The “Troubles*” in Northern Ireland: The Whitewashed BBC Version

 

The Story of Ireland Part 5

BBC (2011)

Film Review

Caveat: I have serious problems with the BBC’s portrayal of the 30-year civil war in Northern Ireland as a battle of “religious identity.” This analysis conveniently whitewashes a longstanding pattern of social and economic discrimination against Northern Ireland’s Catholic underclass.

Part 5 of the Story of Ireland covers 1900 to the present – including the “Troubles*” in Northern Ireland from 1969 until the Good Friday Peace Accord negotiated under Tony Blair in 1998.

The filmmakers attribute the early 1900s rise in Irish nationalism to global nationalistic fervor that simultaneously gave rise to the African National Congress, the Chinese nationalist movement led by Sun Yat Sen (1911) and the Serbian nationalist movement that triggered World War I.

In 1913, the British parliament was preparing to grant home rule for Ireland, which was violently opposed by the protestant Ulster Volunteer Force. The latter feared losing their autonomy to a majority Catholic Ireland.

On Easter Sunday 1913 (Bloody Sunday), Irish revolutionaries seized the post office in Dublin and declared an Irish Republic. The brutal British reprisals radicalized many civilian nationalists into joining the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

After winning a sweeping majority in the 1918 elections, Sinn Fein** declared an independent Irish republic. In 1921 Sinn Fein leader Michael Collins negotiated a peace treaty with Prime Minister Lloyd George granting southern Ireland and the six protestant counties of Ulster the status of free states within the British union.

Because it stopped short of home rule for Ireland, the civil war continued until Ireland won full independence in 1923. Northern Ireland would remain part of Great Britain.

Although Sinn Fein remained committed to the reunification of the two Irelands, for 40 years Irish heads of state opted for peace and political stability over political union. During World War II, Ireland declined to join the allied forces and remained neutral. It also supported Red China’s application to join the UN in 1949.

Thanks to membership in the Common Market and European Union, Ireland was one of the richest countries in Europe by the late 90s. Yet according to the filmmakers the so-called Celtic Tiger was accompanies by skyrocketing inequality and massive political corruption.


*”The Troubles” is a euphemism for the conflict between Northern Ireland Catholic paramilitaries fighting for greater civil rights and eventual reunification with southern Ireland, protestant paramilitaries and British troops deployed to suppress the Catholic insurgency.

**Sinn Fein is an Irish republican party formed in 1905 in support of Irish independence and unification.

 

 

Pipelinistan: Is the Novichok Psyops an Effort to Shut Down Nord Stream 2?

Politics, Power and Pipelines – Europe and Natural Gas

DW (2018)

Film Review

This documentary concerns Russia’s controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, due for completion by the end of 2019. The EU, the UK and the US have been working hard to shut down Nord Stream 2, and various commentators believe the current Novichok psyops is an effort to pressure Germany to back out of their agreement with Gazprom.

The Nord Stream 2 project is a partnership between Russian state-owned Gazprom and five private energy companies from Britain, Germany, France and Netherlands. It will transport natural gas directly across the Baltic Sea to Germany. The existing Nord Stream 1  pipeline system transports Russian gas to western Europe mainly via Ukraine.

Since the 2014 US-sponsored coup in Ukraine, there has been considerable conflict between Russia and Ukraine over Nord Stream 1 – involving Ukraine’s non-payment of fuel charges, their failure to maintain the pipeline and illegal diversion of gas supplies. Russia totally shut down gas supplies to Ukraine in 2009 and 2014 for non-payment, resulting in very cold winters for Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary at the other end of the pipeline.*

Two prominent Germans are part of the Nord Stream 2 consortium, former German Chancellor and Social Democratic Party leader Gerhard Schroder and former Stasi member and Putin friend Mattias Warning. The latter serves as the company’s Managing Director.

Despite their determination to become more independent of Russian gas and oil, Poland and other Eastern European states are dismayed that Nord Stream 2 will bypass them. Ukraine is distraught because it stands to lose $2 billion annually in transit fees.

The EU is trying to stop Nord Stream 2 by claiming regulatory authority, **which Russia and German dispute, as both Nord Stream 1 and 2 are external pipelines.

The US also opposes the pipeline, as it prefers both EU countries to buy its more costly fracked LNG (liquified natural gas). They have threatened economic sanctions on countries that sign new energy agreements with Russia.

The US also opposed Nord Stream 1 (completed in 1973), fearing it might lead to a closer relationship between West Germany and Russia. Former German chancellor Willy Brandt strongly championed Nord Stream 1, over US objections. He believed trade and detente*** were a preferable strategy for bringing down the Iron Curtain. It now appears he was right.

The filmmakers raise legitimate concerns about Russia investing so heavily in yet more fossil fuel pipelines (Gazprom is also building a pipeline via Turkey to Italy and Greece) in a period when the planet urgently needs to end fossil fuel use altogether.


