geopolitics, outside of covid

The Two Pindo Revolutions in World History
David North, WSWS, Jul 4 2020

Today marks the 244th anniversary of the public proclamation of the Declaration of Independence, on Jul 4, 1776, which established Pindostan. By the time the Declaration was issued, the Pindo colonists, and especially those of Massachusetts, had already been at war with the immensely powerful military forces of Great Britain for 15 months. Though the final decision for independence had not yet been taken, the drafting of a Declaration was assigned on Jun 11 by the Continental Congress, assembled in Philadelphia, to a Committee of Five. It consisted of Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, John Adams of Massachusetts, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. After agreeing on an outline of the document, the Committee decided that the first draft should be written by the 33-year-old Tom Jefferson, whose exceptional intellect and remarkable literary gifts were already widely recognized. On Jun 28, he completed his draft, which was then reviewed by the Congress critturs. Various changes were made in the course of the editing process. The most substantial change was the removal of Jefferson’s indictment of Great Britain for having imposed slavery on the colonies. On Jul 2 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution that authorized the break with Great Britain. Two days later, on Jul 4, it approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. The immediate political consequence of the document, the formal break with Britain and the initiation of a full-scale war to secure the independence of Pindostan, was in itself sufficient to impart to the Declaration immense and enduring historical significance. But it is not only the direct political impact of the document but, rather, the principles it proclaimed that determined the world historical stature of the Declaration. The document begins with the words:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

What these words meant was that governments, and the political and social relations upon which they were based and which they defended, were not timeless and unalterable. They were the creation of men, not God. This assertion exploded the essential justification, sanctified by religion, for monarchy, aristocracy, i.e., of all forms of political power based on obscurantist veneration of bloodlines. What was created by man could be changed by man. The Declaration then proceeded to a remarkable assertion:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In a strictly empirical sense, there was nothing “self-evident,” that is so obviously true that it hardly required further argument, about any of these “truths.” Reality, as it was to be observed in every part of the world, including the colonies, contradicted what the Declaration claimed to be “self-evident.” In the world of the late eighteenth century, most human beings were treated like beasts of burden, if not worse. Where in the world did existing conditions substantiate the claim that all of humanity had been “created equal”? The monarchies and aristocracies were based on the unchallengeable legitimacy of inherent inequality. The place of people in society, even where there had been a slow erosion of feudal relations, was a manifestation of a divine design. Where was “Life,” for the great mass of people, honored and protected? In advanced Britain, children as young as six could be hanged for pickpocketing a wealthy person’s handkerchief. The great mass of people lived in wretched poverty, enforced by strict relations of feudal and semi-feudal hierarchy. There was little “Happiness” in the lives of the general population, let alone for the millions throughout the world and in the Americas, who were enslaved and hardly considered to be human.

The “truths” invoked by Jefferson were not “self-evident” in a crudely empirical sense. They were, rather, “truths” that were obtained through the application of scientific thought or reason, as it had developed under the influence of the physicist Newton, materialist thinkers such as John Locke, and the great French philosophes of the Enlightenment, to the study of history and human society. It was the application of Reason that determined what was, and was not, politically legitimate. It was science, not the irrational and unsubstantiated invocations of a divine order, that determined what must be. It was in this profound sense that the equality of man and the “unalienable Rights” to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” were “self-evident.” Jefferson and his comrades in arms were well aware that empirically existing political and social conditions did not conform to the “self-evident Truths” asserted in the Declaration. From this fact, the following conclusion was drawn: Governments derive their “just powers from the consent of the governed.” Therefore:

Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Thus, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed revolution to be a legitimate and even necessary means of removing from power governments that had become oppressive and injurious to the “Happiness” of the people. Jefferson adhered to this principle and displayed not the slightest squeamishness when the masses of France, inspired by American Revolution, took bloody vengeance against King Louis XVI and the aristocracy. Louis, declared Jefferson, ought to be punished “like other criminals.” Rather than witness the defeat of the French Revolution, Jefferson wrote to a friend:

I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it is now.” He expressed unmitigated joy at the prospect of the revolution’s victory, which would “bring at length kings, nobles and priests to the scaffolds which they have been so long deluging with human blood.

It is of course an undeniable historical fact that Jefferson’s personal ownership of slaves and his compromises with slavery represent the great irony and even tragedy of his life. They were the expression in his personal biography of the existing social conditions and contradictions of the world into which he was born, a world in which slavery, serfdom and numerous forms of indentured servitude flourished and whose legitimacy was hardly questioned. No doubt, the moralizing philistines of academia will continue to condemn Jefferson. But their condemnations do not alter by one iota the revolutionary impact of the Declaration of the Independence. The American Revolution of 1775–83 did not solve the problem of slavery. This is not because the solution was blocked by Jefferson or other revolutionary leaders, like Washington, who owned slaves. The incomplete character of the first stage of the American bourgeois democratic revolution was determined by the existing objective conditions, and not simply those that existed in North America. As Marx was later to explain:

Mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.

