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Month October 2010

When are the QE3 and QE4 steaming in?

By now most people have realised that we are not talking of venerable ships but something most of us had never heard of a couple of years ago.

This idea has now become fundamental to the fate of our politics, economics and society for this decade.

The corporate media are softening us up with the idea that the second round of Quantitative Easing (QE2) is imminent.

Indeed, when the US Federal Reserve meets next week, they are expected to launch QE2. We can think of it as money printing (though technically it involves a lot more than that).

The numbers being talked about at $500 billion (on the low side) to $1 trillion.

We need to re-read those numbers again.

Question: Since when is half  a trillion a ‘low figure’…… ?

Answer: when the financial world has gone crazy, where black is white and profit = loss

The world’s most powerful finance talking heads – Bernanke, Trichet (and to let us feel the UK is still very important, let’s add hapless Mervyn King) – are out of their depth.

Only this spring were they chirping that we needed to exit from QE1.

So why are they saying we need QE2 then?

Answer: because all those billions and trillions have not worked in getting the engine to power forward. All it did was prevent the engine stalling.

What it also did was put those billions upon billions in the hands of the guilty bankers who should have lost their shirts (and yachts, penthouses and pensions) are now making us lose our shirts.

Money has to go somewhere for bankers & traders to make money.

Which is why when we hear that ‘things are bad’,  the stock markets are roaring.

Since the low of 666 (yes the US S&P 500 touched this infamous number of the devil…. you couldn’t make this up) in March 2009 and the G20 summit in London, the US stock market has leaped to close to 1200.

Of course bankers & traders are paying themselves bonuses – they have made stupendous amounts of money on equities (and bonds).

What they did not do, and have no intention of doing, is to lend to small businesses who actually employ more people that large businesses (who can much more easily relocate abroad for cheap labour anyway).

So, as they say in America, it’s heaven on Wall Street but hell on Main Street.

Now, if QE1 didn’t kick start the economy enough to get people back to work, why should QE2 work?

Very few people are asking this question.

Why not?

Because they know it will not work either. At least in its official purpose.

What it is really meant to do is to help devalue the US dollar (so that it can export its way out of trouble) and more importantly it will lead to inflation.

When you have inflation, the value of debt you owe goes down in real terms.

The US has unimaginable amounts of debt (they owe the Chinese and Japanese $2 trillion alone) so you see why they want to do this.

And so, you will have QE3 perhaps this time in 2011 and QE4 maybe in 2012.

The Japanese have been doing this on and off for the last decade so this is not totally unprecedented though it is on a global scale.

The catch is that the bankers and traders are insisting that government debt be slashed in Europe to pay for the rise in private debt held by the same bankers and traders.

The ideological and intellectual problem is that we are all going to have learn about the new economy of Quantitative Easing.

It’s like playing football on pitch which keeps shifting and changing and the goal posts move too . It is no longer  predictable so we won’t know whether Mervyn King’s curling Beckamesque freekick flies into the top corner, or ends up in the stands.

The ultimate solution is of course to apply shock therapy on the financial markets (just as they did to Latin America in the 80s, Russia in the 90s and Asia in the late 90s). And invest in the real economy and save state funding and therefore jobs and our social and economic infrastructure.

Instead of $10 trillion worth of daily currency trading by 2020, we should impose capital controls which we had up to the 1980s.

But the meek, mild and mutilated political class have no such ambition.

Which means radical political movements have to accept that this upside-down economic   scenario of QE3 and 4 and fiscal slaughter is the order of the day and we have to really understand all its implications (including the shift of power to China etc).

We cannot just call for a return to 2005 public spending levels and add a couple of cycle lanes to make us look green.

It has to be a lot more fundamental, robust and visionary that that.

German Left and Greens level with Merkel Coalition

This is not how they are reporting it in Bloomberg. There they say the SPD (equivalent of our New Labour) are on 23% and Greens on 24% making for a massive 47%. Up against this Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are on 30% and ‘Free Democrats’ on 5%, so trailing by 12%.

