Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Che Guevara — the philosopher


The last great unpublished compendium of Che Guevara's thoughts on Marxism has just hit the bookshelves. Now readers have the chance to peruse Apuntes filósoficos(or, Philosophical notes), a collection of sometimes acid and mocking comments that critically analyze classic works of Marxism-Leninism, as well as the writings of Socialist authors that Guevara considered "unorthodox and revisionist."

Read more . . .

Also see

Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The EU Crisis Pocket Guide


Contents

  • How a private debt crisis was turned into a public debt crisis and an excuse for austerity
  • The way the rich and bankers benefited while the vast majority lost out
  • The devastating social consequences of austerity
  • The European Union's response to the crisis: more austerity, more privatisation, less democracy
  • Map of resistance across the EU in 2012
  • Ten alternatives put forward by civil society groups to put people and the environment before corporate greed
  • Resources for further information

Visit the webpage
Download the Pocket Guide 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Auckland protest against Israeli strikes on Gaza

2pm

Saturday

17th November

Aotea Square

Global Peace & Justice Auckland is organising a march this Saturday to protest Israel’s assassination of a Palestinian leader in the Gaza Strip and the deadly rocket attacks in which many Palestinians have lost their lives.
  
The protest will gather at Aotea Square from 2pm and march to the US Consulate in Customs Street.
 
More information

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Australia in the Asian Century

 
Blueprint for war and corporate
exploitation

"The transformation of the Asian region into the economic powerhouse of the world is not only unstoppable, it is gathering pace," Prime Minister Julia Gillard says in the foreword to the government’s White Paper, "Australia in the Asian Century". "Our region will be the world’s largest producer of goods and services and the largest consumer of them," says Gillard. And, according to the White Paper, Australia is in Asia and in a strong position to capitalise on that.

Read more . . .

Returning to the Commune of Paris


The narrative of the Commune became deeply ideological as soon as the Third Republic’s troops, still furious about France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war and the punitive settlement of January 1871, crushed it. Now, Verso have reissued ex-Communard Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray’s seminal History of the Commune of Paris of 1871, first published in French in 1876 whilst Lissagaray was exiled in Belgium, and translated into English in 1886 by his lover Eleanor Marx. With this highly detailed text, Lissagaray intended to combat the "bourgeois slanders and lies" that followed the Commune’s suppression, to draw lessons and set the terms for future histories. But if, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the decline of Marxist parties, the Commune no longer forms a paradigm for a revolutionary "dictatorship of the proletariat", as Engels and Lenin claimed, what can contemporary readers take from Lissagaray?

Read more . . .

 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Guatemala - Military Run Amok (again)


Please help us denounce this despicable act, show solidarity with the victims and demand the prosecution of those responsible

On October 4, 2012, Maya K’iche’ communities carried out a peaceful protest organized by the Alcaldía Indígena (Indigenous authority) of the 48 Cantones of Totonicapán, in the regions of Alaska, Xecanchavox and Cuatro Caminos in the highlands in Guatemala.
 
The protestors were demanding:

1. That the State work to scale back the most recent hikes in electricity costs;
2. That the government take a holistic approach to national education reform;
3. That the government reverse the trend toward militarization of civil society, reflected in the proposed constitutional reforms.

During the demonstration, Guatemalan Military and National Civil Police forces appeared at the protest and shot indiscriminately at the demonstrators, leaving 8 dead and over 35 people wounded.

With the pain of the recent genocide still fresh in the historic memory of indigenous communities, it is extremely concerning that acts of state violence are once again taking place in Guatemala against indigenous people who seek to exercise their legitimate rights to free speech and peaceful protest.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Barbados 1976: A monstrous crime

Self confessed terrorist Luis Posada Carriles

October 6 is a sad and unforgettable date for the relatives of 73 people who died in the terrorist bombing in midair of a Cubana airliner, off the coast of Barbados, in 1976. It is also recalled as one of the most atrocious terrorist actions committed ever.

