The bosses and the political elite hates the working people!

Strikes should not have been suspended because of queen’s death

The bosses and the Tories won’t suspend the class war

newsreader with black tie

The official news machine has cranked into operation

Thursday 08 September 2022 – socialistworker.co.uk

The RMT and CWU unions immediately reacted to the news of the queen’s death by suspending planned strikes. The CWU even squashed a Royal Mail strike that some of its members had already begun.

At least they showed they could coordinate action—or inaction. It’s a rotten move that shows all the conservatism and slavishness of trade union leaders.

Working class people are engaged in crucial battles with bosses and the government. The outcomes will determine the future of millions for years to come.

But the death of a monarch is instantly enough to pause resistance. There will be no such squeamishness from the other side. The people at the top won’t pause the class struggle for a moment.

They won’t stop putting up prices in the shops, or stop rent increases or halt layoffs and job losses. There will be no let-up in the remorseless efforts to make workers pay for the crisis. Police chiefs won’t put aside the new powers gifted to them by this repressive government.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) has postponed the Festival of Resistance that it has been preparing for months. An organisation that rightly says that we cannot wait for a second to win climate action decided that the queen’s death was too important to continue fighting over the death of the planet. “We know that you may feel the rug has been pulled out from under your feet,” XR told rebels who were already gathering for the weekend’s events. 

Many of those now running away from struggle would whisper behind their hand that they themselves are not moved by royalty. But they are worried about the reaction of everyone else.

By such cowardice they spread the idea that our side must declare a ceasefire even as the pounding from the other side intensifies.

We now face ten days of “national unity” and denunciation of those who dare to raise class issues. And it will be sanctified by Keir Starmer,  leader of his majesty’s loyal opposition, who tweeted, “Today, we mourn the passing of a remarkable sovereign. Above the clashes of politics, she stood not for what the nation fought over, but what it agreed upon.

“As Britain changed rapidly around her, this dedication became the still point of our turning world.” And on and on it went. Sickening, servile phrases, one after another. This is the British Labour Party, always, in the end, for the state and the system and tradition.

Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT, had declared that the Irish socialist James Connolly is his political hero.

It was Connolly who said, “Neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanising of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind.

“A people mentally poisoned by the adulation of royalty can never attain to that spirit of self-reliant democracy necessary for the attainment of social freedom. The mind accustomed to political kings can easily be reconciled to social kings—capitalist kings of the workshop, the mill, the railway, the ships and the docks.”

Connolly was right, and his words apply particularly to union leaders.

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Posta under Europa, Fagrørsle og kamp, Imperialism, Our global world | Merkt , , , , , , | Kommenter innlegget

In Memory: Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War, dies aged 91

Gorbachev, who led the Soviet Union from 1985 until its collapse in 1991, died in Moscow, Russian news agencies say.

Mikhail Gorbachev, who has died aged 91
Mikhail Gorbachev, who has died aged 91, attends the international conference «Europe Looks East» in Sofia, October 7, 2010. [Valentina Petrova/AP Photo

30 Aug 2022

Mikhail Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War and was the last leader of the Soviet Union, has died at the age of 91, Russian news agencies reported, citing medical sources.

“Gorbachev died this evening after a serious and long illness,” the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow said late on Tuesday, as quoted by the Interfax, TASS and RIA Novosti news agencies.

Gorbachev led the Soviet Union from 1985 until its collapse in 1991.

The dissolution of the Soviet bloc — marked by Gorbachev’s resignation that year — ended the Cold War and years of confrontation between East and West, freed Eastern European nations from Soviet domination, and established the modern Russian state.

Gorbachev’s death comes six months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has intensified tensions between Moscow and the West.

Gorbachev, eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, closes his resignation speech on the table after delivering it on television in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia on Wednesday, Dec. 25, 1991.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, closes his file after announcing his resignation on December 25, 1991 [File: Liu Heung Shing/AP Photo]

“[It’s] hard to think of a single person who altered the course of history more in a positive direction” than Gorbachev, Michael McFaul, a political analyst and former US ambassador in Moscow, wrote on Twitter. “Gorbachev was an idealist who believed in the power of ideas and individuals. We should learn from his legacy.”

US President Joe Biden, who was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Gorbachev was in office, described the former leader as a “man of remarkable vision”, saying he had the “courage” to “admit that things needed to change” after years of confrontation.

“As leader of the USSR, he worked with President Reagan to reduce our two countries’ nuclear arsenals,” Biden said in a statement. “After decades of brutal political repression, he embraced democratic reforms. He believed in glasnost and perestroika – openness and restructuring – not as mere slogans, but as the path forward for the people of the Soviet Union after so many years of isolation and deprivation.”

Gorbachev will be buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery next to his wife Raisa, who died in 1999, state-owned TASS reported, citing a source familiar with the family’s wishes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his “deepest condolences” over Gorbachev’s death, his spokesperson said.

Born into a farming family in southern Russia, Gorbachev rose through the ranks of the Communist Party to become general secretary in 1985.

At the age of just 54, and the first leader from the post-Stalin generation, Gorbachev introduced a series of reforms that he hoped would reinvigorate the USSR and address its weaknesses.

He never wanted to dismantle the system, but glasnost and perestroika unleashed forces that proved impossible to control with calls for independence in the Baltic states and other parts of the Soviet Union as well as in Eastern Europe.

Food shortages worsened and prices spiked.

“He was a good man, he was a decent man. I think his tragedy is in a sense that he was too decent for the country he was leading,” said Gorbachev biographer William Taubman, a professor emeritus at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Gorbachev refrained from using force — unlike his predecessors — as protests spread across Eastern Europe, but as the Soviet Union itself began to disintegrate, he struggled to prevent its collapse.

In one of the low points of his political career, he sanctioned a crackdown on the restive Baltic republics in early 1991.

“I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were necessary for the country and for Europe and the world,” Gorbachev told The Associated Press news agency in a 1992 interview shortly after he left office.

“I am often asked, would I have started it all again if I had to repeat it? Yes, indeed. And with more persistence and determination,” he said.

Reviled in Russia

Gorbachev won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War, but many in Russia see him as responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the social and economic crises that enveloped the country in the early 1990s.

“The Nobel Committee just doesn’t know what it’s like here … Let them spend a couple of months living like Russians and see how they feel,” an unnamed teacher told the Reuters news agency after Gorbachev received the Nobel Prize. “Is peace only for foreigners?”

Conor O’Clery, a Moscow correspondent for The Irish Times newspaper from 1991 to 1996, said Gorbachev became “embittered” after failing to keep the Soviet Union together and leaving office.

He ran for president in 1996 and received less than 1 percent of the vote.

“Gorbachev had become friendly with the West, was seen as a reformer in the West, but he did try to keep the Soviet Union together and he failed in that,”  O’Clery told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.

“He’s reviled today in Russia because he’s associated with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the leading role that Russia had in the world.”

Despite his reputation at home, world leaders paid tribute to the changes that took place under Gorbachev.

Mikhail Gorbachev pictured in 2012
Gorbachev was one of the most influential politicians of the 20th century, but was condemned by many in Russia for unleashing events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union [File: Allison Joyce/Reuters]

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen lauded Gorbachev on Tuesday, calling him a “trusted and respected leader” who “opened the way for a free Europe”.

“This legacy is one we will not forget,” she wrote on Twitter.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, citing Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, said Gorbachev’s “tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all”.

INTERACTIVE_MIKHAIL_GORBACHEV_OBITUARY
(Al Jazeera)

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Posta under Europa, kommunisme, Our global world | Merkt , , | Kommenter innlegget

Michael Robert: Russia under Putin

In my last post, I described how Western capital is planning to take over and control Ukraine’s resources and exploit its labour force to the maximum in order to boost the profitability of both Ukraine’s domestic capitalists (oligarchs) and foreign multi-nationals.

However, there is a problem for Western capital and Ukraine’s oligarchs: it’s Russia.  The war has already led to Russian forces gaining control of at least $12.4trn worth of Ukraine’s resources in energy (cola), metals and mineral deposits, apart from agricultural land.  If Putin’s forces succeed in annexing Ukrainian land seized during Russia’s invasion, Kyiv would permanently lose almost two-thirds of its deposits.  Moscow now controls 63% of Ukraine’s coal deposits, 11% of its oil, 20% of its natural gas, 42% of its metals, and 33% of its rare earths.

So any rebuilding effort funded by Western capital has a major obstacle.  “Not only will Ukraine have lost a lot of its territory and its resources, but it would be constantly vulnerable to another onslaught by Russia,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics. “No one in their right mind, a private company, would invest in the rest of Ukraine if this were to become a frozen conflict.” Ukraine has suffered continual bombing and military attacks with thousands of civilians dying and millions having to flee their homes and even leave the country.  If Russia maintains its control of existing gains, the reconstruction of Ukraine as an independent state based funded by Western capital is put in jeopardy. 

And many Russian-speaking Ukrainians and others will remain under the control of Russia. Ukraine’s working people are having their trade union rights and working conditions degraded by the nationalist Zelensky government.  Under Putin’s Russia, it would even be worse.  For in Russia, going on strike, demonstrating against the regime and organizing politically is already fraught with danger and even death (although Ukraine is heading the same way).

When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, the elite in Russia, with the enthusiastic backing of US imperialism and Western economic advisers, moved quickly to dismantle the Soviet state sector.  There was no attempt to introduce even ‘liberal democracy’.  Much more important was to gain control of Russia’s resources and labour for private profit.  The pro-capitalist hero Yeltsin quickly launched what has become called a ‘shock therapy’ introduction of markets and private capital.  Prices were ‘liberalised’ and rapid privatisation began—all by presidential decree without any democratic mandate from the Russian people.  Yeltsin pushed through a constitution which enshrined a powerful president with strong decree and veto powers. 

When price controls were lifted, the prices for basic foodstuffs like bread and butter skyrocketed by as much as 500 percent in a matter of days. Large sections of the population sank into deep poverty almost overnight.  By 1994, about 70 percent of the Russian economy was privatised.  Yeltsin achieved this by selling off Russia’s assets for peanuts to a cabal of favoured people, now called ‘oligarchs’  

During the seven years of the Yeltsin regime, Russia’s GDP fell 40% and numerous bouts of hyperinflation wiped out the savings of many Russian citizens. Crime was rampant; mafia ran protection schemes on businesses and officials demanded bribes.  Life expectancy plummeted. Kleptocracy and extreme inequality were permanently embedded.