On the other hand, if the Left Party and Greens totted up their numbers, that would make 35% – neck and neck with the Rightwing ruling coalition.

And, of course, if that very long bridge over ideological differences could be traversed, then a Progressive Coalition of Left/Green/SPD  (or some such idea) would hold 58% of the vote.

In six months, there will be state elections where the Greens are hoping to win 2 states.

The biggest obstacle to any understanding is that the Greens in Germany support the Afghanistan War (seems quite strange at first as Germany was against the Iraq War in 2003, also when the Foreign Minister was a Green…….).

There are no signs of a Grand Bargain on the Centre and Left.

This is the country where the Right and Centre-Right (SPD) ruled jointly recently.

Who knows then?

German unemployment fell to the lowest in eighteen years, almost to the point of re-unification.

A German economist, Andreas Scheuerle, says: “the 3 million figure is a magical psychological threshold”.

The Bundesbank thinks economic growth will be 3% or more this year.

German unemployment is 7.5%.

Meanwhile, French jobless figures are at a five year high at 10.1%, the highest in twelve years.

Both Merkel and Sarkozy are suffering at the polls.

A big part of the reason for German economic prowess now is that the Euro is a straitjacket and forcing ‘internal devaluations’ by the Mediterranean countries. Germany is exporting its capital machineries and cars to the rest of Europe as well as high tech equipment to China.

If the global economy dips next year and / or there is a default-type of crisis by Greece or even Spain, then the economic picture in Germany will not look so rosy.

Germans are unhappy over the pro-nuclear stance by Merkel and also on the bailout of the Greeks. Actually, it was a bailout of the German and French banks  who refused to take a haircut on their loans to Athens.

But then, that’s not how it’s explained, is it? Instead of gold plated Greek pensions, it’s platinum plated German bankers (that’s another story for another day).

Anyway, if an economic rebound does not help, then Merkel’s Conservatives will hope that a currency crisis will allow her to do a ‘Gordon Brown’ and ‘save the world’.

Oops. Brown lost, didn’t he?

As the centre of economic gravity shifts to MittelEuropa  so does its politics.

With the English Left dead in the water and its remnants still in a ridiculous embrace with New Labour;  the French Socialist Party in disarray, it seems the French, Spanish and Greek Unions & Left Movements had better look to Germany for some good news.

The Greens there will be pivotal. I just hope they are not still stuck five years back – pre crisis.

The Lisbon Treaty or the Bankers’ Charter is from another era in the never never land where free markets (and banks) would solve our economic problems.

Don’t get your hopes up too high.

There has to be an almighty battle within the German Greens to rediscover their intellectual roots and grasp the nettle. And would they stick together?

As the Chinese say, these are interesting times (translation: dangerous and unpredictable).

If we want to know the direction of Europe, both politically and economically, let’s spend less time wondering whether Nick Clegg smokes or not on his Desert Island and instead take our cue from Germany.

Pity then that Paul the Octopus passed away this week – were he around, I am sure they would have asked him who would win the electoral joust in Berlin…

 

Farid Bakht

A continent of hate?

Why did Angela Merkel do it?

When the world’s most powerful woman says multi-culturalism or ‘multi-kulti’ is dead, we have to listen and take note. Germany is after all the paymaster of Europe – bailing out the banks in schtuk in Greece. And in the background it has its own dark history lurking, never going away.

But it’s much more than a German problem. Le Pen was the advance guard in France two decades ago. His daughter has now picked up the baton to continue the work. Geert Wilders in Holland and J Amiesen in Sweden are the latest front-men for the Far Right across the continent. 

Coming back to Germany, it is worrying to say the least when one of the top Bundesbank bankers writes a best seller, slandering Muslims.

So why did Angela do it?

Because there are two state elections coming up early in 2011 with a good chance the Greens will its first ‘governors’.

Islamophobia is fuel for stoking fear and winning elections.

Many mainstream politicians have calculated they would no need for the ‘Muslim votebank’. They have larger numbers on the other side.