The masterminds behind the atrocious act, Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, were free in US territory with the protection of the US administration, 32 years after the explosion. Bosch has already died in Miami. The executers of the crime were Freddy Lugo and Hernan Ricardo. “We planted the bomb, and so what?” Lugo later told Venezuelan reporter Alicia Herrera, in an interview while he was in prison.

Among the 73 victims of the terrorist action were 11 Guyanese youths, six of them had been selected to take medical courses in Cuba; five North Korean citizens who were on a friendship tour of Latin America. Among the Cubans was the whole juvenile fencing team, whose members expected to return home after having garnered the victory at the Central American and Caribbean sports games, held that year in Venezuela.

“You cannot get rid of such a deep pain,” the victims´ relatives have reiterated over the past 32 years. “It is an incalculably deep wound,” said Odalys Perez Rodriguez, older daughter of pilot Wilfredo Fello Perez, also a victim. “The years go by and I still can hear my father’s recorded voice asking for help; I listen to it and I start crying.”

After a bomb exploded onboard Cubana flight 455, which was covering the route Barbados, Kingston, Havana, the captain Wilfredo Perez and his co-pilot contacted Barbados´ Seawall air traffic control and warned: “We have fire on board!, we request landing immediately, immediately!...” Shortly after those words and a second explosion onboard, the plane, set on fire, fell to the sea.

The Cuban people gathered at Havana’s Revolution Square on October 15 to hold a farewell rally for the victims of the terrorist crime. On the occasion, Cuban Revolution leader Fidel Castro said that “shocked, painful and outraged, we gather today at this historic square to say good-bye, though in a symbolic way, to the remains of our sisters and brothers murdered in the brutal terrorist action perpetrated against a Cuban civil plane. Most of their remains are still in the deep ocean waters, while the tragedy did not allow their closest relatives the relief of having their dead bodies.”

After all these years, the world public opinion has witnessed how impunity and injustice have prevailed in the case. Luis Posada Carriles has been protected once and again by Washington despite his terrorist crimes.

Passage to sabotage

Oct 5, 1976
Cubana de Aviación DC-8, flight 455, arrives at Guyana’s Timerhri airport.
Oct 6, 1976
10:57 GMT. CU-455 departs for Port of Spain, Trinidad Tobago, on a 27-minute delay after waiting for an official North Korean delegation. In Port of Spain, all 24 members of the Cuba juvenile fencing team come on board after having arrived from Caracas, Venezuela, on a Pan-Am flight.
15:49 GMT. The plane heads for Barbados.
16:21 GMT. CU-455 arrives at Seawell airport, in Barbados. Terrorists Freddy Lugo and Jose Vazquez García (fake name Hernan Ricardo ) conclude their trip.
17:15 GMT. CU-455 takes off for Jamaica with 73 POB.
17:23 GMT. Seawall air traffic control records the voice of Captain Wilfredo Perez warning of fire onboard.
17:25:20 GMT. The co-pilot requests emergency landing at Seawall, the air traffic control authorizes the landing. 
17:25:27 GMT. Seawall receives a compelling phrase: Close that door!! Seawall replies “CU-455 we understand, we have full emergency, we keep in contact, over.” At that moment a second bomb blew off in the rear toilet. Several people near the coasts saw the plane fall in the ocean.
Oct 7, 1976
Cuba’s Civil Aeronautic Institute officially announced that the 73 victims included 57 Cubans, 11 Guyanese and 5 North Koreans. Following suspicious actions, Barbadian authorities warned their counterpart in Trinidad about Freddy Lugo and Hernan Ricardo, who were arrested as possible executors of the sabotage. Meanwhile, rescue actions were underway, but with difficulties due to the deep ocean scenario.
Oct 11, 1976
Barbados Prime Minister Tom Adams declares at the 31st UN General Assembly that disaster of a Cubana airliner in the Caribbean was a terrorist action. The Comandos de Organizaciones Revolucionarias Unidas (CORU) counterrevolutionary organisation claims responsibility for the crime.
Oct 14, 1976
The remains of the victims that rescue operations could withdraw from the ocean are taken to Havana’s Revolution Square; National Mourning declared. 
Venezuela’s secret police (DISIP) announces the arrest in Caracas of counterrevolutionaries of Cuban origin Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, as well as another three men involved.
Oct 15, 1976
A huge crowd gathered at Havana’s Revolution Square to hold a farewell rally for the Barbados victims, where Commander in Chief Fidel Castro denounced that the US Central Intelligence Agency was behind the crime. Under the deep emotion and sorrow of the moment, Fidel stated the historic phrase: “When energetic and virile people cry, injustice trembles!”

