Published on The Doomstead Diner on February 12, 2017
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Dier
Just going back a few years, the "BRICS" were all the rage as the next great Superpower conglomeration. BRICS stood for Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa.
3 of them Brazil, India and South Africa also fit in the category of "Emerging Markets", and EMs were where all the Hot Money was flowing for investment during the period, seeking high yields and return on investment.
What could be more perfect, right? Great resource availability and populations willing to work at low wages to supply industrial products to the world! Not to mention Russia & China as large military powers with the capability of making a good fight with the FSoA if challenged! Even if they don't have the aircraft carriers the FSoA has, they have Nuke ICBMs, and they have cruise missiles capable of sending any FSoA Carrier Group to the bottom of Davey Jones Locker. The Chinese field a 1 Million Man Standing Army. Lotta potential Boots on the Ground there!
So a lot of betting went down that this group of Nation-States was going to make a serious challenge to the European and Anglo-Amerikan hegemony over the industrial economy, not to mention the Bankstering system which runs it. Even to this day, you have some pundits like Pepe Escobar claiming the Chinese are going to build a "New Silk Road" that will bring the BRICS to ascendancy as the inheritors of the failed policies of the Western Europeans and Anglo-Amerikans.
Unfortunately, something went wrong along the way here, and precisely the opposite has occured or is occuring as I write this article. What fucked up in the BRICS master plan?
To begin with, it was a typical financialized bubble. Beyond that, you have countries here with Goobermints that are corrupt beyond belief, it's possible they are all more corrupt than the FSoA Goobermint, although of course that is hard to imagine. To top it all off, you have the issue that even if said countries have energy resources left like Brazil and Russia do, you have populations that cannot afford to buy those energy resources and retire the debts incurred by the extractors of the energy.
India already jumped off the cliff with the demonetization of the biggest Rupee notes by His Modiness, which sent the entire economy into a tailspin. Not to mention the fact it further impoverished already impoverished people, and as bad as their farmer suicide problem was before this, one has to figure it has been worse since. A VAST number of Indians have no bank account, or even Goobermint ID. For them, it's entirely a Cash Economy, and no Cash, no Economy.
This of course does not even touch on the Climate and Environment problems the Indians have, or their Energy problems or population overshoot problems. Then they have the constant battle with the Pakistanis, so overall the place is a complete fucking mess. They may even start exchanging Nukes with the Pakis, since they both got 'em
Moving down to South Africa, they probably have the worst problems with drought of any of the BRICS, although Brazil is not doing too well with this problem either. Besides that is the perpetual racial divide problem of South Africa and the fact that its entire economy is a mineral resource extraction economy, and globally nobody is paying much for resources, because the Konsumers of the resources are running out of money to buy them with. Well, except for the filthy rich who are still buying some Diamonds at Tiffany's, but unfortunately there aren't enough filthy rich to fund an entire economy this way. Tiffany's isn't doing too good either, they just fired their CEO.
Doing slightly better than these two locations are the Middle Kingdom of China and Mother Russia, but not by all that much plus Newz doesn't really escape well from either Nation-State, so you can't be entirely sure of WTF is going on there. In Mother Russia, one of Vlad the Impaler's political opponents recently went to the Great Beyond, apparently resultant from Poisoning. Another one, Alexander Navalny who was a Blogger so I like him 🙂 was convicted of some kind of felony so is no longer eligible to run against Vlad to run Mother Russia. He was probably the only opponent of Vlad who stood some chance of beating him, at least in popular voting. The Ruskies do have some cheap Oil left though, and their population is not too large given the land mass available there. On the other hand they have NATO troops massing on their borders, not a good sign.
Of all the BRICS, the Chinese have weathered the storm the best so far, but by no means does this presage a rosy future for them. In fact the Chinese are TOAST, and are in worse shape than everyone in the BRICS except perhaps the Indians. Reason of course is Population Overshoot, but by no means is that their only problem. They've blown a Credit Bubble that makes the one Da Fed blew up look like Child's Balloon next to the Hindenburg. Forget about not drinking the water, half of it is not even fit for human contact! You can't walk outside in Beijing without at least a surgical mask on, but really you need a full blown activated charcoal gas mask or better yet a SCUBA tank. This is not a recipe for a bright future for the Chinese.
However, of all the BRICS, the one in the WORST shape right now and is clearly exeriencing a FAST COLLAPSE is Brazil. Their economy is in complete collapse, corruption is systemic and now they are losing control of the social structure as well.
In the state of Espirito Santo which borders on the state of Rio de Janeiro which is home to the city of Rio, Corcovado (the big Christ statue on the mountain) and numerous Favelas (slums), the Military Police recently went on strike because…they weren't getting PAID! Big fucking surprise, who is going to work at anything if you don't get your paycheck at the end of the week?
Problem for these cops of course is that just like under Amerikan Law, Strikes of "publicly essential personnel" are ILLEGAL! So even if you're not getting paid, you're supposed to KEEP WORKING! Does this sound like SLAVERY to you? It does to me.
Since these cops are MILITARY cops, one suspects they can't even quit either until whenever their enlistment in the military runs out. Not that they would quit anyhow, because in all likelihood there are no other jobs for them to take in the neighborhood. So they got a bit creative here on this one, and instead of the cops themselves not showing up for work, their families went out and blockaded the stations, so the cops could not go out on patrol. Of course, they had the option of possibly Arresting their own families for "obstruction of justice", but who is going to go out and arrest their own wives, kids, fathers and mothers, or shoot them? Not gonna happen.
So in the wake of this absence of cops on the streets of Vitoria (the capital of Espirito Santo), the population at large took the opportunity to go an a rampage of looting, raping and killing. There is of course a large population of people living the criminal life in Brazil, because there are no opportunties for them in the "legitimate" world. They deal drugs, they steal, they kill people. It's like Chicago on Steroids and much larger. Its not like everyone is a criminal, but without a police presence, it's "Criminals Gone Wild".
So Da Goobernator of Espirito Santo asks for help from Da Federal Gobermint, and they promise to do "watever it takes" to restore order and send in the Military to replace the cops on the streets. Except how many do they send in? A Big 200 soldiers to police a city of 2M people! That is 1 for every 10,000. Even only 1% of those 10K are criminals, that is still a 100:1 ratio! However, in this situation it's probably more than 1%, since many normally law abiding type citizens will take the opportunity to go loot the local grocery or Iphone store.