Muslims, mainly Turkish remnants of the Gasterbeiter / guestworker era number only one in twnty four, or four million in total. While their enemies may crow ‘ four million too many’, it means the numbers are stacked against them in a country of around 80 million.

More than one in three Germans think their country is ‘swamped by foreigners’.

Is there something else also going on?

Is there a long term move to get rid of Turks and replace them with skilled Russians?

Germany is utterly dependent on Russian gas to power its manufacturing machine. Russia is dependent on Germany’s high technology goods.

So why not deepen that relationship by inviting cheaper, intelligent workers from outside the EU… from Ruble-land to Euro-land, since they are are not Turks or Islamic?

According to this line of thought, Lutheran Germany is fine with the Eastern Orthodox Church.

This would be anathema to London and Washington.

What a surprise then that British Prime Minister David Cameron has come out in favour of Turkish entry into the EU? What possible interest would the Right in the English home counties have for Turkey being inside the European tent?

Meanwhile, action man Nicolas Sarkozy tries to stitch together a Franco-German-Russian alliance, reminiscent of pre World War One maneoverings.

Big geo-political moves are afoot.

Meanwhile, except for Germany, the economy tanks, propped up only by funny money printed by Central banks.

The heart of free-market Neo-liberalism has stopped after thirty years but the Left have not got their alternative out onto the kitchen tables of the citizens. They have only just reached a few barricades in Paris and Athens.

Hardly Pan European.

Reality check: there is no big enough alternative force in place on a continental scale. The Left and Greens (not referring to the Irish kind) have not left the starting blocks.

The other side is doing all the running. With unemployment rising inexorably watched by a fearful public, powerful leaders can weave three games into one:

a) Islamophobia to wave a red rag in front of voters

b) Economic and military restructuring to drag Europe into the 21st century and loosen the embrace of the Atlantic powers.

c) the fallout of the collapse of the banks and the chance to impose draconian cuts on pensions, welfare and education to fund the bailout

Continenal crisis

Sweden’s three neighbours (Norway, Denmark and Finland) are used to Far Right politicians being elected to their legislatures. The Northern League has long been a permanent fixture in Italy (and that unfortunate land has had to live with Berlusconi!)  Austria, Switzerland and Holland are host to influential inflammatory extremists.

France bans the burqa. Belgium follows. Spain narrowly survives a vote to do the same nationally though local councils have already been doing this.

With depression level unemplyment, how long before the ghosts of Franco are mixed with the 800 year experince of Islamic rule in Iberia to create a convenient backlash against Muslims?

Lest we forget, Iberia was the priginal launchpad of expulsions of Jews and Muslims in 1492. Is it ripe for a return of ancient hatreds?

Paradoxically for many internationalist Leftists and Greens, the presence of today’s separatists may be helping steam this tide with Madrid still the Old enemy rather than new coloured foreigners.  So far.  The ultra-Right, in its role of guardian to the State, is busily building its case and Madrid could well turn. It could get ugly on that peninsula.

What about Albion?

Looking from a distance, the English voter does not seem to ‘get it’. The remnants of the Left are still cheering their victory in getting rid of the BNP domestically in 2010, one year after the racists had captured the European stage and the airwaves.

Complacency rules the political commentariat. It is as if the English Channel will play its historic role of protecting the island from a wave from the mainland – this time of Far Rightist politicians.

Really?

The softly-extreme UKIP girds its loins for elections in eighteen months. How can we forget the Far Right of the Tory Party, heirs to Enock Powell?

For the moment, the dirty work is done by the English Defence League.

How long before the equivalent of an English Tea Party rises here?

With the tabloids shovelling coal into the furnace daily, the temperature is rising steadily.

The foundations of a broad Far Right platform are being laid. In time to appear just as the elite send the bulldozers in for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to demolish the welfare state.

When the cuts bite, the political agenda will be defined by benefits, housing and education and the competition for scarce state resources.

How difficult will it be to pen a narrative pointing at coloured foreigners, especially at Muslim ones, as ungrateful, unnecessary, ‘unlike us’ and undeserving of ‘our money’?

