Saturday, 28 May 2016

US Foreign Policy in 2017: Who is Worse Donald Trumpor Hillary Clinton ?

Jonathan Freedland, has called for those supporting Bernie Sanders as Democratic nominee for the President in November 2016 elections in the USA-and indeed for Sanders himself-to swing behind Hillary Clinton should he lose in order to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.
'...a deep hostility to Clinton among many on the left, one that has been eloquently channelled by Sanders. They can’t stand her hawkishness, typified by her Senate vote backing the Iraq war. They can’t stand her links to Wall Street. And they can’t stand her long years inside the system'
The domestic implications of having President Trump or Clinton are for Americans to deal with but from an external and global perspective, that in as regards the consequences for foreign policy, the election of either of these two candidates is a chilling prospect and it is difficult to decide who could be worse.

Freedman slyly alludes only to Clinton's vote for the Iraq War while ignoring the more obvious fact that as Secretary of State she was responsible for the foreign policy debacle of Libya and Syria back in 2011. Whatever her credentials as a 'domestic reformer',in foreign policy H Clinton is a staunch progressive nationalist and interventionist.

As Anatol Lieven puts it in A Hawk Named Hillary,
Neither in her book ( Hard Choices ) nor in her policy is there even the slightest evidence that she has, in fact, tried to learn from Iraq beyond the most obvious lesson—the undesirability of US ground invasions and occupations, which even the Republicans have managed to learn. For Clinton herself helped to launch US airpower to topple another regime, this one in Libya—and, as in Iraq, the results have been anarchy, sectarian conflict and opportunities for Islamist extremists that have destabilized the entire region. She then helped lead the United States quite far down the road of doing the same thing in Syria.
Clinton tries to argue in the book that she took a long, hard look at the Libyan opposition before reporting to the president her belief that “there was a reasonable chance the rebels would turn out to be credible partners”—but however long she looked, it is now obvious that she got it wrong. She has simply not understood the fragility of states—states, not regimes—in many parts of the world, the risk that “humanitarian intervention” will bring about state collapse, and the inadequacy of a crude and simplistic version of democracy promotion as a basis for state reconstruction. It does not help that the US record on democracy promotion and the rule of law—including Clinton’s own record—is so spotted that very few people outside the country take it seriously anymore.
While it is thought US voters focus far more on domestic issues than foreign policy, they also focus on issues such as Homeland Security, the costs of foreign entanglements and their obvious decline as a superpower and waning global influence. Trump, by contrast, in seeking to 'Make America Great Again' promises 'America First'. 
This appeals to Americans tired with US global wars and spending billions of dollars on promoting 'regime change' in Arab lands where the locals are considered ungrateful and violent anyway and mentally incapable of democracy. As a consequence, Trump puts forward a foreign policy based only on 'what is in it for us'.

While many leaning towards Sanders would not put their anti-interventionist stance in those terms, the fact that Clinton promises further endless interventions and demonising Putin and his 'despicable' opposition to US foreign policy on Syria for example, is deeply disturbing to a large number of anti-Republican Americans.

The complete inability of H Clinton to have a capacity to understand the perspective of other states and their leaders and diplomats marks her out as shrill and self-righteous to a dangerous degree in a hazardous international context where a more nuanced and sophisticated approach to statecraft is required.

With rising tensions with China over the South China Sea, North Korea and its emergence as an economic and regional military superpower, Clinton's less subtle and more stated ambition of containing China in East Asia, as well as the desire to lecture China on human rights and democracy, could cause confrontation, even war.

Oddly enough, Trump, by contrast, though he is full of undiplomatic brags-such as taking the Chinese leadership to McDonald's-and catastrophic 'public diplomacy' as regards Islam and Muslims,does not appear to know much about global power politics at all. Even so, he recently met Clinton's favoured mentor-Henry Kissinger.

Trump may well be evolving towards a pose as supreme 'realist' in US global policy in away from the idealistic and naive liberal progressive internationalism. As regards entering negotiations with Kim Jong Un in North Korea,Trump was on to something as sanctions have failed and North Korea is, de facto, in 2016 a nuclear power.

H Clinton's campaign team lambasted Trump for a "bizarre fascination with foreign strongmen" as he wanted to open talks with the dictator in Pyongyang. Even so, it could be a better way forward than Obama and Clinton's approach given that neglect of North Korea has led it to develop nuclear weapons since 2011.

As regards North Korea, it is hard to see how Obama and Clinton could have failed more. The overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya in 2011 signalled to North Korea that no matter what concessions are made on WMD, that would not save a regime from being overthrown by military force, especially after giving them up.

Of course, North Korea's envoy predictably rejected Trump's overtures.This is hardly surprising given that in March 2016 he advocated the insane idea that US allies, from Saudi Arabia to Japan and South Korea should be allowed to have nuclear weapons as a more cost effective way of ensuring global peace.

Trump claimed on Friday that H Clinton was 'lying' and 'I never said that' but it is , in any case, is somewhat hypocritical of her to accuse him of endangering world order by hinting the US could allow its Asian allies to have nuclear weapons when her own policies have contributed towards North Korea having them.

Not only that, H Clinton's lack of ethical realism in the foreign policy approach to China-and she was a key player in pushing for Obama's Pivot to Asia in 2010-11-has played a part in stimulating China's increasingly unilateral assertions of power in staking its claims to the South China Sea, as evidenced in 2016 in its island building programmes.

As Lieven points out, ' Obama and Clinton’s announcement of the pivot to Asia, at least in part, preceded the new aggressiveness of Chinese policy.' Unlike the Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union, where the US was never seen to be on the side of powers making rival claims to Russian territory,Clinton has been blatantly partisan.

