War within Capitalism and the G20’s Unresolved Matters

The G20 and the cold war in technology
by michael roberts

Last weekend’s G20 summit in Osaka resolved nothing substantial in the ongoing trade and technology war that the US is now waging with China. At best, a truce was agreed on any further escalation in tariffs and other measures against Chinese tech companies.  But there was no long-lasting agreement reached.  And that’s because this is a «cold war» between a relatively declining economic power in the US and a new and dangerous rival for economic supremacy, China.  Just like the last «cold war» between the US and the USSR, it could last a generation or more before a winner emerges – and the odds are against the US this time, the longer the cold war lasts.

At the G20, Trump and Xi agreed a truce on existing tit-for-tat measures and will renew «negotiations».  Trump made a few concessions, allowing US companies to resume selling products to Huawei. So, presumably, Google, Android etc. will reappear on Huawei devices.  And China will be able, presumably, to buy the processors and chips it needs from Intel, Qualcom and Micron.  But there was no clarity on whether these concessions include what Huawei can sell to US companies (i.e. 5G networks).

But as sure as night follows day, the trade war will resume at some point, because the US» key demands are just unacceptable to China, namely that China relinquish its drive to match US technology and agree to accept US supervision of its economic affairs.

The G20 may offer a brief respite for financial markets, but it will not alter the general downturn that the world economy is now experiencing, with the likelihood of a new slump in global production, trade and investment getting ever closer.  Already global activity indexes in both manufacturing and so-called services sectors have slowed to levels not seen since the end of the Great Recession in 2009.

As of June, the JP Morgan global activity index suggests that world economic growth is down to a 2.5% annual rate – a figure often considered at the threshold of «stall speed» ie anything below that rate would slip into a global recession.

The reality is that Trump cannot reverse the steady decline in America’s former manufacturing prowess and now China’s challenge to its technological superiority.  Manufacturing employment in the US has fallen from around a quarter of the workforce in 1970 to 9% in 2015.  This decline was not due to nasty foreigners cheating on trade deals, as Trump likes to argue.  Most studies (not all) dismiss that thesis.  A study by Autor et al reckons competition from China led to the loss of 985,000 manufacturing jobs between 1999 and 2011. That’s less than a fifth of the absolute loss of manufacturing jobs over that period and a quite small share of the long-term manufacturing decline.

The biggest reason Trump can’t bring back home these manufacturing jobs is because they have been lost in large part to the success of «efficiency» in the US  Over the past three-and-a-half decades, manufacturers have shed more than seven million jobs while producing more stuff than ever. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reported in The Manufacturing Footprint and the Importance of U.S. Manufacturing Jobs that «If you try to understand how so many jobs have disappeared, the answer that you come up with over and over again in the data is that it’s not trade that caused that — it’s primarily technology,»…Eighty percent of lost jobs were not replaced by workers in China, but by machines and automation. That is the first problem if you slap on tariffs. What you discover is that American companies are likely to replace its more expensive workers with machines.»

What these studies reveal is what Marxist economics could have told them many times before.  Under capitalism, increased productivity of labour comes through mechanisation and labour shedding i.e. reducing labour costs. Marx explained in Capital that this is one of the key features in capitalist accumulation – the capital-bias of technology – something continually ignored by mainstream economics, until now it seems.

Marx put it differently to the mainstream.  Investment under capitalism takes place for profit only, not to raise output or productivity as such.  If profit cannot be sufficiently raised through more labour hours (more workers and longer hours) or by intensifying efforts (speed and energy – time and motion), then the productivity of labour can only be increased by better technology.  So, in Marxist terms, the organic composition of capital (the value of machinery and plant relative to the number of workers) must rise secularly.

Against the view of mainstream «free market» economics, historically, it has been government spending that has underpinned the development of unproven technologies.  This has usually occurred under duress, with innovation during war a notable driver of development, leading to breakthroughs in materials, products and processes.  The commercialisation of the jet engine, rocket motors, radar and modern computing can all trace their emergence back to World War 2 while the Cold War and the space race developed these to the point that launched the current technology age in the 1990s.

The space race was important as both sides in the cold war put to work their newly-acquired German scientists and engineers to drive forward their rocket projects.  This culminated with President Kennedy’s Apollo programme.  The US having been beaten by the Soviets to the first man into space, reacted by devoting immense resources to catching up.  The space race at its peak involved nearly 400,000 people and drew in 20,000 private industrial firms and universities.  Not only did the mission itself throw off numerous innovations — much of the technology needed to get to the moon did not exist when the programme was announced — but it created clusters of new high-tech industries across the US, building on the networks that had begun to emerge during the war.

This accelerated the development of numerous computing technologies, including the integrated circuit, mass data transfer and systems software.  These were the breakthrough technologies that drove IBM and HP’s development into computing giants.  Other engineers from the programme went on to found Intel and numerous other tech stalwarts.  Without Apollo, it’s unlikely that Silicon Valley would have developed into the tech and economic powerhouse taken for granted today.  Apollo also drove broader business innovations, including things that consultants have lived off ever since, like strategic planning, budgeting as well as new management and enhanced decision-making processes.

But as profitability in the capitalist sector fell from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, government taxation was reduced and so spending, especially state investment, was slashed.  Technical advances in America increasingly depended on private sector innovation.  But for the most part that was not forthcoming.  America’s capitalist sector, like others in the major economies, opted to relocate more of their production overseas in search of cheap labour and then in turn export back to the US.  That was expressed in investment in Latin America (especially Mexico) and later into China.

There was one exception – the US hi-tech sector.  US technological advances are now completely dependent on investment in this sector.  Everything in the US now depends on the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Alphabet, Netflix and Google) plus Microsoft.  Just these few companies invest a staggering 80% when measured against a share of US government spending on education, transport, science, space and technology.  The scale of this expenditure dwarfs endeavours like the decade-long Apollo programme, where spending came in at approximately $150bn in today’s dollars — less than two years of current FAANGs plus Microsoft’s total investment expenditure.The US hi-tech sector is the last bastion of America’s productive superiority. Investment bank Goldman Sachs has noted that, since 2010, the only place globally where corporate earnings have expanded is in the US.  And this, according to Goldmans, is entirely down to the super-tech companies.  Global profits ex technology are only moderately higher than they were prior to the financial crisis, while technology profits have moved sharply upwards (mainly reflecting the impact of large US technology companies).

If China is eventually able to compete with the FAANGS, then the profitability of capital in the US will take a big shift downwards, and with it, US investment, employment and incomes over the next decade.  That is at the heart of the trade and technology war and why it will continue.


Many thanks to Michael Roberts» Blog

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Stopp valden mot demonstrantane i Honduras!

Stopp vold mot demonstranter i Honduras – Signer oppropet her!

Foto: Radio Progreso
Foto: Radio Progreso

For seks uker siden startet en omfattende folkelig mobilisering i Honduras, nå har dette eskalert til en nasjonalstreik. Politivolden er ekstrem, politi og militære skyter inn i massene av demonstranter. Situasjonen er svært alvorlig og verden må reagere. Skriv under på dette oppropet!

Siden president Manuel Zelaya ble avsatt av statskuppet i 2009, har Honduras gått gjennom en stadig dypere politisk krise. I løpet av disse årene har den folkelige motstanden økt betydelig. De uttrykker et ønske om å gjenopprette demokratiet i landet og et behov for å forsvare befolkningens økonomiske og sosiale rettigheter. Men undertrykkelse, politisk vold og autoritære tiltak har vært svaret fra den ulovlige regjeringen, styrt av Juan Orlando Hernandez. Spesielt intensivert er den politiske volden etter at han ble gjenvalgt som president i 2017, i strid med den honduranske grunnloven.

«Politivolden er ekstrem. Det fremgår av filmer der politi og militære løper gatelangs og skyter inn i massene av demonstranter. Ifølge uoffisielle kilder er rundt 10 personer drept så langt» rapporterer Frøya Torvik og Marianne Gulli, koordinatorer for LAGs brigade som befinner seg nå i Honduras.

«The Honduran people are fighting for healthcare and public education for the people. They are fighting to stop bullets and jails from being the destiny of thousands of children, youth and adults who are in the streets right now, using their bodies and their voices to stop the neoliberal system that devastates the rivers, the mountains, the forests and the bodies of millions of people around the world» heter det i oppropet som er skrevet av Red Nacional de Defensoras de Honduras (Honduras» nasjonale nettverk for menneskerettighetsforkjempere).

Situasjonen er svært alvorlig. Din signatur kan bidra til å stoppe volden mot demonstrantene i Honduras.

Signer oppropet her og del det på sosiale medier!

