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James Petras on the Good, Bad & Ugly of 2014

James Petras recently published “Looking Backward, Looking Forward: 2014-2015”. What follows are my distillations of his positive and negative lists of events of 2014 and his 2015 speculations.

Positive Developments in 2014

1) The revelations of how the US National Security Agency has been engaged in continuous spying not only domestically but world-wide has inspired deep global distrust of Washington and has led to vigilant self-protective actions on the part of some foreign countries and demands there and in the US for reform.

2) The US Senate report has revealed at least partially the horrifying degree of engagement of the CIA in widespread and repeated torture of "political suspects". The specter of the US as a merciless “police state” has led to demands from foreign countries to prosecute US leaders for their crimes against humanity.

3) As a deterrent to what Petras calls “western imperial aggression” there has been an economic, political and military bonding between Russia and China. This is a healthy attempt at re-balancing global power from a dominating western uni-polar paradigm to a cooperative multi-polar one.

4) In China President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has caused leading business and political leaders to be prosecuted, focused more attention on social needs and triggered a popular demand for “good government.”

5) President Putin’s support for the resisters in Eastern Ukraine and the Crimean separatists against the illegitimate Nazi-thug western puppet regime in Kiev and his willingness to prosecute pro-western neo-liberal sabotaging oligarchs within Russia has weakened western sanctions and signaled that the Russian economy may become more socialized.

6) Washington’s willingness to “dialogue with Cuba” is a positive in ending US isolation in Latin America. An increase in tourism and business investments may eventually end the economic blockade by the US.

7) The Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation of Palestine has grown significantly, reaching “major trade unions and student and religious organizations.” This makes it harder for politicians to ignore the right to self-determination of Palestine and stay overwhelmingly influenced by what Petras labels “the Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish organizations in the US and their counterparts overseas.”

8) There have been Iranian-US peace and nuclear discussions and these lessen the prospect of a regional war with Iran that Israel continues to promote. Most of the concessions Petras sees as having been made by Iran, but it has helped sustain a mode of diplomacy rather than US military aggression.

9) Latin American elections are turning “left of center” against US-backed “hard right neoliberals” in Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador and Bolivia according to Petras. These countries still suffer from the impact of capitalism by the “agro-mineral and financial elite” but a left-leaning tendency will mean these countries will be less enthralled to US militarist foreign policy. Even in Colombia, new President Santos defeated the far right candidate and is conducting peace negotiations with FARC, a popular insurgency.

10) The global spread of scientific investigations of the 9/11 collapse of the World Trade Center indicating controlled demolition rather than the buildings collapsing by plane crashes is inspiring louder global and domestic demands for a new investigation.

Negative Events in 2014

1) According to Petras “The militarization of the Ukraine, as an adversary of Russia, threatens a global nuclear war.” The US and EU installed a “puppet” regime in Kiev in Ukraine so it can be a globally volatile “neo-fascist” government as well as an ever-threatening NATO outpost on the border of Russia

2) The military coup in Egypt brought about the violent mass torture, jailing and murder of former government officials and dissidents. It also has enabled more of a toxic military US presence in Africa and escalated Israel’s blockade of Gaza and its colonization of the West Bank. The International Monetary Fund reduced food and subsidies to the Palestinians. The new Egyptian government has enjoyed tremendous stock market gains, since the international one percent elite appreciates the stability of a cronied anti-humanity dictatorship rather than a socially-responsible government which would consider human rights and needs over corporate profits.

3) The Obama administration has kept the US warmachine steamrolling. The US has re-entered the Iraq civil war, it is conducting an air war in Syria against ISIS, and has kept thousands of troops in Afghanistan. Civilian casualties in the Middle East continue to escalate and US military violence is proving perpetual. What the US-NATO aggression did to Libya doomed it to horrific Islamic extremism and this continues to trigger a mass civilian exodus.

4) The US has fully supported Israel seizing and colonizing Palestinian land and that in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The US supported the masscre of 2000 Palestinians during the summer, causing $5 billion damage in Gaza. Zionist billionaires and AIPAC helped to block the PLO from gaining UN membership by leaning, according to Petras, on African representatives in the Security Council.

5) The fact that the President and Congress robustly defend NSA spying and CIA torture signals that even more constitutional rights will be eroded by political representatives no longer representing the citizenry.

6) The electoral wins in 2014 of the “hard right” in the legislative branch will sabotage peace negotiations with Iran, the ending of the economic blockade of Cuba and any humane reforms with US government immigration policy.

7) There has been a massive counter-attack from politicians, police officials, police unions against a serious citizen civil rights mobilization triggered by the police killing of an unarmed Black teen in Ferguson. The killing of two policemen in NYC by a “deranged” individual is being politically exploited to distract from the widespread impunity of gratuitous and homicidal violence against US citizens, particularly Black citizens, on the part of the police.