Lieven continued,
 'As a senator, Clinton was entirely complicit in the disastrous strategy of offering NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine, which led to the Russo-Georgian war of 2008 (and a de facto US strategic defeat) and helped set the scene for the Ukraine crisis of this year ( 2014 ). This is not to excuse Russia’s mistaken and criminal reactions to US policy; but to judge by her book, Clinton never bothered to try to understand or predict likely Russian reactions—let alone, once again, to acknowledge or learn from her mistakes. On the Georgia War, she simply repeats the lie (which, to be fair, she may actually believe) that this was deliberately started by Putin and not by Georgia’s president at the time, Mikheil Saakashvili.' 
The upshot is that it is difficult to say who is worse on foreign policy, whether H Clinton, who seems terminally incapable of learning from contemporary history, or Trump, whose foreign policy stances are largely about staking himself out as 'different', 'anti-establishment' and even 'anti-neoconservative', so as to put himself in the White House.

Friday, 27 May 2016

North Korea and the Danger of the Spiralling Arms Race in East Asia.

Kim Jong Un's pensive pose in a green rice field in late May 2016 is a piece of cliched political theatre. It mirrors Mao Tse Tung's famous visits to rural China at the time of the Great Leap Forwards after 1958 in which at least 20 million peasants died of famine. Propaganda posters for it too depicted Mao as an agricultural genius in rich fields.

Likewise, North Korea is once more, as it was in the 1990s, on the brink of famine and faced with internal elite discontent given the fact that the limited increase in wealth, for those who have joined the expanded Party, has been threatened by global sanctions, which China too ratcheted up in April 2016.

China's sanctions, placed on essential revenue earners such as coal, iron, iron ore, gold, titanium and rare earths, reflected Beijing's concern and anger at the North's increased nuclear and ballistic missile tests, moves which have given the US all the more of a pretext to deploy THAAD missiles to South Korea.

While on the face of it summits between President Obama and President Xi Jinping profess their devotion to denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, the real underlying fear in Beijing is that these missiles are part of a missile shield which could be used to downgrade the nuclear deterrent China possesses.

When added to US diplomatic moves elsewhere to the south in Vietnam, where Obama has indicated Washington seeks better relations with Hanoi and to lift sanctions on the sale of lethal weapons-as well as increasing US military presence in the Asia-Pacific theatre-the fear in Beijing is of encirclement.

This is why North Korea remains a deeply destabilising flashpoint in an increasingly volatile geopolitical situation in East Asia. The threat that the North Korean regime could collapse in the near future no longer seems impossible. Pyongyang is investing so much in its nuclear programme and famine looms.

The attempt to shore up the authority of Kim Jong Un since 2011 through using hard currency earnings is failing. The policy of gift giving for service to the regime, along with ruthless purges, has failed to stem resentment in the general population who have received 'toothpaste or a bottle of liquor' for labour service.

At the same time calls for 'an ardous march' would indicate that famine is present again as the term was first used leadership in 1993 as a euphemism for the four-year famine that from 1994 resulted in 3.5 million deaths. Going for full nuclear protection of the regime means it has the ultimate form of blackmail.

For a start, it would signal no matter who hates the regime, it is permanent and no external power can bring about 'regime change'. If the regime were to collapse it would lead to the nightmare of a chaos in which any attempt to end it through reunification would raise the spectre for Beijing of being flanked directly by a US client state.

Alternatively, should the North Korean regime survive, the threat of nuclear proliferation would also increase, not least if it developed an effective nuclear arsenal-and it already has nuclear weapons anyway- then the question would be how best to contain it without allowing possession to stimulate a regional arms race.

In the circumstances, the only option left is for the US to accept that sanctions have failed and that it would be better to work with China to negotiate with Pyongyang and offer economic incentives for it to prevent the nuclear programme developing further and else South Korea and Japan develop them too.

In time, North Korea might be persuaded to rescind its nuclear programme. Yet a spiralling arms race, rising nationalism and potential conflicts between fossil fuel deprived Asian nations and China over sea lanes and the oil and gas reserves in both the East and South China Seas, spells the potential for catastrophe.

Friday, 4 March 2016

PiS , Coal, and the EU and Energy Security.

Unfortunately, PiS, a far right populist political Party and Movement, has inherited, as ironic as this may seem, the mantle of the national-communists that ruled Poland between 1945 to 1990. As a consequence, it exploit the anger at the mass unemployment caused by the 'shock therapy' of the Balcerowicz Plan.
Between 1992 and 1996 productivity and GDP actually fell in Poland and, thereafter, surged. But this was only partially due to the Balcerowiz Plan , one which included rapid and doctrinaire neoliberal reforms that threw far too many of Poland's old working class on to the scrapheap of history.
This is a reason why PiS is hostile to any attempt to reduce dependence upon coal, as the coal industry is associated with the safe, in fact more protected' status of Polish workers under national-communism, an industry regarded as essential to Poland's modernisation back then in which miners were given the best wages.
The second reason is the affinity PiS has with the US Republicans on the supposedly 'sceptical' position towards the proven scientific fact of global warming. It is a 'heresy' to them because their Christian fundamentalist dogmas and so the wish thinking places Man as having the right to dominate Nature.
So, another irony, is that the Catholic religious fundamentalism in theory has much in common with the theory and practice of Communism. The world is there to be dominated and exploited to ensure progress. This dovetails with the other aspects of the regime in Warsaw in 2016 such persecution mania.
The EU will have a problem persuading Poland to phase out coal is not only the the disbelief in scientific evidence and facts that characterises PiS. It is that coal as a form of energy security prevents it from having to depend more on other sources such as oil and gas, much of which would come from a hated Russia.
Germany's politics has hardly helped any more than Greenpace and the Greens. The decision to phase out nuclear power in Germany, in some ways, beats Poland's stubborness on coal for utter stupidity and short-sightedness. The politics of irrationality plays its role in Germany just as much as in Poland.
The idea wind power, as opposed to nuclear power and fracked oil, done carefully and with respect for the environment, would be able to meet Poland's energy needs is farcical, though population decline and mass emigration of the young, caused by a failed and failing neoliberal system, would decrease energy demand.
The failure to drag Ukraine decisively into the sphere of interest of the EU, primarily led by Poland, has meant Putin was able to move in to seize Crimea and its oil and gas reserves. Drilling in Bieszczady proved both fruitless and unpopular with environmentalists, with Greenpeace being smeared as funded by Russia.
Such paranoia is hardly surprising. Greenpeace, apart from the anti-nuclear stance, clearly has failed to engage with the concerns of Poles when it dangles a Polish flag with a banner reading 'Who Rules Poland: The Coal Industry or The People'. The preservation of mining is not considered here an elite concern
On the contrary, keeping the mines open is regarded as part of a general policy of reindustrialising Poland after the deindustrialisation of the 1990s that left manufacturing towns from Bytom to Chrzanow and Trzebinia ( in the south ) decline and die almost overnight in the early 1990s.
PM Szydlo is the daughter of a miner from near Oswiecim. The collapse of the post-communist left and the utter failure of a new left to take off means there is almost no chance Poland is going to embrace wind farms. Towards Wroclaw, near Opole I saw a solitary windmill in a field. Few believe in it.
The EU is bound to be seen as a threat, especially over the environment, when the demand to reduce dependence on coal would mean a closure of mines and the devastation of towns, such as those in Slasks ( Silesia ) , such as Swietochowice, that remain deeply dependent on coal mining to prop up the local economy.
Should Poland shift to more of an an advanced knowledge and technological economy, and so not be regarded as a low wage cheap manufacturing outpost for EU and East Asian economies,-with the wholesale acceptance of the PO and, most likely, the PiS regime-sensible alternatives to coal would be found.
But, as across the world, energy is connnected to security, sovereignty and politics. Even should the EU move towards a low carbon future, there is no guarantee at all that other emerging industrialised nations are going to regard the EU as a role model to emulate, not least as it is already fragmenting.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Korea: Frozen Conflict and the Forgotten Civil War.