By Luis Chirino Cuban News Agency  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The School of the Americas: Class over?


Inside Story features human rights activists who continue to risk jail trying to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/ WHINSEC), one of the most notorious US institutions with a long history of atrocities and military repression in the Americas.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Occupied Factories and Workers' Control in Venezuela



From the Mitsubishi auto plant to the Inveval valve plant; from the Gotcha T-Shirt factory to the INAF hardware factory, workers young and old, male and female, tell their stories and explain why they came to the realization that demanding nationalization under workers' control is the only way forward. With examples explaining how factory and workers' councils function, the role of the communal councils, and the movement for "trade unionism of a new type," this video provides a living, breathing look at a crucial aspect of the Venezuelan Revolutionary process. 

To make  Hugo Chávez victory we're rerunning this little beauty  on the Venezuelan Revolution. Produced by Vive TV in Venezuela, this new documentary on FRETECO explores the movement of occupied factories and workers' control in Venezuela.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lies, half truths and bias - the world’s media and the Venezuelan election

 Once again there has been a remarkably well coordinated campaign of disinformation regarding the Venezuelan presidential elections on Sunday October 7.

More . . . 

Friday, October 5, 2012

The evil of two lessers


The problem of a candidate who promises so little - check it out here 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fighting to defend living standards

Australian

Living standards are falling and are certainly set to decline dramatically if action is not taken to defend them. But the main threat to living standards is not from the next bust in the resources sector. It is from the concerted attack on the living standards of ordinary working people being waged by financial institutions and big business, with the assistance of state and federal governments.

More ...

Monday, September 17, 2012

How We Happened to Sell Off Our (Britain's) Electricity



"Does it matter that the power Britain relies on to make the country glow and hum no longer belongs to Britain?"

James Meek in the London Review of Books 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Crisis and alternatives


Crisis for whom? Why after all this is it business more or less as usual? Because those who benefit think they can get away with it. Where there is greater ground level resistance – for example in Greece, significant political forces have put forward specific alternatives of a fundamentally anti-austerity kind – debt renegotiation, partial cancellation, progressive taxation and redistribution, employment generating policies, reversal of privatization, moving towards public control of finance. What the elites of Europe fear is that this kind of upsurge from below can spread from Greece to other European countries hence their support to the conservative parties.
(A paper was presented at the Sub-regional Conference of the Asia-Europe People’s Forum in Jakarta in  June )
More . . . 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Julian Assange is right to fear US prosecution

There are clear signs that the US is on track to prosecute the WikiLeaks founder, which, as his US lawyer, I advise him to heed, despite the denials of the Obama administration.

More . . .

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Neoliberal Occupation: How the IMF and the European Central Bank Are Strangling the Greek Economy


The troika--the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank--is using its leverage to arrange Greece's debt-ridden economy as it sees fit.

ATHENS--With Greek workers bracing themselves for more announcements of privatization of public services and industries, the fight among political factions continues. But the drama that is unfolding proves that Greek Parliament is but a puppet regime for an occupying force known as the troika: the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

More . . .

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy




The West's real target here is not Assad's brutal regime but his ally, Iran, and its chemical weapons
Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I'm not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I'm referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.

While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan's dark ages.

More . . .
By: Robert Fisk (Independent)

The neoliberal Games: who are the real winners from London 2012?