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Ti år sidan det USA-støtta kuppet i Honduras

Honduras: ti år under militærkupp

Foto: Gater i Tegucigalpa (Honduras hovedstad) 04.07.09, få dager etter kuppet. Bilde: CODEPINK Women For Peace
Foto: Gater i Tegucigalpa (Honduras hovedstad) 04.07.09, få dager etter kuppet. Bilde: CODEPINK Women For Peace

I dag, 28. juni, markeres ti år etter militærkuppet i Honduras. Dagens situasjon utgjør den største menneskerettighetskrisen på kontinentet. Politisk vold, krenkelse av de mest grunnleggende rettigheter, fattigdom, narkotika og korrupsjon finnes over hele landet. Mens kuppmakerne beholder makten har folk tatt til gatene og kjemper for demokratiet.

«Den honduranske presidenten, Manuel «Mel» Zelaya, ble tidlig søndag morgen kidnappet av maskerte militære styrker som brøt seg inn i hans hjem i den honduranske hovedstaden Tegucigalpa». På denne måten advarte LAG det norske samfunnet om militærkuppet i Honduras 28. juni 2009.

Siden 1999 hadde Latin-Amerika fått en ny demokratisk vår med flere alternative regjeringer. Håp om demokrati og rettferdighet spredte seg over hele kontinentet. I Honduras var president Manuel Zelaya mannen som ledet denne demokratiseringsprosessen. Da disse nye folkelige kreftene tok et steg videre og begynte å snakke om en ny grunnlov, ble de stoppet av militæret. Forsvarsjefen, General Romeo Vásquez, fikk sparken 25. juni da han nektet å gjennomføre presidentens ordre. Etter noen timer leverte forsvarsministeren, Ángel Edmundo Orellana, sammen med flere offiserer, sitt oppsigelsesbrev til Zelaya. Tre dager etter ble presidenten Zelaya kidnappet i sitt eget hjem og sent til Costa Rica.

Kuppet var planlagt sammen med den mest tradisjonelle og konservative eliten i Honduras. Kuppmakerne tok kontroll over den honduranske utøvende makten da kongresspresident, Roberto Micheletti Bain, ble utpekt til ny president. Siden da har Honduras druknet i politisk vold, fattigdom, korrupsjon, narkotikahandel og autoritære tiltak. Tusenvis av mennesker er på flukt, mange av dem dør ved grensen til USA, mens de som blir igjen i landet møter fattigdom og undertrykkelse hver dag. Honduras har blitt et av verdens farligste land for miljøaktivister og journalister. Drapet på Berta Cáceres (Goldman miljøpris 2016) symboliserer landets tilstand.

Dagens situasjon: fra kuppet til kuppet
Et nytt presidentvalg skulle gjennomføres bare fem måneder etter statskuppet, i november 2009. Med Micheletti ved makten klarte hæren å utrydde opposisjonen. Politisk drap ble til en vanlig sak i landet. I dag har denne voldsbølgen nådd et skamløst nivå og har tatt livet av hundrevis av fagforeningsledere, miljøaktivister, journalister, LHBTIQ-aktivister, studenter og alle som vil stå mot kuppmakerne. Selvfølgelig er straffefriheten skyhøy.

Valget i november 2009 var et voldelig teaterstykke, det foregikk uten kandidater fra opposisjonen. USA og sine nærmeste allierte i regionen anerkjente valget som demokratisk og Porfirio Lobo ble innsatt som Honduras nye president. Landets politiske situasjon ble stadig verre og Juan Orlando Hernandez, Lobos partikamerat, ble innsatt som president i 2014 for å sikre en videreføring av militærkuppet.

Honduras grunnlov forbyr alle form for presidentgjenvelgelse, men kuppmakerne hadde tatt kontroll over den dømmende makten og fikk dermed Juan Orlando Hernandez «gjenvalgt» som president i 2017. Et nytt statskupp hadde blitt gjennomført. Selv om et samlet internasjonalt samfunn tok avstand fra det opprinnelige militærkuppet ble de fleste landene gradvis dratt av USA og nå er Hernandez’ regjering anerkjent som demokratisk, også av Norge.

Ifølge Verdensbanken har Honduras i dag den mest ujevne inntektsfordeling i regionen. 60% av befolkningen lever i fattigdom og 20% i ekstrem fattigdom i rurale områder. En rapport fra Center for Economic and Policy Research fra 2013 viser hvordan ulikhet i landet ble akselerert siden kuppet i 2009. Under disse ekstreme økonomiske og politiske omstendighetene, og som svar på regjeringens privatiseringsplan for helse og utdanning, startet «Plattformen i forsvar for helse og utdanning» en omfattende mobilisering 26.april i år. Regjeringen møtte protestantene med ekstrem vold, noe som førte til en voldelig 1. mai i Honduras.

Etter noen uker med protester mot privatisering av helse og utdanning krevde demonstrantene at Juan Orlando Hernandez går av som president.  En omfattende nasjonalstreik startet. Deler av politiet har sluttet seg til demonstrantene og deler av kirken støtter bevegelsen. Svaret fra Hernandez’ regjering har vært nådeløs vold mot dem som gjør opprør.

Til tross for denne bakgrunnen og dagens situasjon, har ikke den norske regjeringen endret annerkjennelsen av Hernandez’ som folkevalgt president eller stanset investeringer i landet (avtalen mellom Norfund og Ficohsa er et eksempel).

Norges sivilsamfunn reagerer
24. juni sendte åtte norske sivilsamfunnsorganisasjoner, medlemmer av Mellom-Amerikaforum, et bekymringsbrev til utenriksministeren. Norsk Folkehjelp, Flyktninghjelpen, Caritas, Utviklingsfondet, Det norske menneskerettighetsfond, Fokus, PBI og LAG advarte mot regjeringens ekstreme voldsbruk mot de siste månedenes protester i Honduras. «Befolkningens grunnleggende rettigheter blir daglig krenket og det er nødvendig med et internasjonalt press for å stoppe den politiske volden mot demonstranter, sivilsamfunnsorganisasjoner og deres ledere i Honduras.».

Disse organisasjonene har bedt den norske regjeringen om:
•    Den norske regjeringen bør kreve at honduranske myndigheter respekterer menneskerettighetene, særlig retten til fredelige demonstrasjoner. Krisen må løses med demokratiske midler.

•    Å minne honduranske myndigheter om anbefalingene fra de universelle og regionale menneskerettighetsmekanismene, om at opprettholdelse av offentlig orden er de sivile sikkerhetsstyrkenes ansvar, og at de må overholde de grunnleggende prinsippene om bruk av makt og våpen.

•    Å kreve etterforskning og rettsforfølgelse av de ansvarlige for drap og menneskerettighetsbrudd i landet.

•    Å undersøke mulighetene for å samarbeide med, eller støtte aktuelle FN-organer og andre internasjonale instanser som kan beskytte demonstrantene i Honduras og bidra til dialog.

Om kuppmakerne sitter med makten blir situasjonen ikke bedre i Honduras. Ti år under et diktatur forkledd som demokrati, og som har ført til den mest omfattende politiske krisen i Latin-Amerika er et tydelig bevis på dette. Dessverre er norske medier mer opptatt av USAs agenda i Venezuela enn den dypeste krisen på kontinentet.

Frå latin-amerikagruppene.no

Åtte norske organisasjoner advarer UD mot den alvorlige situasjonen i Honduras

Foto: m-defensoras.org
Foto: m-defensoras.org

Norsk Folkehjelp, Flyktninghjelpen, Caritas, Utviklingsfondet, Det norske menneskerettighetsfond, Fokus, PBI og LAG er bekymret for regjeringens ekstreme voldsbruk mot de siste månedenes protester. Det er nødvendig med et internasjonalt press for å stoppe den politiske volden i dette landet, skriver de i brevet.

28. juni 2009: et militærkupp avsetter den folkevalgte regjeringen av presidenten Manuel Zelaya. I dag, bare få dager før 10 års markeringen av dette kuppet, er Honduras midt i en dyp politisk krise. En stor del av befolkningen  -med støtte av deler av politiet og kirken-, har tatt til gatene og krever at den sittende presidenten, Juan Orlando Hernandez, går av. Hernandez» regjering har svart med en brutal undertrykkelse og nedbryting av de mest grunnleggende rettigheter til den honduranske befolkningen. Norge bør handle nå, sier sivilsamfunsorganisasjoner.

Les brevet:

v/Utenriksminister Ine Eriksen Søreide
Postboks 8114 Dep.
0032 Oslo

24. juni 2019, Oslo

Demonstranter som utøver sine politiske rettigheter i Honduras må beskyttes mot en stadig mer autoritær regjering

De undertegnede organisasjonene i Mellom-Amerikaforum uttrykker sin sterke bekymring for menneskerettighetssituasjonen i Honduras, spesielt sett i lys av den ekstreme voldsbruken mot de siste månedenes protester. Befolkningens grunnleggende rettigheter blir daglig krenket og det er nødvendig med et internasjonalt press for å stoppe den politiske volden mot demonstranter, sivilsamfunnsorganisasjoner og deres ledere i Honduras.

Den politiske krisen i Honduras har stadig eskalert siden statskuppet i 2009. Situasjonen ble tydelig forverret etter det ulovlige presidentvalget i 2017, da sittende president Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) ble gjenvalgt i strid med landets grunnlov.

