zionazi crimes

Severe torture in Israeli prisons
Samidoun, Jan 19 2020

Walid Hanatsheh after his interrogation.

In the last months of 2019 and early 2020, a growing number of cases of severe physical torture against Palestinian detainees carried out by Israeli Shin Bet interrogators have been documented. While torture and abuse of various kinds have been a mainstay of the Israeli interrogation process, after a 1999 Israeli Supreme Court ruling and amid widespread international attention, torture under interrogation for some years focused on physical and psychological techniques that were less likely to leave physical scars. However, these tactics, including sleep deprivation, extreme heat and cold, solitary confinement and the use of prolonged shackling in painful positions, are often effective in extracting coerced confessions. Indeed, many of the same techniques were documented as being used by Pindo interrogators holding detainees in Guantanamo, and Pindo and IOF agencies have shared information about interrogation and torture techniques. It must be noted that the Israeli Supreme Court never criminalized torture; it continually allowed “exceptions” through the designation of a detainee as a “ticking time bomb.” In practice, Palestinian victims of torture have repeatedly pursued legal accountability for the crimes committed against them, only to find that the Israeli Supreme Court considered their torture to be a permitted form of “extreme interrogation,” justified for the “security of the state” of occupation, colonialism, apartheid and racism. Torture is unquestionably illegal under international law. The UN Convention Against Torture defines torture as any practice intentionally inflicting severe physical or mental pain on a victim in order to obtain information or a confession, or in order to punish the victim for their conduct or suspected conduct. Torture is also prohibited under the laws of war and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The case of Samer Arbeed helped to highlight the escalating return of severe physical torture as an official policy of the Israeli Shin Bet. Only days after his arrest, Arbeed was taken to Hadassah hospital unconscious with eleven broken ribs, lung injuries and kidney failure. While in the hospital, an Israeli guard released tear gas into his room, after which Arbeed developed pneumonia. Despite the clear evidence of severe torture and the medical records of his abuse, the Israeli Supreme Court denied Arbeed access to his lawyer for an extended period, while the Palestinian lawyers in the case were repeatedly subjected to gag orders. Samer Arbeed is not alone. While Israeli Shin Bet spokespeople were smearing Palestinian prisoners in media attacks, these same prisoners have been subjected to severe physical and psychological torture under interrogation. In a December press conference, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association highlighted some of the torture techniques used by Israeli interrogators, including harsh beatings, stress positions like the “frog” or “banana,” sleep deprivation and ongoing threats against family members. As Addameer noted:

On Sep 10 2019, a gag order was issued on a number of cases under interrogation at al-Mascobiyya interrogation center. Hence, preventing the public, including Addameer the legal representative, from publishing any information regarding these cases. The gag order was issued based on a request from the Israeli intelligence agency and Israeli police and was renewed multiple times. Despite the gag order, Israeli media outlets and the Israeli intelligence agency published information to the public about some of those cases. This inconsistent enforcement of the gag order, where the Israeli sources exercised the freedom to publish, can only be understood as a means to influence public opinion. Most importantly, the issuance of this gag order is an attempt to hide crimes committed against the detainees and prevent the public and the legal representatives from exposing the details of the crimes of torture and ill-treatment that were committed against the detainees in question throughout the past months.



On Jan 17 2020, photos of Walid Hanatsheh, one of the Palestinians detained, were released to the media, with his body showing clear signs of torture under interrogation. Bayan Hanatsheh, Walid’s wife, said in an interview published at Hadf News that the family obtained photos that displayed the bruises on his hands, neck, feet and throughout his body. She noted that he was brought to the military court in a wheelchair after his interrogation and that Walid said in court that he was unable to walk due to severe torture. His lawyer from Addameer demanded that the judge reveal the circumstances in which Hanatsheh was interrogated. Bayan said:

After the occupation court lifted the ban on our attendance at the trial, we entered the courtroom for two minutes and saw a man who seemed old and we did not recognize him at first, but he called me by my name. I was horrified to see him, his eyes were watering, his beard was patchy and plucked … his only concern was to reassure us because he had been forbidden to communicate with us throughout his interrogation.

Bayan also noted that their daughter, Mays, 21, was detained by IOF for three days as a means of extracting a coerced confession from her husband. They told him that his daughter was imprisoned and under threat, and also showed him a live feed of IOF storming their family home in Ramallah and taking measurements for its demolition.

In Hanatsheh’s case, he was interrogated continuously for 23 hours at a time, with the replacement of interrogators approximately every eight hours. He was shackled in various stress positions and beaten while held there until he fell to the ground. Individual hairs were plucked from his beard and he was hit in the face by multiple interrogators, his lawyers said.

Sahar Francis, the executive director of Addameer, noted of the photos in Hanatsheh’s case:

These pictures are important in proving and documenting torture. Unfortunately, we do not succeed in receiving photos for all of the cases. In other cases, we have medical reports without pictures but a description of the prisoner’s situation, as in the case of Samer Arbeed.

Former prisoner and long-term hunger striker Khader Adnan spoke out in response to the photos, calling them “earth-shattering.” He urged immediate Palestinian national attention to respond to the escalating crimes of torture, likening the experience of Palestinian prisoners to the infamous images of Abu Ghraib prison under Pindo occupation in Iraq. The PFLP issued a statement in response to the repeated cases of severe torture, noting:

The Front has experienced and confronted the policy of torture for over 50 years and developed a revolutionary school that graduated generations of revolutionaries, who carried and still carry forward the banner in the dungeons and interrogation cells, who cannot be shaken by crimes or policies of torture. The Front emphasized that the international community and concerned institutions have neglected the crimes taking place in the dungeons of the prisons of the Zionist occupier against the prisoners, indicating once again the complicity of imperialism in these crimes.

The exposure of the use of torture is not limited to Hanatsheh and Arbeed; severe physical torture was also reportedly used in the cases of Qassam Barghouthi and Karmel Barghouthi, whose mother Widad was also detained as a method of pressure on her sons, and in the cases of Yazan Maghamis and Nizam Mohammed. Several other prisoners also experienced extensive physical torture, including beatings and the use of stress positions, including Palestinian youth activist and new graduate Mays Abu Ghosh, whose parents spoke about seeing her after the effects of her torture and interrogation. Rather than being brought for a family visit, Abu Ghosh’s parents were actually brought in a further attempt to extract a false, coerced confession from her. Palestinian youth activist Tareq Matar has been repeatedly jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention; after his most recent arrest and interrogation in Nov 2019, Matar is now being brought into court in a wheelchair, despite his previous status of physical health and athleticism after being beaten in stress positions under interrogation. Jamil Darawi, 37, previously spent 14 years in Israeli prison. He was once again detained in Nov 2019 when IOF stormed their family home near Bethlehem, breaking down the door and confining his wife, Rawan, to a room with their three daughters. Like his fellow Palestinian prisoners, Darawi was severely beaten and tortured under interrogation. Rawan said that when she saw him in court, she thought that he was not present until he called out to her:

I am here, Rawan! I am Jamil!

His jaw had been broken after an Israeli interrogator punched him and stamped on his face after he fell to the ground. He was returned to interrogation after being given painkillers, and his face was still disfigured when he was finally brought before the military courts. Addameer has announced its intention to raise these cases before international bodies to call for justice for Palestinian torture victims and accountability for the Israeli state, the perpetrator of these crimes. In Gaza, the PFLP called for a protest on Monday outside the ICRC office to demand international action on institutionalized Israeli torture. The systematic use of torture in Israeli interrogation not only intends to extract false and coerced confessions from Palestinians under interrogation; it also aims to undermine and prevent their steadfastness, the unwillingness to confess. Palestinian steadfastness under interrogation and the refusal to provide information has been the subject of numerous studies and tributes. The book, “Philosophy of Confrontation Behind Bars,” detailed how prisoners strengthen themselves in order to resist all forms of torture. During over 70 years of Israeli occupation, over 70 Palestinian prisoners have been killed under torture. In recent decades, however, a vast majority of Palestinian prisoners’ cases have involved plea bargains; IOF will drag out military court sessions, interrogations and denied family visits in order to extract some form of limited confession for a plea agreement. Prisoners who refuse to provide the demanded confession are often transferred to administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial that is indefinitely renewable. Palestinians have spent years at a time jailed under administrative detention.

The so-called “Erdan Commission,” named for Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, has announced an effort to roll back the gains won by Palestinian prisoners through years of struggle. Thus, women prisoners are denied access to a library or to goods for embroidery and crafts; child prisoners are transferred without their representatives; access to food and water is being cut; conditions of living are barely tolerable. The reassertion of overt reliance on severe physical torture comes hand in hand with this overall policy of outright IOF war against Palestinian prisoners. It also comes hand in hand with the escalating attacks internationally against Palestinian human rights organizations and global campaigners for Palestinian rights, smeared by Erdan’s ministry with allegations based on tortured, coerced confessions or direct IOF military propaganda. Erdan has attempted to get Palestinian human rights organizations that focus on Palestinian prisoners defunded. His ministry has also attempted and failed to have Samidoun activists and Palestinian leftists like Khaled Barakat blocked from speaking in the European Parliament about Israeli repression. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network recognizes the urgent need to build the strongest possible front to confront Israeli torture internationally through popular struggle, including escalating the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. We must not allow the IOF to isolate Palestinian prisoners in solitary confinement or through our silence. Torture has been part and parcel of the IOF colonial weapons of control for over 70 years, and the impunity of the IOF state, backed up by Pindo, Euro, Canadian and other imperialist powers’ support, may not be allowed to continue. We urge all to take action. If you or your organization would like to join the growing campaign against torture, please contact us at samidoun@samidoun.net.

get yer ya-ya’s here

Studying NATO’s “Hybrid Warfare”
South Front, Jan 16 2020

The NATO leadership is consistently introducing new ways of influencing its adversaries, be they real or potential. Today, there is a great deal of talk about NATO engaging in so-called “hybrid warfare,” while previously Russia, Iran, China and other NATO rivals had been vilified as states that carry out such activities. Actually, the term, similar to the concept itself, appeared inside the Euro-Atlantic bloc and provided for an integrated approach to the conduct of confrontation in the information society. Initially, the concept of “hybrid confrontation” or “hybrid warfare” was based on the “Warden’s Five Rings Theory”: leadership, system essentials, infrastructure, population and fielded military forces. Through this theory an image is created of the adversary’s stability, seen as the capacity of each individual element of the system and the connections between them. It is presumed that the most important or most vulnerable of these structural elements should be targeted from a distance. Engaging in direct armed confrontation is only conducted as a last resort.