Far from embodying some timeless ‘Olympic spirit’, the 2012 Games reflect the injustice and inequality of the current economic system. 
Long before John Carlos stood beside Tommie Smith to give their famous clenched-fist salutes on the podium at the 1968 Olympics, he was a boy growing up in Harlem. ‘When I first learned about the existence of the Olympics,’ he recalls, ‘my reaction was different from anything I had ever felt when listening to baseball or basketball or football or any of the sports that I’d seen people play in the neighbourhood. The sheer variety of sports, the idea of the finest athletes from around the globe gathering and representing their countries: it was different, and the fact that it was every four years made it feel like an extra kind of special.’

The origins of the Olympic wonder lie in International Olympic Committee founder Pierre de Coubertin’s struggle with the French sporting authorities, and in the Olympic Charter, with its promises ‘to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity’.

The London Olympics have always had a much narrower set of ambitions. One of the five promises made in the original Olympic bid was: ‘To demonstrate that the UK is a creative, inclusive and welcoming place to live in, to visit and for business.’


More . . .
By: David Renton (Red Pepper)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Guns, cinema and politics




Sometimes life just comes up and slaps you in the face with irony doesn’t it? Unfortunately this week that slap  reverberated  around  a Colorado cinema at about midnight, where, tragically, a lone gunman opened fire on an unsuspecting audience watching the latest Batman film. Where is the irony in this incredibly regrettable event, I hear you scream? Well, let me explain.

The neoliberal governments never tire of telling the world how dangerous Venezuela is. Be it through their mouthpieces in the Human Watch Committees, the UN, the capitalist press, or directly through Hilary Clinton, Alvaro Uribe, or Mitt Romney. The British neoliberal government even warns off tourists in their “advice to travelers” in their Foreign Office website, which uses the words “drug traffickers”, “illegal armed groups” “risk of kidnapping” and “criminal activity” all in just the first bullet point.

This political propaganda, which is not without its own, particular, destabilizing motive, is repeated and sensationalized by their puppets here in Venezuela: by Capriles, Globovision, or El Nacional newspaper. Like magicians producing rabbits from their imperialist top hats, they show off unproven statistics  to  the  world,  of  murders, rapes, express kidnappings, prison riots, and robberies, of how you are more likely to be shot here than in Afghanistan or Palestine or Iraq. At their local meetings all they talk about is “so and so” who knew “so and so” who maybe knew “so and so” who saw a man get shot. It is implanted into their minds. Isn’t Venezuela so very dangerous!  It  must  be  Chavez’s  fault, they conclude.

Violent crime is something which has been openly and publically recognized by the selfcritical Chavez and his government as a problem which is yet to be solved. Without conceding that the problem is as big as the opposition’s myths and spin makes it seem, Chavez has recognized it in its cultural and historical context. After providing comprehensive solutions to the health, education, university, economic, alimentary, productive, and agricultural problems faced by the country in 1998, the Revolution has failed, for now, to resolve the gun crime problem, which has elevated itself to be a key issue in the upcoming elections. This is why we have seen such dramatic changes in the last year on this issue.

Venezuela is well on its way to completely disarming the entire civilian population. A recent disarmament law closed all commercial gun shops, and centralized military and police gun contracts under the Interior  Ministry’s  control.  Since 2003, 280,725 guns have been decommissioned or destroyed, and high profile actors and sportspersons are being used to promote educational campaigns against gun ownership, which  can be seen on all the TV channels and in numerous public places, such as on the Metro of Caracas. This is complemented by reform of the prisons, of the police forces, and the judicial system. It is only a matter of time before arms which are still held with a valid permit are declared illegal too, as the socialist government pushes towards a society where law enforcers are the only ones armed.

In the US, which is yet again mourning the victims of a seemingly random shooting in a public place, gun ownership is not just legal, but considered a fundamental right, especially in the south, and is enshrined in the Constitution. Apart from a police background check, there are very few checks done, and the sale of guns is often instantaneous. Forty-nine of the 50 states have some sort of law allowing concealed weapons to be carried in public. In 2007 there were 31,224 firearm related deaths, and 75,684 nonfatal gunshot injures reported in 2000.