As both the US and China come together to create a draft resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea for its continued obsession with developing its nuclear programme, differences between the Chinese and Us approach to how to go about preventing Pyongyang attaining nuclear weapons continues

As the Guardian reported,
China and the United States have had different views on how strong the response should be to North Korea since Pyongyang’s nuclear test in January, with Washington urging harsh punitive measures and Beijing emphasising dialogue and milder UN steps that are confined to non-proliferation.

US nationalists tend to blame China for being 'soft' on what is regarded as its 'communist' ally, even though China is only nominally communist and predominantly capitalist and steadily positioning itself to overtake the US as the world's predominant global economy, a great concern in America.

Us nationalists often maintain China is using North Korea as a 'buffer state' between it and US forces in South Korea. This is, of course, partially correct, though what actual purpose US forces have in being stationed in South Korea 60 years after the Korean War finished is not entirely clear.

China indeed fears having US military bases and forces and missile delivery systems running right up to its border. One answer is a withdrawal of US military forces from the ROK so as to lessen tensions. South Korea is more than capable of defending itself from North Korea as an advanced rich industrial society.

In the US , North Korea is either seen sensationally as a Hollywood evil regime or else a semi-comic farcical state. However, the idea that the US military presence is only about protecting the region from the evil of Kim Jong Un and not about maintaining bases to keep China in check is a myth.

Maintaining a military presence in South Korea is neither conducive to regional peace nor is it arguably even in the interests of the US, though as China rises and US imperial overstretch  becomes ever more a reality, the US is getting itself drawn in to potential conflicts. Anatol Lieven, noted this a few years ago.
'There is one region that the U.S. can and should bow out of now: Korea. North Korea's bomb test is obviously a very serious problem for the U.S., given its heavy military presence in South Korea. However, we should ask why, more than 50 years after the Korean War and 15 years after the end of the Cold War, the United States still has about 37,500 troops on the Korean peninsula.
In the long run, North Korea's nuclear weapons are an overwhelming problem only for its neighbours, and it should be their responsibility to sort this problem out. Of course, they may fail -- but then, the U.S. record in the region over the last decade has not exactly been one of success.
The U.S. is already reducing its troop levels on the Korean peninsula; it should accelerate the process and move rapidly toward ending its military presence. Moreover, it should negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea. This will remove Pyongyang's motive to attack U.S. interests, ensure that China could never again attack U.S. forces in a ground war and allow the U.S. to concentrate instead on maintaining its overwhelming lead over China in naval and air power.
We must be very clear, however, that this withdrawal would also mean ceding to China the dominant role in containing North Korea's nuclear ambitions -- along with Japan, South Korea and Russia -- and in managing the eventual collapse of the North Korean state and the appallingly difficult and expensive process of the reunification of the two Koreas'
The insistence on keeping a strong military presence in South Korea, notwithstanding the idea the South Korean government wants it for ideological and security purposes ( as opposed to offsetting the costs of defence to the US ) is based also on the ignorance in the US as to the reality of the Korean War.

One US nationalist blogger typically wrote in the Guardian,
'the issue is not the US military presence in South Korea, it's the blatant and outright ridiculous behaviour of North Korea (the US wasn't present when NK invaded SK in 1950). To somehow pin this on the US and the South Korean request for their assistance is not only ignorant of history but a delusion of reality'
It is simply not factual to maintain the US entered only in 1950. The US was present in South Korea after the defeat of Japan under a Military Government from 1945-48 It then set about shoring up a ROK regime that was undemocratic and consisted of collaborators with Japan after its occupation in 1910 and in the 1930s against China.

The US government imposed a government led by Syngman Rhee whose regime murdered some 100,000 Koreans in the south, lumping all those who resisted the regime as 'communists' despite the fact many were simply peasant rebels fighting landlords or trade unionists ( as in the Cholla rebellion of 1946 ).

Statistically, the ROK regime, which was not fully democratised until the 1980s, was responsible for more civilian deaths than even the North Korean communist guerrillas under Kim Il Sung managed.  The US ignored all this or turned a blind eye to it as part of its geopolitical strategy in East Asia.

The Truman administration arbitrarily set up the 38th parallel as a means to contain the communist threat and, in so doing, took direct sides in what was after 1945 a civil war within the entire Korean Peninsula between various Korean resistance forces against the Japanese and the elites who had collaborated.

Far from it only being aggression from Kim Il Sung, Syngman Rhee's regime was itching to invade the north and kill off as many in the resistance as possible and that only partially included the Korean communists who had fought along with Mao in China and has infiltrated south by 1949.