Alcoholic Yeltsin became extremely unpopular (his approval rating fell to just 10%).  But the new cabal of oligarchs made sure he was re-elected in 1996 through a plan drawn up by Western strategists at that year’s Davos World Economic Forum and delivered through a massive campaign in the controlled media and through the sidelining of any opposition campaign (then mainly the Communists).  However, the economy still struggled to recover and in 1998, the Russian government defaulted on $40 billion of short-term government bonds, devalued the ruble, and declared a moratorium on payments to foreign creditors.

This catastrophic default crippled the Yeltsin government and led to Yeltsin stepping down as president just over a year later. Yeltsin made way for his prime minister Vladimir Putin.  Putin, a former KGB officer, promised to establish stability and prosperity with reforms. He restored discipline and order to the government; made the State Duma—Russia’s parliament—subordinate to his will; ended elections of regional governors and turned them into appointed officials, centralising authority; seized control of the media; and cracked down on any resistant oligarchs, exiling or imprisoning many of them.

A new elite emerged that replaced many of the oligarchs of the Yeltsin years. These were individuals close to Putin dating back to his days in the KGB or when he served as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Because of their close ties to Putin, they were able to gain control over important sectors of the Russian economy and became heads of state companies that grew following the nationalization of assets of many of the former Yeltsin-era oligarchs. Step-by-step Putin created a state of crony capitalism that was bolstered by the so-called siloviki—powerful figures from the security and military services—who were active participants in Putin’s increasingly corrupt system.

Putin was lucky.  During his first two terms as president (2000–2004, and 2004–2008), the Russian economy prospered and the people shared to some extent in this brief economic boom. Average annual real GDP growth reached 5.5%.  But this was only due to the commodity price boom that also helped many weaker capitalist economies like Chavez’s Venezuela or Lula’s Brazil. Oil prices surged from a low of $10 a barrel to a peak of $150 a barrel. 

But those relatively ‘golden years’ based on energy exports came sharply to an end with the Great Recession of 2008-9 and the subsequent Long Depression of the 2010s when the commodities boom dissipated.  Stagnation set in.  Real GDP growth in the next decade averaged only 2%.

Foreign investment declined precipitously and capital flight accelerated to nearly 4% of annual GDP as the oligarchs (including Putin) spirited their ill-gotten gains into offshore havens or property in the UK, with the help of Western investment and legal companies and government tax incentives. 

Productive investment growth was weak because the profitability of capital in Russia only slowly recovered from the ‘shock therapy’ years. This is graphically revealed by the trend in the profitability of Russian capital.  After the ‘shock therapy’ economic collapse, profitability had recovered during the ‘golden years’ of Putin’s first two terms.  But after 2007, profitability marked time; while economic growth crawled along. 

So in Putin’s third term (after 2012), the regime became even more nationalist and autocratic, cracking down on any credible opposition with intimidation, force and even assassination.  And 2014 saw a significant turning point.  Putin promoted the 2014 Winter Olympics, which cost more than $50 billion—the most expensive Olympic Games ever. Much of the funding came from Putin’s billionaire cronies.  So when the nationalist government in Ukraine launched its attacks on the Russian-speaking areas after the Maidan coup, Putin responded by annexing Crimea and providing active support for the separatists in the Donbas region. This boosted his popularity at home, turning attention away from the failure of the domestic economy, at least for a while, and his approval rating rocketed.

But the economy did not rocket.  The West then applied economic sanctions against Russian business figures and sectors.  Russia’s growth remained weak and below the growth rate in most developed countries. When adjusted for inflation, the average Russian was making less money in 2019 than in 2014.

Soon after he was first appointed president in 2000, Putin published an essay claiming that he wanted Russia to reach Portugal’s level of GDP per capita by the end of his two terms in office. Portugal was then the poorest EU member state. However, two decades later in 2021, Portugal’s GDP per capita in current dollars is twice as high as Russia’s.  Despite the damage suffered by Portugal during the 2010 euro debt crisis, Russia has actually fallen further behind the Portuguese economy.

Amid stagnation, inequality has accelerated.  According to joint research by the Higher School of Economics and the state-run VEB Bank, “the wealthiest 3 percent of Russians owned 89 percent of all financial assets in 2018.” The Moscow Times reports “the number of billionaires in Russia grew from 74 to 110 between mid-2018 and mid-2019, while the number of millionaires rose from 172,000 to 246,000.” According to Forbes’s rating, the total wealth possessed by Russia’s top 200 in 2019 was $15 billion higher than it had been in 2014.

In contrast, Rosstat reported last year that 14.3 percent of the population (21 million people) can be defined as poor. According to Yale economist Christopher Miller, Russians are getting poorer. The year “2018 marked the fifth straight year in which Russians’ inflation-adjusted disposable incomes fell.” Rosstat further reports that “almost two-thirds (63.5%) of Russian households only have enough money to buy food, clothes and other essential items.” The Russian Central Bank reported that 75 percent of the population is not able to save anything each month and almost one-third of those who manage to put some money into savings do so by skimping on food.

Just how badly Russia’s crony capitalist regime under Putin has performed for the average Russian is revealed in the UN’s human development index (HDI), which covers life expectancy, employment, incomes and other services. Russia’s HDI measure has grown the least of the major ‘emerging economies’ and is now way below the OECD average.

All this makes a joke of the arguments in the Western media that Putin’s regime is some sort of reversion to the Soviet state.  For a start, Putin has often attacked ‘Bolshevism’ and, in particular the views of Lenin that nations like Ukrainians had a right to self-determination.  Instead, Putin has turned to the feudal imperialism of Russia’s Peter the Great as his model for the invasion of Ukraine. Putin has eulogized Peter’s conquests in the Great Northern War and praised him for “returning” historically Russian lands. “It seems that it has fallen to us, too, to return (Russian lands),” Putin commented. For him, Ukraine is not a nation but part of Russia, which the nationalist in Kyev and Western powers are tryng to separate.

The irony is that Putin’s imperialist ambitions for control of the peripheral countries of the former Soviet Union are not backed up by a modern imperialist economy.  Russia is not in the imperialist league, as I have shown in previous posts.  Russia is no super power, economically or politically.  Its total wealth (including labour and natural resources) is way down the league compared to the US and the G7 (red bars).   And even its supposed military might has been exposed as a paper tiger.

The Russia economy remains a ‘one-trick pony’, depending on oil and gas that make up more than half its exports before the war started, with the rest being grain, chemicals and metals – no advanced technology exports.  That means that far from extracting surplus value through trade with other countries, instead, the more advanced capitalist economies and their multi-nationals get net transfers of surplus value from Russia. 

Putin may think Russia can be an imperialist power, but the economic reality is that Russia is just a large peripheral economy outside the US-led imperialist bloc like Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt etc – if with a larger military than most. Seriously opposing that bloc leads to conflict, as China now faces.

Related

Russia: from sanctions to slump?February 27, 2022In «marxism»

Ukraine: the invasion of capitalAugust 13, 2022In «marxism»

Ukraine: trapped in a war zoneFebruary 14, 2022In «marxism»

23 thoughts on “Russia under Putin”