Normally, they put out on the street 1800 cops, so to do the same job you would need around the same number of soldiers. So now you have to pay the soldiers instead of the cops, and Da Federal Goobermint of Brazil is in no better position to do that than the states are, they are BROKE also!
Even if they could field enough paid soldiers to go in there to restore order, Vitoria and Espirito Santo as a whole is a relatively small state in Brazil. What happens when the same thing occurs in Rio De Janeiro or Sao Paolo or Brasilia? Sao Paolo has something like 20M people now, that by itself is an order of magnitude larger than Vitoria. What is to stop this from spreading to Sao Paolo? They are broke too, and besides that running short on water and the money to run their sewage treatment plants, garbage collection etc. It's not just cops not getting their paychecks, just about all the public workers are seeing wages withheld because Da Goobermint doesn't have the money to pay them.
Unlike the FSoA (also broke), the Brazilleiros cannot just issue infinite debt and have it recognized as worth anything. They have gone through NUMEROUS periods of Hyperinflation, and they are trying to avoid that problem with "austerity", but austerity means people either are paid to little to live on or not paid at all. Jobs are cut, pensions are cut and you get a downhill spiral as people have no money to spend in the economy. They can't afford to buy enough food to feed their kids. At this point, they get desperate, and take desperate measures. That is what the cops in Espirito Santo are doing.
The problem here of course is that like many other resource based economies, the Brazilleiros are running short on resources people around the globe can afford to buy at the prices they cost to extract. There are some big oil fields in deep water off the coast of Brazil, but their own state company of Petrobras is broke, and oil majors like Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are not going to put up debt money to drill these fields, because there is no profit in it. These companies are already bleeding red ink on properties they are drilling here in the FSoA, and beyond that there is an oil GLUT due to collapsing demand around the world. So the Brazilians will not be saved by the Oil underneath the ocean floor surrounding them.
It's only a matter of time before the chaos in Espirito Santo spreads to the rest of Brazil. How much time? Then from there it spreads to other SA countries dependent on resource exports, and the chaos grows. Then it makes it to Mexico, then it migrates across the border to the FSoA. How long will that take? Timeline, Timeline, Timeline. Like Location, Location, Location in the world of Real Estate, that's always the question, not what the final outcome is.
Never in modern political history has it been so easy to “abolish the people” and simply erase 54 million votes cast in a free and fair presidential election.
Forget about hanging chads, as in Florida 2000. This is a day that will live in infamy all across the Global South – when what was one of its most dynamic democracies veered into a plutocratic regime, under a flimsy parliamentary/judicial veneer, with legal and constitutional guarantees now at the mercy of lowly comprador elites.
After the proverbial marathon, the Brazilian Senate voted 55-22 to put President Dilma Rousseff on trial for “crimes of responsibility” – related to alleged window dressing of the government’s budget.
This is the culmination of a drawn-out process that started even before Rousseff won re-election in late 2014 with over 54 million votes. I have described the bunch of perpetrators of what Brazilian creativity has termed ‘golpeachment’ (a mix of coup – “golpe” in Portuguese – and impeachment) as Hybrid War hyenas.
Sophisticated golpeachment – supported by what amounts to an Electoral Inquisition College – has propelled Hybrid War to whole new levels.
Hybrid War as applied to Brazil exhibited classic elements of a color revolution. Of course there was no need for no-fly zones or humanitarian imperialism to “protect human rights” – not to mention provoking a civil war. But considering the high resistance level of the victim state, where civil society is very dynamic, Hybrid War designers in this case bet on a mix of capitulation – and betrayal – of local elites, mixed with “peaceful protests” and a relentless mainstream media campaign. Call it ‘Civil War Light.’
That carried with it a fabulous cost-benefit ratio. Now the (immensely corrupt) Brazilian political system and the current executive/legislative/judiciary/mainstream media alignment can be used by the usual suspects for their geopolitical agenda.
Welcome to regime change light – politics, in a nutshell – as war by other means on the BRICS. A new software, a new operating system. Carrying a pathetic corollary; if the US is the Empire of Chaos, Brazil has now gloriously reached the status of Sub-Empire of Scoundrels.
Rousseff may be accused of serious economic mismanagement, and of being incapable of political articulation among the shark pool that is (immensely corrupt) Brazilian politics. But she is not corrupt. She made a serious mistake in fighting inflation, allowing interest rates to rise to an unsustainable level; so demand in Brazil dramatically dropped, and recession became the norm. She is the (convenient) scapegoat for Brazil’s recession.
She certainly may be blamed for not having a Plan B to fight the global recession. Brazil essentially works on two pillars; commodity exports and local companies relying on the teats of the state. Infrastructure in general is dismal – adding to what is described as the “Brazilian cost” of doing business. With the commodity slump, state funds dwindled and everything was paralyzed – credit, investment, consumption.
The pretext for Rousseff’s impeachment – allegedly transferring loans from public banks to the Treasury in order to disguise the size of Brazil’s fiscal deficit – is flimsy at best. Every administration in the West does it – and that includes Clinton’s, Bush’s and Obama’s.
The Operation Car Wash investigation, dragging on for two years now, was supposed to uncover corruption in the Brazilian political system – as in the collusion of oil giant Petrobras executives, Brazilian construction companies, and political campaign financing. Car Wash has nothing to do with the golpeachment drive. Yet these have been two parallel highways converging to one destination: the criminalization of the Workers’ Party, and the definitive – if possible – political assassination of Rousseff and her mentor, former President Lula.
When golpeachment reached the lower house of Congress – an appalling spectacle – Rousseff was eviscerated by Hybrid War hyenas of the BBC variety; “BBC,” in English, stands for “bullet,”“bible” and “cattle,” where “bullet” refers to the weapons and private security industry, “bible” to pastors and evangelical fanatics, and “cattle” to the powerful agribusiness lobby.
The “BBC” hyenas are members of almost all Brazilian political parties, paperboys for major corporations, and – last but not least – corruption stalwarts. They all benefited from millionaire political campaigning. The whole Car Wash investigation ultimately revolves around campaign financing, which in Brazil, unlike the US with its legalized lobbies, is a Tarantino-worthy Wild West.