It’s coming and not too far down the line.

The familiar patronising Guardianista way of telling ‘white people in council estates’ not the vote ‘the wrong way’ will not work then.

An alternative message that carries punch and makes sense is the obvious solution. Problem is: who is going to deliver it?

Corpulent trade union leaders? Forget it.

The next generation of New Labour leaders, steeped in the politics of ditching principles to win elections at any cost? They need 13 years out of power to rid themselves of that virus?

The vast majority of the dominant political class is intellectually bankrupt. They drained the last drop of progressive thought over the last two decades as they embraced the free-market mantra. The word ‘progressive’ is used by politicians invading countries and propping up bankers.

The minority radical parties and groups on the better end of the spectrum are still too small, humstrung by the rotten electoral system. In US style politics, lefts and greens are not meant to shine.

That isn’t going to change anytime soon.

So what will happen? Time will tell. I expect nationalism to make a big entry this decade and change much of the rules. For good and bad.

The signs are not good then…………..

Farid Bakht

Expect a U turn by 2012

We are almost for sure going into a double dip recession early next year.
If we are prudent (or cynical) we know we cannot trust these Parties.
So when the Con-Dem coalition say up to almost half a million public sector jobs are going, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will end up being more like 700,000. They will let that in gently a little later down the line.
The whole principle depends on private businesses creating one job for every job lost in the public sector.
Here is what will pan out:
a) The big companies will make a killing as they cherry-pick the profitable bits the government and local authorities hive off. Lots of ‘Joint Ventures’ and Outsourcing.

Why are Bloomberg and Time highlighting this Chinese leader?

Xi Jinping
From Wikipedia.

Xi Jinping
习近平

Xi Jinping (born June 1, 1953) is a senior leader of the People’s Republic of China. He currently serves as the top-ranking member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China, the country’s Vice President, Principal of the Central Party School, and the 6th ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s de facto top power organ. On October 18, 2010, he was elected as the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission which implies that he is going to take over the highest ranking leadership by 2012.

Son of Communist veteran Xi Zhongxun, Xi Jinping served mostly in Fujian province in his early career, and was later appointed party chief of the neighbor Zhejiang province, and then was appointed as Shanghai’s party chief following the dismissal of Chen Liangyu. Known for his liberal policies, tough stance on corruption, and a frank openness about political and market economy reforms, Xi’s combination of positions makes him the heir presumptive to current General Secretary, President Hu Jintao and the emerging leader of the People’s Republic of China’s fifth generation of leadership.

Early life

Xi Jinping was born in June 1953 in Beijing and is, by Chinese convention, a native of Fuping County, Shaanxi, his ancestral home. He is the youngest son of Xi Zhongxun, one of the founders of the Communist guerrilla movement in Shaanxi Province in northern China and former Vice-Premier.
At the time his father served as the head of the Communist Party’s propaganda department, and later Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress. When Xi was 10, during the Cultural Revolution, his father was purged and was sent to work in a factory in Luoyang, and jailed in 1968.
Without the protection of his father, Xi went to work in Yanchuan County, Shanxi, in 1969 in Mao Zedong’s Down to the Countryside Movement (simplified Chinese: 知识青年上山下乡运动; traditional Chinese: 知識青年上山下鄉運動). He later became the Party branch Secretary of the production team. When he left in 1975, he was only 22 years old. When asked about this experience later by state television, Xi recalled it saying, “…it was emotional. It was a mood. And when the ideals of the Cultural Revolution could not be realised, it proved an illusion…”

From 1975 to 1979, Xi studied Chemical Engineering at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University. There were some questions about his educational background as it is believed he entered university without studying or completing high school and went to gain a doctorate without previously holding a masters.
From 1979 to 1982 he served as secretary for his father’s former subordinate Geng Biao, the then vice premier and Secretary-General of the Central Military Commission. This gained Xi some military background.

Rising through the ranks

Xi joined the Communist Youth League in 1971 and the Communist Party of China in 1974. In 1982 he was sent to Zhengding County in Hebei as its party secretary. Xi subsequently served in four provinces during his political career: Shaanxi, Hebei, Fujian and Zhejiang.