  1. Chris MorlockFair enough Michael, but in contrast to the US Hegemony a world block of anti-US hegemony is taking shape. No one is really claiming Putin isn’t anything other than a integralist or bonapartist. 70% of Russia’s GDP contribution is public sector, and it has probably grown in the last 6 months. Russia’s oligarchy is essentially powerless to protest their deteriorating access to Western capital, and if they do protest it simply means leverage for more government takeovers by Putin.Anti-Imperialism is not comparing an abstract ideological standard, but comparing something real and material to current events. This is why we follow Russia’s progress as an act of anti-imperialism, despite it’s flaws and contradictions.Reply
    1. mhartwig2015I agree. Moreover, your discourse of ‘crony capitalism’ and ‘autocracy’, Michael, lends credence to US hegemony’s ace false dichotomy of ‘democratic’ vs ‘authoritarian regimes’, when the reality is that democracy in the West is merely formal, its substance plutocracy presided over by ‘murderers, swindlers and villains’. What would you expect of a formerly command-statist ‘actually existing socialist’ society after the ‘shock therapy’ of neoliberalisation? At least most of Russia’s resources can’t be looted by the West pro tem.
      Putin is playing the long game strategically. Control over eastern and southern Ukraine and its Black Sea shoreline could greatly assist the birth of a new multipolar world order centered on an economically integrated Eurasia. Go the BRICS!Reply
      1. mhartwig2015PS. “And even its supposed military might has been exposed as a paper tiger.” I find this a bizarre comment given that 1) Russia is winning the war against an army armed to the hilt and trained by US/Nato over a period of 8 years; and 2) US/Nato has shown a marked unwillingness to mix it with Russia by getting involved directly.
      2. michael robertsI think the Russians were expecting to win quickly but NATO backing and military support enabled the Ukrainians to hold out and now the war has become a long grinding one. I dont think Putin expected that. Even so, Ukraine is now partly dismembered.
  2. vkIt’s difficult to predict where the Russian Federation will go from here: it is certainly in flux, and anything can happen.I think there are two premises we can take when analyzing it:1) it is certainly a failure in relation to the USSR; 30 years later, the numbers don’t lie: lower GDP growth, lower birth rate, lower labor productivity etc. The Bolsheviks – two brutal wars later, countless sabotage attempts and completely besieged economically since the very beginning with the exception of a small window post-1929 – managed to turn a failed State, the ruins of an empire, into a world superpower in just 29 years. The capitalist experiment of 1991-2022 are a complete, abject failure in comparison, and it’s clearly not going to work in the foreseeable future (just look at the official projections of the Russians themselves);2) Vladimir Putin, for better or for worse, is a transition leader. The Yeltsin years were a disastrous turmoil, and Putin is a direct continuation of Yeltsin in the sense that Russia is still trying to overcome the damage caused by that government.It’s important to highlight that the present Russian oligarchy are not the Soviet nomenklatura, but the middle management. You don’t see any Stalins, Krushchevs, Brezhnevs, Gorbachevs around; the new, capitalist elite the IMF produced in the 1990s came from the rough equivalent of the middle class in the USSR, the red directors, to be more specific. The story that the Soviet elite betrayed the people by selling the nation in the middle of the night to the Americans is not true: the USSR collapsed suddenly and surprisingly, and the IMF was in a hurry to consolidate capitalism there by whatever means and shape possible, hence the transformation of the red directors into the new capitalist class.Another factor we have to take into account is that the KGB survived intact the collapse of the USSR. In other words, not everything from the USSR collapsed: the Russian State operates the way it does for a reason, it’s not just “kleptocracy” and “oligarchy”. To say the oligarchs have a complete control of the State is not precise. It’s important to state that the USSR was never militarily defeated: it collapsed under its own terms.The Russians had a conspiracy theory that the rest of the Union was leeching the RSFSR, and that, once left alone, Russia (future Russian Federation) would grow instantly and exponentially. That turned out to be false. Apparently, Putin is trying to put Orthodox Christianity in the place of Marxism-Leninism to fill the ideological void, so as to keep the Russian people cohesive as the economic boom didn’t come. In my opinion, this quest will fail, because, ultimately, Christianity is anti-science, and Russia needs science to protect itself from Liberal aggression; as it develops, Christianity will naturally weaken.In the military sector, the Russian Federation managed to continue the Soviet progress, after almost giving it all up during Yeltsin. It is now impregnable.On the geopolitical front, we have that it has already won the war against the Ukraine (the outcome was decided in the first 1h22min of the war). Ukraine cannot and will not become an Afghanistan/Vietnam, for many reasons that are not in the scope of this blog to comment. The West cannot isolate it the way it isolated the USSR – not because of China per se, but because the power and prestige of the West has deteriorated quickly after 9/11 and the global financial meltdown of 2008.In my opinion, the Russian Federation should admit the abandonment of socialism was a mistake and do whatever it can to restore the Soviet Union (without the “union” part, as the other nations are gone forever). It should reverse the capitalist reforms of the 1990s and reinstall socialism a la China, that is, Market Socialism. This task would be easier in Russia than in other Third World countries because it still has the Soviet know-how of statecraft, and many remnants of the Soviet state system; in simpler words, it still has the “muscle memory” to install socialism. The rest is just a matter of asking the Chinese for adjustments to a market version.Reply
  3. Henry RechRussia has one eighth of the world’s landmass.Its landmass spans two oceans.It shares borders with a multitude of other countries.It has mineral and agricultural resources in abundance.It has a highly educated population.It has all it needs to be a great economic power and garner prosperity for all of its people.Yet, century after century, it dissipates its energy and resources on imperialistic expansion.Unfathomable.Reply
    1. mandmI’m sure you have read Churchill…no doubt as a heroic defender of the British empire and England at war, and perhaps have not paid much attention (or, at least moral attention) to his strategy of containing Russian power, especially in his contributions in the political manipulation of France and Germany, particularly in prepartion for the genocidal invasion of Russia/USSR during the second half of the 30 Year World War (from 1914 to 1945). Churchill and apparently most English speaking people have a long standing contempt and imperial hatred of Russia and Russians…Here, you express this prejudice elegantly.Reply
  4. peterrfay“And even its supposed military might has been exposed as a paper tiger.” I’m afraid many independent military experts (including Americans) would find that statement patently false. For example, Col. McGregor, Scott Ritter, not to mention many academics have provided extensive analysis to indicate this is false. Russia has proven itself fully capable of defeating any Western opponent. NATO wouldn’t last a week against Russia in conventional warfare. The U.S. has no ability to project its power against a real opponent such as China or Russia. Libya, yes; Russia, no. I’m afraid those calling Russia a “paper tiger” have been reading too many Pentagon press releases or imbibing in the comical claims of Blinken and Austin. The remainder of this article is weakened by using GDP only. The GDP (PPP) puts Russia 6th in the world https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP). Yes, it’s controlled by a sector of political appointees and aligned oligarchs. But then, from my perch here in middle America, so is my country.Reply
    1. michael robertsI think that Russian forces would have crushed Ukrainian forces within a week and taken Kyiv. But NATO backing in previous years and inadequate planning by the Russians have turned the war into a long grinding one that Putin did not expect.Reply
      1. peterrfayI’m surprised at the gullibility of many accepting the NATO narrative; likewise, that everyone “knows” what Putin “expected”. I assume the CIA must have someone in Putin’s study telling us what he is thinking and expecting? Col. Wilkerson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Wilkerson) and most other retired top analysts know that Russia’s incursion into Kiev was (here I quote him) “a feint”, a shaping operation, not a failed assault. One doesn’t try to “take Kiev” with 20,000 Russian troops, nor do you “want” to occupy Kiev if you’re Putin. This was not a failure, but a probe and shaping operation while the east was erstwhile taken. Russia adjusted its strategy appropriately when it became clear only southern cities would surrender. But the city of Kherson surrendered and is still in Russian hands, and was it not also part of this so-called “failed strategy”? Inadequate planning? Russia has been planning for this at least since the coup in Ukraine in 2014. There is no lack of planning on their part, as the limitless supply of 20,000 missiles per day falling upon Ukrainian troops can attest. Like all wars, this war has been won (yes, past tense) through logistics, which Russia has planned for in spades for many years. And I agree that the Ukrainian military was (past tense) very well-trained and competent at the start of the war. They are now largely depleted of their trained officer corps. Heroics don’t win a grinding war. Logistics and strategy do.
      2. michael robertsSure, Russia is winning in the sense of holding all its gains and maybe getting more. But Putin cannot take the whole of Ukraine and bring down Zelensky and neither can Zelensky and NATO bring down Putin.
  5. ArazComrade how come you refer to GDP at current value when comparing Russia to Portugal when a more accurate metric of GDP PPP pc shows a different picture closer to the Russian plan than to your claim?https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.CD?locations=PT-RU&most_recent_value_desc=trueReply
    1. michael robertsYes, thats a good point.Reply
      1. michael robertsI had a quick look at the data. According to the IMF world economic outlook database, in 2000, Portugal per cap GDP in constant PP was $30,421, while Russia’s was $14,530, or less than half. By 2008 after two Putin terms, Portugal was $32348 against Russia’s $24788, or 76% of Portugal. So not equal as Putin hoped, but much better. By 2019, however Portugal reached $34989 while Russia was $27341, or 78%. So progress in closing the gap stalled from about 2008 onwards. Indeed, the ratio of Russia’s GDP per cap to Portugal peaked in 2012 at 86% and has slipped back to 76% in 2019. So on this measure, Russia is going backwards.
  6. ucanbpoliticalMichael, Russo-phobia is not a good starting point for analysis, it is so full of prejudices. You say Russian democracy has been whittled away which I agree with, but I bet you 100 Krypto’s the average Russian is more aware and better informed as to what is happening in the Ukraine than in the West – land of the free press. How they must be laughing at countless millions swallowing the line that the Russian troops who have occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant near Enerhodar since March are bombing themselves for entertainment. The Western media with its repulsive lies and charades has been a gift to Putin.You say that Russia is a one pony trick, which is on par with the slur that it is a glorified gas station. You say that the Russian Military is a paper tiger. Tell that to the Ukrainians dying and being maimed in the trenches or more sensibly running away. Tell that to the Western arms manufacturers who have had their equipment annihilated by superior Russian weaponry. May I suggest you watch YouTube sites such as Southfront, weeb union, theti mapping, new atlas mapping, new world econ channel or the military tube to get a better understanding of what is actually happening in the Ukraine. You will find that far from failing the Russians and their allies are advancing steadily killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, fascists and foreign combatants. Their slow progress is only due to the tens of thousands of miles of trenches, bunkers and other fortifications the Ukraine has built up over 7 years in preparation for this inevitable war which makes the Vietcong tunnels look like mouseholes.You say that The irony is that Putin’s imperialist ambitions for control of the peripheral countries of the former Soviet Union are not backed up by a modern imperialist economy. With this statement you dissolve our understanding of imperialism, and you deny the whole history that led up to this conflict including Putin’s unwillingness even up to the eleventh hour to recognise the Donbass as being part of Russia despite the endless pogroms and shelling there, and despite the repeated appeals of terrified Russian speakers asking to become part of the Russian Federation. You call for Russia to withdraw, but that would lead to reprisals killing more than the 14,000 who have been already died at the hands of Ukrainian fascists in uniform before the invasion. If the Pentagon advised Pelosi no to go to Taiwan it is because Russia had thwarted their attempt to expose the Northern Flank of China, and consequently it is the Pentagon which has been outflanked in the Ukraine undermining its encirclement of China.Your position and that of Stop the War are a real political problem. The task at hand is to inform workers in the West suffering the economic consequences of the war, that the war was a deliberate and pre-meditated provocation by the USA in the guise of NATO which the Russians had to respond to. NATO and their local boss Zelensky had made Putin an offer he ultimately could not refuse. Imagine the anger that would erupt when workers recognise that is was their capitalist classes who caused this war and therefore it is their own bosses who are responsible for the energy and food crisis pauperising them. It gives new meaning to the “enemy within”. It shows that the few thousand Western globalist families, the entitled greedy, demonstrate the same disregard to their own workers as they do to the Ukrainians being chewed up as cannon fodder.So please I beg you to reconsider.Reply
    1. Anti-CapitalI don’t beg but UCBP ought to reconsider his endorsement of one capitalist formation in its struggle with another capitalist formation.If the root of this conflict is in fact in the impairment, the breakdown in the networks of capital accumulation, leading to trade wars, and military conflict, then the resolution of the conflict depends on a program independent of, and opposed to the system of capitalism in all its facets, NATO/US and Russian.The issues aren’t who’s a “paper tiger,” or who’s bloc is the lesser or greater evil. The endorsement of Putin against the “US hegemony,” separating Russian capitalism from its function in the hostile brotherhood of capital, reminds me of the attempts to distinguish a “progressive” “national bourgeoisie” for “multinational foreign bourgeoisie: in places like Chile, Bolivia, Angola, Nicaragua. And exactly how has that worked out for capitalism? Hasn’t presented a vital threat, has it?“Anti-imperialism” that substitutes national blocs, for class revolution, reproduces the conflicts it seeks to resolve.Reply
    2. mhartwig2015Great comment ucanbpolitical. Thank youReply
    3. jlowrie”Russian democracy has been whittled away which I agree with,” What Russian democracy? What democracy anywhere? I cannot comprehend on what grounds Marxists identify permission by the State for citizens to exercise the franchise with the exercise of power. Can anyone tell when ”democracy’ was introduced in England or Russia? Note the use of the passive voice that allows the elision of the agent of such introducing. Clearly it was the agents of such introducing with whom power resided or they could not have introduced it in the first place; the corollary of which is that such agents also have the power to abolish it i.e. when exercising a right to vote becomes inconvenient for the oligarchs with whom real power resides.Reply
      1. stevenjohnson“…when ‘democracy’ was introduced in England or Russia?” Scare quotes in original.Bourgeois democracy in England was introduced in stages. The rebellion against King John was an aristo version but the Magna Charta, like the ascent into heaven of the Egyptian pharaohs, was susceptible to re-interpretation as applying to the commoner as well. In practice, the English Reformation that dispossessed the Roman church lands fostered a stronger bourgeoisie, which coupled with the minority of Edward VI and the female occupants of the throne gravely weakened in practice the monarchy. Thus, the effort of the Stuarts to reestablish an absolutist regime on par with the model in France failed ignominiously, in the Puritan Revolution, aka English Civil War. Killing the king was a huge step towards bourgeois democracy. The Restoration solved nothing, and the movement towards bourgeois democracy was reaffirmed in the so-called “Glorious” Revolution of 1688. The tradition of the Puritan revolution never died out completely and the contagion was carried to the colonies. The American Revolution gave the bourgeois democratic movement new life. The career of John Wilkes, of “Wilkes and liberty!” fame is nicely exemplary. The mass resistance of the people eventually forced the Reform Acts of 1832, 1867 and 1887. Female suffrage was finally achieved in 1928.I suppose the the common people killed in Peterloo were contemptible by jlowrie’s enlightened standards of true democracy, swindled into sacrificing themselves for fools’ gold. And the Chartists who taught Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were equally so, if not downright villainous for their malignant influence. Bourgeois democracy also was advanced by foreign revolutions, such as France 1830, France and Germany in 1848, the US in its Civil War, the Paris Commune etc. And for that matter in Mexico, China and Turkey in the early twentieth century. The notion of bourgeois democracy as nothing but a swindle is profoundly contemptuous of those human struggles.Democracy in Russia of the bourgeois sort was introduced in 1991 with Yeltsin and continues today with Putin. If jlowrie has not notion of democracy that addresses class rather than legal forms I either missed it or don’t remember it.The opposition between a dream of real democracy and every real life struggle serves only as ideological justification for abstaining in the name of purity. This serves no one…but if it were universal it would preserve the status quo.
  7. Pedro BajoMichael soy un seguidor de tus notas a las que considero entre las mejores que se publican sobre temas económicos. No soy un admirador de Putin pero he leido muchas de sus opiniones y discursos, y se que es un hombre inteligente y lúcido. En particular cuando lo comparamos con los lideres occidentales. Mucho de lo que afirmas lo tomas de los medios de occidentales, y donde vivo:Argentina, si te guías por ellos estas totalmente perdido. No se le puede creer ni el pronóstico del tiempo. En los últimos años se produjo una “ideologización” en ellos absolutamente vergonzante.
    Puedes comprobarlo en uno de los más importantes de tu patria y del mundo: BBC Mundo, te invito a que compares las notas anteriores sobre temas como Venezuela, Palestina, o la actitud crítica, incluso de denuncia frente al rol de imperialismo de EEUU, y los que aparecen a partir del 2008/2010 . Hoy la mayoría de los medios se han convertido en panfletos. En Argentina y en América Latina conocemos muy, pero muy bien el rol de los medios dominantes en su despliegue. Hay una mezcla de ignorancia y de mentiras. Cuando hablamos de libertad: ¿cuántos presos hay en cárceles norteamericana? ¿Y Assange?¿lo que hicieron en Iran, Argelia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Irak,Libia,Guatemala,Haití,Cuba,Panamá, etc? ¿ el papel de instituciones como el FMI y el Banco Mundial ? En Argentina las hemos sufrido mucho.El papel del Occidente atlántico ha sido mortífero para la mayoría nuestros pueblos. Franz Fanon en uno de sus libros dijo algo así (no la recuerdo textual), que lo que Europa no le perdonaba a Hitler era que les hubiera dado a ellos el trato que ellos le dieron a los pueblos colonizados durante 400 años. Y sobre eso agrego: los nazis no fueron solo alemanes. La división Wiking y la Azul de España lo demuestran. Europa entera fue filonazi. Al lado de la OTAN, Putin es “un angelito”. Lo cual no quiere decir que sea un liberador ni un revolucionario. Una cosa más: el uso del idioma.¿Porque no hablamos de oligarcas cuando nos referimos a los capitalistas de occidente? ¿la plata la hicieron trabajando, o no fue una apropiación o robo el “enclosure” y el tráfico de esclavos ? La cantidad de muertos por impoerialismo occidental no tiene parangón. SaludosReply
  8. stevenjohnsonIt is probably best not to go into the politics of the Ukrainian state, as this is offensive to the general tenor of the site. But on a different issue, I can’t resist noting that “BRICS” are a team of horses facing different directions who therefore will go nowhere far and that little, more or less at random. But enough of being quarrelsome, I hope?But I do want to take up the issue of crony capitalism. What is this, a new mode of production? Or “merely” a new form of state? It’s not clear to me that this has any content whatsoever. It seems to perilously close to a pejorative serving in lieu of an argument. Given the number of military and intelligence personnel serving in the US Congress it’s not clear that even the siloviki are quite so unique to Russia. The mayor of “St. Petersburg” was Anatoly Sobchak who was very much a Yeltsinite reformer and prime candidate for political mentor of Putin. Putin was not a mushroom. Further, the ambiguous claim that “elites” from the USSR became the oligarchs so far as I know simply is not true, not in the Russian Federation. The real continuity between high ranking party bosses and the new order was in the newly independent states like Azerbaijan or even Ukraine, where Kuchman took over. The claim that Putin has stolen two hundred billion rubles remind me of the similar claim that Honecker had stolen fifty billion marks! Most of all, do the cronies who supposedly define some sort of singular formation genuinely dominate the Russian economy?I agree whole-heartedly that Russia is not imperialist in the way Sweden or Switzerland are, much less the US is and will not gild our host’s lily.I do not agree that national self-determination favors Ukraine. It was the Maidan regime that decided speaking Russian meant you are not Ukrainian. The Russian-speaking majority/plurality areas are thus not necessarily “Ukraine.” I especially do not agree that national sovereignty requires the sanctity of current borders (unless the US says different, as a practical rule.) The right of national self-determination requires redrawing national boundaries in most instances.Lastly, Putin is quite capable of making a rotten deal, if only the US were willing to negotiate. Putin didn’t have a problem with the Kyiv regime, despite the fact they killed thousands and thousands of Russian-speakers in the east. But the US target is Russia.Reply
  9. Joseph GrossoThat’s was an excellent analysis overall but I wish you didn’t fall for this: ‘ So when the nationalist government in Ukraine launched its attacks on the Russian-speaking areas after the Maidan coup, Putin responded by annexing Crimea and providing active support for the separatists in the Donbas region’. Just bizarre how so many Leftists label a popular rebellion a coup- all for some reason in agreement Kremlin propaganda. And for what?Reply
  10. DGEHey, Dr Roberts, I think you ought to have calculated the HDI changes starting from 2000, not 1990, if you’re making a case about Russia “under Putin”. While hardly stellar, at 14.1%, it fares equal to the world (which is actually in Russia’s favour, since the world benefits from a low-base effect), better than the OCDE (7.7%) or Brazil (11.6%).For reference, going by the Inequality-adjusted HDI (only from 2010, as the adjustment was proposed for the first time in 2005), Russia improved 7.1% in the period, Brazil 7.7%, the world 9.5%. Brazil and the world benefit from a low-base effect, so it’s hard to say how badly Russia fared in a relative way, but just looking at the interactive chart at the UNDP site, I can see that countries that started at a similar IHDI in 2010 didn’t fare much better.
Posta under Capitalism, Europa, Imperialism, Politic&Society | Merkt , , , , , | Kommenter innlegget