The Brazilian Senate is not exactly an “upper” – as in more polished – house. Eighty percent of members are white men – in a country where miscegenation rules. A staggering 58 percent is under criminal investigation – linked to Car Wash. Sixty percent hail from political dynasties. And 13 percent – as alternates – were not elected at all. Among those favoring impeachment, 30 out of 49 are in trouble with the law. Charges include mostly money laundering, financial crimes and outright corruption. Renan Calheiros, the president of the Senate – who oversaw today’s impeachment vote – is the target of no fewer than nine separate money laundering/corruption Car Wash lines of investigation, plus another two criminal probes.
Meet the three Banana Republic amigos
Rousseff is now suspended for a maximum 180 days while a Senate committee decides whether to impeach her for good. Enter President-in-Waiting Michel Temer – a dodgy, shady operator – who has been branded a “usurper” by Rousseff. And usurper this provincial Brutus certainly is – according to his own words. On March 30 last year, he was tweeting that,“Impeachment is unthinkable, it would create an institutional crisis. There is no judicial or political basis for it.”
His administration is born with the original sin of being illegal and massively unpopular; his approval rating floats between an epic 1 percent and 2 percent. He was already fined last week for violating campaign finance limits. And, predictably, he’s drowning in a corruption swamp – named in two Car Wash plea bargains and accused of being part of an illegal scheme of ethanol buying; he may become ineligible for the next eight years. Almost 60 percent of Brazilians also want him impeached – on the same charges leveled against Rousseff.
Members of Brazil's Senate react after a vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff for breaking budget laws in Brasilia, Brazil, May 12, 2016. © Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters
Brutus 1 (Temer) would not bask in the glow of his 15 minutes of fame without the shenanigans of Brutus 2 (Brazil’s number one crook, former speaker of the lower house Eduardo Cunha, facing charges of bribery and perjury, holder of illegal Swiss accounts, and now finally sidelined by the Supreme Court). It was Brutus 2 who fast-tracked impeachment as pure vengeance; the Workers’ Party did not cover his back as he was facing a tsunami of corruption charges. Brutus 2 used all his vast powers – he runs a campaign financing scam inside Congress – to obstruct the Car Wash investigation. His replacement, the interim speaker, is also under investigation for bribery.
So meet Temer, Cunha, Calheiros; these three amigos are the true stars of the Banana Republic of Scoundrels/Crooks.
As if the Supreme Court would be rascal-free. Judge Gilmar Mendes, for instance, is a lowly plutocrat vassal. When an attorney for the government entered a motion to suspend impeachment, he quipped, “Ah, they can go to heaven, to the Pope, or to hell.” Another pompous judge received a request to sideline Cunha as early as December 2015. He only examined the request over four months later, when the whole golpeachment scam was in its decisive phase. And still he argued, “there’s no proof Cunha contaminated the impeachment process.”
Finally, complementing the whole scam, we find Brazilian mainstream media, with the toxic Globo media empire – which lavishly profited from the 1964 military coup – at the forefront.
All hail the neoliberal restoration
Wall Street – as well as the City of London – could not hide its excitement with golpeachment, believing Brutus 1 Temer will be an economic upgrade. Arguably, he might dare to tweak Brazil’s Kafkaesque tax code and do something about the enormous hole in the pension system. But what that mythical entity – the “markets” – and myriad “investors” are salivating about is the prospect of fabulous rates of return in a reopened-for-speculation Brazil. The Brutus 1 game will be a neoliberal feast, actually a restoration, with no popular representation whatsoever.
The golpeachment gang gets really incensed when they are identified as coup plotters. Still, they could not give a damn about the OAS, Mercosur, Unasur – all of them condemned the coup – not to mention the Holy Grail: the BRICS. Under Brutus 1, the Foreign Ministry, to be led by a sore loser senator, is bound to sink Brazil’s key role in BRICS cooperation, to the benefit of Exceptionalistan.
All one needs to know is that neither Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack “kill list” Obama nor Queen of Chaos Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton condemned the ongoing regime change light/golpeachment. That’s predictable, considering Exceptionalistan’s NSA spied on Petrobras and Dilma Rousseff personally – the genesis of what would develop as the Car Wash investigation.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest limited himself to the proverbial platitudes: “challenging moment”; “trust in Brazilian democratic institutions”; or even “mature democracy.” Yet he added, significantly, that Brazil is “under scrutiny.”
Of course, the current stage of a very sophisticated Hybrid War strategy has been accomplished. But there are countless cliffhangers ahead. The Car Wash investigation – currently in slow motion – will pick up speed as a rash of dodgy plea bargains is already in store to create the conditions to criminalize for good not only Dilma Rousseff but the key piece in the chessboard: Lula.
Game over? Not so fast. The anti-golpeachment front does have a strategy: to imprint especially in “deep Brazil,” the vast masses of the working poor, the notion of illegality; to rebuild Rousseff’s image as the victim of a profound injustice; to re-energize the progressive political front; to make sure the Brutus 1 government will fail; and to create the conditions for the man who will come in from the cold to win the 2018 presidential elections.
Brazilian House of Cards? Bets could be made this may even end up as Anaconda, with Lula immobilizing the Hybrid War hyenas in a cobra clutch.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
Published on Peak Surfer on April 24, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
It is the political silly season, although these days it never seems to be otherwise. Delma Rouseff, Brazil’s heroic anti-establishment, anti-corruption President, has been impeached by the lower house on (dubious) charges of corruption, but the former, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called it more accurately a "coup d’état.”
Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned after it was revealed he owned an offshore company with his wife to channel millions of kroner. British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted he owned shares in a Bahamas-based trust up until 2010. In Malta, protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for the same tax-avoidance activities.
Scores of countries will hold national elections in 2016. In January, Portugal elected Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, former leader of the Social Democratic Party and supported by the Social Democratic Party and the CDS – People's Party. Portugal, which rationalized recreational drug policy in 2001, tilted left.
Ireland, which has a gender neutral election law, requiring any election to be supported by at least 30% male and 30% female voters, in February elected a right-leaning Dáil Éireann (parliament). Sadly the coalition is still too fractious to choose a Taoiseach (prime minister)
In 2013 Ireland consolidated separate county and local water authorities into a single national utility, which proceeded to install meters everywhere and raise rates. In 2014 and 2015 local protests blocked meter installers. Four percent of Ireland's population showed up at one demonstration in Dublin. Irish Water is a wedge between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, so no prime minister for Ireland.
Legislative elections for 450 Duma seats will be held in Russia on 18 September. Polls April 10th give Dmitry Medvedev’s conservative United Russia 46%, Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s right-wing anti-communist Liberal Democratic Party 11%, Gennady Zyuganov’s left-wing Communist Party 9%, A Just Russia People's Freedom Party 5% and the remainder to 10 other parties, including the Greens led by Oleg Mitvol.