According to NATO experts, the complex nature of non-linear threats complicates the task of identifying their sources, which are typically anonymous. The balanced combination of methods and means of asymmetric warfare complicates any operational assessment of the current situation, blurs the boundaries between war and peace, significantly complicates the decision-making process and the choice of measures to be used as a response. The following are considered as forms of “hybrid” action:

  • informational and psychological operations against state and military command bodies, personnel of the armed forces and the population of the adversarial state;
  • information attacks on state, military and commercial computer networks and infrastructure;
  • a complete or partial disruption of economic relations, violation of transport communications, the introduction of an embargo and a blockade;
  • organization of protests of opposition movements and destructive actions through “agents of influence”;
  • carrying out armed actions and sabotage by SOF, terrorist groups, or irregular units.

The key principles of carrying out “hybrid warfare” are considered timeliness, surprise and secrecy. The initial phase of the conflict, according to the NATO alliance, is the deliberate and planned destabilization of the domestic political situation in the state through an aggressive information campaign.

In the context of the developing crisis, SOF are transferred to the territory of the adversary state with the task of taking control of key objects of state and military command, as well as information and communication infrastructure. At the same time, large military drills are organized for the greater conventional armed forces, demonstrating the possibility of a large-scale military intervention. In the future, it is presumed that an outbreak of hostilities would be organized, using the armed forces of the opposition, separatists, bandit groups and organized crime, in conjunction with the most active propaganda and information technology pressure on facilities of the adversary’s infrastructure. After effectively  undermining the sovereignty of a part of the territory of the adversary state under control, measures are taken to legislatively consolidate its new status, change the political and territorial structure, and permanently deploy NATO units and sub-units. Despite the relative novelty of the term “hybrid warfare” itself (used within NATO since 2014, a bibliography on the topic can be found here), the development of measures and methods to exert comprehensive pressure on the adversary have been ongoing in the West for several decades. Since the late 1990s, this approach has been known as a combination of forces, means, approaches and methods of “soft power” for military and military-political purposes. It later received the name “NATO Comprehensive Approach” to guarantee security. The corresponding concept was approved at the NATO Riga Summit in 2006.

According to the concept and documents developed on the basis of the Comprehensive Approach, the plan is to achieve NATO’s goals through cooperation with international and regional non-governmental organizations and local opposition, as well as with criminal structures at every stage of development of the crisis. At the same time, military, reconnaissance, sabotage, and diplomatic tools are to be employed for the prevention of reaching the undesirable scenario of open conflict. The most significant portion of the “hybrid” actions of the bloc is the information-psychological confrontation. Throughout all of their operations in recent years, NATO allies have continuously influenced their target audiences through psychologically sophisticated propaganda. The US and NATO seek to completely eliminate the “information vacuum” that could be used by the adversary state. When this isn’t effective, an overwhelming information-technology domination in the global information space is employed. The key role is played by MSM. In this case, a model of interaction is used, the essence of which is the formation of a group of “privileged” media, all of whom are provided with priority rights in the coverage and interpretation of events. This is supported by the full technological power of leading information platforms such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, Tweeter, etc.

Particular significance is traditionally attributed to the use of direct disinformation, distortion of facts, ridicule and other methods of information-psychological influence. In the scope of the development of the concept of “hybrid warfare”, NATO is taking active measures to protect against asymmetric threats and to develop offensive asymmetric means of influence. In particular, over the past three years, NATO has revised its “Crisis Response System Manual” and its “Defense” plans. In 2015, the approved NATO “Hybrid Warfare Strategy,” focused on countering the methods of “hybrid warfare.” In accordance with the document, the main objectives of the alliance are defined as follows: timely detection of the “non-linear” threat and its source; convincing a potential adversary of the unattainability of the goals pursued by it, and the implementation of measures to ensure the internal security of the member states. In the best traditions of the language of double standards, the terms “protection and security” hide the offensive nature of the measures being developed. At the Alliance’s summit in Warsaw in 2016, the Allies pledged themselves to the “Commitment to Enhance NATO’s Resilience.” The document recorded the intention of NATO countries to develop an “individual and collective ability to withstand the whole spectrum of challenges from any direction.” At the same time, special attention was paid to strengthening the civilian sector, including ensuring the continuous functioning of government bodies and the uninterrupted operation of critical national services, improving the security of critical infrastructure, and providing support to civilian enterprises and companies in the energy, transport and communications sectors. Thus, the entire civil and business infrastructure of the countries of the alliance members are interlocked with the military component.

Given the complex nature of hybrid threats, the difficulty of their identification and the devastating nature of their consequences, the leaders of NATO countries did not exclude the possibility of involving mechanisms of “collective defense” (Article 5) in response to asymmetric aggression. Consequently, at the NATO Summit in Brussels in 2018, it was decided to form counter-hybrid support teams, which provide tailored targeted assistance to Allies upon their request in preparing against and responding to “hybrid threats”. In this case, “hybrid threats” can be defined as any non-military actions that run counter to the interests of NATO. At the same time, the number of personnel that comprise the NATO Response Force were increased from 25,000 to 40,000 troops. This included an interspecific Very High Readiness Joint Task Force numbering 5,000 troops capable of deploying within 2 to 7 days. The concept of enhancing the NRF VJTF was revised in detail, a Joint Intelligence and Security division was formed in the International Secretariat, and the NATO Situation Centre, which is part of NATO HQ, was transformed into a 24/7 operation.

An important role in countering “non-linear” threats is achieved by establishing capabilities in the field of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity refers, inter alia, to the activity of objectionable mass media. The main directions of development were formulated in the “Cyber Defense Pledge” from 2016. They propose the development of a cooperation between national structures in the field of information technology, enhancing and increasing data exchange, staff development, and education regarding relevant issues during operational and combat training. Cyberspace was introduced as a field of warfare. Additional multimillion-dollar budgets were allocated, for waging war in the new cyber domain between 2017-2020. In 2018, the NATO Council decided to establish a Cyber Operations Center in Monet, Belgium, the operational readiness of which should be achieved by 2023. The new coalition body is presumed to have a special focus on identifying the sources of threats in the information sphere. In the interests of identifying actions in the information environment that are considered aggressive, NATO countries collect data on the use of telecoms facilities and information distribution channels. At the same time, large-scale campaigns are launched to discredit objectionable media, including by employing technical and administrative resources and the introduction of strict censorship.

Trump Transforms the Middle East into NATO’s “Area of Responsibility”
Valery Kulikov, New Eastern Outlook, Jan 20 2020

There’s been no shortage of cultural and political figures over the last couple of centuries who would show interest towards the incredibly rich history of the Middle East. Essentially, this region gave birth to economy as we know it, a handful of ancient civilizations on top of three of world’s major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Pindostan started showing interest towards the Greater Middle East (that includes North Africa, Iran and Afghanistan on top of the Levant) as early as in the 19th century, when 20% of its maritime trade was with the Middle East. However, a lot has changed since those days, both in Washington’s assessment of the role that the Middle East plays in the global affairs and in the way it approaches individual players of this region. In the aftermath of WW2, in a bid to win trust of the people of Asia and Africa, Faschingstein opposed attempts made to preserve the British Empire and ousted the UK from the Middle East. This resulted in the Arabs taking Faschingstein’s peaceful intentions at face value, as they assumed that it would try to bring stability to the region. However, it didn’t take long for Pindostan to start subjugating Israel to its will, and then proceeding with attempts to push the USSR out of the Arab world, in spite of the latter remaining a principal advocate of the socio-economic transformation of a great many of Middle Eastern states. These days, with a grand total of 52 Pindo bases scattered across the region, there’s no arguing that Pindostan is hell-bent to dominate the region and its policies, with the local governments being treated as obedient puppets that are only there to wilfully provide a resource base for the sole hegemone. This determination results in Washington finding itself unable to compromise on a number of objectives that can hardly be achieved independently, while one’s desire to secure them all at the same time can only be described as a dangerous delusion. Among those objectives are ensuring America’s control over the entirety of hydrocarbon production of the region, preserving Israel’s primacy in regional affairs, limiting Iran’s role and the influence it enjoys, ensuring that those wealthy regional players carry on buying American weapons in large quantities. Therefore, it is not surprising that these days Arabs can often be heard saying:

It’s dangerous to get on the list of enemies of Pindostan. It’s twice as dangerous to end up on the list of its closest allies.

In a world where the Middle East acquires 35% of the world’s total arms sold each year, Turkish journalists go above and beyond to draw attention to the fact that all of these weapons are being used against Muslims! Therefore, it can be safely stated that the stage is set for even more bloodshed among Muslims by Faschingstein and its vassals that want to control the region by maintaining chaos across it. In fact, these days the region is endangered by the prospects of a major war. In a situation when regional peace is hang by a brittle thread, a single rash step can trigger an all-out conflict. It’s most likely that any such conflict will have far-reaching global ramifications and that the fighting will be taking place all across Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iran and the Persian Gulf. Unfortunately, such a scenario will results in ever greater strengthening of the Pindo military presence in the Middle East and the calls to draw NATO into the Middle East to police the region. It’s noteworthy that Trump has already urged NATO to make a step in that direction in the aftermath of assassination of Gen Qassem Soleimani. As it’s been reported, at the beginning of the year Trump proposed expanding NATO’s membership to include Middle Eastern nations in light of recent Pindo tensions in the region with Iran. As it’s been stated by the sitting POTUS:

I think that NATO should be expanded, and we should include the Middle East. Absolutely, because this is an international problem.

Even though Donald Trump has so far failed to clarify which Middle Eastern nations he would want to invite into NATO, this mutual-defense alliance created during the Cold War in a bid to impede the expansion of Russia’s influence has a total of 29 members today, which constitutes a considerable increase from its original 12 members. So far it has been made up entirely of North American and European nations, except for Turkey, which is partially located in Asia. It may seem funny that Trump comes up with all sorts of childish names like NATO-ME for the step that Pindostan is about to take, but chances are the consequences of such a step may leave us little to no room for laughter. In fact, Trump has been asking European countries to join the Pindo campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran for months, but it seems that it’s been a hard sell, at least for the time being. The State Dept has also been hard at work bringing Trump’s initiatives into fruition. Pompeo has recently concluded a series of phone conversations with foreign ministers of the better part of the NATO member-states that was supposed to get them behind this new development. Stoltenberg has already agreed with Pompeo that NATO was in position to make a greater contribution to “regional security” and the “fight against international terrorism” across the Middle East, as we learn from the joint statement released by the State Dept and NATO HQ. Some 700 servicemen of the 82nd Airborne Division have already left for the Middle East, and they are going to be joined by another 3,500 paratroopers in the nearest future. It’s hard to tell what is the most probable outcome of Faschingsteinn’s new designs. It is quite clear that when such “efforts” are taken, no sane person will be expecting anything but more feud and bloodshed. As Pindostan lost all of its credibility across the world, the Middle East entered a phase of regrouping of forces, when new alliances are being formed. However, the processes that are taking shape before our own eyes suggest there’s going to be a large-scale regional conflict involving a number of countries at once. The fires of the upcoming war are to be seen everywhere, from Libya to the Persian Gulf. >That is why it’s the principal goal of the international community today is to stop this militaristic insanity and to seek a peaceful solution to the armed conflicts that are being artificially created by Faschingstein.