Xi held Party positions in the CPC Fuzhou Municipal Committee, and became the president of the Party School in Fuzhou in 1990. In 1999 he was promoted to the Deputy Governor of Fujian province, then became Governor a year later.
While there he made efforts to attract investment from Taiwan and to boost free market economy. In February 2000 he and provincial Party Secretary Chen Mingyi were called before the top four members of the Politburo Standing Committee – General Secretary, President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji, Vice-President Hu Jintao and Discipline Inspection head Wei Jianxing to explain aspects of the Yuanhua scandal.

In 2002 Xi took up senior government and Party positions in Zhejiang Province, and eventually took over as party chief after several months as acting Governor, becoming the first-in-charge in the economically successful coastal province.
Xi was then made an alternate member of the 15th CPC Central Committee and holds the membership of the 16th CPC Central Committee, marking his ascension to the national stage.
While in Zhejiang, one of China’s most affluent provinces and a center of China’s successful economic development, Xi provided the economic environment which secured growth rates averaging 14% per year. His career in Zhejiang was marked by tough and straightforward stance against corrupt officials, which earned him a name on the national media and drew the attention of China’s top leaders.

Following the dismissal of Shanghai Party Chief Chen Liangyu in September 2006 due to a social security fund scandal, Xi was transferred to Shanghai in March 2007 to become the new Party Chief of Shanghai.
Xi’s appointment to one of the most important regional posts in China was clearly a sign of confidence from the Central Government. While in Shanghai he was careful not to touch any controversial issues while largely echoing the line of the central leadership.
Xi’s career is notable in that during his regional tenures, he was never implicated in any serious scandals, nor did he face serious political opposition.

Elevation to centre

Xi’s appointment to the Party Secretary post in Shanghai was seen as a stepping stone for him to become an emerging member of the fifth generation of Chinese leadership.
This was solidified by his appointment as a member of the nine-man Politburo Standing Committee at the 17th Party Congress in October 2007.
Interestingly, Xi was ranked above Li Keqiang, which made him the most likely candidate for China’s next core figure – the paramount leader. This assessment was further supported at the 11th National People’s Congress, Xi was elected as Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China on March 15, 2008.[6]
Some suggest this was because Xi had kept friendly relations with both Hu Jintao and the other power figure in the central leadership, Zeng Qinghong. In addition to these posts, Xi also held the top-ranking membership of the Communist Party’s Secretariat.

Since his elevation Xi has held a broad range of portfolios. He was put in charge of the comprehensive preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, as well as the central government’s leading figure in Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
In addition, he also became the new Principal of the Central Party School, the cadre-training and ideological education wing of the Communist Party.
In the wake of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, Xi went and visited disaster areas in Shaanxi and Gansu. Xi made his first foreign visit after his vice presidency to visit North Korea, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen from June 17 to 25, 2008.
After the Olympics, Xi was assigned the post of Committee Chair for the preparations of the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Xi is considered to be one of the most successful members of the Crown Prince Party, a quasi-clique of politicians who are descendants of early Chinese revolutionaries.
Senior leaders consider Xi to be an emerging figure that is open to serious dialogue about deep-seated market economic reforms and even political reform, although Xi’s personal political views are relatively murky.
He is generally popular with foreign dignitaries, who are intrigued by his openness and pragmatism. Former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, when asked about Xi, said he felt he was “a thoughtful man who has gone through many trials and tribulations.”
Lee also commented: “I would put him in the Nelson Mandela class of persons. A person with enormous emotional stability who does not allow his personal misfortunes or sufferings affect his judgment. In other words, he is impressive”.
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is said to be a friend of Xi describing him as “the kind of guy who knows how to get things over the goal line.”