The conditions for a decisive settlement with slavery did not yet exist. That still required several decades of industrial development and the emergence of an economically powerful capitalist class in the North. Moreover, that class had to develop a democratic political movement capable of mobilizing masses and sustaining a long and bitter civil war. This essential social and economic process unfolded rapidly in the decades that followed the American Revolution. The capitalist development of the North became increasingly incompatible with the political domination of Pindostan by the Slave Power. This objective incompatibility found its ideological expression in the ever more intense awareness that the ideals of human equality proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence could not be reconciled with the horrifying reality of slavery. However, it must be stressed that the process of historical causation that led up to the Civil War was not driven in a one-sided manner by socioeconomic factors, with the ideological conflicts a mere reflection of the former. The influence exerted by the principles articulated in the Declaration played an immense, almost independent, role in influencing mass political consciousness in the North and preparing it for an intransigent struggle against the Slave Power. Abraham Lincoln’s intellectual and political development epitomized the influence exerted by Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration that he authored. Again and again, in numerous speeches, Lincoln invoked the political legacy of Jefferson. For example, in a letter written in 1859, Lincoln stated:

All honor to Jefferson, to the man who in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, and so to embalm it there, that today and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.

Following his election to the presidency in 1860, Lincoln declared:

I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

And on his way to Washington to assume the presidency, Lincoln explained:

It was not the mere matter of separation of the colonies from the motherland, but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence, which gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.

This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was the author of the great revolutionary manifesto that provided the ideological inspiration for the Civil War. Under Lincoln’s leadership, the Union armies, which ultimately mobilized and armed tens of thousands of slaves in struggle against the Confederacy, destroyed slavery. Of course, the Pindostan that emerged from the Civil War soon betrayed the promises of democracy and equality that Lincoln had made. The “new birth of freedom” gave way to the imperatives of modern capitalism. A new form of social struggle, between an emerging working class and an industrial bourgeoisie came to dominate the political and social landscape. In this new class struggle, the northern bourgeoisie saw the benefit of an alliance with the remnants of the old slave-owning class. Reconstruction was brought to an end. Racism was incited and utilized as a potent weapon against the unity of the working class. Intransigent opposition to this specific form of political reaction became a central task of the working class in the fight for socialism. Only though the establishment of workers’ power, the ending of capitalism and the building of a socialist society on a world scale can the scourge of racism and all forms of social oppression be overcome. And in this fight, the words and deeds of both Jefferson and Lincoln will continue to inspire. All that was historically progressive in their lifework lives on in the modern socialist movement.

Spain participated in failed 2019 Pindo coup in Venezuela
Alejandro López, WSWS, Jul 4 2020

Reports show that Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) -Podemos government was at the forefront of the Pindo-orchestrated coup attempt in Venezuela last May. This would be the second time the Socialist Party (PSOE)-led government, now backed by Podemos, tried to back a Pindo-led coup in the oil-rich South American country in little over a year. Last year, Madrid supported the Trump administration’s abortive coup led by right winger Juan Guaidó, a Pindo-financed political nonentity who called for the military to rise up and overthrow the government of Nicolás Maduro. At that time, Spain recognised Guaidó as “interim president.” Venezuela’s vice president of Communication, Culture and Tourism, Jorge Rodríguez, denounced Spain last week for using its embassy in Caracas to plot coups. From Miraflores Palace, he referred to a Jun 26 article in the WSJ which identified Leopoldo López, the leader of the far-right Voluntad Popular Party, who has been in asylum at the Spanish embassy in Caracas for over a year, as one of the chief instigators in planning the failed “Operation Gideon.” The WSJ recounts how López held meetings to discuss the coup, which was launched in early May, spearheaded once again by self-proclaimed “president” Guaidó, using CIA mercenaries trained in Colombia, in collaboration with the Pindo military and intelligence agencies, to infiltrate Venezuela by sea and remove Maduro from office. It took place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the deadly virus spread across the world, killing hundreds of thousands. The plan called for entering Venezuela by boat on May 3-4 2020 to seize Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetia, snatch Maduro and other top figures in his government, and spirit them out of the country. Maduro has charged that the mercenaries’ objective was a regime-change operation aiming to assassinate him. Rodríguez said López and Guaidó met with up to six private security companies to seal a contract to illegally topple the Venezuelan government. He asked:

Do the ambassador and the government of Spain know that Leopoldo López has made and continues to make repeated videoconferences with the sole purpose of insisting on his plans to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro? Do the ambassador and the Government of Spain agree to these meetings, that have taken place at the headquarters of his residence?

The answer, obviously, is “yes.” López is a scion of one of Venezuela’s most aristocratic families, with close connections with right-wing regimes in South America and the Pindo State Dept, who started planning coups in the 2000s, when he participated in the short-lived coup that briefly ousted Hugo Chávez in 2002, a coup backed by Spain’s right-wing Popular Party (PP) government at the time. López was also convicted of organising a violent campaign in 2014 known as “La Salida” (the exit), aimed at overthrowing Maduro. In 2019, López was “freed” from house arrest by Guidó and a dozen military officers during another failed coup in Apr 2019. When it was clear the operation was failing, López sought asylum in the Spanish embassy in Caracas. López’s role in coup attempts against the Venezuelan government is so well-known that sections of the right-wing opposition have tried to distance themselves from him to give themselves a more “democratic” veneer.