french transport unions scuttle the strike

Paris transport workers vote to end unlimited strike against Macron
Alex Lantier, WSWS, Jan 20 2020

This weekend, Paris mass transit workers voted the end of the unlimited strike begun Dec 5 on most of the Paris Autonomous Transport Authority (RATP) network. Only lines 5, 13 and B are still on strike. Participation in the strike at the French National Railways (SNCF) is also falling and while workers are determined to continue a struggle against Macron’s pension cuts, it seems the longest strike in France since the May 1968 general strike is drawing to a close. RATP workers told the WSWS two principal factors determined the decision to return to work. First, there was no clear perspective for a struggle after they were isolated by trade unions in other industries (ports, refinery and auto) who refused to carry out open-ended strike action. Moreover, after six weeks of strike action, and as the unions are about to launch four months of further negotiations with Macron on his pension cuts, strikers were under intense financial pressure due to the pitifully low levels of strike pay handed out by the unions. Protests and one-day strike actions are set to continue, but it is already time to draw political lessons from the initial struggle. How could Macron resist with public opinion overwhelmingly against him and, moreover, as strikes and protests against social inequality were spreading internationally? The rail strikes in France over the last months developed alongside strike action by tens of millions of Indian workers, strikes by Pindo auto workers and copper miners, and mass protests in Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq and across much of Latin America. Macron could rely on the close collaboration of the union bureaucracies who had negotiated the pension cuts with him. The first attempt by the working class to overcome the resistance of the trade unions, but in a struggle limited to the national stage and controlled by the same trade unions whose opposition they were trying to smash, did not suffice to overcome all the political obstacles facing the workers. Sylvie, a RATP employee, said:

It is not willingly that we are returning to work. We were hoping the public schoolteachers would join us, the refineries, the major corporations. But ultimately we had the impression that we were alone. We would have liked to strike for six months if we could, but financially we couldn’t, otherwise we would have done. The CGT paid RATP strikers a total of €250k, that is €20 each over six-weeks. On the other hand, the total budget of the French union federations, financed overwhelmingly from the state and employers federations with whom they negotiate austerity, is around €4b. These budgets do not serve to wage the class struggle, however, but to strangle it.

Thierry, another RATP driver, said:

The unions want to set the tone, but the workers want something else. We don’t want to follow Martinez. He only says we will meet again in February. The legal definition of a trade union states that it must have as its objective the definition of the rights, as well as the material and moral interests” of workers, so the French “unions” in fact have not been unions for many years.

Franck, a RATP train driver, said of the unions:

They ultimately managed to do what we did not want them to do. For example, during the two weeks of Xmas vacations, we told them we wanted no truce in the struggle. But before Christmas they announced that the next national protest would be Jan 9. Then we wanted them to start campaigning for a general strike, even if we know it is not so simple in the private sector. I worked as a temp there, also, I know that if you strike there, you get replaced. But we did not get support from other industries.

RATP workers stressed their determination to return later to the struggle, and they know public opinion overwhelmingly supports them. After a six-week strike, two-thirds of the population still backs the transport strike, and a new national protest is called for Jan 24. However, it is also evident from the statements of the principal union bureaucracies that they are seeking to stop indefinite strikes and return to one-day actions that are more directly subordinated to them. According to the National Union of Autonomous Union’s (UNSA) RATP branch:

After 45 days of strike action, most of the strike meetings of the rail network decided to reorient the unlimited movement as of Monday and engage in other forms of action. This will allow us to ultimately wage, as French women and men, this struggle. In conformity with the will of strike meetings on the rail network, we call on women and men to continue and engage together in cross-industry mobilizations.

Union boxtops shaken by the working class offensive against Macron have seized on any pretext to push strikers back to work. According to RATP workers, boxtops attending strike meetings attacked strikers who entered the headquarters of the pro-Macron French Democratic Labor Confederation (CFDT) on Jan 17 to criticize “violence” and call for moderation.. In a Le Parisien interview, Martinez denounced these strikers protesting the CFDT’s support for the cuts, saying:

Such excesses will never be a legitimate mode of expression in a democracy. Exchange elevates debate, but violence degrades it.

One RATP worker said:

We mostly disagree with him.

For now, there is no proof that the strikers who entered CFDT offices acted violently. One of them, Anasse Kazib, denied accusations from CFDT secretary Laurent Berger that they “entered using violence.” Kazib told Berger:

This accusation does not surprise me from you, a king of lying, but tough luck: we filmed everything and there was neither verbal nor physical violence, though one of your officials tore a striker’s jacket and another pushed a female striker.

The end of indefinite strike action does not mark the end of a struggle. Many groups of “yellow vest” protesters and strikers are determined to continue, and anger in the working class against Macron in France, and against the capitalist system internationally, continues to grow. However, they can place no confidence at all in the unions’ assurances to strikers that they can return to work confident that the unions will continue to wage a struggle. The rank and file imposed the Dec 5 unlimited strike on the unions, who feared totally losing control after several wildcat actions at the SNCF in the fall. To return to militant action against Macron’s pension cuts, and to draw broader layers of the working class into the struggle, will depend on workers taking action independently of the trade unions. This struggle has confirmed the warnings made by the Parti de l’égalité socialiste, based on the historical experience of the working class with the trade unions. Tied to the government and planning to negotiate cuts with Macron, with whom there is nothing to negotiate, they strangled the struggle. The way forward for the workers is to build their strike meetings as committees of action, independent of the unions, to draw support from broader layers of the working class, in France and internationally, for a political struggle to bring down Macron.

Police assault “yellow vests” after Macron forced to flee crowd in Paris theater
Alex Lantier, WSWS, Jan 20 2020

Saturday saw a violent police crackdown on weekly “yellow vest” marches in Paris, after Pres Macron was booed and confronted by protesters Friday night on one of his rare public appearances, at the Bouffes du nord theater in the capital. Coming amid ongoing mass strikes against Macron’s pension cuts, the events underscored that France’s “president of the rich” is widely hated by workers and youth. After news emerged on social media that Macron had been sighted at the theater, crowds gathered outside the Bouffes du nord, chanting “Macron resign!” and “All together, general strike!” Protesters sought to enter the theater and confront Macron, who was watching a play together with his wife Brigitte and a large security detail. The Élysée presidential palace initially sought to mislead the public and downplay the incident, claiming that Macron ignored the protest and watched the play through to the end, but it later confirmed press reports that the presidential couple had to be “placed in security” for several minutes, when dozens of protesters managed to enter the theater via the stage. Large detachments of CRS riot police surrounded the theater, and Macron fled the area under chants of “Macron resign!” from the crowd. Macron’s staff issued a statement to BFM-TV, declaring:

The President will continue going to the theater with his spouse as he is used to doing. He will continue to protect freedom of expression and creation by artists threatened by political violence.

In fact, the incident showed that Macron is so deeply hated that he cannot show his face in public anywhere without provoking major protests. When the “yellow vest” protests broke out in 2018, he was so terrified of popular anger at his arrogance and austerity agenda that a helicopter was kept on 24-hour stand-by to evacuate him in case he was in danger of felling into the hands of the French people. Despite the government’s repeated claims that the “yellow vest” crisis is “behind” it, Macron is now more deeply unpopular than ever before. As for the Élysée’s claim that Macron works to protect “freedom of expression,” it is belied by the endless stream of attacks on basic democratic rights and acts of bloody police brutality that his government is unleashing on workers and youth protesting his policies. News of Macron’s arrival at the theater had circulated on several social media accounts including one of independent Franco-Algerian journalist Taha Bouhafs, who tweeted:

I’m now at the Bouffes du nord theater (metro La Chapelle), three rows behind the president of the Republic. Militants are in the area and calling everyone to come in support. Something is being prepared, the evening will probably be eventful.

After Macron’s ignominious flight from the theater, police proceeded to arrest Bouhafs on charges of “participating in a grouping formed with a view to committing violence or damages” and organizing an undeclared protest. They kept Bouhafs under preventive arrest (garde à vue) for the evening. Not only is the arrest of a journalist for reporting the president’s presence an extraordinary attack on democratic rights, but the charge confirms that just reporting Macron’s presence is enough to produce outrage and spontaneous protests in Paris. The police state machine responded the next day, organizing a massive police presence and brutally cracking down on the 62nd weekly protest of the “yellow vests” in Paris. From the beginning of the march, the several thousand “yellow vests” were entirely surrounded by large detachments of heavily-armed riot police and dozens of police vans in front of and behind the marchers. Even in well-to-do areas of northwestern Paris, however, residents could be seen coming to the windows to applaud the protesters as they passed by. Patrick, a retired nurse on the Paris “yellow vest” march, said:

We have to struggle against this quote unquote president, because I think he is really disintegrating. He will plunge France into bloodshed. The one piece of advice that I would give him is to leave immediately with his head high, because otherwise he will leave later with his tail between his legs.

Patrick said he thought the unions had lost control of the class struggle, despite calling a transport strike last December after over a year of “yellow vest” protests. He said:

The workers broke out of the trade union straitjacket, and the unions are trying to take back control of the movement for now. But I think they have gotten around to it a bit too late.

Thierry, a striking Paris transit worker, criticized police violence against the “yellow vests,” saying: “There are certain parallels between the police of the [Nazi-collaborationist] Vichy regime, the police of [1960s ex-Vichy collaborationist official Maurice] Papon and Macron’s police. This violence against the French people is unacceptable. The problem is that they have accepted the unacceptable. Now it is time to wake up and stop police from mutilating people just because they are protesting. We have a constitutional right to protest.”
Speaking on how to deal with this problem, Thierry stressed the importance of the international resurgence of the class struggles across the Middle East and Latin America, and beyond:

In fact, there is an international movement that is beginning, but it is not yet organized. We see things are moving all around the world, but what we don’t have is a world organization, and that we are missing. I did not know for instance about the class struggles you raised in Pindostan.

Violent clashes broke out between riot police and the “yellow vest” protesters shortly before the march reached its destination, the Gare de Lyon train station. Police had suddenly halted the march, trapping protesters on Rue de Lyon and bringing up water cannon while refusing to allow protesters to leave. Clashes erupted, with police firing volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd, while some “yellow vests” responded by throwing pieces of pavement, broken glass and construction equipment they had set afire at the riot police units. Police authorities subsequently felt compelled to announce a pro forma investigation amid outrage of widely circulated videos of the police assault, including one where a policeman savagely beats a protester who is lying motionless on the street, his head covered in blood. At least sixty protesters were arrested as clashes continued late into the evening throughout the area around the station, after groups of “yellow vests” managed to force their way out of the police blockade, chanting “Revolution” and “Macron resign.”

carbon rationing is spelled out in the nazi groon by george monbiot

Climate change spin as Davos gathering confronts mounting environmental and economic crisis
Nick Beams, WSWS, Jan 20 2020

The World Economic Forum, which holds its annual meeting this week in Davos, has tried in recent years to feign concern about the welfare of society as it brings together the ultra-wealthy, government and media representatives and the heads of major corporations to defend the profit system. This year’s gathering is no exception. It will focus on the issue of climate change under the headline “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World,” with one session entitled “Averting a climate apocalypse.” In an endeavour to promote the organisation’s “progressive” credentials, WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab has called on corporate chiefs to “show leadership” and commit to achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner. The WEF has lined up a group of climate change activists including Greta Thunberg to address the participants on the need for urgent action. As a pointed comment by an FT columnist put it:

The hills are alive with the sound of environmental spin.