Latin American tour

In February 2009, in his capacity as Vice-President, Xi Jinping embarked on a Latin American foreign trip to Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil to promote Chinese ties in the region and boost the country’s reputation in the wake of the global financial crisis. Xi met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

On February 11, while visiting Mexico, Xi spoke in front of a group of overseas Chinese and explained China’s contributions to the financial crisis, saying that it was “the greatest contribution towards the whole of human race, made by China, to prevent its 1.3 billion people from hunger”.
He followed with a rather direct accusation for “foreigners” trying to interfere in Chinese affairs, a subject that has always been sensitive in Chinese political circles. In Chinese, Xi remarked: “There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us [China]. First, China doesn’t export Revolution; second, China doesn’t export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn’t come and cause you headaches, what more is there to be said?”

The story was reported on some local television stations. The news led to a flood of discussions on Chinese internet forums. It was reported that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was caught off-guard by Xi’s non-diplomatic remarks, as the actual video was shot by some accompanying Hong Kong reporters and broadcast on Hong Kong TV, which then turned up in various internet video websites.

Other tours

Xi has since gone on a series of foreign visits, some say to burnish his foreign affairs credentials before he takes the helm of China’s leadership. Xi visited Belgium, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania from October 7 to 21, 2009. Xi visited Japan, South Korea, Cambodia and Myanmar on his Asian trip from December 14 to 22, 2009.

Political future

Xi was named as one of the most influential people in the world in the 2009 Time 100 list
In September 2009, at the Fourth Plenum of the 17th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping was not selected as the Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) as expected, raising some questions about his succession. Political analyst Cheng Li believes that Xi’s failure to secure the CMC promotion was evidence that the Communist Party was developing internal checks and balances, giving way to more sophisticated mechanisms for leadership succession.
Hong Kong media outlet The Mirror (鏡報) reported that Xi himself was reluctant to enter the position and wrote a letter to General Secretary Hu Jintao and the party leadership, saying he needed to “focus on tasks at hand”, and that discussing leadership changes at the Fourth Plenum would serve as a “distraction” for more important matters.
The British magazine New Statesman listed Xi Jinping at number 4 in their annual survey of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures 2010″.

Xi has been appointed as one of the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on October 18, 2010, a position Hu Jintao once held back in 1999 before taking over the presidency years later.

Family

Xi married the famous Chinese folk singer Peng Liyuan in 1987, his second marriage. Peng Liyuan, a household name in China, was much better known to the public than Xi until his political elevation. The couple frequently live apart due to their largely separate lives. They are sometimes considered China’s emerging star political couple. They have a daughter named Xi Mingze

Peng has described Xi as frugal, hardworking and down to earth. “When he comes home, I’ve never thought of it as though there’s some leader in the house. In my eyes, he’s just my husband.

Chile’s billionaire President, Pinochet & Propaganda

Chile’s billionaire President is touring Europe. He spoke at the LSE last night. Blanket coverage of the miners’ rescue failed to ask a couple of questions. Why were the miners at risk in the first place and why are miners regularly dying in Chile’s mines?
And what has Chile’s new President done for miners over the years? He makes a big chunk of his money from copper. Have you noticed rocketing copper prices this century?
Did anyone notice that his political baggage derives from Pinochet’s right hand man?
The world’s media want to fete him precisely because he is Washington’s friend and an ally with Jose Manuel Santos, the new Colombian President.
With the backdrop of a coup attempt in Ecuador against President Correa and the successful coup in Honduras before that and rumours of a coup attempt in Paraquay, it is clear that a different game is being played out in Latin America.
Let’s applaud the rescue of the miners and support their claims for compensation. It had better be a big payout for the kind of ordeal they have had to go through.
Let’s also keep out feet on the ground and take a closer look at this President and also the open conflict taking place on that continent.
Seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses will not tell us the whole story.

John Pilger penned an article on this ……

Chile’s ghosts are not being rescued
By John Pilger

The rescue of 33 miners in Chile is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a facade.

The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and is the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Copper is Chile’s gold, and the frequency of mining disasters keeps pace with prices and profits. There are, on average, 39 fatal accidents every year in Chile’s privatized mines. The San Jose mine, where the trapped men work, became so unsafe in 2007 it had to be closed – but not for long. On 30 July last, a labor department report warned again of “serious safety deficiencies,” but the minister took no action. Six days later, the men were entombed.