In Peru, the first round on April 10th narrowed the field to Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, of the Popular Force party, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski candidate of the Peruvians for Change party. Fujimori has a healthy lead and the second round of voting comes June 5th. Peru is interesting if for no other reason than the names of its political parties (as translated):
Peruvians for Change
Alliance for Progress
Everybody for Peru
These names seem like something you might read on post-its on the wall of the “creatives” room in an ad agency.
In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last November: "I would say around September–October is when you should expect the next election to be.” However, when parties predictably deadlocked over bills to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, a bone of contention for the opposition Labor Party, Turnbull this week announced he would dissolve Parliament on May 3 and call for new elections July 2. Turnbull himself is well known to Australians and his party the clear frontrunner. But lately he has been losing ground to Labor leader Bill Shorten in the polls. Labor needs to win 21 seats to take power, a swing of 4.3%. BBC reports:
“Mr Turnbull will attempt to paint Mr Shorten as a union lackey who cannot manage the economy; Mr Shorten will say Mr Turnbull is an out-of-touch protector of greedy banks leading a divided party that stands for nothing.”
The Philippines just concluded its presidential debate cycle and is headed to national elections May 9th. At the top of the ballot is the election for successor to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. The leading candidate is the current VP Jejomar Binay. His opponents include Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago (People's Reform Party) who is suffering from stage 4 lung cancer. Called "the Iron Lady of Asia,” she was the widely expected winner of the 1992 Philippine Presidential Elections, but lost after an inexplicably unscheduled power outage during the counting of votes. The Supreme Court of the Philippines recently declared optical scanner counting devices “corrupt” and forced precincts to return to hand counts.
Santiago announced her candidacy for president in the launch of her book, Stupid is Forever, on October 13, 2015.
While the People’s Republic of China will not be holding national elections this year, what is brewing at the grass roots in Hong Kong is QI — quite interesting. Wikipedia reports:
The emergence of new political groups led by young activists is set to shake up the political landscape of Hong Kong. Hong Kong Indigenous, a pro-independence localist group, faired well in the February New Territories East by-election by receiving more than 66,000 votes, coming third after pan-democratic Civic Party and pro-Beijing DAB, gaining about 15 percent of the total votes. A day after the election, localist groups including Wong Yuk-man's Proletariat Political Institute, Wong Yeung-tat's Civic Passion and Chin Wan's Hong Kong Resurgence Order announced a plan to field candidates in all five geographical constituencies.
On 10 April 2016. six post-Occupy organisations, Youngspiration, East Kowloon Community, Tin Shui Wai New Force, Cheung Sha Wan Community Establishment Power, Tsz Wan Shan Constructive Power and Tuen Mun Community, political groups formed after the Umbrella Revolution, formed an electoral alliance planned to field candidates in four of the five geographical constituencies with the agenda to put forward a referendum on Hong Kong's self-determination. Hong Kong Indigenous and another new pro-independence Hong Kong National Party also stated that they will run in the upcoming election.
On the same day on 10 April 2016, the student leaders in the Umbrella Revolution, Joshua Wong, Oscar Lai and Agnes Chow of Scholarism and Nathan Law of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) also formed a new party Demosisto which was inspired by Taiwan's New Power Party which was formed by the Sunflower Movement leaders and fared well in the 2016 Taiwanese legislative election. The new party calls for referendum on Hong Kong's future after 2047 when the One Country, Two Systems is supposed to expire. The party aimed at fielding candidates in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon East, facing competitions from other new political groups while posing challenge to the traditional pan-democracy camp.
Finally, turning to the USA: With Bernie Sanders’ inability to unset the Hillary Clinton base in New York (Manhattan 66% – 33%; Westchester County 67% – 32%) on Tuesday, it looks more and more like a Clinton victory at the convention is a lead pipe cinch. Who knows? She might even have the team to out-Diebold the Trump machine. In Brooklyn, tens of thousands of voters discovered too late that they were ineligible to vote. The New York City Elections Board confirmed that more than 125,000 Brooklyn voters had been scrubbed from the voter rolls and the NY Attorney General's office is on the case. Clinton can now win less than half of the remaining primaries and still gain the required number of delegates.
This past week George Monbiot penned one of the best essays of his career, although it was actually a teaser for his new book, How Did We Get into This Mess? published by Verso for £12.99.
In naming Neoliberalism as the root of all our problems, Monbiot linked the Irish Water crisis, the slow collapse of public health and education, rigged Philippine elections, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, offshore tax-avoidance havens, the collapse of ecosystems, Occupy Hong Kong, Australian greedy banks, and the rise of Donald Trump to a single bad gene in our political DNA.
Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.
Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.
When George W. Bush attributed the rise of Islamic jihadis to “they hate our freedom,” what he was doing was reinforcing the neoliberal meme. As Monbiot puts it:
Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.
Hillary Clinton likes to tell audiences that because of the Affordable Care Act, "We now have driven costs down to the lowest they've been in 50 years.” Actually, health spending in the United States is higher than it's ever been, so the statement on its face is inaccurate. The U.S. spends more per capita than every other country in the OECD; and twice as much per capita as the system in France, with considerably worse average outcomes.
The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income.
Unearned income is what buys elections, and not just in the United States.
What the history of both Keynesianism and neoliberalism show is that it’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed. And that is what none of the elections in 2016 seem to be doing.
Originally published in Strategic Culture on April 26, 2016
Soon after the impeachment motion against President Dilma Rousseff was approved in the Brazilian Congress by what I chose to call Hybrid War hyenas, President-in-Waiting Michel «Brutus» Temer, one of the coup’s articulators, dispatched a senator to Washington as special paperboy to deliver the news on the coup in progress. The senator in question was not on an official mission for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Brutus Temer was alarmed by global media reaction, which is increasingly interpreting what he’s doing – allied with Brutus Two, notoriously corrupt head of the lower house Eduardo Cunha – for what it is: a coup.
The senator’s mission was allegedly to launch a PR offensive to counter the coup narrative, which is, according to Brutus One, «demoralizing Brazilian institutions».
Nonsense. The paperboy senator was sent to tell the US State Department that everything is proceeding according to plan.