The WEF’s own assessments make clear that nothing can or will be done to halt the mounting climate disaster within the framework of the capitalist, nation-state system that the forum defends in the face of rising global social opposition. In a briefing paper on the zero emissions challenge, the WEF cited a Nov 2019 report from the UN which showed that four years since the Paris Agreement, global emissions had risen by 1.5%/yr over the past decade, with no signs of peaking. This occurred under conditions where a reduction of 5% per year is needed just to limit global warming to 1.5° C. If the present trajectory continues, the world is projected to warm by 3° C to 5° C by the end of the century, “with catastrophic effects on human civilization.” But as the WEF report acknowledged, the deadline is much closer. It stated:

The coming decade will decide whether humanity can achieve the goal of limiting warming to 1.5° C. Without a meaningful reduction in emissions in the next five years, the ability to act will increasingly be lost, resulting in damage that could become irreversible. The world needs cohesive and swift international action, but this remains wishful thinking, and so individual governments and corporations can and should move ahead with unilateral initiatives.

Such a prospect remains as far-fetched as international collaboration. As the report noted, so far only 67 countries have committed to the goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions, none of them among the top five emitters. It acknowledged:

Most countries with this commitment have not enacted sufficiently robust policies to attain the emissions reductions required.

There is even less prospect of this reduction being achieved through the actions of individual corporations. Of the millions of corporations worldwide, only 7,000 disclose their emissions to CDP, a global monitoring organisation. Of those that do report, only a third provide full disclosure, only a quarter set any kind of emission reduction target, and just one in eight reduce their emissions year on year. Even when companies do report on targets, there is no common measure. The report stated:

As a result, to date no robust way of benchmarking corporate global climate action exists even among industry peers. This lack of transparency suggest that companies may be providing window dressing and doing very little to reduce emissions in reality.

The WEF’s call for “stakeholder capitalism” in which corporations, according to Schwab, should act not just as profit-seeking entities but as “trustees of society,” is a pipe dream. As the WEF report admits, there is little or no pressure from investor finance, the chief driver of corporate decision-making, for action on emissions. It states:

In one-on-one interviews, CEOs say the pressure to deliver short-term returns by far exceeds any demands for long-term decarbonization.

The mounting social and protest movements over global warming are not the only concern of the WEF. Its Global Risks Report points to the downward pressure on the global economy from “macroeconomic fragilities and financial inequality” that continued to intensify throughout 2019, increasing the risk of economic stagnation as “rising trade barriers, lower investment and high debt are straining economies around the world.” It noted in its assessment of global risks that compounding the economic factors is “widespread discontent with current economic systems, perceived to be rigged and unfair.” The WEF commented:

Profound citizen discontent—born of disapproval of the way governments are addressing economic and social challenges—has sparked protests throughout the world, potentially weakening the ability of governments to take decisive action should a downturn occur.

The conclusions are not specifically drawn. But what is being pointed to here is that the kind of “decisive action” taken in 2008–2009, when governments and central banks handed out trillions of dollars to finance capital and imposed austerity conditions on the mass of the population, may provoke mass social opposition and social revolution if repeated in response to another economic and financial collapse. And the signs of such a collapse are becoming ever more apparent. Among other things, the report points to the replacement of “moderate but stable growth” with what the IMF has called a “synchronized slowdown.” This includes a decline in investment, a contraction in international trade, rising corporate debt as a “key vulnerability” in the international financial system and the “economic confrontations between major powers.” The continuation of interest rates at historically low levels and their further reduction in 2019 has increased the risk that “the tools available to brake economic slides may no longer be available,” while also raising concerns “about the soundness of banking systems.” Interest rate cuts have helped economic growth but “they have also fostered higher debt and riskier rent-seeking, which affect financial market stability.” The picture presented by the WEF’s own analysis is of a socio-economic system heading for catastrophe on every front, for which the ruling elites gathered at Davos have no answer and which their policies will exacerbate. It will not be prevented by the fiction of “stakeholder capitalism,” but through the enactment of the only realistic agenda: the conscious political struggle of the working class for a higher social order: international socialism.

Lack of action on climate change leads to warmest decade ever recorded
James Cogan, WSWS, Jan 20 2020

The World Meteorological Organisation), Pindostan’s NASA and its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have all independently concluded that the past decade, 2010 to 2019, experienced the hottest-ever recorded global surface temperatures. Each decade since the 1960s has been hotter than the previous one.
The five years, 2015–2019, were the warmest. 2019 was the second hottest year, surpassed only by 2016, when the El Niño weather pattern drove temperatures to the highest level yet registered. The average surface temperature has risen by 1.1° C since the pre-industrial era, while the oceans, which absorb most of the heat, are warming even faster. Among credible scientists, there is no dispute that the cause is the long-term impact of human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. WMO sec-gen Petteri Taalas commented:

The year 2020 has started out where 2019 left off, with high impact weather and climate-related events. Australia had its hottest, driest year on record in 2019, setting the scene for the massive bushfires, which were so devastating to people and property, wildlife, ecosystems and the environment. Unfortunately, we expect to see much more extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fueled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world are suffering the impact of human-induced climatic change. In 2019 alone, scientists believe that global warming was the main contributing factor to more intense heat waves, droughts and fire, more regular and severe tropical storms and flooding, increased acidification of oceans, accelerated permafrost melt, the thinning of ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctica, and the steady rise in sea levels. What action is required to stem global warming is well known. Emissions must be drastically reduced, through the wholesale deployment of non-carbon alternatives of fossil fuels, combined with the deployment of verified means of capturing existing carbon from the atmosphere. If they are not, the WMO’s Taalas commented:

On the current path, we are heading toward a temperature increase of 3° C to 5° C by the end of the century.

Yet, for all the proclamations by corporations and governments that they accept the known dangers and the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels, carbon emissions rose to the highest ever level in 2019, according to estimates by the Global Carbon Project. Even though emissions from coal declined, while still accounting for 40% of the global total, they increased through the use of oil and natural gas. Immense rage is building up internationally, especially in the working class and among the world’s youth, over the sheer recklessness and criminality of those in power, who have refused to implement the policies necessary to avoid catastrophic global warming. However, the understanding that must inform the political struggles of the coming months and years, is that this corporate and government inaction and indifference stems directly from the irrationality of the capitalist system. A social system that is based on the private ownership of wealth, the subordination of production to the accumulation of profit and the division of the globe into rival nation-states, the capitalist system is incapable of the coordinated international planning and allocation of resources necessary to address the climate crisis. Protest appeals to the moral conscience of political and corporate leaders have, in the blunt assessment of teenage climate change activist, Greta Thunberg, “achieved nothing.” Instead, governments internationally, spearheaded by Trump in Pindostan, are insisting that continued, and even expanded, fossil fuel use is essential for the competitiveness of “their” industries and their “national interest.” Just 100 transnational private or state-owned energy corporations which generate vast returns for the wealthy elite are responsible for 71% of all emissions. The narrow short-term dictates of shareholder return or cheap energy for industry are given priority over the long-term interests of humanity as a whole. In Australia, where the fires burning across large parts of the continent have starkly brought home the realities of climate change, PM Morrison flatly asserted on the weekend:

I won’t put up a carbon tax, I won’t put up people’s electricity prices, and I will not wipe out a resources sector which millions of Australians depend on, particularly regional Australians.

Morrison, a particularly crude defender of the fossil fuel industry, has no concerns for “millions of Australians,” but for the energy corporations that generate billions of dollars in profit from Australia’s status as the largest global exporter of coal and one of the largest producers of natural gas. As for taxation, successive governments in Australia have slashed the rate of tax on both corporations and personal income, paralleling global processes. Vast wealth that could have been used for socially useful purposes, including low-cost renewable electricity generation, has been channeled to the top 10% and especially the top 1% of the population. As recent weeks have demonstrated in Australia, the emergency and health services needed to prepare for and respond to increasingly severe disasters are under-resourced and under-staffed, while a tiny proportion of the population has accrued obscene amounts of personal wealth. Moreover, amid escalating corporate struggles for markets and profit share, nation-states are channeling ever greater resources into war preparations, not the reduction of emissions. Military spending in 2018 increased by another 2.7%, to at least $1.8t, most of it by Pindostan, followed by China, the Euro vassals, the Toads and India, countries which are also responsible for the highest carbon emissions. The military itself is a significant factor in emissions. To sustain its vast global operations of predatory wars and intimidation, the fuel use by the Pentagon alone would have ranked it as the world’s 47th largest emitter in 2017 if it were counted as a separate nation.

On Jan 3, we made a concise and objective summation of the political challenges of the coming period. Those who defend the historically-outmoded capitalist order are presiding over the descent toward a catastrophic great-power war, the destruction of hard-won democratic rights, the degradation of the environment, unprecedented levels of social inequality and unnecessary deprivation and suffering. The international working class is the only social force that can bring an end to capitalism and usher in a socialist society that prioritises human need, not private profit. Everything depends on the mass struggles of workers, which are already unfolding in country after country, becoming imbued with socialist consciousness and unified into a world-wide movement for revolutionary change. The efforts of all workers and youth who recognise the gravity of the world situation and the crisis posed by climate change, must be devoted to this task.

pindo nazis put the bite on lanka

Pindo boxtop delivers Trump’s threat to Lankan president
K Ratnayake, WSWS, Jan 20 2020

Pindo DASS for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G Wells delivered a letter from Trump to Pres Gotabhaya Rajapakse during a one-day trip to Lanka last Wednesday. According to the media, the letter emphasised the White House’s “commitment and interest in furthering and deepening our partnership.” Wells held discussions with Rajapakse and his brother, PM Mahinda Rajapakse, as well as FM Gunawardena, Tamil National Alliance chiefs R Sambandan and M A Sumanthiran, and “civil society” leaders. Wells was accompanied by NSC Senior Director for South and Central Asia Liza Curtis and Pindo ambassador Aliana Teplitz. Significantly, Wells’ trip was part of a nine-day South Asia tour. It follows Chinese FM Wang Yi’s two-day visit to Lanka, which began last Monday. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov was also in Colombo on Wednesday. These high-level visits underscore the increasing rivalry over influence in the Indian Ocean region, primarily between Pindostan and India on one hand, and China and Russia on the other. Sri Lanka straddles important Indian Ocean sea-lanes. In its attempts to maintain world hegemony, Pindostan is deepening its military build-up and trade war measures against China. Faschingstein’s concerns over Lanka have deepened with Rajapaske’s election as president and his appointment of his brother, a former president, as PM. Pindostan considers both men to be pro-China. Faschingstein backed Mahinda Rajapakse’s anti-democratic government and its brutal war against the separatist Tamil Tigers, but was hostile to Colombo’s close relations with China, and in late 2014 initiated a regime change operation to remove Mahinda Rajapakse. He was ousted in the Jan 2015 elections and replaced by Maithripala Sirisena, considered a pro-Pindo president. Wells told the media:

We discussed with Gotabhaya Rajapakse a wider and safer Indo-Pacific region & other issues of mutual interest. We want to strengthen ties by expanding cooperation on economy and trade, counter-terrorism, security, military-to-military engagements, transitional justice and human rights.