Eleven armed assassination attempts on US Presidents, and recent tragedies such as the Columbine School massacre (1999, 13 dead, 24 injured), the Beltway Sniper attacks on a highway (2002, 10 dead, 3 wounded), the Virginia Massacre in a technological institute (2007, 32 dead 17 wounded), and the Tucson shootings in a parking lot (2011, 6 dead, 13 injured)  only  go  to  prove  the problems of such a liberal gun policy in such a violent country. In Colorado State, gun controls have amazingly been loosened since the tragedy of Columbine.

However, gun controls alone don’t eradicate violent crime. A gun doesn’t fire itself. It is a point which is recognized by Freddy Bernal, President of the Presidential Mixed Commission For Arms and Munitions Controls in Venezuela: “the new (disarmament) law won’t resolve on its own the problem of the criminality and violence”.  He  went  on  to  state that “a law isn’t a magic wand, but that the complex problem of criminality and violence is being taken on by important forces in government”.

Social exclusion, paranoia, desperation, a bunker mentality, a “dog eat dog” society, and the inability to solve personal issues, are all complemented by the promotion and glorifi-cation  of  violence  in  the  media, soap operas, music, video games, hunting, and other cultural aspects more commonly associated with capitalist rather than socialist societies. As Rod Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative puts it: “Evil or insane people will always find a way around the laws. The idea that stronger anti-gun laws would meaningfully discourage thugs in the US inner cities from acquiring and using weapons is risible”.

Mr  Dreher  goes  on  to  explain how “guns are inextricably woven into the American psyche”, which leads us back to  the  irony.  It  is  wretchedly ironic that US authorities, consistently criticizing Venezuela for its gun crime levels, are unable to address their own gun crime problems which have been painfully highlighted this week. The inability of neoliberals to recognize the huge advances being made against gun crime in Venezuela are ironic, and they only show their lack of commitment to do the same and protect their citizens in their countries.

Yet again, Venezuela is posing a dangerous threat to the USA, the threat of the threat of setting a
good example



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Greece: Syriza shines a light


In Greece, a radical left coalition is actively preparing for power in society and in parliament. Hilary Wainwright reports from Athens (Red Pepper)

More . . .

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sao Paulo Forum 18th Begins in Caracas



The eighteenth meeting of the Sao Paulo Forum began on Wednesday with an examination of the political situation in Latin America and Caribbean, via the participation of about 600 representatives of political parties and leftist and progressive movements in the region. The event, which will be held until Friday, represents the unity and diversity of the left-wing, according to the criteria expressed by the forum's executive secretary, Walter Pomar, of the Workers' Party (PT) of Brazil.

The participation of a broad group "allows us to express the diversity of the Latin American left-wing. This gives us the ability to debate and a much improved ability to be effective," Pomar told Venezolana de Television.

According to Rodrigo Cabezas, member of the national leadership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), this edition of the Forum is focused on the challenges of regional integration in a political and economic environment that will allow for comprehensive development of Latin American peoples.

In that regard is expected that the integration processes in Latin America and Caribbean will be reviewed in order to update the Action Plan for the 84 parties and leftist groups that are members of the Forum.




Checkout the Final Declaration from the 17th Meeting of the São Paulo Forum

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

National Democratic Front of the Philippines


Checkout the recently adopted Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection and Welfare of Children

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Did the U.S. Supreme Court Just Gut Habeas Rights?



The Supreme Court has blessed new legal standards that make it less likely Gitmo detainees can win their cases.

The Supreme Court's decision on Monday not to hear appeals from a group of Gitmo detainees leaves the remaining 169 detainees at the facility with little chance of securing their freedom through US courts.

In the 2008 case Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled detainees at Gitmo could challenge their detention in US courts. That decision was seen as effectively ending the Bush administration's attempt to carve out a legal black hole for suspected terror detainees.

More ...

