Austerity

تحويل نفوذ الشركات إلى المسار الديمقراطي         Corporate Democratization

نحن بحاجة لبناء حركة عالمية من أجل إضفاء الطابع الديمقراطي على نفوذ الشركات بناءاً على مفهوم أساسي هو “لا عدالة، لا ارباح” أي (إن لم تدعموا العدالة، فلن تنالوا الأرباح).

الشركات العالمية هي أكبر الكيانات غير الدُوَلِيّة الفاعلة على الساحة العالمية، وهي تمارس السلطة أكثر من الحكومات، وتمتلك أموالاً أكثر بكثير من الدول.

يوجد اليوم ما يقرب من 2500 ملياردير على مستوى العالم، فإذا تخيلنا أنهم يسكنون في بلدٍ واحد، سيصبح هذا البلد هو ثالث أغنى بلد على وجه الأرض، فهم يملكون من الثروة ما يقدر بنحو 7,7 تريليون دولار، وهذا المبلغ أكثر من ضعف الموازنة العامة الفدرالية للولايات المتحدة. وفي الحقيقة، إذا جمعتم بين ميزانيات الولايات المتحدة والصين (أكبر دولتين اقتصاديتن في العالم)، فسيظل المجموع أقل من ثروات هؤلاء الأفراد الـ2500 بنحو 2 تريليون دولار.

إن الفجوة في الدخل بين الأغنياء والفقراء قد تزايدت بشكل كبير خلال العقود القليلة الماضية، وهذا لا يعني فقط عدم مساواة في الدخل، بل يعني عدم مساواة في السلطة، والقوة، والتمثيل النيابي، والحرية وعدم مساواة في الحقوق.

الأثرياء ينظمون أموالهم إلى حد كبير في شكل شركات، ثم يستغلون الشركات والمؤسسات الدولية مثل صندوق النقد الدولي والبنك الدولي، في إدارة المجتمعات، وهم يديرون المجتمعات بأي طريقة إن كانت تعزز قوتهم وامتيازاتهم، رغم أنهم هم وآليات حكمهم، غير منتخَبين، وغير خاضعين للمساءلة. وهذا يجب أن يتغير.

#تحويل_نفوذ_الشركات_إلى_المسار_الديمقراطي

We need to build a global movement for the democratization of corporate influence based on the fundamental concept of “No Justice, No Profit”.

Corporations are the largest non-state actors on the world stage, and they exert more power than governments, and have more money than states.

There are approximately 2,500 billionaires in the world today, if they populated a single country, it would be the third richest country on earth.  They own $7.7 trillion worth of wealth.  That is more than double the entire US federal budget. In fact, if you combine the budgets of the US and China (the two biggest economies in the world), it would still be less than the wealth of these 2,500 individuals by almost $2 trillion.

The income gap between rich and poor has been increasing drastically over the past few decades, and this does not represent only income inequality; it represents inequality of power, of representation, of freedom and inequality of rights.

The super rich organize their money largely in the form of corporations, and they use corporations, and institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to manage societies, and they manage societies in whatever way will further consolidate their power and privilege. They, and their mechanisms of governance, are unelected, and unaccountable; and this has to change.

#Democratization_of_Corporate_Influence

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Independent opposition to the IMF

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(To be published in Arabic for Arabi21)

On October 9th, the IMF was scheduled to announce the release of the first tranche of money from a $12 billion loan to Egypt.  Approximately 2 weeks before the announcement was to be made, individual Egyptians self-mobilised, without instruction from party leaders or groups, and began sending messages to the IMF representative in Egypt, and to the local offices of multinational companies, expressing opposition to the loan and its accompanying Austerity program.

 

Messages warned that, since the neoliberal policies demanded by the IMF are designed to benefit multinationals and foreign investors, the revolutionary movement would impose consequences on the private sector if the loan proceeds.  A few days before October 9th, the IMF announced that the decision on the loan would be indefinitely delayed. The American, British, and Canadian embassies issued alerts to all their citizens in Egypt to beware of possible risks around the 9th of October.  The Ministry of Finance began hiring recent graduates to open at least 2 Facebook accounts each to promote a positive opinion about the loan on social media.

 

In short, the people forced their way to the IMF negotiating table.