These are code words to justify the increasing build-up of Pindo military forces across the region. According to media reports, Wells reiterated Faschingstein’s opposition to Beijing’s influence and voiced concerns about Chinese investments, denouncing the Hambantota Port agreement as “unsuccessful and an injustice to the Sri Lankan people.” In 2018, Sirisena’s government signed over Hambantota Port to a Chinese company in a 99-year lease as part of a deal to phase out massive loans from Chinese banks for the facility’s construction. Wells’ message from Trump was clear. Faschingstein will not tolerate any weakening of the military and political relations it built up over four years under Sirisena. Wells praised increasing Pindo-Lankan military cooperation and hailed last year’s 18-ship Pindo visit and the ever closer integration of the Lankan military into INDOPACOM. Faschingstein is pushing for a renewal of the Status of Forces Agreement it secured with Lanka in 1995, but with new provisions. The new clauses would permit Pindo military bases and provide free access and immunity for all Pindo forces operating in Sri Lanka. Trump also wants Colombo to sign the Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement, a Pindo foreign policy aid deal. During the recent presidential elections, Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna criticised the MCC and SOFA in an attempt to capitalise on popular anti-imperialist sentiment. But once Rajapakse took office, he established a special body to assess the MCC’s “merits and demerits.” Wells thanked Rajapakse for setting up this review committee but asked for an early response to its findings. She said “any concerns” about the SOFA could be discussed after the Sri Lankan parliamentary elections, due to be held in about four months. Wells warned:

Pindostan is Sri Lanka’s largest export market. This is a partnership beneficial to both the countries.

She told the media that she discussed Colombo’s commitment to the UNHRC, the return of land seized during the war with the LTTE, the provision of information to relatives of missing individuals, and concerns by Tamils and other minorities and opposition parties over accountability. This is a thinly-veiled threat that numerous issues can be exploited to force Sri Lanka to toe the Pindo line. Obama cynically used human rights violations by Rajapakse’s regime to pressure Colombo to distance itself from Beijing. A day earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang had met the Lankan president and told him that Beijing’s attitude toward Lanka had always been consistent and that China would continue to be a “reliable” friend. Wang declared:

As Sri Lanka’s strategic partner, China will continue to stand by Sri Lanka’s interests. We will not allow any outside influences to interfere with matters that are essentially internal concerns of Sri Lanka.

Wang did not name the outside influences but clearly was referring to Pindostan and India, which are seeking to scuttle Colombo’s relations with China. The Lankan government faces massive debt repayments and a deepening economic crisis, and is seeking international financial assistance, particularly from China. Rajapakse, who is due to visit China early next month, responded to Wang’s remarks by declaring:

I am an admirer of Pres Xi Jinping. I have followed his speeches and statements closely.

Wang indicated that China would offer financial help, including the phasing out of debt repayments, saying:

We will meet with necessary parties that can help Sri Lanka in the areas of technology, tourism, infrastructure and other related fields.

Lavrov met with Gunawardena and voiced his readiness to strengthen relations with Lanka, saying Russia would “provide the Sri Lankan forces with all the weapons they need for security” and wanted to boost annual bilateral trade from its current $400m to $700m. Russia, which also faces aggressive Pindo military encirclement, last year held joint military exercises with China and Iran. The three countries are targets in Faschingstein’s over-arching military strategy to dominate the Middle East and Eurasia. India is engaged in strenuous efforts to keep Lanka under its strategic dominance. Indian FM Jaishankar visited Lanka three days after Rajapakse’s election. Rajapakse then visited Delhi to meet Modi. Last week, Lankan FM Gunawardena visited India to meet Jaishankar and a business delegation. In early February, Rajapakse is scheduled to visit India again at the invitation of Modi. Rajapakse, who has rapidly elevated key military figures into his administration, demagogically claims that he will maintain a “neutral foreign policy,” but the whole Indian subcontinent is being sucked into a geopolitical maelstrom, under conditions of intensifying great power rivalry and the danger of a catastrophic war between Pindostan & China.

they intend to lose, just as under corbyn; they don’t want to preside over britain getting destroyed in ww3

Rebecca Long-Bailey Labour leadership campaign marks end of “Project Corbyn”
Robert Stevens, WSWS, Jan 20 2020

The nominally “left” candidate in the Labour Party leadership contest, Rebecca-Long Bailey, launched her campaign at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester Friday. The event confirmed that four years of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership have changed nothing fundamental about the Labour Party. Not only does Labour continue to be politically dominated by the Blairites, but should Long-Bailey succeed her mentor, then she would do their bidding all down the line. Unity with the Blairite right was the leitmotif of Long-Bailey’s campaign rally. Before she took to the stage, the Salford and Eccles MP was introduced by Kim Johnson, MP for Liverpool Riverside, who made no less than three appeals for unity with the right in just five minutes:

We don’t want to create any more diversions; we need to come together to support our party. We are broad church, and we can agree to disagree. … understand what needs to be done to bring the party together. … Whoever wins the election, the disunity of the past four years needs to be put behind us, and we have to unite behind our common and shared values.

Long-Bailey, a 40-year-old former solicitor, has no connections with any struggle waged by the working class. To conceal this fact, her handlers, led by Jon Lansman of the pro-Corbyn Momentum group, have concocted a fictional biography that rings hollow as soon as the words written for her are uttered. Long-Bailey told the audience:

It was more than 30 years ago that as a little girl I came here to the science and industry museum.

This extraordinary museum trip apparently imbued her with a profound understanding of the history of the labour movement:

From 18th century cotton spinning, to the Victorian steam engines to the birth of flight, the first computer and space travel, it was like the history of human progress. … The history of Salford and Manchester was about the Chartists, the trade unions, the Pankhursts. The history of our cities was the history of struggle, of solidarity, of social and economic progress on an unstoppable journey upwards.

Long-Bailey was nine years old or younger when this vision of the sweep of the workers’ movement and fight for democratic rights from the 1830s and Chartism to the suffragettes in the 20th century supposedly struck her. She previously cited her concern over her father losing his job on Salford’s docks, in 1982, when she was two years old. The truth is that when Long-Bailey was nine, her father got a job at an oil refinery near Ellesmere Port in the county of Cheshire, and the rest of her childhood was spent in the prosperous market town of Frodsham. Aside from such working-class window-dressing, the most significant biographical reference made in Long-Bailey’s speech was this assertion:

I also learnt my politics in May 1997 when just walking down the street and literally seeing people with a spring in their step with hope for the future again.

This positive reference to Tony Blair’s New Labour government, elected after 18 years of Tory rule, was calculated to reach out to the present-day Blairites and echoes her main right-wing competitor ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer, who has insisted:

We are not going to trash the last Labour government.

For 13 years, Blair and then Gordon Brown continued Thatcher’s policies, overseeing record levels of inequality, with Blair’s adviser Peter Mandelson becoming notorious for his statement that Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.” Blair is despised for dragging Britain into an illegal war in Iraq that led to the deaths of over one million people. Long-Bailey draws a veil over all of this, quietly shelving statements made earlier in her political career of how she opposed Blair’s war on Iraq as a politics student. True or not, Long-Bailey’s supposedly intense interest in political history did not lead her to join the Labour Party or do anything remotely political. She left university to train to be a solicitor and pursue a legal career, specialising in commercial property and NHS contracts, and only joined the Labour Party “around 2010,” before becoming an MP just five years ago. Long-Bailey owes her subsequent political career to Corbyn, who won the leadership in Sep 2015 months after she became an MP. But on this score her main concern is to distance herself from her mentor, repeatedly rejecting descriptions of herself as the Corbyn continuity candidate to curry favour with the Blairites.

However, even her grovelling self-abnegation reeks of true continuity with Corbyn, whose record consists of employing a smattering of left-phraseology to position himself as a block on rank-and-file demands for the expulsion of the Blairite right while he adapted himself to their every programmatic demand. The problem for Long-Bailey is that she is attempting to take over as the voice of the “Labour left,” just weeks after the ignominious collapse of the entire Corbyn project and the landslide election of Boris Johnson’s Tories. A couple of hundred inveterate Labour opportunists and a few naïve middle-class youths might be induced to sing Long-Bailey’s praises at a party launch meeting, but she has no political standing in the working class. The millions of workers and young people who turned away from Labour in December after taking Corbyn’s real measure will hardly be attracted to the Corbyn Lite persona of Long-Bailey. Corbyn at least had the advantage of decades as a backbencher, during which he dutifully proclaimed his loyal opposition to the worst political crimes of Labour’s right wing. Long-Bailey can only rely on her gender and a few phrases about a “green industrial revolution” to mask her essential agreement with the Blairites. Her speech in Manchester was even replete with Blair-style appeals to the “aspirational” voter. In answer to a question from the FT about what she meant by getting the “basics” right, Long-Bailey again disavowed Corbyn, saying:

Our manifesto didn’t resonate, and what we should have been talking about is aspiration. … We talked quite a lot about individual policies in relation to health care, etc. … but we didn’t match that with a message of aspiration.

The following evening, Long-Bailey and the four other leadership candidates, Starmer, Thornberry, Nandy and Phillips, took part in a hustings in Liverpool. Long-Bailey stressed again that her focus was on party unity. Asked how she would “unite the Labour Party and put a stop to factionalism,” she replied:

Over the last four years we haven’t been united as a party and united parties win elections and disunited parties don’t … We’ve got to recognise that the point of the Labour Party was that it was established to bring together all views across the centre left of politics.