*On March 3, 2018, Russia announced it was ending fossil fuel contracts with Ukraine altogether, raising grave concerns for countries at the other end of the pipeline. See Russia’s Gazprom to Terminate Gas Contracts with Ukraine

**Detente is a cold war term referring to the easing of strained relations.

 

How Elites Use Mass Immigration to Suppress Wages and Destroy Unions

The Making and Breaking of Europe

Al Jazeera

Film Review

The Role of the CIA in the Formation of the EU

This is a fascinating documentary tracing the political forces leading to the formation of the EU and the rise of right wing nationalist movements that threaten to break it up. I wasn’t a bit surprised to learn of the role the CIA played in the formation of the EU, via the millions they spent on the Action Committee for the United States of Europe (1955-1975). The CIA’s main goal was to create the false impression that European unification enjoyed wide popular support. There’s never been any doubt in my mind that the EU and the state-like bureaucracy it has created in Brussels mainly serves the interests of banks and corporations seeking to undermine and/or control the democratic process.

Working Class Communities Bear the Brunt of Mass Immigration

This film also takes a refreshingly honest look at mass immigration, a policy European elites championed to support the post-World War II economic boom – it was far cheaper than investing in technological innovation or retraining domestic workers. In fact, this is the first acknowledgement I have seen in mainstream media acknowledging that 1) working class communities have always born the brunt of mass immigration policies and 2) the massive influx of people from other cultures creates immense tensions in any community.

The Use of Immigrants to Crush Unions

In the late 1970s, Thatcher and other neoliberal leaders deliberately used mass immigration in strike breaking and other strategies aimed at crushing unions. The de-industrialization of northern Europe and the loss of good paying jobs would only amplify the tensions this created. As would the 2001 war on terror, the targeted Islamophobia propagated by US and British intelligence and ultimately the painful austerity cuts resulting from 2008 global economic collapse.

There seems to be strong agreement among the four “expert” panelists* that the anti-immigrant backlash should have been predictable – there is no possible way for the EU to accommodate the millions of refugees resulting from the US proxy war in Syria.

Since 2015 the strength of this backlash has fueled electoral victories for right wing nationalist groups in nearly all EU countries. All have campaigned on a dual anti-immigrant and anti-EU platform. In Britain, the rise of the United Kingdom (UKIP) party would lead to Brexit (and a 52% vote to leave the EU) in 2016.


*The panelists include a former Greek prime minster, a member of Hungary’s ruling party and Dr Alina Polykova, research director at the Atlantic Council and co-author of the 2015 The Dark Side of European Integration.

 

How Neoliberalism Gave Us Brexit and Trump

Revenge of the Rich: The Neoliberal Revolution in Britain and New Zealand

by Austin Mitchell

Canterbury University Press (2017)

Book Review

Revenge of the Rich, by British economist Austin Mitchell, describes how the neoliberal revolutions of Margaret Thatcher and New Zealand finance minister Roger Douglas virtually gutted the economies of the UK and New Zealand. The result has been years of declining or negative growth rates, virtual destruction of manufacturing, massive job loss, wage stagnation and higher deficits and overseas borrowing.*

As an article of faith, neoliberals maintain that mass layoffs of public service workers will reduce government deficits. The reality, as Mitchell ably demonstrates, is the exact opposite. When you lay off 400,000 public servants (as David Cameron did between 2010 and 2016), they quit paying taxes and increase government costs by claiming unemployment and other benefits.

Britain’s EU Membership: Setting the Stage

According to Mitchell, Britain’s decision to join the EU in 1973 set the stage for the neoliberal revolution that subsequently occurred in both countries. EU membership forced Britain to end their special trading relationship with New Zealand (an other Commonwealth countries), resulting in significant economic decline in both countries. Neoliberal trade liberalization was meant to stem these losses. Instead the loss of tariff and other import protections quickly destroyed manufacturing in both countries.

New Zealand, which was fortunate in having agricultural exports to fall back on, succeeded in developing alternative trade relationships with Australia, China and other Asian countries. Nonetheless, thanks to their 1980s neoliberal experiment, New Zealand has one of the highest levels of foreign ownership (of land, homes and companies) in the developed world. It also has the highest house prices, the second highest prison population and extremely high child poverty levels (1/3 of Kiwi children grow up in poverty). Meanwhile it’s failure to provide jobs for young adults means a sizeable proportion leave New Zealand permanently for other developed countries.

Brexit and Trump: The People Rebel

Mitchell describes the rise of left and right wing extremist groups in Europe, the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as a direct popular reaction to the immense human misery caused by neoliberal policies. In New Zealand the 1996 citizens referendum adopting proportional representation was a direct reaction against both major parties (Labour and National) advancing neoliberal policies.

At this point, the traditionally pro-corporate International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have both come out against austerity and similar “deflationary” neoliberal policies. Instead they argue strongly for increased stimulus (public) spending to stabilize the world’s developed economies.