For all the media circus at the rescue site, contemporary Chile is a country of the unspoken. At the Villa Grimaldi, in the suburbs of the capital Santiago, a sign says: “The forgotten past is full of memory.” This was the torture center where hundreds of people were murdered and disappeared for opposing the fascism that General Pinochet and his business allies brought to Chile. Its ghostly presence is overseen by the beauty of the Andes, and the man who unlocks the gate used to live nearby and remembers the screams.

I was taken there one wintry morning in 2006 by Sara De Witt, who was imprisoned as a student activist and now lives in London. She was electrocuted and beaten, yet survived. Later, we drove to the home of Salvador Allende, the great democrat and reformer who perished when Pinochet seized power on 11 September 1973 – Latin America’s own 9/11. His house is a silent white building without a sign or a plaque.

Everywhere, it seems, Allende’s name has been eliminated. Only in the lone memorial in the cemetery are the words engraved “Presidente de la Republica” as part of a remembrance of the “ejecutados Politicos”: those “executed for political reasons.” Allende died by his own hand while Pinochet bombed the presidential palace with British planes as the American ambassador watched.

Today Chile is a democracy, though many would dispute that, notably those in the barrios forced to scavenge for food and steal electricity. In 1990, Pinochet bequeathed a constitutionally compromised system as a condition of his retirement and the military’s withdrawal to the political shadows. This ensures that the broadly reformist parties, known as Concertacion, are permanently divided or drawn into legitimizing the economic designs of the heirs of the dictator. At the last election, the right-wing Coalition for Change, the creation of Pinochet’s ideologue Jaime Guzman, took power under President Sebastian Piñera. The bloody extinction of true democracy that began with the death of Allende was, by stealth, complete.

Piñera is a billionaire who controls a slice of the mining, energy and retail industries. He made his fortune in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup and during the free-market “experiments” of the zealots from the University of Chicago, known as the Chicago Boys. His brother and former business partner, Jose Piñera, a labor minister under Pinochet, privatized mining and state pensions and all but destroyed the trade unions. This was applauded in Washington as an “economic miracle,” a model of the new cult of neoliberalism that would sweep the continent and ensure control from the north.

Today. Chile is critical to President Barack Obama’s rollback of the independent democracies in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. Piñera’s closest ally is Washington’s main man, Juan Manuel Santos, the new president of Colombia, home to seven U.S. bases and an infamous human rights record familiar to Chileans who suffered under Pinochet’s terror.

Post-Pinochet Chile has kept its own enduring abuses in shadow. The families still attempting to recover from the torture or disappearance of a loved one bear the prejudice of the state and employers. Those not silent are the Mapuche people, the only indigenous nation the Spanish conquistadors could not defeat. In the late 19th century, the European settlers of an independent Chile waged their racist War of Extermination against the Mapuche who were left as impoverished outsiders. During Allende’s thousand days in power, this began to change. Some Mapuche lands were returned and a debt of justice was recognized.

Since then, a vicious, largely unreported war has been waged against the Mapuche. Forestry corporations have been allowed to take their land, and their resistance has been met with murders, disappearances and arbitrary prosecutions under “anti terrorism” laws enacted by the dictatorship. In their campaigns of civil disobedience, none of the Mapuche has harmed anyone. The mere accusation of a landowner or businessman that the Mapuche “might” trespass on their own ancestral lands is often enough for the police to charge them with offenses that lead to Kafkaesque trials with faceless witnesses and prison sentences of up to 20 years. They are, in effect, political prisoners.

While the world rejoices at the spectacle of the miners’ rescue, 38 Mapuche hunger strikers have not been news. They are demanding an end to the Pinochet laws used against them, such as “terrorist arson,” and the justice of a real democracy. On 9 October, all but one of the hunger strikers ended their protest after 90 days without food. A young Mapuche, Luis Marileo, says he will go on. On 18 October, President Piñera is due to give a lecture on “current events” at the London School of Economics. He should be reminded of their ordeal and why.