Madrid knew perfectly well when López entered its embassy that Spain was hosting a conspirator. Madrid has had close connections with him at least since 2002. Madrid’s support for regime-change in Venezuela exposes fraudulent claims that the foreign policy of Podemos and the PSOE is based on human rights. In fact, Madrid’s interests are determined by its repeated attempts to carve out a new role for Spanish imperialism in its former South American colonies. It fears Spain is falling behind its imperialist rivals in the new redivision of the world. These ruthless regime-change operations seek to advance its imperialist interests. According to the Spanish Economic and Commercial Office in Caracas, Spain is in seventh place on the list of destinations for Venezuelan exports. Statistics from the Central Bank of Venezuela also indicate that in the last ten years, Spain has been the second investor in the country after the Netherlands, with investments practically stagnant since 2017 due to the economic strangulation of Venezuela by Faschingstein. Currently, a hundred Spanish corporations operate in Venezuela, often present in strategic sectors. After the purchase of Telcel, Telefónica is the second-largest mobile phone operator in the country. Spanish banks, construction firms, publishing houses, tourism companies, insurers and energy company Repsol remain in Venezuela despite difficulties posed by Pindo sanctions.

These interests underlie the silence of Podemos in response to the Venezuelan government’s accusations. This silence is even more extraordinary given that the chief founders of Podemos (Pablo Iglesias, Juan Carlos Monedero, Iñigo Errejón and others) worked through their Center for Political and Social Studies Foundation (Fundación Centro de Estudios Políticos y Sociales) as advisers of the Chavez regime, and other so-called Pink Tide governments in South America. According to the Venezuelan Ministry of Culture, the CEPS Foundation received $7m for its advising services for the government of Hugo Chávez. While he is frequently attacked by right-wing forces as a Chavista agent, Iglesias has made clear he is aligned with the Spanish ruling class against Venezuela. In Dec 2018, months after Podemos orchestrated the installation of a minority PSOE government, without making any reference to the Pindo economic strangulation of the country, Iglesias made what amounted to a public repudiation of his previous criticisms of the imperialist oppression of Venezuela, saying:

I do not share some of the things I said in the past. The political and economic situation in Venezuela is dire. Rectifying politics is fine. There are things in which I was wrong. What I said a few years ago does not correspond to what I think now.

What had changed was that he was just one step from being part of a PSOE-led government. A year later, he became Deputy PM of the PSOE-Podemos government. For years, “left populist” representatives of the affluent middle class like Iglesias promoted bourgeois nationalism in Latin America as the alternative to building a revolutionary leadership within the working class: Lula in Brazil, Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. They used this to market themselves as “left” while they sought to make their way into government. In the words of Podemos co-founder Iñigo Errejón in Podemos in the Name of the People (2016) co-written with populist theoretician Chantal Mouffe, a decisive element to his thinking was the “exposure to the popular constituent processes of political transformation and state reform in Latin America.” Errejón continued explaining his experience working for the Bolivian government:

I thus lived through a war of position inside the state, which I witnessed from within. I also learned to appreciate how much effort such conquests take, and how to build irreversibility, which from then on would become a central object of intellectual preoccupation for me. I remember discovering a statistician in Bolivia who showed that, since the beginning of the process of political change, and as a result of better access to milk, children now weighed more. And I remember thinking that perhaps this wasn’t quite socialism, but that only a fool would dismiss the achievement like that.

Five years later, since the book’s original publication in Spanish, the Pink Tide has flowed out. Its own austerity and pro-corporate policies paved the way for a sharp shift to the right, including the rise to power of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. This has also exposed the pro-imperialist policies of Podemos. Errejón’s “irreversibility” and “not quite socialism” paved the way for the Pindo-backed coup in 2019 against Morales, who fled the country, abandoning the population to fight the coup in the streets. Morales is now attempting to reach a grand national agreement with the coup leaders. Podemos, for its part, now stands exposed as a political tool of imperialism’s bloody foreign policy in Latin America.

German defence minister plans more effective organization of army’s far-right elite force
Peter Schwarz, WSWS, Jul 4 2020

KSK soldiers during a mission exercise ([Photo: Tim Rademacher)

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) announced Tuesday that the 1,600-strong elite unit of the Bundeswehr would be restructured after new details came to light about the far-right terrorist networks operating for years inside the Special Forces Command (KSK). One of the four companies of the KSK is to be disbanded, KSK participation in international missions temporarily suspended and the elite force is to be restructured and more closely integrated into the rest of the Bundeswehr. Kramp-Karrenbauer explained:

The KSK had in parts become a law unto itself. There was a toxic leadership culture on the part of some individuals and large amounts of weapons and ammunition had been lost. Some 48k rounds of ammunition and 62 kg of explosives had disappeared without trace. Therefore, the KSK could not remain in its current form.