8) US government sanctions against Russia, backed by the EU, and the escalating US military exercises on the Baltic and Caucuses’ borders of Russia threaten a nuclear confrontation.

9) Washington's exclusion of China from its Asian-Pacific economic activities, its expanding military base building in Japan, Australia and the Philippines and its provocative air and sea surveillance of China’s coastlines show the lengths, though futile and self-destructive, Washington will go to remain the global, economic top-dog.

10) A new financial crisis is imminent since wealth continues to be funnelled to the upper 1%. Corruption is still rampant with continuing “multi-billion dollar swindles and illicit operations” and investment bankers and government contractors enabled by their pimped out political cronies continue to brazenly escape jail sentences.

Petras’ prognosis for 2015 is discouraging:

The new rightwing majority in Congress will try to sabotage the ending of the Cuban blockade.

The rightwing majority, mass media, the Israeli lobby will undermine diplomacy with Iran.

In Israel an even further neo-fascist party will take power and accelerate the colonization of Palestinian land, ever-enabled by unconditinally cronied and initimidated US politicians.

The Obama administration will push harder for a greater economic war with Russia in trying to regime change it.

The continuing increase in US military activity in South Asia, the Middle Eas and the Baltic regions will escalate tensions with China, North Korea and Russia.

Obama will cooperate with the new rightwing Congress, according to Petras, “to lower corporate taxes, to secure fast track passage of free trade agreements with Europe (excluding Russia) and Asia (excluding China) and to strengthen the arbitrary police power of the CIA, NSA, and FBI.”

The police will refuse to rein in violence against civilians, particularly Afro-Americans, and bear down on any dissidence to curtail its abuse of power.

US economy will become even more “lopsided” . The middle and working classes will become all the more alienated from the two corporate political parties and the executive and legislative branches of government. Abstention in voting will increase. Citizens will turn to local elections and initiatives to generate populist legislation.

This is Petras’ prediction of global scenarios:

Overseas the US will fail to secure any decisive military victory in any major theater of war.

ISIS in Syria and Iraq is likely to continue to occupy wide swaths of territory and to sustain a long term war.

The Taliban will eventually surround the big cities and garrisons in which US advisers are holed up.

Libya will continue to be a failed sate.

The Ukraine will likely descend into economic bankruptcy.

In Greece the left-socialist party SYRIZA will probably win the elections and attempt to impose a moratorium on debt payments and stimulate the economy.

The neo-liberal political regimes in Italy, Spain and Portugal will continue to deteriorate.

In France the Socialist regime’s embrace of a pro-business agenda will provoke major conflicts with trade unions and may fracture. The National Front may become the leading party, adopting positions on the Right (anti-immigrant) and Left (anti EU austerity).

Leftist, populist and far-right parties and movements are likely to increase support in eight scheduled elections in the EU this year.

Turmoil, wars, and sanctions will lead to new political alignments. Just as Russia and China move to realign, so too, political forces in North and South America, Asia and the Middle East may find new de facto alignments. Saudi and Israel, Iran and Iraq, Turkey and Russia, Brazil and Venezuela …

Unpredictable challenges may emerge from minor and major players: Greece’s new SYRIZA government, by refusing to abide by Berlin’s austerity agenda, may provoke a major crises in the EU. China’s anti-corruption campaign could lead to heighten mass protests. North and South Korea may open long sought negotiations – excluding the US.

With the beginning of 2015 we enter a journey to the end of the night…

[bio from Dissident Voice: James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent books are The Politics of Empire: The Us, Israel and the Middle East (2014) and The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack. He can be reached at: jpetras@binghamton.edu. Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.]

[cross-posted on open salon]

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Jay's picture
Submitted by Jay on

Seem like pretty reasonable assumptions. A couple of trends that should surprise no one that I've observed is that, although corporate media has the biggest platform for propaganda, its influence continues to slide as people increasingly rely on more rational information sources or sources that specifically appeal to their sensibilities. I'd also expect more troubles for American institutions of all types as they continue their opaque corruption and self-serving actions that border on the absurd, from bizarre Supreme Court rulings, to wildly inappropriate administration of universities and local school districts, to inexcusably inept regulation of financial markets, and the cozy relationships of DAs with brutal police organizations. One notable exception has been Pope Francis's Catholic Church, which has taken a turn for the more rational, humanistic, and Christ-like, a development I never expected. There has always been corruption, graft in the U.S., but it's beginning to reach cynical Brezhnev-era Soviet style proportions and qualities. It's just that party membership (and thus impunity) is a bit more amorphous.