Supreme Court Rejects Gitmo Appeals, Spelling Potential End to Prisoners’ Legal Fight for Release



Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Rule of Oligarchy Law – From Boris Yeltsin’s Russia to Aubrey McClendon’s Oklahoma




At the end of the 1990s, after the total collapse of the mass-privatization experiment in Boris Yeltin’s Russia, some of the more earnest free-market proselytizers tried making sense of it all. The unprecedented collapse of Russia’s economy and its capital markets, the wholesale looting, the quiet extermination of millions of Russians from the shock and destitution (Russian male life expectancy plummeted from 68 years to 56 years)—the terrible consequences of imposing radical libertarian free-market ideas on an alien culture—turned out worse than any worst-case-scenario imagined by the free-market true-believers.

Of all the disastrous results of that experiment, what troubled many Western free-market true-believers most wasn’t so much the mass poverty and population collapse, but rather, the way things turned out so badly in Russia’s newly-privatized companies and industries. That was the one thing that was supposed to go right. According to the operative theory—developed by the founding fathers of libertarianism/neoliberalism, Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman and the rest—a privately-owned company will always outperform a state-run company because private ownership and the profit-motive incentivize the owners to make their companies stronger, more efficient, more competitive, and so on. The theory promises that everyone benefits except for the bad old state and the lazy.

That was the dominant libertarian theory framing the whole “shock doctrine” privatization experiment in Russia and elsewhere. In reality, as everyone was forced to admit by 1999, Russia’s privatized companies were stripped and plundered as fast as their new private owners could loot them, leaving millions of workers without salaries, and most of Russia’s industry in far worse shape than the Communists left it.

Most of the free-market proselytizers—ranging from Clinton neoliberal Michael McFaul (currently Obama’s ambassador to Moscow) to libertarian Pinochet fanboy Andrei Illarionov (currently with the Cato Institute)– blamed everything but free-market experiments for Russia’s collapse.

But some of the more earnest believers whose libertarian faith was shaken by what happened to Corporate Russia needed something more sophisticated than a crude historical whitewash.

Lucky for them, Milton Friedman provided the answer to a Cato Institute interviewer: Russia lacked “rule of law”—another neoliberal/libertarian catchphrase that went mainstream in the late 80s. Without “rule of law,” Friedman and the rest of the free-market faithful argued, privatization was bound to fail.  Here’s Friedman’s answer in the Cato Institute’s 2002 Economic Freedom of the World Report:

CATO: If we reflect upon the fall of communism and the transition from the centrally planned economy to a market economy, what have we learned in the last decade of the importance of economic freedom and other institutions that may be necessary to support economic freedom?

MILTON FRIEDMAN: We have learned about the importance of private property and the rule of law as a basis for economic freedom. Just after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, I used to be asked a lot: “What do these ex-communist states have to do in order to become market economies?” And I used to say: “You can describe that in three words: privatize, privatize, privatize.” But, I was wrong. That wasn’t enough. The example of Russia shows that. Russia privatized but in a way that created private monopolies-private centralized economic controls that replaced government’s centralized controls. It turns out that the rule of law is probably more basic than privatization. Privatization is meaningless if you don’t have the rule of law. What does it mean to privatize if you do not have security of property, if you can’t use your property as you want to?

Others expanded on Friedman’s rationalization, arguing that without this “rule of law” to protect their private property, the new private owners of Russia’s industries were incentivized to plunder their companies as quickly as possible for fear that the state would steal their companies back. Of course, all this rationalizing was undermined by fact that Russia’s oligarchs stole their companies in the first place, and thieves do tend to steal what they’ve stolen. But never mind—the libertarian ideology was salvaged, as Russia’s privatization experiment was declared “not a real free-market” without Friedrich Hayek’s “rule of law” in place.

The reason I’m bringing this up now is because over the past month, one of America’s most rapacious oligarchs, Aubrey McClendon, was exposed by Reuters for plundering Chesapeake Energy, the second-largest natural gas producer in the country after Exxon-Mobil. McClendon, co-founder, CEO and until a few weeks ago Chairman of Chesapeake, was discovered running a hedge fund inside of Chesapeake, personally profiting on the side from large trading positions that his public company Chesapeake took in the gas and oil markets.