Den 26.april startet mobiliseringer mot privatiseringen av helse- og utdanningssektoren, som nå har utviklet seg til et folkelig og landsdekkende opprør. I en kontekst preget av store korrupsjonsanklager, autoritære tiltak og narko-korrupsjon, har protestene tatt opp igjen kravet fra etter valget i 2017 om JOHs avgang. Det er daglig blokkeringer av flere hovedfartsårer og grenseoverganger, og det har vært forsøk på å blokkere flyplassen i hovedstaden. De økonomiske tapene er i millionklassen. Regjeringen har møtt protestene med politi og militære som bruker tåregass og kuler mot demonstrantene. Samtidig foregår det en omfattende svertekampanje mot protestene og organisasjonene på nasjonale tv- og radiokanaler og på sosiale medie.

Regjeringens voldelige svar mot protestene har foreløpig ført til flere hundretalls skadde. Komiteen for familiemedlemmer av forsvunnede og anholdte i Honduras (COFADEH) melder i sin rapport om 42 demonstrasjoner og 136 protestmarkeringer som ble voldelig undertrykket av væpnede sikkerhetsstyrker i perioden 6 mai til 9 juni. Videre melder de om 4 drap, 33 sårede avslag- eller skytevåpen, 36 har blitt banket opp, 3 tilfeller av tortur, 48 ulovlige anholdelser, 32 drapstrusler og ett tilfelle av politisk motivert straffeforfølgelse. COFADEH rapporterer også om bruk av paramilitære styrker til å infiltrere demonstrasjonene og om generelle trusler og trakassering av organisasjoner, menneskerettighetsforsvarere og journalister.

De voldelige reaksjonene fra regjeringen fortsetter. Landets sikkerhetsminister uttalte søndag 9. juni at protestenes formål er å destabilisere landet, og at det ikke vil tolereres. Han var tydelig på at regjeringen vil gi politiet fullmakt til å arrestere «alle de må» for å sette en stopper for demonstrasjonene. Dette foregår samtidig mens strafferetten i landet reformeres. Reformene, som trer i kraft i november, vil likestille demonstrasjoner av sivilsamfunnet med organisert kriminalitet (artikkel 540). Derfor kan befolkningen i Honduran ikke delta i marsjer, protester eller annen aktivitet som anses å forårsake offentlige forstyrrelser, fra og med november.

Som et tilsvar til regjeringens forsøk på å privatisere helse- og utdanningssektoren, ble det i slutten av april opprettet en sammenslutning av forbund og sivilsamfunnsorganisasjoner kalt Plattformen til forsvar for helse og utdanning i Honduras. Ettersom regjeringen ikke har imøtekommet deres krav, har denne nå kalt inn til en alternativ folkelig dialog. De siste rapportene sier at transportbransjen og deler av politiet har sluttet seg til streiken, hovedveiene som knytter landets største byer er blokkert og hovedstaden begynner å bli rammet av mangel på drivstoff og matvarer. I tillegg markeres 28. juni ti år siden statskuppet mot Manuel Zelaya, noe som sannsynligvis vil føre til større demonstrasjoner.

Under dagens politiske omstendigheter i Honduras advarer de undertegnede organisasjonene om den uakseptable situasjonen som Honduras´ befolkning befinner seg i.  De kommende ukene vil protestene kunne eskalere ytterligere og situasjonen kan bli stadig mer kompleks og voldelig. I tråd med Mld. St. 10 (2014-2015) og regjeringens erklærte mål om å fremme menneskerettigheter, demokratiprinsipper og beskyttelse av menneskerettighetsforkjempere, oppfordrer vi regjeringen til å følge nøye med på situasjonen og den nye utviklingen i de kommende dagene. Vi og våre samarbeidspartnere i Honduras kan gjerne bistå med mer informasjon om landets situasjon.

De undertegnede organisasjonene ber den norske regjeringen:

  • Den norske regjeringen bør kreve at honduranske myndigheter respekterer menneskerettighetene, særlig retten til fredelige demonstrasjoner. Krisen må løses med demokratiske midler.
  • Å minne honduranske myndigheter om anbefalingene fra de universelle og regionale menneskerettighetsmekanismene, om at opprettholdelse av offentlig orden er de sivile sikkerhetsstyrkenes ansvar, og at de må overholde de grunnleggende prinsippene om bruk av makt og våpen.
  • Å kreve etterforskning og rettsforfølgelse av de ansvarlige for drap og menneskerettighetsbrudd i landet.
  • Å undersøke mulighetene for å samarbeide med, eller støtte aktuelle FN-organer og andre internasjonale instanser som kan beskytte demonstrantene i Honduras og bidra til dialog.

Vennlig hilsen,

Norsk Folkehjelp



Det norske menneskerettighetsfond



Peace Brigades International, PBI-Norge

Latin-Amerikagruppene i Norge (LAG)

Last ned brevet her.

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Democratic Candidates are NOT Moving to the Left on Foreign Policy

Why Won’t the Democratic Candidates Move to the Left on Foreign Policy?

Listen to the Deconstructed podcast here.


The Democratic candidates have introduced a raft of radical progressive proposals on the domestic policy front, from Medicare for All to free public college to universal basic income. Yet that appetite for radicalism has been sorely lacking on the foreign policy front, with the candidates mostly mouthing the same noncommittal platitudes we’ve come to expect from cautious presidential contenders. Why is it that the policy area in which American presidents have the most power and the most freedom to shape world events is so often overlooked in our political campaigns? Atlantic contributor and City University of New York professor Peter Beinart joins Mehdi Hasan to talk about why Democrats are so timid on foreign policy.

Peter Beinart: There is a notion of what is responsible in foreign policy that is often not seriously and thoughtfully questioned, a notion that the expansion of the American military footprint is always synonymous with enhancing the well-being of ordinary Americans.

[Music interlude.]

Mehdi Hasan: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan. When oh, when are we gonna talk foreign policy? It feels like no matter how many foreign wars the U.S. is fighting, no matter how many people are dying, no matter how much it matters, what happens abroad, overseas, far away, in the ‘obscure’ and ‘complex’ realm of foreign policy, that feels like a bit of an afterthought for most of the Democratic presidential candidates.

PB: They’re not really trying to break down the ideological boundaries that have defined foreign policy in the way they are with domestic policy.

MH: That’s my guest today, the journalist, academic, and author Peter Beinart. On today’s show, he and I will be asking and trying to answer the question: why won’t the Democrats take a stronger, more radical stand on changing America’s awful, awful foreign policy?

Here’s what really frustrates me: we’re only a few months into the Democratic presidential race and we’ve already seen candidates from across the political spectrum make big, bold moves on a variety of domestic policy issues. Take Senator Elizabeth Warren, who’s enjoying a bit of a bump in the polls right now.

Elizabeth Warren: There are people who are ready for big structural change in this country. They’re ready for change and I got a plan for that.

MH: Her plans range from a new wealth tax on assets over $50 million and a new tax on corporate profits to student debt cancellation, free college, universal child care. Then there’s Senator Bernie Sanders, the only socialist in the race who has made healthcare his number one issue.

Harry Smith: What’s your big idea?

Bernie Sanders: Medicare for all.

HS: Does that mean all?

BS: Yeah, it means all.

MH: Senator Kamala Harris wants, among other things, a national moratorium on the death penalty and the decriminalization of sex work. Senator Cory Booker wants to use baby bonds to close the racial wealth gap. Congressman Eric Swalwell wants to ban assault weapons and do a government buy-back.

Several of the presidential candidates have signed onto the ambitious Green New Deal to fight climate change. In fact, Washington governor Jay Inslee has been praised for introducing a massively detailed plan to rapidly decarbonize the U.S. economy. So too has former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke, who unveiled a $5 trillion plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Beto O’Rourke: We’re talking about five trillion invested in infrastructure, in innovation. This is by far the most ambitious plan to confront climate change that we have ever seen.

MH: But while the Democrats have got much more radical, much more progressive, much more ambitious on domestic policy — whether it’s tax policy, energy policy, housing, healthcare, education, etc — we’ve heard very, very little when it comes to foreign policy. I mean, look, yes, Bernie Sanders has said some stuff. Last week, he used MoveOn’s Big Ideas forum to pitch a pretty strong antiwar message.

BS: We have got to stop endless wars. We have got to cut military spending.

MH: And Mayor Pete Buttigieg said this week that he wants Congress to take back its constitutionally designated role when it comes to deciding matters of war and peace:

Pete Buttigieg: The time has come for Congress to repeal and replace that blank check on the use of force and ensure a robust debate on any future operations.