Michael Robert: Ukraine: the invasion of capital

Last week, Ukraine’s foreign private creditors agreed to the country’s request for a two-year freeze on payments on about $20bn of foreign debt.  This would enable Ukraine to avoid defaulting on its overseas borrowings.  Unlike other ‘emerging economies’ in debt distress, it seems that foreign bondholders are happy to help Ukraine out – if only for two years.  The move will save Ukraine $6bn over the period, helping to reduce pressure on central bank reserves, which slid by 28 per cent year-to-date, despite significant foreign aid.

Ukraine’s economy is, not surprisingly, in a desperate state. Real GDP is projected to decline by more than 30% in 2022 and the unemployment rate is at 35% (Constantinescu et al. 2022, Blinov and Djankov 2022, National Bank of Ukraine 2022). “We are grateful for the private sector support of our proposal in such terrible times for our country,” responded Yuriy Butsa, Ukraine’s deputy finance minister, “I’d like to emphasise that the support we’ve received during this transaction is hard to underestimate . . . We will stay fully engaged with the investment community further on and hope for their involvement in the financing of the rebuilding of our country after we win the war,” Butsa said.

Here Butsa reveals the price to pay for this limited largesse by foreign creditors.: the accelerating demand of foreign multi-nationals and governments to take control of Ukraine resources and bring them under the control of foreign capital without any restrictions and limitations.

In a past post, I had outlined the plan to privatise and hand over the vast agricultural resources of Ukraine to foreign multi-nationals. And for several years now, a series of reports by the Oakland Institute economic observatory has documented the takeover of foreign capital.  Much of what is below comes from Oakland.

Post-Soviet Ukraine, with its 32 million arable hectares of rich and fertile black soil (known as “cernozëm”), has the equivalent of one-third of all existing agricultural land in the European Union.  The “breadbasket of Europe,” as it is called, had an annual production of 64 million tons of grain and seeds, among the world’s largest producers of barley, wheat and sunflower oil (for the latter, Ukraine produces about 30 percent of the world total). 

As I explained in my previous post, the planned takeover of Ukraine’s resources partly provoked the conflict: the semi-civil war, the Maidan revolt and the annexation of Crimea by Russia.  As the Oakland Institute has outlined, to limit unrestrained privatization, a moratorium on the sale of land to foreigners had been imposed in 2001. Since then, the repeal of this rule has been a main goal of Western institutions. As early as 2013, for instance, the World Bank provided an $89 million loan for the development of a deed and land title program needed for the commercialization of state-owned and cooperative land. In the words of a 2019 World Bank paper the aim was an “accelerating of private investment in agriculture.” That agreement, denounced at the time by Russia as a backdoor to facilitating the entry of Western multinationals, includes the promotion of “modern agricultural production … including the use of biotechnologies,” an apparent opening towards GMO crops on Ukrainian fields.

Despite the moratorium on land sales to foreigners, by 2016, ten multinational agricultural corporations had already come to control 2.8 million hectares of land. Today, some estimates speak of 3.4 million hectares in the hands of foreign companies and Ukrainian companies with foreign funds as shareholders. Other estimates are as high as 6 million hectares. The moratorium on sales, which the US State Department, IMF and World Bank had repeatedly called to be removed, was finally repealed by the Zelensky government in 2020, ahead of a final referendum on the issue scheduled for 2024.  