Growing numbers of Labour Party members who joined believing that Corbyn would shift the party to the left are despairing at the wreckage they confront, with the Blairites again on the rampage. Some have already decided to leave or are considering doing so. Should Long-Bailey become leader, those foolish enough to stay could find her signing off on their expulsion, as evidenced by her signing up to the 10 pledges of the Board of Deputies of British Jews stipulating that anyone accused of anti-Semitism because of their opposition to the Israeli repression of the Palestinians will be expelled, along with anyone who dares defend them from expulsion. Lansman knows there is no popular enthusiasm for Long-Bailey, so he organised a “poll” of Momentum’s membership offering the “choice” of either backing Long-Bailey or no one. Just 7,395 (18%) of Momentum’s 40,000 members participated and Long-Bailey won just 70% of the vote. When members were asked to vote for Angela Rayner as deputy leader, only 52% did so, with almost half abstaining in disgust.

EU confirms that it will not be ready to start talks on trade deal with UK until end of February
Nazi Groon, Jan 20 2020

The European Commission has confirmed that it will not be ready to open talks with the UK on a future trade deal until the end of February at the earliest. The commission’s chief spox Eric Mamer told journalists this morning:

The commission can adopt its proposal for the negotiation directives only once the UK has actually withdrawn from the EU. But then there is still an institutional process for these to be adopted by the coucil. This we know will take some time, which is why we have said we will start negotiations as quickly as we can, but it will certainly not be before the end of February, beginning of March. This is not a slowing down or speeding up of the process. This is simply the nature of the institutional process and the consultations that need to take place before the negotiation directives can be formally adopted.

Boris Johnson has ruled out extending the post-Brexit transition period, and this timetable means that the UK and the EU will have just 10 months in practice to agree and ratify an agreement on their future partnership. Downing Street wants the talks to start soon, and has not ruled out opening talks with Faschingstein before talks with Brussels get going. At the briefing Mamer was also asked about the comment from Sajid Javid, the chancellor, at the weekend saying the UK will not align with EU rules after Brexit. Mamer confirmed that this would mean less access to the single market for the UK. He said:

There is a link between moving away from EU regulations and the degree of access that is possible into the single market. That position has not changed. I think both sides have expressed their positions very clearly and, hence, I have nothing to add to the comments that were made this weekend.

a new and equally spurious effort is afoot to smear him as a homophobe

#MeToo provocation against Bernie Sanders organized by CNN and Elizabeth Warren
David Walsh, WSWS, Jan 20 2020

CNN and Sen Elizabeth Warren, with powerful establishment support, combined to stage a provocation this week aimed at slowing down or derailing the campaign of Sen Bernie Sanders for the Demagog Party presidential nomination. Through CNN, Warren’s camp first alleged that Sanders told her in Dec 2018 a woman could not win a presidential election, an allegation Sanders strenuously refuted. At the Demagog debate on Tuesday night, CNN’s moderator acted as though the claim was an indisputable reality, leading to a post-debate encounter between Warren and Sanders which the network just happened to record and circulate widely. This is a political stink-bomb borrowed from the #MeToo playbook, typical of Pindo politics in its putrefaction. Unsubstantiated allegations are turned into “facts,” these “facts” become the basis for blackening reputations and damaging careers and shifting politics continuously to the right. Anyone who denies the allegations is a “sexist” who refuses “to believe women.” The Demagog establishment is fearful of Sanders, not so much for his nationalist-reformist program and populist demagogy, but for what his confused but growing support portends: the movement to the left by wide layers of the Pindo population. The ruling elite seems convinced, like some wretched, self-deluded potentate of old, that if it can simply stamp out the unpleasant “noise,” the rising tide of disaffection will dissipate. In this case, the story is based on the account of one individual with a considerable interest in cutting into Sanders’ support, namely Elizabeth Warren. CNN’s operation began Monday when it posted an absurd “bombshell” article by M J Lee, as follows:

Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in private 2018 meeting that a woman can’t win, sources say. The stakes were high when Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren met at Warren’s apartment in Faschingstein one evening in Dec 2018. Among other things, they discussed how to best take on Pres Trump, and Warren laid out two main reasons she believed she would be a strong candidate: She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters. Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win. The description of that meeting is based on the accounts of four people: two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter, and two people familiar with the meeting. Ms Warren and Mr Sanders were the only people in the room. After publication of this story, Warren herself backed up this account of the meeting, saying in part in a statement Monday, “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”

In other words, Warren “backed up” what could only have been her own account, insofar as she was the only person there besides Sanders! There follows a pro forma insertion of Sanders’ categorical denial that he ever made such a statement, in which he reasonably observes:

Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.

Lee plows right ahead as though his comments were not worth responding to and carries on:

The conversation also illustrates the skepticism among not only Pindo voters but also senior Democratic officials that the country is ready to elect a woman as president … The revelation that Sanders expressed skepticism that Warren could win the presidency because she is a woman is particularly noteworthy now, given that Warren is the lone female candidate at the top of the Demagog field.

This is one of the ways in which the sexual misconduct witch-hunt has poisoned Pindo politics, although by no means the only one. Warren’s claims about a private encounter simply “must be believed.” During the Demagog candidates’ debate itself Tuesday night, moderator Abby Phillips addressed Sanders in the following manner:

Let’s now turn to an issue that’s come up in the last 48 hours. Sen Sanders, CNN reported yesterday that – and Sen Sanders, Sen Warren confirmed in a statement – that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?

Sanders denied once again that he had said any such thing. Phillips persisted:

Sen Sanders, I do want to be clear here. You’re saying that you never told Sen Warren that a woman could not win the election?

Sanders confirmed that. Insultingly, Phillips immediately turned to Warren and continued:

Sen Warren, what did you think when Sen Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?

This was all clearly prepared ahead of time, a deliberate effort to embarrass Sanders and portray him as a liar and a male chauvinist. Following the debate, Warren had the audacity to confront the Vermont senator, refuse to shake his hand and assert:

I think you called me a liar on national TV!

When Sanders seemed startled by her remark, she repeated it. CNN managed to capture the sound and preserve it for widespread distribution. We offer no support to Sanders, a phony “socialist” whose efforts are aimed at channeling working-class anger at social inequality, poverty and war back into the big business Demagog Party. He is only the latest in a long line of figures in Pindo political history devoted to maintaining the Demagogs’ stranglehold over popular opposition and blocking the development of a broad-based socialist movement. Nonetheless, the CNN-Warren “dirty tricks” operation is an obvious hatchet job and an attack from the right. Accordingly, the NYT and other major outlets have been gloating and attempting to make something out of it since Tuesday night. The obvious purpose is to “raise serious questions” about Sanders and dampen support for him, among women especially. It should be recalled that in 2016 Sanders led Hillary Clinton among young women by 30%. On Jan 15, Michelle Cottle, a member of the NYT editorial board, set out to smear Sanders:

The issue raised by the Warren-Sanders clash was “not about Mr Sanders and Ms Warren. Not really. And Ms Warren was right to try to shift the focus to the bigger picture, even if some critics will sneer that she’s playing ‘the gender card.’ … The present controversy has resurfaced some of Mr Sanders’s past women troubles. His 2016 campaign faced multiple accusations of sexual harassment, pay inequities and other gender-based mistreatment. Asked early last year if he knew about the complaints, Mr Sanders’s reaction was both defensive and dismissive: “I was a little bit busy running around the country.”

After Cottle attempted to convince her readers, on the basis of dubious numbers, that Pindos were perhaps too backward to elect a female president, she continued, again, taking as good coin Warren’s allegations

This less than inspiring data, along with from the trail anecdotes about the gender-based voter anxiety that Ms Warren and Ms Klobuchar have been facing, help explain why Mr Sanders’s alleged remarks struck such a nerve. Women candidates and their supporters aren’t simply outraged that he could be so wrong. They’re worried that he might be right.

The remarks he denies making have nonetheless “outraged” Cottle and others. The NYT more and more openly expresses fears about a possible Sanders’ nomination. Op-ed columnist David Leonhardt headlined his Jan 14 piece, “President Bernie Sanders,” and downplayed Sanders’ socialist credentials, observing:

Sanders has a real shot of winning the Demagog nomination. Only a couple of months after he suffered a mild heart attack, that counts as a surprise. While he would probably fail to accomplish his grandest goals (again, like Medicare for all), he would also move the country in a positive direction. He might even move it to closer to a center-left ideal than a more moderate candidate like Biden would.

On Thursday, right-wing NYT columnist David Brooks argued pathetically against the existence of “class war” in “The Bernie Sanders Fallacy.” He ridiculed what he described as:

Bernie Sanders’s class-war Theyism: The billionaires have rigged the economy to benefit themselves and impoverish everyone else.

According to Brooks, Sanders is a Bolshevik who believes that “Capitalism is a system of exploitation in which capitalist power completely dominates worker power.” Accusing Sanders of embracing such an ABC socialist proposition is all nonsense, but it reveals something about what keeps pundits like Brooks up at night. The NYT is determined, as the WSWS has noted more than once, to exclude anything from the 2020 election campaign that might arouse or encourage the outrage of workers and young people. The past year of global mass protest has only deepened and strengthened that determination. The NYT, CNN and other elements of the media and political establishment, and behind them powerful financial-corporate interests, don’t want Sanders and they don’t necessarily want Warren either, who engaged in certain loose talk about taxing the billionaires, before retreating in fright. They want a campaign dominated by race, gender and sexual orientation, not class and not social inequality. The #MeToo-style attack on Sanders reflects both the “style” and the right-wing concerns of these social layers.

Bloomberg Journo Fabricates Bernie Sanders Quote About Buttigieg Having A ‘Gay Problem’
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Jan 19 2020

In the latest example of MSM hackery, Bloomberg reporter Emma Kinery took it upon herself to fabricate a quote from Bernie Sanders to suggest that Pete Buttigieg has a ‘gay’ problem. During an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio, Sanders was asked if gender is “still an obstacle for female politicians,” to which he replied:

Yes, but I think everybody has their own set of problems. I’m 78 years of age, that’s a problem … If you’re looking at Buttigieg, he’s a young guy.

Kinery, in a now-deleted tweet, quoted Sanders as saying:

Buttigieg is young and Buttigieg is gay.

With no explanation or apology, Kinery deleted her tweet and re-tweeted a verbatim transcript:

Amazing!

she forgot to accuse gen soleimani of throwing iraqi babies out of incubators

The Iranian Woman In The #IraniansDetestSoleimani Viral Video Was Also A Lobbyist For A Militia In Libya
Ryan Broderick, Jane Lytvynenko, BuzzFeed, Jan 17 2020

A viral video titled “Truth From an Iranian,” which has amassed more than 10 million views across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, was created by a registered lobbyist who previously worked for a militia group fighting in a bitter civil war in Libya. At no point during the five-minute video, in which she praised the Pindo drone strike that killed Gen Qassem Soleimani, did Saghar Erica Kasraie mention that she had worked in 2019 for Linden Government Solutions, a Texas-based lobbying firm hired to represent the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar, who spent much of the last two decades living in Virginia, during which time he worked for the CIA. In the first six days following the death of Gen Soleimani, Kasraie’s video was the single most popular piece of content about Iran on Facebook, aside from posts from Trump’s own page. In the video, Kasraie, who describes herself as an Iranian activist, says Iranians were celebrating Soleimani’s death, thanking Trump, and giving out cakes on the street as a symbol of their joy. She says in the video:

I feel like we’re living in the Twilight Zone, guys! I’m completely outraged at this notion that the propaganda machine that is the media is glorifying Qassem Soleimani!