MH: And yet, as a general rule, I think it’s fair to say that foreign policy has taken a backseat in this Democratic presidential race so far. Which is so weird on so many levels. Because presidents actually have way more power and freedom when it comes to foreign policy than they do on domestic policy. Most presidencies are defined as much by foreign policy as they are by domestic policy – if not more so. Think of Nixon and the war crimes in Southeast Asia; Reagan and the Berlin Wall, George Bush Sr. and the Gulf War; George Bush Jr. and the War on Terror; Obama even and his Libya war, his drone war, his Iran Deal.

And yet while there’s been this shift to the left on domestic policy from almost all of the major presidential candidates, there hasn’t been an equivalent left-wing shift on foreign policy. In fact, on the issue of Russia, Democrats including Bernie Sanders have attacked Trump from the right. And speaking of Trump, this president has been a disaster on the international stage. So why aren’t Democrats making more of that?

Last year, the New York Times got hold of a White House document sent to Congress which made it very clear that the United States government right now is fighting wars in seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. Candidate Trump remember, claimed to be the Republican isolationist candidate, the anti-war candidate.

Donald J. Trump: For years, we have been caught up in endless wars and conflicts under the leadership of failed politicians and a failed, totally failed, foreign policy.

MH: And yet, President Trump has escalated or expanded U.S. involvement in every single one of those seven conflicts. So much for ‘Donald the Dove!’

Then there’s Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition continues to bomb and besiege the poorest country in the Middle East with U.S. diplomatic and military support. Why aren’t Democrats putting out ads saying this president is pro-genocide? He’s pro-killing kids? Because he blatantly is. When he signed that veto in April, when he blocked a bill that was pushed by some Republicans but mainly by Democrats to end the Yemen war, that conflict became, lock, stock and barrel, Trump’s war, not just Obama’s war.

But maybe that’s part of the equation. Maybe Democrats don’t want to draw attention to how much Obama got wrong when it comes to foreign policy: his support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen when it kicked off in 2015; the complete botched U.S. covert intervention in Syria and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in that country on Obama’s watch; the war in Libya which has left that country looking like a Mad Max hellscape; the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen with their civilian death tolls; the failure to make progress on the Israel-Palestine conflict; the failed pivot to Asia; the failed reset with Russia.

Maybe Democrats also can’t agree on what a progressive new foreign policy should look like. Because let’s face it: a lot of conservative Democrats, and even some liberal ones, are quite hawkish and like big wars. Maybe they’re also just as influenced as the Republicans are by the pro-Israel and pro-Saudi lobbies, by the military-industrial complex, by the foreign policy think tank Blob in Washington DC. Or, maybe, they just assume, rightly or wrongly, that ordinary Americans don’t give a damn about foreign affairs, about faraway conflicts in faraway lands.

[Music interlude.]

MH: So I wanted to talk about some of this stuff with Peter Beinart, contributing editor at The Atlantic, senior columnist at the Forward, and a professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York.

He’s written a bunch of pieces recently on the Democrats’ failure to come up with a China policy that varies from Trump’s, the party’s hawkishness on Iran, and the weakness of the rhetoric coming from most Democratic presidential candidates when it comes to Israel and the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Peter, by the way, as editor of the New Republic magazine back in 2003 enthusiastically supported the invasion of Iraq. But I think it’s fair to say he holds very different view today, and is now a leading U.S. media critic of the “forever wars.” He joins me now.

Peter, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.

PB: My pleasure.

MH: Peter, am I being unfair when I say the Democrats haven’t just failed to match the boldness and radicalism on domestic policy that they’re showing these days, with boldness and radicalism on foreign policy? They haven’t just failed to match that on foreign policy, but the foreign policy isn’t even getting a look in when you look at the campaigns of the most of the Democratic presidential candidates.

PB: No, I think that’s fair. They’re not talking about it very much, partly because it’s not what’s mostly on voters minds, which is the norm in the United States when the United States is not in a war where a lot of Americans are dying. That’s just the reality of our political system. But I also don’t think they’re doing very much to kind of generate the kind of conversation in the Democratic party that will be necessary for them to build a mandate to really change things if they get in office.

MH: Good point, people always forget about the idea that you have to, you know, lay the groundwork, if you want to make changes in office and the way they have done in Medicare for all, for example. It’s been going on for a few years now moving that debate on health care. The Democrats on foreign policy seem to want to go back to business as usual on foreign policy back to a pre-Trump era, even though I would argue that business as usual, and the pre-Trump era was pretty shitty in terms of American policy on human rights, democracy, greenhouse gas emissions and the rest.

PB: Yeah, I think Sanders is a little bit, Bernie Sanders is a little bit of an exception to that. Hillary Clinton, I think it’s worth remembering in 2016, was running a little bit to Obama’s right on foreign policy. She was a little bit more hawkish. To be fair, the Democrats aren’t doing that they might be even a quarter of a step more dove-ish than Obama, but what they’re not doing, which is the big distinction that you’re rightly making, is they’re not really trying to break down the ideological boundaries that have defined foreign policy in the way they are with domestic policy. And I think —

MH: Why do you think that is?

PB: I think it’s, again, I think, partly because they don’t feel that they’re being, the public is not demanding it. But I also think that the foreign policy establishment, the people who make foreign policy, many of whom are you know, good, well-meaning people, but I think they are more insulated from public pressure. And they are not, they’ve not had to kind of grapple with the deep sense of failure and radicalism that has emerged among ordinary grassroots Democrats, they remained fairly insulated from that. That’s because foreign policy in the United States is a much more elite-driven business than domestic policy.

MH: Yes, with very little accountability, the people who got Iraq wrong or other wars wrong, they’re still around advocating for new wars. You mentioned the whole concept of whether you’re a tad to the left or right of Obama, or Clinton. You wrote a piece late last year for The Atlantic, where you made the point, in fact, a very valid point that a lot of the Democrats, senior democrats in DC have been attacking Trump from the right on foreign policy, when you look at things like China or Russia or North Korea, do you think that’s a strategic move on their part where they genuinely believe this stuff, but you know, they genuinely want to have a hawkish position on North Korea forever?

PB: I think it’s a bit of both. I think there is certainly a long hangover, which started from the post-Vietnam era and was re-invigorated a little bit in the post 9/11 era of Democrats always looking over their right shoulder and fearing not to be seen as tough enough, especially when it comes to anything — And that’s partly because the Republican Party had kind of become the party that was more entrenched in the military over the decades. But I also think that there is a notion of what is responsible in foreign policy that is often not really, very seriously and thoughtfully questioned.

So, you know, a notion that, kind of, that the expansion of the American military footprint is all things being equal, kind of, always synonymous with enhancing the well-being of ordinary Americans. And I think one of the reasons that Trump won the Republican primary in particular, and that also helped him the general election is that he was actually willing to challenge that equation. And I think that Democrats, although Trump’s own foreign policy has been totally disastrous. I think actually, that would be a good place for Democrats to start in rethinking some of the basic assumptions that tend to lead to this kind of expansionist foreign policy that we have.

MH: It was amazing in 2015, 2016, the way in which he up ended the Republican party consensus on foreign policy compared to Mitt Romney’s platform in 2012. I remember seeing, you know, when he made the comment about John McCain, you know, I like people who aren’t captured. We thought his campaign was over in 2015. You can’t attack a war hero on the right. And he got away with it. When he stood in the debates, I remember watching the debate on TV where he said, Well, George W. Bush, what did he say 9/11 happened on his watch? He kind of mocked Jeb.

And the crowd, some people in the crowd booed but others cheered. And the next day, it didn’t affect his poll rating at all. And of course, he went on about how he had been anti-war in Iraq, which he wasn’t he lied, but he said he was. He said he was anti-war in Libya. Again, he lied, but he said he was and it all helped him. It didn’t hurt him. And I wonder where in 2020 in this race on the Democratic side, we talked about — Let’s talk about Bernie. Is Bernie Sanders the person who’s willing to do that in this race, up-end things?

PB: More than any other candidate. Again, I think it’s partly because just he’s more distant from the Democratic foreign policy establishment. And I think he’s begun to do some of that. So, he has, for instance, asked the question, really, you know, is Saudi Arabia really morally superior to Iran, for instance, why necessarily? You know, the mainstream Democratic view is kind of, yes, the Iran deal was good but we need to take a very hawkish position on Iran, because they are a uniquely aggressive and immoral actor in the Middle East. So, you see a kind of a half step in a positive direction towards Trump, but not a really fundamental kind of questioning of some of the deeper assumptions, right?

I mean, I think the Islamic Republic of Iran is a pretty, is a really odious regime, in terms of what they do domestically and I think they do a lot of bad stuff in the region. But when one looks at their prime regional competitors, particularly, you know, Saudi Arabia, in the UAE, I find it very difficult to see that there’s an important moral distinction. And I think it would be better for the United States to actually try to have a business-like working relationship with both of those regimes in order to give ourselves the most leverage, and for us to try to cool down, try to kind of diffuse the Cold War in the region, rather than heating it up. And it’s striking to me that that’s still not, except for Bernie a little bit, that’s not really something you hear from the Democratic candidates.