Now with war grinding on, Western governments and corporations are stepping up their plans to incorporate Ukraine and its resources into the capitalist economies of the West.On July 4 and 5, 2022, top officials from the US, EU, Britain, Japan, and South Korea met in Switzerland for a so-called “Ukraine Recovery Conference.”

The URC’s agenda was explicitly focused on imposing political changes on the country – namely, strengthening the market economy“, “decentralization, privatization, reform of state-owned enterprises, land reform, state administration reform,” and “Euro-Atlantic integration.”  The agenda was really a follow-up to the 2018 Ukraine Reform Conference which had emphasized the importance of privatizing most of Ukraine’s remaining public sector, stating that the “ultimate goal of the reform is to sell state-owned enterprises to private investors”, along with calls for more “privatization, deregulation, energy reform, tax and customs reform.” Lamenting that the “government is Ukraine’s largest asset holder,” the report stated, “Reform in privatization and SOEs has been long awaited, as this sector of the Ukrainian economy has remained largely unchanged since 1991.

The irony is that the 2018 URC plans were opposed by most Ukrainians.  A public opinion poll found that just 12.4% supported privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOE), whereas 49.9% opposed it. (An additional 12% were indifferent, whereas 25.7% had no answer.)

However, war can make all the difference. In June 2020, the IMF approved an 18-month, $5 billion loan program with Ukraine. In return, the Ukraine government lift[ed] the 19-year moratorium on the sale of state-owned agricultural lands, after sustained pressure from international finance institutions.. Olena Borodina with the Ukrainian Rural Development Network commented that, “the agribusiness interests and oligarchs will be the primary beneficiaries of such reform…[This] will only further marginalize smallholder farmers and risks severing them from their most valuable resource.”

And now July’s URC has re-emphasised its plans to take over the Ukraine economy for capital, with the full endorsement of Zelensky government. At the conclusion of the meeting, all governments and institutions present endorsed a joint statement called the Lugano Declaration. This declaration was supplemented by a “National Recovery Plan,” which was in turn prepared by a “National Recovery Council” established by the Ukrainian government.

This plan advocated for an array of pro-capital measures, including “privatization of non critical enterprises” and “finalization of corporatization of SOEs” (state-owned enterprises) – identifying as an example the selling off of Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear energy company EnergoAtom. In order to “attract private capital into banking system,” the proposal likewise called for the “privatization of SOBs” (state-owned banks).  Seeking to increase “private investment and boost nationwide entrepreneurship,” the National Recovery Plan urged significant “deregulation” and proposed the creation of “‘catalyst projects’ to unlock private investment into priority sectors.”

In an explicit call for slashing labour protections, the document attacked the remaining pro-worker laws in Ukraine, some of which are a holdover of the Soviet era. The National Recovery Plan complained of “outdated labor legislation leading to complicated hiring and firing process, regulation of overtime, etc.” As an example of this supposed “outdated labor legislation,” the Western-backed plan lamented that workers in Ukraine with one year of experience are granted a nine-week “notice period for redundancy dismissal,” compared to just four weeks in Poland and South Korea.

In March 2022, the Ukrainian parliament adopted emergency legislation allowing employers to suspend collective agreements. Then in May, it passed a permanent reform package effectively exempting the vast majority of Ukrainian workers (those at businesses with fewer than 200 employees) from Ukrainian labor law.  Documents leaked in 2021 showed that the British government coached Ukrainian officials on how to convince a recalcitrant public to give up workers’ rights and implement anti-union policies. Training materials lamented that popular opinion towards the proposed reforms was overwhelmingly negative, but provided messaging strategies to mislead Ukrainians into supporting them.

While workers’ rights are to be removed in the ‘new Ukraine’, in contrast the National Recovery Plan aims to help corporations and the wealthy by lowering taxes.  The plan complained that 40% of Ukraine’s GDP came from tax revenue, calling this a “rather high tax burden” compared to its model example of South Korea. It thus called to “transform tax service,” and “review potential for decreasing the share of tax revenue in GDP.” In the name of “EU integration and access to markets,” it likewise proposed “removal of tariffs and non-tariff non-technical barriers for all Ukrainian goods,” while simultaneously calling to “facilitate FDI [foreign direct investment] attraction to bring the largest international companies to Ukraine,” with “special investment incentives” for foreign corporations.

In addition to the National Recovery Plan and the strategic briefing, the July 2022 Ukraine Recovery Conference presented a report prepared by the company Economist Impact, a corporate consulting firm that is part of The Economist Group. The Ukraine Reform Tracker pushed to “increase foreign direct investments” by international corporations, not invest resources in social programs for the Ukrainian people.  The Tracker report emphasized the importance of developing the financial sector and called for “removing excessive regulations” and tariffs. It called for further “liberalising agriculture” to “attract foreign investment and encourage domestic entrepreneurship,” as well as “procedural simplifications,” to “make it easier for small and medium enterprises” to “expand by purchasing and investing in state-owned assets,” thereby “making it easier for foreign investors to enter the market post-conflict.

The Ukraine Reform Tracker presented the war as an opportunity to impose the take over by foreign capital.  “The post-war moment may present an opportunity to complete the difficult land reform by extending the right to purchase agricultural land to legal entities, including foreign ones,” the report stated.  “Opening the path for international capital to flow into Ukrainian agriculture will likely boost productivity across the sector, increasing its competitiveness in the EU market,” it added.  “Once the war is over, the government will also need to consider substantially lowering the share of state owned banks, with the privatisation of Privatbank, the country’s largest lender, and Oshchadbank, a large processor of pensions and social payments,” it insisted.

Elsewhere there are less explicit pro-capital polices offered by semi-Keynesian Western economists. In a recent compilation by the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), various economists have proposed Macroeconomic Policies for Wartime Ukraine. In this the authors “emphasise at the outset that Ukraine’s crisis is not a setting for a typical macroeconomic adjustment programme. ie not the usual IMF fiscal austerity and privatisation demands. But after many pages, it becomes clear that there is little difference in their proposals than those of the URC. As they say “the aim should be to pursue extensive radical deregulation of economic activity, avoid price controls, facilitate matching of labour and capital, and enhance the management of seized Russian and other sanctioned assets.

The takeover of Ukraine by capital (mainly foreign) will thus be completed and Ukraine can start paying back its debts and providing new profits for Western imperialism.

Related

Ukraine: trapped in a war zoneFebruary 14, 2022In «marxism»

Ukraine: a grim winter aheadAugust 31, 2014In «capitalism»

From Poroshenko to Putin – it’s all downhillNovember 10, 2014In «capitalism»

Posta under Capitalism, Europa, Marxism, Politic&Society | Merkt , , , , , | Kommenter innlegget

Antikrigsdikt

Krig & Tragedie I, Akryl, 65×95 cm, 1996, Ivar Jørdre

Bak idyllen

Bak dei tildekte løgnene

innanfor alle dørene

lever den arrogante makt

Dei militæres tunge ord

sleng dei i folkets ansikt

I all opprustninga

bortanfor all fornuft

dreg dei våpna fram

utan omsyn til
menneskeverdet ikring

Bak idyllen og falsk fred

ligg råtne tankar
om mørke fiendar

Folket må reise fanen

mot denne råskap

Trugsmålet om krig

og kjernevåpen handla

med profitt i grådige hender

er fiendar av sjølve livet

Stopp det med fredens kraft

Stopp det med folkeleg makt

Ivar Tveito Jørdre

Først publisert i avisa Hordaland, 20. juli 2022

Posta under nedrustning, Politikk&Samfunn, Vår globale verd | Merkt , , , , | Éin kommentar

Aldri meir 22. juli – Never again 22nd of July – 11 years memory

Sorga sin bauta-IMG_0701
Sorga sin bauta/Pillar of sorrow, olje/oil, 2008, Ivar Jørdre

Kvar er medvitet vårt elleve år etter «det forferdelege»?

Det er elleve år sidan det forferdelege, og den politisk motiverte terroren hende i regjeringskvartalet og på Utøya. Til saman vart 77 menneske brutalt drept. Eg skreiv dikta «Dei unge døde» og «Hevna sin brodd» til dei som vart drept på Utøya 22. juli 2011. I høve alle dei triste gravferdene som fann stad i vekene og månadane etter det forferdelege, laga eg desse dikta i solidaritet med deira minne og håpet for framtida i deira ånd. Framanfrykt, rasisme, hets og terror er ikkje vorte borte i dei ti år som har gått, absolutt ikkje. Difor så avgjerande viktig at me alle står opp mot dette «monsteret» og gjere det me kan for å stogge det. Ekstreme haldningar og terrorhandlingar er noko menneska har dreve med omlag så lenge me kan kalle oss kulturelle. Sjølv om dei alltid har vore og er ein veldig liten del av menneskeslekta, er det svert øydeleggande det ekstremistar gjer. Difor må dei stoggast, men ikkje med vald slik dei utøver. Med informasjon, gode haldningar, sosiale program, likeverd for deltaking i samfunnet, mykje meir fokus på valdelege heimar og oppvekst, politisk kunnskap, rettmessig straff for ekstreme handlingar, mellom mykje anna. Det viktigaste vert likevel «overbygget», vårt økonomiske system. Her vert oftast pengane sett over mennesket. Dette må endrast! Menneskeverdien må vera over pengeverdien.

Utanforskap og ekskludering kan skape grunnlag for det «tomrommet» som kan fyllast med ekstreme handlingar og i verste fall terror. Kvart einaste menneske vil ha innhald i livet som tyder at det er verdt å leve. Men, ein må ikkje vera «riddar av ein eller annan orden» eller «soldat mot kulturmarxistane», for å tru ein har ein signifikans (viktigheit) i verda. Det er då det vert farleg! Det vil truleg alltid vera folk med desse forvridde haldningane, men poenget må vera at me (samfunnet) skal gjera alt i vår makt for å hindre framtidige generasjonar i å hamne i «hevna sin brodd», og å stå opp stadig vekk mot dagens ekstremistar i våre samfunn. Med dette i minne og vår plikt som borgarar i å vera aktive i kampen mot ekstreme forvridde handlingar, er det å aldri gløyme det forferdelege som hende 22. juli for ti år sidan noko av det viktigaste me som folk gjer, no og i framtida!

Til minne om alle som vart meiningslaust drept den dagen i 2011 – og alle andre stader i verda der terror har hendt – me gløymer dei aldri!