 

Christine Lagarde, Head of the IMF, suddenly began to include mention of the Egyptian people when discussing the policy reforms required by the loan, “I think the measures that the Egyptian authorities…and the Egyptian population are considering in order to improve the economy are the right ones”, she said in an interview with Al-Jazeera.  As there has not been any referendum on the loan in Egypt, and the population had no role in negotiating the agreement with the IMF, Lagarde is implicitly acknowledging that, by their collective action, the Egyptian people have suddenly made themselves part of an equation from which they had been very deliberately excluded; and the acquiescence of the population is now an issue for the IMF, though it never has been before.

 

This is a significant development at the most critical moment Egypt has faced since 2011.  This will be the biggest loan the IMF has ever granted anyone in the region, and it will force policies on Egypt that will drastically undermine the country’s potential for economic sovereignty and political independence, regardless of who may sit in the presidential palace.  The Islamist opposition has been uniformly silent, conspicuously so, even the new Ghalabah Movement, which has organized mass protests for November 11th and claims to represent the poor and downtrodden of Egypt. Nevertheless, the people took the initiative against the loan despite the apparent apathy of their leadership.  All the opposition parties should take note of this fact.

 

Frequently I have been told by Islamists that the ordinary people cannot understand the complexities of economics.  If the collective action of the Egyptian people, acting as individuals to oppose the loan, was not sufficient to disprove this theory, we saw recently the powerful comments by a tuk-tuk driver in Egypt eloquently summarizing the economic situation in the country, better than anyone from the Islamist elite.

 

It is well past time for the Islamist opposition to begin finally to address the real policy issues that are intensifying the suffering of the Egyptian people.  It is time to stop playing politics and jockeying for position, and it is time for them to use their platforms to discuss the specific issues that are affecting the daily lives of the masses, because the masses are not waiting.

الأوضاع الجديدة تتطلب استراتيجيات جديدة         New situations, new strategies

هل الاستراتيجيات التي أدعو إليها أثبتت نجاحها في الماضي؟ هذا السؤال شائع، والإجابة عليه ليست بسيطة.

يوجد في التاريخ بالتأكيد العديد من الأمثلة حيث كان استهداف المصالح الاقتصادية هو العامل الحاسم الذي أدى إلى الانتصار، منذ زمن رسول الله ﷺ حتى حركة آتشيه الحرة واستهدافها لإكسون موبيل.  لقد كان العامل الاقتصادي دائمًا أحد الاعتبارات الرئيسية في أي صراع وفي أي استراتيجية للحرب.

والديناميكية الأساسية التي تعتمد على إجبار الأعمال التجارية للحكومات على تبني تغييرات سياسة، من الواضح أنها استراتيجية ناجحة، فالشركات تستخدمها طوال الوقت.

ولكن صراحة، الاستراتيجيات التي أتحدث عنها تحديدًا، على حد علمي، لم يقم أحد بمحاولة تطبيقها في أي وقت مضى، فهي استراتيجيات جديدة.  ولكن هذا لأننا نشهد أوضاعًا وظروفًا جديدة، بالتالي فالاستراتيجيات القديمة التي أثبتت فعاليتها في الأوضاع السابقة لا يمكن الاعتماد عليها عند تغير الأوضاع اليوم، فهنا يصبح الأمر بحاجة إلى استراتيجيات جديدة، وتلك هي الطريقة التي تتطور وتنشأ بها استراتيجيات الصراع.  مايكل كولينز لم يكن في إمكانه أن يشير إلى تطبيقات ناجحة سابقة للاستراتيجية التي استخدمها في أيرلندا لآنها لم تُجَرَّب من قبله، ولكن استراتيجياته كانت تستند إلى تقييم موضوعي لديناميات السلطة القائمة في أيرلندا المحتلة؛ ولهذا فقد كانت فعالة بكفاءة.

يمكننا أن نتعلم من التاريخ، وهذا يختلف عن استنساخ التاريخ.  بعض مبادئ الصراع التي استخدمت لتطوير تكتيكات جديدة قد لا تتغير، ولكن لو نظرنا إلى كل حالة على حدة، سنجد أن الطريقة التي تعمل بهذا هذه المبادئ قد تختلف، وتدعو لوضع استراتيجيات جديدة.

