered by way too many to be just imaginary and whose "real economy" is at least largely based on consumption and financial speculation rather than on production, being therefore quite feeble.

Before anyone jumps at my throat accusing me of "Putinism" or whatever, I must clarify that I reckon that the BRICS are Capitalist regimes, some of them quite authoritarian. But that's pretty much the same I think of the USA with its twin party system, its winner-takes-all farcical elections, its perpetual emergency laws and its extreme concentration of the media in very few oligarchic hands. So let me be clear: all are pretty much the same bourgeois junk internally but they don't play exactly the same externally anyhow, probably because there is a historical imbalance of power that the BRICS, and particularly Russia and China as main powerhouses of this bloc, need to manage very carefully if they want to compensate. And there is a major difference between playing carefully and being the elephant in the china shop.

The current geopolitical scenario (click to expand)

A short history of the period between the two Cold Wars

Of course we are now in the Second Cold War but for 25 years this was not so obvious: Russia and China were still too weak to conform the new polarity, the European Union seemed a bit more independent (and hopeful for Europeans ourselves) than it really was in the end, and nobody dared to challenge the US hegemon but rather undersigned all its daredevil interventions rather naively.

In the 1990s, we witnessed the sudden collapse of the socialist states of Europe, not just the Soviet bloc but also, and very painfully, that of Yugoslavia, which used to be the most developed state of Mediterranean Europe. The fall of the racist regime of South Africa, after providing guarantees for private property of the means of production, produced the false impression that the World was becoming a better place under Capitalism.

In that context, so favorable for the USA, George Bush Sr. tricked Saddam Hussein into invading Kuwait. Why? In order to reinforce the US military presence in the Persian Gulf. This first Gulf War was relatively limited in extent but set the scenario for what would happen in the 2000s.

Meanwhile only the Zapatista uprising of 1994 gave us a tiny slit of hope, like announcing that Fukuyama's "end of history" was nothing but a brief illusion, that everything changes sooner or later. Otherwise the US Empire ruled as unique hegemon and even China, let along Yeltsin's Russia, bowed to them.

Things began to speed up around the turn of the century: in 1999 a "soft coup" removed the drunkard Boris Yeltsin from the Kremlin and had him replaced by a former KGB agent: Vladimir Putin, in September 2001 the USA engineered the most spectacular false flag attack ever, with the obvious goal of invading Afghanistan and imposing emergency legislation in all its empire. The main ojective was to establish a wedge between Russia and China and also between these and Iran and India. Afghanistan as such was not the main objective but rather Uzbekistan and the wider Central Asia region in a replica of the century old Great Game that Tsarist Russia and Victorian England used to engage in before the Revolution of 1917.

The very evening of September 11 2001, the recycled Nixonian minister Donald Rumsfeld was already lobbying inside his own administration to use the pretext also to invade Iraq, which had been suffering regular US bombings since the First Gulf War. The invasion was much harder to justify and, with Russia and China slightly more alert, they had to act almost unilaterally, but it was done anyhow.

The USA ruled the world solo... or not?

In 2002 an officer named Hugo Chávez reached the presidency of Venezuela, in 2003 Lula da Silva that of Brazil, in 2006 a coca farmer named Evo Morales became the first indigenous president of Bolivia and that same year the Sandinista National Liberation Front retook power in Nicaragua after a long period of Contra rule, in 2007 Rafael Correa took over a troubled and "dollarized" Ecuador... Latin America was slipping out of US hands while these were focused in Asia. What did the US do? Mostly intervene in Haiti and finance coups in Honduras and Paraguay, while keeping a growingly troubled Mexico tightly close in a deadly embrace. They also tried, insistently, to overthrow Chávez in Venezuela... but they failed miserably.

Mackinder's concept of geostrategy
El que mucho abarca poco aprieta, warns a Spanish saying, which I'd translate liberally as who grabs too much, holds too little. The USA was too focused on their own arbitrary goals, defined by Mackinderian geostrategy, oil reserves and the total commitment with the abhorrent Zionist neo-crusade. Meanwhile their classical colonial "backyard" became growingly independent under the coy leadership of Brazil and the more militant one of Venezuela.

Brazil would soon become crucial in the formation of the loose BRIC bloc, which also gathered the three independent Eurasian powers: China, Russia and India. While the acronym BRIC was coined in 2001, it was only since 2006 that this bloc became increasingly real. Earlier only some China-Russia collaboration existed, with India and Brazil fully inside the US imperial bloc.

The first BRIC formal meeting was held only in 2009 and in 2010, with the inclusion of South Africa, it became the BRICS. South Africa may seem relatively small compared to the other four giants but its area of influence, consolidated in the Congo War, is significant, including almost half of Africa south of the Sahara. This area nicely complements the projected power of the four original BRIC states and establishes a key link between Brazil and India, who may well hold claims to inherit the legacy of the historical Portuguese and British colonial empires respectively, albeit in a much more constructive fashion hopefully.