Til alle som vart drept i terror åttak i Paris-Beirut-Maiduguri (Nigeria)-Brussel-Jakarta-Bagdad-Dakkha-Nice-og Damaskus-Moskva-Istanbul-London-Manchester-Berlin-Stockholm-Kabul-Christchurch (New Zealand)-Colombo og andre – me gløymer dei aldri!

Dei unge døde

Dei unge døde er i sorgen
Dei unge døde er oss nær
Dei unge døde er våre
søstre, våre brødre, våre vener,
vårt tårevåte tomrom i universet

Framtida vart teke frå dei
Framtida vart frårøva dei
Framtida vart deira ukjende stad,
der mange, mange vil sakne dei,
men deira idear vil leve vidare

Våre unge døde lever i oss
Våre unge døde er i orda
Våre unge døde er det store tapet,
men og håpet frå dei om endring,
til ei anna og betre verd

Dette er vår plikt til kvar ei søster,
kvar ein bror me no saknar:
Gjer det du kan for endring,
det skuldar me dei,
det skuldar me framtida!

Hevna sin brodd

Nokon såg seg blind på “ugras”
kven og kvar ei plante skulle stå
No lyt ein setje seg ned i graset
sjå dei mange fargar, sanse lydar

Nokon såg på middel til å bruke
rydde vekk det som tykkjest “rart”
Kvar og ein må så i jorda
mange spirer vil då vekse

Nokon tykkjer mange blomar
vert for mykje for sitt hovud
Me svarar dei med dette løftet:
Aldri meir hevna sin brodd,
aldri meir 22. juli!

Fyrst publisert i avisa Hordaland, 21. juli 2021

Her er ei lenke til ein kronikk datert 22. juli 2018, om ei tapt moglegheit i den prosessen i det å verte eit betre folk, sett i ljos av det forferdelege 22. juli 2011:

www.nrk.no/ytring

Dette er ei lenke til ein kronikk datert 22. juli 2019, frå Utøya-overlevande og arbeiderpartipolitikar i Kristiansand, Jannike Arnesen. Omhandlar det kvar og ein av oss kan gjere, m.a. skrive nokre meldingar av og til på sosiale media, for å motvirke netthetsen. Det vil hjelp ein del, meiner ho.

www.nrk.no/ytring

————————————————————

Today it is ten years since the meaningless happened at the government square and on the island Utøya. All together 77 people were brutally murdered. I wrote a couple of poems to those who was murdered at Utøya 22nd of July 2011. To all the very sad funerals which took place in weeks and months after the terrible, I made the first of these poems in solidarity with their memory and the hope for the future in their spirit. This poem came in the local newspaper Bergens Tidende.
To all who where meaningless killed that day – We will never forget them!

To all who where killed in terrorist attacks in Paris-Beirut-Maiduguri (Nigeria)-Brussels-Jakarta-Bagdad-Dakkha-Nice-and Damaskus-Moscow-Istanbul-London-Manchester-Berlin-Stockholm-Kabul-Christchurch (New Zealand)-Colombo and others – We will never forget them!

The young dead

The young dead are in our sorrow
The young dead are us near
The young dead are our
sisters, our brothers, our friends.
our tears in empty space in universe

Future was taken away from them
Future was stolen from them
Future became their unknowned place,
where many, many will miss them,
but their ideas will keep on living

Our young dead lives inside us
Our young dead are in the words
Our young dead are in the great loss,
but also the hope from them for change,
to another and better world

This is our duty to every sister,
every brother we now miss:
Do what you can for change,
this we do owe them,
this we do owe the future!

The sting of revenge

Someone saw with blindness on “weed”
who and where a plant should stand
Now each have to sit down on grass
see the many colors, catch sounds

Someone saw on means to use
to clean away what seams “strange”
Each and everyone have to sow the earth
lots of seeds will then grow

Someone thinks many flowers
are to much for their head
We‘ll answer them with this promise:
Never again the sting of revenge,
never again the 22nd of July!

Here is a link to a Norwegian article dated 22. July 2018, about the missed opportunity in the process of becoming a better people, in the light of the terrible 22. July 2011:

www.nrk.no/ytring

This is a link to a Norwegian article dated 22. July 2019, written by an Utøya-survive, about hate speech on social media and what we can do to confront it.

www.nrk.no/ytring


Eg legg ved to dikt eg skreiv både før og etter at tankane
nokolunde kom attende etter det forferdelege.
Og, Til ungdomen av Nordahl Grieg, til slutt.

Pandora

I Pandora si øskje

er berre håpet att

Elende har fare ut

av øskja for lenge sidan

Elende er mellom menneska

har vore det lenge no

Men håpet er att

i Pandora si øskje

Det handlar om ein revolusjon

——————————

Kjærleiken

Det er tungt
å opne døra i livet
når nokon skrik til deg
frå den svartaste natta

Eit skrik av hat i blåsvart
treff deg midt i det menneskelege

Du reiser deg likevel
kjem deg heim att
til den raudbrune jorda
du steig opp av

Og når du let opp att døra
vert tyngda borte
då står kjærleiken der
i eldraud kjærleikskappe

—————————————

TIL UNGDOMMEN

av Nordahl Grieg (1936)

Kringsatt av fiender,

gå inn i din tid!

Under en blodig storm –

vi deg til strid!

Kanskje du spør i angst,

udekket, åpen:

hva skal jeg kjempe med

hva er mitt våpen?

Her er ditt vern mot vold,

her er ditt sverd:

troen på livet vårt,

menneskets verd.

For all vår fremtids skyld,

søk det og dyrk det,

dø om du må – men:

øk det og styrk det!

Stilt går granatenes

glidende bånd

Stans deres drift mot død

stans dem med ånd!

Krig er forakt for liv.

Fred er å skape.

Kast dine krefter inn:

døden skal tape!

Elsk og berik med drøm

alt stort som var!

Gå mot det ukjente

fravrist det svar.

Ubygde kraftverker,

ukjente stjerner.

Skap dem, med skånet livs

dristige hjerner!

Edelt er mennesket,

jorden er rik!

Finnes her nød og sult

skyldes det svik.

Knus det! I livets navn

skal urett falle.

Solskinn og brød og ånd

eies av alle.

Da synker våpnene

maktesløs ned!

Skaper vi menneskeverd

skaper vi fred.

Den som med høyre arm

bærer en byrde,

dyr og umistelig,

kan ikke myrde.

Dette er løftet vårt

fra bror til bror:

vi vil bli gode mot

menskenes jord.

Vi vil ta vare på

skjønnheten, varmen

som om vi bar et barn

varsomt på armen!

Posta under Noreg - Norway, Our global world, Politic&Society, Politikk, samfunn, Vår globale verd | Merkt , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Kommenter innlegget

End Forced Labor in Qatar

End Forced Labor in Qatar

Bide Majakoti knows the horror of forced labor and modern day slavery in Qatar first-hand. He travelled from Nepal on the promise of a well-paid job and paid high recruitment fees to secure it. When he arrived in Qatar he was forced to accept a different job and his nightmare with exploitation and modern slavery began.

Unfortunately, as construction for the football 2022 World Cup intensifies, more migrant construction workers will be vulnerable to forced labor and Qatar slavery than ever before. Over 90% of Qatar’s workers are foreign workers, brought to the country under kafala, the ‘sponsorship’ system. It is a worker sponsorship program that jeopardizes basic  human rights of migrant workers, allowing slavery-like working conditions to  flourish leaving thousands of migrant workers in Qatar vulnerable to forced labor and other human rights abuses, often without the ability to change jobs or even leave the country.

Bide was forced to do his job in terrible working conditions, in the blistering heat without safety precautions or pay. With no other option open to him, he returned home saddled with debt. While Bide ultimately left his job and returned home to tell his story, thousands of other employees never get that chance. Many others’ experiences are even worse; construction workers often have their  wages withheld, are denied exit visas, are housed in dirty, unsafe conditions and forced to work long hours with little rest despite the high heat.

Right now we have an opportunity to help. The Ministry of Labor made promises to make substantial reforms to the kafala system, ensuring the protection of migrant workers.

Last year, we were pleased to see that the Qatari government had introduced new laws to reform the kafala system.  These reforms allow employees to leave undesirable jobs and freely seek employment elsewhere to avoid exploitation, receive better monthly minimum wage and working conditions.

But, several months later, full implementation is still lacking. Activists and lawyers working on the ground say that a lack of sufficient resources and the sheer volume of cases is the real cause of the lag for the new law.

When the 2022 World Cup is over, there will be less eyes on Qatar and less urgency for the Qatar government to implement these crucial reforms, protect workers rights and freedom.

Call on the Qatari authorities to deliver on the critical reforms they promised and end forced labor. Help improve the working conditions of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in Qatar.

Watch ‘Undercover film of life inside Qatar’s labor camps’ by Equal Times

From: freedomunited.org

Posta under Our global world, Politic&Society | Merkt , , , , | Kommenter innlegget

A global recession hurts capitalism

Energy: the recession trigger?

There is confusion among mainstream economists and policy-makers on whether the major economies are heading for a recession, or are already in a recession; or will avoid one altogether.  The majority view, at least in the US, is the latter.  This optimistic view argues that, while inflation rates are high, they will start to fall over the next year, enabling the Federal Reserve to avoid hiking its policy interest rates too much to the point where it could restrict investment and spending.  At the same time, the US unemployment rate is very low and the ‘labour market’ remains strong.  Such a scenario hardly suggests a recession.  Who ever heard of a slump where there is full employment?, the argument goes.

On the other hand, the pessimistic view is that the major economies are already in a slump that will be eventually recognized.  If we look at the models that measure various aspects of economic activity, the major G7 economies seem to have contracted in Q2 of this year. The Atlanta Fed Now model puts US GDP contracting by an annual rate of 1.2%.

And the Euro-Area weekly tracker also suggesting contraction of about annual rate of 1% there.

Is it possible to have a recession and a tight labour market at the same time? US real GDP fell at a -1.5% annual rate in Q1 and looks like repeating that in Q2.  That’s a ‘technical recession’, as it is called.  But the unemployment rate is 3.6% near record lows and 380,000 jobs are being created each month, on average, over the past four months.

The extremely well-paid economists of the investment bank, Goldman Sachs, try to reconcile these divergent indicators.  It’s true, they argue, that some GDP tracking estimates now project negative Q2 GDP growth, which would trip the rule of thumb that two quarters of negative growth constitute a recession. But they point out that the indicators on employment, real personal income less transfers, and gross domestic income have all continued to increase.  And they find it “historically unusual for the labor market to be as strong as it is at present even at the very outset of a recession. In particular, nonfarm payroll employment has grown at roughly double the typical pace at the start of past recessions.”  Nonfarm payrolls have grown at an annualized pace of 3.0% over the last three months and 3.7% over the last six, roughly double the typical pace at the start of past recessions.