The YouTube version of Kasraie’s video has been viewed 5.5 million times, going viral as a link on Facebook after it was posted to a right-leaning lifestyle page called Bakersfield Tuff and a slew of pro-Trump sites and pages. Another copy of the video, shared on Kasraie’s Facebook page, has been viewed another 3.7 million times. Kasraie does not list her time with Linden on her LinkedIn profile and said in a conversation with BuzzFeed News that her work for the firm in Faschingstein was strictly logistical. Kasraie said:

It was short project as a consultant. I worked directly for Linden and helped with logistics for meetings in Faschingstein. Just facilitated and coordinated meetings for Linden.

However, public documents filed through the Foreign Agent Registration Act show she worked as a part-time lobbyist last year. Her lobbying activity was previously reported on by Al-MonitorAccording to her registration, Kasraie’s job entailed “Planning, coordinating meetings with Government, Business representatives, and think tanks, and other government relations services in support of Client’s diplomatic goals” on behalf of the “Decision Support Center of Libya (on behalf of the Libyan National Army).” When asked if the Libyan National Army was the firm’s only client, a representative for Linden Government Solutions told BuzzFeed News:

I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’d say no and I’d prefer not to continue.

Kasraie denied her work for Linden had anything to do with the Iran video, telling BuzzFeed News that she decided to record the video because her Pindo friends were asking for her opinion about the aftermath of the Soleimani killing. she said:

I thought oh my gosh, the media is crazy, they’re not reporting about what’s going on.

The video first went viral when it was posted on the Bakersfield Tuff Facebook page, which describes itself as a community for “Racing, rodeo, drinking, trucks, country music, hunting, fishing, drags, choppers, guns, fabrication, country girls.” The Bakersfield Tuff post was shared 17,000 times. The Bakersfield Tuff page wrote:

An inside look from an Iranian. She’s very well-spoken and clear on what’s really going on. All sides should watch this. Her point is logical and calming.

The video was also boosted by large right-leaning Facebook pages like the Pindo Preppers Network and Chicks on the Right. In addition to its organic engagement, Kasraie’s YouTube video was boosted by being tagged #IraniansDetestSoleimani, a hashtag that was amplified by inauthentic Twitter accounts several minutes after the video was posted. Kasraie denied that the inauthentic activity surrounding the video was linked to her lobbying firm, saying that her video had been successful because people agreed with what she had to say. She said:

I think there was a certain pulse in response to that video.

Asked why she chose that hashtag, she said it “was spinning around” online. The huge views on her video earned Kasraie several TV appearances, including on the Christian Broadcasting Network, The Ingraham Angle and Fox News, which described her as an adviser to the National Iranian Congress in Faschingstein. There’s no indication that Linden was involved in setting up the interviews. Kasraie is now the vice president of human rights policy for the Middle East at the Victor Marx Group, a Christian organization that provides humanitarian aid. Kasraie’s employee page for the Victor Marx Group embeds her Iran video but does not disclose her work for Linden. Libya has been in a civil war for nine years between the GNA in Tripoli, and Haftar’s forces, which control the eastern part of the country, including Benghazi. Anas El Gomati, the director of the Sadeq Institute, Libya’s first think tank based in Tripoli, told BuzzFeed News:

What they’re vying for beyond just control of the capital in Libya, Tripoli, and the country at large; they’re also vying for international legitimacy. Haftar hopes to gain the support of the Pindo government. They need lobbying efforts to do that, but also to promote this narrative of a war on terror in Libya, which is deeply divisive and massively contested in terms of the kind of opponents and targets that they have claimed are terrorist targets and legitimate targets.

The ICC has investigated Haftar’s attacks in Libya and issued two arrest warrants for one of his lieutenants. Trump has praised Haftar and even placed a phone call to him in Apr 2019 without the knowledge of the State Dept or DoD before reversing his support in June. Kasraie said of the support her video has received from pro-Trump internet communities:

I’m grateful for Pres Trump and the groups that support him. I think I represent Iranians that support Trump.

Iran warns of leaving NPT if nuclear case goes to UN
Press TV, Jan 20 2020

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that if the E3 continue their unjustifiable attempt to send Iran’s nuclear case to the UNSC, Tehran will consider the option of leaving the NNPT. Last week, the E3 formally triggered the dispute mechanism within the agreement, accusing Iran of having violated the accord. Iran would now be asked to resolve the so-called dispute with the E3, and the process could ultimately lead to the reimposition of UNSC sanctions that were lifted by the accord. The European accusations concern a set of counter-measures that Iran has been applying in reaction to Pindostan’s withdrawal from the JCPoA in 2018, Pindostan’s reimposition of Draconian sanctions and the E3’s refusal to guarantee Iran’s business interests under the nuclear deal. As part of its retaliatory steps, Iran stopped recognizing the limits set by the deal on the level of its enrichment activities and the volume of its heavy water reservoir. On Jan 5, it said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development. The decision came two days after Pindo drone strikes assassinated Lt-Gen Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. Zarif explained:

The IRI was the party to initially trigger the dispute mechanism in 2018, by sending three letters to the EU to notify them of its dissatisfaction with Europe’s non-commitment to the agreement. The IRI was then forced to resort to the nuclear counter-measures, as the Europeans remained in violation of the accord. Our retaliatory steps fit within the accord’s Paragraph 36, and are reversible if the other parties begin minding their contractual obligations. But if Europeans carry on playing political games we shall consider various options, because their actions lack legal standing. Before taking the final step of withdrawing from the NNPT, we sdhall examine various other possibilities.

Also speaking on Monday, Foreign Ministry spox Abbas Mousavi cautioned:

If this trend continues, Iran will take this final and more effective step. The counter-measures that have been taken by the Islamic Republic so far have been meant to strike a balance between the quality of Iran’s commitment to the JCPoA and that of others. Foreign Minister Zarif has reminded Euro boxtops, especially the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrel, of Europe’s role in preserving the JCPoA. We regret that Europe’s lack of determination and independence have so far frustrated the initiatives, which have been offered to save the deal. If there is one party who needs to be decisive it is them. They should take a decision to either be independent or listen to a bully like Pindostan. Boris Johnson’s attempt to flatter Donald Trump is beneath our notice. Despite the betrayal perpetrated by the European states, the door to negotiation with them has not been closed yet. The ball is in their court.

internal processes of the great shaitan, moloch the pitiless, soon to be nuked: amen!

944 Trillion Reasons Why The Fed Is Quietly Bailing Out Hedge Funds
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Jan 19 2020

On Friday, Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari, who just two months earlier made a stunning proposal when he said that it was time for the Fed to pick up where the USSR left off and start redistributing wealth. At least Kashkari chose the proper entity; since the Fed has already launched its own central planning across Pindo capital markets, it would also be proper in the banana republic that Pindostan has become, that the same Fed also decides who gets how much and the entire democracy/free enterprise/free market farce be skipped altogether. Kashkari issued a challenge to his FOMC colleague and former Goldman Sachs co-worker Robert Kaplan among others, by saying:

QE conspiracists can say this is all about balance sheet growth. Someone explain how swapping one short-term risk-free instrument (reserves) for another short-term risk-free instrument (t-bills) leads to equity repricing. I don’t see it.

To the delight of Kashkari, who this year gets to vote and decide the future of Pindo monetary policy yet is completely unaware of how the plumbing underneath Pindo capital markets actually works, we did so for his benefit on Friday, although we certainly did not have to: after all, the “central banks’ central bank”, the Bank for International Settlements, did a far better job than we ever could in its Dec 8 report, which explained why the September repo disaster took place.

On the supply side, it was caused by the sudden JP Morgan-mediated liquidity shortage at the top four commercial banks, which prevented them from lending into the repo market. On the demand side, Claudo Borio, head of the monetary and economic department at the BIS, explained:

This was the result of high demand for secured (repo) funding from non-bank financial institutions, such as hedge funds heavily engaged in leveraging up relative value trades.

Incidentally, we harbor a slight suspicion that Kashkari, who also admitted to “finding amusement in needling critics calling them conspiracists or goldbugs,” which is a delightfully ironic statement for a person responsible for the biggest asset bubble in history, and one which we are confident in 1-2 years time he would love to retract, was being disingenuous and knows exactly how the Fed is impacting markets, because in what was perhaps the most important news last week which flew under the radar, the WSJ reported that the Fed was considering lending cash directly to, ie bailing out, hedge funds, or as we put it:

Fed boxtops are considering a new tool to ease repo market stress: namely bypassing the existing system entirely, and lending cash directly to smaller banks, securities dealers and hedge funds through the repo market’s clearinghouse, the Fixed Income Clearing Corp.

And so we once again get to the real issue at hand, namely the bailout of those hedge funds which even the BIS said were on the verge of failure had the repo market not been unfrozen, and which the Fed was all too aware of, and had the massive leverage that some hedge funds operate under collapsed, forcing an unprecedented liquidation cascade. Incidentally, it is the repo-utilizing hedge funds that are the transmission mechanism of the Fed’s monetary policy, and the source of so much Neel Kashkari confusion. Luckily for Neel and everyone else still confused, the BIS explained that too:

Shifts in repo borrowing and lending by non-bank participants may have also played a role in the repo rate spike. Market commentary suggests that, in preceding quarters, leveraged players (eg hedge funds) were increasing their demand for Treasury repos to fund arbitrage trades between cash bonds and derivatives.

And there you have it: when properly funded, repos issued by commercial banks are critical in preserving and boosting risk prices, by way of levered hedge fund pair trades; indeed as the FT noted in December:

One increasingly popular hedge fund strategy involves buying Pindo Treasuries while selling equivalent derivatives contracts, such as interest rate futures, and pocketing the arb, or difference in price between the two.

While on its own this trade is not very profitable, given the close relationship in price between the two sides of the trade. But as LTCM knows too well, that’s what leverage is for. Lots and lots and lots of leverage. And when the repo market seized in September, the risk was that all this leverage would be pulled, forcing an unprecedented liquidation wave among the massively levered hedge fund world. Hence the need for an emergency liquidity intervention by the Fed. But as the WSJ noted, it’s not just about preserving a handful of hedge funds. Fundamentally, the very foundation of the Pindo financial system was suddenly at risk, and with the Fed suddenly targeting liquidity injections into claringhouses, it immediately became apparent what the weakest link was: Clearinghouses themselves. This is hardly the first time we have discussed clearinghouses as the weakest link in the Pindo financial system. As a reminder, the “hail mary” thesis of the uber-bearish CIO of Horseman Global, Russel Clark (who in 2019 was down a record 35%) is that clearinghouses will collapse as liquidity is drained from the market:

LCH claim to have done a quadrillion of compression trades or netting in the last year, this is more than twice the notional of all outstanding interest rate derivatives. If initial margins rise significantly, the only assets that will see a bid will be cash, Pindo treasuries, JGBs, Bunds, Yen and Swiss Franc. Everything else will likely face selling pressure. If a major clearinghouse should fail due to two counterparties failing, then many centrally cleared hedges will also fail. If this happens, you will not receive the cash from your bearish hedge, as the counterparty has gone bust, and the clearinghouse needs to pay from its own capital or even get be recapitalised itself.