Besides growing economic and geostrategical collaboration, the main apparent goal of the BRICS is to displace the US dollar financial centrality, which gives the North American power a dubious advantage in global affairs.

How did the USA and allies answer to this patent threat to its hegemony? If all you have is a hammer, every problem seems to be a nail, they say. The USA and allies (Britain and France very particularly, also Poland, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain) reacted in clear anger: they are going to see how we do things in Tombstone! So they helped to destroy Libya, what was not pleasing to Italy nor Germany, who abstained to intervene.

But Libya was just the entrant, the main course was meant to be Syria. Unlike "crazy" Gaddafi's Libya, Syria was and is indeed integrated in the geopolitics of the region, having established a long term cooperation with Iran, who, even if not formally a BRICS member, is clearly close to the independent powers' bloc. Syria also used to have strong relations with the Soviet Union, again unlike Libya, considered by all to be too unpredictable.

After some initial induced trouble, quickly a UN Security Council resolution was ready to be signed authorizing the USA and allies to intervene against Syria. Russia vetoed it.

That was too much for the arrogant Pentagon generals and Wall Street oligarchs, so they orchestrated a coup in Ukraine with massive fascist participation. In turn that was a red line for the Kremlin, because it potentially implied NATO missiles a few kilometers away from Moscow. Crimea quickly voted themselves out of the new fascist Ukraine, asking for and obtaining re-incorporation to Russia. But when Russian-speaking Eastern Ukrainians tried to do the same thing, Russia remained distant, sending humanitarian aid and diplomatic mediation but refusing to fall in the trap of annexing those territories. Why? Because Russia needs to have a neutral Ukraine in full and breaking it into pieces would be bad for her. Crimea is too strategic to ignore but otherwise Ukraine must remain together and non-aligned: Kiev and Kharkov are what really matter, rather than just Donetz and Lugansk.

Meanwhile, even if less dramatically, the Cold War has also been escalating in East Asia. The earlier developments focused on North Korea and Myanmar (Burma), as well as Cambodia and Thailand. More recently the focus has been on several strategical uninhabited islands, where China has demonstrated to be a most strong regional power.

TISA likely signatories
The overall answer of the USA has been to strengthen its weakened empire. The Ukraine conflict has served to, more or less forcibly, rally the European states (Germany was and is particularly reluctant) around Washington's dictates but what really is consolidating the imperial structure of the US bloc are the secret trade treaties (TPP, TTIP, TISA, etc.) being negotiated behind closed doors in order to establish US-like "free market" chaos in all its area of influence, be it Japan, Australia or Europe, severely undermining state sovereignty. This is not substantially different from the "pay or die" blackmail imposed to Greece or Ukraine, or the sale of the military bases, Gibraltar or Guantanamo style, that Spain recently signed with the USA. All converge into a more centralized, and also more hyper-capitalist imperial structure in which "rights" only exist for corporations, not for people.

Back to the present

What the Russian reaction to the latest US-orchestrated threats shows is that Washington can't expect to get away with its persistent plotting and de-stabilization in all circumstances. In fact, while the US Empire has got some mild victories, mostly costly and unstable ones, in Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay and the barrens of Afghanistan, it has also suffered many defeats and stalemates: most of Central Asia is still aligned with Russia and China, Iraq has grown closer and closer to Iran and China, Syria had no choice but to ally with Russia, Georgia was defeated in South Ossetia in spite of its Zionist "elite training", Hizbollah has demonstrated to be perfectly able to bomb Tel Aviv, Iran has finally got away with its nuclear program, the Wahabbite regimes show growing weakness in spite of their massacres in Yemen, Bolivarians still rule Venezuela and other Latin American countries in spite of all the attempts at de-stablizing them. Etcetera.

After all the wars, the USA is not a tiny bit stronger. I'd dare say that it is in fact weaker than in the 1990s and that it has been its unilateral arrogance what has caused its own weakening. 

First, it has lost Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa as allies, mostly being Washington's fault that this happened. The fault being in wanting to be a colonial empire in a post-colonial world, a single superpower in a multipolar world, a blunt and trigger-happy cowboy in a world that wants peace, cooperation and prosperity. Of course, this is just how Imperialism, the final phase of Capitalism in the words of Lenin, works. In a way this is semi-automatic and expectable but not less despicable for that reason.

Second, Japan and the North Pacific are now heavily polluted by Fukushima deadly radiation, which has already reached North American coasts, causing massive sea life mortality. Together with other factors, such as drought, unsustainable debt, etc., this means that the North Pacific key "province" is growingly weaker by the day and that the US Empire is almost totally reliant on the "loyalty" of its North Atlantic "province", namely Europe, for it to be considered an empire any longer. 