الاستراتيجيات التي أكتب عنها تنطبق على البلدان التي لم تنغمس بالفعل في أي حرب تقليدية، وأعتقد أنها قابلة للتطبيق في أماكن مثل مصر، وشمال أفريقيا عموما (باستثناء ليبيا)، وهي قابلة للتطبيق في الغرب أيضًا. وهذا النهج يحتمل أن يكون ناجحًا في أي بلد يقع تحت القبضة الحديدية للنيوليبرالية والتقشف، وقد يختلف نوع التكتيك الخاص بالتعطيل والإرباك وفقًا للجو السائد في أي مكان دون أخر، ولكنه بشكل أو بأخر سيعتمد على الصدام، وبشكل أو بأخر على العقاب، وفقًا لكل حالة.  لكن النظرية الاستراتيجية الأساسية نفسها ستظل فعالة، إن شاء الله.

Have the strategies I advocate been proved successful in the past?  This is a common question, and the answer isn’t simple.

There have certainly been many examples in history where targeting economic interests was the decisive factor that led to victory; from the time of Rasulullah ﷺ until the Free Aceh Movement targeted ExxonMobile. The economic element has always been a major consideration in any conflict and in any war strategy.

And the basic dynamic of business coercing governments to adopt policy changes is obviously a successful strategy; companies do it all the time.

But honestly, the exact strategies I talk about have not, to my knowledge, ever been attempted before. They are new strategies.  But that is because we are in a new situation.  Old strategies that may have proved effective in previous scenarios cannot be relied upon when the situations change; new strategies are required.  That is how conflict strategies develop and evolve.  Michael Collins could not point to previous successful applications of his strategy in Ireland because no one ever tried it before.  But his strategies were based on an objective evaluation of the existing power dynamics in occupied Ireland; and they worked brilliantly.

We can learn from history, but that is not the same as replicating it.  Certain principles of conflict that were used to develop new tactics may not change, but in any given situation, the manner in which those principles operate may differ, and oblige the creation of new strategies.

The strategies I write about apply in countries that have not already descended into conventional war.  I believe they are applicable in places like Egypt, and North Africa generally (with the exception of Libya), and they are applicable in the West as well.  This approach is potentially successful in any country that is falling under the iron grip of neoliberalism and Austerity; the precise tactics of disruption will vary according to the prevailing atmosphere in any given place; More or less confrontational, more or less punishing, depending on the particular situations.  But the basic strategic theory should work, insha’Allah.

الخلفية الاقتصادية للانقلاب الفاشل             Economic background to the failed coup

هناك أمر هام لابد من إيضاحه فيم يتعلق بحزب العدالة والتنمية وأردوغان، لقد قلت في الماضي أنهم في الأساس نيوليبراليين (مثل جماعة الإخوان المسلمين عمومًا)، ولكني أخشى أن أكون قد أفرطت في تبسيط هذا التوصيف. لقد تطور حزب العدالة والتنمية على مر السنين، وكما كتبت في الآونة الأخيرة، فإن أردوغان نفسه يعارض بشدة صندوق النقد الدولي، وهذا يعكس تطور الحزب، بل والمواقف المختلفة داخل الحزب.

محاذاة الاقتصاد مع النيوليبرالية بدأت في السبعينات من القرن المنصرم، ثم تسارع الأمر في الثمانينات في أعقاب الانقلاب العسكري الذي حدث في عام 1980.  تركزت العناصر الرئيسية للبرنامج على تقليص الأجور وترويج الصادرات، وأعقب ذلك التحرر المالي الذي حدث في التسعينات… أما في عام 2001، فقد بدأت تركيا تسير بأقصى سرعة على طريق الإصلاحات النيوليبرالية تحت عنوان “البرنامج الوطني” لوزير الاقتصاد كمال درويش.

وتراكمت الديون على البلاد لصندوق النقد والبنك الدولي، وتعهدوا بخصخصة البنوك العامة، وإنهاء دعم المزارعين، وتجميد الأجور في القطاع العام، وخفض الإنفاق الاجتماعي، وخصخصة جميع الشركات الكبرى المملوكة للدولة في كل قطاع وأتاحتهم للمستثمرين الأجانب. وعندما جاء حزب العدالة والتنمية إلى السلطة، سار على خطى خطة درويش بشكل أو أخر.