*Similar effects under American neoliberals Reagan, Bush Sr and Jr, Clinton and Obama inflicted similar damage on the US.

The EU and the Colonization of Europe

The Forbidden Colony

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This Al Jazeera documentary examines the undemocratic nature of the European Union and it’s role in allowing banks and multinational corporations to colonize Europe. It begins by focusing on the EU Parliament, which meets in secret and bans public observation of its proceedings. Elected members of the EU Parliament lack the authority to initiate legislation. They can only rubber stamp laws proposed by the non-elected European Commission.

Croatian philosopher Srecko Horbat examines the right and left wing movements that have arisen in reaction in response to the massive economic dislocation (job loss, low wages, high housing costs) people have experienced following the creation of the EU.

The far right tends to campaign against the massive influx of migrants, which they blame for their declining standard of living. The left, in contrast, is more focused on rebuilding European democracy from the ground up.

For me, the most interesting part of the film was its examination of various European experiments in direct democracy. Examples include

  • The grassroots movements in Hamburg and 170 other German cities and towns that have bought back electric power companies from private companies to hasten their transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
  • Ada Colau, the radical mayor of Barcelona,* who is working to transform squats into cooperatives and forcing banks to make vacant buildings available for social housing.
  • Greece’s parallel economy, which operatives massive “no middlemen” food markets in reaction to price gouging by corporate supermarket chains.

*The capitol of Catalonia, which is organizing a popular referendum to declare independence from Spain – see Showdown in Spain

Syria Already Planning Its Economic Future

 

Guest Post by Sophie Mengel Inside Syria Media Center.

Last Monday the EU Council extended sanctions against the Syrian government for another year, until June 1, 2018. The event occurred as recent Syrian Arab Army successes raise hopes for an end to the Syrian conflict. It’s clearly not enough to talk about food relief and delivery of basic necessities. Manufacturing and foreign trade have also taken major hits in Syria.

 

World Bank: Total economic damage by city

Bilateral Ties Between Syria and Iran

Not so long ago, at a Damascus meeting between Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Iranian Ambassador Javad Torkabadi, Khamis highlighted the full-scale economic war the West and their Middle East allies have unleashed against Syria. Tehran, with its long experiencing countering “sanctions war,” and Damascus have become a model of strategic cooperation, both militarily and economically.  However, strong economic ties between Iran and Syria alone will not solve the problem of Syrian economic degradation.

Courting Qatar

Despite their past support for anti-government terrorists, the current economic boycott of Qatar by its “friendly neighbors” is leading to hope of future Qatari investment in the Syrian economy. For Qatar to invest in Syrian zones of influence or to offer Syria offer a kind of Marshall Plan would go a long way towards repairing Qatar’s international image. It would also allow the country to bypass limitations Saudi Arabia seeks to impose on Qatar’s foreign policy, while making it more independent of the US and the EU.

All this would likely depend on consummating an agreement for Iran to purchase LNG from Qatar for onward transport to external consumers. Iran, which is getting closer to Qatar and has strong positions in Syria, has great potential as an intermediary.

Syria is Already Planning Its Economic Future

Despite the ongoing fighting in Syria, the country is already planning its economic future. Syria is rich in energy resources and minerals, including rare-earth metals. At the same time, the country has an advantageous geographical location for transporting goods to the Mediterranean pass through its territory. All this gives Damascus the potential for rapid economic development.

Stability in the region and restoration of foreign trade would enable the Syrians to have a source of stable foreign direct investment. The country has been in the grip of war for more than six years, but is full of enthusiasm to rebuild the economy. The hope of a new life and recent successes on the battlefield inspire optimism on the part of Syrian citizens, as well as the countries such as Iran, China, India, Russia and Armenia that support them.

Follow the latest developments by reading Inside Syria Media Center.

Refugees and Anarchists – Greece’s Burgeoning Popular Resistance

Resistance in Athens

Medialien (2016)

Film Review

Resistance in Athens is a short documentary about the ongoing dismemberment of Greece by the Syriza government to satisfy harsh bailout conditions imposed by the IMF and European banks. As brutal austerity measures continue to shrink the Greek economy, unemployment (now at 25%) and hunger continue to increase and more than 200,000 young people have left Greece for other European countries.

Meanwhile a continuing influx of Syrian, Afghan and African refugees across the Mediterranean continues to fuel the resistance movement. Owing to government budget shortfalls and refusal by other EU countries to accept non-European migrants, Greek anarchists and socialists have played a major role in welcoming refugees and meeting their needs for shelter, food and other survival needs.

The documentary focuses on Exarchia, a growing self-governing anarchist community spanning four decades.

For me, the highlight of the film was the personal interviews –  with Exarchia members about their work with traumatized refugee children and with refugees who have turned against capitalism due to their brutal treatment by European authorities.

Click on the cc icon in the lower right hand corner for English subtitles.