The defence minister’s move is primarily a damage-control operation. The discredited right-wing extremist force is not to be disbanded, but rather organised more effectively and given more influence within the Bundeswehr as a whole. Not one of those responsible for encouraging and tolerating the activities of the far right over a long period of time is to be held accountable. On the contrary, they have been given responsibility for reorganising the KSK. Kramp-Karrenbauer’s proposal stems from a “KSK working group” she set up five weeks ago after a 45-year-old KSK instructor, Philipp Sch, had been arrested. Police found explosives, an arsenal with ammunition and Nazi literature following a search of the soldier’s private home. The “KSK working group” consists of the leading superiors of Philipp Sch, KSK commander Markus Kreitmayr, army inspector Alfons Mais and Bundeswehr inspector general Eberhard Zorn, as well as two state secretaries from the Defence Ministry, all defence and military insiders. In addition, the new military commissioner of the Bundestag, Eva Högl (SPD), was included in the group. Högl has to demonstrate she is just as loyal to the Bundeswehr as her predecessor, Hans-Peter Bartels, whom she replaced a month ago in a dispute. Brig-Gen Kreitmayr, who has led the KSK for two years, is also responsible for implementing the announced “reforms.” The commander of the Rapid Forces Division, Maj-Gen Andreas Hannemann, is to investigate the whereabouts of the missing ammunition. Hannemann recently featured in a video of the Bild newspaper, posing as an authoritarian military ruler. He openly threatened young people who had clashed with police in Stuttgart, emphasising several times:

If they dare to attack any one of us, we will fight back. If someone is unwilling to use force, then he must not wear this uniform.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who informed the KSK personally about the measures planned at the KSK barracks in Calw, praised the unit in a subsequent interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, saying:

I saw a unit that was shaken by what had taken place. A unit that questions itself critically. One had the feeling that there are people around commander Markus Kreitmayr ready to change the KSK.

When asked by the Süddeutsche whether she would dissolve the entire company if “self-healing” did not succeed, the defence minister replied:

We will always need special forces. The KSK has performed excellently in all of its operations since 1996.

In fact, the KSK operates largely in secret. Its operations have included interventions in the Bosnian and Afghanistan wars, where it hunted down and killed alleged terrorists behind front lines. Only those who complete training lasting several years and pass various examinations testing the entrant’s physical and psychological limits are accepted into the conspiratorial squad. Far-right conspiracies have existed in the KSK from the start. One of its first commanders, Reinhard Günzel, was fired without notice by a former defence minister, Peter Struck (SPD), in 2003 after he expressed his support for a speech widely regarded as anti-Semitic by the former CDU and, later, far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) deputy Martin Hohmann. Günzel subsequently accused Struck in the far-right newspaper Junge Freiheit of organising his “exorcism” and trying to “wipe out the conservative camp.” In Apr 2017, Lt-Col Pascal D, a senior KSK officer, celebrated a wild farewell party. One of those taking part was Philipp Sch, who has now been arrested. According to one witness, Nazi music was played at the party and those participating gave the raised arm Hitler salute. The matter was never fully clarified because investigators encountered a “wall of silence” from the 70 soldiers taking part.

The German military secret service (MAD) has since identified 20 suspected right-wing extremists in the KSK. It only dealt with cases which were obvious. Many soldiers who, according to MAD, also reject the German constitution (Basic Law) were not investigated. MAD itself is deeply involved in the extreme-right swamp and has repeatedly warned soldiers of impending investigations. The notorious André S, alias “Hannibal,” was also a former instructor for the KSK. Hannibal had built up a nationwide network of far-right elite soldiers, police officers and judges, who were preparing to carry out a fascist coup on a certain “Day X” involving the murder of hundreds of political opponents. Hannibal was also in contact with Bundeswehr officer Franco A, who was exposed in 2017 after acquiring a fake identity as a refugee. Franco A is currently accused of “preparing a serious crime endangering the state,” the assassination of left-wing politicians and cultural figures, and armed assaults on institutions. Significantly, neither Kramp-Karrenbauer in her interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, nor the report of the KSK working group even mentioned Hannibal, who like Franco A remains at large. Franco A’s accomplice and close friend Maximilian T, also a former Bundeswehr soldier, even has an ID card to enter the Bundestag. He is an employee of AfD deputy Jan Nolte.

The cover-up operation and support for the far-right networks in the KSK, the Bundeswehr and other parts of the state apparatus by the German government and other representatives of the ruling elite is no accident. Confronted with growing international conflicts and internal class contradictions, which continue to worsen due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ruling class in Germany is returning to its methods of the 1930s—militarism and dictatorship. The ruling elite needs the KSK, the Bundeswehr, in which many officers sympathise with the AfD, the secret services and other sections of the state apparatus, which are permeated with right-wing extremists, in order to pursue its imperialist goals abroad and suppress social opposition at home. The FAZ, which frequently expresses the interests and goals of ruling circles more openly and cynically than other newspapers, summed this up in a comment by Reinhard Müller, wrote:

It was always a crazy idea to dissolve the KSK, if this means doing without such special forces. While extremists cannot be tolerated, it should not be forgotten that small, elite units that are particularly dependent on one another in secret operations require a esprit de corps and secrecy. If this is not the case, then there is a lack of clout and security. Politically it is not easy to hold onto those elite units, that not only go through a tough selection and training process, but are also distinguished by a certain cultivation of tradition. But that should not be a contradiction: The citizen in uniform must be a warrior in an emergency.