وتقريبًا مثل الإخوان في مصر، فقد قبلوا فكرة النيوليبرالية بدون أي أسئلة، وأدى هذا إلى “المعجزة الاقتصادية” التي تحدثت عنها النخب، ولكن تحت القشرة الخارجية كان الوضع بالنسبة للشعب التركي يتدهور، وأصبح الاقتصاد الحقيقي أكثر ضعفًا من أي وقت مضى.  معدل النمو الاقتصادي على مدى السنوات الـ 10 الماضية كان يعتمد إلى حد كبير على الاستثمار الأجنبي ومشاريع البناء، وراحت القوة الشرائية تتناقص باطراد، وارتفعت الديون الشخصية على نطاق واسع، وانخفض التصنيع المحلي، وأخذت الفجوة بين الأغنياء والفقراء في الاتساع.

قبل صعود حزب العدالة والتنمية، احتكرت النخب المعادية للإسلام السلطة السياسية والاقتصادية، وكانت رعاية الدولة دائمًا عاملًا رئيسيًا في القطاع الخاص التركي، ومع صعود حزب العدالة والتنمية إلى السلطة، أوجد هذا الأمر شبكة تجارية إسلامية جديدة من النفوذ.  بعبارة أخرى، فقد استخدم أردوغان وحزب العدالة والتنمية برنامج النيوليبرالية، التي يستفيد منها دائما حفنة صغيرة من النخب المحلية، لتشكيل كوادر من الرأسماليين المسلمين يملكون المال والنفوذ للتنافس مع العلمانيين. وبعد أن حقق ذلك، على مدى السنوات الثلاث الماضية أو نحو ذلك، أصبح أردوغان يأخذ مواقف كثيرة تعكس شخصيته الحقيقية، كشعبوي، كإسلامي، وكمستقل، وبطريقة واضحة كمعادي للنيوليبرالية.  فعلى سبيل المثال، أصبح يدين صندوق النقد الدولي الآن كمؤسسة لها هيمنة سياسية، ويريد كبح جماح البنك المركزي، وخفض أسعار الفائدة، كما أنه رفض بدون أي مواربة “إصلاحات” التقشف.

لقد أصبح أصحاب رؤوس الأموال العالمية متشككون على نحو متزايد في الطريق الذي ستسلكه تركيا تحت استمرار قيادة أردوغان وحزب العدالة والتنمية، مما قد يخبرنا الكثير والكثير عن القصة وراء محاولة الانقلاب الفاشلة يوم الخامس عشر من يوليو.

 

تنويه: هذه النسخة منقحة ونهائية!  

 

It is important to clarify something about the AKP and Erdogan.  I have said in the past that they are essentially neoliberals (like the Muslim Brotherhood generally), but I’m afraid that I may have been over-simplifying in that characterization.  The AKP has evolved over the years, and as I wrote recently, Erdogan himself is strongly opposed to the International Monetary Fund; and this reflects the evolution of the party, and indeed, differing positions within the party.

Aligning the economy with neoliberalism began in the 1970s, and accelerated in the 80s following the 1980 military coup.  The main elements of the program focused on wage suppression and export promotion. This was followed by financial liberalization in the 1990s.  In 2001, Turkey went full-throttle into neoliberal reforms under the “National Program” of economic minister Kemal Dervish.

The country went into debt to the IMF and World Bank, pledged to privatize public banks, end subsidies to farmers, freeze public sector wages, slash social spending, and privatize all major state-owned enterprises in every sector and open them up to foreign investors. When the AKP came to power, they more or less followed Dervish’s plan.

Rather like the Ikhwan in Egypt, they accepted the neoliberal idea with no questions asked.  This led to the “economic miracle” elites talk about, but below the superficial data, the situation for the Turkish people has been deteriorating, and the real economy has become more vulnerable than ever before. Economic growth over the past 10 years has been largely dependent on foreign investment and construction projects.  Purchasing power is steadily decreasing, personal debt is widespread, domestic manufacturing has declined, and the gap between rich and poor is widening.