Reuters also discovered that McClendon took small personal stakes in natural gas wells bought by Chesapeake, then borrowed against the wells’ reserves from the same banks that Chesapeake borrowed from—basically, the banks kicked back sweet lending deals to McClendon on the side as McClendon arranged less-than-sweet loans to his publicly-owned company, Chesapeake, kicking profits from Chesapeake’s shareholders and employees’ pockets into the banks and into Aubrey’s accounts.

The loser in all this, as always: Employees, retirees, and shareholders. As Reuters reported, Chespeake is one of a small handful of companies whose employee 401k retirement packages consist mostly of Chesapeake stock, and the company requires employees to hold on to their stock for the maximum amount of time allowed by law:

Thousands of Chesapeake workers have retirement portfolios that are heavily invested in Chesapeake stock, which has declined sharply following revelations about Chief Executive Aubrey K. McClendon’s business dealings.

But while retail and institutional investors have sold the stock, employees don’t always have that option.

It’s not the first time McClendon has been caught plundering Chesapeake at the expense of shareholders, pension fund investors and employees: In 2008, McClendon bet and lost about $2 billion worth of Chesapeake Energy stock he owned—94% of Aubrey’s personal stake in Chesapeake– on a margin call when natural gas prices collapsed. Aubrey bet that natural gas prices would continue soaring, you see.

But like his peers in the oligarchy class, Aubrey’s loss became everyone but Aubrey’s loss: He was awarded a “CEO bailout” by his board of directors, who honored Aubrey with a $75 million “bonus” to bring his total pay in 2008 to $112 million, making Aubrey McClendon the highest-paid CEO in Corporate America that year. Even though Chesapeake’s earnings dropped in half, and its stock fell 60%, wiping out up to $33 billion in shareholder wealth.

Now, we’re learning, Aubrey was profiting in other ways off of Chesapeake that same year.

There is so much more to hate about Aubrey McClendon than this—the millions McClendon poured into Gary Bauer’s gay-bashing outfit “Americans United To Preserve Marriage” and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the role McClendon and his Whirlpool heiress wife played in stealing waterfront land from Benton Harbor, an African-American slum and the poorest city in Michigan, in order to expand an exclusive golf course country club for residents of St. Josephs, where McClendon owns several plots of land. McClendon’s wife, Katie, is from St. Joseph’s; so is Katie’s cousin, Fred Upton, the Republican Congressman from St. Joseph’s. Aubrey and his wife are what pass for royalty (sans noblesse oblige) these days: Katie from the Whirpool fortune, Aubrey an heir to the Kerr-McGee fortune. (If you’ve seen the movie Silkwood, you might remember Kerr-McGee as the company that iced the labor union activist played by Meryl Streep.)

This is just one of many stories about how publicly-traded companies have been and can be transformed into elaborate schemes to loot and steal from the public and enrich a tiny handful of oligarchs. We saw this in the 1980s when Reagan deregulated the Savings & Loans, which were quickly transformed into a means of looting, fraud and plunder; we saw it in the 2000s, after the de-regulation of the financial sector.

The problem goes much deeper than Milton Friedman’s “rule of law” fetish. “Rule of law” is just another red herring diversion to provide cover for continued oligarchy plunder, failure and barbarism. The problem is systemic, and more importantly, ideological. We still operate under the same neoliberal/libertarian major premises we inherited from the Hayek-Mises-Friedman era, an ideology that considers notions like “the public good” to be quaint delusions at best—as opposed to today’s still-dominant, still-standing foundational ideology, which says that freedom equals the ruthless pursuit of individual self-interest, the unlimited acquisition of private property and wealth, framed within a cold, dystopian “rule of law.”

That is where the problem starts. That is why, every week, I could tell another story about another Aubrey McClendon or Dick Parsons, and it will never end until the ideology that enables them is buried.

By Mark Ames
Via AlterNet
first published in the Daily Banter