“Warriors” who are “distinguished by a certain cultivation of tradition” is a very precise description of the radical right-wing Nazi network in the KSK, the abolition of which would be a “crazy idea,” according to the newspaper that represents Germany’s financial oligarchy based in the city of Frankfurt.

Trump administration gives private equity firms access to 401(k) retirement funds
Gabriel Black, WSWS, Jul 4 2020

In June, the Pindo Labor Department announced that it would allow 401(k) retirement funds to invest in private equity firms. Private equity companies are financial firms, in many cases tied to a parent bank or other larger financial institution, that are unregulated. They serve as vehicles for speculative activities, often high-risk bets that promise a high return. They are a part of the so-called shadow banking system that has seen an explosive growth over the last 20 years. Unlike pensions, so-called “defined benefit” plans that guarantee a set monthly income for retirees, 401(k)s, “defined contribution” plans, are subject to the vagaries of the stock and bond markets, as are the benefits they yield to workers who pay into them. Opening up the $7.9t in 401(k) assets to private equity funds increases the risk to workers that their retirement savings will be gutted or wiped out by a new financial crisis.

Private equity firms are heavily engaged in takeovers of companies, usually employing borrowed money and often carried out in opposition to the management of the targeted firms. Having acquired a company, the private equity firm as a rule loads it up with debt, extracts huge fees for the private equity owners, slashes jobs and wages, and then resells the zombie firm for a profit. One example is Bain Capital, previously run by Thug senator and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Bain has relied on leveraged buyouts to amass its $105b portfolio. Bain, however, is only the fifth largest private equity firm. Other examples include the Pindo-Brazilian firm 3G Capital, which took over Burger King in 2010 and Tim Hortons in 2014, restructuring and merging both. Private equity firms are heavily invested in start-up firms. SoftBank, the massive Japanese investment bank, has a private equity wing called the SoftBank Vision Fund, with over $100b of capital. SoftBank has invested in major tech-related start-ups such as Uber and WeWork.

The Labor Dept’s decision to allow 401(k)s to invest in these markets was the result of an executive order, the “Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery Executive Order 13924,” issued by Trump on May 19. Trump’s order essentially instructed federal agencies, including the Labor Department, the Dept of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency, to loosen regulatory standards so as to promote “economic growth,” corporate profits. According to Lexology, a leading corporate legal news processor:

The executive order calls on agencies to provide or extend regulatory flexibilities that promote job creation and economic growth, and provide regulatory relief to businesses as they work to recover from the impact of the coronavirus. These directives provide important opportunities for businesses to engage with the regulatory agencies and help shape deregulatory activity and enforcement policy for the near future.

Up to now, 401(k)s have been prohibited from investing in private equity firms and their activities because of the risk to the workers whose retirement will depend on their 401(k) benefits. Among other things, Trump’s executive order allows federal agencies to engage in so-called “pre-enforcement rulings” in relation to corporate offenders. That is, if a company or financial institution is caught violating a federal regulation, it can negotiate a deal with the government before legal action is initiated. According to Lexology, this greatly reduces “enforcement risk,” it reduces or eliminates penalties for violations of labor and environmental regulations. Investopedia reports that several financial advisors have expressed their opposition to the opening up of private equity firms to 401(k)s. They cite Robert Johnson, a professor of finance at Creighton University, who says:

It’s a mistake to give 401(k) investors access to private equity through their plans. Private equity structures are complex and opaque to the average investor.

The Labor Dept’s decision is a huge boon to private equity firms, which will now have access to the massive pool of assets held by 401(k) funds, which are overseen by asset management firms such as Vanguard and Fidelity. The timing is no accident. Last year, before the pandemic, the Financial Times titled an article “The private equity bubble is bound to burst.” McKinsey estimated the same year that the private equity markets, pumped up with cheap credit and filled with money from investors seeking the highest returns, had ballooned to $5.8t, more than the GDP of Japan, the third largest economy in the world. Forbes published an article headlined “Private Equity Will Lead the Next Meltdown,” which called attention to the massive and unsustainable buildup of debt in these markets. Now, amidst the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression, the Trump administration is opening up private equity to retirement investments as a means of keeping these financial markets filled with cash. This should be viewed in conjunction with the CARES Act bailout of Wall Street, which handed trillions of dollars to major Pindo corporations, as well as the unprecedented injection of trillions of dollars into the bond markets through the Federal Reserve. The loosening of regulatory restrictions on financial players and investors, including allowing private equity firms access to 401(k)s, will open the door to even greater financial trickery and crime.