But Jan Hatzius, chief US economist at Goldman Sachs, said there is “no doubt that a labour market slowdown is under way”, adding that “job openings and quits are declining, jobless claims are rising, the ISM employment indices in manufacturing and services have fallen to contractionary levels, and many publicly traded companies have announced hiring freezes or slowdowns”.  That suggests that unemployment is a lagging indicator in judging when a slump comes. Indeed, that would be in line with a Marxist analysis of slumps. First, profitability declines, particularly in the productive sector, then profits in total. This leads to a fall in investment by companies and then the laying off of labour and a reduction in wages.

The GS economists admit that the battery of economic indicators that they look at are now suggesting the negative in the latest months.

GS concludes that there is a 30% probability of entering a recession over the next year, but a 48% probability of entering a recession by next year – in other words, it’s more or less likely by 2023, but not yet.  For them, “we do not have a recession in our baseline forecast, but we continue to expect well below consensus growth and do see heightened recession risk.”

As I have referred to in several previous posts, if the government bond ‘yield curve’ inverts, it is a relatively reliable indicator of a future recession.  The ‘yield curve’ measures the difference between the interest rate earned on a government bond that has, say, a ten year life or maturity and the interest rate on a bond of say just three months or a year.  Normally, somebody who invests in a longer term bond expects a higher interest rate because their money won’t be paid back for a longer time.  So the yield curve is usually positive ie the rate on the longer term bond is higher than on the short term bond.  But sometimes it goes negative because bond investors are expecting a recession and so put their money into longer-term government bonds as the safest way to protect their money.  So the yield curve ‘inverts’. 

When that happens and the curve stays inverted, recession seems to follow within a year or so.  The US government bond yield curve for 10yr-2yr is now inverted.  The last time that happened was in 2019 when the major economies seemed to be heading for a slump anyway, just before the COVID pandemic.

The frightening thought for the US economy is that if inflation rates stay high and unemployment stays low, then it may take two recessions to kill inflation and smash jobs, the ultimate aim of the Fed and the authorities.  That’s what happened between 1980-82 – a double-dip recession.

That’s the US economy, where the recovery from the COVID slump has been greatest among the major economies – although that is not saying too much.  The situation is much worse in stagnant Japan (see my recent post) and in Europe where the Russia-Ukraine crisis portends a major energy crisis.  Indeed, the war and the sanctions on Russia look like triggering a slump in the Eurozone of major proportions.

Already, Russian gas exports are down by one-third from a year ago and only 40% of the Nord Stream1 pipeline capacity is being used.  As winter approaches, demand for gas in Europe will double, causing a serious shortfall for industrial production and heating homes. That alone could contract the Eurozone economy by 1.5-2.8% of GDP, according to some estimates.  And rocketing natural gas and oil prices would drive up the inflation rate even more into double-digits by mid-winter.  

The main pipeline for Russian gas to the EU through Ukraine is currently down for ten-day maintenance. But if Russia decides that it and the Nord Stream1 pipeline are not to be brought back online – fully or in part – things could get a lot worse.

Russia now sells more oil than before it invaded Ukraine.  So Russia’s current account surplus is likely to be over $160bn (more than 3.5 times the previous year), with more oil sold to China and India to compensate for the drop to Europe. 

But what could trigger an even a deeper recession in Europe and globally would be if the G7/NATO countries go ahead with their plan to introduce price caps on Russian oil.  The only way the G7 sees how to bring down oil prices and deprive Russia of oil revenues to finance its war is to price cap Russian oil.  The cap would presumably be set between the cost of producing Urals (say $40/bbl) and its current discounted sale price of $80/bbl.

This plan is not going to work, however.  Countries like India, China, Indonesia and a raft of others are not going to join a cartel that punishes themselves whether they like Russia or not.  Given that the supply and demand balance in global oil markets is very tight, knocking out whole or part of Russian output will raise global prices sharply.  And Russia could well retaliate by halting all oil exports to either the EU or all participants in the cap scheme.  Moreover, the scheme of using shipping insurance to enforce the cap on Russian cargoes will mean that both Russia and some consuming states will set up their own state-sponsored insurance schemes (as China did with Iran and as the Russian National Reinsurance Company is doing for Russian shipping now).

Far from forcing Russia to submit to NATO demands, any oil price cap is more likely to drive the oil price to near $200/bbl.  That would trigger a global slump.  The German central bank, the Bundesbank, reckons that real GDP in Germany could plunge as much 4-5% pts from its previous growth rate.

No wonder the euro has dropped to near parity with the US dollar in foreign currency markets, its lowest level since 2002.

Record high energy prices, fast-rising interest rates and collapsing profit margins among most companies (down 6% in the last year) spell a recession. See my post: https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2022/06/10/the-scissors-of-slump/

Central banks are currently planning to raise their ‘policy rates’ by about 2-4% pts over the next year.  That’s not much compared to the hikes made to control inflation back in 1979-81.  But inflation was much higher then.  It will probably still be enough to stop borrowing for productive investment and for household spending.  Mortgage rates will jump to squeeze the housing market. 

Most important, rising global interest rates will likely provoke yet more debt crises in the Global South.  Total debt in these poor countries is already at a record high of an average 207% of GDP. Government debt, at 64% of GDP, is at its highest level in three decades, and about one-half of it is denominated in foreign currency, and more than two-fifths are held by foreign investors who could pull out. About 60% of the poorest countries are already in, or at high risk of, debt distress. Already this has led to the collapse of the Sri Lankan economy and the removal of the corrupt government there.

And as I have outlined in many previous posts, corporate debt in the major advanced countries is also at a record high, with as much of 20% of companies getting profits below the cost of servicing that debt – the so-called ‘zombie’ companies.  This remains a ticking time bomb for a corporate debt meltdown.  And the countdown is ticking closer to zero.

From: Michael Roberts blog

Posta under Marxism, Our global world, Politic&Society | Merkt , , , | Kommenter innlegget

Asesinan número 53 en Colombia durante el 2022

Asesinan a firmante de Acuerdos de Paz en Caquetá, Colombia

De acuerdo al Indepaz de Colombia, Castro Colorado, firmante de los acuerdos de paz,  ya había sido desplazado por amenazas en contra de su vida. 

Publicado 13 julio 2022 – telesurtv.net

El exrebelde desarrollaba su proyecto productivo de manera individual en Florencia, departamento de Caquetá en el suroeste de Colombia.

Noel Humberto Castro Colorado,  exrebelde de las antiguas Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia- Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP)  quien pertenecía a los Espacios Territoriales de Capacitación y Reincorporación (ETCR) de Agua Bonita. fue asesinado en Florencia, Caquetá.

LEA TAMBIÉN:

Denuncian la masacre número 53 en Colombia durante el 2022

De acuerdo al Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz (Indepaz) de Colombia, Castro Colorado, firmante de los acuerdos de paz de 2016,  ya había sido desplazado por amenazas en contra de su vida. 

Castro Colorado, de 45 años de edad, fue ultimado a balazos cuando guardaba su automóvil en el garaje de su casa por hombres armados que se transportaban en una motocicleta en la noche del martes 12 de julio, reportó el partido Comunes.

El exrebelde desarrollaba su proyecto productivo de manera individual en Florencia, departamento de Caquetá en el suroeste de Colombia, donde había sido trasladado por motivos de seguridad, indicó Comunes, el partido que se fundo por exrebeles tras los acuerdos de paz de 2016.

Con el asesinato de Castro Colorado ya son 336 firmantes de paz asesinados, tras los acuerdos de 2016, 255 únicamente en el Gobierno de Iván Duque, cuatro en la última semana y suman 25 durante el transcurso de 2022.

El partido Comunes condenó el asesinato e indicó en un tuit: «Ya son 255 firmantes asesinados ante la mirada cómplice del Gobierno Duque y 336 en total. ¿Dónde están las garantías?»

«El Gobierno de la paz con legalidad cierra, en medio de su decidía, con la intensificación de los crímenes. ¡Paren la masacre ya!», escribió por su parte la representación de del Consejo Nacional de Reincorporación (CNR).

El CNR es una instancia creada por el acuerdo, cuyo objetivo es definir las actividades, establecer el cronograma y adelantar el seguimiento del proceso de reincorporación a la vida civil de los miembros de las FARC-EP.

«Con dolor e indignación informo un nuevo asesinato de un firmante de paz. Son ya 336 firmantes asesinados. En su mayoría ocurridos en el gobierno Duque»,  manifestó el presidente de Comunes, Rodrigo Londoña.

«Mis condolencias a los familiares, amigos y camaradas de Noel Humberto Castro Colorado. Que la tierra le sea leve», añadió.

Numerosas expresiones de solidaridad y duelo se manifestaron en redes sociales, en particular de exrebeldes desmovilizados, firmantes del acuerdo de paz.

Posta under Latin-Amerika | Merkt , , , , | Kommenter innlegget

Into the early universe with colors and telescope


In pictures: The James Webb telescope’s first images

 “Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula (NIRCam Image). What looks much like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals previously obscured areas of star birth. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

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By Maverick Life Editors

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12 Jul 2022  1

The James Webb telescope has released its first images, providing a spectacular glimpse into the history of the universe.

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BeyondWords

In a sneak peek, NASA released the first image from its James Webb Space Telescope – the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. The image shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 overflowing with detail.

“Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This slice of the vast universe is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground,” NASA announced. 

Thousands of small galaxies appear across this view. Their colors vary. Some are shades of orange, while others are white. Most appear as fuzzy ovals, but a few have distinct spiral arms. In front of the galaxies are several foreground stars. Most appear blue, and the bright stars have diffraction spikes, forming an eight-pointed star shape. There are also many thin, long, orange arcs that curve around the center of the image.
Webb’s First Deep Field (NIRCam Image). Thousands of galaxies flood this near-infrared image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. High-resolution imaging from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope combined with a natural effect known as gravitational lensing made this finely detailed image possible. ebb’s highly detailed image may help researchers measure the ages and masses of star clusters within these distant galaxies. This might lead to more accurate models of galaxies that existed at cosmic “spring,” when galaxies were sprouting tiny “buds” of new growth, actively interacting and merging, and had yet to develop into larger spirals. Ultimately, Webb’s upcoming observations will help astronomers better understand how galaxies form and grow in the early universe. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

The images come just over six months after the telescope was launched on 25 December 2021 from Europe’s Spaceport near Kourou, French Guiana. 