There were mutual skirmishes across the 38th parallel throughout the year preceding the outbreak of the Korean War that is remembered in the US as a discrete and time bound period of three years between 1950 and 1953. But it reflected the escalation of a civil war into a Great Superpower contest.

Moreover, though nothing justifies the conduct of the vile and repellant regime in Pyongyang, the arbitrary division of Korea, the failure to strike a peace treaty and the aggressive unilateralist policies of the George W Bush administration, with its 'Axis of Evil' and threats of bombing, retarded any political progress.

Indoctrination and having North Korea on a permanent war footing with its insane belligerence in part results from the collective trauma imposed on North Korea as MacArthur moved north in the war and the USAF blitzed dams and razed cities with incendiaries and napalm. Pyongyang was 75% destroyed.

ROK force atrocities against civilians in 1951 became so embarrassing to the US that it prevented newspaper correspondents reporting from the front. The atrocities carried out by the ROK police against civilians before 1950 occurred mostly in South Korea where the Jeju uprising was crushed with brutality in 1949.

The fact 30,000 South Koreans with no connection to North Korean communists were slaughtered as a the price for creating 'stability' also failed as Rhee's government agitated, against US wishes, to invade North Korea and it was this and North Korean antagonism that sparked off the war.

Apart from the environmental issues, this is why South Koreans have an ambiguous attitude towards US military presence and in the case of the Jeju naval base there has been resistance and criticism that has its origins partly in the historical memory and humiliation of 1949.

South Korea has a radical tradition and many oppose their government.  As the NY Times reported in 2011,
'anti-base activists from the Korean mainland suspect that the naval base will serve less as a shield against South Korea’s prime enemy, North Korea, than as an outpost for the United States Navy to project its power against China.
This is, of course, true as the US attempts, without expressly admitting it, that it is containing China: that is trying to dominate the East and South China seas, partly due to Chinese arrogance and resource grabs for oil and gas but also as the US wants to cut off oil tanker routes from the Middle East if China gets too uppity.

Observations on PiS and Father Rydzyk.

PiS should not be described as Catholic conservatives: they are a far right authoritatarian Party and Movement in continuity with the radical right Endecja of the 1930s with their obsession with 'alien elements', the sin of 'free thinking' and idea Jews are  agents of communist plots ( zydokomuna ) 
So it is hardly surprising PiS intends funding a private college run by an odious toad like Father Rydzyk, Reuters reported,
 'Members of the ruling Law and Justice Party say they want to earmark 20 million zlotys ($4.9 million) from this year's budget for Father Tadeusz Rydzyk's College of Social and Media Culture in Torun, which offers degrees in journalism and other subjects.' 
Father Rydzyk is an alleged 'Christian' who preys on the gullibility of stupid uneducated people to spread anti-semitic propaganda and hatred of people whose lives he knows nothing about buy feels knowledgeable enough to prate on about with infallible authority. .
This fraud has established a business empire in a manner that would rouse the ire of Jesus, though it's doubtful Rydzyk is even educated enough to realise this,unless, he is but is just a complete cynic laughing as he counts the money he rakes in through his media empire, especially the maudlin Radio Maryja.
Yet the scale of his fortune raises questions about where he really does gain such a large amount of funds as it cannot be only from his 'newspapers'.but there appears slightly too mich respect for anyone in poland, just as in the US, who conceal financial ambitions and careerism in the garb of religion
Typical of Rydzik's pronouncements are such as those even levelled against the last PiS government in 2007 when he accused Lech Kaczynski of being a 'swindler' for even discussing the return of looted Jewish property during World War Two, 
In so doing, Rydzyk thus explicitly endorsed crimes committed against Polish Jews who were murdered or driven out of Poland through pogroms by those furious they might have to move out of Jewish property they grabbed once their fellow Polish citizens were marched off to concentration camps.
In a lecture in 2007 this 'priest' gave to students at his media centre in Torun, northern Poland, Rydzyk criticise Kaczynski for his subservience to the Jewish lobby. "You know that it's about giving $65bn," to the Jews, "They will come to you and say 'give me your coat. Take off your pants. Give me your shoes'," 
This is the usual pathological form of demagogy  is there: the theft of Jewish assets as a criminal act is turned on its head and the greedy Jew is seen as the agent of evil and his own downfall ( and during the Nazi era his extermination and, later, under national-communism of his deserved expulsion ).
The hypocrisy of PiS moaning about liberal 'media bias' when Rydzyk's media empire, ( with Telewizja Republika and TV Trwam part of it ) alarmingly popular, supports PiS directly through what can only be termed pure propaganda. 'Trwam' translates curiously as 'I Endure ). 
In fact, hypocrisy hardly does justice to PiS: it's doublethink in the pathological and cynical sense described by George Orwell in 1984 where the lie is accepted both as a lie but also as expedient 'truth'. And both Kaczynski and Rydzyk come across physically and mentally rather like the Pigs on Animal Farm. 
While Rydzk was critical of the slightly softer and less vindictive Lech, Jarek Kaczynski has had no qualms about supporting this charlatan and ugly little con man' in 2007, addressing a crowd of around 150,000 people, Jaroslaw Kaczynski told them: "Here is Poland.". If so, God help it.
Not content with relentlessly pumping out hatred of others, Rydzyk has been working on a huge Church and heath spa complex in Torun for the use of VIPs , as opposed to the common folks, those, of course, who make personal financial donations so that Rydzyk can thus carry on the work of God 
After all, like US tele-evangelist huckers and charlatans, it is thought God naturally favours the successful while having less to do with the poor who curiously tend to support his worldview out of desperation and the fact the politicians cared nothing for them after 1990.
But, of course, Rydzyk was found guilty of illegal forms of fundraising in 2011, so added to bigotry and rabid hatred of anybody who does not accept his deranged version of Christianity can be added the sin of corruption and greed and dishonesty.
In the 1990s, Rydzyk made his fortune by trying to act as fundraiser to save shipyards in Gdansk from closure. in 1997, the shipyard was at the verge of bankruptcy. Rydzyk exploited the opportunity and with the help of his wretched Radio Maryja to plead for private donations to keep the shipyards open. 
The idea was to raise sufficient funds to buy out the company and run it privately. People began sending in their entire life savings, because they felt an emotional connection with the cause, because it was the cradle of Solidarity and the struggle against communism
Not known for 'transparency' ( the ways of God are vouchsafed only to those with a close relationship with Him ) it remains unknown how much money was raised because there were no accounts or official bookeeping documents about it anywhere. It is thought the donations could rack up to hundred million dollars. 
Curiously, just after two years, the fundraising ended. The shipyard was taken over by another corporation.The money. however, was never returned, Rydzyk had other plans to continue the fight for God in Polish public life and that involved his expanding media empire 
Later on in the 2000s Rydzyk branched out further and, later, his VIP health spa and mega-kitsch Church and 'educational college' have become for him and PiS prestige projects designed to preserve the sanctity of the Polish Nation from a host of evils from within and without.
Well connected with 'Law and Justice', Rydzyk seems to have put himself above the law and appears to have networked his way into the position of being untouchable. Such tolerance is not shown to those who find themselves the convenient targets of a renewed bout of political witch hunts 