Before the rise of the AKP, the anti-Islamic elites monopolized political and economic power.  State patronage has always been a major factor in the Turkish private sector, and with the AKP in power, this has created a new Islamist business network of influence.  In other words, Erdogan and the AKP have used the neoliberal program, which always benefits a small handful of local elites, to form a cadre of Muslim capitalists with the money and influence to compete with the secularists.  Having achieved this, over the past three years or so, Erdogan has been increasingly taking positions that must reflect his true character, populist, Islamist, and independent,  and in some important ways, anti-neolibberal.  For instance, he now condemns  the IMF as an institution of political domination, wants to rein in the Central Bank, lower interest rates, and he flat-out rejects Austerity “reforms”.

Global owners of capital have become increasingly dubious about the path Turkey will go under the continued leadership of Erdogan and the AKP, and this may tell us more about the story behind the July 15th cooup attempt than anything else.

Britons want to exit Austerity, not the EU

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(to be published in Arabic for Arabi21)

Da’esh supporters are celebrating the Brexit vote, and claiming that the “rise of the Islamic State” is bringing about the disintegration of the European Union.  They are retroactively claiming that creating a desperate refugee crisis, de-populating Syria and driving thousands of horrified, traumatized, poor Muslims to seek asylum in Europe, was part of their master plan all along.  Never mind the fact that they bitterly criticized any Syrians who chose to seek refuge in the “Infidel West”.  By forcing people in Iraq and Syria to flee for their lives, Da’esh claims, they have successfully flooded Europe with refugees and created a volatile and divisive atmosphere throughout the EU, which has led to the UK referendum on the Brexit.

So, let’s analyze that.  Certainly, immigration was on the minds of many Britons when they voted to leave the European Union.  They are afraid their culture is being taken over by foreigners; afraid their jobs will be lost to foreigners; afraid foreigners will cause a drop in wages; afraid foreigners will drain the social welfare services paid for by British taxpayers. OK, fair enough.

But look, the UK has agreed to resettle only 20,000 Syrian refugees over the course of the next 5 years. Yes, 4,000 refugees per year until 2021. Around 333,000 people immigrated to the UK last year; in other words Syrian refugees comprise only a tiny fraction of total immigration.  That doesn’t mean that Britons do not incorrectly perceive that Syrian refugees are flooding the country, I’m sure many do; but that is attributable to the distortive propaganda of Right Wing parties and the media, not to Da’esh.

So, what is the reason for this kind of propaganda? The exaggerated fear of refugees and immigrants is occurring within the context of Austerity, domestically applied Neoliberalism, and the gutting of public resources by the private sector. It is occurring within the context of the bailout of Greece, and the justified popular paranoia that as long as Britain remains part of the EU, they will not be able to keep Europe’s hands off their pocketbooks.

Understood properly, the Brexit vote was a vote against Austerity, but no one gets to vote on Austerity, so this was their only outlet for protest.

When millions of voters said they wanted to leave the EU, what they were actually saying was that they want £350 million to be allocated to the National Health Service every week, because that is what they had been told the Brexit meant.  One of the major points of the “Leave Campaign” was precisely this; that hundreds of millions of pounds now being channeled to the EU would be redirected to domestic public spending, which has been drastically reduced in recent years under government Austerity measures. If the referendum had been “Do you want to leave the EU and continue Austerity, or do you want to remain in the EU and end Austerity?” I don’t think the results would be difficult to predict.  Obviously, the ruling corporate elites know this too, that’s why no such referendum could ever take place.

So, why would these elites promote the Brexit?  Well, as UK Independence Party leader and former commodities broker Nigel Farage said, “we have a £10 billion a year, £34 million a day feather bed, that is going to be free money we can spend…”.  The “Leave Campaign” implied that this “feather bed” would be enjoyed by the general public, but the UKIP supported David Cameron’s Austerity budget measures, and  accepts the argument that reducing Britain’s deficit should take priority over all else (the basic logic behind Austerity), so there is little indication that those who campaigned for the Brexit will fight for funding of public services.  In fact, they have already backtracked from the very promises they used in this regard to win votes for the British exit from the EU.

So no, sorry Da’esh; you did not cause the Brexit.  If the EU is disintegrating (which remains to be seen) it is disintegrating because of the greed of domestic elites who want to devour the money currently being allocated to the EU.  The most we can say is that Da’esh and the Neoliberals share a common disregard for the general public, but that is not something Da’esh has ever seemed to comprehend, and, if their triumphalist rhetoric over the Brexit is any indication, it appears they never will.