MH: No, and we’ll come on to Elizabeth Warren in a moment. But she’s been very hawkish on Iran in the past, I remember. What’s interesting about Bernie, I interviewed him in 2017 on foreign policy before he gave this big speech on foreign policy. And of course, I’m sure many of our listeners remember that Bernie was actually attacked in 2016, for not having any foreign policy, for not being willing to talk about foreign policy. He was up against a former secretary of state who was touting her national security foreign policy credentials.

I remember Bernie was asked who advises you and he came up with a few names and all those people then denied that they were advisers to Bernie Sanders. What’s interesting is since then, he’s hired people like Matt Duss, kind of progressive foreign policy thinker and we’ve seen the shift again. He’s laid the groundwork on Yemen, on Israel, on dealing with Iran and Saudi Arabia. I remember when I interviewed him 2017, he said at the time, why are we not equidistant between Iran and Saudi? In fact, I think the Iranian people are probably more pro-American than the Saudis are. And it was kind of radical to hear him say that at the time, again, the bench that you know, the bar is so low, the benchmark is so low.

But what’s interesting is this idea of staffing. If Elizabeth Warren —who’s also said some very interesting things on foreign policy, talking about ending the war in Afghanistan, you know, the use of nuclear weapons and resisting that — if someone like her became president, see what you think about this scenario, Peter. I like Elizabeth Warren. I think she’s got great policies on the domestic front. She’s got a whole “I’ve got a plan for that” stuff. If she becomes president, is there a danger that she’s really progressive radical on the domestic front, and that’s what she knows. That’s her baby. That’s what she knows about. That’s what she instinctively cares about. And then she then ends up outsourcing foreign policy to the democratic foreign policy establishment, to the Clinton retreads, which is what Obama did on economic policy if you remember, in 2008, when he came in, he kind of hired Larry Summers and Tim Geithner and that was reflected in the policy, the staffing matters.

PB: It matters enormously. I think you’re making a very, very good point and you have to work very aggressively to overcome the powerful inertia that exists. You know, there’s a history. If you look at John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama, they were all on foreign policy to the left of their most powerful adviser. You know, they were all more willing to reconsider, in the case of Kennedy and Carter, the Cold War. And then in the case of Obama, the war on terror, and they were in many ways circumscribed and hemmed in by the people they had brought in to be their top advisers who were people who came from an establishment that they felt like they needed to curry favor with.

MH: Well, Obama had Robert Gates, former Republican. He had Leon Panetta, former Bill Clinton Chief of Staff, yeah.

PB: Right, and Hillary Clinton was more established than him and James Jones remember his first national security adviser had been friends of John McCain. And this, to shift this is not easy. It requires you actually to have people who are willing to push, in a weird way, it almost requires you to have your own versions of the John Boltons of the world. People who are willing to push aggressively through a bureaucracy to try to make change, otherwise, you end up being hemmed in. I mean, if you look at Obama’s Afghanistan decision, it was pretty clear that he realized that he didn’t think that sending more troops to Afghanistan in his first year was going to do a lot of good, but he really was very hemmed in by the military in particular, which is, you know, has enormous weight in these interagency debates. And I think right now, my worry that Elizabeth Warren, who I also admire a lot, in a lot of ways, is not positioning herself necessarily to do that.

MH: No, it’s a very good point. And of course, Trump himself who played this fake anti-war card when he was running, he had the same decision to make on Afghanistan as Obama in terms of troop numbers, troop levels, and we know that his then National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, put a lot of pressure on him not to pull troops out in the way that Trump wanted to, and we’re still in Afghanistan now. I think, what is it, I saw somewhere that they’re now sending troops to Afghanistan, who were not born on 9/11. We’ve now reached that point in America’s longest war, which is an astonishing statistic.

PB: Right, I mean, we even see this in this bizarre way with Trump, whereas in some ways, the person who’s putting the brakes on the possibility of war with North Korea and Iran is Trump, you know, because he has kind of Republican establishment foreign policy advisers who basically pursue an ultra-confrontational policy with these countries.

MH: Yeah, it’s a weird, bizarre combo there. It’s interesting you mentioned Bolton. I was having a conversation with a colleague just before we started recording this interview and I was talking about, you know, what I’m going to be talking to you about. We were talking about the same issue of staffing and like, who would Bernie Sanders make his national security advisor? And I was kind of joking about the fact that — maybe it’s not a joke — that Trump has changed all the rules. He’s brought in such weird, unqualified, freakish people.

You know, when you have Sebastian Gorka, as a special assistant to the president working in the White House with zero real, zero qualifications, why couldn’t Bernie Sanders — in the aftermath of a Trump presidency and a John Bolton as a national security adviser — why couldn’t Bernie Sanders pluck some lefty academic who no one’s ever heard of to be his national security adviser or deputy national security adviser and bring some of that what we’re talking about some of that resistance to the U.S. military establishment and ministry, military industrial complex? It might be feasible.

PB: Yes, I mean, the question is always do those people understand the bureaucracy well enough? I mean, the reason that Cheney was so dastardly effective, and that Bolton is only as effective is because they understand the bureaucracy. I think what I would hope is that I think there are more people on the periphery of the kind of Clinton/Obama foreign policy where I think of someone like Rob Malley, for instance —

MH: Yes, who has been on the show. He’s great.

PB: Yeah, who now runs the International Crisis Group, you know, who I think were more willing to kind of step back and think differently. One of the issues that I think you know, is important to think about and to recognize here is, you know, if you read a book like “The Best and the Brightest,” Halberstam’s famous, you know, kind of book about Vietnam. One of the things that he points out is that a whole a whole group of scholars who really understood Asia were basically exiled from American government, because of their position on China during the McCarthy era. And that prevented the kind of internal conversation about Vietnam that was desperately necessary in the mid 1960s.

I think one of the things that has happened on American policy towards the Middle East, is that because of the kind of rigid lines that have been drawn around the debate over Israel, there is, there’s a group of people, I think, I would think, put Stephen Walt, in this category, I would put Charles Freeman in this category series of people. And Malley was virtually in this category, he couldn’t get a job at the beginning of the Obama administration, who would be very valuable for their expertise on other things, but essentially, because they ran afoul of the Israel consensus, haven’t really been able to have a significant role in foreign policy in general.

MH: I’m going to come back to the Israel consensus in a moment, just while we’re on the subject of staffing and people. I mean, you could also go to some of the newer members of Congress. You look at someone like Ro Khana who has made some amazing moves on foreign policy in terms of war in Yemen, in terms of, you know, even speaking out on Venezuela when there’s a strong consensus to intervene in Venezuela, to recognize Juan Guaido as president, he’s come out on that. I mean, someone like Ro Khana, why couldn’t he be appointed to State Department position?

PB: I think you’re right.

MH: A fresh voice.

PB: And I think he’s, I think he’s really doing a lot of the most interesting and kind of serious rethinking that exists among Democrats in Congress on these issues right now. Chris Murphy, I think it’s someone else who’s been doing some good work.

MH: I mean, they’ve done amazing work on Yemen. Pete Buttigieg who of course, served in the military as he constantly reminds us. Mayor Pete, he gave a big foreign policy speech on Tuesday night. As we were preparing for the show, I was kind of joking with my producer saying, you know, we’re doing this show on how the Democrats don’t talk about foreign policy Sod’s Law, Pete Buttigieg is giving a big speech on foreign policy. And you’ve written about his speech for The Forward. I looked at the speech before we started recording, just the transcript.

When you look at the speech, though, it’s kind of underwhelming, he lays out five major foreign policy proposals: repeal and replace the 9/11 AUMF, the authorization for the use of military force, which has been used to justify all sorts of wars over the last 18 years, don’t allow U.S. aid money to be used by the Israelis to annex the West Bank and Gaza, the occupied Palestinian territories, to rejoin the Paris Climate Change Agreement, to rejoin the Iran Nuclear Deal, and to invest in green energy. Now, those are all well and good. But I think you would agree with me when I say they’re pretty low bars to cross to say, I’m going to rejoin international agreements that Obama joined that then Trump pulled us out of. It’s not exactly hugely ambitious, is it?

PB: No, it’s not. I mean, it’s look, it’s all sensible. And certainly, a huge relief from Trump. And I think that there are, you know, there were a lot of to use American baseball, you know, he hit a lot of singles in that speech. But what I don’t think he did was try to make bigger and more structural changes. And to think you know, if you’re going to say, for instance, on the Israel question that you don’t want American money to be used to annex settlements, then why don’t you say, but you don’t want American money to be used to support settlements at all? Since surely, the problem is that the settlements exist, rather than simply that Israel might formalize its control.

MH: Also, you want to get applause for saying we’re not going to fund violations of international law? Bravo. I mean, what a low bar. Obviously, you couldn’t fund the annexation of the West Bank. That’s a war crime.