In Washington, the paperboy senator mumbled, «we will explain that Brazil is not a banana republic». Well, it was not, but now, thanks to the Hybrid War hyenas, it is.
When you have a man holding 11 illegal bank accounts in Switzerland, listed in the Panama Papers, and already under investigation by the Supreme Court controlling the political destiny of a whole nation, you have a banana republic.
When you have a self-righteous provincial judge threatening to imprison former President Lula for a modest apartment and a ranch that he does not own, but at the same time is incapable of laying a finger on Brutus Two, alongside largely pompous Supreme Court judges, you have a banana republic.
Now compare Washington’s non-reaction with Moscow’s. The Russian Foreign Ministry, via the irrepressible Maria Zakharova, stressed the crucial BRICS partnership as well as the common Brazil-Russia positions within the G20. And Moscow made it clear that Brazil’s problems should be solved within «the constitutional legal framework and without any external interference».
Everyone knows what «external interference» means.
Full Spectrum Dominance reloaded
I have been following the Brazilian coup-in-progress with a special emphasis on the US-backed/driven Hybrid Warfare bent on destroying «the neo-developmentalist project for Latin America – uniting at least some of the local elites, invested in developing internal markets, in association with the working classes». The key Hybrid War objective in this case is to install a neoliberal restoration.
Obviously the key target had to be Brazil, a BRICS member and the 7th largest economy in the world.
Imperial hacks go straight to the point when listing the Hybrid War tools and aims of what the Pentagon defined as Full Spectrum Dominance way back in 2002. So, «US power flows from our unmatched military might, yes. Anything that expands the reach of US markets – such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership in trade, for example – adds to the arsenal of US power. But in a deeper way, it’s a product of the dominance of the US economy».
Yet the US economy is far from dominant. What matters now is what drives «business away from America, or allow other nations to build a rival financial architecture that’s less encumbered by a smorgasbord of sanctions».
«Rival financial architecture» has BRICS written all over it. And a «smorgasbord of sanctions» was not enough to make Iran cry uncle; Tehran will continue to practice a «resistance economy». Not by accident, two of the BRICS – Russia and China – as well as Iran, feature as the Pentagon’s top five existential threats, alongside nuclear-armed North Korea and, as the last lowly priority, «terrorism».
Cold War 2.0 is essentially about Russia and China – but Brazil is also a key player. Edward Snowden revealed how NSA spying was centered on Petrobras, whose proprietary technology was responsible for the largest oil discovery of the young 21st century; the pre-salt deposits. US Big Oil is excluded from its exploitation. That’s anathema; and that requires deployment of Hybrid War techniques inbuilt in Full Spectrum Dominance.
Brazilian comprador elites have been gleefully playing the game. Over two years ago JP Morgan analysts were already conducting seminars with neoliberal macro-economy enforcers preaching how to destabilize the Rousseff government.
Industry, commerce, banking and agribusiness lobbies have ostensibly favored impeachment, as representing the end of the Lula-Dilma social democracy experiment. So it’s no wonder President-in-Waiting Brutus Temer made a comprehensive deal with Big Capital – including no limits for interests on public debt (way above the international norm); the relation between debt and GDP bound to go up; more expensive credit; and the corollary being cuts on health and education.
As far as Washington is concerned, and that’s bipartisan, it’s absolutely out of the question to allow an autonomous regional power in the South Atlantic, blessed with unrivalled eco-wealth (think the Amazon rainforest and all that water, coupled with the Guarani aquifer) and on top of it closely linked to key BRICS members Russia-China, which have their own strategic partnership.
The pre-salt factor is the cherry in the tropical cake. Out of the question for US Big Oil to allow Petrobras to have the monopoly of exploitation. And just in case, if need be, the US 4th Fleet is already in position in the South Atlantic.
One BRICS down, two to go
The Cheney regime-declared «war on terra» distracted the Empire of Chaos for too long. Now finally comes a – coordinated, global – chaos offensive. From Southwest Asia to South Asia, the Hybrid War dream would be some sort of Iraqi chaos to replace the governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Egypt – as the leading-from-behind Empire of Chaos is trying hard in Syria even though the Assad dynasty was a «secret» US ally for decades.
The Masters of the Universe above paperboy Obama decided to stab the House of Saud in the back – not necessarily a bad thing – over Iran; the prevailing wishful thinking was to have Iranian natural gas replacing Russian natural gas going to Europe, thus collapsing the Russian economy. Major fail.
Yet there’s still another option; the Qatari natural gas pipeline through Saudi Arabia and Syria, also replacing Russian natural gas to Europe. That remains the CIA chief goal in Syria – no matter what; Daesh, the phony Caliphate – this is all just propaganda.
The CIA is also keen on Saudi Arabia destroying the Russian economy through an oil price war – and they do not want that to stop; thus holding over the Saudis those famous 28 pages on 9/11 to keep the oil price war going.
The CIA has also been trying like mad to lure Moscow into a Syrian trap as in 1980s Afghanistan, and as they did with the Kiev coup, even to the extent of ordering the Turkish military, which is their agent, to shoot down a Russian Su-24. The «problem» is that the Kremlin did not bite the poisoned apple.
Way back in the 1980s, the mix of House of Saud unleashing their reserves along with the GCC petrodollar gang, driving the price of oil to $7 a barrel in 1985, together with the Afghanistan Vietnam op, ended up driving the USSR bankrupt. Arguably, the whole op was brilliant – in conception and execution; a Hybrid War of economics plus Vietnam. Now, «leading from behind», Dr. Zbig «Grand Chessboard» Brzezinski – Obama’s foreign policy mentor – is trying to pull off a similar trick.
But oops, we got a problem. The Beijing leadership, already preoccupied with tweaking the Chinese development model, clearly saw the Empire of Chaos’s effort to Divide and Rule (and Conquer) the entire world. If Russia went down, China would be next.
It was only, virtually yesterday, around 2010, when US intel regarded China as their major military threat, and were starting to move against the Middle Kingdom via the «pivoting to Asia». But suddenly the CIA realized that Moscow had spent a trillion dollars jumping two generations ahead in defensive and offensive missiles – not to mention submarines; the weapons of choice for WWIII.
That is when Russia was enthroned as the major threat. Carefully surveying the chessboard, the Beijing leadership then accelerated the alliance with Russia and the BRICS as an alternative force, creating an earthquake in Washington of absolutely devastating proportions.
Now, Beijing has deftly engineered the BRICS into play as a serious alternative power structure – with their own IMF, SWIFT payment system, and World Bank.