Third, Europe is much much weaker than it was just eight years ago. The financial crisis has hit it badly: partly it has paid US costs by means of keeping a hyper-strong euro for way too long, what is a tribute of sorts, a heavy one. But the most visible cracks in the European construction are internal: on one side the hegemony of Northern Europe, organized around Germany, has clearly transformed the Union into a IV Reich of sorts, in which there is no hope for Southern Europeans. But this German-centric imbalance is also dramatically affecting Western Europeans such as the French and the British and the election of Jeremy Corbyn is a symptom of something that runs much deeper: class struggle becomingly growingly patent, mostly not thanks to propaganda or organizing efforts by the few class-conscious people in the Worker camp but to the growing extremist abuses by the Capitalist oligarchs, who have enjoyed total impunity under the imperial order. 

As I say, if Europe cracks the Empire collapses. So we Europeans should be most alert, not just because our hard-fought, yet mild, social rights have been totally destroyed but because, as class war grows in the subcontinent, what is inevitable and already happening, actual war and brutal repression, Ukraine-style, may become more and more common. 

The European Union is an ailing gothic monster, nobody should expect it to last. However its collapse will be brutal because the oligarchies won't allow the peoples to regain even some of their rights without the most violent of fights. The final showdown of the class war is going to take place here in Europe, I have little doubt, even if it may take still some years to fully unfold (working class consciousness is still a bit weak), they won't be too many. Give it a decade, not more. 

And it is not totally independent of what happens across the Mediterranean. In fact I consider the most important current revolutionary reference to be the Kurdish popular movement, with their going beyond the state format program (Democratic Confederalism), that blends once again Anarchism and Marxism in a single praxis, much as Bismark feared it might happen. Europe, West Asia and North Africa are a single historical and socio-geographical region in spite of so many centuries of religious sectarianism, and that is why destroying Wahabbism, along with all other intolerant totalitarian fascist religious ideologies is so important. We are a single People of Peoples, religion belongs to the private sphere, not the social one.

The USA, inspired by historical British colonial praxis, has thrown its lot along with the reactionary forces, ignoring the fact that reaction is powerless in the long run. Not only they have actively supported and manipulated the Sunni Islamist networks but also they have actively supported the most fascist terrorist elements in Ukraine for example. And they can well do it in Western Europe: Gladio never died: NATO is first and foremost a system to control Europe, even by fascist means. 

Let me say that, even if I do support the Russian well-calculated intervention in Syria, because the Islamists must be destroyed at almost any cost, Moscow is no angel either. If you read, as I do, Russian media, you can't but notice their sympathies for the European far right, be it the Hungarian government of FIDESZ or the French National Front. 

This is a true problem for us European workers, because we do not have any allies outside, barring a handful of Latin American progressive governments, not truly socialist, rather just patriotic social-democrat, and the general but imprecise Human solidarity. This circumstance has some pros: we have to create from zero and not follow any model, but also many cons. However if revolutionary or at least truly social-democratic (not Blairite mercenariate) power manages to arise in one or several large European states, the subcontinent is objectively powerful enough to bring that revolutionary process to a successful end. And the growing multipolarity of international relations allows for the necessary balance in whose interstices we have to create our own socialist reality, the only one that can give us not just hope but also expectations of a better future for ourselves and our children. 

The situation resembles that of World War I, with the USA in the role of the declining British hegemon, China in that of the German challenger, etc., but it is not identical: history does not repeat itself, it could not in the age of nuclear weapons anyhow. There can't be a real major war because it would mean total destruction, so the reality of the conflicts is more similar to that of the First Cold War in fact. And it was in this context in which the colonies became independent, in which more or less alternative "third way" projects (be it Tito's Yugoslavia or Palme's Sweden) could happen, in which the Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions succeeded, etc.

But one thing at least is also different: to some extent Europe has lost its strategical relevance. The scenario is too global and as "last major province" of the Empire, Europe is expected and demanded to contribute at any cost. The Empire is declining even before adopting fully imperial form, and it is unavoidable that many of the contradictions arise here in Europe, because it is ethnically complex and because the socialist tradition was never eradicated. 

There is yet another reason: Europe has a fully mature, very illustrated working class. Highly educated and growingly desperate: the perfect recipe for the worker revolution. At least that's the theory. The praxis... only time will tell.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

India: thousands arrested in Hyderabad to prevent march against state terrorism

The state of Telangana has arrested some thousands almost overnight, mostly in Hyderabad, in order to prevent a demonstration against state orchestrated assassinations of Maoist militants. The exact figures are unclear: the Hindustan Times states that the figure is between 3000 to 4000 while Democracy and Class Struggle puts the figure of arrests as high as 10,000. 

The march, called by the Telangana Democratic Front and declared illegal by authorities, was meant to denounce the assassination by state forces of two Maoist militants in what is claimed to be a "fake encounter". 

The fact that so many people were arrested suggests that the sympathy for the Maoists is much larger than the government claims. In any case the mass arrests against freedom of speech and demonstration are symptomatic of a broken system that is leaning dangerously towards totalitarianism unable to face its own crisis in a constructive manner because it would imply giving away elite privileges.

Source: Odio de Clase.