The persecutions range from from Lech Walesa's alleged role as a collaborator and informer, with the documents still curiously not published, and Donald Tusk, smeared as an East German Stasi agent a piece of surreal nonsense that came from the clinically paranoid Defence minister Antoni Macierewicz.

The fact these slanderous allegations are lies while there are real questions about Rydzk's finances and corruption, reveals the true essence of the absurdly named 'Law and Justice' Party. Rydzyk is the Polish equivalent of a Jerry Falwell or Ted Haggart and Poland needs a Christopher Hitchens to skewer him

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A Dialogue on Jan T Gross with a Far Right Nationalist on Radio Poland

A recent discussion on Radio Poland's website has brought home the scale of ethnocentric far right sentiment in Poland among a section of Polish society. On President Duda's promotion of National Reading Day, I proposed the value of reading ought to be turned towards certain valuable works of historical literature. Below is a discussion with a nationalist I will label Pan X.

RESPONSE 'Maybe Jan Gross's Fear ( Strach ) could be on the reading list so folks could see the continuity between the Endecja of the 1930s, it's hatred of 'alien elements' and the national-communists through Gomulka through to PiS. Handy history lesson.'

Pan X  It should only be on the reading list of really bad science fiction book.'

RESPONSE No it shouldn't. it's a professional, peer reviewed academic work of history. Which is why PiS ideologues in the Endecja tradion loathe Gross:and prefer propagandistic versions of National Truth in Orwellian style.

Pan X 'Jan Thomas Gross was an unknown American sociologist who exploded into the limelight and became an overnight academic rock star. The reason for his meteoric success was a book he wrote called "neighbors".
In "neighbours" Gross blamed solely the Poles for murdering 1,600 Jews in Jedwabne, a village in occupied Poland during WW2.

What actually happened in Jedwabne was that a group of German and Polish criminals and other lowlifes were used by the German police to round up some 300 Jews. The Germans police packed 250 of them into a barn at gun point, the rest were executed. The barn was torched and the Jews burnt alive. This was not a unique event.
The Germans repeated the same method to a letter in many polish towns and villages.

In fact, three days before Jedwabne, the Germans carried the exact same operation in the neighboring town of Radzilow.These are the facts, corroborated by Polish, German and American historians.

"Neighbors" has been refuted by so many historians and authors, that it makes the bible look like well researched history.
Gross went on to publish many more anti Polish propaganda books and has recently even publicly claimed that Poles killed more Jews than Germans during the second world war!

The really sick joke is that Mr. Gross would not be alive today to slander Poland's name, if it wasn’t for his own Polish Catholic mother who saved his Jewish father from death during WW2.

RESPONSE 'He was not 'unknown' , he had a successful academic career and published a work Revolution from Abroad documenting the Soviet invasion of Poland from the east and the atrocities and brutalities committed after September 1939 . He emphasised both Gentile and Jewish Polish sufferings at the hands of the NKVD. This was a pioneering piece of research two years before the end of the Soviet totalitarian regime. 

That was long before he unearthed the Jedwabne atrocity carried out by Poles . It was the Poles who pushed the Jews into the barns. That was documented by testimonials and cross referenced evidence. So it seems you haven't actually read the book. At Jedwabne the Nazis certainly encouraged the villagers to murder the Jews and there was a long tradition anyway of anti-Semitism in the Lomza district of Poland stirred up by the Endeks. 

So it is simply factually untrue that Gross omits the role of the Nazis in egging the villagers on. by all accounts the villagers willing murdered their neighbours. Fear shows even better the extent to which a section of Poland was pathologically anti-Semitic, as witnessed by the Krakow and kielce Pogroms. His work has been critically reviewed and valued by the best historians from Tony Judt to Timothy Snyder and Istvan Deak. The pogroms of Kielce and Krakow happened after Auschwitz and after Nazi germany was defeated. The works are not 'anti-Polish' unless, of course, it is assumed the Polish Jews were not 'really' Poles. That point seems to have passed you by.

Pan X 'Mate, "Krakow and kielce Pogroms"?!?!? 

My god, you people actually believe this Soviet propaganda to be "professional, peer reviewed academic research"? 

The Kielce "pogrom" as an example.

The official death toll was 41 dead, two Poles and 39 Jews. This is what happened according to western perception. the pogrom involved tens of thousands of cheering poles who participated in the Jewish massacre. The reason for the massacre was that Jews kidnapped a young Christian boy.

They planned to milk his blood in order to make Jewish delicacies. The boy managed to escape these vampiric pastry makers. He told the police what happened, and in response tens of thousands of anti-Semitic Poles killed the innocent defenseless Jews.

The pogrom received front-page headlines in the US and in the western papers. Poland had become worse then Germany in how it was treating its Jews.

All of this does not hold up to basic scrutiny. A day before the "pogrom", the Jews were disarmed by the Polish security forces. Still in the following day, when a group of police officers reached the building, they were met with automatic gunfire. Two officers were killed. Eye witnesses reported that a group of armed policemen busted into the house shot the Jews.