Who will pay when the highly indebted private equity world of start-ups goes bust? The answer is the workers who are invested in 401(k)s that are tied into these parasitic speculative operations. Already, before the pandemic, a survey by Bankrate of American adults found that one in five people had nothing saved for retirement or emergencies. Less than a third of Pindos have saved 11% or more of their annual income. A 2018 article by the WSJ, “A Generation of Pindos is Entering Old Age the Least Prepared in Decades,” found that high average debt in things like children’s education, unpaid mortgages and parents’ old age meant that Pindos reaching retirement age were less prepared than they had been since the 1940s. In 1979, 38% of private employees had a traditional pension. In 2016, just 13% of these workers had one. The average household in 2013, whose head was 55 to 64 years old, had a retirement fund of just $14.5k, according to the WSJ. That is barely enough to live for a few months in most major cities. It is amid this disastrous situation facing retirees that the Trump administration has further eroded their economic security by plugging their 401(k)s into private equity, which will plunder workers’ already inadequate savings to increase profits and stave off insolvency.

Trump holds Mount Rushmore event in defiance of health experts
Barry Grey, WSWS, Jul 4 2020

Trump speaks at Mount Rushmore National Monument Jul 3 2020.
(Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

With Pindostan setting daily records for new COVID-19 infections, President Donald Trump held a mass pre-Fourth of July event at Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota Friday night. Trump spoke to a crowd of thousands, who were encouraged not to wear masks or socially distance. In advance of the event, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem appeared on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” and said:

We’re asking them to come, be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and the liberties that we have in this country. But we won’t be social distancing.

This criminally reckless action, virtually certain to result in a new eruption of infections and deaths, was carried out in defiance of members of Trump’s coronavirus task force, who had warned three days earlier against congregating in large groups and stressed the critical importance of wearing a mask in public. Testifying before a Senate committee, Dr Anthony Fauci had said that unless urgent measures were taken to contain the spread of the virus, daily new infections in Pindostan would likely rise to 100k. On Friday, reports emerged that members of Pence’s advance team sent to prepare his visit this week to Arizona had contracted COVID-19. Last month, members of Trump advance teams sent to prepare indoor rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Phoenix, Arizona, two centers of the COVID-19 surge, also became infected with the virus. The Mount Rushmore event, replete with fireworks, was the prelude to a far bigger White House-sponsored Fourth of July celebration set for today in the nation’s capital.

With these actions, Trump is signaling the determination of the government and the ruling class to press ahead with their back-to-work drive, however many thousands, and perhaps millions, of lives of working people are lost due to infection in factories, warehouses, transit centers and other workplaces where employees have no real protection from the deadly virus. A month ago, before the reopening of businesses across the country, the daily infection toll was around 20k. On Thursday, it hit a new record of more than 57k. Daily infections are rising in 40 of the 50 states. The average change in new cases has increased by 73.5% over the past two weeks. Florida alone reported 10,000 new cases on Thursday. In states that opened earliest and most precipitously, the increases vary between 112% (Oklahoma) and 223% (Florida). In California, Demagog Governor Gavin Newsom is presiding over an increase of 79%. The severe lack of testing and contact tracing capabilities was summed up Thursday in scenes of Californians lining up for miles in their cars to get tested for the virus. Hospitalizations are rising rapidly, threatening to overwhelm already understaffed hospitals. The WaPo reported:

Patients suffering from COVID-19 are rapidly filling hospitals cross the South and West, with Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Nevada and Arizona setting records for hospitalizations Thursday, a sign that the coronavirus pandemic is entering a dangerous new phase.

The death rate has also begun to climb again. States reported that 700 people died Thursday of COVID-19, an increase of over 25% compared to the previous seven-day average. In the face of this exploding crisis, the Trump administration is continuing to encourage people to defy health guidelines and act as though the pandemic was over. On Friday morning, Trump’s surgeon-general Dr Jerome Adams made an appearance on the “Today” program and said matter-of-factly:

People will be going to beaches and barbecues.

On Wednesday, one day after Fauci’s dire warning of a dramatic rise in cases, Trump was interviewed on Fox Business, where he said of the pandemic:

I think at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear. I hope.

On Thursday, in a brief appearance before the press, he said:

We have some areas where we are putting out the flames, or the fires, and that’s working out well.

Later on Thursday, he tweeted:

There is a rise in coronavirus cases because our testing is so massive and so good, far bigger than any other country. This is great news, but even better news is that death, and the death rate, is down.

Members of the Great Sioux Nation are among those who have denounced Trump’s Mount Rushmore event and announced plans to protest against it. Spoxes for the tribes have condemned it both as a risk to the health of reservation residents already disproportionately impacted by the virus and as an affront to the history and rights of Native Americans. Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, told the AP:

The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites.

Terry FastHorse, a Sicangu Lakota citizen and Lummi descendant, told the press:

He hates Indians. There’s no other reason to be there.

Fellow Sicangu Lakota citizen Phil Two Eagle, executive director of the Sicangu Lakota Treaty Council, said:

To me, Mount Rushmore is a symbol of ethnic cleansing, forced assimilation and the theft of our territory. Trump is just reminding us of the continuing genocide of our people.