PB: Right, and, you know, and beyond that, I feel like it’s, you know, it’s one thing to say we should rejoin the Iran Nuclear Deal, of course, but I think that, again, what he didn’t do was talk about a question of what’s the value of all these sanctions we have on Iran? Which are causing a, you know, hugely damaging effect to the people of Iran and undermining its ability to be the long, the pro-American, liberal democracy we want or even for that matter, North Korea, I mean, I’m waiting for a Democrat to come and say, look, the emperor has no clothes. The North Koreans have nuclear weapons. They’re never going to give up their nuclear weapons. And the massive sanctions we are putting on this monstrous regime are simply making the realities for their people even worse and we need to move towards reconciliation.

MH: But that requires questioning the underlying premises of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, which is North Korea denuclearization, which, as you say, is absurd. They’re not going to give up nuclear weapons anytime soon, or ever. That requires questioning the premise of yes, we support Israel right and wrong, even when they’re violating international law in the occupied territories. And on Iran, as you say, you know, okay, we’re not going to ditch the Iran Nuclear Deal but we still think Iran is the enemy. And remember Obama’s line, which used to always annoy the hell out of me. He always used to say “All options on the table,” which, you know, why can’t a candidate say actually no, I have no military plan for Iran right now. You know, if Iran were to attack us, obviously, we would deal with it then. But right now, I have no plans during my presidency to go to war with Iran. How about raising the bar a little more than just saying I’ll rejoin the nuclear deal?

PB: Right. Right. You know, and even the fact that you use the word war, you know, one of the things that, again, foreign policy is so euphemistic linguistically in the United States, you know, that ones always talking about, you know, military intervention or assertive action or muscular foreign policy, right. When you put it more boldly, it becomes in some ways clear how absurd it is which is that there’s no, absolutely no reason that we should be going to war with Iran, absent them actually, in some way, which is very hard to imagine actually attacking the United States.

MH: You wrote a piece last week for The Forward headlined “Thirteen Democrats Recorded Messages About Israel. Only One Spoke with Courage.” Who was that one? And what was wrong with the other 12 presidential candidate messages?

PB: So, that was Bernie Sanders. You know, this was a speech to the American Jewish Committee, and I think the American Jewish Committee is exactly the kind of American, established American Jewish group, which really needs Democrats to say, you know, we support Israel. We believe in the principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. We believe that Israel is profoundly violating those principles in ways that are devastating to Palestinians. And we are going to try to take action to change that. And instead, that would have been an act of courage because that crowd doesn’t usually hear that kind of thing. And only Sanders did. The rest of them were extraordinarily weak and euphemistic, and at times even dishonest in, you know, including, again, candidates who I admire in other realms. And I, again, my fear is that, especially on this issue, they just want to take the path of least resistance and focus on other things. And I think that will mean —

MH: On the least resistance path, you’re one of the country’s best known Jewish American political journalists. Bernie Sanders would be the first Jewish American presidential candidate if he wins these primaries. Is it because he is Jewish that he feels he can maybe push the boundaries a little bit more than others on this debate, without being accused of anti-Semitism?

PB: Perhaps a little bit. I think, again, it also matters immensely, that he has advisors like Matt Duss, who are deeply invested in this issue and have worked with him on this issue. I mean, Jewish or not, there’s no question that I think elements of the organized American Jewish community, if they see Sanders emerging from this, in this field, are going to rally very, very strongly against him for any almost any of his opponents.

MH: That would be amazing. I mean, think about that the first Jewish American presidential candidate, and he won’t have the support of the organized American Jewish Committees because of his position on Israel.

PB: Right, because the organized American Jewish Committee in many ways is quite very distinct ideologically from the actual mass of American Jews. But I, you know, in my experience with a lot of politicians, and frankly, this goes for a lot of journalists too, non-Jewish, maybe some Jewish too, but especially non-Jewish, they see this whole Israel debate as basically walking blindfolded through a minefield. And what they want is just to be able to get through to the other side of the minefield without being blown up. And that encourages you to take the most tentative cautious positions, and rather than the ones that actually accord with your own values.

MH: Although having said that, just be fair to these Democratic presidential candidates, a lot of them have, as you’ve acknowledged, and I have as well, thanks to Netanyahu being such a freakish, right-winger, all these issues, you have people like Beto O’Rourke coming out and calling him a racist, which I could never imagine a previous American presidential candidate calling an Israeli Prime Minister a racist in that way.

PB: Yes and that does show that there has been a shift inside the party. And a lot of that, I think is you know, Americans tend to often see the rest of the world by analogy, vis a vis the United States. I mean, one of the reasons the anti-Apartheid movement was able to grow so powerful United States was because of the analogy with the Civil Rights Movement. And I think because people see Netanyahu through the analogy of Trump that has emboldened them a bit. If they can call Trump a racist, then why not call Netanyahu a racist. He’s the Israeli Trump.

MH: Especially when they’ve allied together and it’s no longer a bipartisan issue in the way it was. Just before we run out of time, you talked about a shift. Can we talk about your own shift, your own journey, your own evolution on some of these foreign policy issues? Because some might say you were part of this Blob that Ben Rhodes and others have talked about his foreign policy centrist view of the world. You were editor of the center left New Republic Magazine that all of the establishment Democrats love to read. You were pro the Iraq War in 2003. You even wrote a book about the war on terror, I think called “The Good Fight” back in 2006. You were a liberal hawk, weren’t you? What changed?

PB: I think, you know, I thought a lot about this. My second book, “The Icarus Syndrome” was really about this. It’s about hubris in American foreign policy. I think for me, it had to do with a series of events that I witnessed coming out of college. First, the Gulf War, then Bosnia and Kosovo in the mid 1990s, which were immensely influential for liberal hawks. And I think, which led again, along with this notion that the 1990s were an end of history, along with America becoming the singular global power and the end of the budget deficit that led to a kind of culture of hubris that I was very, very much a part of that existed on the eve of 9/11. And then when 9/11 happened and the sense of righteous indignation, was married with this hubris about America’s military, and the kind of the American power and about American wisdom to intervene and remake other countries. It was, in retrospect, a really toxic combination. But unfortunately, it took me seeing the disaster of that war and seeing the effect it had even on people close to me, who suffered as a result of it to be able to recognize that in retrospect.

MH: And I’ve got to ask one last question. We can’t have this discussion about foreign policy in the Democratic president without asking this question. How bad a president on foreign policy would Joe Biden be?

PB: It’s a little hard to tell because Biden has been all over the place on foreign policy, but I think that, you know, there were times where his view, kind of, was actually a little bit more minimalist than Obama’s. But I fear that it would be — I mean, look, I think it will be very much probably a return to Obama. And yet, I think Obama in his heart probably wanted to go further in reconsidering things and just couldn’t because of the political limitations. And I fear that Obama [sic] will be a return to the Obama-era. Certainly, it will be much better than Trump, but I don’t think we’ll have the fundamental reckoning that we really need to have.

MH: Much better than Trump is a very low bar, sadly. That’s what I worry about, that we’re going to kind of give these people a pass because anyone is better than Donald Trump. But Joe Biden, in terms of the field we’ve been talking about, obviously, he’s the only candidate running who voted for the Iraq War. He still calls himself a personal friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, you know, some of his dealings in Ukraine are now catching all sorts of news attention. I just worry how bad a president would he be? I take your point that he was minimalist on some issues like Afghanistan. But really if we’re going to talk about changing foreign policy, surely he’s the candidate who’s least likely to change anything on this front.

PB: Yes, I think that’s exactly right. I mean, again, if we’re looking for a fundamental rethinking, which I think America very badly needs, because we’re now basically acting in a series of extremely reckless ways with power which we don’t even have anymore. You know, and it’s just a matter of time until other countries around the world start calling our bluff in ways that I think will be very, very painful for Americans and we really need to try to get ahead of that. And I agree, I think Biden is probably the least likely to do that.

MH: Peter, we’ll have to leave it there. Thanks so much for joining me on Deconstructed.

PB: My pleasure, thanks.

[Music interlude.]

MH: That was Peter Beinart, contributing editor at The Atlantic, senior economist at The Forward discussing U.S. foreign policy and whether these Democratic presidential candidates are up to the challenge, the huge challenge of breaking with the U.S. foreign policy consensus, breaking with the hawks, breaking with the people who want it to be business as usual, who want to go back to a pre-Trump era, which wasn’t very good to begin with.

I think he and I both agree that Bernie Sanders has clearly kind of set out his stall on foreign policy. He could still go much further, but at least he’s asking big questions, taking some stands, the other 23 candidates, not so much. A little bit of Warren, a little bit of Buttigieg. Biden, disastrous on this issue, in my view, Iraq war hawk. What are the rest of them going to do? And what are we going to do in terms of pressuring these candidates to talk about foreign policy? What are we as journalists going to do to talk more clearly about all of the human rights abuses that the U.S. has been complicit in? That is a burden on us all, a responsibility on us all.

[Music interlude.]

MH: That’s our show! Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. Leital Molad is our executive producer. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.