The James Webb Space Telescope is the largest telescope that has ever been placed in space – its sunshield alone is the size of a tennis court – and it is 100 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope. 

Webb is an infrared telescope, with a main imager that can detect light from both the earliest stars and galaxies in the process of formation, as well as young stars. 

Its mission is to look back in time at the universe, and astronomers believe the results will “fundamentally alter our understanding” of it, NASA said.

“It will unfold the universe, transforming how we think about the night sky and our place in the cosmos. The telescope lets us look back to see a period of cosmic history never before observed. Webb can peer into the past because telescopes show us how things were – not how they are right now. 

“It can also explore distant galaxies, farther away than any we’ve seen before.”

And now, for the first time, humanity has a front-row seat to the history of the universe, allowing us to gaze upon the extraordinary, spectacular worlds beyond our planet. 

This frame is split down the middle. Webb’s mid-infrared image is shown at left, and Webb’s nearinfrared image on the right. The mid-infrared image appears much darker, with many fewer points of light. Stars have very short diffraction spikes. Galaxies and stars also appear in a range of colors, including blue, green, yellow, and red. The near-infrared image appears busier, with many more points of light. Thousands of galaxies and stars appear all across the view. They are sharper and more distinct than what is seen in the mid-infrared view. Some galaxies are shades of orange, while others are white. Most stars appear blue with long diffraction spikes, forming an eight-pointed star shapes. There are also many thin, long, orange arcs that curve around the center of the image.
Webb’s First Deep Field (MIRI and NIRCam Images Side by Side). Galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is a technicolour landscape when viewed in mid-infrared light by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Compared to Webb’s near-infrared image at the right, the galaxies and stars are awash in new colours. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
Two views of the same object, the Southern Ring Nebula, are shown side by side. Both feature black backgrounds speckled with tiny bright stars and distant galaxies. Both show the planetary nebula as a misshapen oval that is slightly angled from top left to bottom right. At left, the near-infrared image shows a bright white star with eight long diffraction spikes at the center. A large transparent teal oval surrounds the central star. Several red shells surround the teal oval, extending almost to the edges of the image. The red layers, which are wavy overall, look like they have very thin straight lines piercing through them. At right, the mid-infrared image shows two stars at the center very close to one another. The one at left is red, the one at right is light blue. The blue star has tiny diffraction spikes around it. A large translucent red oval surrounds the central stars. From the red oval, shells extend in a mix of colors.
Southern Ring Nebula (NIRCam and MIRI Images Side by Side). This side-by-side comparison shows observations of the Southern Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, at left, and mid-infrared light, at right, from NASA’s Webb Telescope. The images look very different because NIRCam and MIRI collect different wavelengths of light. NIRCam observes near-infrared light, which is closer to the visible wavelengths our eyes detect. MIRI goes farther into the infrared, picking up mid-infrared wavelengths. The second star appears more clearly in the MIRI image because this instrument can see the gleaming dust around it. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
Colorful image of near-infrared light from a glowing cloud with a distorted ring-like shape, illuminated from within by a bright central star. The Southern Ring Nebula is a large, semi-transparent oval that is slightly angled from top left to bottom right. A bright white star appears at the center of this image. A large transparent teal oval surrounds the central star. Several red shells surround the teal oval, extending almost to the edges of the image. The shells become a deeper red with distance from the center. The bright central star has eight diffraction spikes. Behind the gaseous teal layers are deeper orange layers that are arranged like threads in a complex weaving. The red layers, which are wavy overall, look like they have very thin straight lines piercing through them, which are holes where light from a central star is traveling. The background of the image is black and speckled with tiny bright stars and distant galaxies.
Southern Ring Nebula (NIRCam Image). The bright star at the centre of NGC 3132, while prominent when viewed by NASA’s Webb Telescope in near-infrared light, plays a supporting role in sculpting the surrounding nebula. A second star, barely visible at the lower left along one of the bright star’s diffraction spikes, is the nebula’s source. It has ejected at least eight layers of gas and dust over thousands of years. This is not only a crisp image of a planetary nebula – it also shows us objects in the vast distances of space behind it. The transparent red sections of the planetary nebula – and all the areas outside it – are filled with distant galaxies. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
The Southern Ring Nebula is a large, semi-transparent oval that is slightly angled from top left to bottom right. Two stars appear at the center very close to one another. The one at left is red, the one at right is light blue. The blue star has tiny diffraction spikes around it. A large translucent red oval surrounds the central stars. From the red oval, shells extend in a mix of colors. The shells that extend to the left and right are red and the shells that extend to the top and bottom are teal. The shells appear to have a filamentous pattern, similar to the surface of a cut citrus fruit. The shells darken in color with distance from the center. The background is black and speckled with tiny bright stars and distant galaxies in a range of colors.
Southern Ring Nebula (MIRI Image). NASA’s Webb Telescope has revealed the cloak of dust around the second star, shown at left in red, at the centre of the Southern Ring Nebula for the first time. It is a hot, dense white dwarf star. As it transformed into a white dwarf, the star periodically ejected mass – the shells of material you see here. As if on repeat, it contracted, heated up – and then, unable to push out more material, pulsated. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
A star field is speckled across the image. The stars are of many sizes. They range from small, faint points of light to larger, closer, brighter, and more fully resolved stars with 8-point diffraction spikes. The stars vary in color, the majority of which have a blue or orange hue. The upper-right portion of the image has wispy, translucent, cloud-like streaks rising from the nebula running along the bottom portion of the image. The cloudy formation shown across the bottom varies in density and ranges from translucent to opaque. The cloud-like structure of the nebula contains ridges, peaks, and valleys – an appearance very similar to a mountain range. Many of the larger stars shine brightly along the edges of the nebula’s cloud-like structure.
“Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula (NIRCam and MIRI Composite Image). Astronomers using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope combined the capabilities of the telescope’s two cameras to create a never-before-seen view of a star-forming region in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), this combined image reveals previously invisible areas of star birth. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
Image of a group of five galaxies that appear close to each other in the sky: two in the middle, one toward the top, one to the upper left, and one toward the bottom. Four of the five appear to be touching. One is somewhat separated. In the image, the galaxies are large relative to the hundreds of much smaller (more distant) galaxies in the background. All five galaxies have bright white cores. Each has a slightly different size, shape, structure, and coloring. Scattered across the image, in front of the galaxies are number of foreground stars with diffraction spikes: bright white points, each with eight bright lines radiating out from the center.
Stephan’s Quintet (NIRCam and MIRI Composite Image). With its powerful, infrared vision and extremely high spatial resolution, Webb shows never-before-seen details in this galaxy group. Sparkling clusters of millions of young stars and starburst regions of fresh star birth grace the image. Sweeping tails of gas, dust and stars are being pulled from several of the galaxies due to gravitational interactions. Most dramatically, Webb’s MIRI instrument captures huge shock waves as one of the galaxies, NGC 7318B, smashes through the cluster. These regions surrounding the central pair of galaxies are shown in the colours red and gold. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
Image of a group of four galaxies that appear close to each other in the sky: two in the middle, one toward the top, one to the upper left. In addition, there is a large bright patch toward the right. The galaxy at the top has a bright reddish core and is surrounded by swirls of blue and purple filaments that travel inward to its bright core, also highlighted by eight diffraction spikes. The galaxy on the left is a mass of purple gas surrounding a dim red core. The mass is made from small clumps, each slightly illuminated. The two galaxies in the middle have two bright, blue cores, surrounded by purple wisps. The bright patch to the right is made from clouds of blue and purple, strung together in filament-like bands. Surrounding the galaxies is a background peppered with red, blue, and purple dots, which are distant stars and galaxies.
Stephan’s Quintet (MIRI Image). With its powerful, mid-infrared vision, the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) shows never-before-seen details of Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies. MIRI pierced through dust-enshrouded regions to reveal huge shock waves and tidal tails, gas and stars stripped from the outer regions of the galaxies by interactions. It also unveiled hidden areas of star formation. The new information from MIRI provides invaluable insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe. Stephan’s Quintet’s topmost galaxy – NGC 7319 – harbours a supermassive black hole 24 million times the mass of the Sun. It is actively accreting material and puts out light energy equivalent to 40 billion Suns. MIRI sees through the dust surrounding this black hole to unveil the strikingly bright active galactic nucleus. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
Infographic titled “Hot Gas Giant Exoplanet WASP-96 b Transit Light Curve, NIRISS Single-Object Slitless Spectroscopy.” At the top of the infographic is a diagram showing a planet transiting (moving in front of) its star. Below the diagram is a graph showing the change in relative brightness of the star-planet system between 12:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 21, 2022. The diagram and graph are aligned vertically to show the relationship between the geometry of the star-planet system as the planet orbits, and the measurements on the graph. The infographic shows that the brightness of the system remains steady until the planet begins to transit the star. It then decreases until the planet is directly in front of the star. The brightness increases again until the planet is no longer blocking the star, at which point it levels out.
Exoplanet WASP-96 b (NIRISS Transit Light Curve). A light curve from Webb’s Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) shows the change in brightness of light from the WASP-96 star system over time as the planet transits the star. WASP-96 b is a hot gas giant exoplanet that orbits a Sun-like star roughly 1,150 light-years away, in the constellation Phoenix. The planet orbits extremely close to its star (less than 1/20th the distance between Earth and the Sun) and completes one orbit in less than 3½ Earth-days. The planet’s discovery, from ground-based observations, was announced in 2014. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
Graphic titled “Hot Gas Giant Exoplanet WASP-96 b Atmosphere Composition, NIRISS SingleObject Slitless Spectroscopy.” The graphic shows the transmission spectrum of the hot gas giant exoplanet WASP-96 b captured using Webb's NIRISS Single-Object Slitless Spectroscopy with an illustration of the planet and its star in the background. The data points are plotted on a graph of amount of light blocked in parts per million versus wavelength of light in microns. A curvy blue line represents a best-fit model. Four prominent peaks visible in the data and model are labeled “water, H 2 O.”
Exoplanet WASP-96 b (NIRISS Transmission Spectrum). A transmission spectrum made from a single observation using Webb’s Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) reveals atmospheric characteristics of the hot gas giant exoplanet WASP-96 b. This is the most detailed infrared exoplanet transmission spectrum ever collected. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

DM/ML

A full array of Webb’s first images and spectra is available here.

In case you missed it, also read Why the launch of the James Webb telescope could be the most important event of our lifetime

All Comments 1

Johan Buys

these images serve to put our planet and its issues’ irrelevance in the bigger scheme into context. None of us can comprehend the scale or can imagine what even one billion light years entails. We think Mars is far away and it is about 180 seconds away…

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