It is a historical fact that Mount Rushmore sits on land stolen by the Pindo government from the Sioux. In 1868, the government signed a treaty designating as the “Great Sioux Nation” territory that stretched across parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and four other states, and guaranteeing the tribes “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation.” However, when miners struck gold in the Black Hills, the army under General George Custer was dispatched to protect the prospectors and settlers who flooded into the region and suppress Native resistance. In 1877 Congress passed an act reclaiming the Black Hills and consigning the tribes to five small reservations in South Dakota. Other critics of the event are raising the danger of the fireworks leading to forest fires. There have been no fireworks displays at the Mount Rushmore monument for 10 years, following a decision by the National Park Service that they posed a fire risk. That decision was overturned in April at the behest of the White House.

Pindostan is in the midst of a public health and social catastrophe without historical precedent. The scale of the disaster is not the inevitable result of the coronavirus. Rather, it is the outcome of the conscious decision of the corporate financial oligarchy to subordinate all public health considerations to the protection and expansion of its wealth. Trump is the most open proponent of this policy, but it is a bipartisan one. Even as daily infections soar past 50k and the official death count, a substantial underestimate of the real toll, tops 130k, Demagog governors and mayors continue to enforce back-to-work orders that are resulting in many tens of thousands of worker infections and thousands of deaths. They are standing behind companies such as Fiat Chrysler and Amazon that seek to crush wildcat work stoppages and walkouts by threatening to fire workers and by cutting off jobless benefits to those who refuse to risk their lives and the lives of family members.

There is a chilling rationale behind Trump’s seemingly mad actions, which can only fuel the pandemic and increase the death toll. The ruling oligarchy, which controls both parties and dictates government policy, has from the outset looked upon the pandemic as an opportunity to advance its class interests at the expense of the population. It has seized upon the virus to provide a cover for rewarding itself trillions of dollars in bailout money from the Treasury and the Fed, critical to addressing record levels of corporate debt that preceded the coronavirus outbreak. It is at the same time using the economic disaster triggered by the pandemic to destroy millions of jobs and force workers to accept wage cuts and speed-up. Finally, it sees the disease as a means of culling the population, via its “herd immunity” policy, of retirees who no longer provide a source of surplus value and profit. The fewer the number of older workers drawing on Social Security and Medicare, the more these programs can be gutted and the money channeled into the private fortunes of the super-rich.

Australian government seeks to place country on war footing
Mike Head, WSWS, Jul 4 2020

Parramatta (L) with a Pindo aircraft carrier battle group in the South China Sea.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week invoked the spectre of another world war when he unveiled an aggressive military expansion, clearly aimed against China. In an address to military cadets, Morrison announced that despite the deepest economic breakdown since the 1930s Great Depression, causing mass unemployment and social misery, $575b will be spent on boosting the military over the next decade. While falsely presented as “defensive,” an expanded $270b military hardware build-up features “long-range strike capabilities.” These will start with the immediate purchase of Pindo missiles capable of striking Chinese vessels and facilities in southeast Asia, and which could be reconfigured to hit southern China itself. Morrison declared:

We have not seen the conflation of global, economic and strategic uncertainty, now being experienced here in Australia, in our region, since the existential threat we face when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s. That is a sobering thought. And it’s something I have reflected on quite a lot lately, as we’ve considered the dire economic circumstances we face. That period of the 1930s has been something I’ve been revisiting on a very regular basis. And when you connect both the economic challenges and the global uncertainty, it can be very haunting. But not overwhelming. It requires a response. Now, we must face that reality, understanding that we have moved into a new and less benign strategic area. One in which the institutions of patterns of cooperation that have benefited our prosperity and security for decades are now under increasing, and I would suggest almost irreversible strain. The Indo-Pacific is the epicenter of rising strategic competition. Our region will not only shape our future, increasingly though it is the focus of the dominant global contest of our age. This is the setting for it. Tensions over territorial claims are rising across the Indo-Pacific region as we have seen recently on the disputed border between India and China, in the South China Sea, in the East China Sea. The risk of miscalculation and even conflict is heightening. Regional military modernization is occurring at an unprecedented rate. Capabilities and reach are expanding. Previous assumptions of enduring advantage and technological edge are no longer constants and cannot be relied upon. Coercive activities arrive, disinformation and foreign interference have been enabled and accelerated by new and emerging technologies. State sovereignty is under pressure as our rules and norms and the stability that these provide. Relations between China and Pindostan are fractious at best, as they compete for political, economic and technological supremacy.

This invocation of an “existential threat” was an obvious reference to WW2, during which Pindostan provoked Japan into a war for control over the Pacific that led to Japanese attacks on Pindo warships in the port of Darwin. Japan, which is an imperialist power, was accused of trying to invade Australia. Such a claim is now being directed, without any evidence, against China. Morrison’s remarks were uttered in the context of a mounting mobilisation by Pindo imperialism, headed by the Trump administration, to confront China economically and militarily, to block it from ever challenging Pindostan’s post-WW2 dominance. This is the driving force of the escalating confrontation with China.
First under Obama and now Trump, successive Australian governments, both Liberal-National and Labor, have placed Australia on the front line of any war against China, including by stationing Pindo marines in Darwin and increasing Pindo access to northern Australian air and military bases. This week’s announcement marked a further, even more explicit, shift toward military conflict with China. In an effort to condition public opinion for war, Morrison painted a picture of Australia and the Indo-Pacific region under attack by China. Without any evidence whatsoever, he essentially accused Beijing of conducting “grey” warfare via “coercive activities, disinformation and foreign interference, and cyber-attacks.” In fact, the prime minister claimed that a military line had been crossed already. he asserted:

We will increase the ADF’s ability to influence and deny operations directed against our interests — ones below the threshold of traditional armed conflict, in what experts call the grey zone. This will involve boosting Defence’s special operations, intelligence and offensive cyber capabilities, as well as its presence operations, capacity-building efforts, and engagement activities.