And I’m Mehdi Hasan. You can follow me on Twitter @mehdirhasan. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week. Go to theintercept.com/deconstructed to subscribe from your podcast platform of choice, iPhone, Android, whatever. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review – it helps new people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, email us at Podcasts@theintercept.com. Thanks so much!


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The Shameful «Tori» Break Down of British Society

Tories’ lies over ‘tragic’ scale of poverty exposed

by Nick Clark – Fri 24 May 2019 – socialistworker.co.uk

UN special rapporteur Philip Alston has slammed the Tories austerity

UN special rapporteur Philip Alston has slammed the Tories» austerity (Pic: UN Photo/Loey Felipe)

What is it about a United Nations (UN) report that could have the Tories so rattled?

When a UN special rapporteur released a report into extreme poverty in Britain last week, the government called its findings “barely believable”.

You can see why they might want to say that. The report is a devastating assessment of a decade of Tory rule.

Not only does it spell out the “tragic social consequences” of austerity—it lays the blame squarely at the feet of the Tories’ “ideological agenda”.

It begins with some damning statistics.

One fifth of the population of Britain—14 million people—“live in poverty, and 1.5 million of them experienced destitution in 2017,” says the report.

And that’s just its opening shot.

“Close to 40 percent of children are predicted to be living in poverty by 2021,” it continues.

“Life expectancy is falling for certain groups—and the legal aid system has been decimated.”


UN special rapporteur Philip Alston heard from people who have to “choose either to eat or heat their homes”. And people said “children are showing up at school with empty stomachs, and schools are collecting food and sending it home because teachers know their students will ­otherwise go hungry”.

Disgracefully—though unsurprisingly—the Tories dismissed and denounced the report’s findings out of hand.

Responding to Alston’s initial findings, released last year, they claimed unemployment was at its lowest for 40 years. They said there are fewer people in “absolute ­poverty” than in 2010.

The report rubbishes both claims. “Widely accepted independent measures find poverty is rising,” it says.

And in any case, argues the report, “Living in a working household does not bring freedom from poverty, with nearly 60 percent of those in poverty in a family where someone works, and in-work poverty on the rise.”


The real reason the Tories want to sweep this one under the carpet is because it completely dismantles their justification for austerity.

It spells out how the Tories have “made no secret” of their plan to erode the welfare system. They want to replace it with “a punitive, mean?spirited and often callous approach apparently designed to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping.

“A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.”

It’s a scandal that the Tories have got away with it for so long. For most of that period, the Labour Party had a leadership that went along with that Tory ideology.

But now it is a supposedly ­anti?austerity party, the Tories still cling on. The missing factor ­throughout the last ten years has been struggle—and the unwillingness of trade union leaders to call strikes that could break the Tories.

We still need that resolve now.

Benefits hammered by Tories

An entire chapter of the report describes how the Tories have dismantled the benefits and services people rely on.

“Most British people have a personal stake in the social safety net functioning effectively. Yet, it has been systematically and starkly eroded,” it says.

A freeze in benefits has meant “poor families” have seen their income fall as prices rise. Last year Tory chancellor Philip Hammond could have ended the freeze, it says. But instead “chose to change income tax thresholds in a way that will help those who are better off but does nothing to move the needle on poverty.”

Cuts to housing benefit mean it has been “decimated amidst a real crisis in affordable housing.”

Legal aid cuts mean many poor people have “lost access to critical support and some have even reportedly lost custody of their children.”

And local government cuts mean large numbers of vulnerable children “are at greater risk of harm due to rapidly deteriorating frontline child protection services.”

Universal Credit slammed

The report is damning about the hated Universal Credit (UC) benefit.

It says its author “heard countless stories of severe hardships suffered under UC,” adding. “Where UC has fully rolled out, food bank demand has increased.”

The report says that councils, devolved governments and voluntary organisations “described their preparations for the roll out of UC as if they were preparing for an impending natural disaster or health epidemic.”

It outlines what years of scandal surrounding UC have already revealed—payment delays and “cruel, inhuman and degrading” sanctions leave claimants destitute or in debt.

And yet “ministers described UC as a nearly unmitigated success”.

For all that, the UN report still thinks UC can be saved. “Social support should be a route out of poverty, and Universal Credit should be a key part of that process,” it says.

“Reforms are urgent and should go well beyond tinkering.”

Women paying higher price

The report describes how Tory austerity has “taken a greater toll” on women.

“In 2018, women were paid 17.9 percent less per hour on average than men. They made up 60 percent of the workers receiving low pay and were disproportionately engaged in part-time work with little wage progression,” it says.

It also describes how benefits changes have a “stark impact on single parents”, noting that 90 percent of them are women. And it says the fact that UC is paid to just one person in a household can leave women dependent on an abusive partner.

Minorities hit harder by cuts

The report argues that “black and Asian” households are hit harder by Tory austerity.

“Black people and people from a South Asian background are the most likely to live in poverty and deprivation,” it says.

“Yet as a result of changes to taxes, benefits and public spending from 2010 to 2020, black and Asian households in the lowest fifth of incomes will experience the largest average drop in living standards, about 20 percent.”

Asylum seekers are targeted

“Destitution appears to be a design characteristic of the asylum system,” the report says.

Asylum seekers are banned from working and limited to a derisory level of support that guarantees they will live in poverty.

“The government promotes work as the singular solution to poverty, yet refuses to allow this particular group to work.

«While asylum seekers receive some basic support, they are left to make do with an inadequate, poverty level income of around £5 a day.”

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Fight Against Capitalism is Fighting for Gay Liberation – Remember Stonewall!

Remember Stonewall was a riot

The Stonewall Riots started a movement for gay liberation. Attacks on LGBT+ people show that five decades later we still need its militancy, argues Tomáš Tengely-Evans

The Stonewall riot saw young people fighting back

The Stonewall riot saw young gay people fighting back against police repression (Pic: First Run Features)

Mon 24 Jun 2019 – socialistworker.co.uk

Fifty years ago police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York in the small hours of 28 June 1969. The six nights of rioting that followed marked the birth of a militant ­movement for gay liberation.

But you wouldn’t know it by looking at the official 50th anniversary celebrations.

The street near the Stonewall Inn has been renamed “Acceptance Street”. The move was sponsored by MasterCard as part of its Acceptance Matters campaign, a marketing exercise designed to present the card provider as the LGBT+ friendly one.

The unveiling coincided with the launch of a scheme that will allow trans people to change the name on their debit card. MasterCard laid out how it would be a “force for change to help alleviate unnecessary pain points,” saying, “Our vision is that every card should be for everyone.”

The campaign hollows out the LGBT+ movement, ­rendering it merely a fight for equal legal and consumer rights.

That’s a far cry from the real events of Stonewall—and its militant message of liberation.

Before the riots, groups such as the US Homophile Movement and the Homosexual Law Reform Society in Britain had pushed for reforms.

But they largely restricted these to limited legal changes, making pleas for acceptance, and arguing that gay people should “assimilate” into society.

The new generation of gay rights activists wanted to tear out the roots of oppression and to change society.

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF), set up in the wake of the Stonewall Riots, talked of revolution and wanted to link the fight for gay rights to that for a better society. It provoked people by being openly gay—and emphasising “coming out” as a ­political act.


Martha Shelley, one of the GLF’s first members in the US, was scornful of liberals who talked of equality without addressing oppression. She wrote that their “friendly smile of acceptance is not enough”.

In Gay is Good, written in 1970, Shelley summed up the new mood of militancy. “Look out, straights,” she wrote. “Here comes the Gay Liberation Front, springing up like warts all over the bland face of Amerika.

“It’s causing shudders of indignation in the delicately balanced bowels of the movement.

“Here come the gays, ­marching with six-foot banners to Washington and ­embarrassing the liberals.

“We are shaking off the chains of self-hatred and marching on your citadels of repression.”

There wasn’t a settled view of where the citadels of repression lay, or what revolutionary change to get rid of them meant.

But many in the new generation rejected traditional gender roles and pointed to the nuclear family as a source of sexual oppression. The focus wasn’t on winning equal rights with straight people over marriage or the family.

Carl Wittman, a leading GLF member in New York, explained the aims in The Gay Manifesto in 1970. “Liberation for gay people is defining for ourselves how and with whom we live, instead of measuring our relationship in comparison to straight ones and straight values,” he wrote.

“We have to define for ­ourselves a new pluralistic, role-free social structure for ourselves.

“It must contain both the freedom and physical space for people to live alone, live together for a while, live together for a long time, either as couples or in larger numbers; and the ability to flow easily from one of these states to another as our needs change.”

The GLF wasn’t a pressure group, but a movement fighting to change society. Its name was a nod to the National Liberation Fronts in Algeria and Vietnam that fought against imperial oppression.

And many made common cause with the other movements against war and oppression that grew out of 1968.

In 1970 a GLF group was formed in Britain and was soon holding weekly meetings of up to 300 people in London.