Beware the wrath of an Empire of Chaos scorned. That’s what’s in play now against the BRICS; Brazil under siege, the fall of South Africa, the weakness of India, China and Russia progressively surrounded. Hybrid War variations from Ukraine to Brazil, mounting pressure in Central Asia, the «Syraq» powder keg, all point to a concerted Full Spectrum Dominance offensive to break up the BRICS, the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership, and ultimately the New Silk Roads uniting Eurasia. Oil price wars, the ruble collapse, the refugee flood in the EU (caused by «erratic» Sultan Erdogan), 21st century Operation Gladio remixes all over, distract the masses against imaginary enemies while terrorism of the phony Daesh variety is manipulated as a sophisticated diversionist tactic.
It may be brilliant, even masterful, in its conception and in its execution, and it’s so flashy in a cinematic sense. But make no mistake; there will be blowback.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
Originally published in RT on April 19, 2016
The gloomy and repulsive night when the female president of the 7th largest economy in the world was the prey of choice fed to a lynch mob of hyenas in a drab, provincial Circus Maximus will forever live in infamy.
By 367 votes for and 137 against, the impeachment/coup/regime change-light drive against Dilma Rousseff cleared the Brazilian Congressional circus and will now go to the Senate, where a “special commission” will be set up. If approved, Rousseff will then be sidelined for 180 days and a low-rent tropical Brutus, Vice-President Michel Temer, will ascend to power until the Senate’s final verdict.
This lowly farce should serve as a wake-up call not only to the BRICS but to the whole Global South. Who needs NATO, R2P (“responsibility to protect”) or “moderate rebels” when you can get your regime change just by tweaking a nation’s political/judicial system?
The Brazilian Supreme Court has not analyzed the merit of the matter – at least not yet. There’s no solid evidence anywhere Rousseff committed a “crime of responsibility”; she did what every American President since Reagan has done – not to mention leaders all across the world: along with her vice-president, the lowly Brutus, Rousseff got slightly creative with the federal budget’s numbers.
The coup has been sponsored by a certified crook, president of the lower house Eduardo Cunha; reportedly the holder of several illegal accounts in Switzerland, listed in the Panama Papers and under investigation by the Supreme Court. Instead of lording over near-illiterate hyenas in a racist, largely crypto-fascist circus, he should be behind bars. It beggars belief that the Supreme Court has not launched legal action against Cunha. The secret of his power over the circus is a gigantic corruption scheme lasting many years, featuring corporations contributing to his and others’ campaign financing.
And that’s the beauty of a regime change-light/color revolution of Hybrid War when staged in such a dynamically creative nation such as Brazil. The hall of mirrors yields a political simulacrum that would have driven deconstructionists Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco, if alive, green with envy; a Congress crammed with fools/patsies/traitors/crooks, some of whom are already being investigated for corruption, has conspired to depose a president who is not under any formal corruption investigation – and has not committed any “crime of responsibility”.
The neoliberal restoration
Still, without a popular vote, the massively rejected tropical Brutus twins, Temer and Cunha, will find it impossible to govern, even though they would perfectly incarnate the project of the immensely arrogant and ignorant Brazilian elites; a neoliberal triumph, with Brazilian “democracy” trampled down six feet under.
It’s impossible to understand what happened at the Circus Maximus this Sunday without knowing there’s a gaggle of Brazilian political parties that are seriously threatened by the non-stop overspill of the Car Wash corruption investigation. To ensure their survival, Car Wash must be “suspended”; and it will, under the bogus “national unity” proposed by lowly Brutus Temer.
But first, Car Wash must produce a high-profile scalp. And that has to be Lula in jail – compared to which the crucifixion of Rousseff is an Aesop fable. Corporate media, led by the noxious Globo empire, would hail it as the ultimate victory, and nobody would care about Car Wash’s enforced retirement.
The 54 million-plus who voted for Rousseff’s reelection in 2014 voted wrong. The overall “project” is a government without vote and without people; a Brazilian-style parliamentary system, without bothering with pesky “elections” and crucially, including very“generous” campaign financing flexibility not bound to incriminate powerful companies/corporations.
In a nutshell, the ultimate aim is to perfectly “align” the Brazilian Executive, Legislative, Judiciary and corporate media interests. Democracy is for suckers. Brazilian elites remote controlling the hyenas know very well that if Lula runs again in 2018, he will win. And Lula has already warned; he won’t buy any “national unity” crap; he’ll be back in the streets fighting whatever illegitimate government pops up.
We’re now open for plundering
As it stands, Rousseff runs the risk of becoming the first major casualty of the NSA-originated, two-year-long Car Wash investigation. The President, admittedly an incompetent economic manager and lacking the right stuff of a master politician, believed that Car Wash – which practically prevented her from governing – would not reach her because she is personally honest. Yet Car Wash’s not so hidden agenda was always regime change. Who cares if in the process the nation is left on the verge of being controlled exactly by many of those indicted by the anti-corruption drive?
Lowly Brutus Temer – a vanity case version of Argentina’s Macri – is the perfect conduit for the implementation of regime change. He represents the powerful banking lobby, the powerful agribusiness lobby and the powerful federation of industries in Brazil’s economic leader, the state of Sao Paulo.
The neo-developmentalist project for Latin America – uniting at least some of the local elites, invested in developing internal markets, in association with the working classes – is now dead, because what may be defined as sub-hegemonic, or peripheral, capitalism is mired in crisis after the 2008 Wall Street-provoked debacle. What’s left is just neoliberal restoration. TINA (“there is no alternative”). This implies, in the Brazilian case, the savage reversion of Lula’s legacy; social policies, technological policies, the drive to globally expand large, competitive Brazilian companies, more public universities, better salaries.
In a message to the nation, Brutus Temer admitted as much; “hope”after impeachment will be absolutely swell for “foreign investment”, as in let them plunder the colony at will; back to the trademark history of Brazil since 1500.
So Wall Street, US Big Oil and the proverbial “American interests” win this round at the circus – thanks to the, once again proverbial, vassal/comprador elites. Chevron execs are already salivating with the prospect of laying their hands on the pre-salt oil deposits; that was already promised by a trusted vassal in the Brazilian opposition.
The coup goes on. The real hyenas haven’t yet pounced. So it's far from over.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
THE ROVING EYE
The headline news is that this Tuesday in Fortaleza, northeast Brazil, the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) fights the (Neoliberal) World (Dis)Order via a new development bank and a reserve fund set up to offset financial crises.