Morrison did not specifically name China, but his target was palpable, as every media and military-intelligence commentator pointed out. Yet he offered not the slightest evidence to back his vague and sweeping allegations. Recent weeks have seen totally unsubstantiated claims by the government and the corporate media of Chinese “cyber-warfare” and “foreign interference.” No details of “cyber-attacks” have been provided, except admissions that the alleged attackers used software readily available on the internet. As for “foreign interference,” a state Labor MP was last week labelled a “Chinese agent” by the media and raided by the federal police and the ASIO for making comments critical of the Pindo-led demonisation of China. In reality, the Pindo ruling elite is the greatest source of “cyber-warfare” and “foreign interference” in Australia. That was underlined recently when Pompeo warned that Pindostan would “simply disconnect” Australia from its telecoms, military and intelligence networks if any Australian government made an agreement with China deemed to endanger Pindo “natsec.” It is Pindostan, backed by Australia, that has conducted repeated military provocations inside the territorial waters around Chinese-claimed islets in that sea ever since 2010. That was when Hillary Clinton declared that Pindostan had a “national interest” in determining who controlled the outcrops, thousands of kilometres from the United States. Again, without the slightest evidence, Morrison claimed that Australia’s “sovereignty” was threatened by China and sought to wrap himself in the cloak of a wartime leader, declaring:

As one of the world’s oldest liberal democracies, we know who we are. We know what we believe. We know what we’re about. We know what we stand for. And we know what we’ll defend. We’re about having the freedom to live our lives as we choose, in an open and democratic liberal society, without coercion, without fear. We’re about the rule of law, we’re about being good neighbors, pulling our weight, lending a hand, and not leaving the heavy lifting and hard tasks to others. We don’t seek to entangle or intimidate or silence our neighbors. We respect their sovereignty. We champion it. And we expect others to respect ours. Sovereignty means self respect, freedom to be who we are. Ourselves, independence, free thinking. We will never surrender this. Never. Never.

Morrison underlined:

It is in our region that we must be most capable in the military contributions we make to partnerships and to our ever closer alliance with Pindostan, which is the foundation of our defense policy. The security assurances, intelligence sharing, and the technological industrial corporation we enjoy with Pindostan are and remain critical to our national security. They are enduring. But if we are to be a better and more effective ally, we must be prepared to invest in our own security.

This pledge was made despite rising concerns in some ruling circles about the continued reliability of Pindostan as a military protector, given its economic and political decay, and anxiety over the loss of the Chinese markets on which mining and agricultural companies depend heavily. Morrison sought to overcome this nervousness by emphasising Australia’s own re-militarisation. saying:

We remain prepared to make military contributions outside of our immediate region, where it is in our national interest to do so (underscored), including in support of Pindo-led coalitions, and where it matches the capability we have to offer.

So far, Beijing’s response to the Australian build-up has been muted, reflecting the Chinese regime’s hopes of averting a potentially catastrophic nuclear war with the Pindostan & its vassals, but an article in Global Times on Friday said that Chinese analysts had noted the specific weapons that Australia will acquire were “obviously” not for defence within Australian borders but for “long-range” combat. Morrison yesterday boasted to The Australian’s editor-at-large Paul Kelly that his government had “crashed through” the target of spending 2% of GDP on the military, a proportion demanded of all “allies” by Trump. Regardless of the economic crash triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the soaring budget deficits and government debt, the government was “not going to be constrained by 2%.” Australian Strategic Policy Institute strategic analyst Marcus Hellyer estimated that defence funding would grow by 7.2%, 9.2% and 9% in the three years from 2020–21. He asked Kelly:
What other portfolio can boast such largesse?

In his column, Kelly hailed Morrison’s bid to ideologically prepare the population for war, writing:

Morrison has warned the Australian people the deepest recession for decades now runs in parallel with a heightening risk of military conflict as the sinews of regional prosperity face ‘almost irreversible strain,’ demanding a revamped defence posture and strategy.

An editorial in the Murdoch-owned newspaper even claimed that Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong justified war against China. It stated:

China’s police-state takeover of Hong Kong has been compared to Adolf Hitler’s ominous absorption of Austria within the Reich. This strikes at freedom and prosperity in our part of the world.

Speaking on behalf of big business, an Australian Financial Review editorial also backed the military “build-up,” saying:

This is a reminder that the days of risk-free coasting on China boom prosperity are over. Just as in defence, we need to face up to much-needed policy reforms, rather than putting them off because they are difficult.

In other words, the offensive against China must be matched by one at home, extracting the cost of militarisation and the pandemic-triggered economic breakdown from the working class.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.