For those confused, here is another quick primer on clearinghouses from Horseman’s November letter to clients:

Clearinghouses have become the center of the financial system, but they do not bear the cost of any mistakes they make in pricing risks. This is borne by other clearinghouse members. But what the BIS note and the note issued by the banks and other users of clearinghouses makes clear is that the market has become very directional, with banks supplying liquidity to the repo market, while leveraged funds are taking liquidity (until 2017 banks were taking liquidity from the system). As the near-bankruptcy of a clearinghouse highlighted last year, it is other members that bear the risk when things go wrong, and hence big US banks have acted rationally in looking to reduce liquidity to the repo market, which of course forced the Federal Reserve to act.

And since things are getting a bit fuzzy, let’s summarize here what we know:

  1. The repo crisis was the result of a liquidity shortfall at the “Top 4” banks, precipitated by JP Morgan’s drain of over $100b in repo market liquidity. This was a wise move which eventually forced the Fed to launch QE4 and helped JPM report its most profitable year on record. Elizabeth Warren shrieked about it and vowed to investigate it but ultimately did nothing at all.
  2. The Fed addressed the “supply side” of the Sept repo crisis by injecting over $400b in liquidity to replenish bank reserve levels, first via repo and then via T-Bill POMO, ie QE4.
  3. The Fed has yet to address the “demand side” of the Sept repo crisis, namely the market transmission mechanism which is intermediated by hedge funds. And it is here that, as the WSJ reported, the Fed is currently contemplating providing liquidity directly to hedge funds to prevent a systemic collapse during the next repo crisis, whenever it may strike.

But going back to the clearinghouse issue, how are these linked to the potential failure of a handful of (massive) hedge funds? Well, we have an explanation for that too, and it once again comes from Horseman’s Russell Clark. One can argue that Clark is one of the best investors of his generation, yet one who will soon be out of a job, due to endless central bank intervention. In his latest letter to the few clients he has left, he writes:

Since 2016, its has become much harder to short. There are two reasons. One is negative interest rates have made almost any amount of investment risk justifiable, as owning a safe asset will cost you in real terms. The second is that the malinvestment has moved from bad investment in real assets, into bad investment in financial structures that actually push up markets before crashing them.

How is that relevant to clearinghouses, hedge funds, repo, liquidity, the Fed and QE4? Clark explains:

In 2019 there were many signs that the Japanese were perhaps beginning to step away from Pindo debt markets, which made me very bearish. Yet US corporate debt continued to trade very well, which ultimately was the main support for Pindo markets. As I looked more and more closely at clearinghouses, I realised the way they priced risk, and the provided leverage through compression, meant they were the grease that kept the Pindo debt markets operating, and in fact kept spreads much tighter than they should be.

This brings us to the punchline, namely the reason why clearinghouses have emerged as the weakest link in the Frankenstein monster of a market that the Fed has created over the past decade, and why the Fed is quietly preparing to backstop hedge funds and clearinghouses themselves during the next crisis. Or rather 944 trillion reasons. Here is Clark’s conclusion:

Regulators, clearinghouses and central banks have published notes saying that clearinghouses are safe and the problems in the Swedish exchange in 2018 were due to one rogue trader. But when the biggest clients of the clearinghouses, banks, say there is a problem, then I suspect they are right. I spent the Xmas period trying to prove that compression is dangerous, and the best nugget I could come from was from the biggest interest rate clearinghouse in the world, LCH. In a pamphlet on their website pushing the benefits of “Compression with Swap Clear” in the 12 months to Oct 2019, LCH did a record $944t) of compression. That’s 11 times world GDP. LCH also provide an estimate of the amount of capital this saved members (the banks) under Basel III, a princely $37m. To restate, $944t of compression yielded the banks $37m of regulatory capital saving. So, if the banks are not benefitting, who is? Leverage funds with huge interest rate derivative positions. And who is on the hook if they blow up? The big banks who are on the other side of the trade, as they would be forced to recapitalise the clearinghouses.

In other words, if enough liquidity is drained, mutual assured destruction between funds and banks will almost instantly follow. And since banks are now aware of the risk and are trying to reduce their exposure, it is very hard if not impossible to see how this can be unwound “without triggering all the other bad financial structures and malinvestment that QE has produced.” It also explains why the Fed had to get involved, if under the guise of saving the repo market, when in reality the Fed was once again bailing out the banks and levered funds that are facing trillions of dollars in losses should one clearinghouse go under, as the cascade of resulting events would lead to a domino effect where one counterparty after another failed, and one clearinghouse after another has to be bailed out, initially by banks, and ultimately by the Fed. And there you have it: while the September repo crisis was fundamentally represented by the Fed as one of insufficient reserves, and the resultant QE4 was painted by Powell merely as an exercise in “reserve management” the real reason why the Fed stepped in so decisively was to prevent a cascading sequence of hedge fund failures that would have not only sent the market crashing as funds were forced to liquidate all positions once leverage as high as 10x (see chart above) was yanked, but would culminate in the failure of one or more clearinghouses. Which is also why now that the Fed has stepped in, and backstopped this weakest link, stocks keep hitting new all time highs. As for Mr Kashkari’s childish “needling of critics,” if after reading the above he still doesn’t understand what is going on, we have a suggestion: announce on Monday the Fed will no longer inject $100b in liquidity each month via repo and POMO, and see what happens to the stock market. After all, the Fed’s actions, or in this case the lack thereof, do not lead to “equity repricing,” right?

another piece of blue touchpaper for the pyromaniacal satan in faschingstein and his shit-eating arse-licking slave, britain

How the Libyan Landscape Is Changing As New Players Get Boots on the Ground
Martin Jay, Strategic Culture, Jan 16 2020

What is Russia’s real position on Libya? Has it shifted sides or playing a double game? And what strategy can Turkey’s Erdogan take now, so that he remains a friend to Putin but also a winner in Tripoli? Martin Jay asks the Tripoli-based analyst Mohamed Eljarh for his take on who are the winners and losers of Russia and Turkey being on opposite sides in Libya.

Q: Russia entering the conflict recently is a game changer. Is it more or less the same story as Syria, or are there differences?
A: Russia’s involvement in post-Qaddafi Libya started in 2014 and picked up in the following years. Russia’s involvement was through Private Military Contractors that provided advisory services, training services, maintenance of weapons/equipment, demining services as well as, training for new military command systems. Russia’s approach in Libya has been to talk to all the different sides of the conflict. However, since August/September this year, reports and evidence emerged of Russian PMCs taking part in actual military operations in support of the offensive by Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar to capture the capital, Tripoli. Russia’s involvement seems to have had some impact on the frontlines giving the LNA the upper hand over GNA forces. However, unlike Syria, Russia still denies any direct involvement in the Libyan conflict, maintaining that they have no Russian troops on the ground without denying or confirming the presence of PMCs. This is the main difference between the Syrian and the Libyan case. Also, in the case of Syria, Moscow still recognized the Assad regime to be the legitimate and sole representative of the Syrian state and people, thus it was easier to make a deal with the Bashar al-Assad to deploy Russian forces and build Russian bases in Syria. Until now, Russia seems to rely on PMCs in Libya rather than its formal army units. This means Russia will always try to maintain plausible deniability, thus this will limit the Russian impact on the ground. Also, it is not clear if Russia is willing to commit more support to help Haftar in his quest for power in Libya. Thus far, Russia’s engagement in Libya has been very inexpensive with the advantage of plausible deniability.
Q: Doesn’t this new situation put enormous pressure on Turkey and Erdogan? How does Erdogan come out of this a winner?
A: Turkey’s involvement in Libya is part of its bigger foreign policy strategy to expand its influence and dominance beyond its frontiers, not just in Syria and Libya, but also in Africa and Eastern Europe. Also, Erdogan is trying to use the conflict in Libya to his advantage. The signing of the MoU is a clear sign of Erdogan taking advantage of the weakness and desperation of the GNA in the face of the LNA’s offensive and the wide foreign support it enjoys. Erdogan is trying to turn Libya into a new battlefield against Europe and his foes in the Eastern Med.
Q: Does it shift Turkey closer, once again, to Washington and Trump?
A: Although reports have emerged that the recent phone call between Erdogan and Putin regarding Libya went badly, the two men have an interest in working together in Libya like they did in Syria. Both men have animosity towards Europe and the west and believe through a strategic partnership in Syria, Libya and elsewhere, they can form a bloc that would counter western influence and dominance in the region. Both Erdogan and Putin have shown pragmatism in Syria despite being on the opposing sides of the conflict, but they have managed to work out their differences and established a cooperative relationship that secures the interests of the both sides at the expense of western influence in the region. The difference between Erdogan and Putin in Libya is that Erdogan is much more forceful and aggressive in his approach. Putin still denies Russian involvement in Libya, while Erdogan is making it clear that he is ready to deploy forces to Libya in support of the GNA in Tripoli.
Q: What is mainstream media missing in the reporting in recent days?
A: I think what has been missing in media coverage of the last few days is that Turkey has been involved in the current Tripoli war since May 2019 through material support for the GNA forces including missiles, drones, and armoured vehicles. In addition, Turkey has been actively involved in Libya since 2011 supporting Islamist and Misurata factions. Turkey was accused of having links with Libya’s Islamists and the transfer of Libyan Jihadists and fighters to Syria through Turkey to fight against the Assad regime.
Q: Is Haftar really going to take Tripoli in the coming days?
A: Haftar has the upper hand militarily through the foreign support he is getting from Egypt, UAE, Jordan, Russia and to a lesser extent France. However, if Turkey decides to deploy forces to support the GNA and increase its material support for the GNA forces, that will have a dramatic impact on the ground. This is one of the reasons Haftar announced a new major offensive to capture Tripoli in the last few days. He is worried that the Turkish are serious about their threats to deploy forces to Libya and that the only way to prevent that from happening is by capturing Tripoli. Also, Haftar announced his offensive to capture Tripoli hoping to take advantage of the negative reactions to the signing of the MoU and condemnation by various regional and European countries. Haftar hopes he’ll be able to escalate the violence without the risk of condemnation from the UNSC or the EU given that key countries in both entities would prevent such condemnation due to their opposition and anger towards the MoU signed by Turkey & the GNA.