A mob was allowed to gather, even though at that time groups larger then five people were disbanded on sight. The mob consisted of some civilians and many plain clothed secret police agents, who were marked with chalk on their back. When a Jew tried to call for help on the phone he was shot from behind by the security police.

The Jews who survived the initial onslaught were thrown to the mob, which clobbered them to death. When priests and others tried to calm the mob down, they were pushed back by the security forces and threatened to mind their business.
The whole operation was a communist setup. After 1946, the "kidnapped boy" reported that he and his parents were threatened with death if they ever discussed Kielce.

Arthur bliss lane, the American ambassador to Poland at that time, blamed the communists for the massacre. In 1946 he wrote to the secretary of state regarding Kielce: "Embassy observers are unanimous in believing that [the Polish communist] militia played an important part in Kielce pogrom and members of Government, have so admitted to me. Government and anti-Government sources inform us and concur… that the pogrom was deliberately planned [by the communists]." .

Michael Checinski, a former Polish Military Counter-Intelligence officer and a Jew, published that the events of Kielce were a well planned action of the Soviet intelligence in Poland. To cap it all off, all the files that were kept by the security forces pertaining to the Kielce pogrom, were destroyed in a mysterious fire in 1989. The same year communist rule came to an end in Poland.

Have a nice life, and please refrain from commenting on issues you clearly have no idea about in the future.

RESPONSE 'The using of a murdered Christian boy's blood to make matzo is an anti-semitic libel against the Polish-Jewish community that was spread by word of mouth in Kielce and at other times: it had no factual basis and was a myth used to rationalise violence against Jews who had survived Auschwitz or who had returned from exile in the Soviet Union. 

There is no factual basis to it at all other than as a myth used to perpetuate a pogrom against Jews whose presence was resented because certain Poles had collded in stealing their property once the Nazis has deported them into concentration camps. Far from this being 'Soviet propaganda' ( and the death toll was around 40 to possibly 80 ) , the national-communist regime of Gomulka turned a blind eye to aggression against Jews as a way of co opting support from sections of the Polish population for an unwanted and imposed communist system. 

The UB in Kielce stood by and did nothing in fact. The idea the Kielce pogrom was a Soviet manufactured lie is precisely a consequence of the other deadly myth of 'zydokomuna', that Polish Jews were responsible for the imposition of alien communism on Poland, In fact, though Minc, Berman et al were prominent Jewish members of the national-communist regime, they did not particularly self identify as Jews and the vast majority of the Polish communist party after 1945 was non-Jewish Polish. 

The vast majority of the idealistic Polish Communist Party that Jews were involved in in the 1930s had been liquidated by Stalin during the Great Terror of 1936-1938. But the vast majority of Polish Jews, up to 85%, voted for conventional Polish political parties in the 1930s such as the PPS, the party set up by Pilsudski whom they admired as Polish patriots. After the war, the return of the Polish Jews induced a feeling of being haunted by people who it had been hoped had died so that the looted property would remain. 

The idea the national-communist regime directly instigated the Kielce pogrom is another factually wrong assertion. The UB simply watched it happen and significant Polish clergy did nothing either to counter the blood libel and some, such as Bishop Bienek actually supported the blood libel folk myth. 

This is corroborated by the British ambassador to Poland at the time. Only the decent and brave Bishop of Czestochowa , Bishop Kubina, stood up and called the Polish Jews victims and not agents of Judeo-Bolshevik ideology and active in imposing Communism on Poland. He represented what was later called the Open Church 'i.e the Polish Church that stood by reasoned principle and did not identify with the Closed Church strand of thought that endorsed the Endecja in the 1930s just as Father Rydzyk supports its successor PiS in 2016. 

Everything that you write is directly in this shrill and mythologised tradition of ethnocentric nationalist Polish ideology. It's unfactual and confirms why Gross's books ought to be taught in polish high schools. Even presumed adults as yourself need to educate yourself on the reality of what really happened instead of shielding behind layers of rationalisation to evade dealing with th the bad conscience a number of poles have about the way Polish Jews were treated.

Pan X 'After 1945, Some 250,000 Jews lived in Stalinist Poland. They comprised about 1% of the population. 
The Russians recruited many of them into the newly formed government and the security forces, the "UB" and "SB". 
Jakub Berman, "Stalin's right hand in Poland" and the head of the security ministry, was a Polish Jew.

Jews occupied almost 20% of all employees in the security department. 50% of all directorial posts in the security department were manned by Jews. In certain areas like Gliwice, 75% of the local security force and all of its commanders were Jewish.

As I said, the lies about "Polish" pogroms are re used soviet propaganda that has been dubunked numorous times by numorous academics both in Poland and outside it, but I guess uneducated emotional bias and prejudice is stronger than facts and history.

BTW, those figures come from Professor Norman Davies, and unlike Gross, he is a real,world renowned historian and expert on Polish history, (who also debunked the soviet/nazi propaganda of "polish pogroms") and not a pseudo intellectual serial liar and sensationalist pretending to be serious academic for gullible westerners who have no clue about Polish history or culture.

Please do us both a favor and spend less time commenting on issues you know nothing about and more time studying from actual historians (I can recomend a few more) and not pseudo ones. Same goes to that other joker in the comments.

RESPONSE  The repellent attempt to smear those who draw attention to the reality of the Kielce and Krakoe pogroms as either 'Soviet; or 'Bazi' propaganda reveals the ethnocentric nationalist discourse in which Poland is only wholly the Eternal Victim, so that real crimes committed by a minority of anti-semitic Poles are routinely downplayed or seen as an 'antiPolish' provocation. 

The vast majority in the Soviet imposed national communist regime were ethnic Poles. Stalin and his minions in Poland were concerned about Minc and Berman and other having prominent roles because partyly they evinced any-semitic sentiments themselves but mostly as it would undermine the credubility of imposing Soviet totalitarianism on Poland after 1945. The UB did nothing to stop the Kielce Pogrom which is documented fact.