It held impressive direct actions, including disrupting the “Festival of Light” organised by notorious Christian bigot and anti sex education celebrity Mary Whitehouse.

Activists swept into Westminster Central Hall, unfurled banners and kissed publicly in front of the bigots. Others, disguised as workers, made their way to the basement and unplugged the lights.

By 1972 the GLF had organised the first Pride in London, which saw 2,000 march in the face of police repression.

Unfortunately, while ­movements did win changes, the broader revolts of 1968 failed to break through and the establishment regained the initiative. This failure led to fragmentation and a retreat from liberation into pressure group politics.

The movement came “out of the closet and into the streets”—then back into academia and community charity organisations.

But one again we need the militancy and radicalism that the Stonewall Riots unleashed.

This was underlined after the beginning of LGBT+ Pride Month this year was marred by a series of attacks in the US and Britain. In Detroit, Michigan, Swastika-wearing fascists invaded the Pride march.

In the most high-profile case a group of teenagers attacked an LGBT+ couple, Melania Geymonat and Chris, on a night bus in London. They were left bloodied, with a broken nose and jaw.

There was an outpouring of anger from people who were shocked that such an attack had taken place. It put the spotlight on oppression as a daily reality for LGBT+ people.

Homophobes have been emboldened by the advance of Donald Trump and his like, and the far right across Europe. Many of them pose a real threat to LGBT+ rights.

The responses to the London attack also showed that there’s a battle over what LGBT+ ­liberation means.

How can we win sexual liberation?
How can we win sexual liberation?
  Read More

One of the first people to tweet their disgust was soon-to-be former Tory prime minister Theresa May. She said, “Nobody should ever have to hide who they are or who they love and we must work together to eradicate ­unacceptable violence towards the LGBT community.”

May had voted against almost every major piece of LGBT+ inclusive equality legislation during the 1990s and 2000s.

Her response shows how there’s more mainstream acceptance of people being openly gay—but exposes the limits of their tolerance.

LGBT+ people used to be sacked from public and private sector jobs if their sexuality was found out. Now there is more acceptance of people’s gender identities, which are celebrated on the boards of the City of London and top corporations.

When Pride in London takes place next Saturday, the cops won’t be hurling abuse and beating people up like during the first one in 1971. The Metropolitan Police will be marching near the front to celebrate the force’s diversity.

This is underpinned by the idea that equality can be achieved within capitalism. People are now far more accepting of diversity, but LGBT+ oppression still permeates society. That’s not because of a few reactionaries, or “pain points” yet to be alleviated by MasterCard. Oppression persists because it flows from capitalism.

Under capitalism the main institution regulating sexuality has been the nuclear family.

And bigots still place so much emphasis on “defending the family” because they think sex should be about procreation, not pleasure.

The form the family takes has changed. It’s become less rigid, and sex is no longer seen as ­belonging ­exclusively within a ­heterosexual marriage.

After years of opposing it, even some Tories accepted that LGBT+ people should have ­marriage rights in order to defend the institution, though more Tories voted against it than voted for.

But capitalism’s endless drive for profit turns everything into a commodity to be bought and sold. And that includes human beings’ sexuality—something that is intrinsic to us.

While sex is an important part of sexuality, socialists refer to a much wider range of intimate relationships.

So in capitalist society sexuality is alienated from us. Rather than something that is intrinsic to us, it’s presented as a product that can be bought and sold to satisfy an individual’s needs.

Instead of seeing other people as human beings, they’re treated as objects of desire. And the disciplines of capitalism make it difficult for people to have fulfilling relationships.

So capitalism steps in again to fill the void, and has adopted the language of diversity and liberation and repackaged it as a commodity.

The result is that sexuality is still narrow and confined.

Wittman wrote, “We know we are radical, in that we know the system that we’re under now is a direct source of oppression, and it’s not a question of getting our share of the pie. The pie is rotten.”

Reducing LGBT+ politics to “acceptance” leaves untouched capitalist society, which commodifies, represses and distorts people’s sexuality.

We need a movement that fights to free us from it.


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

Øydelegginga av «Det norske toget» held fram mot stupet!

Ole Palmstrøm

Vy tapte anbud

Nå skal svenskene kjøre togene nord for Oslo. Vy tapte anbudet

Vy tapte anbudet på en rekke strekninger i Norge.

Det svenske togselskapet SJ skal fra sommeren 2020 kjøre togene på Dovrebanen, Rørosbanen, Raumabanen, Nordlandsbanen, Trønderbanen og Meråkerbanen.

SJ får kontrakt på for en periode på ti og et halvt år, og skal starte opp trafikken fra 7. juni 2020.

Kampen om kontrakten sto i sluttfasen mellom SJ Norge og Vy Tog, og det var tett og jevnt, skriver Jernbanedirektoratet.


– Vi er glade for at det også for denne trafikkpakken var sterk og god konkurranse, selv om antall tilbydere var færre enn i pakke 1. Når vi nå inngår kontrakt med SJ, får vi en leverandør som allerede trafikkerer i Norge og som er kjent med nordiske trafikkforhold, sier jernbanedirektør Kirsti Slotsvik i ei pressemelding.

SJ lover å kjøre togene billigere enn Vy (NSB) har gjort.

Ansattes rettigheter

Alle som jobber på de syv strekningene vil få tilbud om å bli med over i SJ Norge, opplyser selskapet i en pressemelding. SJ skal nå møte fagforeningene.

Ansatte som tilbys overføring fra Vygruppen AS til SJ Norge etter reglene i arbeidsmiljøloven og jernbaneloven, beholder dagens lønns- og arbeidsvilkår.

Saken fortsetter under bildet.

Jernbanedirektør Kirsti Slotsvik og Thomas Silbersky, leder for den internasjonale virksomheten i SJ svarer på spørsmål etter at det ble kunngjort at SJ vant anbudet om jenbanepakke 2.

Jernbanedirektør Kirsti Slotsvik og Thomas Silbersky, leder for den internasjonale virksomheten i SJ svarer på spørsmål etter at det ble kunngjort at SJ vant anbudet om jenbanepakke 2.

Her skal SJ kjøre

SJ skal kjøre disse strekningene:

• Dovrebanen (Eidsvoll til Trondheim): 549 km, 26 ukentlige avganger.

• Raumabanen (Dombås til Åndalsnes): 115 km, 25 ukentlige avganger.

• Rørosbanen (Hamar til Støren via Røros): 382 km, 43 ukentlige avganger.

• Trønderbanen (Lokaltogtilbudet i Trøndelag) 164 km, 163 ukentlige avganger.

• Meråkerbanen (Trondheim-Meråker-Storlien i Sverige): 71 km, 14 ukentlige avganger.

• Nordlandsbanen (Trondheim til Bodø): 726 km, 32 ukentlige avganger.

• Saltenpendelen (Lokaltogtilbud som betjener Bodø, Fauske og Saltdal): 81 km, 37 ukentlige avganger.

Eid av den svenske staten

SJ Norge er et norsk datterselskap av Sveriges største persontrafikkoperatør SJ. SJ er heleid av den svenske stat. SJ opererer allerede i dag i Norge og driver togtilbudet mellom Stockholm og Narvik og mellom Stockholm og Oslo.

Denne saken blir oppdatert. Følg med på frifagbevegelse.no!

Kommentar til dei blå-blå om konkurranseutsetjing av NSB:

Dette er rein nyliberalisme frå dei blå-blå sis side, og det er heller ikkje nytt. Kvar gong noko dreier seg om sokalla fri konkurranse så er det alltid det beste, skal ein tru nyliberalistane. Dei klarar sjølvsagt aldri reflektera over kva konkurranse tyder. Det er berre nyliberal ideologi for dei! Er den fri i ordet si rette tyding? I anbodsregimet vert omlag alle kostnader skore ned til beinet. Kvaliteten vert taparen. OG når avisa BT (som er for dette) nemner at Hordaland har private selskap som køyrer bussane for det fylkeskommunale selskapet Skyss, så er det nettopp det konkurranseutsetjinga av persontrafikken.i NSB handlar om. Det er fint BT møter seg sjølv i døra her: Mange lesarar vil sikkert hugse at BT har dekka problem innan Skyss med misnøgde passasjerar, få ruter mange stader, forseinka ruter, dyrare billettar som ikkje vert subsidiert godt nok. Desse typiske problem med mange private aktørar, skal liksom verte “så meget bedre” om eit statleg NSB ikkje driv persontrafikken også?

Meinar verkeleg dei blå-blå at me passasjerar får fantastiske høve om dette privatiserast? Konkurranse kan også virke skjerpande, står det i dokumenta. Ja, det kan virke så skjerpande på nedsett pris og kvalitet at mange står att på perrongen, mens New Public Management (privatisering av offentlege tenester) -toget rasar framover mot stupet med profitt til store multinasjonalar som drivstoff!

Ivar Jørdre

Posta under Kapitalisme, Noreg - Norway, Politikk, samfunn, Vår globale verd | Merkt , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Kommenter innlegget