The devil, of course, is in the details of how they’ll do it.
It’s been a long and winding road since Yekaterinburg in 2009, at their first summit, up to the BRICS’s long-awaited counterpunch against the Bretton Woods consensus – the IMF and the World Bank – as well as the Japan-dominated (but largely responding to US priorities) Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The BRICS Development Bank – with an initial US$50 billion in capital – will be not only BRICS-oriented, but invest in infrastructure projects and sustainable development on a global scale. The model is the Brazilian BNDES, which supports Brazilian companies investing across Latin America. In a few years, it will reach a financing capacity of up to $350 billion. With extra funding especially from Beijing and Moscow, the new institution could leave the World Bank in the dust. Compare access to real capital savings to US government’s printed green paper with no collateral.
And then there’s the agreement establishing a $100 billion pool of reserve currencies – the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), described by Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov as “a kind of mini-IMF”. That’s a non-Washington consensus mechanism to counterpunch capital flight. For the pool, China will contribute with $41 billion, Brazil, India and Russia with $18 billion each, and South Africa with $5 billion.
The development bank should be headquartered in Shanghai – although Mumbai has forcefully tried to make its case (for an Indian take on the BRICS strategy, see here )
Way beyond economy and finance, this is essentially about geopolitics – as in emerging powers offering an alternative to the failed Washington consensus. Or, as consensus apologists say, the BRICS may be able to “alleviate challenges” they face from the “international financial system”. The strategy also happens to be one of the key nodes of the progressively solidified China-Russia alliance, recently featured via the gas “deal of the century” and at the St. Petersburg economic forum.
Let’s play geopolitical ball
Just as Brazil managed, against plenty of odds, to stage an unforgettable World Cup – the melting of the national team notwithstanding – Vladimir Putin and Xi Xinping now come to the neighborhood to play top class geopolitical ball.
The Kremlin views the bilateral relation with Brasilia as highly strategic. Putin not only watched the World Cup final in Rio; apart from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, he also met German chancellor Angela Merkel (they discussed Ukraine in detail). Yet arguably the key member of Putin’s traveling party is Elvira Nabiulin, president of Russia’s Central Bank; she is pressing in South America the concept that all negotiations with the BRICS should bypass the US dollar.
Putin’s extremely powerful, symbolic meeting with Fidel Castro in Havana, as well as writing off $36 billion in Cuban debt could not have had a more meaningful impact all across Latin America. Compare it with the perennial embargo imposed by a vengeful Empire of Chaos.
In South America, Putin is meeting not only with Uruguay’s President Pepe Mujica – discussing, among other items, the construction of a deepwater port – but also with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.
Xi Jinping is also on tour, visiting, apart from Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela. What Beijing is saying (and doing) complements Moscow; Latin America is viewed as highly strategic. That should translate into more Chinese investment and increased South-South integration.
This Russia-China commercial/diplomatic offensive fits the concerted push towards a multipolar world – side by side with political/economic South American leaders. Argentina is a sterling example. While Buenos Aires, already mired in recession, fights American vulture funds – the epitome of financial speculation – in New York courthouses, Putin and Xi come offering investment in everything from railways to the energy industry.
Russia’s energy industry of course needs investment and technology from private Western multinationals, just as Made in China developed out of Western investment profiting from a cheap workforce. What the BRICS are trying to present to the Global South now is a choice; on one side, financial speculation, vulture funds and the hegemony of the Masters of the Universe; on the other side, productive capitalism – an alternative strategy of capitalist development compared to the Triad (US, EU, Japan).
Still, it will be a long way for the BRICS to project a productive model independent of the casino capitalism speculation “model”, by the way still recovering from the massive 2007/2008 crisis (the financial bubble has not burst for good.)
One might view the BRICS’s strategy as a sort of running, constructive critique of capitalism; how to purge the system from perennially financing the US fiscal deficit as well as a global militarization syndrome – related to the Orwellian/Panopticon complex – subordinated to Washington. As Argentine economist Julio Gambina put it, the key question is not being emergent, but independent.
In this piece, La Stampa’s Claudio Gallo introduces what could be the defining issue of the times: how neoliberalism – ruling directly or indirectly most of the world – is producing a disastrous anthropological mutation that is plunging us all into global totalitarianism (while everyone swears by their “freedoms”).
It’s always instructive to come back to Argentina. Argentina is imprisoned by a chronic foreign debt crisis essentially unleashed by the IMF over 40 years ago – and now perpetuated by vulture funds. The BRICS bank and the reserve pool as an alternative to the IMF and World Bank offer the possibility for dozens of other nations to escape the Argentine plight. Not to mention the possibility that other emerging nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran and Turkey may soon contribute to both institutions.
No wonder the hegemonic Masters of the Universe gang is uneasy in their leather chairs. This Financial Times piece neatly summarizes the view from the City of London – a notorious casino capitalism paradise.
These are heady days in South America in more ways than one. Atlanticist hegemony will remain part of the picture, of course, but it’s the BRICS’s strategy that is pointing the way further on down the road. And still the multipolar wheel keeps rolling along.
Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
By Pepe Escobar
SAO PAULO – One of the defining images of the World Cup – so far – has been the sight of the Mannschaft – aka the German team – fraternizing with Pataxo Indians a few hundred meters away from the spot where Brazil was “discovered” in 1500. Call it a European re-discovery of the exotic tropics.
Then there’s the English Team frolicking by the seaside, inside a military base, with the Sugarloaf as gorgeous backdrop, backed up by a scientific expert in humidity and industrial ventilators aplenty (after all there’s the Rumble in the Jungle against Italy this Saturday “deep in the Amazon rainforest”, as British tabloids tell it.)
The World Cup – the greatest show on earth – kicks off just as a relentless Made in the West (client states included) anti-Chinese and anti-Russian propaganda/downright vilification shatters all known hysteria levels.
And that means the BRICS are a target; in the case of Brazil, an emerging power sitting strategically over the bulk of the Amazon rainforest just as progressive Latin American integration has dared to turn the Monroe Doctrine into (branded) toilet paper.
Recently, Brazil brought at least 30 million people out of poverty. China invests in medical care and education. Russia refuses to be bullied as in the drunkard Yeltsin years. In the past few years, the World Cup has been all about the BRICS: South Africa in 2010, Brazil now, and Russia in 2018. Qatar in 2022 – if it ever happens – is more like a Gulf petrodollar-fueled bribery racket gone wrong.