 It is not a historical fabricarion: this, if anything, is a Nazi style Big Lie designed to replace objective historical truth with far right ethnocentric nationalist mythology about 'zydokomuna'. A 1978 document from the MBP on the 4447 members of the security apparatus between 1945 and 1956 identified 29.9% of the personell at the ministry as being Jewish. But figures vary elsewhere and were omitted from the discourse of those who give the highest numbers they can. 

But, in any case, it simply does not give credence to the Judeo-Bolshevik myth , that communism was imposed by Jews or was a Jewish ideology. The other 70% of the security personnel in the MBP were ethnic Polies. Following the logic of 'zydokomuna'. a better case could be made to argue Polish communism was authentically Polish. 

A quarter of a million Jews lived in Poland after 1945 and only a tiny fraction collaborated with a Stalinist communist part itself riddled with a desire to Polonise the Jewish comrades because of the fear the imposition of communism would be seen as Judeo-Communism and so not authentically Polish. 

The stunning irrationality of the zydokomuna myth stabds out as the comrades regarded themselves as communist first and downplayed their Jewish origins and had no sense in which communism was Jewish or a form of revenge against 'real Poles'. Where Jews did join the communists they did do before the Second World War as an antidote to the persecutoty policies of the Endecja in the 130s.

 But they were a tiny fraction of the Polish Jewish population. The myth of Judeo-communism persists in Poland in 2016 and is given traction by deranged politicians such as Macierewicz and the repellent Radio Marya, a station lauded by Jarek Kaczynski. The hypocricy of President Duda advicating the value of National Reading Day while his Party Movement wants to smear Gross as 'anti-Polish' and strip him of hid Order of Merit is clear. 

The reading that needs to be promoted is the histories produced by Gross and it should be taught in high schools so that the mythology of Jewish -Communism and 'alien elements and 'collaborators, this entire conspiratorial mode og politics and propaganda can be defeated. and, literally, for the good. So promotion of reading meand promotion of Quo Vadis and the Polish classics: but historical literature ought to be promoted too. And putting Gross on the syllabus at school is vital for Poland's continued success as an open liberal democracy.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Poland's PiS Regime , "Provocations", Paramilitaries and Propaganda

According to the fervent backers of PiS, the Polish nationalist Party-Movement that came to power in October 2015, those opposing them are always guilty of 'provocations' or being crypto-communists or else 'cultural Marxists' intent on destroying Poland's identity as part of a carefully 'concealed' agenda.

Bizarrely, 'enemies' are labelled in almost Stalinist manner as 'reactionary stooges', 'hired shills' and 'paid slanderers'. This is the vulgar style of language redolent of the People's Poland, the national communist regime given essential form as an ethno-nationalist construction under Wladislaw Gomulka, 

At the same time, the PO is absurdly labelled as 'socialist' because only PiS is truly anti-communist; the rest are either appeasers of 'crypto-Marxoid forces' or actually guilt of being a 'kolaborant' with Moscow. Walesa is Agent Bolek and Adam Michnik, editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, is really Adam Hechter. 

Representing demonic forces, earlier in December 2015 a group of PiS radical complete with priest tried to perform an exorcism on the Gazeta Wyborcza's  office. Something like a far right radical lunge for power has been coming for a long time because there are, in reality, two Polands. 

The more urban middle classes have never shown much sympathetic understanding of how callous and technocratic top down neoliberal 'reforms' have had a devastating  impact on ordinary working people ever since traumatic impact of Balcerowicz's extreme  'shock therapy' in the early 1990s. 

That destroyed Solidarity and the word has now been reduced to a largely vacuous soundbite and positive buzzword used by politicians such as Ewa Kopacz to imply poland should help Germany out in the Syrian migrant crisis or that Poland should be more pro-EU. 

As a consequence of the callous and failing neoliberal policies of successive Polish governments, the old idea of 'solidarity' has morphed into a rather nasty and shrill radical nationalism that sees transnational capitalism and communism as two equally destructive and interconnected forces. In many ways, 

PiS is clearly in 2016 a throwback to Endecja regime of 1930s Poland with Jarek Kaczynski showing signs of being a latter day Roman Dmowski  The lewica have been destroyed as a political force leaving the way open for far right nationalists blaming a host of evil enemies without and within for Poland's problems.

The situation in Poland does not look good and the most terrifying aspect is the danger Warsaw will do something extremely reckless and foolish in Ukraine such as sending lethal weaponry and paramilitary support for far right Ukrainian paramilitary groups fighting in Donbass or elsewhere in Ukraine. Neal Ascherson wrote 
'If there is danger to Europe here, it is strategic: that this Warsaw government could lose its head over eastern policy.,,,,There is a big difference between intense vigilance towards Russia and hysteria. Nobody has more experience than the Poles of living – and sometimes dying – next to Russia. But it’s little comfort that Kaczyński’s ministers and followers are almost as rude to the Germans as they are to the Russians. Demonising Russia with myths and insults, as opposed to watching and standing firm, is taking the eye off the ball in a critical period. If it stays on its course, this Law and Justice government will not only bring Poland to boiling point. It may undermine the security of all Europe.
The Defence Secretary, Antoni Macierewicz, appears to believe that Poland needs defence not merely from Russia but from other poles who do not share his conspiratorial outlook. Annoyed by NATO's refusal to place a base on Polish soil, he has now embraced Polish paramilitaries to bolster 'the eastern flank.'

This is especially the case as attention has been deflected away from Ukraine by Russia's military intervention in Syria and Obama is hated by PiS as weak and not prioritising the 'defence' of favour of his shift towards focusing on Asia. In fact, some PiS politicians just dislike him for being 'black'.

Poland is heading towards a resurgence of the radical far-right as it is a nation that underwent a disappointing and traumatic economic transition which, despite the image given to the contrary, has failed to lift living standards and provide long term economic security to millions of its citizens, especially in small towns. .