(Source: Truthout) & Minka News

Do you feel radical?

Today we hear that 50,000 companies will be in trouble because of the Cuts.
This does not figure a double dip recession which is coming whatever spin they try to put on it that it might be avoided…
This is 1980/81 all over again. Instead of steel plants which aren’t there (having been shipped to China), it’s public and therefore private offices that will bear the brunt, with a knock on in smaller shops on the high street.
Last time they wanted to squeeze inflation out of the system.
This time it’s government spending cuts, to satisfy bond traders who will then allow for banks to be bailed out… Yes, Bank bailout Two coming in 2011.
And what was the political impact of this…. Yes, you guessed it… a ‘modernising Labour’ did not get into power for 18 years…… they also thought they would just watch the carnage and sweep back to power.
They didn’t.
Because the world had changed … into a new era of neo-liberalisation….
This time, the world has changed again…. that era is bankrupt intellectually, financially and economically.
Neo-Labour thinks a few tweaks here and there with a sprinkling of mild populist messages ought to be enough (without worrying the middle classes on the lines of Jonathan Powell’s Machiavelli Plan).

Neo-Labour want to do the least and wait for the plump fruit of government fall into their hands. They are going to be sorely disappointed and that’s when the infighting will begin as the careerists realise they can kiss power goodbye.

In the wider political arena, there will be polarisation.

The three parties clinging on to the old era (including Neo Labour) on the one side and a host of radical parties and movements on the other ranging from Far Right UKIP, assorted nationalists to the internationalist and Leftist Greens.
That moment has not yet arrived but it’s brewing.

The inflection point will come when the government has to do a U-turn sometime within the next two years when they realise the Cuts are the problem, not the solution and pummeling the economy into the ground.

Then it will not be a question of “fast savage cuts” or “slightly slower savage cuts”.
It will be a choice of radicalism.
The power lies with the unsavoury Far Right as we have seen in Europe. Insecure voters find it easier to move to the Right, at least at first.

To compensate for this, the Greens need to look at Nationalist groups on this island and chalk out a common theme so that voters are aware that this is a broad based alliance, taking on the issue of English nationalism head on – instead of pretending it does not exist.
It does and will rise as a mirror image of Scottish and Welsh nationalist strength.
In the metropolises we will have to put our hand out to the big ethnic minority populations too. The others can attack the migrants. We can maintain our long cherished internationalist principles instead.
Do I hear a sharp intake of breath?
Moreover, the Greens have to let people know that solutions can only be Europe-wide and so campaign with a range of Green and Left parties in Europe for an alternative vision to the Lisbon Treaty.

Domestically, too much of the commentariat are talking up an understanding with Neo-Labour.
That would be a strategic mistake where they would gain far more and do nothing while we lose the chance to offer an alternative.
We have to lump Neo-Labour with the Lib-Dems and Tories and keep on hammering that message.
And then explain what our alternative is and why it will work.
This game is much more than just trying to attract a few temporarily disgruntled Lib-Dem voters. That has its own dangers because whispers will suggest that we ‘go easy’ on our Anti-Cuts rhetoric so as not to scare off ‘possible’, not ‘probable’ Lib Dems.
That kind of thinking permeates the Orange group in the LibDems. We should be wary of similar thinking in the Greens.
Greens must not go Orange. It must remain Green.
We have to stick to our manifesto. On that foundation, we have to build alliances.
Getting our visa into Parliament it’s time for the Party to show confidence in what we believe and not be timid in saying it. One person is doing this, doing the work of a dozen MPs. But the rest of the Party has to support too. I would say at a pinch a couple of hundred are actively beavering away. Perhaps 2% at most.
The strategic thinking from the great and the good has to be more ambitious and broad-based.
We have to move out of our comfort zone.
For different reasons, and different philosophies, a previous generation regretted the Green downfall in the early 1990s and watched from the sidelines the rise of Petra Kelly inspired German Greens.
Perhaps another window of opportunity has just opened, twenty years later.
What will we do?