It’s amusing to check how the City of London – which loves Russian cash, craves Chinese investment and has a soft spot for Brazilian soft power – takes it all in. With an added strand of British humor, they could easily have interpreted the Rumble in the Jungle as NATO battling it out in the middle of the much-coveted rainforest (think the water wars of the near future).
That other World Cup
And then, just two days after the start of the World Cup, Brazilian neighbor Bolivia hosts no less than a G-77+ China summit – actually 133 UN member-nations, the whole thing presided over by Evo Morales, who is a sort of Andean distant cousin of the Pataxos who so fascinated the Germans.
Call it also the meeting of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative to the Americas, which includes Cuba) and the BRICS (only Russia won’t be present). American exceptionalists are furious that the BRICS are spearheading the transition towards a multipolar world – something that’s already at play in football (think Spain, Germany, Italy on one side, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay on another).
Emulating football, a South-to-South counterpunch to the hegemony of the industrialized North is also in play. Brazil, China, and Russia, in their different strategies, are all betting on more South-South integration – from the Banco del Sur (the Bank of the South) to the upcoming BRICS development bank (there’s a crucial BRICS summit next month in Brasilia), on the way to a more egalitarian system that ideally could be financed by a percentage of foreign debt, a percentage of military expenditure and a global tax on speculative financial transactions.
And it’s never enough to remember that the G-77 is about decolonization; no Empire of Bases; and no interference of the NSA-coordinated Orwellian/Panopticon complex in the Global South.
Now compare it with the official Adidas Coca-Cola Hyundai Kia Motors Emirates Sony Visa Anheuser-Busch InBev (Budweiser) Castrol Continental Johnson & Johnson McDonald’s Itau FIFA-sanctioned entertainment and fun 2014 World Cup Brazil – which industry bible AdvertisingAge broke down as “the Super Bowl every day for an entire month“.
Firmly opposing it, we find an array of South-South associations/solidarity/social movements denouncing everything arguably embedded with the mighty enterprise, from hardcore post-capitalist neo-colonization to outright criminalization of the poor.
And among these movements we find, not surprisingly, Global South icon Diego “Hand of God” Maradona, who said this week, “FIFA gets $4 billion (out of the Cup) while the champion nation gets $35 million. This is wrong. The corporation is delivering a death blow to football”.
Football is war
Much has also been made of the parallel between hyper-capitalist globalization – as graphically expressed by the World Cup and the mega-business of contemporary football – and nationalism.
Well, the world is not and will never be flat; it’s a Himalaya/Pamir/Hindu Kush of varied inequality altitudes, subjected to snow avalanches including trade, commerce, immigration flows and technology breakthroughs. None of these are able to shatter national fibers. It’s still “us” against “them”, as much in the Global South defining Americans and Europeans as “gringos” as in swathes of the industrialized North patronizing/profiting from the “exotic” Global South.
There’s nothing post-national about the World Cup. In the terrain of hardcore geopolitics, the highly centralized European Union is fragmenting under the weight of a bunch of right-wing or extreme right-wing nationalist parties; in football, the major difference, compared to hardcore geopolitics, is that there’s not only one exceptionalist power but a handful, from Spain to Brazil, from Germany to Italy, from Argentina to France.
Rinus Michels, coach of the Clockwork Orange, the Dutch national team that startled the world in 1974 (alas, they didn’t win), once said that football is war (compare it to maverick director Samuel Fuller, who said cinema is a battlefield). The World Cup is war by other means; an officially sanctioned, ritualized clash of nationalisms. So it’s all about Pick your Tribe; only that after your tribe is out of play you switch to another, replacement tribe – which any effete epicurean would arguably define as Italy. After all they have the most stirring national anthem. They’ve got the best food and the best clothes. And of course, they’ve got Andrea “the Magician” Pirlo.
A new way of playing ball?
Brazil, widely praised as The Land of Football, also happens to be the global leader in reduction of carbon emissions, according to recent research published by Science magazine, managing at the same time to increase agricultural production while saving more rainforest.
And yet, and as usual with all things Brazil, all things World Cup got incredibly messy – a running metaphor of the typical assortment of ills faced by the struggling Global South. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been forced to appeal to the historical stereotype of the Brazilian “cordial man” and stress tolerance, diversity, dialogue and even sustainability, as well as condemning racism and prejudice, to exhort the population to forget about their troubles and welcome an army of foreign visitors.
That’s a given, considering the average Brazilian is heartwarming and exceedingly friendly; the devil is in the details – as in, for instance, at least 200,000 poor people evicted from their places or at least threatened with eviction, to make way for major works bound to increase “urban mobility”. Well, only 10% of these works were finished, due in most cases to massive corruption. In Rio, not a single real was invested in a chaotic transport system serving the proletarian peripheral sprawl.
Wildly popular Lula, when he was still the president of Brazil in 2009, said that no taxpayer money would be spent on the World Cup. Well, not directly; most of the funding came from the National Bank for Economic Development, a bank that lends money to banks. Builders of new stadia also benefited from generous tax exemptions.
The bottom line is that Rousseff’s government ended up losing the media battle. Over and over, Rousseff has had to explain that the Cup will cost a fraction of what is invested in health and education (that’s open to debate.) Virtually half of the Brazilian population is not convinced.
And still what’s certain is that a Brazilian World Cup win automatically ensures Rousseff’s re-election.
But the recent wave after wave of protests has in fact transcended the current administration. It’s as if all these diverse social movements have been manifesting the ultimate utopian desire; to erase, in one go, centuries of injustice perpetrated by Brazil’s notoriously rapacious and arrogant/ignorant elites – which have always implemented total political and economic exclusion based on noxious race and class prejudice.
So this whole drama is not simply about “anti-neoliberal” or “anti-capitalist” stirrings. It goes way beyond nationalism. And it could be way more transcending than the textbook for a revolution using football as a pretext. Whatever the final result of this war revolving around a football, Brazil could yet teach a lesson to the whole Global South.
In victory, and even in glorious defeat, Brazil may end up finding the stamina to pursue a new strategic overture – a new, non-arrogant, non- neocolonial, non-weaponized, non-exceptionalist way to lead and exercise power, build alliances and clinch grand geopolitical agreements in a multipolar world. A new way of playing ball. So let this New Great Game begin.