Pyscho-social anxiety is propelling the rise of the far right and the polarisation of politics. The 'losers' from globalisation regard Poland as beset by enemies within and without that 'collaborate' with evil Russia or its allies in the shape of a German dominated EU that wants to destroy Poland's National-Catholic identity 

These fears of PiS  recall those of the Endecja and the writings of Roman Dmowski, with the West imposing its values on Poland and the Jews or other aliens such as intellectuals attempting enforced atheism and the imposition of Godless liberalism in a way that would destroy the National Community

Paranoid conspiracy theories define the PiS outlook towards the world and the Smolensk air crash that killed Lech Kaczynski is seen as a political assassination carried out by Putin in league with the opposition PO party, one that culminated with the Russian involvement in creating the separatist para- state in Donetsk. 

Macierewicz wants to defend Poland against the next stage-the invasion of Poland. Yet Poland is firmly in NATO so the idea of an imminent Russian attack is simply neurotic and about redirecting attention away from the domestic deficiencies of PiS and pointing to the 'enemy over there', the oldest demagogic trick.

The emphasis on paramilitary forces stressed by Macierewicz has an even more sinister aspect. According to Ukraine's UA Today, 
The country could follow Ukraine's example, where volunteer battalions play a key role in the fight against Russian-backed separatist forces. But some fear co-opting irregular fighters may not only be about deterring external threats.Professor Roman Kuzniar, Department of Strategic Studies of Warsaw University: "I am afraid that the ministry of defence is trying to take control over these spontaneous paramilitary organizations to be able to use them later for the purposes of internal politics. That is what I would be afraid of."'
The trauma of Polish history, the morbid desire for the 'eternal martyr status' as unique victim is being instrumentalised to serve a revanchist far right nationalist agenda that wants to ratchet up the battle against Russia and to seek out and destroy internal collaborators and traitors : i.e  Poles who oppose PiS. 

The chilling aspect of this is not that it is cynical; PiS really is led by ideological fanatics who are clinically paranoid and locked into a mindset determined by anti-communism some twenty five years after it ended. For the PiS ideologue it is forever 1986 and there is some mental inability to accept the Cold War finished.

NATO nations need to keep a  watch on Warsaw because the danger of a PiS government doing something very reckless to provoke Russia is highly likely. Macierewicz is already gearing up for conflict by removing defence and security personnel in what appears part of a slow motion and piecemeal coup d'etat. 

Macierewicz shows real signs of having a pathological personality disorder-he's a dangerous figure who would best be off in a pyschiatric institution than in the Polish Ministry of Defence. His removal from office should be a demand by the civil society KOD protesters as he is not only bad but also manifestly mad.

Criticism of PiS would always be met with accusations that there is a conspiracy of sinister liberal elites ( and Jewish 'cosmopolitan' influences ) which are backing the opposition protesters against Kaczynski's constitutional changes. George Soros is a maligned figure blamed for trying to 'destabilise' Poland's government. 

Opposition nationalist Kukiz, supposedly the radical 'counter-cultural' anti-politician against 'the system' in Poland referred to him as a 'Jewish banker' probably behind protests against the government. Despite Poland's Jewish community being minimal, 'anti-semitism without Jews' remains a potent force

Anger at the disappointments of the post-communist transition, the anxiety that comes from declining birth rates and emigration of the youngest and brightest -as well as the threat of mass migration from the Middle East-is causing a very uneasy mood in Poland. 

This has never been well understood outside Poland to the West where it was portrayed wrongly only as a seamless  economic success story with few social stresses and tensions. The reality is different. Entire small towns have died or decayed leaving only jabcok drinkers and babcie behind. 

Many young Poles think only of leaving before they even finish school. Those who stay feel they have been left behind and take refuge in radical nationalism to reaffirm their sense of worth in the face of economic insecurity. The National Radical Camp is exploiting this mood of alienation.

In Chrzanow pamplets advocating the ONR are handed out. The ONR is on the march in Malopolska against the oligarchy, the decadent parliamentarians, leftist propaganda and stands proudly in the continued tradition of Roman Dmowski, Jan Mosdorf, Tadeusz Gluzinski, Henryk Rossman and Adam Doboszynski

Paramilitary groups are gaining in popularity as they await a' Russian invasion'. Part of this is due to a strain of anti-Russian racism, the idea of barbarian hordes from the East rathather than any realistic need for a firm and decisive response to Russia's attempts to expand its influence once more.

While PiS has probably overplayed its hand and seen its popularity decline within a month due to its rushed constitutional changes, it has a four year term to serve and may well be able to override criticism by exploiting distrust of 'them' or 'globalised elites' as 'enemies of the people'.

There is a clear danger this could get worse should ominous events elsewhere cojoin to bring back a situation akin to the 1930s: a global economic crash triggered off in china appears to be more possible as does the collapse of Saudi arabia and the destabilising results of an oil price spike.

The dark irony is that PiS nationalism shows all the hallmarks of the very national-communist 'people's Poland' a number of its leading figures were once committed to fighting. The reason is the continuity with the ethno-nationalism of the Endeks that the post-1945 national communist regime appropriated.

That basic truth about Polish history would be one reason why PiS ideologues are intent on stripping the historian Jan T Gross of his honours for pioneering historical work into the murder of Jews by Poles at Jedwabne and the continued anti-semitism and pogroms that happened after Auschwitz ( in Fear )..

Clearly objective documented historical truth, the sort produced by years of carefully cross referenced research, is not truth if PiS finds it offensive that some Poles were complicit in Nazi War crimes against Jews. This is connected with the inability of PiS to confront 'ghosts in the consciousness of Polish society’’

The stupidity of this is clearer. Gross' Revolution from Abroad was one of the first to document in detail the inhumane treatment of Poles-both gentile and Jew-by the Soviet authorities after they invaded from the east in September 1939 and attempted to liquidate 'class opposition' from those despised as the 'pans' ( lords ).

Such evident attempts at objective history are not wanted by PiS which, in Orwellian style as the Party and Nation-as embodied by Jarek Kaczynski who actually physically resembles one of the Pigs from Orwell's Animal Farm- has set itself the task of defining something akin to Nationalised Truth.

Trying to force early elections and the protests of KOD could help ensure the regime is challenged and removed, But in the longer term, the substantive greivances of those 'losers;, those left behind by a failed US style neoliberal economic order require redress:and real economic reform is required.

The alternative is to return to the 1930s.